We cram in a booth with vinyl seats, easier for wiping off when salsa drips from the end of a tortilla chip—corn, not flour. It’s not classy or bourgeoisie; it’s authentic. Here, the tequila has worms in it and the guacamole is made right next to your table. The smell of corn tortillas and chorizo permeates the air. My mouth waters as I trace my finger up and down the menu. I order the steak fajitas, which I second-guess after each of my dinner guests recites his to our waitress in questionable Spanish.
Abraham Lincoln looks up with his sad eyes, for a split second I wonder where his hat is. “Carne asada tacos, por favor.” It’s a simple but strong order for a complex man. Honest Abe may seem like a boring, typical pick for this dinner, but just like an order of carne asada tacos, you can’t go wrong with a former president whose head is on Mount Rushmore. Though he is drinking a margarita, he wears that same sober look on the five dollar bill. I wonder if it’s more a reflection of the weight of the Civil War or the state of our country today. I make a note to remind him that he’s one of the top three presidents the United States ever had. I wonder if that might cheer him up.
Lincoln may have been the tallest president, but he looks pretty puny sitting next to my next—and probably most unexpected—guest. While penning invitations for this dinner party, I watched reruns of classic college basketball games, as I often do late at night. This particular night, I watched a 1986 game, where Kenny Smith and the #1 ranked Tar Heels faced the Terps. While UNC held on for the win, I could not get over this one Maryland player. He had the size of Kevin Durant, was aggressive and quick like Russell Westbrook, and could jump out of the gym like Michael Jordan. After he made two plays that erased a four-point deficit in five seconds, I picked my jaw off the floor and picked up another invitation card. Len Bias had earned his seat at my dinner table. “Al Pastor Burrito and a side of beans and rice. Thanks.”
As Len folds up his menu and passes it to our waitress, our third guest swats the menu out of his hands. “REEEEEJECTED!” he shouts, then follows up by dunking a tortilla chip into the group salsa and challenging Bias to a post-dinner game of one-on-one at a local playground.
There’s only one person who could act so erratically and not get punched in the face. In fact, all the guests—even sad-faced Abe Lincoln—are hooting and cackling with laughter. “I’ll have the Ropa Vieja please,” says Robin Williams. “I’m a size 42/38, and do you have anything in maroon?” Of course, no dinner party is complete without a comedian and Robin Williams is just the man to stir the pot and get the laughs going. I have yet to meet a single soul who doesn’t find Robin Williams hilarious and while he hasn’t been gone for long, I just wanted his goofy smile and contagious laugh back in the world for a few hours.
Our waitress nods and asks if there’s anything else. “Another margarita?” I ask, emboldened by the laughter. It’s then that President Lincoln does the most unpresidented thing.
“Make that another pitcher,” he says and raises his glass. “To the Union!”