CHEAP EATS Georgie Bundle came creaking into my shack in the middle of the night. Weirdo the Cat wigged a little and went under the bed. I rolled over. The refrigerator snored. Georgie Bundle stood his stand-up bass in the doorway and wound down on the floor without any lights on.
In the morning I stepped over him and put the coffee on. I started a fire. There was an apple pie, and there were leftover ribs I'd slow-smoked for dinner the night before. Oh, and there was applesauce, of course, with bacon in it. Starting to sound like breakfast?
Wake up, Georgie Bundle. Wake up and smell the barbecue.
I never lock my door. It's the woods! I'm a chicken farmer! Visitors are rare, but always welcome. It was Bundle's idea to put the ribs on the pie, like ice cream.
"Georgie Boy," I said half a bite later, my mouth full, my eyes bugging, "you are a genius."
He hemmed and chawed, blushed a little, and said, "No, no, no," but I tell you, world, this was a chicken-and-waffle moment. The smoky sauce (borrowed from Big Nate), the juicy meat, the flaky, buttery crust, the sweet, gooey apples ... it was a taste sensation that will likely color or flavor, I should say the rest of my apple pieeating life.
Yours too, if you let it. Don't be afraid. Look, open your eyes. It's walking distance to pork chops and apple sauce, with pastry crust for biscuits. It's almost classic. I, for one, will not be able to eat apple pie now without smothering it in barbecue, or at least wanting to. Just like I crave fried chicken instead of blueberries on my waffle and buttered, syrupy waffles under my fried chicken.
End of story. Bing. I take back everything I ever said about anything. I love applesauce, I love apple pie, and Mitsuhiro is wild about burritos.
He's the Japanese tourist whom I met on the train and then helped find his way around Chicago. I made a phone call, drew a map, walked him to the El, and pointed him north. It was nothing, really I had a five-hour layover there. But to him this was tantamount to saving his life. Come to think of it, he might be right.
Anyway, we'd already agreed that when he came back West we'd go eat. I'm a slow thinker and a patient listener, and this makes me popular with non-English-speaking people in general. I'm also a one-track conversationalist. After hours and hours of broken sentences, backyard sign language, and bee dances, I had gleaned that Mitsuhiro, in one week in San Francisco, had only eaten Chinese food.
I gave him my phone number and e-mail address and tried to think how to say he was "in good hands" without potentially transutf8g that into Japanese as "I want to blow you." Even though, of course, I did.
"Mexican food," I said, starting safe. "Vietnamese food. Caribbean food. Indian food. I love to eat. I will show you."
His mind stopped working at Mexican, I guess, because a couple of weeks later he e-mailed on his way back across the country and said, "Next Sunday date 11 I am free. I would try Mexican food."
We ate burritos, then drank at the only Mission District bar that was open at 5:55 p.m. on Sunday, date 11: the Make-Out Room. I didn't know there was going to be music. At first we were the only ones there. Three pints later I started to realize that I, your chicken farmer truly, to whom every single thing is "a date," was on a date ... a date date. I know because he kept saying sweet things and, more to the point, wouldn't let me pay for anything. And right around that time, all of my friends in the world started moseying into the bar. There was Kid Coyote with a guitar, the Old Sack on drums. Here come the Mountains, Gator-Gator, Jolly Boy, Earl Butter.
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