Suburban Soliloquy #65

Felicity and the Brown Shoes

The twenty-second of April represented the completion of Ms Keogh's fiftieth orbit around the sun. Ms Keogh, my more significant other, had climbed out of bed much too early that morning and had occupied herself puttering around the house until I came home from work. I work the graveyard shift, midnight to eight. I left my job a bit early. On arriving home, we bathed together. Bathing together is not unusual for us, not even after sixteen years of marriage and both of us in our fifties. We finished cleaning ourselves and climbed into bed to nap. She said not to do anything special for her birthday except spend the day with her and join her for lunch at Le Bec-Fin! Nothing special!? Le Bec-Fin is the only restaurant in Philadelphia with Mobil's maximum five-star rating - Manhattan has four five-star restaurants. We set the alarm clock, and it woke us in time to dress and to reach downtown for our reservations.

I am not a clotheshorse. The loose drape of fine cloth is wasted on my squat body with its broad hips. In a recent phoenix-like passion of resurrection, I had discarded all my brown shoes (donated actually) for being uncomfortable. My feet have grown larger in the last decade. I had every intention of buying new brown shoes, but had not yet gotten around to it.

Comfort is my primary concern and I keep to neutral colors that almost go with everything. For a Le Bec-Fin lunch I had dressed in tan slacks and a sports jacket. Atop my head was my brown fedora. While I had on the appropriate brown belt, my shoes were some nameless color of brown-green approaching black. It bothered Ms Keogh, and me a little, that I didn't have brown shoes to go with my brown belt. After we had reached downtown and parked, we searched a few local shoe stores before our reservations for lunch, but we didn't find any shoes mutually satisfying.

This was our first visit since Chef-Owner Georges Perrier reworked the narrow interior of the main dining room, converting the formal Louis XVI décor that left one feeling a bit stiff, to a more celebratory "turn-of-the-century Parisian dining salon" that made at least me feel less self-conscious, not needing to quietly mumble and avoid laughter.

The food was, or course, superb, but has been written about many times by others more qualified. What little French stumbles off my tongue is enough to humiliate me, but the gracious staff at Le Bec-Fin never let me feel uncomfortable.

Ms Keogh began with a white and green asparagus salad, which included a squash blossom stuffed with lobster. I had the duck terrine with pistachios and served in a fig sauce. For our main entry she had monkfish with avocado coulis. I enjoyed the veal. The desserts were outrageous. They pushed to our table a three-decked cart with about two dozen desserts. We were invited to as many as we wanted. I had the Grand Marnier soufflé and a slice of the pear tort. I cannot now recall what Barbara had, only that she also requested a dessert not found among the many, crème brûlée, which the kitchen was kind enough to produce.

After lunch, nourished and content, we decided to stroll about the City of Brotherly Love. We found our way to Joseph's Shoes Inc., a small shop of fine men's shoes that I remembered visiting regularly over the last twenty years - which is truly an accomplishment because the store is only ten years old. To one side was a single seat dedicated to the art of the shoeshine. The shop sold the shoes I loved, Allen Edmonds, the Lexington model, which is a cap-toe blucher, the cap-toe decorated with perforations, the leather stained mahogany brown. They were twice the price I have ever spent for shoes, four times what I usually pay. Ms Keogh wanted to buy them for me - for her birthday!? I tried them on and walked about the store. They were truly wonderful, but I could not allow the extravagance.

We left the store, but we had not wandered very far. I was obsessing. It swallowed me up, the desire for the shoes, and just knowing Ms Keogh was prepared to buy them, I had only to acquiesce. It became more than I could bear. After wandering aimlessly in the vicinity of the shoe store, I decided to allow her. She wanted to do something nice for me because, she said, at fifty she reflected on the part I have played in her happiness. She wanted to show her appreciation for the twenty years of felicity. How wrong of me to deny her this pleasure. I decided I could be gracious and accept this gift. After all, it was her birthday.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is the sixty-fifth in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is now available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"