Monthly Archives: September 2013

Glenn R. Nelson

The first Christmas that Cameron’s father spent with us (it could have been the second time, I’m not great with chronology) he suggested we go out for dinner. Glenn’s business was food, he owned a catering company in the Bay area, but he said he wanted to go someplace nice for the holiday meal. Someplace where he didn’t have to spend all day cooking, something he already did every other day. And, I suspect, since Glenn was visiting from California, he didn’t relish the idea of trying to assemble a holiday meal in an unfamiliar kitchen.

The Nelsons and Hawkins

I don’t even recall if he had access to a kitchen. Glenn and Cora had been divorced for a long time, and while he frequently stayed with her when he visited, I don’t recall if he had this time. In fact, I don’t even really recall if Cora came to dinner with us that night, or if Cameron’s brother was with us either. My memory on some of the details are spotty, but I remember where we ate and the meal we had.

Grandpa cooks Thanksgiving dinner

I was dubious that we could even find a restaurant that would be open and serving dinner on Christmas weekend, but I should have known better. Everything’s open in Vegas, even during the holidays. Once I started calling around, I was surprised at just how many restaurants were open, and pleasantly surprised that the ones I fantasized about dining in were among those willing to accommodate holiday diners.


I chose Gallagher’s in the New York, New York because at that time in my life it seemed like the kind of place I’d never be able to eat at. It was a fancy place with cotton table clothes, and expensive aged steaks that were well out of my budget. When Cameron and I had walked through the casino after its opening, Gallagher’s had caught my eye because they had a cooler on visible display full of aged steaks. Signage spoke about the special aging process they employed, so many weeks wet, so many weeks dry, and what kind of benefit that provided the steaks. This wasn’t just any old beef, this was haute couture beef.


We arrived early, just as the opened the doors at 5:30, and were alone in the restaurant for almost an hour. The wait staff was on point, calling everyone (even me!) Sir and Ma’am. They made suggestions, swept away crumbs, and dashed over with a lighter when Glenn pulled out a post meal cigarette. It was the kind of dining experience I’d never been exposed to before, and I loved it. I’m pretty sure Glenn loved revealing it to me.


I was a wide eyed and naive about the entire ordeal. A fine dining virgin with an appetite for the theater of the restaurant. Yes I would like the house special bone in aged rib-eye. Yes, I’d like some wine. Why not some whiskey as well. The creamed spinach seems lovely. Thank you for folding my napkin when I got up to use the restroom. Naturally I’d like some bĂ©arnaise sauce. When the meal was over, and the plates cleared, the waiter came by with the desert menus and asked “Would you care for some after dinner pork sir?”

After dinner pork! Of course I would like some after dinner pork! This was the classy kind of restaurant where the waiter didn’t chuckle at the diner, not even politely, but everyone else at the table indulged. Glenn explained, “Not pork. Port. It’s a drink, a fortified wine.” My dreams of some kind of desert pork chop were dashed, but here was something new, something interesting. We ordered port. Glenn explained what it was, how it was made. I let the syrupy booze float around my mouth, and reveled in all this new information.


And that’s the kind of relationship I had with Glenn. We both loved food. Eating it, cooking it, and even buying it. Years later when we took a cruise in the Mediterranean, we visited the local market in every town, investigating the fresh produce and local meats. We sampled Iberian ham, and purchased expensive balsamic vinegar. We asked the locals for restaurant advice, and then ordered things off the menu we’d never heard of. We ate a terrible cold seafood platter and got sick. We frustrated the (non English speaking) staff at a Sicilian bistro by requesting pizza at lunch time. We had extraordinary pasta in the shadow of the Colosseum. Lori and Cameron stopped at McDonald’s for french fries in Tours, and Glenn and I shook our heads and screwed up our brows in disapproval.


When we would visit Glenn, I’d help him with dinner. When he visited us, he’d provide me his advice and assistance. Glenn and I would sit and watch the Food Network for hours, talking about what we saw on the screen. Had I tried caramelizing brussels sprouts in butter? Had he ever experiment with white sauces? Do you poach eggs in a cup, or with a flourish of the spoon in a vinegared water bath? Add some cinnamon to Indian dishes, tarragon is great with beef, broil flank steak hot and quick, put some horseradish in your mashed potatoes.


We would drink whisk(e)y (he drank scotch, I drank bourbon) and talk about where we had been, and where we could go. Both in terms of physical places, as well as spiritual places.


Before we had children Glenn coached me to just get another dog. After we had children, he told me how I was a great father and how much he loved his grandson and granddaughter. You could see that love in his eyes.


Glenn was my wife’s father, my kid’s grandfather, and he was my friend. I loved him, and I miss him.

Healping Grandma with her iPhone

Last month Glenn lost his battle with cancer.