Category Archives: Food



Admit it, we all wanted to be him.
Admit it, we all wanted to be him.

If you can’t trust Billy Dee Williams, friends, who can you trust? I mean, this man brought an intergalactic Rat-Pack-style cool to the Star Wars saga. Han Solo may have been the growling Sinatra, but Lando was Dean Martin, baby, all the way down to his patent leather space boots. And you know he would have been getting Princess Leia drunk if he’d had half a chance. And then there are the commercials…

With this in mind, I decided to try out Billy Dee’s favorite brew, Colt 45 Malt Liquor, only $2.85 for a 40 0z. bottle. (Yes, I could have gone with the tall boy can for about a buck less, but if you don’t drink Colt 45 out of a fawty, it just doesn’t count. )

Not the same.
Not the same.

The lovely Shell Station On Beltline, my usual stop for supplies when doing research for Cheap Drinkin’ Wednesday, was running a special on Uncle Ray’s Sour Cream & Onion chips, so I decided just to make a hootenanny of the whole thing and go all in. My total outlay was right around $4.00, which seemed right reasonable for an afternoon of fun and refreshment.


Breakfast Of Champion Drinkers
Breakfast Of Champion Drinkers

Taking the Colt 45 bottle in hand makes one feel at one with Billy Dee. Indeed, it inspires one to channel one’s inner Billy Dee; to hold the golden flagon slightly aloft, beckoning the fates and the slinky beauty at one’s side to come hither and partake of life, of sustenance, of the elixir that is…COLT 45…

"Works every time..."
“Works every time…”

I have, if I may, shot the 45 a time or two in my youth, (of course those were the days in which getting very drunk very quickly overrode all other concerns) but did not recall much about it either way as I began the sampling. The aluminum twist-off cap didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence, but its scratchy metallic palm-bite was familiar in a nostalgic way.

One thing I had completely forgotten was the amount of foam these babies can produce. Along with a yeasty odor with vinegar undertones, the uncorking (as it were) released a great deal of effervescence, topping off the pour with a head about half the size of the glass. I realize it may be a bit dandified to pour Colt 45 into a glass, but I just can’t see Billy Dee swigging from the jug and passing it to his lady friend.

Mr. Bland, we've had some issues with your specimen...
Mr. Bland, we’ve had some issues with your specimen…

The aroma is, as described, overwhelmingly yeasty, but with an underlying sharpness. You know how sometimes something that stinks also smells oddly good in a weird way? Colt 45 smells rather like cat pee, but not in an entirely unpleasant way.

Now, for the taste test…


Bottoms up...
Bottoms up…
At first it perplexes...
At first it perplexes…
...then the whang kicks in...
…then the whang kicks in…
...then you fear you may be ill...
…then you fear you may be ill…
...followed by a skunky stank that makes you pucker...
…followed by a skunky stank that makes you pucker…
...the bitter finish catches you by surprise...
…the bitter finish catches you by surprise…
...leaving one unsure how to feel about it all.
…leaving one unsure how to feel about it all.

…and that pretty much sums it up. Although not really.

You see, the odd thing is that after a couple of sips, I found myself strangely enjoying it. It’s almost as if the first wave of taste-numbingness had to do its business before I could settle into the drink. It became crisp, almost citrus in its nature, and after about half a glass I found myself quite cheery, indeed. I had a sudden urge to call up old friends I hadn’t seen in years, just to wish them well. I was filled with vast, expansive impulses…to write the world’s greatest novel, to solve the problems of society, to…to…


…and after a few minutes I just wanted to sit down and close my eyes for a bit. This stuff lives up to its name, managing to be cold, steely, explosive, potent, and likely the cause of more than one violent incident. Approach with caution, and don’t try to down the whole thing unless you’re in training. You have been warned.

The Uncle Ray’s chips were quite tasty, albeit with a definite chemical zing beneath the crispy onion-flavored goodness. In fairness, this may have been a residual vapor burn from the Colt 45, which was, by then proving itself to be persistent, indeed. Half a bag of chips, a couple of bites of cold rice pudding and a glass of water had yet to eliminate the 45’s lingering fumes.


In all, I just can’t bring myself to give a full thumbs-down to the Colt 45. It’s a cheap-ass malt liquor that’ll sneak up and punch you in the back of the head, but that’s not always a bad thing. If you’re young and bulletproof and/or just looking to get messed up fast for not much money and devil take the consequences, I recommend giving it a try. Tell ‘em Billy Dee sent you.



Well, it’s been about a month since I last posted, but with all the plasma “donating”, yard sales, scratch-off lottery investments, negotiations over day-old pastries, fighting winos for discarded garments, and other activities related to being Broke In Columbia, I’ve been rather busy. If memory serves, we left off with the first half of the “Cricket/Thicket Whoop-De-Doo” having just finished, and The Girl and I were headed for our next stop…


The ubiquitous Lizard’s Thicket, that gustatory temple to all that is fried, cooked with bacon grease, and/or slathered with butter, beckoned with its promise of down-home goodness and mouth-puckeringly sweet tea. Its desserts, each gooey and carrying a truckload of calories, awaited us, as did the warm, buttery corn muffins reminiscent of those grandma used to make (if your grandma made better cornbread than mine did). As heart-stoppingly tasty as the food is, what really drew us to the Ticket was the potential for theatre verite. If one is inclined to people-watch, the Thicket offers a cultural and societal cross-section which can provide hours of free entertainment. But first, the food…


If one is vegan, overly health-conscious, or simply not into southern/soul food, there are salad options, but the pickings are admittedly slim. For those of us who have long adopted the “to hell with it, something’s gonna kill us all eventually” mentality toward eating, however, the cornucopia of choices is bounteous, indeed. The Girl went with what I like to call the “gravy plate”. Country fried steak with gravy, mashed potatoes with gravy, and some other vegetable I can’t recall, largely because it was either gravy-colored or hidden beneath the gravy. She was kind enough to share, allowing me to reinforce my long-held belief that (all together now) BROWN FOOD TASTES GOOD. You could put Lizard’s Thicket gravy on an old tire and it would taste good. Maintaining the monochromatic theme, I followed suit with fried chicken, rice & gravy, blackeyed peas and fried okra. I suppose the okra was technically green under the fried part, but that still counts as brown. Actually, it was red after I put ketchup on it. (Stop making that face. It tastes good.) The corn muffins did not disappoint, each giving off the faint scent of bacon retained from what I envision as ancient muffin tins, greased liberally before being filled with cornmeal mush and popped into the oven. (I frequently imagine the kitchen staff dancing around in cheerful Disney-inspired kitchenwear and singing musical numbers about the joys of cooking. The world in my head is a jolly place.)


I doubt this really happens

The grand total for this feast was around $20, including tip, which would be enough to qualify the Thicket for “Broke-Friendly” status, but we haven’t even started to talk about the entertainment factor. You see, EVERYBODY goes to the Thicket. Cutting across social, economic, and cultural lines, this melting pot of humanity provides almost limitless people-watching opportunities.

Of particular interest to me was the rather large woman tucking into a cheeseburger two tables over while maintaining an ongoing monologue about her (presumably) husband’s shortcomings. Referenced only as “Earl”, this poor soul is apparently unable to get ahead at work, maintain his youthful physique, communicate intelligently, sexually satisfy his wife, tie his own shoes, or “do a gottdamp thang rite” in the eyes of this woman. She was accompanied by an anorexic octogenarian whose obvious deafness gave her the ability to bear the monologue cheerfully, interjecting a vague comment of attention every few minutes.

“Well, ah’ll tellya pore ole Earl just caint. Do. Sheeut. I done tolt that man a hunnerd times if he don’t stann up ferhsself, ain’t nobody gonna. He just won’t listen. He. Will. Not. Listen. He hangs out all nite drankin with them boys from the tire plant an thennhe jus’ cain’t thank clear the next day and gits all messed up at work an’ I told him, I did, I says Earl. Earl, I says, you cain’t drank like that no more, and he just sit air n’says uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh. Idee Claire, I’m ‘bout done withim…”

“My, my.”

“Oh, that ain’t the HALF uvvit! Last weekend as soon as the race was over, I tried to get him inner ested in you know…gettin’ bizzy. He just fumbled n’ pooted around fer a minit and FELL A-DAMN-SLEEP! Now how am I s’posed to feel ‘bout a man whut I cain’t even git to stay awake? An I had on that new Snoopy nightgown I got from the Walmart an’ everthang.”

“I see…”

“An lemme tellya sumpin’ else. He was s’posed to get his psoriasis checked out last time he went to the doctor, and he didn’t even do that rite! I mean, he got the rangworm looked at, but didn’t say nuthin’ bout the other. I swear ‘fore gawd, Earl could screw up a one-car funeral…”


how I imagine Earl’s homelife

…and so forth. After a few minutes the novelty of hearing Earl’s shortcomings catalogued in detail grew thin and I shifted my attention to the group I called the pissed-off Cleavers. Remember the family on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? Well, they were there, but each was angry with the other three. Mom and Dad and two sons sat in strained semi-silence. At a glance they appeared strikingly normal. Very middle class, well-dressed and polite, they could have posed for a Chamber of Commerce ad or church brochure had it not been for the stony-faced irritation that radiated from their midst. Monosyllabic responses to similarly brief questions were offered in a semi-grunt and no eye contact was made by anyone. Amazingly, given their palpable disdain for each other, they all ordered dessert after their meal, only to consume it in a presumably angry silence. Of course The Girl and I gave them a backstory including wildly unlikely infidelities, drunken brawls in the manicured front yard, and domestic violence that generally ended with gunfire.

Old people tend to enjoy visiting the Thicket, which gives rise to the inevitable Old Guys Drinking Coffee table. Usually the largest table in the room, this oasis is the opposite of that shared by Complaining Large Woman and Deaf Companion. Here merriment and jolly laughter reign supreme, as do old stories of exploits back in the day. Well-worn cardigans and snazzy driving caps are de rigeur, as is at least one medical ailment which will be discussed in great detail. I believe they get extra points or an honor of some sort for working the terms “goiter”, “the gout” and other such references into the conversation. There was a time in my life when the members of the Old Guys Drinking Coffee table seemed unspeakably ancient and decrepit. Now they just seem old. Give me a few more years and a pair of yellow sansabelt pants, and I’ll be slurping Sanka with the rest of them.


Having finished our meal and people-watching, The Girl and I passed on dessert, knowing we would be back…for we had other thrifty adventures and cost-efficient merriment to pursue. Stay tuned for more…


A Night Out: Part I

By Frank Thompson

The sun was hanging low in the sky and expectations tingled with possibilities as The Girl and I arrived at the first stop on our big evening out. Having opted for what I have dubbed the “Cricket/Thicket Hoop-De-Doo”, we were to enjoy cocktails at one of Soda City’s finest emporiums of sundries and refreshments, followed by dinner at the shrine to all that’s southern, fried, and artery-clogging good…


Upon arrival at the L’il Cricket, one is immediately taken in by the delightful kitsch and pluckiness of the whole thing. The jaunty little chap in the cocked top hat, antennae raised as if in a cheery hello…the saucy non-contraction “L’il”, which always puts me in mind of a cockney newsboy or minor character in a Little Rascals short… (I must tell you all sometime about L’il Douglas, a person a couple of my friends thought they had accidentally killed under a mountain of dirt as children, only to see him emerge unscathed, still pretending to be a dog. Another story, another time).

Where was I? Oh yes, the L’il Cricket. It greets one with a promise of riches untold, assuming one’s idea of riches is a Snickers, some beef jerky, a pack of Marlboro Lights, two lottery tickets, this month’s AutoTrader, a pickled egg, a couple of fuzzy blue dice air fresheners and a Yoo-Hoo. If I just described your last year’s Christmas stocking, no offense intended.

Before feasting on the cornucopia of delights inside the Cricket, you will certainly wish to stroll the patio area, stopping to greet the locals who frequently congregate near the entrance, discussing issues of the day. Don’t let the fact that these issues often involve spare change, recently-found items of clothing and peeing in a milk jug deter you from having a listen. Many interesting things are to be learned here.

This is street theatre at its finest. Raw, unhinged at times, and generally improv-oriented, the plots are sometimes exciting, yet frequently similar. I have, myself, been told on at least six consecutive visits by a chap I call “Squeaky” (due to his low grumbling voice) that he needs only “a few more dollars” for bus fare to get to his wife and six children, who remained with the car when it broke down.


The wife and children in reference have now been waiting for over a year, through cold and heat and wind, presumably without food or water. (Given my twisted sense of humor, I always envision one large skeleton and six small ones sitting roadside, with a “Have A Nice Day” bumper sticker on the car.) Having seen Squeaky in other places around town, I am tempted to have a “Broke Down Car Tour” t-shirt printed for him, listing all the locales he’s played…L’il Cricket, BP on Gervais, Richland Mall Shell Station…he’s been on the road with this show all season.

Another favorite is Old Annie, who, for better or worse, will go religious on you in a hurry. A dollar bill gets prayers and blessings showered upon the giver, but God help (pun intended) the poor shmuck who shrugs and says “sorry”. Curses and Biblical plagues going back to Moses and beyond are invoked, along with the suggestion that hell eternal awaits those who spent money on M&Ms Peanut candies and a Bud Light Lime instead of sharing with the less fortunate.



Pale and wild-eyed, Old Annie is always in motion, swinging her stick at trees, those who dare to get in her way, passing squirrels, or sometimes just at nothing. She speaks in a bizarre dialect that sounds not unlike Gullah by way of New Jersey, mostly mumbled and peppered throughout with profanity. Her gnarled grasp is a firm one, especially when loudly thanking Jesus for the $1.19 you just handed her, and her voice is loud if not particularly soothing.

“Oh s#it! Gawdblessooo chile. De lord done sent BLESSINGS unto me, dat the truth. Dere is some good damn peoples in the WORLD, not all like that muddahfuggah what STOLE MY RAZOR!!!”

I can, of course, think of very few people over three years old and not having a seizure less qualified to own a razor, but when Old Annie told me this tale of woe, I simply nodded with grave concern and understanding.

The interior of the Cricket is intimate and cozy, with a definite sense of mood established by the overhead fluorescent lighting. Those among the patrons who recently found themselves released from prison will feel quite at home among the many security cameras and the no-nonsense demeanor of the counter clerk as well as the quality of hot food on offer.  I had to gasp and reflect for a moment on seeing Benji, Star Wars, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark in their original theatrical runs when I caught sight of the squeaky rotating hot dog carousel that I thought only existed in the movie theatres of the 70s and 80s.

Ancient dust-covered boxes of Ramen noodles share shelf space with bags of potato chips and Cheetos that barely have time to settle before being snatched up by ravenous kids or stoners with the munchies.


The occasional bruised apple, pair of bananas or random mango can be found resting on the countertop, next to the cash register. What the hell is up with that, I cannot say.  Did the clerk decide to bring the contents of his crisper drawer to work in hopes of making a couple of bucks? Is there a slightly-dinged fruit market of which I am unaware? How does the supplier make any money when so few items are kept in stock? Did he find the fruit outside and just add it to the inventory? The world may never know. (Oh, and for the Gen-Xers who got the reference, yes, they have Tootsie Pops.)

At last the cocktail hour was upon us, and The Girl and I took a few minutes to peruse the offerings from the bar. Well, it was actually more like a mid-sized walk-in cooler, but there you are.) Wines of recent vintage (Yum! April!) were to be found, alongside the standard Bud/Miller/Coors and even an import or two. Granted, they were priced at convenience store rates, which means roughly twice the grocery store price, but no matter…we had drinking to do, and this was clearly a place that could accommodate us.



Of special interest was the prominently-displayed row of “Forties”, those indelicate yet oh-so-satisfying beerlike bottles of torpedo juice that go so well with Funyuns, domestic disturbances, lost weekends in Topeka, and tattoos of indeterminate origin. I selected from among these worthies an insouciant little Olde English 800, complete with a semi-dampened brown paper bag as an accessory, while my lovely companion opted for a playful Boone’s Farm Colline des Fraises purchased in tandem with a “Little Red Solo Cup” not unlike the one of song- lyric fame.


If one is in need of pornographic videos, there are several from which to choose on a rotating rack near the back of the Cricket. While these titles appear to be somewhat beyond the mainstream, even for the nekkid movie industry, one must applaud the entrepreneurial spirit clearly embodied by the producers. While I would never suggest that Amateur Booty #14 and Here Comes The Mailman, Part 19 were shot simultaneously, with the same actors and set, such does seem to be the case. While I wish only the best for the careers of Edmund “Tripod” Jones and Dakota Juggs, they may want to sign with a more discriminating studio if they seek the kind of widespread distribution (pun most definitely intended) enjoyed by the bigger stars whose movies actually make it to the internet.


Having paid up and made our farewells, The Girl and I briefly considered investing in either a pine tree air freshener or Yosemite Sam mudflaps for future gift-giving occasions, but decided time was getting away from us, and repaired to the car for our aperitifs. Both were rather heady, but manageable when handled with care. The Olde English definitely put one in mind of something William The Normand would have swilled from an earthen grog chalice, while the Boone’s took us back to high school with all its upchucking-in-the-bushes-no-mom-I-swear-I-haven’t-been-drinking nostalgia. Tossing Old Annie a buck and a crisp salute as we drove away, we were showered with the love of the deity by way of His profane, croaking prophet of the convenience store parking lot. Next stop, dinner…

To be continued…