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12 February 2012

Two Concatenated Excerpts from Restaurants That Do Not Exist

Rudolfo Carrillo

Introduction: Loomings

Begin transmission.

As extra-Venusian research continues on our distant and watery celestial neighbor, I find it necessary to elucidate the following anecdotal data. It is fervently hoped that such information, if properly disseminated, will result in the continued, though oft-maligned interest in our inevitable and glorious conquest of the third planet.

On that world, in the anomalous expanse of desert initially surveyed by our predecessors as a place of potential colonization (prior to the advent of instantaneous multi-dimensional communication), there are numerous human settlements concentrated along a narrow band of liquid, mostly potable water, known to some as a river and to others as el rio.

Linguistic variations aside, inhabitants of the area commonly refer to this geologic phenomenon using adjectives alluding to its immensity, although many are quite aware of the irony such descriptions invoke.

One of the larger settlements in this region is known as Albuquerque, New Mexico.

More than three quarters of a million sentient beings (non-inclusive of the millions of dogs and cats who are surreptitiously working with our clandestine forces toward colonization) occupy this complex network of buildings, roadways, agricultural areas and other planned structures, situated at the edges of said river and sprawled out wantonly, along its course to the sea. The settlement also diffuses eastward to a series of large granite outcroppings whose names refer to fruit or fruit-bearing plants and thereby allude to the importance humans place upon the sustained production and consumption of food.

Recently, this place called Albuquerque has also spread westward, out into a desiccated plateau. Interestingly, this area of relatively new activity does not bear a name suggesting or alluding to the edible parts of vegetative growth. Its leathery dryness is supplanted by importing water from the narrow and beckoning stream detailed above, or by drilling deeply into the earth itself, tapping the underground aquifer which sleeps temporarily beneath the city.

The production and consumption of food and the consequent need to maintain a sustainable water supply to facilitate such frail activity seems to hold a preternatural fascination among the current inhabitants, who, by the way, refer to themselves variously as Albuquerqueans, Burqueños or pinche carpetbaggers.

Besides its notable presence in the naming of physical landmarks, this inherent interest in food (Burqueños and their "pets" must eat to live, unlike the misty and non-corporeal beings found in the void surrounding their planet) and its numinous associations may be seen in the naming of specific meals utilizing the fruit of the much adored chile plant.

The highly prized berries of this relative of nightshade, datura and potatoes are lovingly and gloriously cooked and eaten when either red or green coloured. Separately, each has a fervent following; when presented together however, a ritual religiosity may be noted. Consumers refer to that interaction as “Christmas”, ascribing to the consumption of the two the name of an important winter holiday which apparently celebrates the potential for the divine within the strictly corporeal.

Further examples of this tendency to associate divinity with the native cuisine have been widely reported. The spontaneous manifestation of holy images on another deeply revered foodstuff, the tortilla, have been carefully and precisely documented.

In order to continue this important line of research and make a determination about the probable connections Albuquerqueans have to the sublime nature of the universe - and therefore their amenability to colonization - it is highly recommended that this researcher be given time and opportunity to investigate the templar edifices where such rites of consumption are known to take place. It is felt that, in these lofty locations, known locally as “New Mexican Restaurants” or “Restaurantes Nuevo Mexicano”, important observational discoveries regarding the nature of this group of humans residing in the desert may be made.

I would also like the opportunity to examine the coming water crisis these humans or their successors will one day face. They need the water to perpetuate the cult of chile and the temple of tortillas, as I have affectionately come to call this cluster of cultural units - though it has come to me through my handlers (such as they are at this most distant and dusty outpost of the empire) that after initial contact is made, we may direct esta gente towards the moon, as a reward for being compliant.

Part One: The Carpet Bag

So it's Saturday afternoon in the duke city and I'll be good and god-damned if I can no longer take my life into my own hands by driving north on San Mateo Boulevard for lunch or dinner at Pancho's Mexican Buffet. The pinche place is closed and that closure has been announced in the classic Burque fashion for businesses in these parts that have given up the ghost. Someone left a ragged piece of notebook paper taped crookedly to the door with the word closed scrawled upon it in black nail polish.

No one is answering the phone over yonder, either, so I am sure it is over. I know most of you are okay with that and I will be the first one to admit that Pancho's had seen better days. The chile rellenos had gotten dull and mealy. Who could possibly take pleasure in raising a flag that brought anxious eaters sopapillas that had been repeatedly reheated in la microondas?

Visits there had always been an exercise in sentimentality, anyway. Really, I'd only been to the northeast heights incarnation of Pancho's a few times. I mostly used those visits as a reference point for remembering their main location on Central and San Pedro. I had fond memories of that dive and would still stop to raise the flag long after it became run down and drunks from MG's Grand Liquor or Foxes Booze and Cruise wondered blindly through the parking lot or passed out in front of the take-away entrance.

Ultimately, I'll have to add Pancho's Mexican Buffet to the list of Albuquerque restaurants I shall, alas never dine at again. There are a lot of those, but if you wanna know the ones that really break my heart, I thought I'd finish out this essay with a short list. Try not to languish in despair as you peruse the following fateful outline.

Of course, it nearly killed me when Shakey's Pizza left town. Try as I might, I've never been able to recreate the sublime experience encountered when presented with thin crust pizza, bright green-colored soda pop and continuously screening Laurel and Hardy shorts. When I was really young and unaware of the mechanical nature of the universe, I was convinced that the player piano in the corner was haunted.

In high school, I took a girl I was dating to the Morning Glory Cafe, because I heard it was a hip joint. It was musty, smoky and filled with dirty hippies, but they had a hell of a grilled cheese sangwich and coffee refills were free, too. There were always interesting treasures crammed under the seat cushions in that place. I ended up breaking off the affair with that young woman, who I recall was named Patricia. That was a sad time, but I assuaged my aching soul with a copy of Zap Magazine and an authentic coin from Cuba that I had hauled out of the boothy abyss where we sat.

Goody's was the local diner where every table-top featured its own toaster. Those bright and shiny electronic symbols of consumer convenience became harbingers of doom, ultimately. Daring citizens with mouthy appetites and a distinct lack of scientific or entrepreneurial oversight began sticking forks in the damned things, trying to retrieve their golden prizes early. I still have the university ID from my freshman year to testify to that fact; it’s the only record that remains of my youthful experiments with curly hair.  Enough said.

Speaking of my undergraduate years is painful enough, especially given the fact that I went to art school at UNM at a time when Joel Peter Witkin was still sleuthing the hallways for new models and their pets. That authentic aesthetic despair was only heightened by the demise of the The Purple Hippo Ice Cream Parlor on Harvard. It will forever be sorely missed. In particular, I languish over my consequent inability to get a decent corn or wood flavored ice cream cone in this town.

Growing up on the Rez, we got used to and were familiar with folksy joints that had names like Earl’s or the Ranch Kitchen, so permanently trucking the entire Carrillo family out to the faraway and exotically bifurcating urban arcadia that we imagined Burque to be was a font of amazement for sublime and indescribable gastronomic fascinations.

In trying to reconcile that transformative experience with the my current engagement with hyper-local cuisine, I recall The Spaghetti Machine, a dark, multi-level universe of pasta dishes whose realm was also filled with first-generation video game consoles and servers who wore red cloth napkins on their heads, perhaps as an indication of their participation in the creation of my future. Or something like that.

And then there was the Montana Mining Company, a top-tier steakhouse on Menaul. Someone with a huge brain, perhaps from the same world that had telegraphed Herman Cain into the American restaurant scene, came up with the absolutely brilliant idea for this garden of eatin’. They had devised a floor plan wherein each of the tables were enclosed in separate, discrete plexiglass cubes. I was astonished at first, but after eating there a few times with the old man, began earnestly praying that the same folks would take over Earl’s and the Ranch Kitchen too - mostly because of the mental abuse I had suffered in those roadhouses when witnessing local sheep-hands dig into their mutton-head stew with a carnality and exuberance that I was convinced was demonic, or at least very sloppy and ill-mannered.

There are plenty of eldritch and woeful tales concerning the long disappeared and potentially possessed eateries I have been in contact with over the years, here in Burque and beyond. I would yet reveal them to this genteel audience, but I note that the clock I am carrying in my pocket is now indicating that snack-time is nigh.

End Transmission.

Rudolfo Carrillo / a fifth-wave feminist from the fourth estate | a burqueña | a ladyboss | a writer + editor

I am a fifth-wave feminist and a reluctant member⸺hey, Groucho knew whereof he quipped⸺of both the fourth estate and the gig economy. I am an Albuquerque-based freelance writer, editor and social media marketing and branding+PR consultant. I remain an observant ’90s riot grrrl and a devout practitioner of halfhearted yoga posturing and zen and the art of the sentence diagram.


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