My friend Tina was a force to be reckoned with. She was absolutely opinionated, refused to hold her tongue, got us in trouble on a regular basis and was (excuse my crassness) ‘balls to the wall’. Now, I’m not saying that I am an angel (even though I am) and that I didn’t get kicked out of some of the seediest bars in PA (those stories are for another time) but Tina had a penchant for being both amazingly loving as well as incredibly irritating. That girl had a mouth on her that would make a sailor blush and a nun faint but somehow, usually, that made her more endearing. Her favorite line (which incidentally she had on a shirt, mind you) was “f*ck you, you f*ckin’ f*ckers.” And somehow, that not only became her traditional response but we all ended up using it on a fairly regular basis. But still, she was beyond loving. If you were her friend, she would go rounds with someone she felt slighted you. That didn’t stop her from being her version of honest with you, though.
We used to go out for a bite to eat, a couple of drinks, and then usually catch a band, most often one of our friends would be playing somewhere nearby. I would meet the gang for dinner and we would sit around the table, catching up, sharing stories, and just generally being social. Eventually, everyone would decide to order food. When the order came to me, it was fairly inevitable that I would simply order French fries. Time and again, we would all go out and I would order the same thing, French fries. Eventually, Tina confronted me.
“Why do you always order French fries? I don’t think I have ever seen you eat anything else.”
Shocked that anyone would notice, I managed to reply that I ordered them because I could never decide on anything else, they put food in my stomach since we were having a drink or two, and mostly, because I really like French fries.
While these reasons are all true, I never did tell her the main reason for my standard order. Finances. I simply could not afford to both eat with everyone and still be able to hang out with everyone afterward with an adult beverage in hand. Simple courtesy. You sit at a table with people eating, you should eat. You go to a different venue, social convention dictates that you actually purchase something from that establishment. So … French fries. Cheap, easy, filling, and sinfully yummy. Hey, one’s gotta have one’s vices, na?
It’s pretty clear to me that one’s vices start at a young (or young-ish) age. For me, one of the first times I ever went out to a diner with friends (sans parental units), I was introduced to what we call ‘kelly fries’. Now, most people know kelly fries by a different moniker. Being from a small, rural town, I got to know these ‘sounds disgusting but are sooooo good’ fries only by the term ‘kelly.’ When I left that area, I tried repeatedly to get them served to me but to no avail. Oh, I’ve had chefs give it a go, but since it wasn’t something done by them before, usually it paled in comparison to my standard. For anyone who has ever moved, especially to another state, you quickly realize that your favorite comfort foods are regional foods and are notoriously difficult to locate. Take cheesesteaks, for example. Living relatively close to Philadelphia, cheesesteaks were everywhere. Not so much in other parts of the country. If you don’t believe me, just go ahead and order a cheesesteak in North Carolina or Connecticut. Let me know how that works out for you. You’ll get what they call a cheesesteak, but it isn’t anything like the real thing.
But I digress. I spent years searching through different states to find that elusive cheesesteak, but more importantly, to find KELLY FRIES. How difficult can it be to find a plate full of French fries with some cheese and gravy on them? Then I found Canada. Oh. My. Gawd. They even have a name for it. Poutine. Just like Tim Horton’s, the closer you get to Canada, the easier it is to find poutine. They don’t even care what you call it. They’ll not only serve it to you, they’ll have it on the menu, for pity’s sake! If there was ever a discovery that called for the *Snoopy happy dance,* this one fit the bill (yeah, it’s all about the little things).
So, I’m languishing away in Connecticut, no cheesesteaks, no kelly fries, no friends’ bands playing anywhere and out of the blue, one of my best friends insists that I view our friendship on Facebook. He wanted to remind me how we were so funny a couple of years ago. Ok, we’re still ridiculously funny, we just don’t manage it nearly as much in publc (and together) than in the past.
Like the good girl I am, I follow this dictate and peruse our past friendship on Facebook. And, as I’m laughing away at our antics, I come across a very insistent post from me for him to call me. A demand, really. As I’m reading this, I’m groaning to myself and wondering what trainwreckedness I’ve gotten into this time so that I have to disturb him at work. And then I read the rest of the responses.
I insisted he call me because our friend (and fellow llama-lover) Tina died. And idiotically, one of the first things to go through my mind as I read this post is French fries. Somehow, the memory of Tina and the memory of our French fry conversation has gotten inexorably tangled up in my mind. If I wanted to psychoanalyze this, the logical explanation is that just as I’m unable to have kelly fries in an area that just does not have them, I’m unable to have our friendship in a world that just does not have Tina.
But I’m not going to psychoanalyze this. I’m just going to take it as timely fate that, while French fries and Tina are cohabitating in my memory, my above-mentioned bestie posts an article about putting kelly fries on top of pizza. With a picture. And, while I love kelly fries, and I love pizza, I absolutely cannot abide the thought of merging the two. No thanks, JT. I’ll take my fries on the side. With a llama. In a hat.
*dedicated to the memory of Tina, may she continue to rest in peace.