Friday, November 15, 2013

Fare Thee Well...Fare The Well, I Love You More Than Words Can Tell

It has been a while building, but that did not make the last few days--Friday in particular--any less difficult. I have been going through a series of long good-byes for the last two weeks, which were a ton of fun, but they could not prevent the deep feelings that naturally arise when you leave somewhere you have been for a long time. I said good-bye to Atlanta, where I have lived for thirteen years, early this morning with a suitcase and a few house plants in my car. I gave everything I own to three strangers with a semi-truck on Tuesday. They are allegedly meeting me in Baltimore tomorrow morning and giving it all back. If you have never had movers take your stuff a long way away, that's what it feels like. Everything you own and hold dear gets given to a group of men you have never met, most of whose English is...marginal. Maybe. But hey, they say they are going to be at my new place at the crack of dawn, so we'll see how much of my shit they broke over the last four days, and then start unpacking. I start my new job on Monday, about which I am inexplicably excited. The new challenges that are already coming to me via e-mail and phone are making this move look the great idea I always knew it was. He shoots, he scores! Feels good.

But now I am enjoying being able to sit in a chair and watch TV and use a computer. Since those strangers left with all my stuff, I have been living in an empty place while they worked their way up to Baltimore. Toothbrush, air mattress, a few changes of clothes, and my Brita. Soap and shampoo were there as well. A towel. You get the picture. Since around noon on Tuesday, that is all I had. That explains the long good-byes, because seriously, I had nothing to sit on, nothing to watch, listen to, or read. I managed to see a matinee of Bad Grandpa though. I am not going to tell you to go out and see this movie, because I don't know you. I, personally, laughed until tears ran down my face on multiple occasions. So did the rest of the audience. Jackass movies are OK in my book. A lot of time to spend for a short amount of material if you ask me. But this movie was pretty damn funny the whole way through. They needed to put some calmer parts in there so the audience could stop laughing and breath for a minute. No kidding. Please remember this important point: It's raunchy. If you can't laugh at raunchy humor, stay home. You put it mildly.

I do not like to be in a car for long periods of time (defined by anything more that about four hours). So today's drive was going to be a challenge for me patience-wise. To get from Atlanta to Baltimore it takes about ten and a half hours. Problem is, if you don't time your drive correctly, you might just wind up in metropolitan Washington D.C. traffic, which makes Atlanta traffic look like a cream puff. Since I didn't need to be in Baltimore until Saturday morning, I found a hotel in a quiet town about two hours away. So I am in Ashland, VA, within striking distance from my destination, after a nine hour drive that included a few stops. I told you, I don't like to be in the car for a long, long time. Coffee, gas, bathroom, El Carbonero.

El Carbonero? Oh, yes. By 11:45 a.m. I was pulling into the El Salvadorean place called El Carbonero in Graham. NC, and you can read a few things about it here. Folks--first of all, if you know where Graham, NC is, then you must either live in "the triangle" or have family there; secondly, if you knew there was El Salvadorean food there, then you obviously live in that town. And you are most likely Hispanic. By using an on-line map service from Atlanta (it was Google, duh), I was able to determine where I would be en route to the east coast by lunch time. Thanks to Yelp! (and I realize the drawbacks inherent there), I was able to locate El Carbonero and its consistent five-star rating, inside this small town near the Virginia/North Carolina border. The on-line directions? Spot on. Timely? I was ten minutes late, but I had stopped three times already. I could have easily been a few minutes early.

Exterior? Could use some work, which may indicate some serious grub. If you think the best food comes from the prettiest places, then you make too much money, and probably wish you were still cool. Interior? About what the exterior indicates: no frills, but kick-ass food. And when there is a  sign that says "Cash Only", you probably just hit gold. Like I did. Chuletas Fritas apparently means "fried pork chops" or, in my vernacular, "Can I kiss the woman who made me this food?". Occasionally while I was eating, an older woman in shorts and a t-shirt cam out of the back. She was wearing a hairnet, which tipped me off that she cooked. I hoped. The servers spoke English to me, but being the only gringo in the place, they spoke Spanish to everyone else. After you eat you get a hand-written check. Then you get up and go pay at the counter. The cook lady with the shorts and hairnet is taking payments. Cash only. That, boys and girls, is what you call teamwork, El Salvador style. I will leave you with two last things on this story. One: Get the pork chops at El Carbonero; Two: Find out what that chicken soup is that all of the Hispanic customers are eating. Looked pretty outrageous, and all of the non-Gringo had a huge bowl of it.
Excuse me? $8.95? I guess that seems fair.

That is about all I have for you for now. I am enjoying a Devil's Backbone Eight-Point IPA, which is made not far from here, up in the Shenandoah Mountains . Great to see regional IPA for sale at area grocery stores in a semi-rural area. Also great to see local shoppers snatching up the six-packs of those same local beers. I was looking at the whole beer cooler for more than a few minutes, and saw one guy grab a case of light beer, while six or more people bought local or other quality beer. I sure hope that you are all following the same patterns. Buy local and drink local. What's good for your local brewer is good for your local economy. Are you part of the solution? Don't be part of the problem.