This year, I gave strict orders: I didn't want anything special for my birthday. No party. No dinner. All I wanted, I insisted, was a simple, regular day.

Jessica respected my wishes.

So there I was. Alone. At lunchtime. On my birthday.

I hopped in the car. Man, I can't tell you how great it was, driving around, trying to figure out where to go for lunch. I remembered a Chinese restaurant that I had longed to try. I drove there.

When I walked in, the maître d' looked at me, then over my shoulder to see how many others were joining me.

"Just, uh, one," I said, trying not to sound self-conscious.

"Very good," he said, and deposited me at a table in the middle of the room.

Needless to say, it was a great spot. Right in the center, where every­body in the place could see that I was dining. Alone. On my birthday.

I couldn't remember when I had had this much fun. Glad I didn't want anyone to do anything special.

A waiter brought a menu the size of a wall. As I perused my options, my eyes kept coming back to
one dish.

"Salt-and-pepper anchovies," I mused to the waiter. "What, exactly, is that?"

He paused for a moment, ­perhaps to consider how best to describe the dish. "Salt-and-pepper anchovies," he replied.

"So," I said, and cleared my throat, "these are anchovies with salt and pepper?"


Glad we straightened that out.

"I'll have an order."

I love anchovies, but I almost never order them. That's because we're sharers, Jessica and I, and Jessica hates them.