CHEAP EATS Sockywonk’s sister Sisterwonk made Socky a sock monkey with multiple piercings and horns, so she named it after herself. She named it Socky. Now I have to call Sockywonk "Wonk" for short, to avoid confusion. We made a fine pair, the three of us me, Socky, and Wonk in Kansas, and at Cracker Barrel, and all along the Loneliest Road in America.
Truck stop to truck stop we did not get beat up or even pointed at, we three freaks: the tranny chicken farmer, the punkish weirdo, and the devilish sock monkey with a fetish for road kill. Well, one little kid cried when Wonk showed Socky to him, and that was it.
Yes, you heard me right: Cracker Barrel. It wasn’t my idea, but I admit to being down with it. All I needed to know was fried okra, and Sockywonk kept saying it, like a mantra, "fried okra, fried okra, fried okra." Then when we finally found one she said, "Prepare to be shocked and awed."
I didn’t know about shocked. I didn’t know about odd. All I needed to know was fried okra, and that was what I ordered with my chickens and dumplings. They give you three sides, and I chose okra, okra, and okra. None of them were really worth writing about. I’m not going to write about the chickens and dumplings, either. Don’t worry.
The only thing remarkable about Cracker Barrel, besides the novelty of it, for me, was sweet tea and real butter.
And what Sockywonk really wanted more than mushy beige food, I figured out later, was to be able to call her mom and dad and say, "Guess what! We ate at Cracker Barrel!"
There are some things in life that I understand.
Other things, I am learning, like how to not always look like a chicken farmer. We went into a lot of thrift stores, and Sockywonk played big sister, fashion checking all my purchases. She did let a bit of gingham slip through, but other than that, weather permitting, I am now going to be leggier and chestier than I used to be. Just to warn you. If you see a totally hot chick walking around town without any chickens, say hello because that’s me.
I’m back! Safe, and unsound.
The day after our return, I waited for the Wonk to leave, and then I donned my new gingham pants and orange "I Rock It Old School" tank top, painted my toenails neon green, and drove up to the woods to a chicken coop dedication party. I took my steel drum with me, and my country buddy Mountain Sam, who was stuck in the city and kinda could use a ride home.
We stopped and bought a watermelon. We stopped and got a rack of baby backs, a bag of potato chips, and two big beers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be back in the Bay Area, y’all, and in particular to be back in my beloved Sonoma County, west county, in the redwoods, sitting on a stone wall with the Mountain, and sucking down a rack of ribs. There was a blue grassish band called the Wronglers, and they were playing "Red River Valley," "Home on the Range," and other ideal soundtracks to pork and beer on a stone wall in the woods.
For now, I still live in Noe Valley. But my new favorite barbecue is in Petaluma. It’s called Lombardi’s and they have a whole chorus line of barrel smokers in front, kicking out chickens and ribs and tri-tip, salmon, burgers and dogs, and even nonmeat grillables like corn, asparagus, and mushrooms.
I can speak for the baby backs: excellent! We saved some for Veronica. I dipped potato chips into the leftover sauce. Between sets, I whipped out my steel pan and played a handful of chicken farmerly songs, like the one about how I first became a chicken farmer, and the one about how my chickens drink my bath water, and the one about how I want to be a chicken, and the one about how when I die, I’d like for my chickens to eat me, please.
And all the while I didn’t have a single chicken in the world, and lived in a yardless basement apartment with grocery store eggs in the fridge.
Still, kids and old folks loved me. Our hostess said she was going to name one of their new baby chicks after me, and then I knew that I had made it.
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