Taqueria Mexican Grill
CHEAP EATS I'm a fickle fucking farmer, I know that. So ... sorry, Doc, I've got a new favorite person. Her name is Zidane de la Cooter, and even though she only weighs 6 pounds, 13 ounces, she just about broke Crawdad's back trying to bonk her way into this sad and blurry world.
I got to be there for part of it. Not that I was invited exactly, but that's where my press pass comes in handy. I was brushing aside doctors, nurses, midwives, midfielders, and middle linebackers, flashing my credentials and saying, "Excuse me, excuse me, sorry I'm late, damn the traffic. OK, push. I'm here," I said, looking at the wristwatch I don't wear. "Let the baby begin."
Just kidding. Really, they said, way back at the front desk, "Press pass?"
And: "Chicken farmer?"
There were two of them. And as much fun as I generally have fielding goofy little questions like these, just this once I didn't have time for philosophy. I went straight for my trump card: "Listen," I said, "those unmuffled screams and cries and curses ... that's my ex-wife we're waltzing to out here. And if you don't think she needs me in there right now, then clearly neither one of you has ever been divorced." I paused for effect, then added, "Which, frankly, strikes me as statistically unlikely."
Blink. Blink ... Bingo! Tears, hugs, apologies, phone numbers, passionate three-way sex, earthquakes, floods, the sound of birdies tweeting, and blink I was in the room. There was my brother Phenomenon and Deevee and Trotwood. There was some woman I didn't know. A guy with a camera ... scooped again by the daily news, damn it.
And there was Crawguy de la Peter, proud father-to-be, at the place of honor, right in Crawdad's ear, saying all the right things. I tapped him on the shoulder. "OK, Dad, great job," I said. "You can go to the bar now. I'm here."
Aaaaaaaaahhhh!!! How the hell did I write myself into an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm which I only saw once and didn't even like? I'm trying to be funny here, and this is a serious Cheap Eats moment. This is huge! It's Crawdad de la Cooter's baby. This is no time to try to be funny. I must succeed. Now more than ever, my sanity depends on my being able to find the joke.
When in doubt, I always say ... surrender. Immediately. Give up. Fall back on the truth, even if it ain't funny. The truth is I'm not an idiot. I'm a chicken farmer, and this was one of the most joyous and difficult days of my life for a variety of reasons.
I was wanted, and I wanted to be there. There's probably nobody in the world whose happiness I care about more than that of my ex-wife and beloved friend Crawdad. And there's probably nobody in the world whose pain I feel more feelingly. The truth is that I am not strong or competent. After a couple hours of her pain and agony, I needed an epidural myself. So I went and got me one: a burrito.
Early evening. Walnut Creek, of all the unfamiliar planets in my solar system ...
When I jittered out, all twisted and wrung and traumatized, the attending professionals were just starting to look at each other with question-marked eyeballs, and I was either hearing or imagining words such as suction, vacuum, surgery, toothpaste, and maybe corkscrew.
When I returned, rubbing my own pregnant belly and breathing more or less normally for the first time all day, Zidane "Z.Z." de la Cooter existed. Crawdad was all stapled up and very much on drugs. My assumption is that Phenomenon performed the operation, but I could be wrong.
The important thing was that everyone was OK now and that, through some miracle of lucky timing, I got to be in the recovery room when they brought Crawdad's new little soccer star to her, all measured and crusty and shit, just squirming and kicking with wonder. Cutest thing you ever saw. And there ain't a dry eye in my house every time I think of the look on Crawdad's face when, finally, they set her baby against her skin.
The daily newsman was gone now so, appropriately, I got to hold Crawguy's movie camera for what will likely remain the most profoundly beautiful sight I've ever seen: little Z.Z. finding out for her first time ever what was for dinner. I can't speak for her. For me: carne asada. (Old friend!) Thanks to which, like a drunk on drink, my hand did not shake. *
TAQUERIA MEXICAN GRILL
Daily, 9 a.m.9 p.m.
1359 Locust, Walnut Creek