Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grub? No Thanks

It's great having a job.  No, really. We get to do stuff that we didn't get to do when I was gainfully unemployed. You know.... stuff like eating at restaurants.  Not that we do it a lot - we like about four restaurants and stay home otherwise because we like our own cooking way more than most restaurants.

So out we went on Friday night, as a treat.  The wife wanted a burger and I wanted barbecue, so we went for burgers.  There is a new Wawa (convenience store, for those of you west of Pennsylvania) in town (no, we didn't eat there) but they're adding restaurants to the Super Wawas. Super Wawa is differentiated from regular Wawa by some feature or other; probably the amount of traffic multiplied by the difficulty of accessing the store, divided by locating parking. And gas (hopefully not the kind you get from food).

But wait!!!! The stupid tire indicator in the car was lit. Until I looked in the manual, I didn't know we had a stupid tire indicator. It was right there, under Stupid Tire Indicator. It turned out to indicate that the stupid tire needed air.  Oops, it actually indicated that A stupid tire needed air (but not which stupid tire needed air). Off to the dollar air machine, after which I could not locate my cell phone holster. I just gave up at that point, as that was the kind of day I was having. Normally the holster is secured securely on my pocket... not today. [UPDATE: it was not the stupid tires.. it was the rims - bent by the hellhole that is Philly]

We kept hearing about this place called Grub, which our family and friends really liked, so off we went. The moment we pulled up, I said to my wife, "I do not like this place."  I wasn't entirely sure why I did not like the place... perhaps it was the clientele, perhaps it was the uncomfortable-looking stools (instead of chairs), perhaps it was the proximity to the gas tanks, I dunno. But I was willing to give it a chance, which they tell me is the important thing. They are frequently wrong.

We went to the entrance, which bore a sign telling us to go round to the other entrance. Always obedient, my wife immediately opened the door and we went in.  BOOM - there was a bar in the middle of the place. Small wonder the nieces and nephews like it there; they can get bombed while burgering.

Before you accuse me of telling those kids to get off my lawn, I have to note that I have never enjoyed dining with LOTS OF NOISE around me.  And, strangely enough, there was LOTS OF NOISE around me. The wife noticed this also. Since she has her own internal din, she was not impressed either.

One of the pleasures of dining out is having someone wait on you.  Nope.  We had to stand in line, order and pay, after which we got this RFID tracking beacon, which meant the NSA already knew what we ordered. Over to a booth, where someone shooed us away, stating that the table was reserved. Oddly enough, there was no sign indicating it was reserved, so we located the single remaining table for two, which had approximately enough room for one.

At this point, a female came over and identified herself as a waitress and informed us there were two - no three people walking around if we needed anything.  This was an interesting new model of restauranting and waitressing, we thought.  After we had ordered and paid, there didn't seem to be any need for a waitress, but since we didn't own the restaurant, it didn't seem worth discussing further.

I have to say that the staff was unfailingly pleasant and didn't not have a single issue with custom orders. They had sweet potato french fries, which I really like. The second line, after fries, on the menu stated they had rosemary on them.  I hate rosemary, with a passion normally reserved for politicans. They were kind enough to kill the rosemary for me, which is good, as I'm not the kind of guy who goes around killing rosemary.

This was the kind of restaurant that gave you cups and you filled them with the soda or drink you wanted. I like this as it (theoretically) removes the chance of getting the wrong drink. And if you DO get the wrong drink, you have bigger problems. And it turned out I did, but not for the reason you think: the Coke was remarkably free of flavor. It was similar to carbonated water with brown coloring. Did I mention it was LOUD in there? LOUD like we had trouble talking to each other? This apparently bothered no one else, as their solution was to simply YELL LOUDER than the competition.

Eventually someone showed up with the burgers and we dug in. It's difficult to spell this but I'll try: pbthlllllt uh. It was the sound of me tasting a burger that had barely been cooked. In fact, it was so undercooked that the meat could not hold itself together as a recognizeable burger (or much of anything else of a meatlike-substance).  The wife took a look and confirmed it as medium-rare. I tend to go for something closer to medium-well but no one asked me. I mean that no one, from the register person to the alleged waitress, asked how I wanted my burger. Since my wife likes hers that way, it was not an issue for her.

Since the day was not going well at all, I started competing with my fellow noisemakers, in a less than pleasant tone, about my feelings on the burger. I threw it in its regulation red basket, red Special Sauce leaking all over the place. THIS is why we don't go out to eat much. Visions of barbecue danced in my head, right next to visions of Arnold Schwrzenneger as Terminator, with a double-barreled shotgun, after he had a particularly bad day.

Noting my disgust, the wife suggested she take her burger home and I could microwave it later.  I somehow managed to convey that this was not a helpful suggestion.

Seriously - this was supposed to be a treat for us. The thought of having to get up and launch the burger back from whence it came was just too much for me at the moment.  Have I mentioned that the sweet potato fries (without rosemary) were pretty good?  They were.

At this point, the alleged waitress reappeared, asking how everything was. I looked her straight in the eye and told her 'Horrible'. She smiled, said Great, and walked away, happy as ever. I looked at my wife, dumbfounded, and inquired if we had somehow transported to an alternate dimension. I haven't been in the Twilight Zone<tm> in quite a while and did not wish to return.

It became apparent that immediate action needed to be taken. Although immediate action to me involved making the alleged burger airborn, my wife, who has over twenty years of trying to moderate my behavior, suggested the better option would be to simply have them cook me something edible. We settled on me getting money back and suggesting they keep the burger and do whatever they wanted with it (suggestions joyously provided for the asking).

This, of course was not simple. The transaction required a manager. Cheerful as ever, the manager arrived, having heard there was a small issue. If you call one hundred percent of my meal, drink included, a small issue, then yes, I had a small issue. She cheerfully refunded my money, graciously offering a card entitling me to a free meal upon my next visit. Rather than telling her that my next visit would occur right after all taxes are repealed, I politely refused. She somehow sensed that I would not be returning and re-offered me the card. Rather than telling her that my return would coincide with Bush and Obama dancing cheek-to-cheek, announcing that they both lied for their entire terms in office, I again politely declined.  She told me to ask for her personally next time and she'd take care of me. Rather than telling her the next time would be just after this blog gets over ten thousand hits per day (or even a hundred), I thanked her and told her I liked the fries a lot.

As we got in the car, agreeing that this was a bit of a waste of time, I told my wife that I was hungry and coudln't we go somewhere for dinner. Somewhere among the four restaurants we liked. She smiled and proceeded to take us shopping. Right next to the store was a barbecue place, appearing as a bright light piercing the darkness. I went to it, like a starving nerd to a Playboy bunny, just in time to watch the owner locking the front door.

On the way home, I mentioned again that I was hungry and would like some dinner. The wife said she thought I was kidding.  I looked at my wife, dumbfounded, and inquired if we had somehow transported to an alternate dimension. Or perhaps there was some Waitress in her heritage.


Today it's my favorite guitarist ever: Jeff Beck.
One of his best tunes is Cause We've Ended As Lovers. To get the real flavor you need to listen to the album version (Blow by Blow) but this is a pretty good representation. The band features the incredible Vinnie Coliauta on drums (Zappa, everyone) and the really surprising Tal Wilkenfeld, the twenty-something, grinning bassist from Down Under.  Watch this and be blown away.

Since this will undoubtedly lead to the desire to hear more, watch the complete concert, Live at Ronnie Scott's. This is a very good quality show, released on DVD. One of the greatest moments of the show is looking out in the audience and seeing Robert Plant, looking on, amazed. Another is special guest Jimmy Page but I'm not gonna tell you why or when.  Opening the show is Beck's Bolero. Watch and learn.

Jeff Beck is my favorite due to the emotion and the physical way he plays. He only gets better and he's frightening in his seventies. Watch how he plays with the whammy bar, the volume control and the tone control, sometimes together. It's a master class in guitar.

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