My review of “Lucy’s El Adobe” by Michele Miles Gardiner
Last night, time warped and the earth tilted the second Marv didn’t heed Ian’s advice. It was the point of no return, when Rod Serling should’ve stepped in to warn us:
“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!”
Little did we know then we had toyed with time travel the night before; our group of four (Marv and Lisa, Ian and I) had successfully stepped back, momentarily, into the 1980s by celebrating the 22nd Anniversary of the movie Tapeheads (the movie brought Ian and me together back in 1987 when he produced one of the movie’s songs and King Cotton introduced us). We watched the film again, remembering that the ‘80s didn’t completely suck. It wasn’t all Flock of Seagulls, Adam Ant, big shoulder pads and neon parachute pants. No, Tapeheads reminded us there was great music. And listening to our old friends from the band the Bonedaddys reunite at the after-party, playing the songs we loved that they played when we were dating, just confirmed they were as funk-fueled and blazing hot as we remembered them to be in the ‘80s. As if I were twenty-two again, I danced all night.
So our time-travel trip was a success. We didn’t leave it in disgust, with the too sweet, flat taste of Bartles and James wine coolers clinging to our tongues. We went back to the past, but returned into the present smiling. Little did we know, we stepped into dangerous territory, setting the time warp continuum off-kilter. So the following evening didn’t go quite as we expected. Here’s our evening Friday night:
As Marv drives from the Valley on the 101, Ian says, “Whatever you do, Marv, don’t take the Highland exit.” Everyone knows, the evening Hollywood Bowl traffic will suck you in, keep you trapped until it spits you out into Hollywood, forever altered – and not in a good way. But Marv doesn’t listen. He ignores Ian’s sage advice, drives onto the Highland exit and plunges us into the hellish pit of metal, glaring headlights and helpless drivers sitting in a mass-stupor.
But we don’t realize things are askew just yet.
“Doe a deer, a female deer…” Lisa and I, both sitting in the back seat, begin singing (after seeing the Hollywood Bowl Billboard’s announcement of a Sound of Music sing-a-long), completely unaware we’re hurtling into another dimension, we naively continue singing more songs from Sound of Music, “High on a hill was a lonely goat herd… Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo…”
After an inconceivable amount of time – minutes? Hours? A few decades? Lisa’s car is spit from Highland out onto Sunset Boulevard. Craving Mexican food and thirsting for margaritas, we drive toward El Compadre, passing the purple neon and blinking lights of the Seventh Veil and its “Live Nude Girls” and the Saharan motel.
Our starving foursome enters El Compadre. Musicians are playing mariachi music. People are smiling. They’re laughing and dipping crispy tortilla chips into chunky red salsa and swigging margaritas into their happy faces. We push through the joyous crowd. They all look so happy, with their chip-eating and margarita-swigging, we want to join them. But we’re told the wait could be an hour, so we decide to drive somewhere else.
And so we fall deeper into a dimension I never imagined it’d be possible to re-visit.
Like zombies, we drive down Melrose toward our destination. As if we don’t live in a city with a wide array of Mexican restaurants, as if we don’t have the power to make choices, we drive on. Nearing Paramount Studios, Marv tells stories of recording at Studio 55. We finally park. We’re stopped right across from where Studio 55 once existed. Closed for years now, it’s the reason we drove to Lucy’s El Adobe. It’s where Marv, Ian and lots of recording artists would go to grab a meal.
But that was back in the ‘70s – over thirty years ago.
“This is where Jerry Brown and Linda Rondstadt would have their tryst,” Marv says as he opens the door to Lucy’s.
We then walk into a room with gloppy amber colored lights stuck to dingy walls, walls littered with bad Mexican motif. On every other inch of the dingy walls are photos of celebrities in frames. I do a double-take. Is that Suzanne Sommers, as Chrissy Snow from Three’s Company, smiling down at me with a pony tail stuck to one side of her head?
While none of us seem impressed with the dated and slightly decrepit atmosphere, we try to find a table. One side of the room’s too dark. The other side’s glaring with light in one corner and dim in another. Unlike El Compadre, there’s no music, no joyous laughter. Some people are seated, but they don’t seem all that happy about it.
Yet we stay.
We’re seated in a room with a too bright TV in the corner, and a very long table of people who seem to have no where better to go. So we join them in their misery, and take our place at a faux-wood, Formica-topped table.
To my right, over Marv’s shoulder, I can’t take my eyes off the bad painting of former California Governor Jerry Brown, circa 1978. He’s in profile, and seems to have an eagle flying out of his nose. But I’m starving and thirsty, so I do my best to ignore it.
Marv mentions again, “Yeah, this is where Jerry Brown and Linda Rondstadt would have their tryst.”
“Marv, do you have some sort of quota to say the word tryst, tonight?” I ask.
Starving and thirsty, we still all manage to laugh.
Finally, a busboy brings us chips and salsa. The watery red salsa is accompanied by a sorry little wooden bowl (the size of a baby’s palm) with about sixteen chips sitting in it. Not great at math, even I calculated that’s only four chips per person.
We each take turns grabbing our first chip. I bite into mine. “Ewww. It’s cold and stale. And what’s with serving them in such a puny bowl? Haven’t they updated since the ‘70s? Don’t they know we now expect bucket sized drinks and huge baskets of chips?”
Lisa nods. Ian rolls his eyes. Marv quotes Woody Allen from Annie Hall: “It was such bad food, and so little of it.”
With scenes from Annie Hall drifting through my mind, I zone in on the teeny tortilla chip bowl and realize that the bowl is exactly the same type my mom had back when I was a kid… in the 1970s. I look up and stare at Jerry Brown and the eagle flying out of his nose… I shake my head. What decade are we in?
Now Lisa looks frustrated, staring at the tiny wooden bowl. “This isn’t right. The chips are gone, but we still have lots of salsa.”
We all nod. It’s wrong. But I think our waiter won’t be bringing us chips very soon, because he’s probably thinking “Hey, why should I give these people decent service? I cater to the hoity-toity elite, like Jerry Brown, Linda Rondstadt, Chrissy from Three’s Company, the kid from HR Puff-n-Stuff, the Breck Girl, Mr. Whipple from the Charmin toilet paper commercial…” (Screaming,”Please!!! Don’t Squeeze the CHARMIN!!!” Also several other vintage CHARMIN Adverts below)
Finally, we get more stale chips. But now we’re out of salsa. It must’ve evaporated since the time the waiter last visited.
Lisa’s not happy. “Now we have chips, but no salsa.”
We all nod. This is very, very wrong. The chip to salsa ratio is completely askew. We’re in a bad cycle. The waiter may bring salsa, but then we’ll have no chips; then he might find time to bring chips, but then we’ll have no salsa. Lisa’s exactly right.
That’s when I have my epiphany: Of course the chip to salsa ratio is out of whack. The entire night is off-kilter!
Doesn’t everyone see? We’ve been plummeted back into 1978, when Jerry Brown was Governor! That explains the artwork and dated Hollywood “celebrities” on the walls.
We finally get our small (which are supposed to be large, but only according to a long gone era’s measurement), strangely perfumey margaritas. The below average tasting drinks just confirm my discovery of our time travel error. The only way this restaurant could still be opened in the present era of bigger, better, more choices and online restaurant review sites – it’s still 1978. There’s no other explanation for how this place could survive.
The waiter never brings the guacamole Marv ordered and my chicken mole enchiladas taste like they’re drenched in Nestle’s chocolate syrup.
Who else would accept food and service this bad? The only people who would return again and again to this place are people who’ve sat in gas lines due to the oil crisis, people who’ve worn polyester pant suits on a hot LA day, people who’ve hustled to disco music, people who laugh at Three’s Company and listen to their eight-track tapes of Abba and Captain and Tennille. These are the people who don’t complain when served sixteen stale tortillas chips. They don’t know any better! They don’t have online review sites like Yelp and CitySearch. Heck, the personal computer, for them, doesn’t even exist yet!!
I keep this information to myself, that we’ve been hurled deep into the darkness of the disco-era doldrums.
Lisa thinks the only thing off-kilter is the chip to salsa ratio. I don’t want to panic her any further. Ian, Lisa and Marv only know the night is out of balance, and it all just feels wrong, as if something’s amiss… but they can’t figure out what.
We can’t wait to get out of this place. We debate what sort of tip to leave and then scamper out as quickly as possible.
(The “Let’s Do the Time-Warp Again” sequence from the film “Rocky Horror Picture Show”)
During the drive back to the Valley, on the 101, Ian talks about how horrid the service was. Marv says, “Yeah, we only tipped them fifteen percent. Ha!”
“Yeah,” I say, “And when we tipped them we didn’t really feel like doing it. That’ll show ‘em!”
I laugh to cover my fear that we may never return to the year 2010, where people are served large baskets of tortilla chips, where little joyless crap-hole restaurants could never survive on their reputation thirty years ago.
I start to worry: will I go home and find someone’s Ford Pinto parked in my driveway? Will it be my home at all? Or will I have to revisit 8th grade in Northern California, wearing Ditto Jeans and smearing my lips with Bonne Bell strawberry gloss as I hum “Dreamweaver” to myself on my way to school… dreaming about my future? Please, no!!
As we hurtle toward the Valley on the 101, the four of us – as if one – begin chanting nonsense like we’re Yoko Ono quadrupled: Yoko Ono Ono Yoko…aaaaaaaahhhhh…. Uhhhhhhh…. It’s fun. It’s goofy. What are we doing? Are we purging the seventies from our systems?
Few people in the seventies would dare give Yoko the time of day after she (or so she was blamed) tore apart the Beatles. Maybe our homage to Yoko is re-altering the time warp continuum… getting us back into balance. We weren’t supposed to return to 1978. Just as we’re now not supposed to howl and squawk like Yoko. What sane people would want to do either? Are we sane? Well, that’s up for debate, but…
We drive up to Marv and Lisa’s house. Marv’s very own car is in his driveway, and it’s not an AMC Pacer!
We’ve done it! We’ve come back to the future – to the present. Never again will Lisa have to suffer the outrage of chips without salsa, because we, the people of today, have learned to put chips in large baskets. We’re back to where computers have come far beyond Pong! Never again will I take our present day for granted. I’m done dabbling in time travel even if there was some great music back then and Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, John Travolta, and Linda Rondstadt were all hot.
Anyway, who knows, maybe I just hallucinated the entire time warp thing, got carried away with all the Jerry Brown art and musty Mexican motif.
Ian and I say goodbye to Lisa and Marv. We get in our car (What a relief! It’s not a Pinto!), and drive home.
Excited to be back in my very own place, I run to my computer and get online to post a review of Lucy’s El Adobe. It’s succinct: “Just Don’t!!!!”
Standing behind me, as I type my last “!” is Rod Serling:
If you think it’s possible to return to the past without any consequences, think again. Once it’s done, everything you know will go out of balance… in the Twilight Zone.
Post written by Michele Miles Gardiner
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