Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Restaurants”

Today is Throwback Thursday… From 12/9/2014

 

Throwback Thursday… From 12/9/2014

I Should Buy Some Purple Spandex

Baskin Gym

I LIVE VERY CLOSE TO MY favorite gym. It is only about a five minute walk from my home, but, of course, I don’t walk there – I drive.  It has all the latest equipment and a highly- trained staff that can help design for you a really healthy and vigorous workout program. You can also get top notch diet and nutritional planning advice there as well.

I don’t care about any of that crap.

It’s my favorite gym because it is right next door to a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store. I can just imagine myself doing a really healthy cardio workout in the gym and then zipping next door for some hand-packed peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. I’m never going to do that, but I can imagine it. I’m so glad that the two places are so close. Talk about your city planning! I should send a “Thank You” card to the zoning board. They got something right for a change.

I really do love going to that gym – really, I do. I just stand outside, with my ice cream cone and watch the folks inside sweating and grunting. Every once in a while someone comes outside and joins me. I think they realize that I’m having a better time than they are.

One time some yutz came out from the gym and started to berate me for my dissipated lifestyle. That was his phrase – “dissipated lifestyle.” – And how he was a much better person than me. I licked my cone and nodded, but didn’t say anything. That really fried his Twinkies.  He flexed his muscles and got right up in my face and said that when we both get to 50 years of age I’ll probably have already dropped dead and he’ll still be healthy. I told him my guess was that he’d stroke out on his Stairmaster long before reaching 50, and that, anyway, I’m already way past 50 years old and “you can lick my Rocky Road.”

I Would Never Lead You Astray

DESPITE MY CURMUDGEONLY REPUTATION I really do try to be a helpful sort of person. Like yesterday afternoon when a stranger asked me for directions. He was passing through town and wanted to have lunch at his favorite restaurant – “Chili’s” and he needed help finding it.

I was proud that I could give him simple and accurate directions. Follow my directions and an imbecile could find that restaurant.

“Just go down this road. When you get to the big courthouse-looking building, turn left. Keep going for a few minutes, then go under the Interstate. Keep going until you see their sign. It’ll be on your right.”

Simple, not too complicated, and absolutely accurate.

Read more…

I Was Getting Desperate

A FEW DAYS AGO I BECAME CONVINCED THAT THE WORLD WAS OUT TO DRIVE ME INSANE. To start off with I am not yet in the groove with the time change thing that drove my internal alarm clock into therapy.

It was a little after 6 AM (Or was it 7AM?). I was crawling through the door at the Chapel of St. Arbucks (Patron Saint of Jittery People) in search of coffee when I heard an approaching siren that quickly turned into a full blown hook and ladder fire truck. It careened around the corner and came to a halt in front of a Pancake House across the street. At least it wasn’t the Chapel; I would have been forced to wait among the flames for my coffee.

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Throwback Thursday From November 2015 – “Hey, Butterball!”

Throwback Thursday From November 2015 –

 

 

Hey, Butterball!

Brace yourself, America! It’s that time of year again when,a39f71f4-51bf-4f24-8b9e-4fe70b5801cb all across the country, people will be preparing Thanksgiving Turkey Dinners by the millions.

For most it will be a joyous chore to feed family and friends, but for many it will be a challenge comparable to trying to fly to the moon in a lawn chair powered by some helium balloons from the dollar store.

Despair not, help is available!

This year, as it has for the past 34 years, the fine folks at Butterball will be running their Turkey Hotline to answer questions and help salvage those Thanksgiving dinners for the less than expert chefs. Not everybody can be Julia Child – nor would you want to be – she’s dead.

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Throwback Thursday from October 2015 – “One Man’s Trash”

Throwback Thursday from October 2015 –

One Man’s Trash…

THE SUN IS SHINING, BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED. There is a chill in the air that is here to stay until springtime. This seems to happen every year about this time. Where do I go to lodge a formal complaint?

I know that complaining doesn’t do any good. It is what it is. There is also that AA prayer about changing things you can and not changing the things you can’t ending with, “…and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That is the tricky part.

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Emotional Lunch

 

I SAW A SIGN ON THE FRONT OF A RESTAURANT YESTERDAY and it set me to thinking (I know, a dangerous and often toxic undertaking.).

When I saw this sign it made me come up with a number of questions – the first of which was, “What is an Angry Chicken?”

I can understand why any individual chicken might be angry at being cooked and eaten, but I’ve never really thought about a chicken’s moods.

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Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – One

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty – One

Marlee nodded and squeezed his hand, but said nothing.

“And all I could do was watch.”

She was still silent. She was not going to be satisfied with a synopsis, he realized. It was all or nothing and it was too late for ‘nothing.’

“How long were you together?” She was taking him back to Square One.

“Alicia and I met when we were 14. She walked into the classroom and I was in love. That was it, for me anyway. It took her a couple of years to come around.” He smiled at the memory.

“I wanted us to get married as soon as we were out of school. Of course, both families were dead set against it. Alicia was too. She was determined to get an education.

“She wanted to be a nurse. It was all she ever really wanted. Alicia was going to go after her dream and I was not it. If I wanted to be with her I was going to have to wait. So, I waited. While she went to San Francisco State, I went and took some classes at City College and played in a band on weekends. “

“What do you play?”

“Did play. Guitar. We were pretty good. We had two names. When we played a gig in the Mission or someplace Latino we were ‘Besame’ and when we got booked in some rock and roll club we used the English translation of ‘Besame’: ‘Kiss Me.’

“Anyway, Alicia did it. She got her degree in Nursing, with honors and I got an AA degree in waiting, but it was the right thing to do and worth it all.”

“Tell me about your wedding.”

Luco smiled and Marlee let go of his hands. She could see that he needed them free to talk, words alone weren’t enough.

“Our wedding was…spectacular. All of our friends and families were there. About twenty of her classmates from “State” came, as did a bunch of my buddies from City College.

“We were married at Mission Dolores. We had to reserve the church a year and a half ahead of time. The priest who had baptized us both, Father Castillo, married us.

It was just so beautiful. On the invitations we asked everyone to bring some flowers from their gardens or backyards. The altar was overflowing with Lavender, Hibiscus, Shasta Daisies, low carpets of pansies and spears of Giant Sunflowers that, I swear, seemed to be straining to reach the gilded vault of the church. As Alicia came down the aisle our friends handed her flowers. When she reached the front of the aisle her Mother had a ribbon and tied the flowers together to make her bouquet. It was beautiful. The scent of Jasmine and Honeysuckle was everywhere.

“By the time Alicia and I kissed, everyone was crying. I’ve never heard of a wedding getting a standing ovation, but ours did.”

Marlee had to wipe her eyes.

“The band I was in worked a lot and I put aside every penny for the wedding and reception. We rented one of the big dance clubs in the Mission and we all partied until we dropped. There was enough food for an army and the music was almost non-stop. To save time and trouble we invited everyone who lived within complaining distance and I, personally, delivered invitations to the Police Station.

“The reception went on until the next morning. It was a total joy, no problems at all. Of course I thought to hire a few of my Samoan pals to work the door. Nobody messes with Samoans.” He could see a quizzical look on Marlee’s face.

“Each of the guys was big enough to have his own ZIP Code.

“Alicia and I danced. We were so in love it was silly. We went to Disneyland for our honeymoon. You have to visit there someday.”

Now that he had started it was pouring out of him.

“Alicia was able to get work at SF General Hospital. It was only a few blocks from our apartment. I got a job with PG&E, reading gas meters.”

His smile faded and the animation left his voice as he continued.

“It was all we had dreamed of for four years and now we had it all spread out in front of us. I was still playing with ‘Besame’ a lot and Alicia took up painting. She found she had a talent for it. It relaxed her. Our life together was good. Marriage felt so ‘right.’ I don’t think I can express it to you.”

“You’re doing it beautifully. Go on.”

“Alicia worked in the Emergency Room, a very busy place.

“One Friday night she was on the graveyard shift. The Police and Paramedics were bringing someone through the doors every few minutes – gangbangers, junkies and other O.D.s, a few plain old sick people and all kinds of head cases.

“She was part of a team working on some speed freak who felt that he had cockroaches swimming in his bloodstream. He had tried to cut them out with a butcher knife. He was bleeding from everywhere when they brought him in. He was screaming to be left alone.

“Alicia was trying to get a blood sample for typing. She stuck him and, somehow he got a hand free and punched her in the face. She just got up off the floor and went back to the table. The guy pulled the syringe out of his arm and stabbed Alicia in the neck with the needle. An orderly slugged the guy and knocked him out. All of this happened in just a couple of seconds.

“Alicia pulled the syringe out of her neck and started to go get another syringe, to do her job. One of the doctors and another nurse pulled her aside to examine her.

“The needle had punctured an artery and their immediate concern was that air may have been injected into the artery and was now racing through her bloodstream.

“She was aware of her peril, but she kept her cool as an EEG was set up to monitor her brain activity. Blood thinning drugs were pumped into her to, hopefully, reduce the risk of a stroke. Alicia was able to alert the doctor to anything that she was feeling, any potential symptom of trouble. She gave them a calm and professional account of her possible imminent death.

“On the other table the main team worked to save the bastard who stabbed my wife. He died and I’m glad.

“They saved Alicia. There was no air bubble in her blood. She came home and told me what happened. It was the first time I had ever seen her scared like that. Then she told me that the danger wasn’t over.

“Oh, God, those next few weeks were the worst Hell I could have imagined.

“The dead pig that attacked her was HIV Positive. The next day Alicia went in and her blood was drawn for testing. They told us that even if the results came back Negative that she should be tested again regularly for the next six months. It can take time for the virus to show up in testing.

“They started Alicia on a medication regimen. She was taking all kinds of pills. Those HIV drugs are powerful and have some terrible side effects. Her hair began to fall out; she either couldn’t sleep at all or slept around the clock. On top of all that, the animal that caused this also had Hepatitis and she had to take drugs for that.

“A month or so later, after the third HIV test, they told us that she was testing Positive for the virus. There was no doubt.”

“Oh, Luco, I am so sorry.”

“That worthless piece of garbage killed my wife. We were married a little over a year and she was dying.

“That last set of blood screenings also told us that Alicia was pregnant. We wanted to start a family. We prayed for a family. Was this how God answered our prayers?

“The doctors wanted her to abort, but neither of us could do that – Not now, not our baby. Our baby, in the middle of all this madness.”

He wiped away the fresh tears that ran down his cheeks. Marlee handed him a paper napkin. Silently, her heart was breaking for this anguished man.

“To protect our baby, Alicia chose to cut back on some of the AIDS medications. The health and safety of our child became the primary focus. I had to help her choose.

“The pregnancy was very hard on her. The physical part was hard enough, but the psychological side was just as bad. There was anger, hatred even, fear like you can’t imagine, and a sorrow that made our life into a dark room, literally.

“Alicia was at home, but I still had to work. When I would come home she would be sitting in the rocking chair with all the lights off and the shades drawn. It was like a tomb.

“Before all of this we used to joke about her being pregnant and having funny food cravings. You know, the pickles and ice cream thing. She only craved one thing. She asked me to write poems and read them to her. I didn’t know what to do. The only things I ever wrote were a few songs for the band. It would have been a stretch to call them poems. But Alicia begged me and so, I wrote poems for her.

“I would write them in a notebook over coffee or at lunch and read them to her when I got home. I still do it. My poems are a way of keeping a connection with her alive.

“As the pregnancy continued, Alicia began to lose weight rapidly. The doctors were afraid she and our baby might not make it to full term.

“At twenty-eight weeks they did a C-Section. It was awful. Alicia almost died and our baby was a little over two pounds. They wouldn’t let me in the room for the delivery. When I saw him in the incubator he was so small. He didn’t look real. He was ‘Positive’ too.

“Alicia was tough and she insisted on seeing her son. As soon as they let me I put her in a wheelchair and pushed her to meet her baby boy. She cried and laughed at the same time as she put her hand into the incubator to touch him.

“The name tag on his incubator just said ‘Infant Reyes.’ We had picked out a name months before. Father Castillo, who had married us, came to the hospital and we had a baptism there in the ICU. We named our son ‘Regalito.’”

“That’s very pretty,” said Marlee.

“It means ‘Little Gift,’ and that he was.

“After Regalito was born and baptized I think that Alicia was just worn out. The doctors said it was an ‘opportunistic infection’, but I think she just couldn’t take any more.

“I begged her not to leave us. She died when Regalito was a month old. She died in my arms – my helpless, weak and useless arms.

“When she died, Regalito knew. Babies always want to be with their Mothers. Two days later his kidneys failed and he died inside that glass box.”

Luco paused and took a slow sip of water. He was exhausted.

“We had the funerals at Mission Dolores. Everybody brought flowers again.”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Twenty

STARTING FROM OPPOSITE ENDS OF HAIGHT STREET, Marlee and Luco began to move toward their first meeting on neutral territory. Marlee stopped to look at the lizards in the shop window. She didn’t want to get there first. Let him stand there for a few minutes and wonder if he’d been stood up. She smiled at the thought of the ever-confident Luco standing on the sidewalk, pacing back and forth, impatient and frustrated. Sure, it was a bit cruel, but if he was like every other man, she thought, it would do him some good to cool his heels.

Luco closed his front door and turned left, away from Haight Street. He was so anxious that he was leaving much too early. As he walked around the block to kill some time he talked out loud to himself.

“I’m leaving too early. What’s with me? I don’t want to get there early and have to cool my heels. I hate that. Women never show up early. They always run late. If I was paranoid I’d think they did it on purpose, just to play with our minds.”

Marlee walked past the People’s Cafe. She saw that there was someone new behind the counter – a short strawberry blonde with a figure that proved there is a God. Even through the window Marlee could see that young Paolo, the busboy, was already in love.

Across the street, Mom’s Body Shop was lit up like a Christmas tree. A newly satisfied customer was standing out in front showing off his new tattoos to some other young men. He seemed very happy, but his knees were wobbly and his eyes were shiny. Perhaps getting the “USMC” on his arm would have been enough, Marlee surmised. The screaming eagle was just too many needle pricks for one sitting, even for a new Marine.

Marlee’s smile melted as she looked past the young man who was in need of a few beers to numb the pain. Just coming out of the shop was a familiar face. Looking very serious and buttoning his shirt cuffs, was Dennis Thayer. He looked to his right and left, but never saw Marlee on the far side of the street. He started down Haight in the same direction as Marlee. She lagged a bit to let him get ahead of her. She was still unnerved a bit about his behavior during her brunch. She didn’t want to have to deal with him. Not tonight and not on the street. Tonight was for positive thoughts and warm feelings. He could wait for another day.

Luco stalled as long as he could. Two times around the block and a stop for a quick espresso at a new place over on Waller Street and he was still there early. Marlee was not in sight. The jolt of caffeine from the espresso was adding to his nervousness. He patted his handkerchief at his upper lip.

He poked his head inside the door of Martin Macks.

“Hey, Mary Margaret, has anyone come in here looking for me?” A quartet of slender feminine hands went up into the air, just hoping.

“Hi, Luco,” answered the bartender. “Nobody tonight, unless you want to count the four furies here.”

One of the women at the bar leaned back on her stool, blew him a kiss and licked her lips.

“Evening, Susie. Say hello to Michael and the kids for me.”

He went back to the sidewalk and looked once again for his tardy dinner companion. Instead of Marlee he saw a man walking up the street toward him with a purposeful stride. As he approached the bar the man saw Luco and glared at him.

“Good Evening, Dennis.” Luco put on a cordial smile that wasn’t fooling anybody. He didn’t care.

“Kiss my ass, Reyes.”

“No thanks, Dennis. I’m cutting back on candy.”

Dennis Thayer never stopped walking, but turned his face to Luco. “Some day, Reyes…some day.”

“Yeah, right. Some day your prince will come.”

Dennis kept walking and at the next corner, turned and slowly headed down the hill toward the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park.

“You know him, Luco?” It was Marlee. She had crossed the street when she saw Dennis turn the corner.

“Marlee. Hi, there. I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show up.”

“I wouldn’t stand you up. Do you know that man with the curly blonde hair?”

“Oh, yeah. We’ve met.”

“He’s my neighbor. His name is Dennis Thayer.”

“Your neighbor? I know its none of my business, but he’s a bad egg. Nuts, if you ask me. Be careful.”

“I can handle him. How do you know him?”

“He came into the cafe once, stinking drunk and got physical with a tourist. I had to throw him out. He’s 86’d from the place and he holds me responsible.

“Look, enough about him. Miss, would you allow me to escort you inside this fine establishment for some dinner, a beverage or two and some scintillating conversation?”

“Oh, Lord, the man is charming. Sweaty, but charming,” she thought.

“Why, thank you kind stranger. I’d love to join you for dinner.”

“Oh, my she is enchanting,” he thought. “A bit overdressed for the occasion, but enchanting.”

He pulled open the large wooden door and ushered her through, into a place filled with twinkling lights, twinkling people and an irreverent attitude toward all things non-Irish.

At the corner, Dennis Thayer peeked around the edge of the dress shop. He watched Luco hold open the door for Marlee as they went inside.

To get to the dining room they had to run the gauntlet past the bar. The bar was filled, as usual, with people who knew Luco.

“Hi, Luco. Michael says ‘Hi’ and the kids want to know when their Daddy is coming home.”

“Hey, Luco. I see the restraining orders have been lifted.”

“Luco, my love. Rest easy. The test came back negative.”

Throughout this thousand mile walk, Luco kept his eyes focused forward and used his handkerchief to keep the sweat under control. Marlee had a slight smile on her face the entire time.

At long last they reached the end of the bar and Marlee turned to look at Luco. “I’d hate to think what they’d say if they didn’t like you.”

“Me too.”

The hostess picked up two menus and turned to escort them to one of the old wooden banquettes along the wall. As they entered the Dining room Luco turned and looked back over his shoulder. Everyone at the bar had their glasses raised in salute. He smiled and turned back to catch up to the two women. They went to the back booth, the most private.

A waitress took their drink order to the bar and quickly returned with a white wine for Marlee and a Guinness for Luco. The Guinness was as black as night with a thick, sand colored head of foam. Her wine was a California White Zinfandel, grown and pressed not an hours drive away from the lips where now it rested. They exchanged pleasantries about their days activities while they perused the Dinner menu.

“Where’s your infamous ‘Toad In The Hole’, Luco? I don’t see it on the menu.”

A second waitress walked by just as Marlee asked her question and tossed out an answer.

“The pond dried up. Try the lamb.”

“They have a friendly staff.” Luco smiled, things were going… so far, so adequate.

Marlee took the advice of the waitress and ordered the Roast Lamb with Vegetables. Luco settled on the Fish and Chips.

Taking a sip of her wine, Marlee looked at him over the rim of the glass.

“Luco, Why did you ask me out? You don’t know me and I don’t know you.”

“That’s true, but I could tell right away that you were an interesting, intelligent person. As for you not knowing me? Why did you say ‘yes’?”

“Honestly? I said yes because, when you asked me, you did it so badly that I thought you were terribly inept.”

“What? Well, I…”

“And, you were so cute. That’s it, honest.”

“So, this is a ‘Mercy Date’? You’re here because you feel sorry for me?”

“No! No, I didn’t mean that at all. I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. Oh, Dear Lord. Luco I said ‘yes’ because you are a charming man, obviously well liked by both men and women, and…you’re the first man who has asked me out on a date in about 6 years.”

“Six years? You haven’t been in prison, have you?”

“No, of course not. Prison?” She saw that he was smiling and it made her smile in return.

“Why don’t you tell me about it?”

The waitress came to the booth holding two steaming plates. The lamb was tender and well done, not pink and covered with a cloying mint jelly. It was anointed with a light vinaigrette sauce where bruised mint leaves provided just a suggestion of welcome sweetness. The vegetables, new red potatoes and carrots were seasoned with thyme and rosemary. They also benefited from the tangy sauce. The Fish and Chips overflowed the plate with three large pieces of cod in a beer batter that puffed up and offered a crunchy bite on the way down to the white and flaky fillets. The chips were fresh cut and fried slices of Yukon Gold potatoes. It doesn’t get any better.

For the next five minutes the only sounds were words of praise to the chef for his work and prayers to God asking His grace upon the man in the kitchen.

After the initial stunned reaction to the food had subsided, Luco set down his fork and took a long drink from the pint glass.

“So, Marlee, why am I the first man to ask you out in six years? We can eliminate prison, right?”

She nodded as she dabbed her napkin at the corner of her mouth.

“Yes, we can eliminate prison. I’m a widow. I haven’t said that out loud very often.”

“Oh, Marlee, I’m so sorry. I should not have asked.”

“Well, I came here to San Francisco to start a new life and today, not two hours ago, it finally dawned on me that the time was truly right for me to get on with it. Luco, you are witness to my rebirth, as it were.”

“How long ago…?”

“Just about two years.”

The waitress came over to check on her station and got them refills on the wine and Guinness.

For the next forty-five minutes Luco listened as Marlee recounted the story of life and death that brought her to this booth in an Irish pub on Haight Street. She told him details she thought that she had forgotten. Little things, both loving and horrifying.

Several times in the telling she broke down and cried. Luco reached out and held her hand, not knowing what else to do. When she told him of her dream of walking on the beach Luco lowered his eyes as a tear ran down his cheek. His face reddened as he fought for control.

Marlee could see that his tears were not for her, but came from inside his own deep, personal wounds. She reached out and cradled his hands in hers.

The waitresses could see all of this and left them alone. This was a private mourning. The other booths were long empty, the diners having moved on to other, gayer pursuits. There was no rush.

“Luco, what are you carrying inside you? What is it?”

She gently massaged his large, masculine hands. Her touch helped him to lower the flame under the boiling pot of his emotions.

“Marlee, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. That’s never happened before. I’m not the kind of man who gets emotional in public. Your story was so… horrible is the only word I can think of.”

“No need to apologize for being human, Luco. But your tears had nothing to do with me or my story. They came from inside of you. You’re being eaten up from inside.”

“You must think I’m crazy.”

“No, but you’re headed that way.”

He lowered his head and rubbed his eyelids with his fingertips and sighed. He was trying to regain control of his emotions. She recognized what he was doing. She had done it many times herself and wasn’t going to let him shut her out.

“Luco, you sat there for 45 minutes and held my hand while I cried and told you about the worst part of my life. That was the act of a good man and a good friend. Please, let me be a friend to you. Luco, tell me what it is that has you in this prison.

She looked at him, his face still composing itself into a mask of passivity and control. His eyes betrayed him. They were locked on the tabletop. He was reluctant to make eye contact, afraid that…afraid of what? She had opened her life to him She had the courage to let him see her blood soaked memories.

She held his hands firmly, yet with a gentleness that let him know that she cared, could handle whatever he revealed to her and that she could and would understand.

He slowly lifted his eyes and looked at her. Marlee’s eyes were red and still shiny from her own tears. Pale blonde hair spilled forward and framed her face, shutting out everything except what was directly in front of her. Luco could see that he was the total focus of her world at that moment. Nothing else was important. Nothing else mattered. He looked into her eyes and took a deep breath.

“I lost my wife and child a little over six years ago, just before Christmas.”

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Nineteen

 

Fiction Saturday – “Haight Street” Part Nineteen

 

In The Haight it is only the early morning hours that belong to the Locals. After 10 AM it is the Tourists who fuel life on the street.

Throughout the day, tour buses pull up and disgorge the packaged groups that move like vacuum cleaners up and down from Central Street to Stanyan, sucking up T-shirts, jewelry and pizza slices, seeing all of the people as a tableau. The tourists stay until the clock dictates a mass migration to Chinatown, North Beach, or Fisherman’s Wharf, where it all begins again.

After the sun goes down the whole vibration of the street changes. The young music-seeking crowd hikes, bikes or drives up the hill and gathers at the clubs and bars. They come also to see and be seen, all the while actively pretending not to care about either.

The Locals and the ambulatory drug slaves also appear after dark. The Locals come out for a nice dinner and to toss back a few drinks. The druggies come out because they think it’s safer. They’re wrong.

It is also in the chilly evening that the costume party begins. After sundown, the hair gel and steel-studded wardrobes make an entrance. On a Saturday night on Haight there will be legions of “Blade Runner” fashion extras on the move. You might also meet several reincarnations of “Marilyn” and even a “Travis Bickel” or two.

In San Francisco the under 30 population is divided, roughly, into two groups. There are those who sashay through the city screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” while the other half struts around snarling, “What are you looking at?”

The folks over 30 tend to just go on with their lives, occasionally snickering to themselves. They already understood that, “If you dress up like a monkey, please don’t pretend to be surprised when people throw peanuts at you.”

Clothes are very important on Haight Street. Going all the way back to the blood and guts days of the late 1960s how you dressed determined who you were, your philosophy and how you were expected to behave. The Haight has always followed along with an “Us vs. Them” school of fashion.

Still today the younger visitors to the area feel obligated to dress up in a way designed, they think, to piss off the Old Man and reduce Momma to tears. Of course, at the end of their evening of being “Us” they will safely return to the fashionable bosom of an Old Navy focused “Them.”

There is, and always has been, a sliver of the Society that is actively outside the widespread embrace of both “Us” and “Them.”

Weaving in and out between the bulk of the population are the true Outlaws. In The Haight these people are the drug suppliers and their customers. It is a very short and brutish food chain. One feeds upon the other without mercy, on a strict cash and carry basis.

The dealers tend to costume themselves like the club crowd. The users rapidly get to the point where their wardrobe selection gives way to the more basic choices of life or death. With rare exceptions, they choose death, by their own hand or by the actions of someone else.

Set in the middle of the hectic bustle of Haight Street, leafy shadows played upon the dark green exterior of Martin Macks Irish Bar and Restaurant. It seemed out of place. It was not there to attract the young hipster crowd or the tourist throngs. It welcomed whoever grabbed the sturdy brass door pulls and ventured into the dimly lit space beyond. One’s social group was never a matter of concern at Martin Macks.

The long bar was always crowded. Some were there for a taste of their favorite brew. Others, intent upon the several European soccer matches being played out on the large televisions placed high on the walls around the pub.

There is a special bar menu that allows a hungry patron to sit on a barstool and select a variety of fried and crunchy items, barbequed spare ribs or a traditional Irish breakfast of Irish bacon, two types of sausage, eggs, tomatoes and Irish soda Bread.

 The breakfast is served until 3:30 in the afternoon in deference to late risers and the survivors of last night.

Luco, along with a fair number of people who work on the street, often dropped into Martin Macks for a quick lunch or a midafternoon pick-me-up.

At the far end of the bar, through a small latticework arch is the dining area. It holds a half dozen semicircular wooden booths and a handful of intimate tables.

The clever chef working in the open kitchen always offers an eclectic menu of Irish, English and American favorites. At night, when the bar is crowded to overflowing, diners in the back can escape the noise and enjoy quiet conversation and some of the best food in San Francisco.

Martin Macks was a popular place for dinner dates. They had good food, generous drinks and waitresses who let couples linger over coffee.

Luco was not used to shaving twice in one day. The skin on his neck was complaining loudly. In the six years he had worked at the People’s Cafe he had gone out with very few women. Some were co-workers, most were customers. All of them felt that he was “the stuff that dreams are made of.” They were right, at least for a night or two. Most of them were looking for “Mr. Right,” but he was only interested in being their “Mr. Right Now.” Their fantasies dried faster than the sheets.

While they were wanting more, Luco was unable to give it to them. Fleeting pleasure was all he could offer or accept. The depth of his ability to commit could be measured in their throaty prayers to a temporary heaven.

Most of the women could live with that. Some could not and so there were mornings when the corner tables at the cafe were taken by women whose eyes followed Luco from across the room and in whose hearts they nursed a barren hope.

This night, however, it was Luco who was feeling the gnawing of lost love. There was, as well, a fresh anticipation. He was nervous about a simple dinner date.

He wondered out loud why tonight felt different. What was it that was making him feel on edge? Was it the word “date” that set off the warning flares?

“I haven’t felt like this in years. For crying out loud, why am I sweating like this?” He took a towel and wiped his forehead and hands again.

What was it about this woman? Attractive? That she was, pretty even, very pretty in her own way. But there had been prettier.

Sexy? She was that, in a relaxed way. It was like she knew that she had the goods, but didn’t feel the need to hang it out like an ad. She had the indefinable “It” that sent out the message. The man in her bed would be in no hurry to roll over and go to sleep.

Smart? No doubt. Spend five minutes with her and you knew that she was educated and as sharp as they come.

Marlee had all of these things, he recognized, but there was also something else that set her apart. A something that was making him sweat.

When he was with her he felt a resonance, a faint emotional echo. There was something about her that played a responsive string in him. Time with her had an almost musical quality.

A quick glance at his wristwatch told him that it was time to stop daydreaming and get moving.

He used the straight razor to deftly finish shaving the hilly contours of his face and cut the few whiskers that always hid out in the cleft on his chin. A few quick strokes and he wiped the last few bits of foam from his face. With a sour look he bit the bullet and splashed on a few drops of Lagerfeld lemon scented aftershave lotion. “Something this expensive shouldn’t hurt so much,” he thought, as every nerve on his face swore revenge.

He riffed through his small closet and decided that basic black was always good. He chose a black ribbed mock turtleneck sweater and black slacks. It would be comfortable and, while complimenting his complexion and eyes, it would not compete with whatever Marlee would be wearing. He knew that the man is really just background for the woman. He trimmed a wayward eyebrow hair.

Less than a mile away Marlee was standing in front of her closet weighing the pros and cons of each item. The silk from Nordstrom was too dressy, the black suit was too “widow.” She decided that the double-breasted blazer made her look like a prison guard at Disneyland. It was hopeless she concluded.

“What does he really mean by “casual” anyway?” “Casual” in Cleveland was apparently different from “casual” in California. If she was to judge by what she had seen walking down Haight Street, “casual” might mean a tie-dye halter top and chrome plated tool belt.

She sat down on her bed and stared at the closet. “I have nothing to wear.”

After 10 minutes of mental mixing and matching she selected a turquoise knit top, a matching linen jacket and white slacks. “This is my idea of ‘casual’ for a dinner date. Let’s hope for the best.”

There was that word again: date. It was a date, no matter what else she called it. She was looking forward to it, but underneath there was a faint shadow of guilt.

It had been almost exactly two years since she became a widow and more than six since she had been on any kind of date. She still saw herself, emotionally, as a married woman and there was a nagging voice saying that she was cheating on her husband. It was her own voice she knew, and that she was wrong. It was time, coldly put, to get over it.

Intellectually as well, she knew that it was time. Her family had told her so. Her friends had also told her the same thing. Hadn’t she uprooted herself and moved across the continent to begin again? She also believed that her dream of the mirror on the beach was Phillip’s way of telling her to throw off her widow’s weeds and get on with her life.

“This is stupid. I’m young, talented, not hard on the eyes, and a very nice and very handsome man has asked me out to dinner. Screw the guilt.”

She opened the closet door again, took the black suit off the hanger, brushed a bit of lint from the lapel, walked into the kitchen and stuffed it into the trash container under the sink. There would be no more funerals.

”Now, let’s just see what ‘casual’ means to this man.”

Throwback Thursday from May 2015 – “I’ve Never Had That Happen – Exactly”

Throwback Thursday from May 2015 

 

I’ve Never Had That Happen – Exactly

PerkinsLAST NIGHT, MY WIFE, the charming and lovely Dawn, and I were watching a show on Netflix where the two main characters in the story were thrown out of a bar. Dawn turned to me and asked, “Have you ever been thrown out of a bar?”

I quickly thought back over the decades of my life and answered her truthfully, “A bar? No, I’ve never been thrown out of a bar – exactly.”

That answer did, as you might expect, elicit a call for my definition of the word “Exactly” in this context.

Have I ever been thrown out of a bar? No.

Have I ever been asked to consider my continued presence an unsafe extension of privilege? Yes.

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Who Wants Seconds?

 

LET’S HAVE A SHOW OF HANDS. How many of you have eaten in a restaurant this week?  (Pause while I count digital hands)

OK, that’s about average. According to my in depth research I have learned that approximately (statistical wiggle room) 58% of us eat out at least once a week. The other 42% are still waiting for a table at the Texas Roadhouse.

I have to admit that we eat out more than we should. It is expensive, time consuming, not always healthy/nutritious, and leads us all into eating more than we should. But it is fun and I think that is why we do it so often. Let somebody else do all the hard work and the cleanup. Oh, yeah.

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Throwback Thursday From 2015 “One Person’s Trivia Is Another Person’s McRib”

Throwback Thursday From 2015

“One Person’s Trivia Is Another Person’s McRib”

SOMETIMES THERE IS A BENEFIT when the conversation takes a turn to something boring. This morning over coffee one of the Usual Suspects started to talk politics. My brain glazed over and my eyes began to wander. It was then that I saw a teeny-tiny online mention of no import.

“McDonald’s opens restaurant in 120th country.”

Sonovagun. I never would have guessed it was that many.

While voices muffled by politics faded in the background I read on.

The newest nation to allow Ronald the Clown to cross their borders is – (Fanfare!)

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Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 – “I Go Out Wokking”

 

Throwback Thursday from Dec. 2015 – “I Go Out Wokking”

6a58f7ba-cc89-459a-a2a3-e2cb2c7a3cf0EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I GET A CRAVING for Wonton soup, Pot Stickers or Sweet and Sour Something or Other. That is when I stage a full out assault on the “First Wok.”

First Wok is one of those small, family run Chinese Food To-Go shops that can be found in strip malls around the world.

First Wok may, or may not, be the first wok in Terre Haute (That’s French for, “My plastic fork is broken.”). They have some tables for those who want to eat there, but I’d wager that 90% of the customers get their General Tso’s Chicken To-Go in those little white paper cartons with the wire handles.

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Finger Lickin’ Good

 

I JUST READ THE DARNDEST THING – a restaurant review that made me lose my appetite.

Straight from the home town of Godzilla and Hello Kitty comes a story that, under other circumstances would probably reconvene the courtrooms of Nuremberg. (Under 40? Look it up.)

The restaurant named “Resoto Ototo No Shoky Ryohin” has opened its doors in Tokyo and somehow gotten all of the usual permits and government approval to become the first eatery in the world to legally serve (Brace Yourself) Human meat. The name of the restaurant translates into English as “Edible Brother.”

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Pass The Croutons 

WE, MEANING MYSELF, MY WIFE, THE LOVELY AND COLLECTIVELY WONDERFUL, DAWN, OUR EVER YOUTHFUL BOY, ALEX, and whichever of our friends will go with us, enjoy lunch together every Sunday.

Where we go to eat changes weekly. Some weeks we go out for pizza. The next week we might hit one of the 70,000 chain restaurants that have found a home in Terre Haute (That’s French for “What’s your soup today?”). You name a franchise eatery and it has a store here. Good, bad, or ugly, if they have a plastic menu they can make a buck feeding the residents of the Hautian Ocean.

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A Basket Of Brisket

WELL, HERE WE GO – OFF TO TEXAS! Surprisingly our flights were uneventful – which is what you want. Eventful airplane flights make the news and that is never a good thing. Things even went smoothly in our dealings with the TSA aerobic organisms. I think they were having an “On-The Job Slumber Party. They were just waving people through without even looking at them. I bet I could have walked through there toting a Howitzer and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. It always makes me feel so safe.

Once we got to our ultimate destination (Corpus Christi) we did what any sensible person would do – we stopped for lunch at Whataburger. It’s a tradition that goes back to the days of the Alamo and Davy Crockett I think. A Family thing, you know.

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A Walk On The Wild Side

I DID SOMETHING TODAY THAT I HAVE NEVER DONE BEFORE in all my 120 years. It was risky some people told me. A close friend pleaded with me not to even try to do it.

“You may not get out alive.”

Don’t you just love a little Hyperbole? At least I was hoping it was Hyperbole.

I decided to not take any unnecessary chances – so I took my wife, the lovely and ever so courageous, Dawn, with me.

On our first travel day, as we headed off to Georgia, we threw all caution to the wind and – brace yourself – had dinner at “The Waffle House.”

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Congratulations To Heather

I WAS DRIVING AROUND TOWN YESTERDAY, taking care of errands and chores – the usual stuff. As I drove past the neighborhood Taco Bell I noticed something on their marquee. It read

“Employee of the Month – Heather.”

Nothing really unusual about that except that Heather has been the Employee of the Month for two months in a row there. She must be something special. Perhaps she can make tacos faster than anyone else. I don’t know, and to be honest – I don’t really care. Anyway I offer my Congratulations to Heather. I just hope that her obviously superior skills don’t have a negative impact on the other employees. People can be so petty sometimes.

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Thank God Texas Has A Lot Of Room

TAKE ME TO THE BUTTER CHURN is a cry I hear on a regular basis when we go south to visit family. “The Butter Churn” is a restaurant/feeding station aka buffet just a waddle or two away from the family home in Sinton, Texas. And every time we visit, along with an assortment of several generations of nieces and nephews, we go to The Butter Churn.

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Throwback Thursday from March 2016 – “One Person’s Trivia…”

One Person’s Trivia Is Another Person’s McRib

mcd firstSOMETIMES THERE IS A BENEFIT when the conversation takes a turn to something boring. This morning over coffee one of the Usual Suspects started to talk politics. My brain glazed over and my eyes began to wander. It was then that I saw a teeny-tiny mention of no import.

 

“McDonald’s opens restaurant in 120th country.”

Sonovagun. I never would have guessed it was that many.

While voices muffled by politics faded in the background I read on.

The newest nation to allow Ronald the Clown to cross their borders is – (Fanfare!)

KAZAKHSTAN.mcd kazak

I do have to admit that my knowledge of Kazakhstan is rather limited, but as a McDonald’s stockholder for the last 30+ years I feel obligated to learn what I can. So, here goes.

Mcd pres

Nursultan Bazarbayev

Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked nation on earth (ergo: not much of a navy).

It has a population of about 18 million souls, and now, 1 McDonald’s.   The Capital city is Astana. The President of Kazakhstan is Nursultan Bazarbayev. He is generally considered to be an authoritarian ruler (read “dictator”). It is unknown at this time whether or not he likes the McRib mcd mcribSandwich.     

That’s it. That’s all of the relevant information about Kazakhstan I could dig up.

McDonald’s, with its new restaurant in Kazakhstan, has well over 36,000 sets of Golden Arches worldwide. They employ 1.9 million people. I would wager that most of them are either teenagers, senior citizens, or people who were just not Taco Bell material. I may be wrong, but my personal observation of the McD’s here in Terre Haute (That’s Kazakh for “Where’s my Shamrock Shake?”) tell me that I’m not wrong.

In my own personal experience I have been in McDonald’s all over this country and in Ireland. I have no intention of trying to visit all of them. There are people who try to do that, traveling all over the map in a quest to visit them all. These are people who will eventually work at McDonald’s. Who else would hire them after looking at a resume with a twenty year gap during which they ate breakfast, lunch and dinner next to Ronald the Clown.

In an effort to gather information for this snippet of reality I went to the McDonald’s Corporate website to learn more about their worldwide operations. Fascinating.

mcd irelandMcDonald’s has blanketed Europe. There are more than 50 Mickey D’s in Ireland. While I’m there (leaving for Dublin in just a few days) I may visit one to satisfy my need for fries (chips), but I think we will eat at home most days.

I learned that there are 11 McD’s in Lithuania, ancestral home of my mother’s side of the family. Europe is definitely well served.mcd lith

The one glaring gap on the world map is on the continent of Africa.

There are about 23 McDonald’s in Egypt – more than I expected.

There are 200 stores in South Africa. That is way more than I would have guessed.

That’s it. Egypt on the north coast of the continent and South Africa at the other end. In between – nada.

If you live, let’s say in Burkina Faso (another landlocked country) and you have a craving for an order of Chicken McNuggets – you are SOL – Snack Out of Luck. You are going to have to hoof mcd burkinait across the Sahara to Egypt or, if you’re not in a hurry, pack a sandwich and head south, way south.

 

I admit that I have not delved deep into the subject to determine if there might be a Burger King or even a Subway (Sans Jarrod) in Burkina Faso. If there is – all I can say is “You deserve a break today. Boy, do you ever.”

mcd nuggets

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