Monday, November 12, 2007

Big Mexican Food, Little Hair

Eatonwood, NJ – The waitress deposited the black granite bowl of fresh salsa and the basket of warm, fresh chips before me. As Jerry Seinfeld once said about his reaction to fresh bread in a restaurant, “it was like I was alone in a hotel room in Milwaukee.”

She was lucky to get her hand away fast enough.

It has been too long since I had a good Mexican meal. Israel is a nice country, but I haven’t found a decent burrito, nacho, huevo, or enchilada in four months of searching. I tried to pretend like I had a good burrito a few months ago. But who was I kidding? There were no beans or cheese, it was a wrap (made by a nice lady), and I was desperate.

It wasn’t a hotel room in Milwaukee, but I was alone in the dining room of a Mexican restaurant somewhere near Deal, NJ last night. The restaurant had a small bar area with a couple of TVs, and I would have bellied up, but there were eight obnoxious JETS fans screaming their faces off. The JETS weren’t playing, but there were fantasy football issues at stake. Clad in green shirts and JETS baseball hats, they needed Peyton Manning to throw six touchdowns, not six interceptions. They wanted LaDanian Tomlinson to run for four touchdowns, not four yards. Obviously, the outcome of the game didn’t matter.

So I sat in the empty dining room and attacked my food. Not just for the speed and ferociousness with which I ate those chips and then my enchiladas, but for my anti-social tendencies, I felt a little like an axe murderer who hadn’t eaten in a few days. I finished my food in seven minutes and then had to wait for George, the town’s cab driver to come back and get me.

While I waited, I positioned myself so that I could see half of a TV through a little window into the bar. I sat there quietly, in my coat, for 25-minutes while the JETS fans lived it up in the bar.


Axe murderer.

I just haven’t gotten much sleep since I wedged myself into the second to last row of a Tel Aviv-Atlanta flight in the wee hours of Friday morning. Tired, cranky, and a little sick, the prospect of hearing “J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!” from close range was enough to make half a TV screen ok.

Besides a good Mexican meal, my trip home has also included a good haircut. My overgrown mullet has been corrected. “The September Surprise” i.e. “the Massacre at Damascus Gate,” i.e. my latest bad overseas haircut, never really grew in. The sides just didn’t come back and the top and back kept getting longer. This past year, Israel started professional baseball and football leagues. If they do hockey, I would have been a first round draft choice on looks alone. They at least would have found room for me as a mascot; until Friday afternoon, I looked like the missing Hanson brother.

My brother’s wedding is next week and those pictures are going to be for life. I couldn’t take the risk of having the haircut fixed in Israel. So I waited for my trip home and went to Gino’s in Squirrel Hill. Here’s an exact quote from Gino:

“What happened here in the back?”

I just don’t know.

Gino fixed me up and I’m now ready for the wedding. But here’s an interesting twist – they confiscated my hair product at the Pittsburgh airport yesterday on my way to my first book talk in New Jersey. It was 150ml and the limit is 100!

Aside: In Israel, where a guard checks your bag at the entrance of every building, you don’t have to take your shoes or belt off at the airport. Here, I think we are one step away from walking through airport metal detectors in our underwear.

I understand that we are working off of the premise of “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” and I cooperate because people are doing their jobs and the intent is right. But when you are on a plane, do you feel safer because you know all the other passengers have had their shoes and belts run through a metal detector? Or can you fall asleep because you know that the person next to you doesn’t have more than 100ml of contact lens solution or hair gel with them? I just hope some would-be terrorist doesn’t try to get on a plane with a bomb stuck up his ass.

So, they took my gel -- which left me at a NJ supermarket last night trying to find some product. There were so few choices that I ended up with Queen Helene Cholesterol Conditioning Styling Gel. According to the back of the tub I bought (no travel sizes), I am now conditioning and protecting my over-processed and chemically treated hair with Cholesterol.

Talk about living dangerously, forget backpacking through the Middle East, I’m rubbing cholesterol into my hair!

I guess I really only have one question, whose cholesterol is this?


Anonymous said...

I have a jar of Queen Helene Cholesterol Conditioning Creme under my sink. It was super cheap. (Sometimes I spot the Queen Helene products in the dollar store, next to the Crest from Mexico or China.) I bought it ages ago thinking I'd use it to deep condition my hair every so often. I remember the stylists would coat my skin around the hairline with this stuff back when I got perms(yeah, I know, but it was the 80s.).

From the layer of dust on top, and the fact that it's almost completely full, I guess I used it once. The first three ingredients are water, stearyl alcohol,and mineral oil. Mineral oil? No wonder this stuff took forever to rinse out. Cholesterol comes a bit later, and they threw in some urea for good measure.

Ben said...

KC, that's a great Queen Helene's story. I thought I was the only one out there. I'm left feeling ripped off though. I paid at least $2.67 for this tub of gel which I have now taken to 6 cities in 5 days. And yes, I keep checking my luggage so that I can keep the Queen Helene's look!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

Me and my sister own one of the only "authentic" mexican food places in Israel, and for that matter in the middle east. It's on Bograshov 39, Tel Aviv. 03-620-4466
We are from California, and help a lot of Americans in your predicament. Burritos with homemade refried beans, Hot nachos, cold salsa - a dream??? No, a reality. Tel Aviv is a lonely spot when in need of a burrito. Vicky

Ben said...

Vicky -
I'm there. Thanks-