A couple of weeks ago, Christion and I were heading to the movies, and before the film we were going to go eat lunch at a place in Wheeling called Avenue Eats, which is supposed to have one of the best hamburgers in the country. We got there, and unfortunately it was closed because a sewage main on that street had the kind of problem that I expect sewage mains have but don’t understand, and I have decided that I will let “sewage main problems” remain one of life’s mysteries that will remain unexplored. I told Christion that there was another place called Ruttenbucks that I had never been to and that if I couldn’t have a gut bomb burger then I was really craving fried chicken, and he agreed with me that that sounded like a good alternative, and since my mom had been to Ruttenbucks, I called her up.
Now my mom loves fried chicken. There used to be a little place called Becks which had the best fried chicken in the world. It was a little family run place nestled into a hollow that only the locals knew about, the kind of place that everyone loves and is sort of the Appalachian version of a supper club and you would think would be around forever but invariably closes down after decades because the owners get old and have health issues and the kids have all moved away because there are no jobs left in the mines or the mills or the glass factories, so it just slowly withers away, with the quality of the food mirroring the quality of the owner’s health, until mercifully it is no more and all that is left are lingering fond memories until even those are forgotten with time. We used to go there a lot, and my sister, like many of the local girls, did a stint as a waitress, and we would always get the fried chicken because when you went to Becks the reason you were going was to get the fried chicken.
So I was driving along with Christion riding shotgun, talking on the phone with my mom, and I had it on speakerphone so that my hands would be free since I don’t want to kill a family of four, and I asked my mom if Ruttenbucks had fried chicken. Without missing a beat, she said “Why? Does Christion want fried chicken?” Christion and I just looked at each other and laughed and I jokingly said “You racist- why would it be Christion who wants fried chicken?” We were both in tears laughing since we knew we had set her up, because in fairness, I never had asked my mom about fried chicken before, and she and I had talked about the place at least a dozen times, and now the one time I ask her if it has fried chicken she is on speakerphone and my black roommate is in the car. We had a good laugh.
Yesterday, I was heading to the grocery store to pick up some items because I was making dinner for my mom and dad because they had their 47th anniversary the other day and I thought I would do something nice, so I asked Christion if he needed anything, and he asked me to pick up some chips, and I asked which kind, and he said “flavored ones.” I responded- “so, barbecue then?” He just looked at me and laughed, and said- “There you go again.” I was then informed that there was a racist stereotype regarding black people and bbq potato chips, one which I had been completely unaware of until then. I then pointed out to him that when I was a kid, there were three types of potato chips. You had potato chips, you had ruffled potato chips, and you had BBQ potato chips. For me, I explained, “flavored” potato chips are default bbq. I can still see the silver and blue and red packaging of the bags from all the summer town/community picnics with the different bowls of chips next to the assorted jello salads and the empty bowl of ambrosia salad near the potato salad spreading salmonella all over the place.
I thought about this and laughed about it last night when I was following along with the #SaturdayNightSciFi with @BlackGirlNerds and @GeekSoulBrother. When I was a kid, the idea of black nerds just wouldn’t have registered. Hell, there was ONE black person in my town who worked for the college, Zoila Airall (she’s moved on to much bigger and better things) and she’s been a family friend since the 70’s or 80’s. It wasn’t even until I joined the Army when I really even brushed up against black culture. Today, my personal friends and my cultural choices and even my twitter timeline are drastically different and a lot richer and more interesting. It’s weird how much things can change in just a few years. And it’s scary how much I still don’t know or understand and never will.
I like things much better now. Sorry if you were looking for any sort of form to this essay or mindblowing insight. I don’t think I have anything else to say so I am just going to hit publish.