An Israeli bank manager, sent to work in Miami, finds himself in an unknown milieu. The tale revolves around the political, professional and social dilemmas as well as romantic ones. These all reflect the modern 'wandering Jew' syndrome in microcosm. "Do You Lunch" is Nimrod Cinnamon's debut novel. Nimrod experienced the classic upbringing of a native-born Israeli and began writing after retiring from his long-term banking career.
An Israeli bank manager, sent to work in Miami, finds himself in an unknown milieu. The tale revolves around the political, professional and social dilemmas as well as romantic ones.
After all the travels and experiences I've had in my life, 'Arthur's' in downtown Miami was still among my favorite restaurants. I loved the relaxed ambience that allowed for quiet conversation with friends. The furniture, heavy, solid and mainly black combined with dark red here and there, was to my taste and there was always a variety of choices on the menu that I loved to partake in. You could say that I'm far from being a gourmet, at least so say my friends. The soft frogs' legs in the wonderful Parisian restaurants don't take my fancy and I don't like the astringency of Bordeaux wine either. For my part, I could make do with three kinds of soup: New England style clam chowder, sweet potato soup and tomato and rice with meatballs, like the kind Nili used to make. The Caesar Salad at 'Arthur's' was the ultimate salad and I could easily do without all the other salads that all the most famous restaurants take so much pride in.
For the main course, I love the salmon, well-done with a side of mashed potatoes or steak that's medium well-done with a baked potato. Laurie laughs. She says I don't know anything about food at all and if I don't change my ways they'll stop serving me in restaurants.
"Chefs don't like it when you order well-done," she says.
"But I ordered medium well-done," I justified myself.
"It doesn’t matter! You don't give them a chance to prove their expertise in preparing the steak. So what if it's a little red?" she retorted.
"I can't stand the sight of blood."
"That's probably why you never studied medicine. But you could have at least become a lawyer, like all the other Jews who can't stand the sight of blood…"
"Ah, I see you still remember the story about Samuel Leibovitz."
"I haven't forgotten any of your stories and you know it."
This time I didn't go to 'Arthur's' with Laurie. The hour was a bit strange too – two o'clock in the afternoon. It was a special meal that Jack had invited us to in honor of my retiring from the organization and the time fit his schedule. We were only five men, without any of the women we were used to having around when we got together for a meal. Jack knew it would make me happy to get together at 'Arthur's', even though during this season we usually ate at 'Joe Stone's Crabs' in Miami Beach, where you could get the best seafood in town and maybe in all of Florida. I don't dislike sea food but I don't like to eat with my hands and I hate when they put that bib on the diners, so you don't get your suit dirty.
"Well, let's say goodbye to Dror in a place that he likes," said Jack to the three J's, as we called them in private, Jaime, Jorge and Javier – the three other seniors in the organization.
"I did what you asked," he turned to me, "modest, no guests from the outside, and no women to stroke us and add some sexual tension. It's all good. I know your style, but I promise that you'll regret it someday and you'll miss the good times with us. We usually have all those beautiful women surrounding us. It's just a matter of time for every man. There are those who go for it a day after their wedding and there are those who take five years. When it happens to you, just say the word and I'll be happy to invite you."
"Thanks, Jack, I'll remember that promise."
"I'm serious. We're not living in the 18th century. Last month we crossed into 1995. These days everyone knows that you have to enjoy life because it's short."
Jack took over the conversation and the others commented once or twice. I was surprised by his fluent English, in contrast to the Hebrew he spoke when we were alone, Hebrew mixed with Bulgarian, the kind I grew up with in the '50's in Jaffa.
"This isn't an ordinary occasion," he went on when we raised our glasses. "In fact, I don't remember any of us raising glasses here ever wanting to retire. We have a good life together, right?"
We all agreed immediately and once again raised our glasses, while Jack gazed at each one of us, "Right? Right?"
"But Dror is a special guy", he went on, "I noticed him about ten years ago and waited patiently, like a bird of prey, for him to join us. I want to say to you, Dror, you did an excellent job. Each of us puts himself out for the organization. Each of you sitting here is worth every dollar I pay you, and you all know that if I didn't think so I wouldn't have any problem telling it to your face and showing you the door."
"I'll never forget the deal Dror made with Gardner in Tampa that made us a lot of money, and will continue to do so for many years to come. It's that special quiet character he's got that helped to close deals in so many cases. True, when I realized that pretty words and nice manners weren’t enough to close the deal I would send someone else, or I took care of the case myself. But why am I rambling on so much? We all know what I'm talking about so I won't keep on babbling.
I remember, Dror, that you spoke once about writing. If that's what you intend to do, good luck to you. I'm sure that you'll succeed. But if you ever want to come back to us, don't hesitate. This is your home. You'll always have a place with us."
"Thank you, Jack," I was able to utter, between sips, "I appreciate all that you've said."
"I mean every word. If you want to visit, you're more than welcome and we'd love for any opportunity to see you. Right, men?"
Jack looked into the eyes of all those present, and they all joined in mumbling agreement.
"I can only say," said Javier, "that it was a great honor to work with a real gentleman. I'll miss you very much. Please, come to visit often. Mi casa es su casa."
"Yes, Dror, don't forget we're family," added Jaime, "I expect to see you a lot."
The food was already served, the tableware clattered and the waitresses buzzed around, and then it was my turn.
"I want to say a few words. Keep on eating, this isn't a formal occasion. We're all good friends and we always have been. That happened because of all of us, of course, but more than anyone we all have to thank Jack. It's Jack who created the ambience – always insisting that we're a family. When speaking of any of us he always highlighted our good points. True, we also made fun of each other's weaknesses but it was always in good humor and we always had each other's backs.
I'll miss you all and hope to keep in touch. I'm telling you right now that I don't intend to come and bother you at work. You don't have to remind me that we're family, I feel that way all the time. We'll definitely meet at occasions and other places, but I'm going to be doing different things. You'll get along fine – I've got faith in you. If you ever need my help or advice-I'm always at your service. Just pick up the phone. I know you'll do just fine without me."
"So what are you going to do?" asked Jaime. "I know you, you won’t be able to sit at home…"
"I heard he's going to write", Javier hurried to reply while looking in my direction and looking for assurance to what Jack had implied.
I tried to think of a decent reply for a few seconds. "The organization did me a lot of good. I'm fixed so I don't have any financial problems, just like the rest of us. I might write but I'm not sure yet. I'm thinking about not working at all. It's true that I'm not so old, not even fifty-six, but Laurie is pressing me to write. She even says she's got an excellent name for my book. You know how much I value her opinion and it might be that in this case she's right."
"What I didn't like hearing," interrupted Jorge, "is that you don't intend to visit very often. I don't want to lose a friend like you. If you don't visit for a long time, you'll disappear from us. Ojos que no ven corazon que no siente, out of sight out of mind, you know".
We all laughed. We were all a little tipsy.
"I love you guys. We'll keep in touch, don't worry."
"Dror, you sure you don't want my present? You just say the word and she'll be waiting for you across the street. We'll leave and leave you here with her," Jack tried again.
"Thanks, not this time, but I won't say the day will never come when I'll hold you to your promise…."
"Wait a minute," said Jack, "just remember one thing – before you give your book to the printer, I want to read it."
"You'll be the second one to read it, and you'll have the right to red-mark it. But you can be rest assured that if I do write anything, it will only be about a very short period in my life, about ten years before we started working together."
We all hugged and kissed and patted each other on the back.
Sammy had already brought my beloved black Cadillac around and stood beside the open driver's door. His big smile probably had something to do with knowing what a big tip he could expect. 'He's worth every dollar,' I thought to myself when I saw the beautiful, shiny vehicle.
"You're back early," said Laurie.
"I missed you, darling. We had a good time and I managed to slip away from the dessert that Jack prepared for me. Or maybe he was just testing me to see if I'd take the bait."
I told Laurie a few details about the lunch. As usual it only took me three minutes to sum up a two-hour meeting. I put special emphasis on the compliments I received and the encouragement for writing a book.
"You really should write," said Laurie.
"We talked about that, but I'm not sure that I could sit and write seriously every day. I'm not that disciplined."
"You're the most disciplined man I know, and I do know you so well. Most of the time you never really liked what you were working at, but you did it better than most of the others, even though at the beginning it seemed like you had no chance of succeeding."
"It's not the same, Laurie, back then I had no choice. I had to bring money home. I couldn’t afford to fail. Now I have no financial pressures."
"Dror, darling, do you remember that we have a housewarming party at Sarah's tonight? I suggest you go rest for a couple of hours while I go to the hairdresser's. We'll talk about all this later on the way to Sarah's."
"You're right…I'm going to lie down. But I want you to wake me up with the special…."
"With my new hair-do? Forget it. But when we get back from the party…."
At first I couldn't fall asleep. My mind raced with thoughts of what I would do starting tomorrow morning. The view of the ocean reflecting in the picture window of my bedroom attracted my attention for several minutes. But slowly, slowly I felt my eyelids becoming heavy and I gave myself over to a deep sleep.