Ginny Lane: Terrible Tacos

IMG_3785Repeat after me; go with what you know. It seems pretty simple enough, but it’s something I tend to forget, especially when eating at restaurants that I’ve been to before. If I eat somewhere and have something that is great, I my mind does this crazy thing where it decides that everything else there must be just as good, despite this rarely ever being the case no matter how many times I disappoint myself, which unfortunately happens to me quite a bit, most likely because i’m an idiot that doesn’t learn his lesson. Last month, when I was on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, I made this critical mistake at a restaurant I loved, and it turned out just as terrible as the rest of the times I did this. Here’s the story.

Ginny Lane happens to be one of my favorite restaurants on the Gulf Coast, so while we were down there for a week it was imperative that we go eat there, so one afternoon, my wife and I went. They gave me a menu, which is where the problems started, so I guess I can safely blame them for everything, because up until that moment, I knew exactly what I was going to eat. I’ve been to many restaurants in that area, and I can tell you with all sincerity that Ginny Lane has the absolute fried shrimp that I’ve ever eaten on the Gulf Coast, which is saying something as you can’t toss a seashell in any direction without hitting a seafood restaurant. The whole drive to the restaurant I was thinking about the shrimp, but once the menu was placed before me, I began to look at some of the other options, thinking that blackened fish tacos would be fantastic. They were not.

The food arrived pretty quickly, and I immediately regretted my decision when I saw that the three tacos were in one of those three slotted metallic devices that are intended to keep the tacos upright. Surely I’m not the only person who hates these right? They’re great until you take a bite of the taco then you run into the problem of needing to set it down but the bitten tortilla never fits cleanly back into it’s slot, and contents of the taco inevitably spill out onto the taco holder. It’s a disaster, but determined not to let that bother me, I began my meal. For me there is no better seafood than blackened fish that is freshly caught, but unfortunately this particular restaurant sinfully overcooked it, giving it an almost chewy texture. The other huge downside that there was way more lettuce and tomatoes on the taco than the really small portion of fish, which didn’t really matter since the fish wasn’t that good to begin with. My wife ordered the same thing, and she was just as displeased with her tacos as I was, so suffice it to say, it was a pretty terrible meal. Hopefully I’ll learn my lesson moving forward and stick to ordering things that I know are great.

A Childhood Nightmare

IMG_2022There were times as a child when I fell asleep just seconds after my head hit the pillow at night, but there were also, the unfortunate occasions when sleep didn’t come so easily for me. I’m not shy about the fact that I’m potentially the most fearful person in the world, but while it may shock you, the truth is as a child, I was scared of even more things than I am now as an adult. I would lie awake at night, a boy of six or seven, stroking the silky edge of my cotton blanket, something that soothed me as I thought about all the potential bad things that could happen while I was sleeping. I worried about the house catching on fire and waking up to a bedroom full of smoke with no way out, or not waking up at all and just burning to death as I slept, but there was something I feared more than fires, and that was being kidnapped. I’m not sure the reason for my fear of somebody taking me from my home, but it was something I thought about often, despite the fact that I had very few qualities that one might look for in a potential kidnapping victim, but I was scared nonetheless.

One night I had a dream, which to this day is the most terrifying dream I’ve ever had, and it revolved around this crazy fear that I had. I was with my mom at a car dealership. I’m not really sure which one but let’s just say Honda because that’s the type of car my mom owned when I was growing up. Up to that point in my life I don’t remember ever visiting a car dealership, but I felt comfortable with my surroundings like I’d been there many times before. My mom was looking at a car, but when I turned around again she was gone, and I was terrified. The fact that I found myself alone knocked the breath out of me, and I looked around trying to figure out where my mom had gone, and then I saw him. A man with a black mustache and thinning hair was holding a knife and looking at me with a smirk on his face. In retrospect he probably wanted to kill me, given that he was holding the knife, but I thought he was going to kidnap me, and I was determined not to let that happen.

I don’t know how long he chased me, but I ran up and down the rows of cars, crouching down behind them, trying to hide myself from the potential captor. I woke up crouched behind one of the couches in the living room, apparently having run around in my sleep, which is the only time in my life that I’ve ever sleep walked, at least to my knowledge. At least I was safe and back in my own home again, where I could go back to my bedroom and stroke the silky edge of my blanket and hope that no fires or kidnappers would get me that night.

Talking to Strangers

As a child the mantra is hammered into our heads relentlessly. “Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers”, but once you enter the adult world, it turns out that almost every single person there is a stranger, and we have little choice but to talk to them. I get that it’s a necessity to talk to some people we don’t know, the satellite repair guy, the waiter at the restaurant, or the person showing up on your doorstep claiming to be your child, but there are certain instances when I think we should revert back to that childhood saying, ignoring strangers and refusing to talk to them altogether, like this morning for example. I was awakened before six once again by the raccoon that has become my wake up call, scratching the wall near my bed, and since I was up, I figured I would go out for a nice walk to start my Sunday. For the past two weeks I’ve gotten up early Sunday morning to go for a walk, which some might interpret as taking some initiative to exercise and start the day out on the right foot, but let me dissuade you from that notion immediately; the only reason I go so early is because I enjoy being outdoors and anytime after seven is way to hot to leave the house for anything except for ice cream and to get away from the child I previously mentioned, so that is how I came to be walking along the banks of the Mississippi river so early this morning.

There weren’t a lot of people out, but there were definitely enough to annoy me. It’s not that the presence of people is inherently annoying to me, but every time someone is approaching me as I walk I start to get really anxious and nervous, not because I think they mean me any harm, but because I’m wondering if they are going to talk to me or if I should initiate a greeting. This didn’t bother me at all the first time I was out walking, because I didn’t know any better. The first time I was approached I behaved like a normal human, politely looking straight ahead as if that person did not exist, but then I heard the words, “Good morning” he said, and I was completely taken aback. By the time I registered that it was me who he was speaking to we had already past each other, but I turned around and mumbled a feeble “g’morning” in his direction. From that point on I began to overanalyze the coming encounters with people on the trail ahead, and it made me really uncomfortable.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that strangers who have never seen each other before, would say good morning or hello to each other in passing. Is this common human courtesy or a ridiculous tradition that needs to stop immediately? The only time I’ve ever initiated any kind of conversation with a complete stranger was when it was required by my job to do so, because unlike some of these other people populating the earth, I still hold a firm respect for the words my parents spoke to me as a child; “Don’t talk to strangers.” I’ve also been burned on some of these walks too, initiating the greeting only to catch the other person off guard. I want to yell that I didn’t want to say hello in the first place but apparently it’s something we have to do now, but I figured they probably already thought I was crazy enough, so I didn’t divulge this information. Can we just all agree that there is nothing to be gained from talking to strangers in passing? It would make me feel so much better if everyone could just agree to act like everybody else just doesn’t exist.

The Gunfight in Jackson Hole

Jackson HoleIt was about just after six o’clock on a warm summer evening in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I was standing nervously behind a rack of sweatshirts in a local gift shop on the main town square. I was seventeen at the time, too old for such antics, but my fears that have plagued me for most of my life had me behaving like someone of a much younger age. It was a family vacation, a two week long road trip that would take us through various points of interest on our way to Yellowstone National Park, and though this was only the second or third day of the trip, I had already abandoned the family, extricating myself from activities that they, like most people found enjoyable and entertaining, but I did not.

It’s a long standing tradition in Jackson Hole to have a staged gunfight on the square every evening in the summer, an even so popular that masses of tourists gather around each evening to experience the wonder of the old west, an era that I’m grateful that I did not have to live through. At the first mention of gunfight, my eyes began darting around looking for a way out. I wanted to be normal, to enjoy the theatrics and the loud pops of gunfire that Americans have come to equate with patriotism and the great country in which we live, but I could not. A couple of actors walked out on the square as I stood by, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, nervously anticipating the loud noise that was now inevitable and getting closer by the second. It doesn’t matter that I know the noise is coming, in fact I think it makes it even worse, knowing when something bad is about to happen and have no power to stop it, like a very non masculine psychic.

The first blast came from a pistol in the form of a loud POP, and it was worse than I ever could have imagined. Whether the noise was amplified by the surrounding Grand Teton mountains or it was something done cosmetically to the guns in order to bring wonder to the crowd I do not know, but it was abundantly clear that I had to get out of there, which is why I took shelter in the nearest place I could find, the gift shop. In retrospect I probably should have ventured further away from the square, but I mistakenly assumed that being inside a building, any building would at least dull the sound of the ensuing gunfight at least a little bit, but unfortunately I was wrong. The gunfire was so loud inside the gift shop that I began to wonder how people up here survived the cold Wyoming winters with walls so paper thin. I don’t remember how long the show went on, but I’m sure it felt much longer to me than it actually was as I tried inconspicuously to cover my ears, the almost adult afraid of something that children and their families were taking in with smiles and laughter just a few feet away. I wish I could say that was a turning point for me, that I was humiliated so much by my fear of a harmless noise that I stepped from that gift shop a new man, someone who went on to enjoy live reenactments with guns and even fourth of July fireworks shows, but that would be a lie. If anything I’m worse than before, every earth shaking boom or pop sending me further and further away from the person I would like to be.

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I Hate Fridays

I love Fridays, but mostly I hate them. It is the worst day of work, but the best night after it. I generally sleep in later on Fridays, later than any other day of the week, seeking blissful comfort and shelter for as long as possible before I subject myself to the torturously long day ahead, but today I woke up an hour early, and I wasn’t even slightly happy about it. I’ve talked about the animals that live within my walls and the rats beneath my bathtub, but never before have these creatures roused me from my sleep, that is until today. When I woke up I heard a sound that I thought was rain against my window, but it sounded kind of funny, a little more dense than the rain I’d become accustomed to hearing, so I rolled over onto my stomach and peered through the blinds, revealing to me that rain wasn’t actually falling after all, however the noise continued. It took me a little longer than I’d like to admit, to figure out what was happening, but then it hit me like a gallon of bricks in the pit of my stomach; something was inside the wall. I wanted to go back to sleep, I really did, but this was made impossible by my increasing fear that whatever was trapped in the was was trying to get out and the ever increasing volume of the scratching made me think that it was getting pretty close.

Desperate to go back to sleep, I needed to make the scratching stop, so I pinpointed the exact place on the wall, behind which I imagined the cowardly and disgusting creature cowering, and with a thud slammed my open palm against it. The scratching stopped, miraculously, but then before I could ease back into the wonderfully unconscious state of sleep, it started back up again, and again I hit the wall, harder this time, as one tends to do when a temper is lost. As I was hitting the wall, my wife told me to be careful because perhaps the wall had been made thinner from the scratching coming from within, and my forceful hand might slam right through it, which would be disastrous for everyone involved, except for perhaps the raccoon, who I would give full run of the apartment with no questions asked, because really, what am I going to do? I quit hitting the wall and began instead thinking about the possibility of the creature breaking through into my bedroom on its own accord.

How would I defend myself? I thought about the pellet gun in my bedside table that has no ammo. Would a raccoon get scared and leave just because a gun is pointed at them or are they too stupid to realize when they are in danger? They do eat garbage so I’m guessing they aren’t that smart, so my unloaded gun attempt to frighten it probably wouldn’t work. I had no other means of protecting myself, so I thought about the worst thing that could possibly happen; the rabies infested raccoon could bite me. The more I thought about this the more worried I became, but then I realized that if that happened I probably wouldn’t have to go to work today, my least favorite work day, so it started to seem more appealing. The raccoon didn’t break through the wall or bite me and I still had to go to work, but with my luck I’m sure it will happen first thing on Saturday morning, completely ruining my weekend.

Last Two Books I’ve Read

IMG_4027Since I have nothing else to talk about, and don’t feel like exerting the energy or effort in to coming up with something, conjuring a funny memory from my past, or an experience I can use to motivate others, who like me, aren’t motivated to do anything, I am going to talk about the books I’ve been reading lately, and you’re going to like it. Or you’re going to absolutely hate it. I have no idea, because as much as I’d like to, I have no idea what you are thinking at any given moment, especially as your read my words from afar. Okay so now that I’ve wasted enough of your time, let’s dive in, shall we? If you answered with a hearty and resounding “yes!” I just want you to know that my question was a rhetorical one and I’m embarrassed for you at your outburst. About a week and a half ago I began reading a book called “Dear American Airlines”, a work of fiction wherein the main character is stranded at the Chicago O’Hare airport and is writing an angry letter to American Airlines. At times it’s funny, but for the most part it drones on and on in a tiresome way, without very long paragraphs and rambling sentences, kind of like this blog. The only reason I read it is because somehow it ended up on my Amazon wish list, and ordered it about a month ago. Perhaps someone recommended it to me, and if that’s the case, whoever you are, you’re recommendations are no longer welcome. The only possible reason you should ever read this book is if you are traveling via American Airlines and become stranded and angry, then perhaps reading the book will bring you some comfort in knowing that you are not alone, but other than that, you would be wise to stay away.

After that atrocity I read “Home is Burning” by Dan Marshall, again a product of somehow ending up on my Amazon list. I knew going in that it was a memoir written by someone whom’s parents both had terminal illnesses, so I thought it might be bleak or inspiring, but I had no idea that it would be so funny. I’m not sure if Marshall has written anything else, but believe me, I am going to find that out because this book by him was very, very funny and well written. It’s the true story Dan, who’s beginning his career in Los Angeles but is summoned home to Salt Lake City to help out around the house when his dad is diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Throughout the course of this disease and the mother’s battle with cancer, the five Marshall children are blindsided by all of the bad luck and have to come to grips with the imminent deaths of both parents, and some family members handle it better than others, although nobody does so with any grace. I would definitely recommend checking this one out if you’re in the mood for a story that is both inspiring and funny, because in “Home is Burning” you will get both, and as a bonus, it’s a pretty quick read.

My Tattoo at Work Dilemma

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Today was supposed to be a great day, and it was, for a short time. I woke up happy, because today, I was going to be comfortable at work, finally able to wear short sleeves rather than the long sleeved button downs I wear on a daily basis that leave me drenched in sweat by the end of the day. Yesterday my supervisor told me that I could wear short sleeves but would just need to put bandages over my tattoos, because although we are living in the twenty-first century, a lot of people find those with tattoos untrustworthy, so a tattooed banker is apparently a big no-no. I have two tattoos on each of my arms that are visible when wearing short sleeves, so I was pretty skeptical about putting enough bandages on to cover up that amount of my arm, but before leaving work yesterday, I checked the first aid kit and saw that they were big enough to only put two on each arm, and as they appeared, through the wrapping to be the tan color, I figured it wouldn’t be that noticeable on my somewhat tan arms.

I had several options to choose from this morning as my new life began, but settled on my short sleeved black button down, the shirt that is primarily reserved for funerals and nice dinners. I put it on with my black pants, going full funeral mode because every day at work I die a little bit, and left my apartment with a spring in my step, ready to take on the day. When I got to the bank I retrieved the bandages and began ripping them open, determined to cover the degenerate markings on my arms before someone saw and called for my immediate termination, but I quickly realized that there was a problem. The big bandages that I thought were tan colored, weren’t actually bandages at all, but squares of gauze with no adhesive, and they weren’t actually tan at all, but were bright white. Seeing as how there would be no way to make these invisible on my arm, I returned to the first aid kit in search of something more suitable, and I found some tan bandages, but they were a lot smaller than I needed, and ended up using all four that we had on just one of my arms. I called out to my coworkers to be extra careful as we wouldn’t be able to stop the blood flow should a workplace accident happen today.

So with no other options of concealing the tattoos on my right arm, I placed a piece of gauze on each of my two tattoos, then secured it in place with three bandaids going across it. I looked like an idiot. It was so apparent that I didn’t need anyone else to point it out, though my coworkers did so happily, laughing at my expense. It was in this moment that I realized how ridiculous all of this was. Why would I be allowed to wear distracting bandages that cover my arms that would surely prompt many questions from the customers but not be allowed to show tattoos that aren’t offensive and most people wouldn’t even comment on in the first place? I wasn’t wearing the bandages and I couldn’t have my tattoos exposed so I did the only thing I could think to do; I got my polo zip-up hooded sweatshirt from my car and wore it the entire day, pretending to be cold when the customers inevitably commented on it. Today was not the cool day that I had hoped for.