How weird was Shakey’s? This is not part 2 of “food roundup,” but I wanted to get something out of the way: how weird was Shakey’s in its prime? How weird can you stand it, brother?
Shakey’s in its 1970s tudor-beamed and beer-soaked splendor provoked a marvelous and completely unprompted set of psycho-responsive feedback loops:
1) It’s Dark! We already mentioned that, but it bears repeating. So dark your eyes had to adjust to the lack of light dark. So dark that after you fetched your pitcher from the bar and your pizza from the counter and sat down at the shiny bench in front of one of the long, smooth, wooden tables, you more or less detected the presence of fellow diners by sonar, or in this case, nearby telltale sounds of furtive stuffing of faceholes with Mojo potatoes and chicken wings.
2) Quiet. Too Quiet. When they weren’t cramming their faces with exotic delights from the all-you-can-eat “bunch-a-lunch” buffet tables, people tended to speak in hushed tones at Shakey’s, although the plink-a-dink player piano never stopped playing, and the vaudevillian sounds of comedic uproar continually ushered forth from this nickolodeon machine or that game with a crank that cost a nickel where you tried to rescue a cow from a burning building with a crane. Even with the frequent addition of live entertainment, the guileless sounds of banjos and sousaphones only served to remind wary eaters that there is no escape from the pyrrhic victory of a plate full of 20 uneaten chicken wings set next to a plate entirely full of gnawed bones.
Sounds would rattle and dislocate inside the huge old barn-like structures, with the calm of a quiet corner suddenly overwhelmed by the sea-chanty singing ministrations issuing froth from the group of off-duty bunco officers currently occupying themselves with drinking in the “private room,” a side space off All-You-Can-Eat Alley containing a pool table, a Hamm’s Beer sign perpetually on the fritz, and a half dozen knocked-over metal-and-vinyl dining chairs, topped off with a healthy dollop of alienation and bitter resentment.
To your left are bathrooms. Enjoy the trip!
Not everyone in Quebec has forgotten the Expos. Some people can’t get rid of them, apparently.
In what could serve as an almost perfect metaphor for the long, sad and twisted tale of the beautiful Canadian city losing its long-suffering baseball franchise, a relic — a nearly life-size avatar of the team’s old mascot, Youppi!, clutching a slightly smaller version of itself — from those long-ago days has been located in Quebec City, just a three-hour drive from downtown Montreal and Le Stade Olympique.
“It belongs to my father, not to me…he left the house 5+ years ago and since then it’s been sitting in a corner,” says the proud owner, who stays anonymous here for his own damn good.
“My allergies almost start just from looking at it.”
Youppi (Yippee! or Hooray! in French), it should be noted, has since found new employment as the official mascot of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, which doesn’t help explain exactly what the fuck he’s supposed to be. He even has his own website where you can watch him pretend he’s trapped inside an invisible box, among other mime-like behaviors, because the Québécois are clearly insane.
Matt Taibbi waited patiently until everybody got super mancrushy for Landon Donovan, and then he pushed the button. Couldn’t take it no more. So splat, right there in the middle of “Men’s Journal” — which is some kind of collective ancestral memory about getting laid inside homebrew mud-huts, I believe — there is a big grunty Matt piece about how much he hates the World Cup and soccer is dumb and involves people wearing capes and falling down and stuff. Grrrrrr! Matt really hates soccer, because it’s gay! And it’s gay because he hates it! See?!?
The piece is not utterly worthless, solely because Matt Taibbi can write like Jesus. But he’s so deeply wrong in this piece (there are no injuries in soccer? Really now. I’ll be sure to let these guys know) that after I’d got to the end of it I actually started questioning everything else I could remember that he’s written. Was he really right about credit default swaps in his epic throwdown with Byron York, for instance? I forwarded that sucker to everybody I knew, for fuck’s sake. How about this more recent thing on derivatives in an increasingly impressive Rolling Stone return to real journalism? Because I really want Matt to be right. And on the subject of soccer, he’s an idiot, just another shock jock in search of cheap laffs from the Joe the Plumber section of the behavioral short bus.
So that’s kind of disappointing. Matt has a godawful tendency to channel not Hunter S. Thompson, but a frat boy on vacation in Daytona Beach dressed up exactly like Hunter S. Thompson, but he’s also the first real contender we’ve had in that vacancy for a pretty good long while. And that job was up for grabs well before the Good Doctor permanently created the opening himself.
But when the talk turns to something he doesn’t understand, the drool cup comes out. This article isn’t just bent, it’s completely dismembered at approximately the neck area. It’s the journalistic equivalent of my dog ate it. Matt forgot to write an article today, signed Taibbi’s Mother.
In the entire thing, and it’s a completely depressing chore to get through, there is only one passage that rings utterly true, and it is this bit about awful World Cup mascots, of which there are thousands, and Taibbi is not exaggerating here when he says:
“[I]t can be argued that the all-time nadir of mascot history was reached at the 1974 Cup in Germany, when the mascot was two pubescent German boys in midriff-baring shirts with their arms around each other.”
Because look up at the top of this article. Look at that shit. Look.
So you get one point, Matt. Don’t spend it all in one place.