Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Kewpee

Once upon a crazy year, while I fretted and cried into my beer, 

Over many a bleak and troubling story in the news-

As I trembled, nearly crapping, over politicians scrapping, 

I heard the crinkling of wrapping, wrapping like fast food joints use. 

“‘I am hearing things,” I muttered, ”Because of my anxiety and booze.”

I laid down to try to snooze. 

I was as blue as Papa Smurf or Grover, it was early in the cool October;

The year’s plans collapsed like Clarence Oveur after a fish dinner he did choose.

I tried in vain to relive the past; when chain breaking was a blast, 

My silly road trips unsurpassed, until the world turned into number twos,  

In the second year of my life with two zeroes and two twos, 

More off-putting than Ted Cruz.

And the constant, sad, uncertain stream of each news story

Distressed me-depressed me with panic worse than strenuous flus;

So that now to slow the dread, I mumbled prostrate from my bed

“‘Tis but leaves in the yard beneath some passing shoes-

Some jerk in my yard in passing shoes;-

I realized it was no time to snooze. 

Presently, I grew alerter paranoid from news of murder,

“Sir” said I, “or Madam, you of trespass I accuse!

The fact is I am close to snapping! You crinkle like a burger’s wrapping!

Show yourself and take a slapping! Slapping is the attack I choose!

I am built like Terry Crews!”

Into the night, I started staring, long I strained my eyes, hardly bearing,

The constant dry and crackling rustle that never lessens nor subdues;

The growing noise only stoked my fear as its source remained unclear,

And the only words there to hear was the phrase “Drive Throughs?”

This I sighed, and an echo groaned back the phrase, “Drive Throughs.”

I handled the truth worse than Tom Cruise. 

   Back onto my mattress falling, pretending I didn’t hear the calling,

Soon again though, came the flapping, now a sound that I could not confuse. 

“Clearly,” said I, “Clearly it’s a wrapper encrusted with dried-out lettuce;

Let me see, then, what the threat is, as I go to find refuse-

Let my mind be calm a moment as I go to seek refuse;”

I got up to look for clues.

Onward then I turned the lighting, when amid a sudden brightening,

Therein stood a creepy Kewpee wearing no shirt, pants, nor shoes;

Not the least attention it showed toward me, but for a hat, no clothing wore she;

Unsettling as the art of Edward Gorey, the Kewpee stood for burgers I could not refuse-

Printed on a Styrofom chalice, near the other cups that once amused-

A hallucination I failed to disabuse.

This unclad toddler forced my gloom to the forefront in my lighted room,

With its culinary toque and the spatula it used,

“Though you stand for burgers and fries,” I said, “you fail to appetize,

Naked pasty baby thighs forced obscure by Wendy’s ruse-

Tell me why I find myself nervous and confused!”

Quoth the Kewpee “Breaking News!”

I was surprised this cartoon baby could hear my inquiry so plainly, 

It’s reply a phrase I wish I my brain could lose,

For I cannot help but hearing, into my slipping sanity searing, 

Those two words signalling new situations to defuse

Kewpee cup harbinger of society eviler than Minions and their Grus.

With a proclamation of breaking news.

But the Kewpee blushing plainly on the flaccid cup, spoke only

Those two words, as if from the grail those two words did slowly ooze, 

Nothing further then it mumbled-as I shuddered, twitched, and stumbled

Until when I finally grumbled “My mind has likely blown a fuse-

In the morning, I’ll feel better, despite the blown brain fuse.”

Then the Kewpee said “Breaking News.”

   Flustered by the interruption and by the cartoon baby’s chilling gumption,

“Clearly,” said I, “what it says is nothing but a blatant ruse

Prompted by some depraved trickster to scramble my mind up like a mixer.”

I took a gulp of of my elixir- one of Milwaukee’s finest brews-

But the TV in my room bore that melancholy bruise,

A Chiron screaming “Breaking News!”

    But the Kewpee still unsettling, my addled nerves in need of fettling,

Down I plopped a bean bag chair in front of the Kewpee and the other cups in slews;

There upon the vinyl sweating, I betook myself to fretting

Worry begetting worry, betting that the Kewpee was following cues-

Who could feed this cutesy, nude chef-child corporate mascot cues?

To alert me to ever-more breaking news?

This I thought there, speculating, but not a word I considered stating, 

To the child whose cartoon eyes began to pierce like screws;

That and more I laid deciphering before the Kewpee in need of diapering

On the bean bag’s synthetic fibering that always smelled of Krazy Glues

And whose carcinogenic liner-ing smelling of ever-Krazier Glues

Was once the subject of, ah, Breaking News!

Slowly then, the air grew smelly, perfumed by my gassy belly

Loaded with burrito cannonballs, and a couple beers to light the fuse.

“Cup!” I cried, “Polystyrene soda silo, that I brought home from Ohio

Lay off-lay off and desist reminding me of the news;

Quaff, oh quaff this warm tall can and drown my fears in booze!”

Quoth the Kewpee “Breaking News.”

“Infant!” said I, “Discount Cupid!-much less weird if you were suited!-

Whether vile nightmare or whether you’re a product of my alcohol abuse, 

Your nudity you’ve casually flaunted, you disposable cup that’s clearly haunted-

Consider me now thoroughly taunted. Tell me as I sit before you bemused, 

Will there soon be a new normal? Will dining out again become my muse? 

Quoth the Kewpee “Breaking News!”

    “Mascot!” said I, “thing of marketing!-profit generating, appearance starkening!

By the state of Ohio below us-where I bought you with some foods-

As I sit with churning guts, tell me if in a few months, 

I shall inhabit a restaurant table, and eat food not from drive throughs-

Eat a burger, taco, chicken, fish not bought from drive throughs.”

Quoth the Kewpee “Breaking News!”

    “Those two words our sign of parting, Kewpee cup!” I yelled, while farting-

“Get thee back to Ohio with Rax Roast Beef and Cincinnati chili stews!

Leave no Styrofoam as evidence of your bad tidings of war and pestilence,

Leave me shaken in my residence! Leave my shelf, and follow my cues!

Take thy straw from out my brain, and from my life yourself recuse!”

Quoth the Kewpee, “Breaking News!”

And the Kewpee, never landing, still is standing, still is standing

On the flaccid Styrofoam chalice, in the environment it abused;

And its form has all the presence of a dark and evil essence,

Like a senator proclaiming, “My words against me you must use!”

As I pine for days gone by of wandering like Moses and the Jews

Put to a stop by breaking news!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fall Check-In

Hot 'n Now's drive thru only service turned out to be an idea ahead of its time. 

I'm still here. I'm healthy. I'm employed. Most of all, I'm thankful I can make make those statements when so many cannot. 

However, it is a ridiculously bad time for one's hobby to be travelling long distances to eat in restaurants. I therefore have not dined inside a restaurant since March of this year, and it's looking like I won't feel safe dining in again until sometime next year at the earliest. It's been tough for me to keep up with my normal fiveish (Finkle) post per month schedule that I maintained as recently as the simpler time known as seven months ago. I hope that I can one day resume something that resembles my travel and post schedule from the before times. In the meantime, you probably won't hear much from me aside from occasional cutesy rhyming blog posts, as my motivation to write vanishes in all but the best of times. 

Back in early June when it looked for an instant like the worst was behind us, I donned my favorite mask  and took a cautious, socially distant, multi-state trip across the Midwest to order from some of my favorite broken chain drive thrus as well as some I hadn't experienced before. It was a welcome taste of the old normal, even if I did have to sleep in my car. Of course, not long after my return home, things began to trend much worse than they had been, and I haven't ventured out of my home state of Michigan since. I can't muster the motivation to write much about those experiences from the road in late spring, but I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took along the way, as well as a few from a late February trip to what was then Lexington, Kentucky's newest Taco Tico operating out of a nicely converted G.D. Ritzy's building. I reserve the right to author full Broken Chains posts about any and/or all of these experiences in the future, but for now, it is my hope that the pictures will provide some distraction from what has been a pretty terrible year, and is likely to stretch into an equally terrible two to three year period. 

The Taco Tico at the corner of Man O War Boulevard and Pimlico Pike opened in February. It's still going strong, and another location has since opened across town in a former Arby's, making a total of three Taco Tico locations in Lexington, more than any other town outside of Kansas.

Modern signage and menu boards adorn the drive thru.

The dining area has been completely remodeled. These pictures were taken in February. The dining area closed not long after this, but the drive thru remains open. 

A curved corner hints at the building's origins as a G.D. Ritzy's.

This may have been the last time I dined in at a fast food place. 

Tastee Freez once had 1800 locations all over the US. Today, there are nine of them still in operation, including this one in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, that sports a strangely familiar trapezoidal sign.

That's right. This Tastee Freez is a former Dairy Queen. That's like opening a new Sears in a former Walmart building or putting Studebaker badges on a Hyundai. 

Wienerschnitzel owns the Tastee Freez brand these days and still supplies them with menus that look modern, if a bit generic. 

Promotional signage is similarly contemporary, if unremarkable. 

Their ice cream parfait is like a vertical, banana-less banana split. 

A chili dog, outsize the Tastee Freez, free of Cougar-Mellencampian innuendo.

The Big T is Tastee Freez's Big Boy inspired double deck burger. 

Despite being a G.D. Ritzy's fanatic, I had never ordered from their drive thru. I remedied that at the First Avenue location in Evansville, Indiana. 

It was a popular place on a Saturday afternoon. 

The drive thru speaker was equipped with a modern order screen. 

But the nicely maintained menu board still had its vintage Ritzy's flair. 

I don't disagree, but I found the placement of this sign to be odd. 

Nicely branded packaging. 

Banana supreme ice cream, a flavor unique to the Evansville Ritzy's locations.

The fabled Double Ritz with cheese, my favorite fast food burger. 
The outside building was spotless as always. 

And I was pleased to find that the unique three sided sign that was absent from its pole on my previous visit had been repaired and restored. The owners of the Evansville G.D. Ritzy's go to great expense to keep their facilities looking as pristine as the day they opened 30+ years ago. 

A sign of the times.

Across the river in Owensboro, Kentucky, the Ritzy's menu board has a bit more patina. 

But the building is still presentable. 
The signage is simpler here.

An Owensboro Ritzy's PB&J tasted great at my campsite.

The final broken chain stop of my trip was at the last operating Druther's restaurant in Campbellsville, Kentucky. Druther's was originally called Burger Queen, but the chain changed its name in 1980. Amazingly, if you look closely, you can still see remnants of the old Burger Queen signage on the roof of the building. 

Speaking of drive thru menu patina, Druther's has close to five decades worth of it. 

The drive thru was an addition to the existing building. I'm sure they're glad to have it these days. 

Blah blah blah... toilet paper... something something... Tiger King... yadda yadda... Unprecedented/uncertain times
I dare you to find a better breakfast sandwich this side of Tudor's Biscuit World. 

Queenie Bee, the old Burger Queen mascot still adorns the sign. Hopefully the hole Druther's sign is repairable. 

Thanks for reading and for your notes and comments, especially over the past few months. Hang in there, and we'll get through this sooner or later. In the meantime, wear a mask and wash your hands. Support your local restaurants if you can do so safely. 

If you're reading this from the US, take a minute to make sure you're registered, and make a plan to vote. It should be plainly obvious to any reasonable person who the bad guys are at this point. Vote against them, maybe? That's as partisan a statement as I'm comfortable making, at least on my silly fast food blog. 


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Boy Named Marno

Zantigo disappeared in the 1980s and well, 
Most of them turned into Taco Bell, 
Loyal customers were left missing their old amigo. 
But their buildings still stood with wedges and arches,
Tall and proud like mighty hedges and larches, 
Stretching from the west coast to up north of Toledo. 
It's tough to see them in person, despite the allure, 
So I thought I’d take a virtual tour,
And rhyme about them to inflate my writer’s ego. 
So keep on reading as I stumble along, 
(I borrowed this rhyme scheme from a Johnny Cash song.)
So I could show you pictures of old Zantigos. 

I went to Minnesota in the before time,
Before I ever tried to make Zantigo rhyme.
And I found one in a vintage building in St. Paul. 
I had a mild Chilito with chips and cheese, 
But the food didn’t bring me to my knees.
What I really liked was the distinctive roof and walls. 

When I got back home to my own prefecture, 
I started seeing that same architecture.
Seems they were as prolific as TV’s Richard Grieco. 
Well that rental car agency in Lincoln Park, 
And that weird looking Wendy’s by the Belleville Kmart
Had both been built to operate as Zantigos. 

That got me thinking about the other places, 
Where businesses run in old Zantigo spaces.
I started looking for them when I was out on the road. 
I’d find them sitting empty or pushing payday loans, 
And they got easier to spot with my rods and cones.
I’d say, “There’s a Zantigo!”
Like I was playing Bingo,
I had cracked the code!

Well I learned about Zantigo from my dear old dad,
When he told me about a date he and my mother’d had, 
At a Lexington Zantigo before I was born. 
Mom stuffed extra tacos into her purse,
And if someone ate them, they’d wind up in a hearse. 
Because she forgot they were there for a week or more. 

Well my folks got together and my dad got lucky,
At some point after that date in Kentucky
So without Zantigo, I might not have ever been born. 
So far, I’ve been met with little resistance,
Thanking Zantigo for my own existence
Their food, like my poetry, is full of cheese and corn. 

Eventually, when you can go out and explore, 
Look for buildings with a brick arch door, 
Or a great big stucco wedge of Pecorino 
Whether they’re abandoned or selling Indian food,
Take a picture. Don’t worry, it’s not rude. 
Because you just found yourself an old Zantigo. 

And if you live up in the Gopher State,
Local Zantigo locations number half of eight. 
Plus the knockoff, Zanz, that’s open in Mankato
Stop in for a Chilito and tell them Zap sent ya,
They’ll look at you like you have dementia.
But they’ll be a great host just like OJ was to Kato. 

Well the weeks get longer and the months get wide, 
Since I’ve gone to a restaurant and eaten inside. 
But for now, there’s still far too much peligro,
So I’m drivin’ thru and using DoorDash,
Wearing my sweatpants, instead of my Jordache.
If I lived in Minnesota, I’d order food from... Embers, Happy Chef, and occasionally Zantigo!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

There Once Was a Fast Food Chain From Holt

My friends and my family can't quell me,
From this rhyming habit, unhealthy,
This limerick shtick, 
Is a moldy old trick,
That I stole from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

There once was a fast food chain from Holt,
That sprang up quick, like old Usain Bolt.
Hot 'n Now was their name,
And from Michigan they came.
But they went down in a fast food revolt. 

They didn't have tables or servers, 
And sold drive-thru olive-topped burgers.
Most closed up in the nineties,
Leaving buildings behind, these,
The result of too many bad mergers. 

This one sits abandoned in Grand Rapids.
No new tenant moved in, so it happens.
Unkempt and alone,
Yet next to Auto Zone
One can hope that it's not dead, just nappin'. 
Across town, another is empty.
Devoid of a new occupant's symp'thy.
A later building design,
This Hot 'n Now could be mine.
If a real estate agent could tempt me. 

Not every Hot 'n Now is deserted.
This one, by renovation perverted.
But there's no need to sigh,
Because they serve up pad Thai.
With the building's old branding subverted.  
This one in Saginaw is a vape shop.
For nicotine addicts, a great stop.
Their usual crowd's,
Always ripping fat clouds,
Smelling like Froot Loops, gummies, or grape pop. 

This old Hot 'n Now just sells java,
Presumably served cold or like lava.
Another business in town,
Also makes money off brown.
'Cause that septic truck's not full of guava. 

It's been a while since this one saw action,
Serving ice cream like Robbins and Baskin
Its roof once was red,
But now, it's yellow instead.
And it's named for a film with Bill Paxton.

This Hot 'n Now, of the newer variety,
Gives preservationists little anxiety.
They didn't change much,
Just new signs and such.
So the building maintains notoriety. 
This one in Toledo grew awnings.
At its name, "Netty's," I'm not fawning.
Not Lucy's, nor Linuses,
It will clear out your sinuses.
And the monochrome orange leaves me yawning

This old Hot 'n Now wears a costume.
With a custom facade, it is entombed.
Sir, this is now an Arby's,
Where you stay in your car, please.
There's no dining room just a drive-thru.

That Arby's is my cue for conclusions.
And some vague current event allusions.
This post was brought to you
By Google Street View
Because I'm still stuck in seclusion.