Meeting her parents for the first time went about as I expected. Her dad answered the door. He stared at me for a second and yelled into the house. “Leslie? You might want to get out here. There's another flaming bag of shit on the porch." He spit to the side but still I felt it on my face.
I smiled. “Hey there. Are you Mr. xxxx?"
“The guys at school are going to be real jealous."
“I got to meet the man who made the most realistic sex toy of all time. Is your wife around? I'd like to congratulate her."
Leslie bounced through the door, squeezing her dad on the way out, “Love you, daddy. I'll be home early." She grabbed my hand and quickly led me across the lawn to the car. Her dad was a statue.
“I think I broke your dad."
“What do you mean?" she asked.
“Nevermind." I pulled the car away from the curb and said, "Where we going?"
We turned a corner and she pointed toward an apartment complex. "That's where Stacy lives. She's gross. I'm like oh my god would it kill you to empty your bathroom trash can once in a while? I mean, really, I love sifting through layers of girl gunk looking for that ring I just knocked off the vanity."
It wasn't pleasant, but at least I knew The Bag of Shit at the Door dad was all talk. I had to wait a few years for a truly crazy dad to take me for a ride:
She was kind of beautiful with big teeth and her dad owned all the private parking lots downtown. His name was Bob and he looked completely normal. He had whitish hair, he was thin, he dressed well, and he talked to me with respect. I couldn't help but look up to him. He was a self-made man who treated me in a way that made me feel I could learn a thing or two.
Is it weird that my dad wants to hang out with you? She asked.
Maybe a little, but I'll do it.
Really? Great! He's going to call you.
He did call, the next morning. We made plans for dinner.
He picked me up in his brand new Cadillac CTS and we took a ride downtown. I didn't ask where we were going and I got a little worried when we headed North on hwy. 55 and exited just after downtown. It was a scary part of the city and we were tooling around in a brand new Cadillac.
What's the name of the restaurant, I asked.
It's called The Haves. Ever hear about it?
Nope, I said. I hope it is good, I said. Don't worry, it is good, he said and we drove East toward the river. The only thing I knew about the area is it was full of tore up warehouses and home to some sort of helicopter refueling pad. No one would ever go here for dinner.
We slowed down on an arbitrary block and the gate of a chain-link fenced parking lot slid open. The building looked like a real piece of shit, but the cars in the lot were nice like Bob's CTS. There was a single light over the solid double doors. The door on the left was dark and heavy like oiled teak with polished silver hardware and there was a sign above, "The Haves." The door on the right was shitty and weathered with several coats of paint peeling, almost falling apart with a crooked sign above - "The Have-Nots." The windows that had been there at one time were boarded up with graying and splintered plywood.
Bob opened the door and ushered me inside. The hostess (gorgeous) greeted me, gave Bob a smile and led us to an open table.
For the most part, it was simply another uber-trendy restaurant. Good lighting, modern design, extremely comfortable chairs. Except the back corner was set up as a trashy liquor/corner store. Dirty shelves filled with generic chips and junk food, bright fluorescent lights, a cash register at the counter in front of a wall of cigarettes and cheap booze. It even had a roped off porn section and a creepy looking guy was sitting behind the counter like he was working.
The food was my first experience with molecular gastronomy (oddly delicious) and the first time I was truly freaked out about every single person in the room.
The restaurant was set up near "Hopeville" - a tent city of homeless people camped out at the Mississippi River floodwall near the Riverfront Trail. There weren't any stores or facilities near the camp so this place was basically set up in a prime location to attract homeless people.
The "Have-Nots" had to walk through the restaurant to the back corner where they would buy generic cigarettes and horrible cheap vodka that, I guess, due to the liquor laws had to be poured into styrofoam cups with lids and straws before they could leave with it.
Five men and one woman walked through the restaurant while we were there eating our $473.92 meal. Bob would stop mid-sentence to comment - "Look at that real bag of shit." It was loud and I laughed, but at his choice of words, not the man. Other tables had things to say, too. Occasionally, and I'm still not sure why, everyone would tap on their water glasses and people would laugh wildly.
He dropped me off at home and I called her.
How was it? Tell me everything. Where did you guys go?
The Haves, I said.
Oh my God, he took you to The Haves?
Yeah, it was pretty unbelievable, I said.
I know, she said, I LOVE that place!