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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Horror Of The Rice Bowl

 This week saw the premiere of not one, but two new horror shows -- er, that is, TV shows with a decidedly horrific thematic element.  Season Three of The Walking Dead (Sundays, AMC) covers new ground; the characters, instead of squabbling with each other and hanging around the farm like they did most of Season Two, are actually running from zombies and breaking into (rather than out of) a prison. Much fighting, splattering and brains going everywhere ensued, apparently in a quest to find out how much they could get away with on basic cable.  Answer: Quite a bit.  Well, that is to say, nobody's complained too much yet.  And the first episode ended on a monstrous (er, so to speak) cliffhanger that had me doing the long slow blink not once but a couple of times.

Then on Wednesday on FX we have American Horror Story: Asylum.  In case you missed it, last year's AHS was all about teen angst, cheating husbands, scary household help and Jessica Lange.  This year's AHS seems to be all about institutionalized homophobia, serial killers, Nazi doctors and Jessica Lange. Because too much Jessica is never enough, and Jessica as a frustrated nun with a cane and a set of keys is, well, pretty scary.  But during AHS, I started having the same horrible thought that plagued me during The Walking Dead.  The thought was: "Why am I watching this?"

Because, honestly, I wasn't enjoying it.  Them.  Whatever.  I liked them last year.  Did all the stuffing leach out of them between last year and this year?  Or are scary TV shows I used to like falling victim to the same strange syndrome as horror novels I used to like?  Surely not.  Surely we can blame Joe Hill for that last one; I got three-quarters of the way through his truly terrifying Horns before I came uponst the scene that did it, that carved a bright red wound into my brain.  Something about a guy being mean to a little old lady and about that I'll say no more, but I haven't been able to pick up a horror novel and look at it the same way since.  Maybe, having spent six or so years helping take care of my mother-in-law at the end of her life and dealing with people who maybe weren't as nice to her as they should have been, it just all became too real for me.  Or maybe it tapped into one of my big ol' Primal Fears, one I've had since early childhood and is probably past-life related because in this life it just doesn't make any darn sense.

But, anyway, I'm not enjoying these shows anymore.  Joan would probably say my disbelief suspenders have snapped again, just like they did during Lost, Season Three Episode Two, and The X-Files, Season Four, the episode styled after Forrest Gump.  I swear, whatever this is it better not happen to horror movies, because I frick'n love horror movies (of the supernatural bent; no slasher films, please) and it would suck to lose those too.  Besides, I'm three behind.  I haven't even seen The Possession yet and Paranormal Activity 4 and Sinister just hit the big screen. 

Speaking of scary stuff, a couple of weeks ago I was called uponst to go with all of my co-workers to a particular restaurant where they cook the food right there at your table and do flashy stuff with the knives.  The restaurant bills itself as being "...of Tokyo" but I sort of have a feeling it was of Racine, Wisconsin originally, and worked itself up to Tokyo the old-fashioned way.  I'd never been to this place, but some of my cow-orkers go there often.  There seem to be two kinds of chefs; the ones that can do flashy, impressive things with the knives, and the ones who can't.  The ones who can't have some running schtick that they use to engage the table, thus preventing conversation and, I dunno, making themselves feel important, I guess.  There were too many of us for one table, so we were seated at two of them.  The other table got the flashy knives guy and we got--yeah.

This particular chef's ongoing monologue was about the different types of people at the table.  The tall guy (one of our guys is 6'5"), the tiny girl (4'10"), the bald guy, the lady with the top that was pulled down so far that a person could lose things.  He kind of went around the table.  If he couldn't find a particular characteristic for somebody, he made one up.  And when he got to me, he--

Oh hell.  You know where this is going, right?  I'm the fat chick.  Inevitably, even if there's a fat guy sitting right next to me (and there was), it's like open season.  But it was subtle.  First he went around filling rice bowls with the fried rice he'd just made.  Er, except for mine, which got about a teaspoon of rice and "You ordered the diet plate, right?"

The truth is, I don't much care for rice.  Never have.  When I have Asian food I usually leave the rice.  I commented to my boss (who was on the other side of me from the fat guy), "Hey, somebody finally gave me the right amount of rice."  But my boss was frowning.  He knew there was something wrong.  He just didn't know what.

Anyway, the chef came back around and said, "Oh, my mistake.  You didn't order the diet plate.  You ordered the special."  He proceeded to cram my bowl with rice.  Probably twice as much as anyone else got.  Rice was falling out of the bowl and onto the table.  Now, the crack about the diet plate I could have just ignored, but this coming back around thing?  Uh, no.

Now it was war.

Thus began one of the weirdest meals I'd ever eaten.  I'd ordered the calamari with vegetables, which was delicious.  I ate the calamari.  I ate the vegetables.  I left the rice.  The chef came back around again and said, "Something wrong with your rice?" "No."  "You should eat it before it gets cold."  "Thanks for the tip." We had this same discussion at least twice, and some variations on the theme.

Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a staff member cajole you about eating your food?  For that matter, have you ever, since you were six, had anyone tell you to clean your plate who wasn't your mother or father?  Can you imagine a chef, the most vaulted member of the kitchen staff, getting in your face about what you had and hadn't eaten?  It was a very strange meal.  And some of the other diners began to notice that it was a very strange meal, including my boss, who asked me what was wrong with my rice.  "Nothing," I said, realizing only later I should have said something like, "I just don't like it when they serve it with so much sarcasm."

At the end of the meal, the chef--yes, the chef, people--told me he'd get me a box for the rice.  Chefs do not do this. This is waitstaff territory.  As soon as he disappeared around the corner I waved for one of the busboys and asked him, very politely, to please take this rice away.  Which he did.  And I managed to get out of the restaurant without running into the chef again.

So I won that round, I think.  But for crying out loud, I don't go to lunch--much less with my cow-orkers--with the idea of going to war over rice.  I came home and told Joan this story and she thought I should write a letter to the manager.  I thought about that, too, but I finally decided against it.  I didn't think he would get it.  I had this feeling he'd look up from the letter, very puzzled, and say, "So something was wrong with the rice?" And I didn't feel like trying to explain the whole thing, anyway.  Instead I wrote this.  And in case anybody in Dallas is wondering, Banner Drive at Merit near Coit Road south of the 635.  You're welcome.


Marcia Wall said...


Jen said...

And that's just the rice. No, I'm kidding.

Anonymous said...

I'd be less inclined to attribute that to a belief suspension issue than a quality issue.

I love the XFiles, every season (yes even the last one, although they sure did make it real hard for me), but Season 4 signaled a tone shift in the show...and not for the better, if you like your straight up horror stuff. Season 3 of LOST is where it lost everyone (except, again me, because I am a masochist, apparently), most critics seem to agree that Walking Dead has gone downhill, and I haven't seen AHS, but it's done by Ryan Murphy, who imo has yet to sustain a good concept past one season.

So I think what you might suffer from is "high standards", which sounds like a good thing, but can be quite unfortunate indeed, since no tv show can live up to them forever. Says the girl who is still watching Supernatural. ;)

PS have you read Joe Hill's comic work? I just read through the first trade of Locke & Key and it was intriguing.