Classic Dishes...

At Least I Have Chicken

As I’d mentioned before, last week I was back in California, visiting the ‘rents and taking in the San Jose Sharks‘ first two games of the season. And while I did wax poetic (if briefly) about the best burrito in the world, I’m sure you were hoping I would bring back a truly wacky food story. Well, I’d hate to disappoint, so:

I landed in San Jose on Sunday afternoon, got my rental car, and drove up to Fremont to have dinner with a friend. On the way to this delicious little Chinese cafe in Union City, we passed by this odd little place in a stripmall called Jollibee. I found it curious; it was a chain I’d never heard of before.

After dinner, driving back, we pass by it again, and I ask my dining companion what the heck Jollibee is. And she can’t really tell me, aside from the news that they have “a really weird menu…you can order burgers, but you can also order chicken and spaghetti.” I nod my head, making a mental note to look it up online when I got home, and then promptly forgetting said note. (This is why I carry a PDA. Which I’d also forgotten to make a note in.)

Fast forward to Thursday afternoon, and I’m in San Jose, where I would spend the rest of my trip, getting some cash out of the ATM at my bank. And in driving away, I see another Jollibee. Now I’m doubly curious, and I make a note to Google this when I get to the motel I’d booked with the complimentary wireless Internet.

And the wireless Internet at the motel is down, won’t give me an IP address, and would not work the whole three days I was there. (That’s the fabulous Vagabond Inn, screwing travellers out of advertised ameneties since 1958. Don’t go there.)

So I’m left curious. And now we get to Saturday, and I have a jonesing for Wienerschnitzel, because it’s something I can’t get in Washington. So down we head to Tully Road, and I discover that my Wienerschnitzel has turned into a Hawaiian BBQ. (And I think we all know how painful that can be.) So I get a bright idea: there’s this funky place I keep seeing called Jollibee, all I’ve been told is that the menu is weird, but there must be something edible on it, it’s just down the road, so let’s go there! My companion agrees, and off we go.

You’ll note I haven’t linked to the restaurant’s Web site yet, mainly because I wanted to set up the story and have The Four Of You experience it just as I did, when I first walked in. As it happens, Jollibee is the most popular fast food restaurant in the Philippines, and now you can see what I did…a menu consisting of burgers, fried chicken, a hot dog, spaghetti, a mound of rice, hamburger patties, and gravy not that far afield from what the Hawaiians call locomoco, and something called palabok, which from the picture on the menu (and please remember that this is the picture taken specifically to make me want to eat it) looked not at all unlike what would happen if someone ate ground beef, hard-cooked eggs, and shrimp, and then puked it up onto a pile of rice noodles.

Esoteric enough, right? Well, now we get to the item names: Yumburgers. Jolly Spaghetti. Palabok Fiesta. The Jolly Hotdog. Burger Steak. And, finally, the name that is haunting me to this day…”Chickenjoy”. But I’ll get to that later.

So we order our food, first my dining companion, and then myself. She goes for a Yumburger and fries, and I opt for the Burger Steak, since I had locomoco on the brain since seeing the Hawaiian place. It is delivered to me on the ubiquitous orange fast food tray, and off I go into the dining area.

Upon arrival, my companion alerts me to the yellow Wet Floor sign that we’ve all seen a million times. And I am indeed mindful, and yet the second my feet hit that section of the tile floor, they fly out from under me and I’m on the ground.

Miraculously, I have managed to do all of this without spilling either my Burger Steak or my drink, and I’ve hurt nothing but my pride, but approximately 47 people are there to help me up at this point, despite all attempts on my part to wave them off and reassure them that I was fine…

…and apparently each and every one of those 47 people decide they need to stop by our table while we’re attempting to enjoy our lunch to reconfirm that I am in fact unharmed. In the meantime, I’m looking for a nearby hole to crawl into. I realize now that they’re all petrified that I’m going to sue them…

…and this suspicion is confirmed when the manager shows up with a clipboard, upon which is what must have been a hastily-written and no-way-in-nine-blue-hells-legally-binding release. At first I balk at signing it, irritated at the constant badgering, but then decide that I’d like very much for them to go away and let us finish our lunch, and since I had no intention of pursuing any legal action anyhow, scrawled my name and handed it back.

(Upon retrospect, I realize two things: 1) They had no idea who I was. I could have signed “Fred Smythe”, “Dick Hertz”, or taken some inspiration from our good friend “Mike Litoris“, and they would have been none the wiser. And, 2) I shouldn’t have signed it. They were saying that if I didn’t they would insist on taking me to the hospital, but short of sending out half of the WWE’s tag-team division, they weren’t making me go anywhere that I didn’t want to, and if they did, that would have been the makings of a fine lawsuit unto itself. But I didn’t want to embarrass my companion by making a scene, so no harm, no foul.)

Anyhow, back to our meal, which I think we’re going to be able to finish in peace. But here comes the manager again, and now she wants to give us free food to take with us. Specifically, she wants us to try the “Chickenjoy” and hopefully spread the good word about their restaurant. (I’m guessing she didn’t realize that ship had already sailed when she shoved the pen under my nose in the midst of a forkful of Burger Steak.) And I reassure her that everything is fine and we’d just like to finish our lunch and be on our way, but she’s having none of it.

And that’s how it came to pass that we had two pieces of Original and two pieces of Spicy Chickenjoy in the fridge back at the motel later that day, some of which was consumed the following morning while we were getting our things together to check out.

It wasn’t bad.

Game Over

I’m in California this week, visiting my parents for a few days, then spending the latter part of the week in San Jose for the Sharks’ first two home games, before I fly back home on Sunday.

Well, today, because I haven’t had a good proper burrito in far too long, I went to one of my old haunts, Papa Chano’s, for lunch. (And, damn. You folks back in Seattle who always listen to me complain about Taco Del Mar are gonna get it with both barrels when I get home; I’d forgotten how good a Mission-style burrito is SUPPOSED to be. It was magical.)

After lunch, I went driving around town a little bit, partially because I needed to run my auto insurance card to Mom at work so she could photocopy it for some reason or another, and partially because I was interested in seeing how Monterey had changed in the three years since I’d been here. (And, really, the last trip home doesn’t count, either…I was sick as a dog and didn’t do much exploring.)

And I discovered that Edgewater Packing Company was no more.

Colloquially known simply as “The Carousel” because of the 1908 merry-go-round that was its centerpiece, I had first heard about Edgewater at the tender age of eight years old, when I was taken to watch a family friend play in a Little League game. An older friend spoke of this wondrous place that had this ginormous carousel, a huge video game arcade, and an ice cream parlor, all in one incredible building on Cannery Row. I was wide-eyed. This news was the closest I’d ever come to believing in a benevolent God. This was a place I HAD to go to.

And so I pestered my parents relentlessly to take me to this ethereal paradise, and finally, one weekend (it had to have been a weekend, as we went at night), my parents took me there. And it was EVERY bit as amazing as I had been told. I rode the merry-go-round, and ate ice cream, and played video games and air hockey and skee-ball, and we took home a giant box of caramel corn from the candy shop inside. There was a toy store upstairs, with a kid-sized entrance that looked like you were walking into the mouth of a lion. There was a MAGIC SHOP upstairs. It was the best thing EVER, and it was truly the start of my video gaming hobby.

Over the next, oh, 20 or so years, I would go back there. A lot. Almost every weekend through most of the rest of elementary and middle school, then later in high school, and even into college. I would be taken again by the folks, then I would ride my bike down there, then Mom would drop me off and I would have to remember to save back a dime to call for a ride home on the pay phone. Then, my friends got cars, and would drive us down there. Then _I_ got a car and would drive myself. Sometimes I would be there just to play games, sometimes I had business at the magic shop or the comic book shop inside (that pretty much covers middle school), but no matter how old I was, no matter where I was in life, I always had a reason to go to Edgewater.

Over the course of my life in Monterey, four arcades had come and gone; Electric Light Arcade, the game room at Weird Harold’s Sandwich Shoppe, and Time Out all had their little runs, but Edgewater Packing Company was first, and it was last.

And now it’s gone.

I did some digging to see if I could find out exactly when it closed up shop (Mom couldn’t remember), and I never was able to. I did find out that apparently some developer wants to turn the building into an IMAX theater. Which is all fine and good, but you can’t play Paperboy, or Cyberball, or Star Wars, or Tapper, or any of an entire GENERATION of pinball machines, at an IMAX theater.

Wikipedia has an article on That’s The Question, a game show on GSN that to date has aired exactly two episodes. It does not have one on Edgewater Packing Company.

And if you ever need proof that there ISN’T a benevolent God, there you have it.