The fireside lounge at the Hyatt in Monterey

A friend was staying with me this past week. It’s amazing how you meet, make, and keep friends. Years ago, a different friend had invited me to be his date to his company’s retreat in Bend, Oregon. The company was based in Portland. I love the rationing of people in their early twenties. He was single and so was I, “Sally, the company is paying for me to bring someone and it would be a waste for me to go alone. Plus, I think you’d be a good date because I don’t need to babysit you.” I took it as a compliment and booked a ticket to Portland, ready for the adventure. Justin had just started this job and was getting to know his future colleagues.

I mingled, ate delicious food, and drank great wine. After the sun set, the drinking got heavier and I decided it was time for me to go read my book in bed. I excused myself from the people I was talking to and Michele said, “Hey, I’m going back to my room to read, too!” We walked and talked all the way back to our rooms and learned that we had a lot in common. We exchanged contact information and promised to stay in touch at the end of the weekend. It was just like being at summer camp.

When I got home I wrote and mailed her a letter. I told her that I had enjoyed meeting her and wished her luck on her new job—she, like Justin—was also new. With that started a friendship. The following year she took me as her date to the company’s retreat. And the year after she visited me here. I have visited her in Portland and we have remained pen pals. Here we are today visiting one another yet again and making plans for the future.

In talking, we learned that she and my boss do very similar work and I suggested they meet. We met at The Fireplace Lounge and Patio at the Hyatt Regency and sat in the lobby where indeed, the fireplace is magnificent. The place is great, I love well-lit spaces and the patio overlooks the golf course. The waiter was incredibly courteous and had a charming smile. He was attentive to our needs but not too pushy. We were able to enjoy our wine, tuna poke nachos, and conversation.

Poke is all the rage, as you may have noticed with the two Monterey locales that have popped up in the past few years: The Poke Lab (on Alvarado) and Poke Time on (Lighthouse in Monterey).

If you aren’t familiar with Poke, it’s a raw fish salad that originated in Hawaii. In Hawaiian, the word poke means “cut piece” or “small piece” and can be made with tuna, octopus, salmon, or other shellfish although the most popular is ahi tuna. Traditionally, it is cut up raw fish seasoned with salt, limu (seaweed), roasted kukui nuts (candlenuts), and sometimes pepper and/or furikake (a Japanese dry seasoning made of dry ground fish, sesame seeds, seaweed, sugar, and salt).

The dish we ordered was a spin on this salad, poke nachos. Tuna poke was served over crispy won ton chips with wakame (seaweed), sriracha aioli (sriracha is a red chili sauce), and wasabi (a Japanese horseradish). And it was delightful, the soft fish over the crispy won ton chips were the perfect treat.

As I sat back and listened to them talk about their very niche-specific work, I thought of the importance of listening but also asking questions. In asking Michele about her work and probing her for more details, I learned that she uses an instrument in her work that my boss’ husband co-developed in the 1970s. The three of them (my boss and her husband) and Michele chattered away as they all spoke the same language and I enjoyed listening. I learned so much in listening but I also learned that I am most certainly not an expert in conflict management (what they were discussing). I was reminded that there is a time to listen and a time to speak and this was certainly my time to listen.

Ahi poke nachos

**a shorter version of this story was originally published in the Cedar Street Times on 12 October 2018

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