Date night. Saturday night. Anytown, USA. You get a hot tip on a good restaurant, and decide to try it out. Steak and shrimp, the specialty of the house. You do an Internet search to make sure they are as good as your tip said. This place is famous for their gigantic prawns. Maybe you download a Groupon; it's always good to save a buck.
Your spouse presses your shirt. It's the one night a week when it's just the two of you. You drive to the restaurant, and the parking lot is full; a good sign. The cars are all top marques , another good sign. You place your hand upon the horseshoe doorknob, give it a good swing and hold it for your wife…
Cue the music, motherfu****. You've just entered The Twilight Zone.
My pupils narrow, and I'm blinded temporarily by the sea of white. The tint in my bifocals darkens until I can see the light is coming from the white hair from the patrons. The decor is dark tongue and groove wood with wrought iron trimmings. Ancient photos and replicas of famous western paintings hang on every wall.
I check the menu. Did I wander into The Golden Corral by mistake? No, we're in the right place. It's like walking into the best restaurant in town, in 1974.
The place has a Hotel California vibe to it, in that the patrons never left. I'm relatively certain the lady with the walker must have won a Lindy Hop competition at some time in her past. The man swirling his whiskey and Coke looks like a retired barnstormer, for sure. Even the waitstaff has grey hair, our waitress has hers in a grey ponytail. It's probably the same hairstyle she wore to work when she was sixteen.
I looked around for someone more my age. I saw an old man with a pornstache. Those went extinct some time in the last century. Another man had on a cowboy shirt, the kind with the pearl snaps instead of buttons, and pointed pocket flaps. He's snapped up all the way with a bolo tie to finish it off. His high water white slacks reveal pointed black cowboy boots underneath.
When our meal arrives, it involves beef the way they used to serve it. Goddamned near raw, except it's a few degrees warmer than when it was alive. The prawns are gigantic, except they're prepared in the only way I ever saw shrimp until I turned thirty. They're flattened out like a lollipop, breaded, and deep fried. Just like you might find in a box from the frozen food section.
I ate my supper in silence. Fear prevented me from asking if they'd ever heard of scampi, or barbecued prawns. I didn't want to have to stay there forever. We paid the tab.
The meal was great, it was just the height of cuisine from forty years ago.
We hugged each other in the parking lot, glad to have escaped the permanence of the place. Old What's Her Face wanted to go to the mall. I was so happy to be alive, that I agreed.
I celebrated my good fortune with a beer from Old Chicago. She bought some pants and shoes to wear to the theatre tomorrow night. On the way home I stopped for a couple of magazines, the paper kind, like I haven't read in years. These are for stocking in the camper. I picked up Azimov's, Ellery Queen, and Hitchcock's. I even added a copy of the new Heavy Metal magazine, just for fun. The next time my iPad battery dies out camping, I'm ready with some evening entertainment.
It was a decent night. We're never repeating it — ever. There has to be some kind of fusion restaurant, or Tuscan based place around.
I hope all of you had a great Saturday night. Mine was fine, but a little bit scary.