Yesterday I was meeting my distant cousin Paul the family historian (who lives in NY http://www.paulsilverstone.com/) and our other distant cousin Daniel, a judge from Edmonton and his wife (also a judge). My great-great-grandfather Tevel is Paul and Daniel's great-grandfather. The original E-mail said "Thursday, October 4" but I had verified a few times that they really meant "Thursday, October 6." We were set for Union Square Cafe at 7 pm.
I was going to take the bus, but realized that would make me late, so took the subway, which made me early. I walked in about 6:45, asked the young guy at the door for both cousins' names and they claimed to have no reservation. They even searched on the computer for the first names and found nothing. I peeked in the dining room facing the street and didn't see them. I vaguely remembered Daniel's wife using a different name, but at this point couldn't even remember her first name.
So I went back outside to wait, hoping they would still show up. I realized this was one time a cell phone would have come in handy. But I didn't have their phone numbers on me anyway. Time passed. I considered finding a pay phone and calling Paul's machine, hoping he might check his home phone if I didn't show up. Or calling my own machine, though I didn't think these cousins had my (unlisted) number handy. All planning had been done by E-mail.
Finally, a few minutes after 7 I thought I saw Paul enter. He is a very distant cousin and I haven't met him that many times, but it looked like him. I saw him talking to the maitre'd and apparently not getting results. I went back inside and it was him. Whew. I suggested we check the wife's name, and he did know it. Nope, nothing there either.
Now we had to figure out what to do. He didn't have a cell phone either, and didn't know the name of the hotel they were staying at, in case we wanted to leave a message (that we hoped might be picked up remotely once they realized we weren't there). He had spoken to them Sunday and was under the impression we were meeting at the Union Square Cafe. So at least we both had the same "wrong" restaurant. Just in case, we asked the host if there was a restaurant with a similar name. He handed us a Zagat's Guide. Nothing promising, except possibly Gramercy Tavern or Gotham Bar and Grill.
We were about to call Paul's answering machine, when Daniel emerged from the back of the restaurant, a dining room I hadn't checked. By now it was about 7:20 and he had decided to go see if we were there and then figure out who to phone. The reservation was under Donna's name, but he had told two different people at the front all the possible names we might ask for. They must have changed shifts, because none of those people were in evidence. And no explanation of why Donna's name wasn't found when we did ask for it.
Oh well, that was a relief. Dinner was quite good (thank you, Daniel!): pumpkin soup, risotto the restaurant threw in "for the table," salmon with delicious corn and spinach accompaniment (the others had veal chops), and decaf (the others had dessert).
Aside: one of the desserts ordered was baked Alaska. I had this once in my life. The family drove up to Montreal in 1965 for my father's 25th McGill medical school reunion. On the way, it was drafty and my sister and I had colds. We felt miserable. While my parents went to the events, Aunt Yettive stayed with us in the Ritz Carlton. She let us order anything we wanted from room service: thus, baked Alaska. I don't remember much about it, except it was VERY rich and hit the spot.
I was barely aware of any itching and they claimed not to notice my rash (the lighting was dim enough to give us all trouble reading the menus - I'm going to have to start carrying around a flashlight). Conversation ranged from family (Paul gave us CDs with detailed family history, documents and photos, which I'll copy for my first cousins), politics, crosswords, more family, ship disasters, diseases named after roofing materials, and fun things to do in New York. They even went to the book fair last Sunday. We cabbed it uptown close to midnight.
Looking at the CD at home, it was interesting to see pictures of people I totally didn't know, who looked sort of like me. The extended family seems to include every Jew who ever set foot in Canada, or at least Winnipeg, where my ancestors landed from Shumsk in 1882.