Saved by Buddha

My entire life, I’ve wanted a dog. When I was about nine, my 19-year-old sister surprised me with a pale Labrador puppy. We’d recently moved away from the farm where I’d grown up , and all of my brothers and sisters were away at college. “He’ll keep you company,” she said. She was into Tolkien at the time, so she named him Gandalf.

But Sandy had not cleared the dog with my dad. Due to Lady, he was completely against it.

Lady was the family dog before I came into the picture. A mostly Collie mutt, her intelligence was legendary. She helped raise my brothers and sister for nearly a decade – until she was hit one day by a speeding Buick. Lady died in my father’s arms.

My dad was so bruised emotionally by her loss that he vowed never to have another dog. Without discussion, he made my sister take Gandalf back after two days, while I was at school. I refused to speak to him for a couple of weeks.

I can’t blame my dad, although I think he was just plain wrong. I was a latch-key kid from age six, and spent a lot of time alone. When I was 11, we uprooted suddenly from all of our family and all of my friends in Michigan to move to Florida due to my father’s failing health. He died two years later. I remember the weeks after his funeral sitting on the dock near our house, wondering what had happened to Gandalf, absolutely certain that no one would have ever loved that dog as much as me.

After 30 years, I decided that it was finally time to get a dog. After two years of listening to me talk about it, Mike agreed. We found a cute little maltese yorkie mix with a breeder in Oregon. We were hesitant at first because the breeder refused to let us visit the house to see how they raised the puppies. But after several phone calls, we felt reassured. This morning, he assured us the dog was still available. We emailed the contract and sent the deposit via Paypal. We assumed the deal was done… until late this afternoon when we received an email saying “another couple was interested.” What?! We waited. We called. I checked my email every 90 seconds. Hours later, he finally called to say that they sold him to a different couple. They had received their paperwork first. Sorry.

I’m not mad at them. Well, OK, I’m sort of mad at them. There’s something cruel in waiting until 8 p.m. to tell us that we didn’t get a puppy that we thought we bought at 10 a.m. I had a dog bed picked out. I bought him treats at Mud Bay.

But the big thing was that we got the call while we were eating at Siam on Broadway. It is not an exaggeration to say that Mike bought our house due to its extreme proximity to Siam. We eat there at least once a week. It’s a rare day that we don’t have remnant takeout boxes from Siam in our fridge. When we’ve been traveling, the first thing that we do when we come home to Seattle is head to Siam.

It was one of those things that you could count on – until tonight. After 20 years, the owner decided to close down. Tonight was the last night.

As a farewell, today we ate both lunch and dinner there. Tonight, as we ate our Siam special curry and our fish cakes, we talked to the staff. It was as if we were saying good-bye to relatives planning to move so far away that we all knew we’d ever visit. They poured generous glasses of wine, and brought us free food. Longtime patrons packed the place for one last meal, and the night took on the feel of a good-natured wake. We ordered too much on purpose, so we could eat their food for a few more days. In the middle of all of this, I got the call about the puppy. The evening took on a strong melancholy note.

Then, it happened. One of those weird, happy moments.
As we walked out, Lynda, the owner asked if we wanted anything. Any of the decorations? “I’ve always liked that reclining Buddha on the fish tank,” I told her, half joking. She turned, promptly climbed up on a chair and brought it down, dusting it off with her sleeve. As we walked home, we suddenly felt elated. We had a piece of a place that we loved, our own “portable goddess.”
So in one day, we lost a puppy that was never ours and a beloved neighborhood joint. But in the process, we gained an elegant Buddha that will now and forever greet everyone as they walk across the threshold into our house.
Looking at her, I realized that Mike can make great Thai food. We can find another dog. Nothing will replace Siam, but we were lucky to have it there for as long as we did. Now, we’ll always have the Buddha. I think she’ll bring us luck.

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Filed under deeply personal, great meals, Rants and raves, restaurants, Seattle dining

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