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Pickles for Dinner

17 Nov

from January 10, 2008

I was out for dinner at the Vegas Diner. I try not to go there too much when I’m paying. Not because I’m cheap- it is a diner after all, not the automat. If I were cheap then I’d take my dates to Subway and get a pair of $5 footlongs. Used to be that you could only get a deal like that in Times Square back in the 1970’s. But I digress.

We were out. It was a long day, and by eight o’clock she had to eat. You know how women are. “I’m hungry I’m tired I’m on my period.” All the freakin’ time. Yeah well, I had a bag of Doritos for lunch and flatulence that would kill a mule but you don’t hear me complaining.

The Vegas Diner is a good diner with good food. The problem is that, a couple of times a month, my family goes out to eat together and we pretend to be a family in the sense that we’re related, not in the Manson Family sense. The bill is anywhere from $60 to $80 bucks and over time we’ve developed a favorite waiter (Mr. Abraham with the strange eye) whom we ask for all the time. He treats us like gold and bends over backwards (not so we could shtupp him the ass but) to serve us. Why? Because Mom gives him a $25 tip every week. That’s $25 dollars on a bill of $60. And if he isn’t there, we’ve got a backup waiter who gets the same thing. So we tend to get good service.

When I walk in, I get the same ass-kissing treatment I do with my family, so I have to tip stupidly well too. Thanks Mom. It has gotten to the point that there is a busboy during the day that we have to slip $2. A busboy. And what does he do? Brings us water and asks “how’s your Mom?”. Remember Jimmy the Gent in Goodfellas slipping the bartender $100 for keeping the ice cold? That’s me.

So I was there tonight and I was in the weird angle table just on the left as you walk in. I hate that table, but the hostesses don’t get tipped so they don’t care where I sit. I once saw Mr. Abraham throw a party of six out of their seats when we walked in. And that party? Borough President Marty Markowitz’s mother’s 101st birthday, so you know we tip well.

I am a people watcher. Which is not the same thing as a Peeping Tom but I’ll admit it- there is some overlap. Just across from us was a rather odd couple, for a few reasons. You know Adrian Grenier, from Entourage? Don’t feel bad, most people don’t either. Anyway, this guy looked like Adrian Grenier if he were missing a couple of key chromosomes and entered the Anthony Cumia look-alike contest. You really had to see him. I noticed him not because of his odd looks but because of the way he ate a pickle.

Some of you (one of you. OK, Marc) may know my family connection to the pickle industry. I won’t go into it here but decades ago I invented the still famous Hulk Hogan Pickle ad. Suffice it to say that I know a number three from a number five and can still tell you the age of a quart of brine at six paces. So I am sensitive to pickles.

The Adrian Grenier guy had a plate full of number five sour pickles and ate them with a fork and knife, George Costanza style. Seriously. He cut the pickle into slices, then ate them with a fork. Dainty.

I was appalled.

Pickles are finger food. Meaning, you eat them with your fingers. Trust me, there is nothing better than a woman fingering a pickle and slurping it into her mouth. What? That was sexual? Let me read that back.

I stand by that statement.

Anyway, just to show how it is done in these parts (meaning Not Bizarro World) I took a number three sour from my plate, lifted it up, and crunched into it with a snap that would do the Vlassic Stork proud. I showed him.

He kept up with the knife and fork routine.
But he knew.

That alone was enough to mark him with the Sign of the Beast, but as Billy Mays says “wait! There’s more!” He was washing down the pickles with a chocolate egg cream.

That’s just gross.

I couldn’t stand to see this anymore. I spent too many years in the biz to see pickles treated that way. Now I had to see his date. And here I had to look twice because it was just strange.

He was there with an Asian woman who, in general build and hairstyle, resembled my friend Kathy. Not so much in the face because she was smiling (don’t kill me) but for a second I flashed back to the picture Kathy had on her iphone, her myspace profile, her yearbook page, framed above the entrance to her house, of her and the real Adrian Grenier. It was so bizarre that I took out some paper and a pen and started taking notes. Right during dinner. (Believe it or not ladies I’m still free. Catch me while you can.)

Their food came and Adrian got a bacon cheeseburger deluxe and Kathy got a plate of chicken fingers. I guess HBO doesn’t pay too well. He then mixed some ketchup and what looked like flem in a plate and dipped his fries into it. It looked really gross but at least he stopped defiling the pickles.

I took notes as I ate my roast pork deluxe (which the trainee waitress gave me with the standard fries instead of the mashed potatoes I asked for. But she was new, spoke little English, and was cute so I let it slide) and calculated how too-big a tip I’d have to give my waiter AND his trainee.

Kathy and Adrian’s bill came and Adrian reached into his pocket and took out big roll of bills that turned out to be a single twenty surrounding a whole lot of ones. Where I come from there is an expression for this but I won’t indulge in needless slurs. Here, anyway.

About this time he pulled out his cell phone to show Kathy the wallpaper picture.
It was a squirrel.

Adrian peeled what might have been as many as three singles from his wad, left them on the table, and went to the counter to pay the bill. Kathy, after peeking behind her to see that Adrian couldn’t see, took a single from the tip and pocketed it.

I cannot make this up and I have the notes to prove it.

They left and we finished our diner.

Our Bill? $32.67.
The tip? $11.
Seeing Kathy and Adrian Grenier out together on a date? Priceless.

My Review of Perfect Strangers

17 Nov

from January 3, 2009

Perfect Strangers was a late 1980’s ABC sitcom. It was part of the Friday night TGIF lineup. TGIF stood for Thank God Its Florida. Every show in the lineup, every week, guest starred Esther Rolle as Florida Evans from Good Times. Bernadette Stanis would often appear as her daughter Thelma.

Perfect Strangers was a culture clash sitcom. An uptight Chicago guy named Larry, played by Mark Linn-Baker, suddenly found himself legal guardian of his semi-delusional cousin Balki, played by Bronson Pinochet, a distant relative of Augusto Pinochet, former Chilean dictator, 1973- 1990.

Mark Linn-Baker was best known for his role in Woody Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan. Saw the film but don’t remember him? That’s because his part wound up almost entirely on the cutting room floor. In fact, 47 minutes into the film, his reflection can clearly be seen in a revolving door, but the scene cuts away a second before he was to come through the door.

Bronson Pinochet is best known for funny accents and mugging for the camera. In 1997 he was passed over for the role of Bozo the Clown in the biopic My Life in Size Sixteen Shoes. Danny Bonaduce would later garner an Emmy nomination for the part.

The pilot began with Larry very happy with his life. He lived in a run down apartment in a lousy neighborhood and worked in a junk shop. Somehow this made him happy. His boss was a squat, oblate spheroid of a man, named Boss Twinkacetti. He had the same proportions as the Earth- he was four feet tall and four feet two inches wide. He hated Larry and would often spend whole days breaking things around the shop just so he could make Larry clean them up. Larry was an obsessive compulsive cleaner. If even one hair was out of place, he would have to comb random stranger’s hair.

One day, right after Larry had his nightly cocoa and changed into his nightshirt (and cap), there was a knock at the door. Larry opened the door and stood there, flabbergasted, as a pimp and a prostitute burst in and forced Larry to let them turn tricks in their apartment. (Hey, I said it was a lousy neighborhood.) The next night, however, it was cousin Balki on his doorstep.

Balki had just arrived in Chicago, fresh from the sanitarium. In a cost cutting measure, Balki was declared “near-competent” in order to clear space and free up a bed. Although born in Newark, he was under the delusion that he was from some island called “Mypos” where he herded sheep and everyone was goofy. Balki was a perfect television stereotype of the silly foreigner in America. He even came with a catchphrase. Whenever someone told him something he didn’t believe, like water from the sink didn’t come from the toilet flush, he said “don’t be a dick you louse.” It was never quite clear how that got past the censors.

Over the seasons Larry moved from much put-upon cashier at a junk shop to much put-upon worker at a newspaper. Balki never stopped being a fish out of water, even after eight seasons when the act had clearly gone stale. Plots would often be recycled from I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners, or in one memorable season six show, from the Moonlighting episode where Maddy and David reprised The Taming of the Shrew.

Eventually, Larry and Balki got married. Not, as you’d expect, to each other, but to two actual women. Even so, they still lived in the same apartment. Season eight episodes often dealt with Balki’s total misunderstanding of contraception. It was at this time that the show was moved to 10pm.

Perfect Strangers remains notable to this day as the show that lifted Mark Linn-Baker from total obscurity and dropped him right back there. Bronson Pinochet went on to star in something listed on as Slappy and the Stinkers (1998.)

If Liz did not say that she liked this show, I would have left it in the dusty corner of my brain, along with Silver Spoons. In fact, right now I have the theme song to Silver Spoons running through my head. Curse you Joel Higgins!

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