Friday, February 13, 2009

Viva Chilito, Dream Team Triples, Redneck Wendy's, and Rent a Box

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

What ever happened to the Chilito?

Let's flashback to the early 1990s. I ate at Taco Bell frequently during college. One of my favorite items was the 79 cent Chilito. I usually ordered two of those during my dining experiences at the eatery we also referred to as South of the Border. The Chilito was essentially a chili cheese burrito. Since I had an aversion to veggies, the Chilito was the perfect item for me to feast on. It contained just sauce, cheese, and beef. Not one veggie like offensive shredded lettuce or e. coli crusted tomatoes.

Chilitos? Heavenly. Delicious. With the right amount of spices, cheese, and meat.

One day, I went to Taco Bell and the Chilito had vanished from their menu. What the fuck? It turned out that comedian Paul Rodriguez had been taking shots at Taco Bell in his stand up routine. Rodriguez was born in Mexico and grew up in East Los Angeles. He busted on Taco Bell for using Mexican slang for one of their products. He pointed out that a chilito was also known in some circles as a little penis.

The suits at Taco Bell quickly abolished the Chilito. They renamed it Chili Cheese Burrito. How lame. Some franchises removed the item from their menu altogether. Damn racists could not bring it to sell small penis burritos on their menu.

Ah, the Chilito. How I missed thee.

I stopped going to Taco Bell shortly after I moved to Seattle and did too much acid and read too many anti-corporate and "fast food is evil" books. Besides, there was a chain called Burrito Loco which served huge ass burritos that could feed you for an entire day.

In Los Angeles and Vegas, Taco Bell was an afterthought. If I considered any sort of Mexican food, I went to El Pollo Loco instead. I can't even recall the last time I went to Taco Bell. Perhaps a late-night Charlie-fueled bender a couple of years ago when we drove around Hollyweird in search of something that was open.

* * * * *

In the summer of 1992, I lived in Atlanta and shared an ice cream truck business with Feldman, one of my fraternity brothers. The summer of 1992 featured the Barcelona Olympics. The big story that year surround the first incarnation of The Dream Team.

For the first time ever, professional basketball players were allowed to compete for the gold. It was a rule that changed due to constant pressure from the US basketball officials who were embarrassed after two humiliating loses. The US men's squad, made up of a bunch of college stars such as David Robinson, got stomped by Brazil (and Oscar Schmidt who dropped 46 points) in the 1987 Pan American Games. The very next year, the men's team lost to the Russians in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The Americans won the bronze medal that year, but that was an embarrassment upon the US basketball community.

So the Dream Team was going to save America's dignity in the all American sport. Corporations like McDonald's cashed in on the hoopla and gave away souvenir cups with their meal deals. I ate at McDonald's four or five times a week back then (when I wasn't eating at Wendy's or Taco Bell) and I particularly loved the Triple cheeseburger special for $3. Fries, souvenir cup, and a triple cheeseburger for a mere $3. Best deal in Atlanta.

The back of our ice cream truck was filled with souvenir Dream Team cups and empty boxes of ice cream.

At the end of the summer, I wrote several pages of an unfinished screenplay that I based on my experiences as an ice cream man. I never completed the project but I think it would make a clever short film someday.

* * * * *

I lived within walking distance to Wendy's when I lived at the Redneck Riviera during the first summer that I moved to Las Vegas. I must have eaten there five times a week out of sheer laziness and convenience. The young black woman who worked the cashier knew me because I came in so much. I usually ordered "the usual" or something different. The usual was the #6 or a spicy chicken sandwich with a Biggie sized iced tea and fries. The something different was usually some sort of double cheeseburger with bacon and no lettuce.

On days that it was crowded, I brought my sandwich back to my room to eat. On days that Wendy's was not crowded, I ate it there in order to take advantage of the free refills on iced tea.

Some of the poorest of the poorest folks who lived in the Redneck Riviera popped into Wendy's and not to buy food. The usually went into Wendy's to use the bathroom. They were so broke that they frequented the $1 menu on McDonald's one block away. I once saw a couple of kids rush in and run out with a hand full of yellow napkins. What they needed them for, I had no clue.

* * * * *

I would never buy real food at Jack in the Box. I only venture in there for beverages and the occasional shake. Usually after writing all morning and afternoon, I head over to the Jack in the Box down the street for a big assed iced tea. I slowly drink that over the course of the evening.

I have to get to the Jack in the Box before the sun sets. You never want to be caught inside Jack in the Box there after dark. That's when the CHUD people come out of the sewers and order Teriyaki bowls.

Even at Jack in the Box, they have been slashing their work force. They installed a brand new computer kiosk and cut down on a cashier spot. You placed orders from an ATM like machine which accepted cash.

On the walk back to our apartment down the street through the slums of Beverly Hills, I noticed the plethora of 'For Rent' signs that were propped up on the front lawns of different apartment buildings of all sizes that lined our block. Apartment buildings in the neighborhood are nothing like you'd see in New York City. It's more like a massive two-story building that was broken down in six to eight units. There were a lot of smaller types that looked like a two story house that was split into two or three apartments.

As I walked around the neighborhood the last couple of weeks, those 'For Rent' signs became more and more visible. Three bedroom and two bath. Two bedrooms and two baths. And lots of one bedrooms available. Heck, there have been two opening in our apartment building for several months. The owner keeps dropping the price every month by $50. No one wants to move in.

"No one is moving to L.A. anymore," mentioned Nicky.

The entertainment industry has been slashing jobs and any of the dream chasers (actors/musicians/model types) that are moving to Hollyweird for the first time were not going to live in our neighborhood. It was too expensive and for the price, they could find something cheaper in the Valley.

A homeless guy pushed a dilapidated grocery cart down the street. Several garbage bags filled with empty cans and bottles were stacked on top of each other. He pushed the cart a couple of feet and stopped in front of a palm tree. He wandered down the alley and rummaged through a dumpster before he repeated the process and went through all of the recycling bins from all the apartment buildings on our block.

Even the housing slump has affected the dumpster diver. More 'For Rent' signs meant less occupants and less garbage and less income for the guy who returned all the bottles.

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