Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'd call it a Hole in the Wall...

...but that would be disrespectful to actual holes.

I haven't mentioned it but I was in Chattanooga, TN fo several days over the last two weeks for work - oh, the exciting places I get to - and I had a fun night out with two of my buddies on the crew in a local barbeque joint.

(Actually, Chattanooga's a lot of fun, the downtown is very walker-friendly and they have a great Aquarium there.)

One of our nights there we got off early enough to do some wandering around downtown, and feed my barbeque fixation. We'd seen several places we wanted to try, and one chain - Famous Dave's - that we didn't, but I was obsessed with a place about 3 blocks from our hotel.

It was the classic hole-in-the-wall joint - crumbling like a biscuit, one window boarded up, an enormous smoker parked on the sidewalk outside (I wonder if they take it in at night?), and old guys sitting around out front. I suppose they were playing dominos but even that was to much effort, since we were in the middle of a heat wave and it was 95 degrees at 9 pm. So mostly they were sitting around sweating.

We tooled in - me, ravenous as ever, Andy the Gay Biker, and our loyal assistant Kari, who would probably rather have eaten at Applebee's - and took seats at a battered formica table with one short leg. The place was clean, if you didn't look to closely. If you looked closely you felt slightly sick. A woman as battered as the table came out and took our orders. She had the short leg issue too. It was the kind of place that, instead of ordering off the menu, it was safer just to ask what was available. You avoid disappointment.

The service was slow - the waitress may have also been the cook - but it gave us time to admire the decor, which was done in Early American Homeless Shelter. Everything that was there, had been there, for a verrrrry long time. And had the dust coat to prove it. The only thing gleaming in the flickering flourescent light was a wall of barbeque trophies. There must have been fifty of them. I'm not sure where they came from - this didn't look like an operation that went on the road - but they were lovingly polished and displayed.

Our food was great. It had to be, in a place like that. It had authenticity by the bucket. Andy and Kari got ribs, I got chopped pork, tender and juicy with bits of crackling. The ribs were better. I know because I stole some of Andy's. The mac and cheese was rad. The fried okra was out. Damn. How can you run out of okra? Andy got fries instead. I went for pasta salad. What the hell I was thinking I don't know. It was terrible.

The rib sauce was the Georgia sweet tomato-y style, with an intriguing bitter edge that may have been herbal or may have been from baking in a pot on the top of the stove all day. Still not quite sure. We polished it off while listening to an older man in the corner booth ramble loudly about the drug trade in the neighborhood and the government. All atmospheric southern diners have a guy like this. I think it's in the building codes. Gorged on pork, we left huge tip and waddled out into the night, steaming slightly in the humid air.

I'd give you the name so you could try it yourself, but the neon sign out front was broken, so I couldn't read the name. It started with an F. Franks? that sounds right. But trust me, when you see it you'll know you are in the right place. Your common sense will be saying, "run! run like the wind!" but your nose will be luring you in, like a character in a cartoon, your feet trailing helplessly behind...

Heed the scent of the pork.

By Popular Demand: The Human Flesh Story

The title says it all, really.

I used to go to Mexico once or twice a year, until I found out I could go to Europe and have people be rude to me for only three times the expense. On one visit, I was in Chiapas, near San Christobel de las Casas, and found a place that gave horseback tours to some of the smaller villages. They took us thru all this wild mountain scenery to a village that was in the middle of it's annual pagan festival - I kid you not, the people of the town were still worshiping in the traditional fashion, and they had gutted the local colonial-era church, painted it all kinds of wild drug-trip colors, and held ceremonies there. Cameras totally forbidden in the church. It was amazing, even without being hot and saddle-sore from the ride.

I took a break on a hillside near the cemetery - you could take pictures there - and two little boys came up to me, mugging and goofing for the camera, with those incredible, angelic, trusting faces that you only see on country kids. They must have been five or six years old. I fell instantly, utterly in love with them. As soon as I took a picture, they stuck out their hands and demanded payment. Ambitious little guys.

We rode back to San Christobel - more great scenery - and by the time I got there I was in serious pain. A, I hadn't done a lot of riding in a loooong time, and B, the saddles were basically wood with a stretched leather cover. So riding, for any length of time, was just - frankly, every jolt of the horse was like being rapped sharply on the ass with a frying pan. I feared I might never sit down again.

When I got back to town, I was sweaty, stiff, and tired. And ravenous. I found the nearest cafe and stumbled in, glancing at the menu on the chalkboard. I saw something that looked reasonable - "Milenesa de something something" - and thought, that'll be good. I couldn't remember for the life of me what the second word, the one that actually id'd the meat, was, but I knew that Milenesa always means "breaded and fried" and what's not to like there? I'd figure out the previous owner's mode of being when it came to the table.


It was a white meat, I can tell you that. Fairly mild. Didn't taste like chicken. Probably the only thing in the world that doesn't. Not quite pork...I tried to catch my waiter's eye, to ask him what this thing I was wolfing down was (I was too hungry not to eat it), but he was behind the bar, studiously ignoring me. Apparently menu translation was not included in the price. Possibly, too, he was avoiding me because I reeked of horse, and kept shifting my weight from one buttock to the other.

I ate it. I paid. I went back to my room, got out my spanish dictionary and searched for that word while laying butt-up on the bed, poring thru the pages...

No luck.

So, if I ever develop a crazed desire for the taste of human flesh.... I'll know where it came from.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Best News I've had today

San Francisco has a Pirate Store!

Oh, like there wasn't enough reason to go already. They may not have Bacon Ice Cream, but this may be even better, especially since I was cruelly denied a visit to Charleston's pirate store in the spring, due to their "We claim to be a pirate store but really we're a money laundering front" opening hours policy, which basically meant they were open for half an hour a day. Bloody lubbers.

But I'm verrrry excited about this new pirate store sighting, can't wait to go. They even sell "pirate perfumes!" I wonder what THAT smells like? Because frankly, pirates look like they should smell of dirty leather and unwashed hair, and possibly bad teeth. No Matter. Even more tantallizing is this quote, stolen - er, pillaged - directlly from their website:

"And stop by 826 Valencia, Eggers’ writing center/pirate store. David Byrne says it is “one of the top five pirate stores I’ve been to recently.”

There are more than five Pirate Stores?

Monday, September 17, 2007

San Fran Countdown, and Tybee Island

So only 12 days till my trip to San Francisco, which means it's time to start eating up all the food stored up in the cabinets, which would probably survive nuclear fallout, and stop spending money, because SF looks expensive. But I'm very excited, and if I can just stay out of Target I will be ok.

Just to keep my hand in, since I haven't been anywhere on a pleasure trip since Spain in the spring, the man and I went to Savannah/Tybee Island for a quick beach trip. We had a hotel right on the beach - the fabulously ratty Desoto Beach Resort - and we spent two days swimming, lounging, making picnic lunches in our room, and in my case getting horribly sunburned on my back, due to my cunning deciscion to spare my face from the evil of UV rays. Possibly sunscreen on all exposed portions of the body would be better. Possibly I should consider spending my time laying on the beach enclosed in a tent. Maybe next time.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Naughty, Naughty

You know how some people can't resist a sale? Maybe it's a sale on shoes (mea culpa, mea culpa), or clothes, or day old bread (pointless, in my opinion). Whatever. You know the feeling... I don't need it, I don't have room for it, oh, it's on sale? I'll take two.

Well, I'm kind of that way with traveling. I am on every airfare pricewatch list known to man, including the aptly named Airfare Watchdog, and the excellent Kayak (please fix your site so it will stop crashing my Safari, guys), even though they all have basically the same lists, and I get emails and notices from them all, which I peruse greedily each morning before (while?) I start work.

And last week - paydirt! Airtran Airways - love Airtran, and they are based in my hometown of Atlanta - had a sale on flights to San Francisco. 278 dollars, round trip, non stop. Love non stop. Whip out the Visa, press "submit".

So hey! It looks like San Fran in four weeks. Just a quick trip - 5 nights, 4 days - time enough to do some whale watching, visit the famous farmer's market (mmmmm....) sing a bit of Tony Bennet in a kareoke bar. Perhaps I'll just do that in my head.

The City by the Bay awaits!