In the earliest hours, the baritone drone of Radio National would lead me to my mum’s dark room, lit only by the neon red display of her clock radio. ‘Mum? Are you awake?’ I’d yell-whisper at her exhausted sleeping form. ‘Mum? I can’t sleep,’ I’d persist. ‘Go back to your bed, lie down and try.’ she’d murmur patiently, digging deeper under the covers. ‘I already did that.’ No reply, no movement. ‘Ok mum,’ in my loudest whisper, ’I’ll try again. Goodnight.’ I’d creep back to my room, hitting every creaking floorboard along the way, lie down and instantly fall fast asleep.
Fear. Anger. Hunger. They all sit, Gollum-like, in the pit of your stomach, clawing at the sides and hissing bile. Wretched, debilitating and nauseating, each selfishly demands the resolute attention of your senses, cells and synapses. Combine the three and you’re basically a hyena. And they all make you do stupid, regrettable things. Like punching someone, or eating a whole box of uncooked dry spaghetti, or weeping quietly and uncontrollably on the bus. In fairness, the dastardly trio can also inspire greatness in their victims: resourcefulness, momentum and mettle.
The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose. After you make your choice, follow the instructions to see what happens next. If you like, chicken, waffles, wood panelling, fake plants, mission-brown vinyl and neon lights, skip to the next paragraph. If you like the idea of me driving around and round LA with a crazy cab driver until we run out of gas (close to 5327 hours in a Prius), you’re really quite mean.
On Pico Blvd in Hollywood, immortalised in song by the Notorious B.I.G. (R.I.P.) and visited by luminaries including Snoop Lion (nee Dogg) and Barack Obama, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles has been serving Southern food since 1975. If you’d like to read what happened when I ate fried chicken, skip to the next paragraph. If you’d like to read what happened when I ate waffles, also skip to the next paragraph.
‘I’ll have the Carol C. Special ($8.95), thank you.’ Our food arrives faster than the time it took to decide what to order. In front of me: one golden, pocked waffle, the size of my face; one generous, DD chicken breast, encrusted in a deep-fried, honey-coloured crumb; one ramekin of maple syrup; one orb of whipped butter. Fried chicken doesn’t want to be dry, and Roscoe’s isn’t; the waffle is fluffy and has the savoury flavour of flour and the enslaving flavour of frying. I force the butterball into the pits of the waffle, cut my chicken in to pieces and upend the syrup over the whole lot. The sticky chicken mess is a little bit sweet, salty and greasy – a whole lot magnificent. If you’d like to read about me eating Roscoe’s world famous mac & cheese ($4.90), continue to the next paragraph. If you’d rather not, skip the next paragraph.
The mac & cheese at Roscoe’s is world famous. And good. It certainly ain’t your gourmet three-cheese Rockpool Bar & Grill sitchayshun, but it’s better cause it tastes like your mum made it. Creamy, mildly cheesy and with macaroni that could be made of pasta or… anything really, it’s a bowl full of rich, goopy happiness.
If you’d like to read about me succumbing to one of the seven deadly sins, skip to the next paragraph. If you’d like to read of anaphylaxis at Roscoe’s, skip ahead to the penultimate paragraph. If you’d like to revel in my triumphant completion of a blood pressure and cholesterol-spiking meal and my successful indulgence in at least three of the seven deadly sins, skip ahead to the last paragraph.
I am finished. Greed has gotten the best of me.
My tongue feels thick and dry, there is darkness. I am finished.
The people love me and respect me, but the priests grow sullen and angry. They dislike me because I have taken away their power. Too bad for them, I think. The people count. Not a bad accomplishment for a struggling writer.
Inspiration, and endings, taken from Choose Your Own Adventure 11: Mystery of the Maya, by R.A. Montgomery
Two Psychobillies walk into a Mexican restaurant on Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles. One is Mexican-American, one Australian; both are musicians, both fans of Vampira, both hungry. Only, one of them has a secret: he doesn’t eat onion or coriander. This is their story. And my story as well, cause I was also there. Finding the best Mexican joints in LA is a bit like trying to pin down the best Thai food in Sydney: overwhelming. ThaiRiffic, ThaiTanic, ThaiFoon, BowThai, ThaiNoon, AppeThaising; it gets a little Thairesome. In LA there’s El Cholo, El Ranchero, El Pueblito, El Gitano, El Nopal… And, El Coyote. Bloody ‘ell! Now, if lucky enough to have stumbled out of the LA glare and into El Coyote, it’d be a rare gringo who would turn to leave. Fairy lights, vinyl booths and buxom senoritas wearing long, frilled skirts and peasant tops? THE END. Epilogue: You can also get ostrich meat tacos there. It’s our penultimate day in LA, and the Psychobillies decide to meet for one last lunch. In the courtyard, over a red vinyl clad table they talk about who’s playing in what band and – “your Sprite, mijo”, our senorita interjects – which bands are touring and which bands are the best but not touring anymore. It’s a secret, Psychobilly language I don’t understand, but have always enjoyed listening to; names like ‘Strangy’ and ‘Köefte’ now as familiar as they are alien. Those times they saw The Cramps play; that time they met Vampira; Jonny Koffin is the best; Halloweentown; who rests in Hollywood Forever cemetery… It’s the same enthusiastic, spooky conversation from our visit three years earlier, minus the band-practise-induced-tinnitus. The senorita waitress brings us our complementary corn chips, black and regular (yellow, Wiz Khalifa?) and a selection of salsas from mild to sweat-inducing hot. When this happens I do two things: wonder why there are no complimentary offerings at Australian restaurants and then proceed to eat all of the complimentary corn chips and wonder why I ordered food. Until the food arrives. On the advice of the local Psychobilly and for only $6.50, we each choose the especiales (special) chicken street tacos (tacos, from Chicken Street). Three small, perfectly formed corn tortillas, topped with grilled chicken, chopped onion, fresh coriander and a wedge of lime. That’s it, no messing about. As two of us enthusiastically tuck in, one gingerly scrapes away some onion and wonders if the coriander will give him a headache… before giving up and hoeing in. Psychobillies and holiday guts are tough.