Don’t freak out or anything, but this post is out of chronological order.
My dear friend Dennis came to visit James and me the weekend before I headed home to see my family (early May). Here’s what happened.
I didn’t manage to take pictures of the two times we ate burgers (here and here). Or the time we ate It’s It. Just know that those important things happened. And they were good. So was our visit with Dennis. We’re hoping he didn’t find us too weird and will come out here again soon.
SOUND: It’s early and I’m sitting at my desk, listening to the garbage truck empty our three trash cans. One for yard waste, one for household garbage and one for recyclables. It’s easy to tell when he gets to our recyclables. The clanging of empty wine bottles is enough to wake the neighborhood. Luckily, they’re already up because other people’s cans sound similarly populated.
SIGHT: I just started reading Big Sur (Jack Kerouac). It’s about his trip to Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s cabin in the woods (near Bixby Bridge). He’s trying to deal with the letdown of life, post On the Road. His mental state comes through clearly in his description of Big Sur. It sounds like a frightening, cold and overwhelming place. And though I feel differently about it, I still recognize it. The reason I mention the book is this passage made me chuckle:
I’m absolutely alone for weeks on end (because later in August when the sun conquered the fog suddenly I was amazed to hear laughing and scratching all up and down the valley which has been mine only mine, and when I tried to go to the beach to squat and write there were whole families having outings, some of them younger people who’d simply parked their cars up on the high bridge bluff and climbed down) (some of them in fact gangs of yelling hoodlums).
I feel you, Jack. I feel you.
TASTE: When I went to Boston, I ate something called a Butta Burger. Oh, did I mention James and I are eating meat again? Mostly just on the weekends (and mostly just burgers). Like riding a bike. Anyway, the burger came from a place called Tasty Burger, and it was right next to my hotel. The Butta Burger is a bun that’s been toasted on the grill (and buttered) gently holding a meat patty topped with caramelized onions (and a gilding-the-lily pat of butter). Too rich to finish, but it was a damn tasty burger.
The place I stayed in Boston is a renovated HoJo from the ’50s (it’s now The Verb). While I’m not big on themes (theirs is rock-n-roll), I thought this place was pretty cute. And it offered the occasional unique experience. Like, when I was bent over in the bathroom drying my hair, this is what was looking at my backside. (It’s the sliding door to the bathroom.) Also fun whilst sitting on the loo.
TOUCH: I flew JetBlue to/from Boston. First time on that airline, and I liked it. You can choose your seat when you book your flight (and I was able to move to a better seat when I checked in), and their planes have the most legroom in coach. I didn’t feel like I was stuffed into my seat, which was good since the flight was around six hours. This was my first trip as a Californian, and it made me realize how conveniently located Houston is for travel.
My only complaint: We hit what felt like a speed bump an hour or two out of San Francisco, and it would have been nice to hear that calm pilot’s voice say, “We just fucked up a flock of birds or some shit, no worries.” Instead…silence. Which kind of freaked me out, so I would have appreciated a little more communication from the cockpit. Oh, and this young guy kept hitting on me the whole way back from Boston and no one seemed to care. In fact, they were egging him on.
SMELL: The Pacific smells a little fishy lately. And there’s been some foam on the water. And I don’t know what it all means, which makes me realize I have a lot to learn about where I live. And that makes me happy.
James and I had a fun conversation about where we’d eat in Houston if we could magically be transported there. You’ll see the abbreviated list below, and it includes places that are no longer in business. Because why not. Yes, this is a bit of homesickness creeping in (hence the focus on comfort food). We don’t miss Texas yet, but we do miss a bunch of Texans. I hope you know who you are.
Pig Stand (RIP) home of the cowboy omelet, which cured every hangover it went up against – I wrote about my conflicted feelings when Pig Stand closed in this post
Chilosos Taco House – the egg + Chappell Hill sausage breakfast taco is magic in a homestyle tortilla – they always screwed up at least part of our order, but all was forgiven after the first bite
Aunt Bea’s – I’ve never eaten at a restaurant that serves so much butter or hosts so many morbidly obese guests – read this about my first experience there (and the butter)
One’s a Meal (RIP) – anyone who ate at this restaurant likely remembers the very tall Greek waiter named John who worked there forever – you can find him at Avenue Grill, and he’ll probably remember you – he remembered James after not seeing him for years – randomly, here’s a Reddit conversation from a week ago about this very man
Tel-Wink Grill – the line gets so long for breakfast, it snakes its way through the restaurant (nothing like eating with a stranger’s ass mere inches from the edge of your plate) – the Houston Press weighs in
Stanton’s – though this place has been around for a while, I didn’t make it there until a few years ago – it would have been a contender for best burger in Houston during the burger journey – it reminds me of grocery/burger joints in the country
New Orleans Poboy (RIP) – here’s what I had to say about its closure in that fake advice column I used to write – still one of my favorite burgers of all time
Antone’s (before the family sold out) – if you had the privilege of eating an Antone’s back in the day, you would want to slap the fools who make the mushy bread, no chowchow version for sale today – Houstonia talks about the decline of the Houston poboy
James Coney Island (RIP the two-story location downtown on Main St) – I used to go to this location with my grandfather – always loved sitting at the old school desks amidst the white-, blue- and no-collar patrons – after lunch, we’d hit the tunnels and wander around, eventually capping off our experience at the 60th floor observation deck of Chase Tower, the tallest building in Houston
Liberty Kitchen – I used to go to the one in the Heights (in what was once a quickie mart) (Pepperidge Farm remembers), but I heard a rumor there’s a framed FIGHT STUPIDIZATION sticker on the wall at the fancier Liberty Kitchen on San Felipe
Barbecue Inn – this place will always have my respect for telling Guy Fieri they weren’t interested in his greasy ass filming his TV show there – plus, the food’s delicious and there’s always a line, so they aren’t hurting for business – I had an awkward encounter in the bathroom there on my birthday eight years ago
Tia Maria – we moved through a number of TexMex haunts over years, and this was the most recent favorite for our regular Friday night nosh – that first sip of frozen margarita marked the end of the work week
Spanish Village – we ate there when I was a kid, and I still remember the multi-colored chairs with straw seats and the Christmas lights that lined the dining room – luckily, not much has changed (except I became old enough to understand why the adults liked eating there–the margaritas will knock your ass out)
Dolce Vita – the only forced-valet restaurant on the list (you can still find parking in the surrounding neighborhood, so that’s okay) – I had some great meals there with some great people, and I credit Dolce Vita for introducing me to the concept that brussels sprouts can be delicious