Wet envelopes of cat food

Ohhh… I dooooooon’t feel well.  No.  Not at all.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  To be perfectly transparent, I was on the phone at the time with a friend who is around my age when the GrubHub driver delivered my food; my friend said, and I quote, “I can’t eat that shit anymore.”  I smiled quietly to myself, smug in the knowledge that I just had one of my 3 month checkups complete with labwork and the doctor told me that aside from suffering from a fatal, incurable disease that has rendered me permanently disabled I’m in perfect health though he was ordering a consult with a specialist whose job entails running a small (hopefully) fibre-optic camera up my penis to determine why I have chronic (persistent) blood in my urine; I said, “you’re joking, right?”  To which he replied, “just lay back and try not to think about it.”  If I had a dime for every time someone said that to me…!  Then I thought — what makes a person wake up one morning during medical school and say ‘I want to specialize in shoving things up penises?’  And what must the dinner conversation be like when they get home to their partner and hear, “pass the couscous would you, so… how was work?”  There’s a pun about it having been a 'long day' just itching to be included in this paragraph, but I think I’ve already milked my upcoming doctor’s visit for all it’s worth.  That was a pun.

Forgive me.  I digress.

I looked at the menu for last night in the dining room — Junior turkey club with carrot slaw.  That sounds revolting!  Thank evolution for Postmates and GrubHub!  But what to order?  Since the pandemic began, there are so many restaurants on the two delivery services I use that I get what is called “option paralysis” — a strange phenomenon of the modern world (and let’s just acknowledge up front it’s mainly a western phenomenon in the “developed” parts of the world) whereby the number of choices make it harder to select one.  In the embarrassment of riches that is restaurants offering delivery these days out of economic necessity, I’d imagine the pizza joints and Chinese/Thai restaurants are pretty annoyed that their corner on the market of “stay-home-unshaven-in-your-underwear-and-socks-while-some-guy-on-a-moped-brings-you-food-for-minimum-wage-and-a-paltry-tip-while-some-a**hole-yells-at-you-that-you-forgot-the-soy-sauce” is but another casualty of coronavirus.  Here in Palm Springs, even the high-end steakhouses are getting in on the action!

So, yah, I go thru an average of three “moods” before I click the order button.  Ooo!  Penne all’ Arrabbiata!  Nah, too heavy.  Hmm… I love Pho tái nạm (Vietnamese rice noodle soup with steak eye round and braised flank) from that little Vietnamese place on Baristo Richard and I used to go to before catching a play by the Dezart Performs troupe at the Pearl McManus Theater, but I’m always hungry afterwards; so no.  Rick’s does a great fried chicken, but when you’ve only got one working hand, it’s hard to hold and more of an ordeal than I’m willing to undergo on a Saturday evening.


Ahhh.  Jack in the Box!  It’s weird… I always feel like a bad person when I order from McDonalds, like I’m letting Michelle Obama down!  But Jack in the Box is different.  Maybe it’s because there is one (above) about three blocks from the house I grew up in that I used to ride my bike to on a regular basis to get what my boyhood friend Mike and I used to call “Paste Tacos.”

As Chris Gayomali wrote in GQ Magazine four years ago:

But I’d argue that the real crown jewel of SoCal fast food is the Jack in the Box taco—a greasy, mushy crescent of nitrates and other salty ingredients that will probably be outlawed in 50 years when we discover it causes cancer. It’s something so malformed, so divorced from the culture from which it originated that it could only have been conceived in the godless crucible of San Diego, where Jack in the Box is based. Calling the Jack in the Box taco a “taco” is like putting a Pop-Tart in front of The Great British Bake Off’s Mary Berry and calling it a mille-feuille.

The taco’s components include a ground mystery meat packed into a corn shell, which is then deep-fried together, rendering the outer edges crunchy while the taco’s soft midsection is imbued with a sloppy patina of corn oil, which often causes them to fall apart. Then it’s stuffed with shredded lettuce, hot sauce, and a lazy slice of American cheese. Apparently, a lot of people eat them — they even outpace McDonalds’ Big Mac. The Wall Street Journal this week noted that the company sold an astounding 554 million tacos last year,

Some earthly pleasures are better left unquestioned. Clearly, the Jack in the Box taco is the work of Satan. It’s lowbrow-despicable. It’s sublime.


And I couldn’t agree more.  Back in the first decade of this century, I was a hard-drinking, chain-smoking denizen of a gay dive bar in North Hollywood near my office called The Bullet (the picture at right is me circa 2005 at my regular table on the patio).  The Bullet had started its life as a very sleazy “leather” bar, but by the time I discovered it had more or less morphed into a neighborhood watering hole, so we called it a leatherette bar (a leather bar means something very specific in gay culture which I won’t go into here; for more information on the significance of leather bars in the subculture of the gay bar, see Gay Bar:  Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton Lin).

After five Gimlets and a couple of shots of Cazadores tequila, if fate had decided that I was to go home alone that evening, there was a Jack in the Box on my way.  I know, thoughtful reader, you simply can’t believe that I wasn’t always the quiet, shy, intellectual, urbane, dignified, morally upstanding, pedantic, cultured paragon of virtue you see before you today.  Sorry to fart on your cornflakes, but I’m afraid the jig is up and it’s time to confess; we’ve had far too much of people masquerading as something they’re not lately, like reality tv stars being presidents of countries or rabid antisemitic conspiracy theory loonies being elected to Congress.  So yes, I was a notorious slag (British slang for a loose woman or a treacherous man — so accomplished was I, that I could pull off both — ooo! another pun!).  You don’t think I got AIDS from staying home and reading Elizabethan poetry by the fire with a nice cup of tea and a scone laden with blackcurrant jam, do you?

But there were occasions when my ministrations met with failure to procure a partner for the evening, when what was on offer failed to run my flag up its pole (another pun), so I retreated from the battlefield, living to fight another day.  On such occasions, I was in the habit of hitting the drive-thru at Jack in the Box to soothe my ennui with the seductive comfort of two paste tacos for 99 cents and something called “The Ultimate Cheeseburger.”

So yesterday afternoon, wanting to avoid the Junior turkey club with carrot slaw as though it had just been pulled from the frothing jaw of a feral dingo, I was delighted to discover that Jack in the Box delivered via GrubHub.  I decided to recreate the heady days of the aughts and order my go-to, post cruising meal.  There was the Ultimate Cheeseburger in all its glory — two beef patties, American and Swiss-style cheeses, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup on a buttery bakery bun; I clicked ‘Add to Bag’ and went in search of tacos.

But what’s this?  “Loaded Tiny Tacos.”  I do not know of this.  Better check their website:  15 Tiny Tacos loaded up with cheese sauce, shredded lettuce, and our very own taco sauce.  Wow!  If two are enough to make me feel good, imagine how much better fifteen will make me feel!  Yes please!  ‘Add to Bag.’  Now, what to wash it down with?  Oh, I know.  A chocolate shake sounds good.  ‘Add to Bag.’  I’m excited; I can hardly wait!

Thirty minutes later, this is what came…

I hadn’t even finished eight of the mini-tacos and about three quarters of the burger when my stomach felt like someone was punching holes in it using an awl and it began to make a very unsettling noise that sounded like the rusty hull of a ship about to buckle from the pressure of being put out to sea one too many times.  Within fifteen minutes I was perspiring; actual sweat had dampened my whole shirt, not just the underarms.  I had the distinct feeling I had just gotten off the tea cup ride at Disneyland.  My eyebrows hurt.  Wow, was this a bad decision.  And I’ve made some doozies in the decision department before.  Note to self:  you aren’t 39 anymore Matt, never order from Jack in the Box again; some things are best left in the past — you cling to them at your own peril.

I spent the evening last night clinging by my fingernails with white knuckles to my recliner, daring to move from my safe sedentary position only once to feed my dog.  I drank two artisanal waters imported from the fjords of Norway (though they probably come from a tap in New Jersey) as though they were the lifesaving nectar issued from the breast of a Burmese maiden and watched a documentary on Netflix.  Then I went to bed, convinced I’d feel better in the morning.

I do not.

While I have fond memories of Jack in the Box tacos, it is clear to me now that it is as memories that they must stay.  And as a public service, I would like to warn you, thoughtful reader, that the new “Tiny Tacos” taste like little wet envelopes of cat food and should be avoided as though your life depends on it; it very well might.

That said, I am still a connoisseur of the taco.  One restaurant here in Palm Springs — El Patron — has captured my feelings about tacos rather succinctly in neon.  And… they deliver!

Feed me tacos and tell me I’m pretty

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