Monday, July 29, 2013

The Case of the Missing Red Sauce

In what may be a first, my evening began in a park.

Oddly enough, it was for a meet-up, not that I have any intention of sharing the nature of the meet-up.

I will say it involved introducing ourselves and sharing a story of something that had happened to us, but that's as far as I'll go.

Getting to know each other aside, it was a beautiful evening to be in Forest Hill Park (and coincidentally I used to go to beagle meet-ups in that same park), under the shade of huge, old trees talking to strangers as people with fishing poles and dogs on leashes walked by.

It lasted longer than I expected, though, and by the time I said goodnight, I felt sure everyone could hear my stomach grumbling.

I turned the car in the direction of Carytown, in the mood for Don't Look Back, or perhaps, just tequila.

Walking past the Daily, it was obvious that the novelty factor is packing 'em in even on a Monday night.

Across the street, Don't Look Back was lightly populated so I had plenty of choices of bar stools.

Espolon Reposado seemed the best way to start, so I did.

With no taco specials on the board, I punted, ordering a Frito Pie, my old standby.

Screech. Sound of scratching record. My server grimaced.

"Um, we're out of Frito Pie," he stammered.

So many things went through my head. How can that be? Do I need to go to 7-11 and buy a bag of Fritos for you?

You're breaking my heart, I told him.

"I am a heartbreaker," he admitted, grinning.

At least we had humor.

What they didn't have was the necessary red sauce for Frito Pie, so I defaulted to black bean nachos.

"I'm really sorry," he said, going to put the order in.

Minutes later, another bartender approached me, innocently asking how I was doing.

Quite well, I told him, considering you have no Frito Pie.

"I'm sorry," he said. "It hurts me, too. I look forward to my Monday shifts because the kitchen does a variation of carnitas with red sauce on Mondays. Even if I've already had dinner, I always eat a couple of them because they're so good. There weren't any today and I'm bummed, so I've been kicking stuff back here."

He kicked the ice chest to prove it to me.

The snafu resulted because of a transition in produce suppliers, leaving them with cases of hard avocados and unripe chilies.

Bad news for a place that goes through avocados and chilies hand over fist.

But soon my nachos were delivered by a sweet-faced girl in braids who set them on the bar with a longing glance and said, "They look really good!"

Yea, but they're no Frito Pie, I teased her.

"I'm sorry," she said, joining the regret chorus.

Grow up, Karen. No one said you always get Frito Pie when you want it.

The nachos, as usual, were very good, the music was excellent (Pandora set to Superchunk) and once I relaxed into eating and listening, all was right with the world.

I fear that my hunger had descended into hanger, and I was a little ashamed of being so vocal about something they couldn't help.

Two women near me were having a fascinating conversation about a mutual friend and eventually I couldn't help joining in.

This friend had gotten a settlement of $20,000 after a bike accident and had managed to spend the entire amount in six weeks.

45 days!

Now he was apartment-less and back to sleeping on other people's couches.

Apparently all he had to show for the money was a few new tattoos.

I'd say, "How very Richmond," except he lives in Norfolk.

The rest had gone to living in hotels, eating and drinking every meal out.

We shared our amazement at such poor use of a windfall.

Even the tooth he'd broken in the accident was still broken since he'd spent it all before having that fixed.

"And he's not young, he's 25!" one of the women said, as if his age should have guaranteed better money management.

I didn't know where to start, but I tried, leaving them aghast at the idea that there were even 35-year olds (or older) no better equipped to deal with life than their friend.

They did say they'd resolved not let him couch surf in their apartments anymore.

Tough love. That'll teach him, or so they were hoping.

Doubtful, but I didn't tell them that.

We chatted about small-town life in Richmond because they've been discovering how frequently the same people turn up if you're out and about here.

They were amazed to learn it was true, no matter what your age.

When our little meet-up wound down, I asked for my check.

My server handed it to me, saying that they weren't charging me for my tequila because they'd let me down with the Frito Pie.

In what may be a first, my evening ended with guilt about my big mouth.

And more Espolon to even the score with the heartbreaker.

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