This morning, self gazes with chagrin at mildly bloated belly. Yesterday began excellent. Self did not give in to a mad urge to do binge eating, even though Dearest Mum was driving self crazy. Somewhere after Salinas, however, self began to hear tummy rumbles. Dearest Mum was covering her face with her hands (to avoid sun cancer). Self suggested a stop in San Miguel. She’d heard there was an old mission or some such in the area, and she had never been. Therefore, self and Dearest Mum could kill two birds with one stone: sightsee, as well as eat.

But self missed the exit, and had to go to the next one over. Dearest Mum and self found themselves in a dusty parking lot right next to a gas station. A shack to the side said, hopefully, RESTAURANT. On closer inspection of the gasoline islands, each was draped with a heavy metal chain.

“Let’s get out of here,” Dearest Mum said. For once self was in perfect agreeement.

Then Dearest Mum said that, since were only about 40 miles north of San Luis Obispo, we should wait till we get there to find something to eat. So self drove some more, and she again missed her exit (the sign saying Cal Poly is sooo small! Or, at least, it seemed small to self last night, who was expecting to see — well, she doesn’t know what she was expecting to see. Maybe a billboard? To match her huge sense of relief at having finally arrived at her destination?). Eventually, however, we did get to Broad Street, and began to see shops and people. Self found parking in a small lot in front of a restaurant advertising “Belgian Frites.” She quickly turned away so that she wouldn’t be tempted. Dearest Mum and self began to walk.

Lo and behold, it was so warm that everyone was walking around in T-shirts and shorts. Once again self encountered those freshly scrubbed faces, those healthy-looking jeans-clad youths, none of whom looked as though, if given the choice between library and surfing, would choose the former. Self and Dearest Mum settled on a place called The Natural Café, whereupon self declared herself thirsty. So we dutifully lined up, and self looked at the menu and saw that there was a tempting array of shakes and smoothies. Self asked the girl at the cash register (It was one of those places where you place an order before finding your seat) which was the lighter (less filling) of the two, and the girl said, “smoothie.” Self took a number and then she and Dearest Mum found a table.

Smoothie arrived, and of course self has to offer the first taste to Dearest Mum. Even if Dearest Mum had leprosy, self would still have to offer her the first taste. It’s some submission thing. Or power control thing. Or whatever. But this has been the way of the world since self was a wee babe.

So Dearest Mum took a sip. And made a face. Then handed smoothie back to self.

Self had barely taken two sips before Dearest Mum said, You might want to take it “to go.”

Self said that was all right, she could finish it.

Then Dearest Mum said, “Why don’t you offer half of it to Andrew when he comes? He might be thirsty.”

And self said, “If he’s thirsty, I can just order him another one.”

Power trips winding intricately through that conversation, dear blog reader.

Anyhoo, son surfaced after we’d been waiting an hour (“I had to take a bus and then walk seven blocks from Santa Rosa.”) Self wondered what had happened to his car but was afraid to ask.

We then proceeded to main destination of the day: McClintocks Steak House on Shell Beach. There is this huge cowboy effigy out in front, and son said that the place was full of rednecks, but they also (according to son) serve the best steak in the whole central coast.

So, okey-dokey, there we were: three Asian people, one of whom looked faintly “off” (Sorry, Dearest Mum!). And we entered this place through a lobby whose walls were filled with polaroids or snapshots of many, many people, a whole town-ful, and we were seated in a dining room surrounded by stuffed wildlife: deer, moose, bears, you name it. A number of evil-looking snares were dangling from the ceiling. When we began to place our order (with a very blonde young man), self suddenly wished she had had time to warn son of what was in store. But, too late! For here was our waiter back. After son and self had informed him of our selections, Dearest Mum frowned, looked at her menu and said, “Where are those? They’re not on my menu.” Then self leaned over and pointed to the items on the menu Dearest Mum was looking at. Then Dearest Mum said she couldn’t possibly eat a whole steak, she would just split with self. Upon which the waiter said that there was a “$12.95 split charge.” So Dearest Mum decided she might as well go ahead and choose her own steak, but she wanted the waiter to tell her which one was the “smallest.” And the waiter indicated that the sizes of the steaks were on the menu. “See? Here? It says 6 oz. That one’s 8 oz.” And so forth and so on.

“But which one is the softest?” Dearest Mum asked. All this time, a transformation was slowly settling over Dearest Mum’s features. She lifted her throat and smiled at the waiter like a gamine. Truly, she was enjoying this exchange.

“The rib eye,” the waiter said, without hesitation.

“But that’s 14 oz!” Dearest Mum protested.

“Well, there’s the filet . . . ” said the waiter.

“I hate filet mignon,” Dearest Mum replied.

“Well, what about the sirloin?” the waiter tried.

“Hmmm…” Dearest Mum said, still engaged with reading the Menu as if it were the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“Shall I come back?” waiter said.

At which point Dearest Mum, having had her fun, said no, she had decided on the sirloin.

Never mind what transpired over the rest of that long and eventful dinner, dear blog readers. Suffice it to say that by the time we reached dessert, son was reduced to saying, sotto voice, “I think she’s driving our waiter crazy.” Self agreed, but naturally she couldn’t express such a disloyal opinion (That is why she has this blog!). When dessert time came, son ordered vanilla ice cream with caramel topping, self ordered cookie dough ice cream with chocolate topping, and Dearest Mum ordered vanilla without any toppings. But, just after the waiter had left with our orders, Dearest Mum changed her mind and said she wanted caramel topping on her ice cream. So she indicated that son, who was right then still plowing manfully through a huge 16 oz. steak, should get up and chase our waiter down. At which point self said she would do it, as she was already done with her dinner. Self then made a very casual tour of the entire dining room. Truly, son was not exaggerating: there was not a single non-white (except for us, of course) in the entire restaurant. Then self went back to her seat and sat demurely down, making as if everything was hunky dory. But Dearest Mum was not to be fooled. She cast a sharp eye at self’s face and then raised a hand. Immediately, a waiter (not ours) came running. She told this young man to inform our waiter that she would like to change her dessert order. And lo and behold, that young man chased down our waiter and delivered the information. So that when our desserts came, everything was correct.

Last night, self found herself plowing into the food as if she were starving. As if she’d been in a prison camp for four years and had never seen a steak or mushrooms or rice pilaf all that time. Everything went down the gullet: filet mignon, baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, rice. And afterwards, when her stomach was truly and fully distended, and she started to feel awful, she stopped.

And now she knows why people develop eating disorders. Food doesn’t have anything to do with hunger.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

In San Luis Obispo

That self is here, actually here, is something of a miracle, dear blog readers.

Dearest Mum and aunt finally showed up, at 12:30 p.m. Self loaded up the rental car. She stuck the keys in the ignition and heaved a huge sigh of relief. At which point Dearest Mum said, as if in entirely in passing, “You’ve got to sign the contract at Alamo.”

Self’s hand was arrested in mid-air. She gawped (What a wonderfully expressive word “gawp” is, dear blog readers. No other word can so perfectly describe what self must have been doing with her mouth at that very moment). Meanwhile, Dearest Mum was nonchalantly leafing through a magazine.

Self inquired: “Why do I have to sign the contract? Isn’t it in your name?”

“Yes,” Dearest Mum replied. “But you have to sign it as well. In person.”

Incredible, dear blog readers. Aunt was here. Mentioned nothing about this little detail. And Dearest Mum has mentioned it just now as if it were merely the tiniest blip, on the level of sticking a CD into the car stereo.

Self said, “Do you mean I have to drive back to the airport, right now? I don’t understand.”

Whereupon Dearest Mum said, still leafing through the magazine, “Just stop at any Alamo office between here and San Luis Obispo and get down and sign it in front of an agent. It doesn’t have to be the one in the airport. Silly.”

At that point, self reached for her cell and dialed Alamo. Was put on hold. Realized she was using precious cell phone minutes. And they were only in the driveway of her house. Wouldn’t it be better to go inside and use her land line?

Self opened the car door and told Dearest Mum, “Want to go inside? This may take a while.”

“No,” Dearest Mum said coolly, still looking at magazine. She reached over and turned the radio to maximum volume, so that everyone in the surrounding houses could listen to Mahler. Self got down. She waited and waited and waited. Finally, after something like five minutes, got a live person from Alamo. Was informed that, because Dearest Mum had listed self as the secondary driver on the contract, she would indeed have to show up at an Alamo in person. And the nearest one to her house, according to this agent, was the one at the airport.

So, an hour after Dearest Mum had shown up at self’s house, self found herself driving, improbably, north. And at the Alamo there, surly agent (who made self wait for half an hour before even deigning to look at her), told her that not only would self have to sign, Dearest Mum would have to sign again. And at this point, a young Read the rest of this entry »

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