An interesting evening.

After spending most of yesterday following Kings news as it flowed freely through twitter and updating you, the readers of Cowbell Kingdom, I decided to go out and blow off a little steam.  Ella, one of Sacramento’s finest culinary establishments, decided to take part in yesterday’s Here We Purple campaign, so they received my late evening business.  Being completely honest, I assumed that Ella would be on a short list of restaurants that might lure the business of the NBA executives visiting from out of town, and I was correct.

While I parked the car, my wife, who also doubles as my editor, went into Ella ahead of me to get a table.  As I walked in, I spotted my wife, who looked at me with a sheepish grin as she sat at a table in the center of the restaurant.  On one side of the restaurant sat Clay Bennett, Harvey Benjamin and an unknown gentleman.  On the other side of the restaurant sat Mayor Kevin Johnson and his group of four.  There in the middle of all of the action, I took my seat thinking two things – first up, my wife is the most beautiful woman in the room and secondly, how am I going to handle this situation?

I am not the approach someone at their table kind of guy.  I believe that regardless of the job I do, it is only common decency to allow people to enjoy their meal in peace.  That doesn’t mean that I won’t put down my fork and have a conversation with someone when they happen to walk by my perfectly placed table.

First to stroll by was Mayor Johnson who left his table and walked to the NBA executives’ table.  After a few minutes of conversing with the group, Mayor Johnson went to leave, walking directly past my wife and I as he headed for the door.  I was able to catch his attention and after introductions, we had a nice conversation about things like me ripping him a new one in a City Council meeting last month as a member of the Here We Stay group.  We had a good laugh.  I told him he played possum better than anyone I had ever seen.  He laughed and asked for an apology for me not having faith in him.  He was extremely pleasant and both of us left the conversation smiling.  I felt like I met KJ, not Mayor Johnson and he was confident and upbeat, not the man I berated in front of City Council a month earlier.

As for Bennett and his group, they took their time, clearly enjoying some wonderful food.  My wife and I ate, breaking to speak with Nick, a restaurant attendant who claimed to be a huge basketball fan, but a fan of players and not teams.  I didn’t understand this concept so I psychoanalyzed him between bites of gnocchi.  I told Nick that clearly he had detachment issues and I even went as far as to ask if he was a product of the foster care system.  Good guy that Nick, he took my psychobabble in stride, asking me where he could find my work.

As I was finishing dinner, the NBA conglomerate finished paying and got ready to leave.  Once again, our table was in the perfect location.  I introduced my wife and myself to Mr. Bennett, telling him that I had written a piece about him earlier in the week.  He assumed that it was bad, like 99% of the stories written about him, but my wife refuted that notion.  I told him that my mother was born in Oklahoma and I had family there.  He smiled and said, “then you got some Okie in you.”  Only someone from Oklahoma can use that word without it seeming almost offensive – it was a term of endearment in my household growing up.  Bennett was extremely cordial, sticking around for a few minutes while I shared with him the perspective from which I wrote my piece on him.  When I called him a hero in Oklahoma, he seemed taken aback.  We finished our conversation, shook hands and I wished him luck.

My impressions of Clay Bennett after last night are as follows – he is a person just like anyone else.  He is not the devil, he is a business man and honestly I found him to be very engaging and friendly.  He is much bigger in person, but his mannerisms were slightly disarming, sort of a southern/mid-western gentleman type.  Like Mayor Johnson, Clay Bennett seems like a guy I could sit and have a drink with.

As for the evening, I had an amazing meal with a beautiful woman and conversed with two of the most important figures in Sacramento Kings history.  Interesting evening indeed.




James Ham

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