Pub date July 23, 2008
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS Most expensive thing I ever bought was a shiny, concert-quality, made-in-Trinidad steel drum which, in its case at the head of my futon, makes an excellent back rest while I’m reading books. The drum I play and love and cherish is a rusty, junky trash can, hammered out by some white guy with a stutter in Mendocino. He used it as his beach drum for a while, then left it out in the rain for a winter, then gave it to me for $100 and it sounds like butter. Whereas my $1,600 Steel Island special, crafted by Tony Slater and fine-tuned by the great Bertie Marshall himself, sounds like paper clips in the laundry. But, hey, back support is very important. Without it, I would constantly be hitting my head on the floor.

Last fall, for the first time in my life, I started driving a reliable car. It was less than 10 years old (a first for me), had air bags (a first for me), a door lock clicker (a first for me), and three state-of-the-art cupholders. In March, the engine blew up. Cost me $1,649 to fix it, and it’s still not fixed. In the past four months my reliable car has spent more time with my mechanics, Larry, Curly, and Moe, than it has with me.

Luckily, it shit the bed so fast I hadn’t yet got rid of my ’86 3-cylinder pickup truck. So that’s what I’ve been driving, Old Reliable — only when I say reliable in this case I mean it. No tongues, no cheeks. My old truck may take many tries to go into first gear, but it will, eventually, go. And once a month it is going to leave me sitting on the side of the road somewhere, broken down, for exactly 52 minutes.

I know that nice guys in nicer, bigger trucks than mine will stop and noodle around under my hood, try to get it going, give up, tell me I need a new this or a that, and offer to give me a ride somewhere. And I will sit there and smile and say, "No thanks, but thank you though." And sometimes right in front of their disbelieving eyes, if 52 minutes has passed, I will turn the key and it will start and run for exactly another month. That’s what I call reliability.

I’m trying real hard to get legit. I’m a part-time nanny now, and kids and parents are counting on me. So I got a cell phone. My first! Now, for $40 a month, I pretty much always know what time it is. This is a first for me too, since I’ve never been a watch-wearer. And even though I am invariably out-of-signal when my car dies, I can sit there and look at the time on my cell phone and know exactly when 52 minutes is up.

For 10 years I wrote on an old Gateway dinosaur. Then, a year and a month or so ago, I bought a shiny new MacBook with a one-year warranty. As a visual joke, a twist on my farmerly aesthetic, I set up the Gateway outside next to the chicken coop. When it rains, I put a tarp over it. But in any case it is generally covered with dust and feathers and shrouded in salty coastal fog. Every now and then, on a nice day, I turn it on, and am always pleasantly surprised that it boots.

In fact, I’m writing on it right now because my MacBook died — not only mere months out of warranty, but on the exact day the new iPhones came out, assuring I would not be able to see anyone at any Apple store for at least a week.

So I took it to MacMedics. Their estimate: $960. How much I paid for the new computer one year and one month ago: $950. Do they sell new Macs? You bet!

While it’s still Poo-Poo Pride month, I would like to dump a figurative pile of stinky, steamy, corn-dotted, meat-eaterly chicken farmer shit all over Apple Computer, Saturn, Steel Island, and AT&T — only in AT&T’s case I don’t exactly know why yet. Forty dollars a month is more a trickle than an explosion. Still, I hold my cell phone like a hand grenade.


My new favorite restaurant is Taqueria La Nueva, and not just ’cause I work right up the block. Although that helps. The al pastor burrito is wonderful, the carnitas less so. And it’s kind of inconspicuously tucked away on an odd corner of Foothill in Oakland. They have to put a sandwich board out in the street — not the sidewalk, in the street. Yes yes yes, we’re open open open. Right here. And still there’s never anyone there. Four-fitty gets your burrito, chips, and some great green salsa. That’s old school, and that rocks, in my opinion.


Daily: 9 a.m.–10 p.m.

5324 Foothill, Oakl.

(510) 698-4036

No alcohol