Time for Ceviche in San Francisco. This is La Mar.
By Vivi Rathbone.
Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life. – Anthony Bourdain.
Our waiter was in a rush. He introduced himself and listed off the specials, and then explained the different sections of the menu. He spoke so quickly that all of his words ran together, he would only pause to draw a long breath and continue to get the menu description out as quickly as possible. I couldn’t understand a thing he said. He was making me anxious, and as I don’t eat ceviche everyday, I needed a thorough explanation of the menu.
“Wait. Stop.” I commanded. “I feel like you’re telling me this beautiful story, but you’re rushing through it and I can’t enjoy it.”
I saw his shoulders drop, and his eyes widened. His eyes lit up, and I couldn’t tell if he was amused or offended.
“Well, you know, I just didn’t know if you were in a hurry.”
“I’m not in a hurry. Take your time, I want to enjoy the descriptions.”
Blair looked at me. “Everyone in San Francisco is in a hurry. But not us. Not today.”
A server delivered a colorful basket of fried plantain, and sweet potatoes, with two spicy sauces for dipping. Oh, the colors. I pulled out my camera. Sometimes taking photos of the food is almost more fun than eating it. Almost. Blair waited patiently for me to photograph the food. We were spending labor day weekend together in San Francisco, and there was no need to rush.
If I have only taken away one thing from my three years in South America, it would be my ability to slowly savor a long meal. The two hour lunch breaks, and all night dinners that challenged me in Buenos Aires sharply contrast my American eating styles, of granola bars in the car, and quick lunches at my desk.
I’m not complaining. I have a startup, I don’t have time for two-hour lunches. It’s a special occasion in America when you can take a long leisurely lunch. La Mar was a big treat for me. Life in America seems to move faster. Or maybe life in South America moves slower. Or maybe time is a cerebral dimension and we all experience it differently.
My first big shock in Buenos Aires was that I could never guess anyone’s age correctly. I would usually under-guess by around 20 years. It BLEW MY MIND that a woman I was sure was about 28, was actually 43, or another man who I thought was in his 50s was actually 70. Somehow, in this polluted city of smokers and carnivores, the population had discovered the fountain of youth. Was it the plastic surgery? Was it the mate?
I looked over at Blair. I’m sure her face has changed since the time we were sorority sisters, but I couldn’t tell you how. She has a few delicate laugh lines around her eyes, reminding me of how hard she can make me laugh. I have a grey hair, which I blame on the stress of air travel.
The “older” I get, the more age becomes non-sensical to me. Is it more than an number that counts the years I’ve been alive? It ability to account for experience, wisdom, or maturity now seems arbitrary. With age has come a certain amount of mobility, however. Today, mobility meant a leisurely lunch on the water front with a young, old friend. Age meant enjoying chicha morada cocktails with a sampler of causas.
A couple seated next to us ordered. They didn’t seem flustered by the waiters lightening-speed explanation of the dishes. The quick pace seemed to suit them. It was clear that I was the slow one. High tech San Fran did make me feel a little behind the times.
I recalled a phenomena I’d encountered in Buenos Aires while walking to work every morning. I’m a fast walker, with long legs, and my daily commute to work through Palermo took about 35 minutes. One day I was running late, and I rushed to work. I walked at my fastest pace, jogging across streets, dodging traffic, and pushing myself to get to work on time. It took me exactly 35 minutes. I hadn’t saved any time by rushing.
The next week, I had a meeting at a cafe near to my office. I was uncharacteristically early, so I took my time walking to my destination, trying to kill time with a much slower pace, and window shopping. I was amazed that this walk again took 35 minutes. It was as if time had sped up, and slowed down to meet my pace. Time wasn’t concrete, it was only a perception. My walk to work was going to take as long as it was going to take.
Blair reminded me of when we were roommates, and I took the batteries out of the clock in our kitchen. The sound of the ticking drove me crazy. It accelerated my anxiety, it was as if it was counting away the remaining seconds of my life.
“What is time?” I asked Blair. She looked at me like the chicha morada had gone to my head and gestured to her watch. We laughed. Blair is much more logical then I am.
“Is it true that the only moment is the present? I mean, if time is the fourth dimension, and we’ve measured it linearly, isn’t that a just singular dimension of time? Would time also adjust to account for width, and depth? Is time linear? Is it cyclical? Is it a field?”
“Sometimes I feel like I’m living simultaneously in the past and future. I struggle to separate myself from the memories of the past, or projections of the future, but do they actually exist? Is it true that time is a cerebral dimension, and therefore only a facet of consciousness?”
“What is the relationship between time and consciousness? Is time just a manifestation of motion: a combination of human thought and feeling, combined to create physical motion, which is measured as time?”
“Should have studied physics.” Blair told me.
Maybe in another dimension, I am studying physics. Maybe all the answers exist in another dimension. In this dimension I just have questions, and time.
This meal was almost immediately made a memory, and then soon it will be a distant memory. We’ll carry it in our own consciousness for a time, and record it on the internet to share our consciousness with others. The details fade, it may be that the entire record will be forgotten. The restaurant might outlive us, and we will have participated in the collective memory of it’s own lifespan, or we might outlive the restaurant, and reminisce about it when we’re older, and reality has shifted with the turning of time, whatever “time” may be.
This meal at La Mar was a time; a time that we chose to spend together, and savor.La Mar Cebicheria Embaracaderos, San Francisco Friday, August 30th, 2013.