Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz

California Pizza Kitchen
1493 Saint Louis Galleria, Richmond Heights

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz

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We hadn't been to the mall on a weekend evening for ages. But we headed to Macy's at the Saint Louis Galleria on a Friday and made a beeline for their bridal registry machines — those monsters that spit out requests for things like bread makers and fondue kits. Things that we strongly suspect will be regifted in a couple of Christmases. God help us if we're the recipient.

We had forgotten about the Galleria's fairly new "Parental Guidance Required Program" — which keeps all those sixteen and younger sans guardian at bay after 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays — until we pulled into the parking lot and passed a clump of six young teens who looked as though they'd been expelled from the mall, like an organ transplant that the body rejected. We felt kind of bad for them.

Inside, Claire's is empty, as is Delia's and Hollister. The food court's quiet and clean, and nobody stands in line for the movies even though it's 8 p.m. It's like a creepy, well-ordered ghost town.

We don't enjoy shopping, so the mall's a creepy place for us to be anyway, but often we entertain ourselves by playing games. Tonight, we play Public Relations Agent, the game where we try to think up new, kickier slogans for stores. The Limited: "Because you're sleeping with the boss and nobody knows it." Express: "Because you're sleeping with the boss and everybody knows it." Things like that. It's a practice exercise for the day when we make the leap from alt-weekly, starving artist to sell-out corporate flack at a giant PR firm. Sure, we'll hate ourselves, but hey — everybody's got their price. We've got fondue sets to buy.

We sit up at the bar at California Pizza Kitchen where we can watch our pizza slide into the fiery oven, up close to the action. We order Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz, and take in its full flavor — it's rich, fruity, fantastic, and it envelops our tongue like the gift wrapping service we turned down at Macy's — and for a minute we like being at the Galleria. But then our bartender forgets our waters (twice) and utensils, and swipes our napkins before our food appears. A pair of fruit flies dance around our wine while some crew members play grab-ass behind the prep area.

"I don't like servers with long hair. They always touch it," gripes our companion. We follow his gaze to a waiter and sure enough, in just seconds the guy strokes his flowing mane. "It's like they think they're cooler than everybody. Don't they?" our short-haired friend continues, sounding not unlike a teenager himself who's been snubbed in the cafeteria by long-haired popular kids.

Once, we were restaurant managers ourselves. We often worked Friday nights and never minded because our high school-aged crew was solid. They'd close efficiently and thoroughly in part because they liked us but more so because they had parties to go to. They'd often bring their going-out clothes with them and change in bathroom before heading out to get minor-in-possession tickets.

As we wait some twenty minutes for our check to arrive, we continue to watch the horseplay behind the bar. We marvel at the irony: high school antics without all those pesky high schoolers to blame it on. The "parental guidance required" program has succeeded in spades.

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