If you know me, you know this. It’s undeniable as gravity. It’s irrefutable and categorical. It’s a goddamned ontological reality.
An hour ago Max was strolling up and down the top of our 1997 Mazda Protege, from trunk to roof to hood and back again, when his attention was diverted by a lowdown bass throb that came rumbling over the hill as a would-be whiteboy gangsta pulled his rig into our neighbor’s driveway.
Max says, “That reminds me of the taco stand.”
I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about.
You know, he says, the boys on the black bus who told us to come to their concert?”
No, no, no. Elucidate, Maxwell.
Then he patiently explained, and I finally got it: The Gourmet RockStars of San Jose.
This is more than eight months overdue. I’ve gone from San Jose to Philadelphia and back to Washington state without fulfilling a simple promise.
This is not a difficult story. It’s a happy story. Why I get so constipated, I know not.
In my feeble defense, perhaps I gave up when I couldn’t figure out what to say that would be equal to the generosity shown us.
Since then, we’ve lost a computer to a cat-puked keyboard and my notes are incomplete at best. I had to consult my brittle, old-man memory for too much of the following report. It is, as the kids say, what it is.
We never do anything directly, aggressively or assertively.
Every move requires a mind-bending, practically operatic dance of vacillation, hesitation and deliberation.
Not to mention a great fog of procrastination.
Hence we languish here in San Jose, in the beautifully appointed Powderface Cafe 2, six full days after Hardly Strictly Bluegrass wrapped up in San Francisco. Almost a week, and we’ve covered about 50 miles.
On Thursday night, after days of promising ourselves we’d fill up on propane, we stumbled across a tank at a gas station on our way to a local YMCA.
As we sidled up to the little white submarine at the 76 station in Milpitas, we were accosted by a pleasant young man who asked if he and his comrades might sneak in ahead of us.
What, us hurry?
We circled around the station and pulled in behind a big, black food van embossed with Gourmet RockStars in teal lettering. Mohammed Qadir ran over and handed us a flier promoting their imminent gastronomical get-down at the Great Mall, just across the street. He promised if we stopped by, they’d hook us up with free food for our altruistic gesture.
Good food, too, he said.
We made it an hour or so later and beheld a movable feast of epic proportions.
The mobile gourmets had circled their wagons in the mall parking lot.
Eleven gourmet trucks. A warm fall evening in the Bay Area. A melange of arresting aromas filled the air. There were Japanese and Filipino, Indian and Korean-Mexican fusion. Karaoke ice cream, even.
What could be better?
Us? We were here to rock. The RockStars team, led by Mohammed and older brother Habib, were hopping to keep up with orders and dazzle patrons with haute-cuisine hamburgers and gourmet grilled cheeses.
Nonetheless, they took the time to fete us like long, lost family. Just because we delayed our already-long-delayed quest for propane another five minutes.
Before we knew it we were laden down with three intoxicating sandwiches from the Gourmet RockStars menu.
They were: 1) the Mac and Cheesy – fresh baked bread, mac and cheese and RockStars cheese blend; 2) Caprese -fresh bread, fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and tomato; 3) The Fancy – fresh bread, fresh goat cheese, onion marmalade and fig compote.
How ’bout some garlic fries, Mohammed asked? Why not, I said. I’ve never been too proud to accept the lavish kindness of strangers.
We took the savory largesse back to our live-in behemoth, cracked a bottle of wine and dined in lot-cuisine splendor.
Since I’ve delayed this rave review for so long, I’m just going to tell the simple truth: the Gourmet RockStars rock the hell out of the grilled cheese sandwich.
This ain’t your Mama’s grilled cheese. Nothing dull or ordinary about these savory sensations.
My favorite was the Caprese, a piquant wonder exuding old-world flavor.
But I wasn’t too proud to swoop in and put away the remnants of Max’s Mac and Cheesy when he declared himself full. Becky? She fell for the Fancy. But she’s a fancy girl, after all.
I’ve done my share of experimenting with souped-up grilled cheese sandwiches (on Max’s first birthday, he ate a half a grilled cheese that was slathered with sauteed onions, hummus and guacamole. He wouldn’t touch it today). I’m not just another grilled-cheese rube who just arrived here from 1971.
I know a stupendous grilled cheese sandwich when I taste one. Or two. Or three.
We devoured them in no time, and soon wandered back to the Rockstars Central to chat for a few minutes.
Habib and Mohammed are the sons of Afghan emigres. If I remember correctly, the family were something approximating royalty when the Soviets rolled in back in 1979. Now there is another foreign power marching on their native soil. But Habib said from his family’s perspective, the alternative is worse.
What’s a left-wing pacifist pinko to do? Just smile and say thank you as many times as you can manage.
Their mother was there as well, smiling sweetly and keeping an eye on Habib’s young son.
All of the Qadirs were unfailingly amiable. The brothers, well, they wouldn’t let us leave the mall without taking more of their wondrous sandwiches. For the road, they insisted.
Mohammed handed me five more grilled-cheese sandwiches, all wrapped and ready. I took them, sheepishly for the moment but thankful deep down. Five more. Eight in all. On the house. Unbelievable.
What did we do to deserve such a kindness?
Nothing. I didn’t even produce the obligatory Web write-up I had promised. At least I didn’t for eight months.
Mea culpa. And a thousand thanks.
If we weren’t presently waging an endless war there, I’d hop a plane for Kabul tomorrow, if this is what passes for Afghan hospitality.
Thanks again. You guys rock without qualification.