As Saint Patrick’s Day came to a close, I assume that large groups of white people (which I believe is called a Rob Thomas of white people) were staggering home drunk to pass out, only to wake up this morning with murderous hangovers and headaches (also called a Rob Thomas). They’ll reach for their standard hangover cures, and eat their West Coast hangover foods.
It struck me suddenly, as a Southern transplant in Los Angeles, that my hangover food of choice is out of reach. This hit me with a sudden bout of homesickness, which is something that I rarely deal with. So if you find it weird that I’m writing this many emotional words about a regional fast food chicken place in the south, I’m totally with you. I don’t know what’s happening to me. But food has that power, you know?
I am a lone Starr without Texas toast.
Holy shit, I miss Zaxby’s. Wikipedia will tell you that Zaxby’s is “a franchised chain of fast casual restaurants offering chicken wings, chicken fingers, sandwiches, and salads. The company operates primarily in the Southeastern United States with more than 800 locations.” But I will tell you that it was a key location of my college years, instrumental to my personal development, and the first place I think of when too much whiskey is making me pray for death. Also, not a place where I have ever eaten a salad.
Zaxby’s is fast food, but it’s the fancy kind that you sit down after ordering and wait for your name to be called. The morning after the very first time I drank (a senior helpfully filled a Gatorade bottle with vodka and handed it to me and then things get fuzzy), I spent the next morning huddled in a booth at Zaxby’s over a platter of chicken fingers, buffalo wings, fries, Texas toast, and Zak sauce. I don’t understand what Zak sauce is made of. I don’t think anyone really does. Some mysteries are meant to stay unsolved. To me, it tastes like Bowling Green, Ky, which means that it tastes like college and my wife’s grandparents’ house and Christmas and sitting in my department head’s office being reminded that I should probably come to class sometimes and replaying Final Fantasy 9 because I didn’t know what therapy was. To this day when I drink, I do so knowing that it will be without the assistance of chicken fingers and Zak sauce.
It’s weird where food will take your brain, but when I saw a guy sitting on the sidewalk tonight, leaning against a Panera Bread window like his St. Patrick Dayed up life depended on it, the first thing I thought was that he needed some wings and a Cherry Coke from Zaxby’s- just like I did for three break-ups, a phone call to tell my parents I didn’t want to be a priest anymore, an infinite amount of post improv rehearsal lunch meetings, and more breakfasts than I should medically have been able to survive.
He needed to sit in a booth across from one of his comedy mentors, who did not remember marching the streets wrapped in a USSR flag with a Mello Yello box on his head the night before, and eat some fries. He needed to gather around a plastic black plate of wings with friends and retell the tale of the designated party apartment that caught on fire, got renovated, and was then immediately flooded with sewer water. Hell, my first lunch date with my wife was…not at a Zaxby’s. It was at the China One Buffet across the street, but Zaxby’s was right there in the window giving me the nod.
Enjoy your hangovers today. Nurse them the best way you know how. And if you still live within walking distance of your cure all, count your blessings. Life is pretty good.