It’s my birthday

We celebrated my 83rd birthday with a weekend at the Ojai Valley Inn. Only 5 minutes from our home, yet it seemed far, far away. It’s the second time that we stayed overnight at Ojai’s premiere hotel. Bring lots of money.

Insisting on treating me to the weekend, Jackie had researched high-end hotels. Her first selection was the El Encanto in Santa Barbara where a single night is a brain hemorrhaging $1,600. Sanity returned and we picked the Inn, where the $600 price tag seemed a bargain after flirting with the El Encanto. As a reward for our infrequent conservatism, we decided to stay an extra night; so much for being frugal.

Jackie had wrangled an early noon check-in after pleading with every supervisor at the Inn including the Crowns, owners of the establishment. That made the per-hour cost of our visit an even better bargain.

There are lots of playful opportunities at the Inn to consume one’s assets. Extras can rapidly fill several pages of small type on the checkout bill.  A massage was first in line, at a cost approximating the purchase price of my 1960 Chevy Bel Air.

There are five eating venues at the Inn, and we visited four of them. The hotel was full, but the eateries were cooperative. We assumed that many Inn guests were visiting local Ojai restaurants, but it seemed inappropriate for us to even consider them. We wanted to maintain the illusion that we were far from home.

The Oak Grill is primarily an outdoor seating restaurant. Given my worsening night vision, I am in terror of dimly lit dining. Daylight is my friend and lunch on an outdoor patio is Valhalla. Unfortunately, evening dinners do not include much, if any, daylight. Indoor dining has similar problems due to the overworked fondness for romantic lighting.

We contacted the Grill and were offered either 5:30 or 7:30 seating. The late afternoon option seemed like a early bird senior special. I’m not ready to take on that role, complete with its Velcro shoes, a dinner jacket that looks like it was last worn by a racetrack tout, and salt-free, easily chewable entrees.

We picked the 7:30 option and hoped that the earth might slow its rotation around the sun to maximize the light. If we ate quickly, I might get through our meal with my dignity intact.

Seated at 7:45 on the patio and offered menus by Rod, a very pleasant young waiter. Behind schedule by 15 minutes. Nervous time intensifying.

I scan the menu and, with the aid of the Jackie’s iPhone light, can read my options. I realize that, given the failing daylight, I better avoid a selection that requires a great deal of attention.

Multiple items on the same plate are a crapshoot. I stab at the food in the darkness and, like a spear fisherman, hope that I will come away with a prize. The fork may be empty or have an unexpected delight. At times like these, I think back to my father and brother, both of whom experienced the same challenges. Somehow these memories make the trip a little easier.

An appetizer of six fried shrimp arrives. I can see them but can’t tell head for tail. I reach out and grab one, rotate it to the proper position, and eat. Delicious. I could make a meal of these simple creatures without seeing them. Make a mental note.

Jackie asks Rod for more light. But they only have little wax candles floating inside a glass container. The light is negligible and held in check by the container. Rod delivers a second light, also useless. The wind blows and one goes out. The next blow extinguishes the remaining candle. He brings a third. Lights all three. They go out one by one. Rod relights them. I marvel at his patience. Even though they are useless, he seems to enjoy the effort.

Our entrees arrive. I’ve forgotten what I ordered. Shredded meat, maybe pot roast. I’m clueless.

Jackie tries to reveal the mystery meal with her iPhone. It’s superbright like a volcanic eruption. I’m sure everyone is watching the spectacle. I think again of my father, a proud man.

Jackie positions her iPhone light behind my water glass in front of me. She rotates it like a lighthouse lamp. The intensity of the light changes as she moves, slides, and elevates the phone. She adjusts. I play my part like I was helping her hang a photo on the wall. We find a sweet spot. I can see what’s on my plate. I eat without fumbling. Jackie is a genius. Rod is happy. The world is good.

What a wonderful birthday.

3 Responses to “It’s my birthday”


  1. 1 jackielakshmi May 21, 2022 at 12:48 pm

    So glad you had your birthday last week so I could use my party planning skills and get to enjoy the weekend with my wonderful husband😍
    It was worth every penny and the light show made it even more fun!
    Happy 83 and many more🙏
    Love you❤️

    Like

  2. 2 Christine Youngman May 21, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    A wonderful birthday indeed! Love your blog, and love you both.

    Like

  3. 3 Anna Wagner May 21, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    Happy Birthday Fred!!

    Like


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