Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
Well, I racked my failing grey matter for the better part of yesterday, and finally came up with the name of the restaurant chain that became the subject of the 60 Minutes piece and subsequent federalarity. The establishment in question was called "Wild Bill's Family Restaurant" (the latter two words of course always being a culinary danger indicator for the most part), and interestingly enough there are very few references to it on the web, one from Entrepreneur magazine (a suitably cautionary piece on franchise fraud, unfortunately with few details), and the other being an appellate court decision relating to subpoenas for all of the related "60 Minutes" material, outtakes, notes and the like (I didn't wade through the entire document as I did with Berlin v. E.C. Publications, as the material is very dry, procedural stuff with no humor value whatsoever). The decision did clarify the timeline for me, as the "60 Minutes" piece aired in December 1978, and the indictments were handed down in September 1979. The excursion out to Wild Bill's must've happened at the latest in early '78 (I remember the excursion as being on a cold and rainy late afternoon, and my friend, being somewhat inept with the simple concept of the defroster keeping the windows of his car - a '72 Satellite - open enough to keep the humidity at the correct level to ensure visibility and hypothermia)
Said friend was notorious for impromptu road trips to restaurants in those days, invariably deciding on a place singularly inconvenient given one's schedule. I should also mention that said friend was a spectacularly bad driver, although never managing to get into an accident himself he caused several by virtue of his abysmal reaction time and road-hogging instincts. His parallel parking was astonishingly bad, and the aprocryphal story about one of his many licensing road tests had him ending up perpendicular to the curb. The gentleman in question also invariably preferred local streets to highways unless there was simply no way to avoid them, often with hilarious results. Needless to say if was invited on a road trip, the arrangements were invariably presented to him as a fait accompli lest he volunteer to drive and scare the hell out of the poor unfortunates who would end up in his car. Some of the young ladies in our social circle made it quite clear that they would refuse to accompany us to whatever the evening's excursion was if my friend was driving. He was also quite opinionated, and given to sharing that opinion vociferously, even when it was quite inappropriate. Needless to say any outing with this gentleman was worthy of study in the same sense one would study fractals and probability, trying to determine if there was any reason or pattern to the oddball stuff that would emerge and make the outing interesting (sometime in the Chinese sense of the word).
One memorable Sunday (when of course I had a test the next day to study for), said friend called at about noon and said he was going with some friends out for burgers for lunch, and would I care to join them? As it was a fairly nice day and I wasn't going to study until later that afternoon, I acceded and joined them. When ensconced in the '72 Satellite with some other unfortunates I made the mistake of asking, "Where are we going, Burger King, McD's?" and my friend announced instead that we were going to an establishment that served its meat by the ounce, and that said establishment was on Northern Boulevard (that's a main commercial drag that extends from the Queensborough Bridge all the way through Queens and beyond, for the NY-impaired among you). We were a bit aghast at having to schlep all the way to Queens for a burger, but went along with the gag. We got to Northern Boulevard, then headed east, into Long Island. The conversation quickly bored the hell out of me and I fell asleep, waking up to the same banalities that had put me out before, and when I looked at my watch, I noticed it was now 1630, and a distance sign had put us seriously out into the North Fork of Long Island, heading towards Orient Point. I asked politely just where the hell we were, and my friend responded, "Northern Boulevard". At this point I was panicking with thoughts of the test the next morning and my text books sitting at home in the high double digit miles away, and said "Northern Boulevard? The sign there says 'Last Gas Before Portugal'! Where the hell is this dive we're going to????". Needless to say the journey wasn't quite over yet, and we finally got to the boite in question in time for the dinner hour.
At this point I was too famished to care about my exam, and devoured a large order of ribs and a half chicken. My friend, who incidentally, was also quite a cheapskate, ordered a two ounce hamburger. That's right, two ounces. No typo. I gently enquired as to why he would go three quarters of the way to Providence for such a small burger, and his rationale was that since the food was an unknown commodity, he wasn't willing to gamble that much on it. Having a flat forhead at that point from continually smacking myself from the absurdity of the outing, a hunched down in the back seat of the Satellite for the journey home, which of course, on a Sunday coming from Long Island meant beaucoup traffic, and I didn't get home until about 10pm. As I slammed the door on his car, sweating bullets about the upcoming exam, and fumbling with my keys so that I could storm inside and have a good scream, my friend rolled down his window, and said "Wait, how about some money for gas?"
And that dear readers, is the definition of chutzpah.