Wednesday, February 9, 2011
What does Mexican food have to do with a Sober Buddy?
I have a long history with Mexican food. I wonder if the affinity started in third grade when I began taking Espanol. Hard to believe, Spanish was required from third grade on in the Kentucky public school system. I took to the language easily for some reason and was a star pupil in Ms. Fox's class. She had a thick Texan accent and accused us of speaking "spanglish" all the time. But, she is the reason why I aced Spanish in college and is probably also the reason for my freshman fifteen.
She not only introduced us to the language, but to the food, as well. She sent a recipe home one time and I actually remember making nachos with my brother and mother for her class. It was extremely crude - round tortilla chips (the only kind they made at the time) slathered with bean dip and covered with shredded colby cheese with one jalapeno on top. You baked them in the oven until bubbly and whala - nachos straight from MEHEEKO! It was as if the Schell family were trying escargot for the first time. The culinary world opened up to us in our kitchen that day. We now had an international palette. In reality, we soon forgot about the revelatory experience and went back to canned veggies and boiled hot dogs.
But then Chi Chi's opened up around the corner. My mom started going there on Friday nights with her "bus friends". Back then there was a fuel shortage. Here I go again - I'm 500 years old. Everyone was driving compact cars called Escorts and Lynx's and my mom started catching the bus in our neighborhood to downtown. The people on the bus became her good friends and they would get off on the bus stop on Fridays near Chi Chi's to partake in Happy Hour. I can't help but think of the movie The Cable Guy where his mom says, "Now you just stay here with video babysitter while mommy goes to happy hour to find you a new daddy." She's all cougared up and she stabs out her ciggie, gives her wig one last spray of Aquanet and leaves.
When I got to college I worked in two Mexican restaurants. The first was High on Rose on the corner of High and Rose in Lexington, Kentucky. It was the very embodiment of "authentic Mexican". All of the guys in the kitchen were illegal immigrants and they barely spoke a lick of English. The skin on their face seemed to be slathered in Crisco which also seemed to be the main ingredient in all of the dishes there.
"Juana, mi amor, mi bebe, ju are so bonita, come here," they would purr as they grabbed me by the waist and pulled me to them. I would wriggle away and they would all laugh a really high pitched hyena laugh in unison. Then I would hand them my Spanish homework and go set up the tables. I was equally repulsed by them and loved them. There were probably eight of them living in a one bedroom apartment across the street. They all worked all day and all night and sent almost every penny back home to their families in Mexico.
The owner was pretty sleazy and he shared their fascination with my bottle blond hair. I cringe when I say this but he would make us "recycle" the salsa. Yes, we were instructed to pour salsa from the customers that had paid their check and left - back into the central vat at the server's station. If you were caught throwing it away which I often was, he would scold you and threaten to fire you.
I worked upstairs because I was underage and the manager was a sorority sister so she hired me at 19, even though you were supposed to be 20 to serve alcohol. One afternoon at about 4:30, these two women came in dressed like they had come from offices and ordered up a Long Island Ice Tea each. They were chowin' down on the recycled salsa and talking intently about what I was able to make out as one of their impending divorces. They ordered another round, and then another as I served them up mounds of Crisco and pulled chicken. The bartender and I were laughing about how hammered they were getting when they motioned me over. "Weneedourcheck, honey" the lady murmured. "Myfriendzinthbathroom. Sheisn'tfeeling..."and before she could get the word "well" out of her mouth she projectile vomited all over the table. I led her to the bathroom and told the guys in the back about the mess they needed to clean up. ( I wasn't gonna do it.) "Oh, Juana, come here." they chanted.
When I turned around the women were heading out the back door. I ran after them because the bartender reminded me that if I didn't then I was both liable and underage. I threw myself in front of their car, made them get out and called them a cab. I might have been too stupid to take a stand against regurgitated salsa but I was NOT going to lose my job over two old drunk broads who couldn't handle their liquor. I now realize there are bigger issues involved, but right there, in the moment, I was thinking about my future lost tips and free Spanish tutoring.
I was going to make this post about my favorite margarita in town but I think now I will make it about getting yourself a sober buddy. My buzzkill. They are fun and they don't judge and they laugh at your jokes and then they drive you home. My husband was one of these for the summer that he contracted Hepatitis A. He didn't laugh as much as I would have liked him to but he was okay. (Remind me to cover that topic on a future blog. At some point this well is going to dry up and I am "goin' to be in a world o' hurt" as my dad would say.)
My husband and I have a friend from college who has this sober guy on call that drives him on nights out. He actually offered him up to us on our anniversary trip to Kenneland. I am pretty sure he is really rich, though, because he mentioned something about leasing a private plane for UK games so you need to make your sober buddy more affordable. Maybe hang out outside of AA meetings and chat people up when they go on a smoke break. I don't know I haven't figured it out yet and I need to take my daughter to preschool. I am just freestylin' here. ANYWAY, I am asking for a sober buddy for my birthday and you should too.