by Mort Poisson

Goddammit, I was hungry! And the last thing I need when I'm hungry is a bunch of self-aggrandizing bullshit in place of a decent meal! If there is one thing, dear readers, that will get you spanked harder than a British politico on holiday in Poisson's column, it's making me pay for sizzle with no steak in sight.

This happened several months ago when I succumbed to popular pressure and donned my Reichl-esque disguise to have a relaxing (or, as it turned out, refluxing) lunch at one of the area's most heralded, immense and immaculate eateries. This well-known, and, evidently, well regarded restaurant boasts "Fine Dining" and screams millions of dollars in it's enormity and elaborate decor. [Could it be that it is located on the banks of the lovely Rock River just over the Riverside bridge?--Curious Mality]

"Wow...this is going to be one expensive gnosh," I thought to myself as I entered the ornate foyer. Suddenly remembering the measly stipend provided me by the Wormwood Chronicles[Not my fault if you don't have the wit to stretch $5--Ebenezer Mality], Idecided to figure out a way to "hitch a ride," as it were. I scanned the various gaggles of suit-and-tie, aging CEO types as they gathered for their business luncheons (more likely than not at tax payer's expense).

Now, I know exactly what you are thinking, loyal reader: "But Poisson...how in the world do you expect pass your anarchist ass off as wealthy scum?"Ahhh...but you underestimate yours truly! Long gone are the days when, for instance, posing for senior high school photographs, I had to improvise suitable attire by holding white piece of cardboard with Sharpie-drawn necktie under my chin. No..these days Poisson owns a right proper suit of clothes! And, as luck would have it, I was wearing it this very day (no fool I!)

As one particularly large group of drags on society was being ushered into one of the "exclusive" dining rooms, I decided to make my move. I suddenly felt like I was in an old WWII movie, and it is the scene in which the G.I. (me) is trapped behind enemy lines in the German uniform. As a line of the Hun marches past, eyes forward, I stealthily leap from the bushes, quietly "take out" the lone straggler, and take my place in formation, warily goosestepping along.

Once inside the downright perverse mahogany appointed room, I suddenly find myself odd man out. Yikes! One chair and place setting shy, and here I am caught with my pleated-and-cuffed pants around my ankles. Oh well...the worst I could expect is the bum's rush by the managment, not an alien experience for me.

But then something happened. A lovely young waitress of vaguely Hispanic features graciously offered me a seat at a side table next to one of the velvet flocked walls. Hmm..my very first big money "power lunch," and I'm relegated to the "kiddie's table." Fine with me, as long as my cover isn't blown. I settled in and got in the spirit of things. I was finally about to experience one of those legendary "two martini" lunches! Let's see...should I order a Bombay Saphire, shaken-not-stirred? Maybe add a cocktail onion and make it a Gibson. That would show a sense of flair! Naaaah. I think I'll keep a slightly lower profile. A simple Beefeater martini, extra dry, will suffice. As I was contemplating the perfect cocktail, I notice an odd trend taking shape. As each of the big shots gave their drink order to the waitress, I heard no mention of the traditional martini or highball. Not even a beer is ordered, for fook's sake!

Coffe, tea, diet soda? What the hell is wong with these guys? I can understand not dragging the secretary you're poking on the side to a public place, but if I were a money grubbing robber-baron like these guys, I'd be tormenting my liver with good booze at every possible opportunity.

Shortly after ordering, a small mixed green salad arrives. It looks decent enough, but before the fork touches me lips, I hear the dreaded phrase "Let us pray!" I look around the room, and see every head bowed. Now, dear reader, I think people have a right to believe whatever fairytales they wish, but, as far as I'm concerned, religion has always
given me the willies. That's just me (no letters, please!). I bow my head in fictitious piety, and patiently wait for the longwinded prayer to end.

I wish they'd kept praying.

The gaseous conversations that ensued as our entrees were delivered made my socialist skin crawl. I heard blather about the new Lexus accouterments; how God had steered them through one or another stock market crisis; how numb-nuts Bush came off "so presidential" during one of his recent stumblefuck incidents. One fatuous member of this unsavory clan seemed really determined to prove himself an A-1 ass hat by starting in on that hoary old boogey man, the "liberal media." I hoped, at least, the food would be good.

When my Bolognese tortellini landed at my table, I was confronted with what appeared (given the color and texture) to be a hamburger crumbled into cream of tomato soup and dumped over mushy, previously frozen tortellini. Deciding that, at $15.95, it couldn't possibly taste as bad as it looked, I dug in. After two or three mouthfulls, a distinct and oddly familiar flavor began to take shape in my mouth. I pondered this taste for a moment, and then it struck me that this stuff tasted like...puke!

I had gagged down a couple more bites, when a vaguely reptilian character in pinstriped suit strolled into the room. I pegged him as the sultan of this gas palace, and he loudly exclaimed "Gentlemen, allow me to introduce Chef..."

I could barely contain my impulse to shout "...Boyardee!", but I kept my trap shut.

As everyone was billing and cooing over this culinary assassin and his pompous boss, I saw my escape route. I tossed my linen napkin onto my plate and slipped out of the room.

After a bit of trouble negotiating the labyrinthine halls of this mega-beanery, I found my way out the door, stomach twirling. My trusty Opel Kadette almost by instinct steered me toward some real food, and soon I found myself standing in front of Dave's hot dog stand on the downtown mall. Of course, sadly, Dave is long gone, but his spirit lives
on in the wonderful simplicity of a perfectly executed Chicago-style dog. With no snooty aires or archaic religious practices insinuated on me, I was free to enjoy a satisfying meal in the fresh air and sunshine. Plus, I could afford to pay for it out of my own pocket!

A couple nights ago I was watching a fawnish, second string weathergirl bumble through the local report. By the time this jittery airhead was finished, I found myself utterly confused as to what Mother Nature had in store for me. I was about to click off the set and call it a night, when the walleyed head of Mr. reptile-food-impressario suddenly popped
on the screen. As the commercial progressed, I recognized in the footage a few of the graying swells from whom I had purloined that substandard meal several months before. Could it be that feeding these corporate
parasites is being sold as a point of pride with this guy? Yep...sure is:

"This is where the captains of industry gather!"

"Sure," I thought to myself. "But who'd want to eat with the motherfuckers?"