Monday was Labor Day proper – Bank Holiday Monday in the USA. Had I not known, the only way I would have been able to tell something was up was the large SALE banners, inflatables and A-boards that decorated every roof and doorway. Everything was open as usual, and desperate for my dollars. They didn’t get them.
We took lunch at Taco Bell, a chain that holds my wonder and respect through winning the Franchise Wars. I had the Dorito flavoured tacos and a Caramel Apple Empanada, a tiny Cornish pasty-shaped pastry with the texture of a McDonalds apple pie. Tasty.
We headed to the mall to find some footwear that was neither Doc Martens nor flipflops – a small gap created by the death of my favourite travelling shoes. The mission was a bust, but in our wanderings I got to see that American fashion has fair crossover with that in the UK, and that both sides of the pond are suffering from the unpalatable influx of ‘Geek Chic’. Shudder.
On Tuesday we made a beeline to Zia Record Exchange to pick up the new Nine Inch Nails CD for Janine. General consensus is that it’s a grower; I need to give it another listen or two. The record store was dark and interesting, very much an independent store and a trove of interesting new and second-hand stock.
A trip to the gym revealed the wonder of cinema areas, where movies are shown on a big screen in front of a few rows of cardio machines – bikes, treadmills, elliptical trainers. Ingenious. We zoned out watching the end of Here Comes The Boom and then headed home for the afternoon, giving me time to get ready for my date that evening.
I had dinner and cocktails in excellent company at The Parish, a local restaurant/bar (‘southern fusion gastropub’) with walls clad in renderings of jazz musicians. I had a plate of Guedry’s gumbo, a spicy chicken and sausage stew which was delicious, accompanied by ‘hushpuppies’ which were entirely new to me and like tiny onion bhajis filled with cornmeal. The Aqua Vita was also particularly good – a vodka cocktail with mint, peach, cranberry and lemon. How rare to have a meal so completely unfamiliar.
The next morning saw a sudden end to the shoe quest when I just walked into a shop and simply bought some. Hurrah. I hate shoe shopping. And clothes shopping. Just shopping, I guess; except food shopping – that’s tasty.
I had my first Cinnabon experience with a dish in which the still beating hearts of cinnamon rolls are plucked out and tossed into a cup, then doused in sticky sea salted caramel sauce and stabbed with a fork. A fine breakfast indeed. I have no idea what became of the rest of Wednesday, maybe I just slept through the rest of it?
Thursday was another gym day, and this time I was distracted by the dubious special effects of Clash of the Titans. Until, that is, I saw Diablo 3 (XBox) in a Redbox as we breezed into Walmart. $2.00 for 2 days of playing kick ass heroes, demon slaying and marvelling at strange autogen loot drops? How could we not!
Simon and I played it for the next 2 days, in between groceries and chores, making the most of his last days off before starting his new job the following Monday. It seems, naturally, very much like the PC version, but with interfaces/inventory geared towards console interaction with an interesting directional target/direction of fire indicator (for the Demon Hunter at least); I had wondered how it was going to work without being able to hold down the shift key (all the goddamn time).
We took a break to head to Buffalo Wild Wings for boneless wings night, a concept I was initially sceptical of until I discovered that boneless wings are not even wings, they’re just battered chicken pieces. Easy. No hospital required this time.
From a menu of about 20 sauces, I figured ‘When in Rome…’ and went for a tray with the medium hot Classic wings sauce, a tray of fried pickles with Southwestern Ranch and a pint of Bud Light. Oh yeah!
The place was busy because of the specials but also, being a sports bar, a game was on TV. Several TVs. Dozens of TVs.
Friday night I had another date. We went to the cinema to see Riddick, after a circuitous exploration of Tucson looking for a Redbox machine to return the game to. My failure to declare this immediately as the first quest of the evening was (hopefully) negated by my sharp-eyed ‘box hunting, meaning we got seated in the theatre JUST IN TIME (avec beverage). The movie itself was an interesting what-happens-next in the Riddick universe. Most people we spoke to later figured it would be a prequel, but screw that noise. I had a minor misgiving with the characterisation, but that could be down to personal interpretation. Other than that it was curious and enjoyable.
For the second time that week I found myself in a sports bar, but I figured this is a nation of sports bars, and we were more hungry than in need of fancy when it came to grabbing a late, late dinner. I went against type and had a salad. Yeah, I don’t know either. It was good though, lemon & chicken & something & something. The beer menu was pretty extensive, but I’d not been looking it for long before I came across the outrage of Snakebite, American style. My inner Goth wailed; what was this travesty? Snakebite being the base for all my favourite beer cocktails, I felt bewildered. Guinness? Americans have lager; why the substitution? I appreciated I’d never get a Snakebite & Black – Americaland doesn’t believe in blackcurrant as a flavour; purple means grape here. Sighing, I moved on.
Some promotion meant that there was vaguely credible beer on special (Mudshark’s ‘Scorpion’), so I had beer and salad. I am still amused.
We moved on and drank at a local bar until the early hours, taking a table with his friends in the beer garden and watching the distant lightning flit in a hazy, indistinct cloud bank. Pitchers of beer came and went, whiskey was sampled, energy drinks were nursed. I made friends, acquaintances; answered questions from the obscure to the mundane and back again; swapped tales of travel and adventure.
I felt welcome.