Fine Brazilian Barbecue.” An admittedly odd concept over which to wax nostalgic, granted, especially considering that I’m a vegetarian. In this instance, however, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. More than trendy take-out, more than a pseudo-ethnic heart attack fest waiting to happen, together, those three words are downright…hopeful. Awe-inspiring. Filling my heart, and nurturing my soul with more kick-in-the pants motivation than even Tony Robbins giving away c-notes and blow jobs.
Okay, now that I have your attention, let me elaborate. (Not about the Robbins/hummer stuff. That’s best left to the imagination. Or maybe not.)
There is a stretch of highway in northern New Jersey that, for some inexplicable reason, contains thousands upon thousands of strip malls. Or “shopping plazas,” for you culturally-stunted. Oh, I exaggerate a bit, of course. It’s probably only a few hundred, or so. The important thing is that when driving down or up Route 3 past Little Falls. Or Totowa. Or Cedar Grove. Or Wayne (whatever) there is never a fear of not finding a supplier of cheap-ass junk jewelry, old lady stretch pants, deceitful dollar stores that charge more than a dollar, and casual dining spots.
Which brings us to The Dino Grill.
The sign trumpeting the Dino Grill first appeared somewhere around 1998, towering over one of the plazas in Little Falls. Or Totowa. Or Cedar Grove. Or Wayne. Whichever.
“Coming soon! Fine Brazilian Barbecue!” it declared cheerily and seductively in its gaudy like a siren’s call. (If the sirens happened to be Portuguese, land-locked, and enjoyed ribs.)
Coming soon! Always, always coming soon! For five years, it was coming soon. Like Jesus after the Ascension, bringing anticipatory cheer to a weary, big-haired populace. Though I had no intention of ever eating there (good God, no), that confounded sign, promising a better tomorrow if we were just patient enough to hold on for another day or so, provided a sort of…comfort. Like a mother’s hickory-smoked teat.
We were invincible. There was nothing, and I mean <em>nothing</em>, that couldn’t be managed or dealt with head on, because, dammit, the Dino Grill was on its way!
Lost your job? No freakin’ problem. The Dino Grill was coming soon! Although, the whole losing the job thing probably precluded you from actually being able to afford patronizing the place.
Lost your lover to someone better than your sorry unemployed ass? (See previous talking point.) No worries. The Dino Grill was coming soon!
That cyst on your ass beginning to drain? So what? The Dino Grill was coming soon!
Better times ahead! Just like Brigadoon, only without the contrived musical numbers, fake Irish accents, and forced marriages. (Well, I have no way of knowing this, of course. They may well have been the original business plan for the grill.) Something to believe in. Something to hold onto in this uncertain world. Coming soon! Always, always coming soon!
Until it wasn’t.
One bleak afternoon, as we was riding by, the sign was just…gone. And it felt like Christmas had died.
Alas, that Godot of Brazilian casual cuisine was never to be in Little Falls. Or Totowa. Or Cedar Grove. Or Wayne (whatever). When that wondrous, towering herald vanished, so did much of my youthful, starry-eyed optimism and exuberance. Hell, it pretty much broke me. I gave in, gave up, accepted my boyfriend’s marriage proposal, and settled in for a life of drudgery and quiet despair. (Maybe not so quiet. As a native of New Jersey, it’s kind of impossible to pull “quiet” off.) We moved to Please Just End My Misery, Pennsylvania, and now frequent places like Quiznos and Panera (What? You expect me to cook? Ha!), and just tread water, waiting to die. Or win the lottery. Or a lawsuit.
If I ever have a child, I will name it “Dino.” Which might not sit to well with said spawn, since we’ll probably adopt an already monikered 16 year-old who is potty-trained and able to do yard work. Still, there’s a price to pay for borrowing the car and shelling out too much cash for those stupid stone-washed jeans he’ll no doubt expect us to buy even though he could just as easily achieve the same end by running over a cheap pair from Kmart with John’s leaky lawnmower, thus saving us sixty-buck. Damn selfish SOB kids.
Or maybe, I’ll just skip the middleman and research some Portuguese recipes on-line. Soon.