Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Celebrating the Demise of a Boogeyman

As we drove back from our bike ride in and around the northern California town of Chico, and my visit with my friend, Ernie, on his ranch, my brother Dan took a phone call from his wife. "Listen to the news," she told him. "Obama is making some kind of announcement in a little while."

We listened to the radio and I called up some web pages on my cell phone. After not too long, we listened to a talk show host on a San Francisco radio station say, "There's a wild rumor that Osama bin Laden has been killed."

While Obama's speech was delayed, that wild rumor grew from a smolder into a raging wildfire, becoming a nearly certain fact: bin Laden had been shot dead in Pakistan.

Needing to stop for dinner, we pulled off Interstate-5, on the west side of the Great Central Valley, at the little town of Williams. We found our way to a restaurant, "Louis Cairo's," which opened for business in the 1930s. The sign above the entrance read, "ITALIAN DINNERS" and "Charcoal STEAKS."

As we entered the restaurant, we found ourselves in the inviting bar, which included several tables, and there were a few people enjoying their meals. There were four t.v. screens, and two of them were tuned to the news. We could watch the crowds that were gathering in front of the White House, and at at Ground Zero. The faces of those in those crowds seemed young, the faces of people who had to be young children when Osama unleashed his horror on the United States, and the world. To them, he must have been the equivalent of the Boogeyman.

An older woman was hanging an American flag over the wooden screen that separated the front door from the bartop. "How does that look?" she said, looking at us and at the bartender. "Fine," we all answered.

Dan and I decided we'd eat in the bar, because we wanted to see what Obama had to say. "Can we sit here?" we asked the woman who'd hung the flag, assuming she was a waitress.

"I don't work here," she laughed. "I just wanted to hang the flag!" She sat down at her own table next to a friend. We asked what was good on the menu. "Everything!" came the answer. The two friends told us they'd been coming to the restaurant for decades, one of them for a half century.

The bartender called out to us, "What do you like to drink?" I started to say, "Water's fine," my usual response, when the man added, "It's on me, because we got bin Laden." I decided to have a beer, my favorite, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (brewed in Chico), and I think my brother did, too.

Occasionally someone would drift out of the main portion of the restaurant to use a restroom. They would stop and look up at one of the t.v. screens. When Obama began to speak, confirming what we already knew, a man walked out of the main room and made a photograph of the t.v. with his cell phone. We heard no shouts of joy from inside the restaurant, there were no honking car horns in the streets of Williams (whose residents by then were probably mostly asleep).

Before they departed, the two women we spoke with recommended we try the "Louie Bread," which was bread smothered in cheese and garlic ("a clove in every bite"). In fact, we opted for the "Blue Louie Bread," which included copious amounts of blue cheese. It was a terrific appetizer. The minestrone soup was just as good, and so was our dinner, a seafood linguine.

Before leaving, we thanked the bartender, Scott Parker, who is also one of the owners of the restaurant, and we complimented the food and service.

Dan and I returned to the road. We talked about our bike ride in Chico, and about our visit with my friend, Ernie. We talked, too, about the happy crowds we'd seen on t.v., celebrating the death of bin Laden. That people would come out and celebrate the end of a such an evil person seems natural enough. Yet I thought back to scenes on t.v. of those who danced in the streets to celebrate the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center; I was a little uneasy as the newscaster talked about the crowds in our capital and in New York City. Were we gloating? Would those crowds inflame the passions of those who we need to win over to our side?

No matter. Hunting down bin Laden was justice served. I'm glad the world's most infamous terrorist was shot dead. He deserved a far worse punishment. I was glad to celebrate – with my brother, with a beer and with a great dinner – the end of the Boogeyman.

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