My youngest son, Lucas, visits me every other weekend. It is a time to focus on having fun and enjoying our time together. All other obligations get put aside for a few days. At 13, he is tall, lanky and wears his hair long. Sunday is our day to go out for lunch and on most Sundays we go to the Little Waldorf Saloon in Reno, Nev. But the journey involves a few other stops.
Neither of us has Internet on our home computers, so we stop at the University of Nevada, and share time on the computers. For an hour, we watch the trailers to the latest movies and check YouTube for the latest video of a teenage skateboarder castrating himself on the rails of a park stairway.
Then we cross the street and go to the Little Waldorf Saloon. The restaurant, styled in rustic wood and a cannon sitting on its roof, has our favorite special on Sundays: buy one hamburger; get a second for a penny. The cannon came to Reno with the restaurants founder, Red Waldorf, when he left his uncle’s hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, and travel to Reno to start a restaurant in 1922. The Little Waldorf would fire the cannon when the UNR Wolf Pack won a game. However, the Reno police put an end to that due to noise. We sit down at a booth and watch a bit of whatever game is on the television. Today it’s football. The inside is dark, with stained hardwood beams, seats and, well, just about everything in the restaurant is covered in wood or Old West antiques.
After Lucas orders the Great Bacon Burger and I go for the Sourdough Burger, we play video games. The Little Waldorf has a limited selection of games, but we enjoy ourselves. “Street Fighter II” and pinball are always on our agenda. But Lucas loves “Dragon Punch,” which isn’t even a video game. It is a larger-than-average boxing speed bag attached to a machine. Punch the bag, and the machine gives you a score. Lucas got the highest score, 8648, a few months ago and he takes pride that no one has yet to beat his score.
To my chagrin, I have yet to beat him on this game. I know how to throw a punch and, at three times the boy’s weight, I should be able to beat him easily. Yet every other week I get served.
We take our time at the Little Waldorf. We enjoy our appetizer of Bottlecaps, red and green jalapenos deep fried in a very light batter, and drinks while waiting for our meal. I am always fascinated by the mind of a thirteen-year-old boy. He can switch from talking about why is there still racism to fart jokes to his desire to learn to play Paganini on his violin to why he thinks the Dodge Viper is the best car in the world to why he thinks mechanical webbing is a better idea than organic webbing in the “Spider-Man” films in the span of a few sentences. He talks about what he is learning in history class; the Second Industrial Revolution. I mention that I am studying the same subject in my economic history of the United States class, but with a focus on the economics of the era. Our Sunday lunch is an open forum.
After lunch, we usually go shopping. Sometimes he needs new clothes, which he is surprisingly good a choosing for a boy his age. But usually we travel to the Barnes & Noble and Best Buy on South Virginia Street. We take time looking at books. He looks at historical fiction. I look at comic books.
At five o’clock, it is time for the good times to end. We go back to my apartment. He picks up his things and I take him back to his mother’s. Our Sunday travel is not elaborate and hardly exciting, but it is our time together.
It is an opportunity for Lucas to act a little more like an adult and for me to act a little less like one. I know my time is short. Another year or two and he will be more interested in girls, sports and whatever the hell kids are into these days. The writing is on the wall. I will be irrelevant, at least for a while. And the Little Waldorf will just be a restaurant on Virginia Street that I used to go to with my teenage son.
Text and photos Copyright © Paul George 2012