Vacationing with a girlfriend for the first time is a chance to earn her affection while becoming best friends with bellboys, bartenders and waitresses.
Mammoth, a ski and summer destination located in the Eastern Sierras 8,000 feet above sea level, is the kind of place that leaves an indelible impression on any first time visitor like my girlfriend. The mountains are spectacular, the lakes, pristine, but what would Mammoth be without the seasonal staff members whose respect would mean everything to me.
When we arrived at the front desk of the Village at Mammoth we were greeted by Michael, a calm, but eager fellow. Michael and I took turns saying each other’s names.
“Hi, Mr. Steingart.”
“Hi, Michael,” I said.
“We have you staying with us for three nights. Is that right Mr. Steingart?”
“Yes, Michael. That’s right.”
“Would you like two room keys, Mr. Steingart?”
“That’s perfect, Michael. Thank you.”
Michael handed me the room keys and provided thorough directions to the parking lot.
We threw our luggage in our room. My girlfriend complained her head hurt, and pointed to the fire alarm which was beeping.
“Will you call Michael?” she asked.
It was okay for me to call since Michael gave me his number. I remembered it because it was zero.
“Hey, Michael. It’s Elliot. We have a slight issue on our hands. The fire alarm is beeping.”
“I’ll send someone up right away,” Michael exclaimed.
“He’s a great bell boy,” I told my girlfriend.
“He’s not a bell boy. He’s called a concierge,” she corrected me.
“We’ll agree to disagree.”
We ate hamburgers at a restaurant called “Burgers” across from our quarters. After which we visited the corner pub in the basement of a lodge. I recognized the bartender from the last time I was in Mammoth three or four years ago. He was wearing the same Hurley fitted cap, same short sleeve button down shirt too. Chris, the locals called him.
“Hey, Chris.” My girlfriend called to him. “I’‘ll have a Blue Moon, please.”
I noticed a $3 special for New Belgium’s Winter Ale. “I’ll have one of those.”
For $3 I don’t care what season it is. I did, however, notice the fine selections of whiskeys and bourbons when I spotted the one and only, Dickels!
“Ever have Dickels?” I asked the guy to my right.
“No. How is it?” he asked.
Chris chimed in. “I have a group of guys who come in after they hit the mountain and ask for George Dickel.If you like Jack Daniels. You’ll like Dickels.””
“I know Dickel’s well,” I assured Chris.
I begged my girlfriend for her gold coins and selected the evening’s music on the juke box. The Smiths and Talking Heads guided us through the next few beers which because of the altitude rendered us drunk. At 11pm Chris rang the bell.
“Last call! Last Call!”
My girlfriend could not argue that Chris was now the bell boy. I might have blurted out “Really??” when I heard “Last call” at 11pm, but Chris did not seem like the kind of guy that would take lightly to city folk questioning his grasp of Pacific Standard Time.
We awoke wanting to visit one of the lakes nearby. Of course, who better to suggest a lake than Michael?
“Which lakes would you recommend?” I asked Michael who then handed us a map and began highlighting the different lakes.
“I suggest you visit Twin Lakes.”
Michael described how to get there and I assumed that my girlfriend was listening because I was not.
“Do you have any fine dining recommendations?” I pondered.
I wasn’t sure who I was trying to impress more—-my girlfriend, or Michael.
We drove around the different lakes, jacuzzi’d and enjoyed happy hour in the village. Our last night was poised to be special as we drove forty-five minutes up the 395 to the Inn at Mono Lake, a quaint restaurant right off a stretch of highway with stunning views of Mono Lake.
“We are a bit early,” I informed the hostess. “But we do have a reservation.”
The hostess guided us to a two top nearest the window with premium views of the lake.
The hostess returned. “I’m Chelsea. I’ll be serving you tonight.”
She was still Chelsea. That hadn’t changed, but her job description had.
My girlfriend ordered a pinot noir. “I’ll have the Cote du Rone.”
“Which one is that?” Chelsea asked. “Sorry, I should know all the wines.”
My girlfriend kindly pointed to my wine of choice. We ordered bruschetta to start and a 12 ounce New York Strip and a pork chop for our entrees.
“The pork chop will take 25 minutes to prepare. I thought you should know that,” Chelsea mentioned.
“Perfect,” I responded.
Chelsea returned to refill our bread. As she motioned for the bread basket, my girlfriend was reaching for the basket herself. At once, Chelsea’s arm got stuck under my girlfriend’s arm. My lovely girlfriend had put our waitress in a Chinese arm lock.
“I’m so sorry!” Chelsea apologized.
“She’s aggressive towards waitresses. You better watch out!”
When our entrees arrived we admired the lake while enjoying the richness of the meat. We recalled Michael’s recommendations and Chris’s affinity for Dickel’s.
“Do you think Chelseas knows Michael and Chris?” she asked me.
It was the million dollar question, but the billion dollar question was to come. We would leave the next morning and wanted to make scrambled eggs. We had a problem. There was no butter in the condo.
When Chelsea came back, I closed my eyes, pretended she was Michael and mustered the courage by asking, “Do you have any butter?”
My girlfriend entered the conversation. “Sorry, we are trying to make eggs and don’t have butter.”
“We have a whole stick of butter but I might have to charge you for it. I’ll see what I can do.”
I left for the bathroom and when I came back my girlfriend said an elderly woman notified the bartender that Chelsea didn’t know what she was doing. I found that hard to believe because when she came back with a to go box I peeked inside and found a half a stick of butter.
I added the amount on the tip and below where I signed my name I wrote a little note that said, “Thanks for the butter.”
The memories of Mammoth will remain, and the friendships with those who took my money will forever be in our hearts.