Real Magick, or “How to Become the Center of Attention for About Fifteen Bucks!”
So, after my last blog post on Helplessness, I really needed a boost. Fortunately, I was scheduled for my weekly lunch-date with one of my best friends; let’s call her Kyrene, ’cause that’s what she goes by on the net.
She had revealed to me, days earlier, that she had a coupon for a little place not far from where I live; an old-style Mexican Restaurant in classic ’70’s style. (If you have one of these in your town, I urge you to patronize the crap out of it; the world can’t have enough classic ’70’s Mexican Restaurant and Cantinas). There’s nothing like a good coupon to inspire one to try a new place, and I HAVE wanted to try this place for a while. It looked expensive, though, and it was across the street from a Der Wienerschnitzel. In my personal hard economic times (now in their tenth year), a choice between a fancy looking Mexican Restaurant and five Chilli Burgers for five dollars is pretty much automatically made for me by my wallet.
Not this time, though. Kyrene and I arrived at the Cantina slightly before it opened, and it was pretty amazing just waiting outside. Wavy brick work, faux poorly-applied stucco, hand-carved wooden benches for waiting; yes, this was the place to throw off my sense of helplessness and rage. The only thing that could have made it better is if I’d have not been driving; a big, fancy Margarita has been known, on rare occasions, to raise my mood.
We’re let in, we’re seated, and we look over the menu. It’s really kind of reasonable, but we have a coupon. Not just any coupon, but a “buy any entree, and get a second entree of equal or lesser value for $3.99” coupon. The photons of light reflecting off of menu items that had reasonable prices just skittered off of my retina, repelled by the power of that coupon. I was there to improve my mood, and no reasonably priced entree was likely to do that.
In fact, I was going to need more than food. Don’t get me wrong – the food at the place is really excellent. Hell, the chips and salsa that they set on the table is among the best I’ve ever had at a Mexican Restaurant, and I’ve been eating at Mexican Restaurants for over four decades (I started early). The chips were freshly made, lightly salted, and came in precariously tiny amounts to whet my appetite. The salsa was so exceptional that after I’d eaten the most solid parts out of it with my half of the chips, I could not resist the urge to pick up the little plastic faux lava salsa bowl and take the liquid remainder as a shot. And then, the moment that I’d set down the bowl and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, the server was there to take away the empty chip basket and salsa bowls and set down a fresh set. This place is THAT kind of Mexican Restaurant; they’ve been doing this for about as long as I’ve been eating Mexican Restaurant food, and they’re as good at making it as I am at eating it.
Food alone was not going to elevate my mood, though, no matter how good. So, I performed a little magick. That’s right, I used a “k.” Real magick. Proper will-working, affecting a change in myself and the universe around me by an act of will. It wasn’t a hard spell to cast, and you can do it too. Here’s how.
Step One: Have about fifteen bucks to spend. Twenty is better, ’cause you’ll also want something to drink, and don’t forget to leave a nice tip.
Step Two: Go to a Mexican Restaurant… a chain restaurant will do, but a little local place is even better.
Step Three: When the server comes to your table and asks what you want to eat, you look at him and say “I’ll have the fajitas, please.”
Step Four: Sit back and wait a little bit for the kitchen to prepare your fajitas.
Step Five: Smile when you hear the sizzle.
There is an immediate effect. You see, not only are you about to be served one of the most delicious things, by default, on any Mexican Restaurant’s menu; that’s a big part of it, though. No, the bigger effect comes from watching the passage of your fajitas from the kitchen to your table.
Heads turn. Noses cant up into the air, to catch the smell of sizzling meat and vegetables as they pass by. Faces peek around the edges of booth benches. The server, hand clad in protective gear, leaves a trail of steam and the odor of frying peppers, onions, and meat like a giant arrow in the air, and then, the arrow points to you.
If you’re at a better restaurant, they’ve already set up a little stand for your very hot iron skillet, maybe with a candle or other heat source under it. The skillet gets set down, and the server pronounces a universal blessing on your enjoyment of the meal.
“Careful, this plate is really hot,” they will say.
Then there’s a moment. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, as you lift the lid on the container of tortillas, close your eyes to smell the iron skillet of meat and vegetables, and reach for your fork. In that moment, every eye around you is still lingering in your direction, every nostril is still flared, trying to get one last scent, and there’s a thought shared by (almost) everyone around you. If you’re lucky, and the table is quiet, you may hear someone voice it.
“That’s what I should have ordered,” is the thought.
For a moment, a shining, glorious moment, you’re the person who made the best choice in the place. You are the focus of appreciation, consensus, and yes, even a little envy. The culinary energies of the diners assembled around you is focused on you, and how damn good those freakin’ fajitas smell.
The only people immune to this effect are, of course, those who have already ordered fajitas. Still, with those lucky people, you share an amazing and common bond. You are in the fellowship of those who made the best choice in the place.
You have just performed a powerful act. All around you, in the minds of those who have been affected, choices are changing. “Well, I was going to get the tostada salad, but damn, those fajitas look AWESOME.” Even people who may already have ordered are thinking, even if only for a moment, of flagging down the server, and changing their order to the fajitas. You’ve altered the course of choice and lunch destiny.
Eating the fajitas might almost be an anticlimax, but they’re so damn good that they fulfill every promise made by the sizzling and scent of the skillet. It’s is nigh scientifically impossible to be unhappy or dissatisfied after eating a plate of fajitas. Even better, this particular day, I ordered the fajitas fantastico, which featured marinated chicken, marinated steak, AND jumbo shrimp.
And, as if the amount of focus and envy that I had earned wasn’t enough, Kyrene ordered the same thing. The restaurant wasn’t crowded at the time, but EVERY eye and nose in the place pointed at our table.
Now, tomorrow morning, I’m getting on an airplane and travelling about eighteen hundred miles to help my friend Lisa in St. Louis. That feeling of helplessness that has been gnawing at me will finally be dealt with, and hopefully, I’ll be able to see her through the problems that have been plauging her. A lot of thought and effort has gone into the preparation for this trip; it’s not going to be an easy one.
When I look at the things that have given me the strength to persevere, and the confidence to know that I can make a difference in my good friend’s life, I look back at Kyrene, holding up a coupon salvaged from a local magazine, and saying “have you heard of this place?” I look back at visiting a restaurant that had been out of my reach, and I look back on saying “I’ll have the fajitas, please.”
For those of you who tend to doubt the existence of real magick, who will attribute my feeling of empowerment to the benefits of positive group attention and the flow of Endorphins, I say to you “you say potato, I say fajitas.”