I am not sure how Cinco de Mayo came to be a big bar celebration akin to St. Patrick’s Day. Somehow a date commemorating the Mexican army’s unlikely defeat of Napoleon’s army in the Battle of Puebla is celebrated with rounds of margaritas and shots of tequila—a much better drink selection than the kitschy green beer served at local dives and college bars across the U.S. during St. Patrick’s Day.
I tend to avoid going out on holidays that attract drunken revelry, usually among the inexperienced alcohol drinkers and occasional partiers. “Amateur night,” I call it. However, in my new life where I get to be a single, childless woman every other weekend, I was looking forward to going to my local dive Mexican restaurant with my laptop to work on a blog post that has been slow in coming together while enjoying a large jalapeño margarita and fish tacos. Much like Ernest Hemingway in his Cuban retreat enjoying a daiquiri as he typed out his latest novel, I envisioned myself typing away at my laptop as my post flowed out all at once with ease. About four days ago reality hit when my son informed me that he would need to be picked up from school. My plans to fuel my creativity with a margarita sitting outside underneath the stars on a cool night went up in smoke.
My ex would comment how odd he thought that I could be at ease dining by myself or going out to the local cineplex on my own to watch a movie. But growing up as an only child for the first 13 years of my life, I got used to keeping myself company. Until recently, it was a rare treat to go out on my own, sit with a book and magazine and enjoy some “me” time as I indulged in my interests. Over the past year, I find myself dining out on my own, so I don’t feel so alone as I do sometimes sitting in my apartment by myself. It’s become a way of being social without having to invest time with another person. Also, I am not in the habit of drinking by myself so being among other diners at a restaurant constitutes as being among company.
I decided since I was given such little lead time to retrieve Keller, I would honor my other commitments during the day on Saturday and I would pick him up late in the day. My reward would be a dinner at a local dive Mexican restaurant in Harrisonburg, Va. with my son who can act as my designated driver, a benefit of having an adult driver who is not legally able to drink.
When I called to tell him of my plans, ending with dinner at a Mexican restaurant, his reply was simply, “But we’re not Mexican.”
“But we like margaritas,” I quipped back.
I arrived at Keller’s apartment shortly after 6 p.m., following a two-hour drive. It came as no surprise that he was not entirely packed, especially since he called earlier in the day to ask me to bring down suitcases and a few boxes. It would be another two hours before we were able to enjoy dinner at the local El Charro, a small chain of Mexican restaurants in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. It had been the second time that I had eaten at this restaurant, which is not really a dive, but a nice family restaurant. Both times the service and food was pretty good. I especially liked that the staff would chat with us in Spanish. As a first generation American, my Spanish is not always the best and occasionally the Spanish-speaking staff will switch to English if they find my Spanish particularly abhorrent.
I ordered the 23 oz mango margarita which proved to be very stealthy. I couldn’t taste the alcohol but my underage, “inexperienced” son took one sip and assured me there was alcohol in the drink. The “Steak al Tampiqueña” that I ordered consumed enough of my beverage that I was able to have a coherent conversation, but I quickly handed my keys to my son, so I could sleep on the drive home.
Nearly 24-hours later, I find myself alone, working at Le Pain Quotidien, this time channeling an ex-pat Parisian vibe as I finish this post. Instead of a margarita, I enjoy a glass of rosé and smoked salmon platter. I love the solitude with the occasional small talk from the server. I still need to wrap up the previous post that I had started, but perhaps a retreat to a Spanish café with a nice Rioja or glass of sangria would be more inspiring.
If you’re interested in some margarita recipes, please revisit my post about National Margarita Day.