Had a huge dinner get together last night at Benitos over on West Magnolia. I’ve always liked this place; I think Damon Runyon would have been comfortable dining here. The tables are sunk down below window level and the windows are covered with decorative hanging curtains so no one can see in from the street. Benitos is a Mexican restaurant that has been around since the 80’s; it’s glory years were when they had Tino, the Worlds Greatest Waiter working there.
Tino was the last of the Old School waiters, straight out of a Marx Brothers film or I Love Lucy episode. He wore a terrible Floyd the Barber toupee and a bow tie and was overbearingly polite. A walking aneurism-waiting-to-happen, he was very hyperactive. He was all over the room; moved like somebody a fraction of his age. If he forgot something, he would hop into the air and be turned around the other way by the time his feet hit the floor. You’d over-tip him to get him to go away and leave you alone. “How is everything?” everytime you look up. Don’t know if he retired or passed away, but eating at Benitos has never been the same for me since the first time I noticed Tino wasn’t there anymore. I miss Tino; watching him scurry around the room was the most entertaining aspect of eating there.
Regardless, when Baird and his wife Susannah are in from Austin, Baird always wants to eat at Benitos. The food is still great, but sometimes I suspect he’s as sentimental about Benitos “Tino years” as I am, we’ve never really discussed this however. He calls up several other friends, and at the designated agreed time small clusters of us begin to show up.
Tables are shoved together; the dinner party begins. Baird and Susannah have what writers call an eclectic group of friends, (although real people don’t use words like eclectic) an interesting mix of slightly flamboyant gay and straight people. The conversation is always lively, the mood festive. I am famished and order milanesa which for those of you who don’t know is a breaded steak. The recipe originates from South America according to Wikipedia. When mine arrives it’s a piece of steak the size of my head. I roll up my sleeves and proceed to get to work; I warn everyone to keep their fingers out of the way. Twelve meals and many, many $8.00 margaritas later we are served with a $350.00 check. Time to play the all-right-who-had-what game. This takes awhile.
Three hours after out initial arrival, Baird and I go to someone elses place after dinner. A new Fender Squire bass sits in the corner; oh boy! Haven’t picked one of these up in twenty years. I hit a riff; Baird and Charles make bug-eyed faces; do I suck that bad? Their heads start bobbing, they both smile and give me the thumbs-up ok sign.
Charles also has a beautiful Les Paul; I can’t hardly keep my hands off this as well. Struggle to remember something I figured out the other night; not used to playing in front of anyone. Was screwing around with one of my guitars the other night and figured out the opening to the KING OF THE HILL theme song. Knock out a clumsy version of it to their approval. Baird says no, no you’re not doing it right… we’re up until after midnight trying to get that stupid song just right. Welcome to Time-Wasting 101, file23-style.
Leaving Charles place the outside air is cold and crisp. A siren pierces the silence in the distance; I turn to Baird and say in my best Bela Lugosi voice: “Ah the children of the night!” We have a good laugh as we zoom over the huge East Lancaster bridge to drop me off at my place. Fort Worth glitters like Disneyland tonight; millions of lights everywhere. Life is good this evening.