The other night, hearing mr bud, PW and our assorted youngsters were getting together for Chinese food (one of my favs), I smacked my yogurt around in anger then started walking. I should mention that I’m staying in a hotel (sans auto) that has NOTHING around it-no stores, bars, restaurants, or even a gas station; for reasons known only to my boss and the devil. I walked two freaking miles to an area that I thought might contain a few shreds of humanity and some semblance of civilization. It did, in the form of a gas station, closed deli, cell phone store, nail shop, real estate office, Japanese fast food (??) and Jack In The Box restaurants.
The Japanese place was closed. I went into every other place, just for something to do. I let the cell phone store jockey sell me a wireless package and four Blackberries, pulling out at the last minute like a seasoned porn star, just for the thrill. They were bewildered; I was satiated and had a smoke.
As I mentioned, the deli was closed, as was the Japanese fast food joint, so I only peaked in the windows. I can only imagine what a Japanese fast food joint is like and my life really won’t be complete until I’ve experienced one, of that I am sure.
Anyway, I ate at the Jack In The Box. Yep. I didn’t even know they were still in business. In fact, I’ve only been in a Jack once before, 27 years ago this month. How I know this so accurately must remain a mystery, for now. Sorry. The Jack was very interesting. Upon entering, two things immediately struck me; first, Angel Negro live, from Viva Santana! was playing, LOUDLY and second, the walls were adorned with about 20 composite images that had to have been created by someone tripping on mushrooms. Seriously. If you’ve never dropped acid, mescaline, or waved your head around like Stevie Wonder singing, after eating mushrooms, you wouldn’t get it, but I did. Jack is the product of multiple acid trips; dark rooms, black lights and a water bong filled with crushed ice. I was immediately flashed back to 1976; a dark basement filled with Thai-stick smoke and vibrating to Black Sabbath’s Sweat Leaf, where I learned I could see the blood pumping though my hand just by concentrating for an hour…
Shuffling to the counter, I encountered Latrelle, the manager. “Gimme some skin, my man!” After a solid five-by-five, he hands me a cup and says, “Yo. You sweatin like the pope in a strip joint, bra-get some H2O over there, then we’ll get down to the meal.” I obeyed, totally confused.
I shuffle back, looking for hidden cameras.
“From the top, my man. What’choo wanna put down the neck?” I mumble the first thing I see when I look up to the menu, the ultimate cheeseburger. He suggests I get a small soda and fill it up as much as I want and I nod. Then, he cocks his head as if thinking and tells me he thinks I look like the kind of guy who wants to get down with a six-piece mozzarella sticks, instead of nasty old fries. I ask how much and he says “On the house, bra.” OK. I ask how he knew that and he says, “Its in the eyes, bra and I know you want the ranch, my man.” I nod; shove a ten-spot across the counter, looking at my feet. This place and Latrelle are kind of blowing my mind.
I split for the bathroom to wash up while I’m waiting for the food.
When I emerge, my tray is gone and Latrelle is smiling. “I put’choo in a booth by the window so’s you can look around, cause your solo, bro. You know?”
The food was good. I really hate fast food, but with three kids, I’ve had my share and this shit was pretty good. Bawitdaba (Kid rock) is blasting. I look up at Latrelle and he shoots me with his finger. I slap my forehead and he dismisses me with a sweeping, sideways peace sign. Surreal.
After I while, I hear Latrelle telling a customer stories about band camp; getting his flute played by a band camp groupie?? and stuffing someone’s trombone with cream cheese.
Before I finished, another employee stops by with another handful of cheese sticks. I look up at Latrelle and he waves me back to my extras with another peace sign slider. WTF?
Madonna comes on the speakers and I hazard one more glance the man. He shakes his head and disappears into the back. Madonna is silenced. I finish up, dump my trash and walk out to Lord of the Thighs, by Steven and the boys. The jacked up image on the wall next to the door causes the hair to stand up on the back of my neck. Fucking psycho shit, I am telling you.
At the gas station, I purchased a pack of Marlboros and bottle of cough syrup. The cashier looked at me funny when I shoved the bottle in front of her and demanded smokes. I was like “What? I use the cough syrup as a personal lubricant.” She didn’t say a single word after that and refused to make eye contact.
The walk back to my hotel was hot, like an oven and the sound of the birds in the trees was exactly like the sounds heard during a Texas hunt part of a PC hunting video game I played 15 years ago. I practiced re-arranging the Dix Equation for converting Root-mean Square to interval velocity in my head, because I forgot my mp3 player. Halfway back to the hotel I found a 5/16” stainless-steel nut on the sidewalk and put it in my pocket.