Tag Archives: McDonalds

Faux Mexi-Morsels: Living Pancho Villa-ishly with a Brazilian Twist

…in which we learn of the gut-rumbling effect of Taco Bell caliber “Mexican food” in Rota 66, one of Rio de Janeiro’s f-i-n-e-s-t Latin-esque eateries.

December 26, 2014 – 8 PM

I’m forcing Maria to eat – what else? – Mexican food tonight at the Rota 66, just around the corner from our crib. I’ve been threatening the staff for nearly a year that my Ciudad Juarez-dwelling wife would descend upon their humble establishment, like a locust to a summer crop, to take their Pepsi Challenge. Now verily mayeth we discern if a Juarense finds their wares worthy of carrying Pancho Villa’s lineage… And the hour is upon us. We’re taking a small vial of Tabasco sauce, since it’s highly doubtful they’ll have anything spicy enough for my beloved hot tamale’s palate.

December 27, 2014 – 9:30 AM

The reviews are in about last night’s Rota 66 experience. In Maria’s words, when asked a moment ago with the benefit of 12 hours of hindsight and a steaming Saturday morning coffee molding her assessment, “Um, me gusta y tiene buen sabor.” This she spoke decidedly and dead-pan, after precisely two seconds of pondrance, with the hint of a smirk and in the same manner a Foreign Service Officer prompted to comment on the competency of a colleague might reply, “Well, he’s just a really nice person…” In other words, mighty diplomatic of my wife. When I tried to put it another light and asked that she rank it on the 1-10 scale, she chuckled me out of the room, roundly refusing to acquiesce to my silly whims. This is why I married her: seldom does one encounter such benevolence in a partner. (She also tells me I’m guapo and that she can’t even see my head spots.)

Now, before you go thinking Maria’s vagueness is an implicit denunciation of the eatery, let me “esclarecer as duvidas” as they’d say in Brazil. Caveat the first: Maria and I ain’t foodies. I eat for function, fuel. Occasionally I gorge if it’s my momma’s cookin’, probably the one time I do eat for the sheer oomph of it. Maria, for her part, eats for at least some degree of pleasure, but bear in mind that Ciudad Juarez, for all which it is known contemporarily, isn’t recognized as a gastronomic capital of any ranking. Caveat the second: I’m also the cheapest SOB you’ll ever meet, not apt to go out for dinner given the cost of most places in Rio. To quote former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, when asked why he didn’t order room service much, “I got plans for those millions, and it ain’t for sandwiches.” Hell, I could take you back to my first real job, from 1992-1995 doing 2.5 years’ hard time at the McDonalds in Quantico, Virginia. I distinctly recall preparing Frankenstein-ish sandwiches combining breaded fish and chicken patties plus Big Mac meat and literally stacks of pickles, my adolescent notion of gourmet. The goal post hasn’t moved far since.

So at the Rota 66, then, I had the chimichanga, and Maria had the 3 taco combo. We both drank Swiss lemonades, which tasted neither like Lemonade nor anything Swiss, at least not per my recollection of my trip to Basel in 2007, though keep in mind that all I know are three Swiss products: cheese, chocolate, and Swiss enchiladas (this last item may be an invention of rich Mexicans trying to seem worldly, admittedly). Were I to offer a highlight of our meal, it’d be the the Nacho Imperial, of the Taco Bell variety, which we ordered at the outset. These served as the opening salvo launched ‘cross the bow of my sinking gut. The nachos were delivered unto us as a confection of plain Doritos, refried beans, melted cheese doubtless squeezed from a Brazilian moo cow’s teat that very afternoon, diced green chiles, and something special. I know not what ’twas, this mystery ingredient. I asked the waiter and yet he, too, found himself confounded in its identification. Thus only can I imagine that in the kitchen, when someone orders the Nacho Imperial, they call over Cleberson the Chef, who likely hails from the interior of Minas Gerais state: “Oi, Cleberson, it’s TIME!!!!” And voila: Cleberson makes the magic happen.

Personally, I loved the whole ensemble. But then you must remember my standard for gourmet. I could see her countenance of doubt across the table, and part of me was prompted to proclaim defiantly, “Woman, you NEVER had it so GOOD!” But the prudent part of me – admittedly still in its early stages of development – filtered all this down and opted for keeping the proverbial trap shut. Dutifully, Maria partook of these Mexi-morsels and cleaned her plate to all but one taco, which she kindly offered to her husband, knowing full well that I’m a Dirt Devil in human form. As for Zuli, slumbered did she the entire eve, waking only hours later to kick her old man in the ribs whilst I tried to slough off the coma induced by the redonkulous amount of faux-Mexi ingested at the Rota 66.

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Rio’s Underclass and the Transformative Power of a McDonald’s Burger

The last 24 hours have been a bee-hive of tasks and tareas with which to contend and wipe clean from my slate. Any individual item is eezy-peezy by nature, but in the aggregate the combined to-do’s are sufficient to press the very limits of my sanity. Praise be to the Lord on High that a four-day weekend has materialized to accomplish it all, adequate time disencumbered from the entanglements of the consulate and its panoply of visa applicants to save me from the haywire mortars gone misfiring sideways from my spent body. (If you’re wondering why ’tis spent, read yesterday’s missive likening the abuses I have recently auto-inflicted to an imaginary form of animal cruelty).

My anguished and borderline-strep throat is finally under control, thanks to last night’s adventures in the Brazilian public health system. I went to a nearby pharmacy at 8 PM, finally having suffered enough that my tough-guy posings were no longer capable of resisting the urge to reach out and obtain assistance. Until last eve, I likened my pain threshold to an Octagon-frequenting lutador replete with cauliflower ear as badge-of-honor for his many struggles, but now I realize ’tis merely a child with skinned knee weeping for his momma. Would a sore throat have deterred the Portuguese colonists who beset Brazil, their rickety boats and scurvy-laced gums only a tiny representation of the problems they endured en route? It is true that modern man is a wuss by comparison. I told the pharmacist that I required antibiotics, and fast, for perish this very evening I might. Alas, the pharmacist told me that to obtain such drugs in her ingloriously over-regulated nation, a doctor’s prescription would be requisite, for which she directed me to a hospital four blocks away. So set I upon the emergency room, a one-man plague of locusts ready to consume the entire crop. I did not have soaring expectations of the quality of the facilities or care I would receive there; having arrived in Brazil shortly after multiple months of protests against various state inadequacies including the public health system, I assumed I was in for a sh*t-show of maladies that would in all likelihood worsen my health, no better it.

So you will imagine my shock at what transpired next. Upon arrival, I walked into an air-conditioned receiving area, floors shining from a fresh wax, staff all uniformed sharply. I halted, allowing my eyes to draw in the full grandeur of this sight. Then, the coup de grace: a reception desk staffed by no fewer than half-a-dozen nurses straight from a David Lee Roth video. For a moment, I entertained the possibility that perhaps I’d died on the way there and this was Heaven. But no, the pain in my throat reminded me I was very much in the land of the living and, to paraphrase Go-Go’s vocalist Belinda Carlyle, “Heaven is a place on earth.” I was expedited through the registration process rapidly, seen by the in-house physician: a blond with the most concavely-precise wine-colored nails upon which I have set eyes, and under which my flesh shuddered with the electricity of a faith-healer when touched. Dispatched shortly thereafter with a prescription for anti-inflammatories in tow, I returned to the pharmacy 5 minutes to closing and procured that for which I came: a remedy to my troubles. When I awoke this morn, ’twas as though I had never taken ill in the first place. So art the curative powers of Brazilian medications.

This morning, I received my household effects shipment. I am not sure how it will all fit into my apartment. While it took the crew of four hulking men merely two hours to unpack and de-trash it all, I am confident it will take me considerably longer to organize. I’m prognosticating days, perhaps weeks. Even months. Who knows? For I am not a soothsayer.

I went to McDonald’s around 11 AM, that I might purchase another bacon double-cheeseburger for sustenance. While making my way, I mentally war-gamed how to establish favorable conditions in the battle-space that is currently my living room. Along the way, I saw a man sitting on a skateboard. Smurf-height he, with a dyed-blond mullet reminiscent of the 1980s wrestling tag-team Rock and Roll Express and two arms sleeved with poorly-finished tattoos. I initially dismissed him as a punk teen truant from class. But upon closer inspection I saw the lines chiseled upon his face, his sunken cheekbones, the look of resignation making no effort to conceal itself in his eyes. It was a grown man begging for petty cash. He was sitting on a skateboard and had no legs, which explains his height. Even had he legs and stood erect, I could not envision him climbing taller than 3 feet; the layman physician in me deemed him possessed of a growth deficiency, congenital, ushered along by malnutrition throughout life. I noticed one more thing: he was not talking to anyone. Opening not his mouth to ask for alms, this man remained silent on the sidewalk and, I anticipate, hoped passersby would simply give unto him out of the kindness of their hearts, without asking. As though it were below his dignity to make the request. This man’s suffering and pride touched me, and I resolved that we would lunch together today.

So at McDonald’s I ordered an extra burger and bottle of water. I returned to his spot and approached him. As I walked toward him, this man clutched inward and drew up his arms as though he may need to defend himself an attacker. Could it be that people have struck him, in this state, defenseless in his deficiency? It is true that human cruelty knows no limits, were it so. But I held forth the McDonald’s bag and he dropped his guard, smiled, and offered his hand to me in acceptance. I was fortunate to be wearing sunglasses, for the site of this man’s face shape-shifting from alarm to welcome was not just visible, but palpable, and I felt I might cry. Then we broke bread. Rarely was a word exchanged betwixt us, but when he took first bite of the burger, he did tell me he’d never eaten McDonald’s and had always wondered how it might taste. He kept stopping to examine the burger, sniff it, study it as a jeweler scrutinizes a diamond to ascertain if, indeed, he holds a fugazi.

I worked at McDonald’s for 2.5 years as a teenager. I have eaten it countless times over the course of my life. At one point, I even joined the crowd of holier-than-thou naysayers which criticized (with some degree of accuracy, admittedly) the fast-food monolith for being unhealthy, its caloric and sugar-laden wares detrimental to human welfare when consumed in even occasional quantities. But try telling that to someone who has never eaten McDonald’s, who could never have afforded it otherwise, who associates eating there as an element of inclusion amongst his contemporaries, but who since childhood has been cast out of mainstream society not unlike how a puppy with gimp paw is pushed from the litter while his siblings nourish selfishly at the teet. What we take for granted in privileged society is often an unattainable delicacy for the downtrodden, like this man.

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Thanksgiving in Rio: Reflections on the Nutritional Perversion of a Vessel Already in Despair

Today I witnessed an atrocious act, the kind of human cowardice PETA extremists deem adequate justification for killing in the name of the animal kingdom. An unfortunate quadra-ped was felled by a runaway truck while traversing the street. It lay twitching, gurgling as it sucked ever-shallower breathes while its lungs doubtless spoomed with bile; it vainly clawed at the pavement, a lost battle to conjure the strength to pull itself from the still-transited road and out of harm’s way. Yet the beast lay imprisoned in the final miserable and fleeting seconds of its life, rendered immobile in a coagulating pool of its own blood and excrement.

When it seemed unconscionable that the scene grow any less pleasant, a man sprinted into view, and he did something far beyond unthinkable: he began kicking the creature, spitting on it, insulting it roundly and cursing the beast’s lineage, in particular the “puta que te pariu”. A gathering crowd of slack-jawed yokels intervened not, doing nothing to brake this flagrant disregard for the sanctity of life. And the fact that his barbarous anti-mamallian acts were executed so publicly, and with mighty fanfare on his part, led me to the immediate belief that, indeed, this man had committed similar acts of bloodletting throughout his life – the variety of rat bastard kid who starts with pulling the limbs off daddy long-legs and graduates to stuffing M80s up kitty butts for his own entertainment – yet had never been brought to heel, made to answer for his crimes. I left the scene, disgusted with myself that I, too, did nothing to halt the horror.

At least, this was how it played out in my head. It was a metaphorical man and animal, in reality. If you consider my body the poor beast being kicked while down, and slack-jawed yokels the random passersby with no stake in what iffy substances I put into my own body, then you begin to reconcile a more apt notion of what just transpired at a McDonald’s in Rio de Janeiro.

I have been sick these three days, and verily I declare it: my throat feels like a porcupine has taken up residence, spreading out his spines that he might be more comfortable. I believe some glands are swollen, if I’m not mistaken. The crackling behind my ears is second only in volume to the sounds made by a named American breakfast cereal brand. The weakness I feel in my limbs, to the meaty core of my very corporeal being, suggests that perhaps I ought visit a physician. I have continued exercising even though it yields no triumph of fitness, for my body would be better served guarding the spent energy in reserve for healing instead. I have stayed up late reading or watching movies or checking http://www.blabbermouth.net for the latest metal news, all instead of resting. You would think that the least I’d do is ensure a healthy diet during these days of plague and contagion.

But what did I do instead, thou asketh? I went to McDonald’s and ordered two bacon double-cheeseburgers and a large fry. Plus the most sizable milkshake they offered, and a large Coke as chaser to the terrors running amuck in my tummy. All of this in 98 degree heat with humidity. Oh, and at high noon, when the heat ’twere the worst, the sun mocking fools senseless enough to venture forth into Rio’s streets. Indeed, the poor beast that is my body is unsure of precisely what hit it a few moments ago, but it does feel – in a figurative sense – as though I am beating an ailing animal for no apparent cause.

Thou are aghast, no? Well, to that I respond: is it not the spirit of Thanksgiving to eat myself into a coma? Oh waddling America, I am your dutiful son, come home to say grace and eat ravenously, heartily! I am your product, punctually emerging from a state-of-the-art assembly line oiled by the Golden Corral buffet. I am your anti-nutritional poster child, the 9-year old glutton whose thighs rub together ’til a rash breaks out and who hyperventilates with excitement over the prospect of Taco Day in the school cafeteria!

Never the less, continue eating I shall. America, I am your expatriated representative, fending solo on this holiday and consuming unmeasured quantities of Lord-knows-what in an effort to dull the pseudo-homesickness provoked by nostalgia of his mother’s cooking, his father’s conversation, and the browning Virginia tree leaves as they blow through the front yard on this crisp day back home.

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

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