While looking around the Fiesta del Pueblo (which in my case translates into "have another $1 taco you cheap, fat bozo") in Chapel Hill, I noticed that several young children were prodding me with sticks, calling me Mr. Piņata and wondering when I'd burst. Hey, I knew I'd stuffed and possibly even made an ass of myself, but this was ridiculous. Then again, who could resist the siren call of a mango on a stick (I swear I'm not making this up) and pupusas (Salvadoran tamales stuffed with pork and cheese)? Come to think of it, where else can you go to ask some random woman for a taste of her pupusa without landing yourself in some mighty hot water? Hot indeed, but not as hot as one taco stand's feisty red salsa, which I applied quite liberally (can anyone who writes for the Prism do it any other way?). Oh, and I put some on my food, too.
From white-hot red sauce we move patriotically on to the blues. The Bull Durham Blues Festival steered its way into Durham recently, and I had no beef about that-literally. Actually, I had the fried alligator tail instead. Tastes just like a handbag! Until, of course, you take off the skin. Yes, there were many good food vendors in evidence, but the music had more bite than did the gator (you've got to love these snappy remarks). Taj Mahal was a particular highlight for me. Best vocalization by an Indian edifice I've ever heard (if only these walls could talk!).
Believe me, even the worst performer sat better with me than did the alligator.
Sometimes, though, it's your fellow diners that are hard to swallow. The other day I was eating at Elmo's Diner on 9th St. with an old friend who owns his own company. Bites of breakfast were barely making it past his cell phone (more like a buy and sell phone in his case), into which he wasn't exactly whispering. Knowing how badly messages can get garbled when you play whisper down the line, I was unfazed by his volume, although his circumference was positively frightening. Well after the last call, another breakfaster who was leaving handed my friend a used napkin, on which was written some hopeless jabber about his uptight lifestyle affecting said breakfaster's digestion. Come again? If someone talking too loudly on a cell phone is bothering you in a restaurant, shouldn't you ask him or her to keep it down instead of passing along some nasty, judgmental screed penned on a dirty napkin? I tend to believe that a soiled napkin is a pretty lame place wear the courage of your convictions (and depending on those convictions we could be talking about yet another kind of cell phone). Oh for the days when people respected one another enough to be able to air their differences and disagreements directly, face to face, instead of writing mean-spirited blather on your napkin or in your newspaper column. Uh, oh!
Finally, this column's been unorthodox (or un-ortho-docs when specifically not speaking about a couple of Hasidic bone specialists) long enough. Get ready for some old time religion (as opposed to the old thyme religion of French cooking). While kneeling before my favorite religious idol-the television (more of an idle, really)-I saw a commercial hyping a particular faith with the following tag line:
"Jesus-always the same."
I expected David Byrne to pop out any second, singing the "same as it ever was" line from "Once In A Lifetime." Still, you've got to hate those variable deities! Zeus, for example, was always taking on different forms (usually while pursuing pupusas). He even once took the form of a "golden shower" (which apparently, er, pissed off Hera). Kinky! Maybe Hephaistos made S&M gear, too (you've got to wonder about Hippolyte's golden girdle). Personally I don't care if you worship the Buddha or a former vacuum cleaner salesman (both gave up all their attachments). Me? I'm just praying that a pissed-off, tailless gator (the opposite of the folks you find in football stadium parking lots) doesn't come looking for me, especially if he's carrying a soiled napkin.
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