May 27, 2006

Kentucky Waffle House

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2006

The 5 AM hour is the demarcation line, no matter what city or town you are in. If you can get past that period of time and survive to see the sunrise, you accomplished a feat similar to climbing Mt. Everest. No matter what you are enduring at the ungodliest of hours, whether it's an all night bender or a night of suicidal insomnia, the rancorous cult of vampire-like miscreants scamper off as dawn approaches.

After a night of gambling and liquor consumption, Daddy and I wandered over to Waffle House which was about two blocks from our hotel in Covington, Kentucky. We were told by our cab driver that the Waffle House was considered the dirtiest in the area and had been cited for several health code violations. That Waffle House was the late night magnet for the lowest strata of society which included raccoon-eyed meth dealers, repugnant hookers, Glock-packing pimps, drunken frat boys, and several deranged members of the local homeless population.

My friend Lori (who went to law school in Covington) warned me, "That's were people disappear from. You know, like so-and-so was last seen at the Waffle House before going missing for three weeks. Then the police find their rotting and raped corpse floating in the Ohio River."

Alas, you can't keep a drunk fat man away from hashbrowns and pecan waffles, despite the dangerous circumstances.

When we walked into Waffle House, two trigger-happy cops sat in the front booth closest to the bathroom. Two hookers drenched in cheap cologne sat at the lunch counter next to their pimp with more bling than Ice-T and Mr. T combined. A white cab driver who looked like the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island sat in the corner booth and read a newspaper as he sipped on coffee. A tall homeless guy with a large black duffle bag sat at the far end to the counter muttering to himself as he slid a few napkins and a spoon into his pocket.

We sat down in one of the open booths as I let out a sigh of relief. Seeing the cops nearby in the sketchiest Waffle House in the South was reassuring. I peeked at the sticky menu that was drenched in dry maple syrup and Hepatitis B. Waffle House menus are encased in plastic lamination that dates back to the Nixon White House years. Daddy knew exactly what he wanted, while I couldn't decide between breakfast or a cheeseburger.

Our pear-shaped waitress shuffled over like an American POW on the Bataan Death March. The worn out look on her face and disheveled uniform was an indication that she’d worked at least a ten hour shift. Her apron was streaked with tons of condiment stains and she could not have been older than 19 or 20 at the most. Daddy tried to sweet talk her right away. She was in no mood for chit-chat and barely looked up from her yellow notepad.

"What's your name?"

"Tracey," she said in a backwards drawl that you only thought you heard in the movies. "Whaty'all like to order?"

"Tracey. Nice. How are you doing sweetie? Lemme ask, does a nice girl like yourself have a man?"

"Yeah. He's at home watchin' our kids."

"How many do you have?"

"Two and another on the way. Whaty'all like to order?"

"Does your man treat you well? He should. You're very pretty. What time do you get off?"

She looked up and smiled as bright as someone could with three missing teeth. I glanced at her left forearm. She had a poorly designed tattoo in aqua ink that read, "Total Bitch!"

"I want a triple plate of hashbrowns. Scattered. Smothered. Covered. Chunked. Diced. Topped. Peppered. But no mushrooms. Make sure there are no mushrooms in there, honeypie. And a pecan waffle to sweeten my Waffle House experience."

Nine minutes later, the pear-shaped waitress brought over a large plate heaping with hashbrowns. I had never seen a bigger serving of potatoes that was the size of a baby otter. His plate of hashbrowns was steaming hot with cheese, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, ham, and Bert's Chili piled on top in an orgy of food. Daddy picked up a bottle of hot sauce and shook out ten or eleven huge droplets as they dissolved into the mountain of food.

Another waitresses began to mop the floor near by. Her rail thin body pathetically clutched a mop of dirty water as she made small circles onto the floor. She looked like a tweaker who has been up snorting crystal meth with her biker boyfriend for three days straight. When she turned her head, you could see two tattoos behind her ears and prison tattoos all over her arms. She had two hearts behind her right ear and two cherries behind the other. Both were in fading blue ink.

"Hey honeypie," Daddy said as he shoved his hashbrowns into his mouth. "What time you get off?"

"7 AM," she mumbled. "What's it to you?"

"You wanna go to a party later?"

She ignored him and kept up her enthusiastic mopping as Daddy shoveled two bites of his pecan waffle into his mouth.

"So do you got a fella?"

I knew that I was returning to Hollyweird the next weekend, so I came up with an idea to pitch some suits a new reality series where Daddy and I travel around America eating in Waffle Houses and Denny's at 5 AM after we drink beer and huff airplane glue in the parking lot. It can also be a ground breaking documentary film. Degenerate cinema. I might even pitch the idea to European venture capitalists. Those Germans with film almost anything.

The pear-shaped waitress brought us our check and Daddy tried to hit on her one last time. Exhausted and grimy Waffle House waitresses in their third trimester with gang tattoos and who are missing three teeth are the last women on Earth I'd try to pick up. Yet, Daddy was relentless.

"Fat chicks give the best head. Plus pregnant women are super horny."

Even as he paid the bill and made his way to the door, he never gave up.

"Which one of you ladies want to experience the Vanilla Gorilla?" as he grabbed his crotch.

The Sunday sun slowly crept above the Kentucky hills as we stumbled out of the filthiest Waffle House in the South. Folks were getting up to go to church, as we capped off another nebulous night of drinking and gambling.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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