When Oliver moved to New Jersey right after we were married, we split up America and divided it evenly in half between ourselves. Armed with guidebooks and a portable navigation system, he quickly mastered the East Coast. I’d never been before so when I came to visit, he was my chaperon. It was fully his town. He could speak knowledgeably about Philly Cheesesteaks, Grey’s Papaya and Katz’s Deli, shopping on fifth and how the Plunge at the Gaansevort is the best hotel bar in town. He knew how long it took to get to Soho from Jersey at four in the afternoon and where you could still find a space to park your car, for free.
In that year he spent more time in the US than I have in the last six years. True he was only on the East Coast, but when he returned I noticed something else he’d acquired that I hadn’t reckoned with. Maybe it was due to the fact that when he lived in the US before he was in school and never turned on the TV and rarely went to a movie, but in all the years we knew each other he’d never been able to keep up long in conversation about pop culture. So it was the strangest sensation that it seemed like all of a sudden he had an opinion about these things, in particular very passionate opinions about the Food Network. Anthony Bourdain was a pretty cool asshole, a swashbuckling kitchen pirate sailing through foodie infested waters, Rachel Ray was a fake, insta-cook who never did her own food prep on camera and had a hideously annoying tendency to call olive oil EVOO, like she had a special inside relationship with the stuff. Jamie Oliver’s early work was great, chaotic and all over the place, a hyper-active kid genius gone wild, but his later stuff was too domestic, too tame, what was all that garden shit and hasn’t he packed on the pounds?
It was great and eerie and made me feel somewhat competitive. Without cable in Germany, I was helpless in keeping up with him. Within a few short months, I was outdated and he was current. With seeing the last Sopranos episode and the first Desperate Housewives, he’d fully occupied what had been up till then my exclusive territory.
But I still had the West Coast. Until now.
When he said he was probably going to Berkeley for a conference, the first thing I thought about was what he could buy and whether I could order some things online for him to bring back via Parental Express. Only when he started planning the trip did it really sink in. Four days at the Berkeley marina, a conference on the campus, a night at the St. Francis, a day in San Francisco, dinner with my our friends and lunch with my parents. He was taking my town. My advice on where to go, eat, drink was politely declined, he already knew where he wanted to go. He’d researched it already. For the first time my guy and my city are alone together, without me.
I can’t help but worry a little that the two of them might cheat on me.