Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A couple of years ago, Sarah, Jesse, and I were lost and hungry in Jacksonville. This was not an unusual state of affairs; Sarah and I have an astonishing talent for getting lost wherever we go, and we were always hungry. We decided that we would stop to eat at the first place we saw that offered food, which turned out to be a nondescript building with a sign that said "Chinese Food."
We dug this, because we ate a lot of Chinese food as it was.
So in we walked, and found ourselves at one end of a large room decorated entirely in shades of yellow and yellow-brown, a room that suggested that at any moment a crowd of 1970 Rotarians would come in, clear the tables, and have a dance. There was no decoration on the walls, not even a framed picture of a pagoda. Nothing. The place was entirely empty, and so we were a bit surprised when the hostess, a miniscule Asian woman, led us to a table smack in the middle of the room. We looked over the menu, made our choices, and eventually sat our menus on the table and waited, staring at our hands, for the waitress to appear. She did, eventually, and she was at least six feet tall and blonde; she looked more like a ranch hand than she did a waitress at a low-end Chinese joint. She took our orders and left, at which point we noticed a crowd of employees, all closely resembling our hostess, crowded around the kitchen door, whispering and pointing at us. Do you remember that scene in Hellraiser 3 when the doors slam shut at that club and hooks and chains appear from the ceiling and shred the people inside? We began to feel a bit like something resembling that was about to happen. But it didn't. Instead our food arrived and it was terrible, but we ate it, wondering all the while if we were being fattened up for serving to the next poor suckers that came through the door.
When we finished and the waitress came back to remove our plates, she asked if Sarah was the daughter of Jesse and myself. Now, I don't even look my own age, not to mention old enough to be any body's mother. And though Jesse looks a bit older, neither one of us could possibly have produced Sarah. But she insisted, and we finally agreed.
We kept our fortune cookie fortunes, just in case they vanished after we left. We wanted them to, wanted to prove that we had just dined on the edges of the twilight zone, but they stayed put. We had to make do with driving as fast as we could to the first chain restaurant we could find.

The neighborhood that I live in here in Seattle is more of a business district than it is a residential one. It has restaurants, but they're more the type you go to with your co-workers once a month or have drink with the boss at. They're not so much having a beer and a burger type places. But Jeff came over and was hungry, so we took a stroll to see if anything was appetizing. There's a little Italian place that I've never tried and so we went there. It has the atmosphere of a steak house from my grandparent's time, and the music has a suspicious salsa beat. The hostess, platinum blonde, heavily made up, and older than my mom reminds me of those women who as children were in beauty pageants until one day they lost, and their whole life has since pivoted on that day. All of our lives pivot on something, it's just that most of us switch focal points a few times in our lives. My tomato-cream soup may very well have had lumps of gelatin in it and Jeff's pasta was just as unappetizing. At the table behind us, the woman said "you should really think before you open your mouth." The place reminded me of that Chinese joint in that parallel universe, and we've agreed never to go there again.

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