Bienvenidos, bitches

Dec. 7, Terlingua, Texas –  Flush in the aftermath of our delightful run-in with Stan the tarantula man, we drove headlong into “The Ghost Town of Terlingua.”
Not to be blithely dismissive, especially without the benefit of rigorous investigation, but the Ghost Town of Terlingua exudes the ambiance of a half-baked tourist trap. A ghost town with upscale hotels and restaurants and bars? Really?
We had a dinner decision to make. We leaned toward checking out Rio Bravo, a Mexican hole in the wall located near the main highway outside the ghost town.
Chris, the nature guide from Far Flung we’d met on the Lost Mine Peak trail yesterday, had recommended it. Far Flung, coincidentally, or not, is located right net to Rio Bravo.
Total hole in the wall, he had said.
Totally up our alley.
A disclaimer: I never set out to write a restaurant review.
Rio Bravo oozes an aura of the authentic, right down to the absence of any reference or claim to authenticity posted anywhere on the premises. (Years ago we resolved never to patronize any Mexican restaurant billing itself as an “authentic Mexican restaurant.”)
It looked like we had walked onto a discarded set from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
The place was deserted save for two Hispanic women and two girls we presumed to be their daughters. The foursome occupied the table farthest from the door.
There was cake on the table. Someone’s birthday, maybe.
A ceiling fan, affixed to exposed floor beams, whirred above our heads.
It’s a small room. Five four-tops, and one banquet-type table which seats eight, for a total capacity of 28.
A natural scene with not-so-subtle religious overtones was painted on the far wall. A white dove flew in suspended animation above a creek at the base of a waterfall. Wildflowers festooned grassy banks. We’ll  meet on that other shore someday for sure.
A cross hung on the wall over an opening that allowed us to peer into the kitchen.
Man, the place did look great.
Rio Bravo is decorated in late sunflower. They made me think of Ginsberg, who was thinking of Blake. You were never no Mexican restaurant, Sunflower. you were a sunflower!
Plastic tablecloths are covered in sunflowers. A sunflower clock hung on the wall, next to a framed poster for 40th annual Terlingua Chili Cook-off, which hung next to a large sombrero.
The women scrambled upon our arrival.
Luli took our order. i asked, and she said her name is Luli. I don’t know how to spell Luli. I’m only guessing.
She smiled a lot. We smiled, too.
The service was, well, minimalist. I took this as another sign of authenticity. Brusquedad es bueno, I thought.
We felt as if we had imposed upon them simply by walking in and offering our business.
Her confederate, whom I learned later is the owner, never deigned to look our way. We never heard a word from her.
As for the food, the salsa was piquant and delightful. The rest of the meal was stupendously average.
And I never set out to write a restaurant review.
I fretted so much about the existential mountain I’d have to climb to get a story here, I was oblivious to what was happening in the real world.
I thought it quaint how the women immediately repaired to the kitchen to start cooking once we’d ordered.
I thought it reassuring when Luli brought our orders out, one by one, on steaming plates.
And I thought it quaint again when, once we’d completed our meal, the adults returned to the kitchen to do the dishes.
And I didn’t set out to write a restaurant review.
I kept trying to win over a winsome young  girl with my disarming smile, but she was immune to my gringo charms. She looked bored out of her skull.
I tried,  though. I really did. I made an abortive attempt to chat up Luli at the cash register. A framed cover of Texas Monthly, featuring the Big Bend region, including a plug for Rio Bravo, hung above our heads. Inset were photos of two graduates. Two boys, presumably the owner’s.
I asked but got nowhere.
I didn’t realize until far too late that I’d been lost in a narrative of my own making when the real story was dinner was a grave disappointment.
And that’s on culinary terms alone.
The service was an utter disaster. I thought it bad enough that no one bothered to ask if we’d like a water refill. I hadn’t even realized that Max got shut out. They didn’t even bring the poor sot water. No one seemed to care whether we enjoyed our meal or not.
A great dad am I.
After my abortive chat with Luli, I still held out hope of making a run at the owner. She was hiding in the kitchen. Perhaps she has a reasonable fear of out-of-town gringos.
She wasn’t coming out. No way, gringo.
She’d seen me asking questions of Luli, and that was as close as I’d get to her.
The story here is the cultural barrier. And the language barrier. It’s a treacherous chasm to cross. If only I weren’t so ignorant, if I weren’t such a stupid gringo,  and if I spoke a little Spanish, perhaps it would be easier.
Maybe not much, though.
And I never set out to write a restaurant review.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in America in the 21st century and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s