Angel was in Wisconsin for her yearly pilgrimage to learn more and more about training dogs. She took the energetic DeeDee with her, leaving Adam and I with a mere five dogs to maintain. Adam was in charge of that effort as my work takes enormous chunks out of my availability. She’s gone out of town before, Adam and I usually take this as a reason to go to places that serve breakfast all day. I don’t know why. As we were discussing this I suggested, then insisted that we go back to Kim’s since she offers full time breakfast.
We fed the dogs and put them away for a nap and took off in my mighty 2000 Olds Alero Coupe. This is my commuter car (75 miles per day), my findagrave car, my weekend individual events and chores car. Angel’s only ridden in it a couple of times, Adam maybe a couple more. It has that lived-in ambiance to it, so before we went to the café, I took it to the car wash and vacuumed it out.
We got to the café about 5:00 PM, we were the only customers.
Kim had friend’ed me on Facebook after someone showed her my Eat-and-Critique blog entry from our previous visit. I sent her a note earlier in the week letting her know we would be stopping in. Though we were the only customers at the time, I couldn’t tell for sure if Kim knew who we were, so I decided to let it stay that way for a while.
We picked a booth out of the bright sun and sat down, Kim followed us and handed us menus and informed us of the two specials, pulled pork, and all-you-can-eat spaghetti.
I could smell the smoked pork, or at least I thought I could, and as I scanned the various breakfast options none of it seemed as appealing as a pulled pork sandwich. Adam shifted too, struggling to decide what to order when he liked pretty much everything. We ordered our drinks Tea and Pepsi and they arrived pretty quickly.
We finally decided. I indeed would have the pork, as a sandwich, which came with baked beans and coleslaw. I added fries to the order since Adam had told me they made crinkly fries, I like crinkly fries. Adam chose chicken nuggets, fries and corn. She took our order and scurried away.
Adam and I sat and looked around, neither of us are very chatty. The music was unusual so I asked him what it was that I was listening to, whether it was hip-hop, or reggae or some different genre. “I don’t know what it is exactly, but I know it’s ‘Ludacris’.”
I recognized the name, which was odd. I don’t listen to music much, well, hardly ever. I don’t claim to keep up with the industry or trends and couldn’t tell you any top ten songs for the last twenty or so years, if there still are top ten songs. I’m really, really out of touch with all forms of music.
Ludicris and I have something in common as it turns out, a bond that reaches across cultural and musical barriers. Ludacris, Christopher Brian Bridges, was born in Champaign, Illinois in September 1977. I transferred to Chanute AFB, very near Champaign (Rantoul) In September 1977. Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. (Actually I do, I just say that because that’s what all the cops in all the books I read say.)
The music was booming but not too much, not like that car that runs up and down our street too frequently, booming its booming booms enough to shake leaves off the trees. Ludacris’ delivery was at least mildly tolerable even though I could not quite discern most of the lyrics other than, and I’m not making this up, “nick nack paddy wack”. Hearing this much I thought I might make out the rest of the song, but it turns out Ludacris was not singing “This Old Man” after all. In fact, this song was not especially kid friendly at all, it was in fact, a little suggestive (and by ‘little’ I mean ‘extremely’) and generally disrespectful.
That song was followed by a heavy metal, hair band ballad that I recognized but really didn’t care for. This was apparently a mix tape, or whatever you call personal compilations these days.
Looking around I noticed a corner table with paperwork and a book, I assumed it was Kim’s workspace. I was immediately saddened to see that the book was one of Nora Roberts’ latest, future-themed pseudo-bodice-rippers, “Strangers in Death”. I was once tricked into reading one of Nora Roberts’ books. The very popular Ms. Roberts also writes thriller/mystery novels using the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Not knowing that at the time, I picked up a book by Robb and suffered reading it. It took place in the near future, just far enough that the day can always be saved by a little deus ex machine.* Sure it contained a crime, a serial killer, but the thin criminal plot played second or third fiddle to the main character’s (female) sobs, moans, inner lusts and desires.
Her knees weakened whenever this man she should really hate and fear passed near her. The musky scent of his sweat and cologne quietly wafted through the suddenly hot, electric air. She really should know better, she DID know better, but the savage, animal lust in her pined for his closeness, his danger, his strength, his manhood. She quivered as the cooling sweat ran down her neck and beneath the delicate lace that barely covered her . . . .
But I digress.
The food arrived. The sandwich was thick and heavy. The beans in a separate bowl still bubbled and steamed. The coleslaw, also in a separate bowl, was piled thick and high. The fries were plentiful and not greasy. I scooted them into a smaller pile and squeezed a puddle of “House Recipe Fancy Ketchup” beside them. I dipped a couple of small ones and delighted in the texture and homey taste of crinkly fries and off-brand ketchup. I sampled the beans, perfect. Chunks of bell pepper told me that these were not directly from a can. The coleslaw was creamy, with only a hint of sour to compliment the creamy sweetness, delicious. The pork was smoky, tender, falling apart, moist and drizzled precisely with just a little barbecue sauce. I danced from one offering to another, around the plate and back again. About halfway through the bun broke apart and merged with the moist pork, losing its identity as a sandwich completely, I didn’t care. Adam cleaned his plate, we didn’t talk much between bites. We were though, in mutual agreement, our grunts confirmed as much.
While eating, Kim stopped by a couple of times to refill our drinks and to ask if everything was okay. Adam finished before I did because he’s young and doesn’t know how to savor each bite and gorge at the same time as I do. As Kim took his plate she asked if he’s like pie, cream pie, four or five different kinds to choose from. He looked at me I grunted and shrugged my shoulders. He told her he’d think about it.
I stuffed the last bits into my face, sighed, sat back and just enjoyed. “You want pie?” I asked him. “No not really.” He answered in what might have been our longest conversation of the meal.
By the end of our meal a couple of other tables loaded up, one a man merely asking for coffee, Kim offering to make him a fresh pot. The other table an extended family of some sort, local, familiar to the place and to Kim. She stopped by our table and dropped off the ticket placing it upside down near Adam. On the back was a “Thank you!” from Kim, in perfect, pretty cursive writing. The tail of the ‘u’ in ‘you’ joining, without breaking, the tall, looping exclamation point. Nice touch, classy. It made me wish for a moment that I remembered how to write in cursive.
The tea was okay, I had higher hopes though since there was a hand written, bright orange sign exclaiming “Fresh Brewed Tea” behind the counter. A little stronger would have been nice, and Luzianne is always preferable to the other common brands. But hardly anyone gets this right.
Kim herself was pleasant, friendly, efficient and professional despite the fact that she reads romance novels, or as I call the genre, “more unlikely and unbelievable than science fiction” and listens to music that should be more to the tastes of her kids than herself. I did worry about her a bit though, she was wearing a thick ankle pad/brace on one leg. I didn’t notice a limp, but hers is a job that keeps you on your feet a lot… but it could also have been an injury sustained from kicking someone’s ass in a karate fight…. Whatever it is Kim, I hope it gets better.
The bill came to a pleasant twenty-one dollars and change. As we paid, Kim asked if we wanted to tack on a tip. I answered “Run it up to thirty even.” She smiled, thanked me and otherwise did not protest the 40% gratuity.
We will be going back, Kim’s is a fine, down home place with great food and good people. It’s now officially one of my favorite café’s. I’ll rate it four and a half out of five greasy spoons.
* deus ex machine: Latin for "god out of the machine”. Simply, it’s a plot device where something the reader didn’t know about inexplicably pops up and comes to the sudden aid of the protagonist. It’s derived from old Greek theater where the plot twists and turns and then just as it all seems hopeless and doomed, another actor, in the visage of a previously unmentioned god is lowered onto the stage and poof! Problem resolved. It’s very easy and very prevalent in bad science fiction. A device, machine, ability or creature that we were not clued in on just appears or becomes available out of nowhere, just at the right time. A form of this device was used in the J.D. Robb book I read. Hundreds of pages of whining, emoting, lusting and stumbling around looking for clues, EVERYONE is eliminated as a suspect since the murders take place in a highly secure holographic game room. But alas! At the very end it turns out that the game’s projector has been ‘tweaked’ to the point that it can actually project a sword that will lob off a guy’s head in the real world. I saw it coming from about page twenty. Very disappointing. It’s one of the reasons I don’t care for the overwhelming majority of science fiction.