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A Clean, Well-Lighted Place For Chicken

A lot of life is the pursuit of ‘look at me’ followed closely by the realization ‘look at me – I’m dying just like everybody else.’ ”

Not the most uplifting notion, perhaps, but a decent indication of where my head’s been of late. Just wrote it in an email to my buddy Tom. Been realizing what a wide selection of real friends I have. Another relative newcomer (last fifteen years of so), my buddy Dave, commented recently “Hey Rick .. I saw where you published a ‘Best Of’ piece on your blog the other day. That bullshit won’t cut it ..” And so I thank Dave, too, for his honest and accurate assessment. Not a lot of time right now for fat-headed reflection but I suppose I can always sneak in some stream of consciousness ramble.

Food shows, top-chef competitions, high-end eateries and culinary bullshit are all the rage these days. Been this way for the last ten or more years. Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio .. none of these assholes has a thing over the people who run Il Pollaio on Columbus Avenue in San Francisco’s North Beach. I flip by these TV programs and catch the young aspiring cooks dutifully replying “yes, Chef, no Chef” to their senior, millionaire mentors like they’re in the presence of a four-star general. Here’s something to respect: a family-run restaurant with a limited menu that stays in business in the same location for over thirty years. One that not only remains consistent but provides a spot for neighborhood people, single diners, elderly patrons, and a particular 85 year-old who knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. Here’s a TV show I’d watch: me sitting at one of the window tables with Gordon Ramsay and pounding his botoxed forehead off the simple, wooden top every time the waitress at Il Pollaio – the same sweet, polite, efficient woman who’s been serving me (and now my father) since she was nineteen – displays her sensitivity and competence. “Yes Chef” (BANG) .. “No Chef” .. (BANG) ..”

Yeah, yeah, I know .. “Get off my lawwwwwn …” Well there are worse directions in which to head than Clint’s. Every generation thinks they know what’s up and every aging curmudgeon thinks the younger set is clueless and cultural climate in a state of rapid decline. But in my case it’s an accurate assessment. I knew this instinctively at sixteen, watching a pirated version of the Playboy Channel on my parents’ cable box. Chuck Woolery hosting the Playboy Playoffs. The falcon could no longer hear the falconer and his call was becoming a distant memory. And these days? These kids were born mid-flight with computers in their claws. To quote another (dead) curmudgeon “pack your shit, folks, we’re going away.”

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in emergency wards and physical rehab facilities over the last six or seven years. It isn’t a pleasant subject, nor are the offshooting topics .. so, like most things on this blog, I write around it. In these places and during these stretches you split your time between stark and extended periods of reflection and more abbreviated and immediate intervals of crisis. And you tend to see, or think you see, the world for what it is. You have a rather clear view of who (including yourself) is full of shit and about what. It doesn’t always lend itself to eloquent sentence construction but the thoughts are there. And that’s about all I got for now.

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