June 25, 2008

One of Dad's secret hide aways...

This picture is of my Dad this past Christmas opening his "leg lamp" that my brother gave him. Its a replica of the lamp from "The Christmas Story" He loved it...

There is a little barbecue place that's tucked out of the way just off the interstate in Atlanta. Its a small brick building that's been there since 1947. There are trees in the tiny little parking lot that have grown to be intertwined with the chain linked fence, no air conditioning in the kitchen, just huge fans covered by wire mesh that blow that delicious smell of woodsmoke and roasting pork out of the windows to flow all around the area, the ubiquitous banging sound of meat being chopped is always in the background, autographed pictures hang on the walls of Lewis Grizzard, Jerry Clower, several Governors, sports figures, local celebrities, etc.... They will gladly let you go into the kitchen if you ask so you can check out the set up. The smoking area is covered in thick black tar, and such a mouth watering aroma hangs in there... it makes me feel like a little kid again running around while my grandfather is preparing his Fourth of July barbecue. There is not one thing in this place that is up to any code set down by the state, county, or city... But with grandfather laws in effect what can they do? This is a straight ahead no nonsense barbecue joint, no frills or specialty items will be found on the menu. Just damn good food at a fair price, with waitresses that have been there for at least thirty years each, calling everybody sweetie or honey, and they actually seem to be having a good time. The menu is simple, short, and to the point. They have stew, barbecue, ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs. The sweet tea will make you cry it is so good. They just don't mess with anything that's not needed as you can tell by the website that hasn't been completed for god knows how long now.
This place held a certain mystique with me for several years... It was where my Dad would go almost every day for extended lunches when he was a service technician working on printing equipment around Atlanta. He had talked about the place several times to me and his prowess at sneaking long lunches filled with all sorts of home spun banter at the place were almost legendary within the company we both worked at. By the time I started working there he was a supervisor and Harold's was too far away from the office for us to sneak off for lunch. I tried many times to get him to go there with me on a Saturday, but he always told me that it was too far for him to go. The first time I made it there was years ago, I walked in with Billy, an ex coworker of my Dad's, even though he had not been there for at least five years, they all greeted him as if he had been there the day before and given them all presents. They walked ahead of him and already had a plate of cracklin' cornbread and a large sweet tea waiting for him on the table . After we had been seated (I was a little dumbstruck as to the manner with which they were treating him, almost like royalty) the waitress sat down and fell into a long discussion with the him about where he had been and what he had been doing. I listened to some of the talk and perused menu, when he said, "Hey, this is Del's boy Clay." You would have thought the prodigal son had returned... all the waitresses came running when our waitress yelled back into the kitchen, "Del's boy is out here!". For the next couple of hours I was treated to a never ending story about the antics that he had pulled there and how he had kept them all entertained. I heard things like " That son of a gun made Jerry Clower look like a boring preacher in a hot church in July!" I enjoyed the best rib plate I ever had and smiled non stop while listening to stories about Dad. I got a little chill when they told me that I was sitting in his favorite chair at the table he always claimed was his, my companion grinned at me, I couldn't help but feel like I was set up... When I went to the counter to pay the bill, the gentleman taking the money tore the ticket in half, handed me a greasy little bag and said, "You give this to your Dad and tell him I said Hi..." Inside was a big container of stew and a huge stack of cornbread. I stopped by my parents house on the way home and passed off the goodies to Dad and told him all about the experience. I asked him why he had only told me about the food and had never mentioned how much fun it was or how nice they all were, he said, "Well I cain't divulge all my secrets boy..." and gave me a sly wink as he eyeballed his bag of food. He asked me about them, calling them all by name and told me a little about each one, saying, "Does so and so still wear her hair in that god awful green clip?" I just laughed and said yes she had it on, he got tickled by hearing about them, it was as if he had been there with me...
I went back in there recently ( I was near there and had a craving for stew) I walked in and made my way to the table my dad sat at for so many years, ordered a pork plate with a bowl of stew and a sweet tea. The waitresses all came out and sat around and began to tell me how sorry they were that dad had passed away in February. The guy at the counter came back and offered his condolences, asking if I needed anything... He shook my hand and said to me, "Del was a mighty man that I am grateful to have known, his appetite for good food was dwarfed only by the size of his heart". I am continually amazed by how far reaching his persona was, and dumbfounded that for so many years I had no idea. I thanked them for their kind words, talked with them a few minutes about Dad then sat back in quiet solace to enjoy the best bowl of stew I ever had ... damn, I do miss that man.






5 comments:

The Angry Georgian said...

The same thing happens to me on the rare occasion I visit my home town. Someone will say "Hey, John's boy John is here!" or
"Robert's grand son is here!" and a few people will crowd around just to say hi. It makes you feel good.

HeartofGoldPlate said...

It's so nice to have some lingering history like that. The people who knew my grandparents or parents are probably all gone from our old neighborhood in chicago now, and I don't get out to Jacksonville enough for my liking.

Can we go here and get good food next time I visit?

Jules said...

The people we have loved are never really lost from us. Just one word can bring them back to us. Just one memory makes you feel as if they were right there with you.

Anonymous said...

When you are at Harold's your dad is right there with you.He is always with you in your heart,in your boys.Always there with you Clay.
MJ

Leanne Clothier said...

Ok i am now hungry, and brushing a tear from my eye at the same time. Another heart warming story.. You have wonderful vivid memories of your dear old dad..