Chicken Run

I woke up late Saturday morning with acute relief to find myself in my bed.

And hung over. Thankfully not as hung over as I thought I would be. Fuzzy and mild vertigo when trying to sit up.

The previous night I had my girlfriend invite me out to hang out with her and her new boyfriend. She wanted me to meet him. I had no idea what I was in for, but ended up getting along with the new boyfriend quite well, where he and I ended up celebrating an entire bottle of Japanese Shochu as we got to know each other down the way to the bottom.

I suppose that means they have my first blessing, for I have not touched alcohol in such a large volume…. except for when I’m partying with my father back in my hometown.

Now that I found myself safely back in my apartment, the objective of the day was to recuperate.

As I was capable of meandering through the neighborhood I was questing for food that would satisfy my soul and body. Burgers? Nah, Falafel? Meh, Tacos? Nope, Curry? Possibly… and then that magical waft of aroma hit my nose.

Spanish Rotisserie Chicken? Oh Hell Yes.

It was a restaurant that I have eyed before due to the fabulous aromas they produce from their kitchen exhaust. You can’t see in because the windows are tinted, and has a quiet front in a busy street with only a paper menu pasted to one of the windows. I really haven’t had the courage to step in there yet, but I decided this was the day.

I tried to open the door - only to realize I had to heave the door open, how heavy a door!

Almost toppling over with the weight of the door, my brain is blasted into smithereens as the base beat hits me island Spanish style. A small dim space with a jukebox, big screen TV with the Yankee’s game on, a Madrid soccer swimsuit girl poster and about eight small tables. Some afternoon day drinkers hanging out with their Corona’s.

At the rear of the space is the source of the light - the kitchen counter window. With a direct view of the ceiling high rotisserie racks.

 the lady of the kitchen with her loyal patrons.

the lady of the kitchen with her loyal patrons.

Two huge guys are hanging out on either side of the window, I smile when I make eye contact to be polite and they smile back. I also hang out around the window to see what’s going on in the kitchen to see the lady of the kitchen dance into view with the beat. Handsomely Buxom was the only phrase that busted into my mind, she takes a morsel of chicken on the cutting board and licks each finger clean before pulling out a fresh full chicken from the rack. Now it was clear to me that the rotisserie chicken was not the only attraction here. More guys pile up behind me in a line with their bills crisply prepared in front of them.

The language flying round me is Spanish as I try to order a half chicken. I get blank stares from the lady of the kitchen and as the guys hanging out at the counter seem to translate to her for me. She shakes her head and waves her hands indicating she’s out. I see all the order tickets behind her, and so I suspected they’re all call-ahead orders and probably sold out (or she didn’t want to sell to me). Unsure what to do, I kinda stand there and the guy on the right tells me I should come back in an hour and a half and more would be ready. I thank them and leave the restaurant to be relieved that stepping into the busy street is much quieter than the restaurant itself!

Not being tempted by anything else available, and definitely in no condition to cook for myself, I dazed around at home while the clock snailed through the next hour and a half.

I venture out again, now even more determined to eat this mystical chicken that hungry men patiently line up for, I felt better prepared to handle the situation.

Walk into the restaurant, now there’s two elderly ladies eating their meal at a side table and two regulars hanging out with their Coronas. Now I see a different set of people behind the kitchen, two smaller ladies that ran around as a pair, and one grizzly white haired chef in an all-white uniform. Seeing this shift change of staff, now I feel I know why I was recommended to come back at another time, these people would probably be more willing to sell me some chicken. The couple in front of me departs with a catering tray full to the brim making sure that they got all the chickens that they asked for. It’s my turn at the counter and I ask for a whole chicken to one of the smaller ladies, they tell me they’re out. I ask for when there will be one ready and she claims another half an hour… I will not be turned away from my chicken! I tell myself.

I present her my super crisp $20, “I’m going to pay for a whole chicken, get a beer and hang out here until its ready” I order a Corona where she presents to me after popping the cap and wrapping the bottle neck tastefully with a paper napkin. I select an open table with a view of the TV but with mind to not obstruct the view for the fellow day drinker behind me. I throw my left arm over the back of the chair and lounge about with my cold one pretending to be absorbed by the Yankee’s game just like the rest of the regulars. During my homestretch waiting game, the only time I got up was to help the elderly ladies with their rolling shopping carts try to push open the heavy sound proof door. I ran into grizzly white hair who also happened to hold open the door from the outside as he was coming in with more green plantains.

 jukebox collector and grizzly white hair hanging out.

jukebox collector and grizzly white hair hanging out.

I return to my table to assume my lounging position. The beer in my hand was helping with my nerves, but definitely hanging out just like the rest of the customers (a mute day drinking alcoholic), I felt that I didn't see any tension in any of the staff and customer’s body language, and they paid no mind to me.

The most fascinating part of the wait was I got to see a guy in a black hookah lounge T shirt and jeans walk in. He opens the jukebox with his large ring of keys, and plugs into the inside with a USB key as I see the front monitor flicker with rows of code type looking lines. He settles himself at the table next to the jukebox, pulls out a carbon copy receipt book, and then proceeds to pull out a enormous wad of cash from the jukebox. Fascinated, I watched him first sort the singles from the fives with faces up swiftly in a bank teller style motions.  When he started counting, my eyes couldn’t keep up with his speed, with my count I was getting up to the mid to high forties, so that led me to believe he was making 50 dollar bundles. Grizzly white hair came out from the kitchens to hang out with the jukebox collector as I saw him count up to $200 in singles and at least another $100 plus in fives. That’s over $300 from a jukebox, with generally $1per song, at around 3 minutes a song gets me up to 900 minutes or about 15 hours’ worth of play time, so I assumed it must be a weekly collection on a Saturday late afternoon. I never pondered over the profitability of a jukebox, and don’t know how the pay cut for the jukebox collector and the restaurant works, but it opened up my mind to a new world of business for just playing music from a digital library!

Mesmerized, the second small lady shows up with my prize, a whole rotisserie chicken, packed and ready to go, and serves it to me at my table with a small smile. Ecstatic I guzzle the rest of my Corona, bus the empty bottle to the counter, said bye, dash home quickly as my flip flopped feet would get me, to crack open to view the golden, glistening perfection that I had spent the entire Saturday afternoon waiting for.

With no witnesses to see me tear at the chicken with my bare hands, I shamelessly devoured the fabulous half a chicken in one short sitting, now fully understanding the bounty my hangover quest had led me to find.

Spanish Rotisserie Chicken? Oh Hell Yes.