Salad bar science

Stanley and I met at the Tennessee Grill on Taraval, for an early lunch. He’d told me the place is a great, cheap diner, and that was no lie.

“Forget everything you know about salads,” he said, as he showed his technique for stacking a small plate and turning their $1.99 single-serving salad bar into a meal. Some of this I knew, but some of it’s new wisdom:

The key to a bargain salad, Stanley taught and I watched, is that lettuce is a vastly overrated member of the salad. You want to fill yourself up, don’t start with loads of lettuce and add a few frills. Do the opposite: Stock up on the bulky vegetables instead, with *maybe a little lettuce on the side. Select the items you want, of course, but choose them with structural integrity in mind. Cottage cheese, for example, should be at the edge of the plate, where it can support other stuff piled on top.

All this was kinda like we were doing the Kwai Chang Caine & Master Po routine, but Stanley’s salad stood 5½ inches tall, quite an architectural achievement. Mine wss about an inch and a half shorter, but hey, salads aren’t usually my thing, and it was enough to fuill me up.

At the Tennessee, this cheapo salad comes with a mini-loaf of sourdough bread, plenty of butter and jam, and a glass of water that — unlike many restaurants’ water — tasted like water. Lunch for two bucks, and it was a good lunch!

Stanley paid the balance due for his van that I sold him last month. He’s gotten it running again, and it was nice to see the old girl. After lunch, and after he’d driven away in the van that used to be mine, I walked around the neighborhood for a while.

I don’t get out to Taraval much, so it was new to me. There are lots of little shops where I didn’t spend anything, including an office supply store. I love office supply stores — there’s always cool stuff — but at this one I watched an old lady say “ledger paper” three times, then explain what it is, to a teenage clerk who shrugged and said, “We don’t carry it.” Well, I don’t need ledger paper, but I also don’t need an office supply store that doesn’t know what it is, so toodle-doo.

At the library branch, their hours were posted so big, my nearsighted eyes could read the sign from across the street, but the hours are like 2PM-6PM, three days a week. With hours that minimal, what’s the point of even pretending it’s a branch of the library? Libraries should be open and circulating books *at least 10-12 hours every day, but that would require taxes and rich people don’t like paying taxes, so the purpose of the library is instead keeping the books locked up and out of anybody’s hands.

♦ ♦ ♦

Coming up Ellis Street after riding the L train back, some yuppie going the same direction as me walked into my next footstep on the sidewalk, stopping me cold. It was just a moment’s irritation, easily forgotten, or it would’ve been, but while I was softly cursing the back of his head, a could of his tobacco swirled into my face. And not even cigarette tobacco, but some horrid stinking cigar smoke. So… 

When he was a few steps ahead of me, I shot a well-aimed loogie between his shoulder blades onto the back of his suit jacket. Nice shot, I thought to myself, and he didn’t even break stride. He just kept walking, like the important man he no doubt is — an important man with a lump of dried snot on his suit.

I don’t like important men.

Then I stepped back into my regal dump, stripped naked, and read and wrote and napped, and looked out the window.

From Pathetic Life #8
Saturday, January 28, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

Addendum, 2021: It's unrelated to this particular day's entry, but wow it's wistful, re-typing and posting these last few entries of January 1995.

It was an ordinary weekend day, not at all bad, and I still remember the salad. And later, I remember thinking as I fell asleep, I am so damned alone in the world, and the weekend's half over so I'm already halfway back to that job that I hate...

I didn't write about the downsides very often, because thinking too much about the blues, or writing about the blues, only makes the blues bluer. But I knew, some things needed to change.

Pathetic Life 

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  1. https://www.tennesseegrillsf.com/

    It's still there. I've never had the salad but it's my breakfast place.

    1. I believe I only ate at the Tennessee Grill that once, but I'm glad it's still there. Looks like reasonably priced breakfast too, especially for San Francisco.

    2. Thank you so much for reminding me of the Tennessee Grill! I *loved* that place!

      Mark Alexander | voenixrising.com

    3. The Tennessee Grill was beyond my usual travels in the city, sadly, but when teleportation is perfected, or rapid long-distance drone delivery, I want to order breakfast, lunch, and dinner delivered to Wisconsin from my favorite restaurants in all the cities where I've lived — Seattle, San Francisco, and Kansas City.

      From Seattle, I want fish'n'chips from Ivar's. Two orders, large, with extra fish, lots of tartar sauce, and a side of their fabulous clam chowder. There were (are?) several competing chains that sell fast-food fish'n'chips in Seattle, but that's rarely a menu item at restaurants outside the northwest, and when it is, it's never fast food. They make you wait fifteen minutes, serve it on a plate, it's never greasy enough, it doesn't cause indigestion an hour later, so really, what's the point?

      And I want Dick's. It's a local chain that uses only fresh beef, and everything is unhealthy as hell and delicious. I want four Dick's Deluxes, two orders of fries, a lot of tartar sauce because it's the best tartar in the world, and a strawberry milk shake. Another great thing about Dick's is that they pay the staff well (more than I made at my office job, when I lived there) and everyone gets health benefits and paid vacation.

      And I want Herfy's. That's another chain operation, which used to be worldwide, I think, but I've only seen them in Seattle. It was always quite bad, to be honest, but I like the sauce they put on the regular burgers, and I suspect it would be comfort food for me. Teenage me used to eat there twice a week.

      Tragically, Beth's Café closed a few months ago, so I'll never again have one of their spectacular 12-egg omelets with all-you-can-swallow hash browns.

      From San Francisco, man, there is nothing like a California burrito, except all the other California burritos. Having a Wisconsin burrito is just a disappointment, wrapped. My favorite was always El Castilito — a total dive taqueria on Mission Street, and they have to pay bribes to pass inspection from the health department, but oh, man, it was always good. I must've eaten El Castillito thousands of times. Send me two chicken burritos please, with chips and salsa, and two of those sugar-water fruity drinks — watermelon flavor.

      For breakfast, it's Squat & Gobble. My wife loved their specialty crepes, but I thought they were a little too frou-frou. Send me a cheese omelet, hash browns, wheat toast, and orange juice. More affordable but almost as good, breakfast at Eddie's Café on Divisadero.

      For lunch or just loitering, I miss the International Café on Haight Street, but it was mostlky the vibe of the place that made it great, and I guess they can't deliver the vibe.

      Also I want some San Francisco baked goods, but it hardly matters which bakery. Any of the cheap places on Mission Street. Send me half a dozen assorted donuts please, and half a dozen assorted everything else, with a good cup of hot coffee. It still amazes me how difficult it is to find good but also cheap donuts in the midwest.

      And there was a great Thai spot, also on Divisadero (we lived nearby), but I can't remember what it was called.

      In Kansas City, where we lived for a few years, my wife loved the barbecue, but I don't particularly miss it. What I miss is breakfast at the Woodsweather Café — great food, reasonable prices, in an extremely shitty industrial neighborhood where the potholes just driving there almost killed our car every time. But Woodsweather went out of business shortly after we moved away, so there's now no possibility of good food in Kansas City.

    4. Ah yes, San Francisco burritos! Rosie's at 18th & Noe was always my favorite. "1668 Burritos" or maybe it was 1886. Hard to remember. 16 years times at least a couple times a week. I ate there so many times I can easily concur the taste of their burritos in my head. It's now long gone. Second favorite place was El Capitan at 18th & Collingwood, apparently still in business.

      Mark Alexander | voenixrising.com

    5. I haven't eaten a truly delicious burrito since leaving California. Best I've found anywhere else is pretty good, or on a good day, slightly better than that. Even my favorite local place here, until they went out of business, was just pretty good.

      I miss the burritos more than maybe anything else about Cali...

    6. Same, Doug. Same.

      Mark Alexander | voenixrising.com


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