Matte’s Blog

Best Birthday

I haven’t made a big deal out of my birthdays since my mother announced after my twelfth birthday party that there would be no more of them. I’d aged out. And nobody leaped into the breach. Not once since then has anyone thrown a birthday party for me. Not that I would have approved of the idea had it been presented. Well, until last July.

My friend Jeff felt that since this was my 80th birthday, it deserved being celebrated; and back at the end of June he talked me into letting him set up a restaurant dinner with friends, no presents. Well hey, why not? And then he went through my address book and got me to OK a handful of people we thought would be compatible. He suggested that we eat at Catch, a Castro restaurant on Market near 17th Street. Something like twenty years ago when the restaurant was brand new it was reviewed by the critic for the Bay Area Reporter. The reviewer recounted that she’d told her father that she’d be reviewing a gay fish restaurant. Her father inquired, “Where do they get the gay fish?” See, until fairly recently any restaurant opening in the Castro was labeled “gay” even if the owners, chef, and most of the clientele were straight.

Once I’d OK’ed his invitation list, Jeff took care of everything. Well, hey, he’s an organizer and a very good one. The next thing I needed to do was show up at my apartment door on the evening of my birthday with my hair combed so he could drive us to dinner.

Catch is a great place to eat in these COVID times because the entire front wall is sliding glass windows down to about knee level, and if you have one of the tables at the wall, it feels like you’re outside. See, if you stretch your arm out, the hand is literally outside. They’ve also added parklet seating with an excellent design that blocks the wind. We got a pair of tables right in the window.

My great fear was that I’d burst into tears since it had been nearly seventy years since anybody’d thrown me a birthday party. Kept a stiff upper lip, though, and had a wonderful evening schmoozing with old friends while eating delicious food.

And yes, I meant it when I said “delicious”. Two of us opted for the fish and chips, and we agreed that the dish was superlative. I’d never eaten fish battered and fried so lightly, and it was right up there among the best I’d ever eaten. It was so good, in fact, that since then I’ve gone back twice for lunches with friends. While the fish is always wonderful, the chips are merely good; but if they rated as high as the fish, I’d kill myself eating them.

This was a memorable occasion for me. What could be better than eating delicious food in a lovely setting with dear old friends? I’m dredging my memory to come up with a happier evening.

Meanwhile, here’s a shot of the side of Nihon, a sushi place on Folsom at 14th.

Note: Folks, I seem to have forgot how to insert graphics. It was fun while it lasted.

And OK, the other side:

There’s a lot between the lines here since the restaurant is vegan. Yep, oxymoron city, sushi without fish. And in that case, why have two fine murals depicting finny friends? Don’t ask. I didn’t.

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  1. ckm3
    Posted 7 December 2013 at 09:18 | Permalink

    For most people, what stays in Las Vegas is the money.

    Most excellent turning of the phrase

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 7 December 2013 at 14:26 | Permalink

      Many thanks.

  2. Chimpus_Dorkus
    Posted 21 December 2013 at 19:59 | Permalink

    Ouch. Poor bb, here’s hoping you have some good holidays etc to cheer you up and a speedy recovery.
    Be careful, will ya?!?

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 21 December 2013 at 20:50 | Permalink

      The holidays are most definitely cheerful, the recovery is progressing apace, and the caution level has been dramatically increased.

  3. Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:08 | Permalink

    Thank you for remembering Barry. And for loving him, as I did. I am glad he got to see a loving face before he died. You are right, he wanted to go out on his terms and it was never going to be pretty. Barry, even though he’d be cleaned up, was always disappointed after falling or having a heart attack, being picked up by ambulance, treated and then dumped right back onto the streets… He gave up hope for a place indoors after realizing that even that level of frailty was not enough to deserve housing in this city. he did admit to me he would have preferred to live inside. As you said, he was not crazy. 🙂 Again, thanks for the love and kindness you and others showed him. I know he appreciated it.

    • Matte Gray
      Posted 24 January 2014 at 12:26 | Permalink

      Since i wrote that account i’ve been back to the makeshift shrine several times and have talked with folks who knew him longer than i, people who were also there the afternoon before he died and to whom he also expressed very clearly that he did not want to go to the hospital. Some of the people who knew him better are organizing a little wake for him on the 1st of February, and i’ll post more details here as i learn them. Meanwhile, a useful resource is, with an article on 22 Jan that has extensive comments.

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