Yet Another Chicken Story

19 Apr 2006

I wasn't sure what I'd write about today, but then I read the Mayor's site this morning and I knew exactly the story to tell (especially after reading Simon's recent post about the flying chicken). But, this is more than simply a quirky tale about Chicken Tikka (because, lets face it, there are a million of those, right?);it's in fact a lesson for all bachelors out there wanting to score. So, pay attention single folks. You want to score? I've got the recipe right friggin' here!

As you may know from my previous posts, my wife and I are very close with a number of Indian families who live in the D.C. area.In fact, they're like family to us, which explains why we always get invited as the only non-Indian folks to their various events.This creates some highly unusual moments, which I'll write up separately later, that usually relate to the language barrier.

A couple of years back, we received an invite to a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for our friends' daughter. It was to be held in a swank D.C. hotel -- probably set the guy back thousands.For any of you rednecks out there, by the way, who avoid foreigners like the plague, you should understand that many of these folks understand how the U.S.A. works and appreciate the opportunities here much better than the rest of us. I watched this guy struggle to open his own business in the early 90s (when he lived in a modest, rented townhouse), work his ass off to branch out in the mid 90s (when he moved into a $350k home in the burbs), and then have the business expand exponentially in the late 1990s (when he moved into his $1 million estate). If you want to learn about entrepreneurism, don't ignore the advice of the Hindu fellow working at the 7-11, because I guarantee you that, unlike most of us, he has a long-term plan. But, I digress ...

Anyway, the party was a spare-no-expense extravaganza. It wasn't a black-tie event, but it was definitely something I'd need to wear a suit for. So, we went a day early and stayed at Kumar's house. My wife and daughter were hanging out with the women, and I was hanging out with Kumar. (In that culture, this sort of thing is not uncommon. Once you arrive at house party, for example, the guys generally split off into one part of the house, and the women go to another.The guys sit together wearing suits, talking about business and politics. I'm not sure what the women talk about, but they usually dance.)

So, Kumar said, "Come on, Patrick, we have to go get hair cuts for this thing." So, he carted me off to some oddball place inFairfax that was probably the busiest barber shop I've ever seen.No less than forty people stood in line at the shop, waiting for the first available barber. The barbers -- six or seven Chinese guys -- had this thing down to a finely tuned system.Now, I don't know where you're from. But, in my small town, a haircut is simply that; they cut your hair. But, in this place, it was a whole event. They sit you down, do the hot towel thing, lather you up, shave you with a straight razor, cut your hair, trim everything to a razor-fine precision, trim your nose and ear hair (if necessary), and even go after your eyebrows. I stopped the guy at that point, by the way. I had to draw the line at any attempt to trim my eyebrows. But, I wasn't quick enough to avoid the final vacuuming of my head.(I'll get back to this last detail in a moment, after I get loaded at the party.)

Christ, I almost felt a little violated after that haircut. But, I was clean; there's no doubt about that. So, we returned home, hung out for the day (thankfully without having to watch any more Dalmatian videos, as described two posts ago), and headed off to the big extravaganza. The whole event was top-shelf -- excellent food, premium liquors, loud Punjabi music by a top D.C.-area DJ.The girl received hundreds of expensive presents, and everyone took turns hand-feeding her bites of birthday cake (which is apparently an Indian tradition, though I'd never seen that before).

Bymidnight or so, I'd had about fifteen very strong rum and cokes, and kept an entire table of people laughing for no less than ten minutes with my ungodly loud recounting of the haircut earlier that day. Imagine some drunk slurring buffoon loudly slamming a highball glass on the table and shouting above the din of the Punjabi music, "I mean, for CHRIST'S SAKE ... the guy VACUUMED MY HEAD!!! He VACUUMED it!!!" Good times, my friends ...

So, it's the end of the night, and there's a ton of food left over.There was a super-large tray that held probably two gallons of excellent dahl (lentil soup), a bunch of samosas (deep-fried thingamabobs with spicy potatoes and peas inside), and quite a bit of a few other dishes. And then there was a humongous tray filled with Chicken Tikka.If you've never had this, it's boneless chicken cooked kebab-style (I think), rubbed with a bunch of spices that color it reddish orange. It's a true taste explosion -- tough to stop eating it once you've started.

The guy holding the party mentioned that he was going to throw it all out. Why not?When you live in a million dollar house, you have little use for leftovers.But I, on the other hand, envisioned not having to cook for a week if we could somehow get all of this stuff back home. So, Kumar's nephew and I both said, "We'll take it home then."The guy nodded, happy to see us make use of it all.

So, Kumar's nephew and I found ourselves a large wheeled cart and loaded it with all of the leftovers it could hold. On the top, we put the chicken.We were both pretty lit up, so we were laughing maniacally about our big score the whole time. Seriously, this was *so* much food -- like winning the food lottery or something.But then, it was time to get it all into the car, and we didn't have the first idea on how to leave. The hotel was like a maze, and we soon found ourselves standing with that huge cart on the edge of the lounge area, which was one of those typical resort hotel bars with lots of palm trees, tiki torches, and a bar looking like it was stolen off Waikiki Beach. It was1:00 or so in the morning, and there were still thirty or so people there.

Kumar was still a young man, and he was definitely interested in meeting women. So, I said, "Today's your lucky day, my friend, because I have a theory.All you have to do is wheel this cart up to some good looking women and say, 'Hi, my name is [Kumar's nephew], and I'd like to offer you some chicken."

He laughed. "You're fucking crazy, uncle," he said.(Another cultural thing ... The kids of that family call me "uncle" and my wife "aunty.")

"I'm not crazy. You gotta trust me on this.Now, buck up, soldier. We're giving this a try."

So, we wheeled the cart up to a couple of women and I nudged him to try that classic opening line. He stumbled a little at first, but did manage to get it out.

Well, if it didn't work, I'd have no story to tell, right?But it did work; it worked too well, in fact.The one woman looked at him and said, as if one cue, "Oh my God! Is that Chicken Tikka?!!!" I was so proud of [Kumar's nephew].What a great moment for him.He was in ! And, he took the ball and ran with it, too -- engaged the ladies in conversation for a good five minutes or so before the rest of our party caught up with us.

On the car ride home, he was all smiles."Thanks, Patrick Uncle," he said.

"Hey, man, that's what I'm here for.You think I had some old drunken guy show me the ropes when I was in high school? Hell no.I had to work up all this brilliance on my own, through many, many failures. But now you have a bona fide sure-fire way to meet women. All you need is a large catering cart and a huge tray of chicken. Don't ever forget that, my friend."

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