No-fry zone

I don't know how to write about love and that's why I'm going to focus on chicken and waffles for the next couple years

CHEAP EATS A loud sound peeled my skin off, strip by strip, top to bottom, like a banana. We had just walked into the restaurant, just walked past the fire alarm, headed toward a cozy corner booth, and ... I mean, I know I'm hot, but this was ridiculous. I grabbed the Maze's arm, turned him around, and slipped back out to the sidewalk, aswirl in electronically piercing shrieks, potassium, instant headache, flashes of white light, and other symptoms of stroke.

Having played three games of soccer earlier that day, running was out of the question. So was eating anything in the world other than chicken and waffles. I had to get the taste of Roscoe's out of my mouth. So we waited for the fire trucks.

Some people stayed in the restaurant, having dinner, as if it weren't the end of the world all around them. I took this as an endorsement. Gussie's was going to be good. It was just going to be impossible to be in there.

Although ... the fire alarm had nothing to do with me, or the restaurant. Apparently this happens — I think because the whole block is all one building, so if someone in apartment 937 burns their toast, the poor people minding their own waffles all the way down Eddy Street at Gussie's have to hear about it. And the clear winner is Excederin.

Luckily we hadn't sat down yet, let alone ordered, so none of our food was getting cold while we milled about on the sidewalk with one-tenth of the Western Addition, waiting for the fire trucks to come squirt some toast somewhere at the other end of the block. We looked at the menu in the window, wondered what we would order, and talked about love and shin guards.

The Maze doesn't play soccer. On the other hand, I've been threatening for some time now to kick him real hard.

"My mom said to tell you hi," he said. "She asked how you were doing."

Aargh, it was Mother's Day, and I'd forgotten to call the Maze's mom! Whom I've never met, by the way, or talked to — but we do have this mysterious mutual solicitousness for each other, the Maze's mom and me. I don't know why this is, but for many many years — in fact for much longer than I have known the Maze — I have been tempted to go to San Diego and have Thanksgiving dinner with his mom. And dad. Once I did eat peanuts with his brother, and I guess that makes me something like family.

I don't know.

But I do know about love. I just do. I wish I knew how to write about it, or talk about it, but I don't, and that's why I'm going to focus on chicken and waffles for the next couple years.

Gussie's chickens are about as bad as Roscoe's, but her waffles are better. But her greens are worse. But if you pour a lot of hot sauce and a little bit of maple syrup into them ...

Speaking of which, Gussie's does have real maple syrup, for only $1 more. Plus they have their own homemade brown sugar syrup concoction, which is also pretty good.

What I don't understand is how places that specialize in fried chicken can possibly not bother to fry their chickens ... you know, to order. This seems like a no-brainer. It doesn't take that long to fry a piece of chicken. I'm sure they don't pull the waffle off of a pile of waffles, because waffles are only good if they come hot off a waffle iron. Right?

Well, fried chicken is only good if it comes hot out of the oil. Any amount of time in a basket or bin or bucket, it's just not going to work. It isn't. Not if you've ever had real fried chicken like at Gravy's, or Grandma's, or at Wayway's, or Rube Roy's, for that matter.

I have high hopes for next week's chicken and waffles, but then, I always have high hopes. What I need is a good pair of cowboy boots. Pointy, with a steel toe.



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