Posts Tagged ‘atavism’

We Gotta Make This Pie Higher!

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!

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Categories: Food Tags: , ,

Sons of Ellis Valentine

His name was Youppi!, he wore a diamond...

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.

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Tip, Tap, Taibbi

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.

Categories: Sports Tags: , , ,

Food Places Will Not Comply With My Rigid Expectations

June 25, 2010 3 comments

The last time I was inside a Round Table Pizza I noticed that they no longer had any actual round tables. This made me somewhat sad, and left me longing for the days when pizza parlors were weird, dark, and full of gimmicks. Round Table used to look like medieval dungeons on the inside, with dark rustic wooden booths, fake stone castle interior walls and, yes, round tables.

Shakey’s used to have live banjo players and weird hillbilly crap all over the place, and silent movies and a player piano. It was also: dark.

Straw Hat Pizza. I know they’re still around because I drive by one down by the day-old bread store every once in awhile. They used to actually wear straw hats, and show old-timey movies on the walls.

Pizza Hut was the place we’d go when we had a coupon, and then remember why we never went to Pizza Hut. I think there was never an actual restaurant; the pizza just issued forth from a hole in the ground somewhere, like a slow oil leak.

It wasn’t just the pizza places, which now all look uniformly food-service standard cheerful, with “subdued” track lighting and ferns and shit. And random geometric patterns on the wall so as not to offend anyone who might be put off by the sudden appearance of a pizza-obsessed Wizard.

Sizzler used to have freaking straw on the ground. And bull horns. And big meat diagrams, showing where all the meat parts on the cow you were about to eat were going to be located.

Dinner is served, sire

You stood in line to get meat at Sizzler, a long trough-like line where they made you look at slaughter implements and pictures of cow apprehension devices while you waited to order your dinner. You had a choice of meat and potato. If you asked for a salad they rolled their eyes and pegged you as queer, then pressed a special button on the cash register that authorized the cook to pee in your soup.

Then there was Taco Bell. There were no windows at Taco Bell. It was just a stone mission-shaped building, basically. You sat outside at round metal tables with metal umbrellas, and there were five things you could order, most of them burritos. If it was cold and windy outside: fuck you! How much do you think you’re paying for Taco Bell?

McDonald’s was basically the same. The last time McDonald’s really added anything new to the McDonald’s Experience was in 1967, when Ray Kroc invented napkins. Well, and the playground thing, but we don’t go in there because kids poop in the ball pits.

Arby’s was basically just a cowboy hat-shaped shack with a big meat-carving machine right behind the counter. You ordered a big pile of shaved meat on a bun, and you got it. They might have even gone straight to the machine and carved that shit up right in front of you while you waited. Like Sizzler, the secret was the simplicity. I think Arby’s now has more than 400 menu items, only about six of them involving shaved meat. Also you have to talk to a robot to order your food.

Jack-in-the-Box might be the weirdest food industry makeover of them all. It used to be literally a giant box. With a clown head outside. You talked into the clown’s mouth to order your food. The menu was more or less the same, but there was nothing about a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant that wasn’t a cheap, uncaring imitation of a better fast-food franchise. Even the kids toys were crappy knockoffs of McDonald’s toys, right down to the characters: Mayor McCheese became the Burgermeister at Jack’s; there was an onion ring guy instead of a french fries guy, and there was also some sort of Hamburglar doppelganger. I owned them all at one point.

"Jack" on upper left, in happier days, before the pressure of high-powered executive life turned him into an asshole

You walk into a Jack-in-the-Box today and you think you might have walked into a trendy SOMA bar/bistro instead. There are weird modern art pieces and corrugated metal everywhere. Everything is ironically retro. That clown you bossed around is now the CEO.

Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s: I don’t remember what you were like before you were like what you’re like now. You can go about your business.

Denny’s was more of an actual diner instead of a diner-cuz-marketing-people-said-so diner. The food wasn’t exactly the same at every Denny’s on the planet. It was no Sambo’s, mind, but it was funkier and better in every way before some MBA got his hands on it and put together a committee to find out how many ways you can assemble the same basic breakfast foods into 92 different Grand Slams, all with different price points. And how many sausage links can you fit inside a Cheesey Raspberry and Sugar Pancake Sandwich before people start catching on that you’re essentially trying to poison their eat valves?

Mall food courts, I’m looking at you. You used to be “International Food Faires,” with Mary Blair-esque murals showcasing the multi-cultural orgy of cuisine you were about to sample only ten feet from the indoor skating rink and the waterfall made of beads of oil cascading down hundreds of waxy kite strings into a burbling brook next to the Orange Julius stand. Now you’re Panda Express. What happened?  Can we talk about it?

Bob’s Big Boy. Basically unchanged, but I suspect this was another marketing “return to our roots” decision and that the ’80s were sort of dire here. I don’t know because I haven’t eaten in one since 1974, and that one is now underneath a Mexican supermarket. Do they still refuse to melt the cheese on their cheeseburgers? Because I thought that was weird, even when I was eight years old and really only there for the comic books.