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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Leaving La Lunch-a Loca

Two more Braves-y baseball bits are brewing over at Bugs & Cranks:

One Great Day for Davies — A young Atlanta hurler proves that you don’t have to be ‘great’ to have a great game.


BREAKING NEWS: Water Still Wet — Mike Hampton? Hurt? Naw, get out. Really?

Now on with the show.

I’m having a bit of a crisis.

My role at work will be changing in the next few weeks, and the reconfiguration includes a shuffling off to a different office in another building, far away from my current location. That poses several logistical questions, the most hotly burning of which is this:

Where the hell am I ever going to find another rusty old truck with fresh burritos inside?

As you can imagine, this anxiety is keeping me awake at night. Almost as much as the burritos do.

“Between the lunch truck waitstaff’s broken English and my semester of Spanish twenty years ago, we have three words in common. And one of them is ‘chihuahua’.”

See, it’s not that the mystery wraps falling off the back of my favorite diesel-powered vehicle aren’t frightening any more. They most certainly are. And even if the quality of the food wasn’t a big lard-encrusted question mark — and it is, no doubt — then the process by which I gain access to said mystery grub would keep me staring at the ceiling and sweating well into the wee hours all by itself. Between the llunch truck waitstaff’s broken English and my semester of Spanish twenty years ago, we have three words in common. And one of them is ‘chihuahua’.

(As in, ‘Ay, chihuahua!‘?


The thing is, I’ve grown accustomed to these burritos. There’s just something strangely exciting about walking across the street and putting my life and a wad of cash in the hands of a swarthy stranger of questionable hygeine selling goodies off the back of his truck. It’s probably a good thing I don’t work in a seedier part of town, or I’d be bringing home all sorts of pawned watches, hot electronics, and illegal narcotics. Possibly hookers, too — though I suppose those are ‘rented’, rather than ‘bought’, really.

Just like the burritos. Ole!

To be fair, the fare from the truck is not without its charms. The meat in the burrito certainly passes for beef of some kind — tail, perhaps, or snout, or maybe hoof. But it tastes like it came from the carcass of a cow, anyway — possibly mere seconds before going into the tortilla. And the truck keeps a nice array of salsas and sauces to spice up the meal — mole, picante, verde, you name it. I think they keep them warm on the truck’s radiator. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure they make the mole sauce in the radiator. It’s smoky and chocolatey, with just a hint of transmission fluid. Very subtle.

My favorite bit about the burritos, though, is the pea. I don’t know how they do it, but every burrito I’ve ever had from the truck contains a single solitary pea. Just one. It’s like a little lunchtime game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’, to take your mind off the fact that if you look closely enough, there’s a good chance you’ll find that the little green crunchy thing isn’t really a pea at all.

I don’t look closely. To me, it’s still just a pea. Don’t shatter my world, damn you!

Clearly, the truck burritos are a crapshoot. But they’re tasty, they’re cheap, and they’re right across the street, whenever I need a fix. Will I have that sort of culinary convenience at my new building?

Not a chance.

First of all, I’m moving back to work in the hospital that employs me. And if you think you’ll find a truck burrito — or any ethnic delicacy served from the back of a working motor vehicle — within five hundred yards of a self-respecting hospital, then you obviously haven’t been perusing your Surgeon General’s warnings closely enough. In my new digs, there’ll be three options:

  • Hospital cafeteria food. Ouch.
  • Starving. It’s an option.
  • Perusing the attached food court.

Actually, door number three isn’t as bad as you might expect. Hospitals do have a mandate to keep their patients healthy — but these food courts have to serve the doctors and nurses and ostensibly-not-at-death’s-door family members of the patients, too. So the ease up on the bran flakes and raw vegetables, just a little.

Our food court does have healthy options — salads, fruit, grilled vegetable medleys and the like. But there’s also a coffee and muffin joint, a subpar sandwich counter, and — surprisingly, at least to me — a McDonald’s. How the hell are you supposed to keep Joe Patient’s heart afloat, if his family is smuggling in French fries and McFried apple pies? You might as well fill his IV bag full of rendered pig chub and get on with the funeral.

It seems the closest I’ll have to real food around the joint is a lonely little Subway tucked in the back of the food court. It’s not exactly ‘exciting’ food, nor particularly delicious, nor nearly as good for you as that wooden jackass Jared keeps insisting, but it’s edible and convenient and I suppose I can choke down grilled chicken subs with peppers and lettuce a few times a week.

I never thought I’d actually miss eating burritos off the back of a truck, but that seems to be where I’m headed. I wonder if I can convince the Subway lads will drop a pea into my hoagie, just for old times’ sake?

Permalink  |  5 Comments

5 Responses to “Leaving La Lunch-a Loca”

  1. Kerstin says:

    God I miss Mexican food. Real Mexican food. The Pacific Northwest is NOT a place to go for this cuisine. *Sigh.

  2. skrood says:

    Are you kidding me? You want REAL Mexican cuisine in Portland, just head east toward Gresham, and once you hit Rockwood (Little Mexico, as it’s called) it’s nothing BUT authentic Mexican cuisine fixed Americana, both South and North, respectively.

    Charlie, about the pea….ahhhh nevermind.

  3. Kerry says:

    i feel for you, charlie. what a choice, hospital food, mcdonalds or subway. gack. and why exactly is there a mcdonalds in a hospital food court? doctors are forever telling us we don’t eat healthy enough and then they put a mcdonalds in so the doctors and nurses can stuff their faces? no wonder i don’t trust any of them.

  4. Kerstin says:

    Baby, I live and work in Gresham, and this is NOT Mexican food. Sorry to disappoint, but there’s just no way.

  5. As usual, you tell a story like NO OTHER. Great post! But I dont ever want to know what that PEA really is!

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