CHEAP EATS At a pretty good restaurant in a small town, other side of the mountains, we were greeted and seated by a small boy, age 9, 10, 11 tops. We looked at each other, looked at the kid, looked at each other, shrugged, and followed him to our table.
"Can I get you anything to drink?" he said.
We had just emerged from Death Valley, where the heat was intense and the scenery surreal, and milk was the last thing on our minds.
"Um, what kind of lemonades do you have?" I said, scanning the menu very quickly. It was an inside joke between me and me one of my specialties.
Romeo ordered a beer. He lives in Germany, and his favorite brew is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Well, we were doing it. Setting up camp together, if not house. After a few days of cooking on fires, sleeping in tents, squatting in the bushes, and not washing at all, Romeo said he felt like he had got to meet Dan Leone. He said he liked him OK, but maybe we should get a motel room for one night.
I agreed. It was weird to be cut in half like that and, though I have never been one to run from weirdness, I do prefer speaking of myself in the first person. A bath seemed like a very good idea.
A bath, a pluck, a night of mattressousness, change of clothes in the morning, and I would be myself again. But first, while I was still Dan Leone, I had to order a buffalo burger with bacon, cheese, barbecue sauce, and chili on it, because ... I mean, come on, were we or were we not a couple of smelly cowboygirls just in from a roundup?
Of course we were. The more interesting question is what was the fuck re: the fourth- or fifth-grade waitchild. Sixth-grade tops. Do we have child labor laws here? My German wanted to know. I think so, I thought, but maybe they don't apply to family-run restaurants in tiny middle-of-nowhere towns. Clearly that was what this was, a family. There was a strong resemblance between the kid, a slightly older kid also waiting tables, a slightly-older-than-that kid, and the cat in charge, their father, who seemed too young to have three kids, including at least one teenager, so maybe he was the oldest brother, I don't know.
Anyway, it was a school night.
And I still can't decide if the whole thing was cute or creepy, so I'll just tell you that the burger was great. Even though it may well be mean, unfair, and irresponsible of me to tell you so, according to a whole pile of e-style mail waiting for me upon my return to civilization.
Apparently a popular restaurant that I slagged a couple weeks ago is run by a positive force in the community, and so therefore I shouldn't say anything bad about their carne asada. Which sucked. But most of the people who called for my resignation, apologies, do-overs, and so forth, admitted that they were vegetarians, and so presumably have never had the carne asada (which sucks) at their favorite restaurant.
Really, I doubt I'll like the vegetarian food there either, because the rice and beans didn't impress me and the salsa was even worse than the meat, but I am nothing if not a good sport. I will re-review the Sunrise, and I will order something vegetarian this time, provided one of the vegetarians calling for my head/job/apology agrees to a) pay for it, and b) sit across from me and eat carne asada.
You'll get your do-over, and I'll get to watch a vegetarian eat meat. Which is one of my favorite pastimes.
Just so you know though: I'll say exactly what I think about anything I eat, I don't care if Jesus Hisself runs the joint. I calls 'em like I tastes 'em, and if I don't like His bread and wine, or carne asada ...
Oh, but I did like that buffalo burger, very much. What a shame, that a child labor law scofflaw and/or mean dad can be a better cook than a sweetie-pie.
MOUNT WHITNEY RESTAURANT
Daily: 6 a.m.9 p.m.
227 S. Main, Lone Pine
Beer & wine
L.E. Leone's new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.