|What`s the word for
the tingling feeling one gets after he`s committed
himself to do something he knows he`s going to regret? Let`s go back a bit.
On my thirty-second birthday, old enough one would think to foresee
certain dangers, my girlfriend proposed that we go out for dinner to the
restaurant of my choice. To Hell with compromise!, she said, This one`s
for you. If I wanted, we could end up at the Four Seasons swilling
martinis and flirting with the floor staff or maybe at Planet Hollywood
bulking-up on Arnie Burgers and making jokes at the owners' expense. Well, I am proud to say that I made a decision that did my gender proud.
Rather than being gulled by the temporary chic and microscopic portions of some trendy salt lick, I chose instead to follow my stomach.
South Vancouver`s Marpole district is as far from the trendy clutches of
Robson Street as one can get. It owes its meager fame to rush hour traffic
congestion and enormous stripper bars. Now, one would think that Marpole
has little to offer the would-be diner other than gas station cuisine and an
after-dinner knife fight, but it was the unlikely home of a truly great
The Appy Hour Cafe was the closest thing to dining on the Mississippi Delta this side of the Fraser River Delta. Due to The Appy Hour`s out-of-the-way location, or better still, its don`t-give-a-damn-attitude, it never softened its approach to flavor. Never once did it give way to the lactose-intolerant, have-you-got-an-alternative-to-high-calorie legion of the bland. One visit to their Friday night buffet would convince anyone of that.
On the occasion of my birthday, I chose to have the jambalaya while
Lisa had the gumbo. After we ordered our drinks the waitress brought us the traditional corn meal muffins and plenty of butter. Mmm... Soon enough we were tucking into our respective entrees. Our conversation to that point
was primarily concerned with the Appy Hour`s fitting atmosphere. It isn`t
often enough that you see Budweiser posters on the bathroom wall, I said. And speaking of racks, I wonder if that rack of hot sauce up there is
just for show ? referring to their impressive display. Are those bottles
all sealed ? I finally asked the waitress, or can we try them?
No, she paused, They`re just for show ... except the one.
The one? I had to ask .
Yeah, we keep one bottle aside for guys, she paused, who think they`re
Life often hands us a golden opportunity to reflect. When everything seems
to pause and the clouds of confusion part, allowing the warm light of
reason to expose, without prejudice, the array of options open before us.
It is entirely up to us during these precious moments to be calm, reflect
upon, and commit the act that best serves our self-interest. Scientist Louis Pasteur said of these times, Chance favors the prepared mind.
Whereas I am quoted as saying...Bring on the deadly hot sauce!
The waitress made no effort to conceal her doubts about my readiness for
the challenge. He`s going to try it ! she hollered as she made her way
back into the kitchen. A peculiar feeling came over me just then. Even
though they weren`t involved, everyone in the restaurant was now keenly
interested in what was about to happen.
Now, I am not the kind of person who backs down from a challenge (to my
own peril, some would say) and this was no exception. Who knew what was in store? For all I knew I`d have to pretend to be affected by the notorious condiment so as not to offend the waitress. I have, after all, consumed litres upon litres of hot sauce and not just the bunny hill stuff either. If this sauce was so legendary, I`d taste it whole and unvarnished. Let the dullards sit on the sidelines to allow room for the experientialists of the world take our fair share! I ordered two beers from the waitress and told her to keep them coming until I gave the word to stop. For those who know, beer is not an effective fire extinguisher, but it really helps you get off when you`re eating spicy food.
The waitress returned a short time later with two beers, a small plate of cornmeal muffins and a modest portion of chunky red sauce. She then (surprisingly) left the table. I kind of thought she`d hang around to watch the fireworks. I guess there are just some things in life you have to face alone. (Well, I wasn`t exactly alone---I was the focus of the entire restaurant. Even the chef poked his head out the kitchen window to watch this go down.)
Is it true that fools rush in where angels fear to tread? Who cares !
I scooped up a generous heap of the sauce on my finger and poked it into my mouth. It had been refrigerated and had a nice consistency but gave no
immediate heat sensation. I waited a bit and then spread a thick layer on one of the muffins and bit into it, inserting even more into my mouth. Just then a spark at the right corner of my lips quickly spread to the whole of my mouth which then started to crackle and burn. I didn`t begin to fret, however, until my vision started to blur and the finger I used to dip with began to throb. I bulged my eyes incredulously and Lisa asked me if I was all right. The steady stream of tears sufficed an answer.
Carefully I reached for a beer and emptied it whole down my gullet. This
offered me less then a second`s relief but it aided in washing the offending
substance out of my mouth and down my throat. The trail of the sauce left a burning path like I had swallowed a lit distress flare. I was experiencing a
major power surge and began to lose touch with the outside world. I
reached instinctively for another beer and emptied it as quickly as the one
before. This allowed me enough clarity to catch a quick glimpse of my girlfriend looking at me the way I never thought anyone would.
I tried to speak but it was no use. Again I became overwhelmed by a surge of energy. I was now absent from the same moment as every one else in the restaurant and paradoxically the center of their attention. Every sensation in my body was concerned with hot sauce. Electrical waves were crashing over my head. My mental stability turned to liquid and promptly evaporated. I felt like a tourist whose travel plans had gone terribly wrong while vacationing at the earth`s core. The dinghy I had rented for the day capsized and I was forced to tread lava in a subterranean storm. This was no ordinary hot sauce.
My tired body then began to levitate slowly into the red sky. I could feel the heat of the molten sea behind me as I moved further from it. Then SPLAT! I fell soaking wet onto my table at the Appy Hour Cafe. I felt like I had just been given birth by a radioactive alligator.
The waitress was laughing heartily. You`ll probably be needing one of
these, she said, smacking a cold one down in front of me. I did indeed.
I gradually regained the ability to speak and asked to see the bottle of
hot sauce. I mean, what else would I do? As I half expected her to return wearing a radiation suit, the waitress brought out an unassuming little bottle.
The picture on the front depicted a smiling chile pepper wearing sunglasses and relaxing on the beach. Dave`s Insanity Sauce, I read aloud.
That explains it. The back of the bottle carried this warning: Use this
product one drop at a time. Keep away from eyes, pets and children. Not
for people with heart or respiratory problems. I think Dave could have
logically added XXXX to the label or perhaps go on to explain how he discovered his famous recipe by accident while brewing up a batch of bathtub hallucinogens. But that would take the fun out of discovering wouldn't it?
At any rate, we completed our dinner with a bowl of The Appy Hour`s famous banana pudding and I couldn`t stop drinking beer (not that I ordinarily need a reason to sustain that, mind you).
As we drove home, I took a moment to reflect. If anything, this experience rekindled my interest in alien technical intervention. Like the Great Pyramids and Elvis Presley, maybe the aliens are sending us things to get our attention. Perhaps to tell us something and in this case by way of a bottle of hot sauce.
If that`s the case, they might want to tone down their message a bit, unless of course, intensity is their message.
Maybe they`re trying to make a show of force: See, puny Earthlings!
If this is what we can do with an ordinary bottle of hot sauce, imagine what
we can do with a container of dessert topping!
Eric Scholz used to mow my lawn when he was a kid. Now he's telling stories about his thirty-second birthday? THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!! He also did the illustration of the hot sauce bottle. Pretty cool!
Big Al Robinson, who was the driving force behind the Appy Hour, has moved to the tony Bentall Centre and has a new place called Big Al'sSoul Food. Click on that name to go to his Web site.