CHEAP EATS Over the years I have said goodbye to a lot of cool people in this paper. Haywire went to Maine. Moonpie went to Pittsburgh. Rube Roy went home. E.B. Matt became S.D. Matt. Johnny "Jack" Poetry I packed up and delivered to Idaho with my own two hands and old van and creaking heart. Birdbrain Brad went to Denmark. Satchel Paige the Pitcher, Thailand. Noah, J.C., Jason.
Now this ...
Oof, me and Carrie moved here together 16, 17 years ago, after the earthquake. Drove across the country in my ’71 LTD with all our stuff in the backseat and trunk. We were at that time lovers, best friends, and bandmates. Some of that would change, because things do, but whatever the words were, we only got closer and closer and closer.
Tonight I'm cooking for her and Marc, another old relocated pal of mine, who's here to help move her with him to New York. This will be the first time in our 20-plus years of kindred-spirit-ship that we won't be living in the same place.
For dinner: one of my chickens!
I was, what, 22 when I met Carrie. Graduate writing program, UNH. In addition to falling immediately in love with her, I became a 10-times better writer on the spot. She's still my go-to editorial opinion. Got me started playing music, showed me where to put my fingers on a ukulele, crafted the sort of songs that make you have to write them too, started a band with me — my first. So whether it's songs or sentences, her influence has shone through everything I've done ever since.
And now she's inspiring me in love. I'm serious, you should see her and Marc together. You can't be jaded or cynical. You just can't.
So I'm meeting a lot of new people, making new friends, going to parties where I don't know anyone, smiling and talking a lot, because what can I say? Life is pretty cool.
At a party where I knew almost everyone, we said good-bye to her longtime pad, Belle Manor. Crashed in Joe's room, woke up too early, crossed paths with Carrie on her way back to bed from the bathroom, hugged her, said I'll see you tomorrow night, and booked it over to Berkeley to make new friends. This guy Quinn had asked me to have lunch with him and his Cheap Eats fan girlfriend, by way of surprising her for her birthday.
I said what I say now: "Sure!"
They were colorful folks with cool things to say. Beautiful! And the food was all right. I was surprised, actually, because it had been a long time since I'd eaten at Vik's Chaat Corner. I remembered it being better than this. Which isn't to say it isn't my new favorite restaurant, just that I was probably a little overhungover, underslept, and yeah, kind of crunched up inside.
We talked about: dancing, Dickens, the universe, Indiana, growing up weirdos in normal-ass places. We ate: Bhatura cholle, which is a huge puffy mushroom cloud of crispy doughy stuff you break apart with your hands and dip into a delicious garbanzo bean curry. A bunch of other things from the chaat menu, because these folks are vegetarian. And I ordered lamb baida roti to be contrary, but it backfired because it wasn't very good. It was OK, but all the vegetarian stuff was better, especially bhel puri, which is pretty much rice crispies with onions and cilantro instead of milk and strawberries.
The place got supercrowded while we were sitting there, chatting and chaating. Fortunately, it's a lot bigger than it used to be. Didn't the eating area used to be in the same place as the store, tucked away in a corner or something? Well, Vik's has changed (because things do). People still like it though, and Quinn and Cynthia love it.
She got a little boxful of desserty pastries because it was her birthday. Happy birthday, girl!
Chaat means "to lick," it says on the menu.
Now I have to hit the kitchen again and see if I can't make a miracle. I want this tough, too-old hen to be the best thing I ever cooked. I wanted this article to be the best one I ever wrote, but I don't think that happened either. Edit me, Cares.