There was a fire in my duplex a month ago. Its costing me thousands of dollars. My profit on the property is wiped out for this year, and maybe next year, too.
The upshot of the fire is that while I live in south St. Petersburg, Florida, my duplex is on the far side of Tampa. Between here and there are many fine eating establishments.
I spent the day at the duplex yesterday receiving fire restoration specialists (dont ask about the delay, you dont want to know). Fortunately there was a bit of cloud cover to break the heat. The expected high in St. Petersburg was 92 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity at 74%. I sat on the front stoop of the duplex, in the shade of the eaves, after one contractor left and the next had not arrived.
At long last, my task was finished and I headed home across Tampa Bay.
I was hungry; I had not eaten breakfast and noon had come and gone. My duplex is about 3 miles from I-4. When I arrived at the intersection, I observed the traffic on the overpass and found that there was little movement. I opted to drive across town on Broadway/Columbus.
As I approached the west side of Tampa, it occurred to me that I was about to pass along Boliche Boulevard, as the western part of Columbus is known. Damn my luck, I had to pass by La Teresita. My mind began to re-read the take-home menu from the Pinellas Park branch of that fine eatery. I had missed the Thursday oxtail special, but Friday held the promise of lamb shanks, lovingly braised for hours and falling off of the bone tender.
When I got to the Lincoln/Columbus intersection, my car seemed to turn in of its own accord. The parking lot was packed, even well after 1:00p.m., but I found a spot in the shade. I must be living right!
There is a waiter at La Teresita (the original in Tampa), that reminds me of Al Pacino. He is fine looking, flattering and flirtatious, which I am sure does not hurt his tips. I was not seated in Al Pacinos section. I began to fret. I received the menu; not only was it not oxtail day, it was not lamb shank day! In fact, there is no lamb shank day at the Tampa location of La Teresita! I would just have to settle for the ropa vieja (life should always be so difficult). When Mr. Not Al Pacino returned, I damned my luck, bucked up, and ordered the ropa vieja with yellow rice and fried plantains.
I had a book to read, but the food appeared almost momentarily, as if by magic.
As I sat eating, I thought of my meal there last week with a girlfriend, while seated in Mr. Al Pacinos section. I thought of the meals that I had eaten there when I worked just a few blocks away from 1993-1998. Eating alone does not bother me much, although I have friends that will not sit in a restaurant and eat by themselves.
The ropa vieja was so good. The yellow rice was mountainous. I dumped it over the ropa vieja bit by bit so as not to lose the flavorful jus. The plantains were glorious as only plantains can be.
When the bill arrived, I tipped Not Al Pacino about 20%, which is customary for me for good service.
Then I went to the register and paid my $6.85 and waddled away with a satisfied grin on my face. My smile persisted miles across Tampa Bay, and spoiled my dinner many hours later.