CHEAP EATS While we waited for our tacos, I crammed pickled jalapeños, carrots, and onions into a cup to take to the bar with us. Coach was riffling through the pile of rolled up complimentary calendars on the shelf above, muttering, “Hot babes hot babes hot babes.”
“What are you doing?” I said.
“Do you need a calendar?”
I thought: new year new year new year. “Yes,” I said. More than ever, I needed a calendar. You only get one picture with this kind; that’s why they’re free. I didn’t care about the pic. It was the new number I wanted, 2011, and all those clean, square, tear-away one-through-31s.
“Well,” Coach said, “do you want a hot babe, or the Virgin Mary?”
The ease with which I made my decision surprised me. I mean, 365 days is a lot of days to look at a picture. Albeit I intend to do other things as well, next year. “Virgin Mary,” I said.
And that was that. Well, when I got home four hours later, not so much drunk as oniony, and unrolled my Taqueria Virgin on the kitchen table, I was surprised to find that the Mother of God looked mighty fine in her own right. She wasn’t by any stretch a hot babe, like many of the angels surrounding and adoring her. But she seemed a little bored, bemused, and all-in-all like someone I might like to kiss.
Whether this makes me Catholic or a lesbian I don’t know, but anyway this ends the first part of the story.
The second part takes place next afternoon. I had four hours to kill between gigs, and thought I would spend at least most of that time contemplating barbecue. There’s this new one in Alameda, see, not so awfully far from where Boink and Popeye live.
It was the meat of the afternoon, and I wasn’t particularly hungry except that I’m always pretty hungry. So instead of erring on the side of lunch, I erred on the side of dinner. Check it out: $13-fucking-75 for pulled pork, comes with two sides and cornbread. I figured I would probably end up taking half of it home, making two meals out of it, or — dare I dream — three.
I had a book. It’s a pretty comfortable place, not crowded at all, midafternoon on a weekday, two TVs showing sports talk and highlights. Sweet tea refills. I took off my coat and scarf and made myself comfortable.
The sweet tea came. It was barely sweet at all.
Then the food. “I hope you’re hungry!” the waitressperson said on her way to my table. She said this with a knowing smile, which I took at first to be in my best interest.
“Oh, I’m hungry all right,” I said. “I might need a takeout container,” I added, for the sake of realism, “but I’m hungry.”
“Good,” she said, proudly sliding my plate before me.
For a moment I just stared. My brain went fuzzy, and then I wanted to cry. “Um,” I managed to sort of say. Then, when I found my vocabulary again, “What is this on my pork?”
First of all, it was the smallest portion of pork I have ever seen. Most place have sandwiches with twice as much meat on them as this dinner did. More urgently, however … what little meat there was snowcapped in an entirely creepy, pinkish creamy thing.
Now I’ve given a lot of benefits of a lot of doubts to a lot of restaurants in my day, but, as you may know, there is one thing I can neither tolerate nor forgive, and that is um … well, it’s UM: Unannounced Mayonnaise. You learn to ask, with sandwiches, salads, and even sushi. But … barbecue?
Sure enough, that’s what it was, a mixture of barbecue sauce and (gag, puke, spit) mayo, thus the pink. Oh, they remade my plate for me, but it came back with even less pork than before. The greens were okay, the fried okra was good, and their barbecue sauces were great, but the cornbread muffin was inedibly dry from either overcooking or staleness, or both.
I couldn’t fathom, let alone eat, the cornbread, but otherwise cleaned my plate. Counting tea and tip, it was a $20 snack. At my new least-favorite restaurant. *
BONNIE’S SOUTHERN STYLE BBQ
Mon.–Thu. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.–10 p.m.;
Sat. 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.–9 p.m.
1513 Park., Alameda