THE MIDNIGHT SKULKER 23
March 1, 1974
1:50 p.m. Pacific Standard Time
Passing streets with the names of: ‘Via Oriente’; ‘Via Poniente’ and ‘Avenida Miguel Negrete’, “Jeeze, Marcie, these streets sound so, uh, foreign .”
Giggling, “maybe that’s because we are in a foreign country.”
Midway across the next street, “There’s one!” Marsha said.
On the corner was ‘The Alamo’ and beneath the neon sign was the word ’American’.
Crossing the street, “ ‘The Alamo’ seems like a pretty weird name for a restaurant in Mexico.”
“Yeah,” Marsha said, “maybe it’s to make Americans feel at home…”
“Or to remind Mexicans that Texas used to be theirs.”
Walking into what appeared to be a mock Mexican/American style restaurant; the beige, rough-hewn stucco walls were dotted with old fashioned, sepia-tone photographs of banditos wearing wide brimmed sombreros with crossed bandoleers of bullets sporting old fashioned pistols or rifles. There were like photographs of troops of Mexican soldiers, and ‘fédérales’ holding pistols or rifles forward and one spotlighted, large sepia-toned picture of Pancho Villa mounted upon a white horse.
At this time of day ‘The Alamo’ was fairly crowded with, easy to spot, American tourists having the same idea as Mitchell and Marsha that didn’t want ‘to go native’, that were looking for drinkable water and an authentic Mexican meal.
A small stack of menus held in both hands, “Two for lunch?” an older waiter in black slacks, a white dress shirt and black bow tie asked in broken English.
“Yes, just us.”
Following the waiter to a window table looking through to the rather dirty, bustling street, he held the seat for Marsha who murmured, “Thank you.”
Laying menus onto the table before Marsha and Mitchell, “May I bring you drinks?”
“Yes,” figuring one would not affect his driving, remembering the tart/sweet drink of the evening before in San Diego, “a Margareta, please.”
Enjoying the sweet, banana liquor drink, “A Harvey Wallbanger, please.”
His eyebrows quizzically moving upward, “ ‘Ball Banger’?” the waiter questioned.
Looking at Mitchell, both trying to keep from laughing, “Just a Coke, please.”
“So, what have you got a taste for now that we’re here?”
Opening his menu, “Beats me.”
Both sets of eyes looking from top to bottom of the three paged menu.
To: ‘Camaros Ensenada’ and ‘Quesadilla Del Mar’ and ‘Arroz A Tumbuda’ and ‘Las Brisas Marinas’ and ‘Carne Asada’ and ‘Pollo Rostisado’ and ‘Arroz Con Pollo’ and ‘Carnitas Guadalajara’ and so on and so on…
“What is all this stuff?”
“Don’t know, baby, it’s all foreign to me.”
Turning from the last back to the second page, “ ‘Chili Con Carne’! Hey,” Marsha said, “I make chili. How different can it be?”
Shrugging his shoulders, “I have no idea.”
Dressed as the waiter: Black slacks, white shirt and a black bow tie; a boy, about twelve years old brought a large bowl with, “Nachos, Mister.” And a smaller bowl with, “Salsa, Misses.” Then moved aside as the older man returned to the table…
“Your drinks, Mister.” Handing Marsha a glass with ice and a bottle of Coca Cola, and Mitchell a frosty, frothy, salt rimmed glass.
Looking at the ice…
Having seen the look thousands of times, “It’s okay, Misses. The ice comes from bottled water.”
“Okay,” pouring some Coca Cola into her glass, but not yet quite willing to drink it.
“You want to order now?”
“Yes,” Marsha said, “I’ll have the Chili Con Carne with your…” having no idea what re-fried beans were, however… “re-fried beans and rice.”
“Salad or soup, Misses?”
“Your salad, is it…”
“Yes, Misses, we wash it in bottled water.”
“Okay, I’ll have the salad with, uh,” really not thinking they did, but asking anyway, “you have garlic dressing?”
“Yes, Misses.” Loudly kissing the tips of his thumb, fore and index fingers, “We make the most delicious garlic dressing!”
“Okay, yes!” Sold on the garlic dressing, “I’ll have your garlic dressing.”
Still trying to decide, “Uh…” Noticing another waiter deliver a delectable smelling plate to a neighboring table, with a large cylindrical… “what is that thing?”
Glancing over his shoulder, "A ‘burrito’, Mister.”
“What’s in it.”
“A burrito can be with shrimp, chicken, pork or beef, or you can have a combination with any two, and it is stuffed with three different cheeses and sautéed onions and beans, Mister.”
“Okay, yes!” Sold on a burrito stuffed with… “Shrimp! I’ll have a burrito with shrimp.”
Backing away from the table, “Thank you.”
Licking a bit of the salt from the rim of the glass, then taking a drink… “Yaght!”
“My, God, this is one hell’of’a strong drink!”
“You had one of those last night, and you liked it then.”
“Yeah, but last night it was kind’a sweet and sourly and tasted real good, but this is…” Looking at the glass, “really sourly and really strong!”
Margaritas made south of the border are far different than Margaritas made north of the border, and not as… nowhere as sweet, and far… far stronger.
“Misses,” placing a steaming dish before her heaped with red beans and sweet smelling meat sauce.
“Mmmm, that smells so good, thank you!”
“Mister,” placing a dish with a huge, tan colored burrito sitting on a bed of shredded lettuce drizzled with and sitting in dark brown gravy.
“That looks beautiful, thank you!”
“Gracias.” Backing away from the table, “Muchas gracias!”
Cutting into the Burrito with the edge of his fork, putting it into his mouth and chewing... “Mmmm, this is delicious!”
Dipping her fork into the dish of Chili Con Carne, putting it into her mouth, she chewed, gasped and… Her eyes opening wide… “Ulp!”
Marsha Lipensky’s eyes opened so wide they looked as though they might pop from their sockets, as, gasping, her pursed lips sucked air inward as, grabbing her glass of Coca Cola, with one long gulping, gurgling drink the glass was emptied.
As Margaritas made south of the border are far different than Margaritas made north of the border, so then, in Tijuana, Mexico, chili is different… far different and far, far spicier than chili made north of the border by this Jewish housewife from Schaumburg, Illinois.
©October 22, 2011 / Mark M. Lichterman