September 15, 2011

These things shouldn't happen when you're an adult.

On the way home from work tonight, Keene called to ask if I wanted to go out for dinner. He said that a new Pho restaurant had opened in our new neighborhood and we should check it out. I arrived at home, gathered up the fam, then we drove to the restaurant. Despite it being busy, we were seated immediately. We got our drinks and spring rolls. We showed the kids how to use chopsticks. We talked about work. We talked about school. We talked about the house and future projects.

Notice what we didn't do? We didn't eat. Because neither our food nor our waitress was anywhere to be found. After an hour, we dropped money to cover the drinks and rolls onto the table and left.

By this time, it was late and we were hungry. We didn't want to wait any longer, so our only option was fast food. But wait, I thought, isn't there a little Chinese buffet down the street? "Have you ever been there?" asked Keene. No, but I always drive by it.

"We even rode our bikes here once...there's a bar next door that we were going to check out one night," I said.

"You mean the bar that had the big seized sign on the front, due to tax evasion?"

"Yeah, that one."

So we walked in to the restaurant. And that's when life stopped making sense. To start, it wasn't a Chinese buffet at all. It was more like a Russian cafeteria. It was like the Twin Peaks of divey restaurants. It felt dark, though it was well-lit.

We walked across a long stretch of, well, emptiness to get to the counter. You know how in movies, the camera will move forward, while the scene moves backward, giving it a disorienting vibe? (Keene says that's called "zolley".) That's what this was like. The restaurant was huge, despite only having two counters and maybe ten tables. We looked through the glass case to find pans and dishes stacked next to and on top of each other, with food that was, well, of an indeterminable nature. One dish was filled with purple sludge. Some kind of casserole in another. Bread stuffed with...something in a third.

A woman appeared with tongs in hand and asked for our order. I pointed to a dish and said, "Uh, that?" "How much?" "I, uh, three?"

The kids looked pleadingly at us. Keene said, "Should we...try somewhere else?" But by then, we had already wasted so much time on not eating, I was determined to get the meal over with. "It'll be fine. It's a new experience."

Absolutely bewildered, we ordered: exactly three barbecued ribs, 1 breaded chicken thing, 2 pork chops with melted cheese on top, and a small bowl of potato and beef soup. Because there were no tables large enough for four people, we spread along one wall.

Years later, Kayden will describe this night to his therapist as the night he had to eat melted-cheese-chicken in a weird Twilighty-Zone restaurant.

But, um, hooray for exploring our neighborhood, right?

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