During my freshmen year of college, the rock-climbing center had a deal for St. Patrick’s Day: wear green, climb for free. So I gathered up a couple friends and forwent the drunken flow. We meandered through the streets, rampant with intoxicated minors flaunting their Irish pride in green apparel, on our way to the climbing center. After making use of our free climbing privileges, we called it good and headed out for dinner. The late afternoon sun was unseasonably warm for mid-March in Michigan, so it seemed like a great day to lose our Blimpy Burger virginity. We walked up the steps to the little burger joint and darkened its doorway for our first time. It reeked of French fries and sweaty bodies. The floor was sticky and covered in dampened straw wrappers and blades of grass. We admired the numerous grease-stained awards hanging crookedly on the wall beside the large picture of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Having been unique enough to attract the attention of Food Network, this place deserved a chance. Like a notable stripper, Blimpy Burger had quite the reputation, and didn’t accept plastic. So we crammed in line behind the miniature ATM to get some singles. After about fifteen minutes of waiting in the severely undersized restaurant, like patients at an unorganized dentist’s office, we got to have the disgruntled attention of the burger-flippers. They berated my friend Dan for ordering a chicken burger.
“I want to eat healthy.”
“Do ya know where ya are?” the guy said, slapping a patty on a puddle of grease.
After getting our burgers, we sat on the rickety porch outside and watched the drunken passers-by. A group of five students speaking slurred Chinese hobbled by us on the sidewalk before one of them collapsed on the trashcan and dropped his head inside to spill his guts. Inspired, a couple of his friends joined in on the fun. Shockingly unperturbed by the stench of beer and sights and sounds of vomiting, we continued on with our meal. Crushed beer cans were scattered across the sidewalk and a shoe was clogged in the storm drain along the curb. About halfway through my burger, the puking people straightened and wiped their mouths with their green “Kiss Me I’m Sober” shirts. Like Romans exiting the vomitorium, they staggered up the stairs of the porch.
“What’d ya think you’re doin’?” yelled a large bald man sitting behind us, like a bouncer.
“We’re just getting food, man, chill.”
“You already ruined my meal, throwin’ up while I’m tryin’ to eat. Now you’re gunna go in there and puke all over the food?”
“I’m all done, I’m good.” They pushed open the door.
“No! Get out!” The man stood up and stormed after them as they ran inside.
I turned back around to find a tall and skinny black man rummaging frantically through the bushes in front us, his dreads swaying from side-to-side.
“Yo, any o’ you gotta lighter?” he asked, leaning over the table beside our burgers.
“Uh, no,” I responded, patting my pockets, “Sorry, man.”
“Yeah, I don’t think…” my friend Ian started, stopping as he looked down at the dirt beneath the bench. Like a convenient gift from the heavens, a rusted lighter was between his feet. “Actually, there’s one right here,” he chuckled, handing him the lighter, “Go for it.”
“Oh great, thankya sir.” The man snatched the lighter and flicked it exactly seventeen times before it kept a steady flame. He squealed in giddiness and started shuffling through his dreads with his other hand. Withdrawing a joint, he stuck it in his mouth and held it up to the flame. Once lit, he sighed, slipped the lighter in his dreads, took a puff, and was on his way. My friends and I exchanged glances as we finished our meal. A burger never tasted so good.