I’m a woman in midlife, and I make no bones about it. I’m fine with it. Admittedly, after my divorce, I went through the “I need to look younger” phase. I wore only tight skinny jeans and form-fitting tank tops. Then one day I looked at my 26-year-old daughter wearing the same outfit and had what I like to call my Christopher Columbus moment: “Honey, that ship has sailed.” Now, I color my hair, get a shot of botox now and then, exercise, and do the best I can with what I have. I feel good about myself, and then, something will happen that turns this “proud to be 50” woman into that braces-wearing 10th grader, trying to sneak by the cheerleaders without them making fun of my skirt.
In this case it was a restaurant review that I was hired to write (yes, I consider four cents a word being hired!). My assignment: The Smoke Shack. Actually, it was more of a food truck review as this Smoke Shack is actually a free-standing truck that serves barbecue. So what? A free hunk of meat slathered in sauce and a side of beans? I’m so down with it. I will make almost enough money to cover my gas to get there — throw in my lunch and I’m actually ahead.
My mouth is watering as I drive over the bridge to Tampa. I wonder if they have fries. I pull up to the truck, and my nose follows the aromatic smoke to the counter. “I’m looking for Matt,” I say to the girl behind the steam trays. “I’m Matt!” I hear as a young man turns around from the fridge. Suddenly, I am face to face with George Clooney, who now apparently owns a barbecue truck in Tampa. One look at those baby blues,* and just like that, I am transported. Light is shining off of my braces as the head cheerleader points at my shoes and giggles.
Don’t get me wrong, Matt was very sweet and accommodating. Obviously, he had no idea that his blue eyes and dark, wavy hair were causing me to have butt sweat. He answered all of my thought-provoking questions such as, “So, um...doesn’t it get hot out here?" and “I love the food channel, don’t you?” I am the new Christiane Amanpour of food trucks.
Then he offered to bring me out a sample of his wares. “Oh gosh, what should I have?” I blathered. “I have just the thing,” he said. Three minutes later he appeared with a pulled pork sandwich the size of a human head, piled high with juicy pork and the tangy sauce I had been dreaming of. In my dream, I was savoring every bite while sauce ran down my chin. In reality, there was no way I was going to hoover down this sandwich while George stood there watching drops of grease and sauce hit my shirt, nor was I going to tuck a napkin into my collar like a senior citizen at Lobster Fest.
George stood there expectantly waiting for me to take my first bite. I daintily bit into the edge of the bun and extracted a piece of meat that lodged itself firmly between my two front teeth as barbecue sauce formed a Hitler mustache under my nose. George had the manners to look away as I extracted the pork before asking me, “What do you think?”
What do I think? I think this is so good I just want to lock myself in the outdoor port-a-john and inhale it. That’s what I think. I tell him, “It’s delicious. As a matter of fact, I think I will take the rest of it home so that I can share it with my family.”
“Great!” he said, blue eyes twinkling while kindly not staring at what I knew was a grease stain on my right nipple.
We parted ways, and I began the drive home. Needless to say that sandwich was gone before I hit the interstate, with only an empty carton and greasy fingerprints all over the steering wheel to prove it had ever existed.
The Smoke Shack got rave reviews and I hope a lot of new business.
The moral of the story? Um...I love barbecue, and George Clooney is very handsome.
*Yes, I know George has brown eyes, but try imagining him with crystal clear blue ones. Dude. Seriously.