By Bud Smith
$100 Worth of Fried Chicken From Goldy’s on Bergen Avenue
8 Stars ★★★★★★★★ ☆ ☆
We just moved here, but it’s obvious, Goldy’s is great. You order your chicken through bulletproof glass. When I walked in, a woman wearing an orange shirt was shouting her order through the bulletproof glass even though the chicken clerk was right there and she could whisper and he’d hear. The chicken clerk hears everything. He said to her, “Fryer broke. Gonna be a bit …” She slammed her hand against a wall full of Lost Dog signs and classified ads. One ad was for cheap trips to Central America, see the volcanoes and waterfalls. I want to go back there.
I’d called in my order hours before and now my house was full of hungry drunk people. A housewarming party. Big shit.
I said to the chicken clerk, “I'm here for pick up. Called it in.” The clerk nodded and disappeared into the back.
Everyone in the storefront was restless and talking amongst themselves like they’ve been coming to Goldy’s their whole life and also have been waiting their whole life for their french fries/mozzarella sticks/thighs, breasts, legs.
When the clerk came back to the glass he gave me my total and the woman in the orange shirt shouted, “I don’t know how you’re gonna fit a hundred bucks worth of chicken through that bulletproof glass!”
The group consensus seemed to be that the clerk was gonna have to break my order down into ten individual Styrofoam clamshells.
But just then there was a series of clicks and the wall that was covered in advertisements and classifieds and Lost Dog signs began to shake, and to everyone’s great surprise, a door burst open and ads and classifieds went flying on the floor.
The clerk passed my chicken through the magical door.
The woman in the shirt yelled, “I’ve been coming here for twenty years and I didn’t know there was a door there!”
Feeding Raw Chicken To Alligators(?)/Crocodiles(?)
10 stars ★★★★★★★★★★
We were going to the rain forest, and along the way the driver was making small talk but there was a language barrier because I don’t speak very much Spanish. Just “bano” and “cerveza” and “bien”. He drives out of San Jose and everything turns green and begins to look like Jurassic Park. The driver asks, “Do you like Aerosmith?”
I give Aerosmith 2 stars but I don’t mention that to the driver. I nod. He says, “I love Aerosmith.” He rubs his nose and smiles and I hope he doesn’t drive us off this Costa Rican cliff. "Aerosmith is so good.” I wonder why he keeps mentioning Aerosmith and rubbing his nose, he doesn’t know my last name is Smith and it’s not because of that. He just seems to genuinely love Aerosmith. Cool. Even in the paradise of Costa Rica, I still give Aerosmith 2 stars. But then he pulls over the car and smiles, “You’re going to love this.” He pops the trunk and in the trunk there is a cooler with raw chicken on ice pack. He hands me some chunks and then we are on the bridge and there are crocodiles below on the rocks. The crocodiles are looking up, like, “Wuzzzzzzz up!?” and the driver launches his chicken down to the alligators or crocodiles, whatever they are, and their jaws snap up and so I launch my chicken down to the crocs on the river. And munch munch crunch crunch. Look how happy everything is in Costa Rica right now! I give him some money and he gives me more chicken from the trunk and I launch that over the side to these hungry monsters and the more chicken I throw, the better I feel about my life. What a correlation. When we get back in the car, I find out that he is calling cocaine Aerosmith instead of calling cocaine cocaine. So, that’s fun.
Vacation in Kentucky
Negative 3 1/2 stars —☆☆☆
I was talking to my friend on the phone and he said that he just got back from vacation in Kentucky.
He got on an airplane and flew from California to Kentucky. On purpose.
“What did you go to Kentucky for?”
“I went on vacation,” he said. “Just to check it out. Louisville."
“Did you go to the Louisville Slugger factory?”
“No, but I do like baseball.”
“You don't have to like baseball to go to the Louisville Slugger factory you just have to like baseball bats.”
“What did you do in Kentucky?”
“I drove around and ate fried chicken wherever I could and everywhere you go there’s a three page bourbon list. Even like, uh, at Wendy’s there’s a three page bourbon list.”
I told him the story about when the door opened at Goldy’s chicken and he didn't laugh. I told him the story about when I was throwing raw chicken off the bridge in Costa Rica and the alligators were eating it, and he didn’t laugh.
I’m glad he didn’t laugh.
Life is not a joke and just because my friend went on vacation to Kentucky, even though he could have went anywhere in the world, I want you to meditate on the fact that life is serious business.
Every day is a random jewel, glimmering. Shimmering. Glowing. And we will all be consumed by the vast uncaring void of death. In Paradise. In Jurassic Park. In Jersey City. Even in Louisville. But we will also be surprised by magic doors bursting open randomly around us when we least expect it, that in itself makes this life so sugar sweet.
$120 Worth of Fried Chicken From Hill Country @ 26th Street and 6th Ave.
5 Stars ★★★★★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
The other day I was on my way to a work party for my wife's new job; meet all the coworkers, see the new spot. It was a bring food, bring wine, bring beer sharey-dealy.
I was given money, collected from these miserable coworkers, it was my job to collect the fried chicken that everyone had voted on. Lucky me.
I got off the train in midtown NYC and walked an avenue over to pick up $120 worth of fried chicken from Hill Country, a massive corporate chain that has picnic tables and cowboy hats they give out.
It's the middle of a heatwave. So after I get the chicken, I catch a cab going crosstown. Two giant bags of chicken are next to me in the back seat, and the taxi driver keeps sniffing the air, I can see his face in the rearview, sniffing the air, and happy about it, the glorious stink of fried chicken. When he drops me off at 11th Ave, he looks so sad that the tip and his fare are just in cash.
There's a loading dock across from my wife's new work. I text her that I'm down there. I'm leaning on a roll up warehouse door covered in graffiti and spray painted lush jungle with bananas tucked in the palm fronds. My wife texts that she'll be down in five minutes. The coworkers are all coming down to the street. We'll have our party in the park on the grass by the river.
A man walks up to me and asks for money. I don't have any money left. I gave my money to the taxi driver and the people working in the corporate garbage fried chicken place. I check my pockets anyways. I can't PayPal the man, I can't debit swipe.
But he stands there and doesn't believe that I have no money. And then he's sniffing the air. He's smelled the chicken. He points at the bag.
“I like chicken.”
“Most everyone likes chicken,” I said. “But this isn't all my chicken, I’m carrying it for some people. Tell you what, I’ll give you some but it's gotta be our little secret.”
He licks his lips and grins.
I set one bag on the filthy loading dock.
I open the other bag and reach inside.
Bud Smith reports from Jersey City, NJ. Twitter: @bud_smith www.budsmithwrites.com. He wrote F250, Calm Face, and Dustbunny City, among others. He works heavy construction, and lives in Jersey City, NJ.