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" May I take your hat, monsieur?"
Lenny Dykstra stared at the manicured hand extended before him. His eyes pedaled up past the white cuff and black tuxedo sleeve to the slightly bowed head of the maître d', who was tall and unblinking as he waited for their eyes to meet, his black mustache trimmed like a woman's eyebrow.
Dykstra had just been seated in perhaps the finest restaurant in Paris, but he was still wearing his tan driving cap. He considered it elegant headwear, as it could not be pulled down to his ears; but more important, it concealed the matted hair of his perpetual hat-head. When Dykstra returned his gaze to the outstretched hand, his eyes were almost crossed and the tip of his tongue was revealed like a teddy bear's. "No, thank you," he said to the hand. "I'm going to keep it on."
"Yes," said the maître d', who rolled his eyes and rotated his head one revolution on the pivot of his neck until everything was back as it had been. "Your hat, please, monsieur."
"Uh, no," Dykstra said, and he began pointing at his own head with both hands. "I've got this...." he sputtered. "I really can't." Dykstra squinted upward with pleading eyes, but the maître d' stood erect, his hand like a cop's waiting for the driver's license. Dykstra looked like he wanted to turn his head and spit. "I've got to keep it on, I've got this.... Bob? Bob! Bob, man, explain to this dude that...."
Dykstra whispered into the ear of Bob Schueller, his interpreter. Schueller rose and spoke in French to the maître d', gesturing. The maître d' sighed and, with a mighty shrug, fell into a line of five other men dressed just like him. They formed a black picket fence around the Dykstra party of 12, perhaps to protect the other customers from the raucous conversation and general commotion as everyone got settled.
When a wine list bigger than The Baseball Encyclopedia arrived, Dykstra told Schueller about a bottle of something he once had for dessert at Caesars Palace, something called Château d'Yquem. The wine steward pointed out the listing to Schueller, who turned to Dykstra and said, "They're offering you a bottle for 16,000 francs."
That's almost $3,000, but Dykstra nodded as if Schueller had leaned out of a drive-thru window to tell him he would have to take a chocolate milkshake instead of vanilla. And suddenly everyone around Dykstra relaxed and began to treat him more appreciatively. Ordering such a bottle of wine was like homering to rally your team in the seventh inning of Game 6 in the World Series—and Dykstra had done that too.
Four hundred years ago customers actually dueled to get a table here at La Tour d'Argent, but now Dykstra was suddenly abandoning his table and taking his entourage with him. He just felt like taking a walk. The maître d' practically ran after him to the elevator. "You are leaving?" he asked.
"We're coming back," Dykstra said. "We're just going to take a tour of the place."