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Thursday, August 23, 2018

To Wrestlemania and Back: A New Orleans Journey-Part 2




April 9, 2018

Rough morning. Double vodka sodas may be less nourishing than previously imagined. Unsure if I should have eaten less fried chicken last night, or more. Only cure is more food. Fortunately, we have a pretty exciting lunch reservation today at Antoine's.
Antoine's is one of the truly iconic New Orleans restaurants. It's been run by the same family since 1840, and the bio on the menu boasts of introducing the world to a number of iconic Creole dishes. The restaurant has no less than fifteen dining rooms, and has served celebrities and dignitaries for generations. That's cool and all, but frankly, I'm here for absurdly cheap cocktails and a three course meal. I am not disappointed, greeted by an interior dimly lit to perfection and an affable server more than happy to keep the twenty-five cent lemon drops flowing. I'm feeling better already.
I bypass most of the menu and head straight for the lunch special. For $20.18, you get an appetizer, entree and dessert, which is quite the steal. I end up going for the charbroiled oysters with garlic, herbs, butter, olive oil and Romano cheese on them, followed by the shrimp, crawfish étouffée, and finally a pecan bread pudding. And I couldn't be happier with my choices. The grits are creamy, the seafood is plump and flavorful, lemon drops are only twenty-five cents if you happened to gloss over that the first time, and I somehow find room for the decadent bread pudding. But the oysters...oh my, the oysters. I could probably eat a truckload of those things, and I just sit there blabbing on after every bite about how incredibly delicious they are. I heretofore resolve to order similar oysters anywhere we see them on a menu for the rest of the trip. I am too distracted by eating my food to take many photos of it, though I do manage to capture one part of the experience in between gorgings, Sheila's exceptional grilled Louisiana drum entree.

The rest of the day is mainly exploration, consisting of soaking in the city during daylight hours with relative lucidity. We happen upon a brewery, and are able to sample some local beers in the warm sunshine. I suddenly realize that telling this story with a condensed timeline makes it seem like I have a problem.
We choose to eat dinner at Royal House, a nearby restaurant that offers some very satisfying seafood options. Though dinner is predictably tasty (spoiler: everything in New Orleans is. Everything), what stands out in my mind is the odd scenario that accompanies our seating. First we are seated downstairs in a corner, but Sheila and I inquire about a table on the second floor instead. Our host accommodates this, bringing us upstairs and asking if we want to sit inside or outside. We decide to sit outside and enjoy the view, and as the host leads Sheila out there I hit the restroom. When I return to the dining room, I am greeted by the sight of our host yelling at the man who would be our server, telling him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business and focus on his own job. The exact reason for this is a bit murky; Sheila had requested to move back inside after seeing how wobbly the table outside was, and perhaps the second relocation triggers some deeply repressed memories within our host's psyche, causing him to lash out in pain and confusion. Or perhaps he is just unprofessional.  In any case, our server nervously apologizes, and we enjoy our meal, but the awkwardness of this sudden explosion of frustration casts a bit of a pall over it.
No matter. We must hustle back to the hotel room to lay around and watch WWE Monday Night RAW. After all, we just spent the previous day at WrestleMania...it wouldn't make much sense for us to ignore the immediate televised aftermath.

April 10, 2018

Having slept for the purposes of both rest and killing time until the next meal, I head to the next destination: Ruby Slipper, a popular breakfast joint promising an abundance of tempting Benedictions, omelets and so forth. At this meal I make not one, but two surprising decisions:
1. I stick with coffee, eschewing alcoholic beverages. I try to keep this on the down-low to avoid being run out of town.
2. I notice a meal option consisting of three different Benedicts, yet end up ordering the more sensible two Benedict option. I try to keep this on the down-low to avoid harming my reputation as a shameless glutton.

Both decisions pay off, as my cochon and shrimp Benedicts both hit the spot and fill me up just enough to satisfy me without causing me to adjust my belt or gait. Just as well, as our next destination is the New Orleans Zoo, to spend some time with Mother Nature's sister, Auntie Augmented Captivity. It's quite lovely, and we see animals ranging from the regal jaguar...


to adorable alpacas...


to...JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT HELP ME

(Ed. Note-Months after our trip, the jaguar escaped its pen and did some extremely jaguar things, including slaughtering several of those adorable alpacas. I don’t blame the jaguar, but I do find it strangely haunting to think about.)

By the time we return to the hotel, my heart rate has dropped to its normal slow, heavy thud, and a new quandary is upon us: what shall we have for dinner? Fortunately, the answer seems simple. We're in an oyster kind of mood. And as luck would have it, we happen to be within walking distance of a restaurant that has the word "oyster" in the name. Kismet!
ACME Oyster House delivers what we want. And what we want, if you've already forgotten the previous paragraph, is oysters. Raw oysters, oyster shooters, some more of those charbroiled oysters with garlic and cheese and whatnot...you might think we would be oystered out by now, but ACME's oysterosity has seduced us and like Miley Cyrus, we both can't and won't stop.

...wait, that's seriously the reference I'm going with? I think it might be time for bed.

April 11, 2018

It's a big day for us. We have several activities planned, which means some semblance of a schedule must be maintained. Ugh. Responsibility is usually something best avoided on vacation. On the other hand: swamp tour! We board a tour bus outside the hotel for a journey beyond the urban areas that have constituted the environs of our trip thus far.

The specter of Hurricane Katrina reemerges on the bus tour, as we take a somber look at some structures and even entire neighborhoods that were devastated during the disaster and have never quite recovered. The city is so lively and vibrant that one has a hard time picturing the widespread devastation it suffered mere years ago. The ramshackle debris our tour guide points out serves as a reminder that the scars the tragedy left behind still linger.

We officially exit New Orleans proper for our swamp tour, visiting a completely new environment. Prior to this, my experience with swamps has been limited to the following:

It’s a lovely day out on the bayou, with mild weather, a gently flowing current and plenty of alligators about. We learn all sorts of things about the spectacle of alligator mating, as well as their apparent fondness for hot dogs. We see half-sunken wreckage, displaced after the infamous hurricane. We hold a small turtle.

At one point we find ourselves surrounded by wild pigs, grunting, uncouth brutes with no compunctions against putting their slimy hooves on the boat railing and demanding sustenance. Our guide mentions that the animals are an invasive species that have multiplied so quickly that, even being heavily hunted, the species is out of control. The swamp has effectively become a festering breeding ground for swine run amok. JUST LIKE WASHINGTON D.C., AMIRITE? Between the groves of trees surrounding us, the water's whispered burbling and the squeals of wild pigs, you'd be forgiven for having Deliverance flashbacks.

Famished after our swamp sojourn, I decide to sample a local snack and picked up a couple bags of Chee-Wees in the gift shop. Chee-Wees are produced in Louisiana and are ostensibly a healthier, baked version of Chee-tos, which of course means they are substantially less tasty than the original. Still good, though. My favorite thing about them is the mascot on the package, who resembles the dollar store toy aisle version of Chuck E. Cheese.

After nightfall, we embark upon the Haunted New Orleans pub crawl, confident that it shall provide an abundance of opportunities for spirit-related puns. I met our guide, Randy, a few years ago at my sister’s wedding, and remember him as a funny, charismatic gentlemen. My memories prove accurate as he gives us a spirited tour of local haunts, accompanied by some refreshing beverages. There’s nothing quite like quaffing boysenberry craft cocktail while listening to a story about a prostitute committing suicide. Perhaps my favorite part of the tour is our visit to The Dungeon, a location where photography is banned and the décor is reminiscent of the Haunted Castle at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The bartendress insults my masculinity for sipping a shot and the verbal abuse just feels right. Our brief voyage into the spirit realm concludes at an absinthe bar, with wormwood-infused dreams to follow.

April 12, 2018

[Notes illegible, save for the following]

Definitely should have eaten dinner last night.

April 13, 2018 

Our last full day begins with a trip to Cafe Du Monde for their famous beignets. On the way there, I am hustled out of some money by a shoe-shining huckster who goes from friendly to somewhat menacing when I balk at his proposed price. Full disclosure: I at first go along with the hustle knowing what I am getting into and embracing what I feel will be some quaint down-home swindling, but I still experience sticker shock. At least Sheila snaps a photo to forever preserve my disdain at succumbing to a grifter.

Cafe Du Monde is a very odd place. The massive line outside is apparently almost entirely for suckers, as it wraps around the building to culminate in a to-go window, whereas you can just walk in and seat yourself without a wait as long as a table is available. No one seems to know this outside of locals and people who read Yelp ahead of time, which is fine by me. After overpaying to have diluted Palmolive sprayed on my sneakers, I desperately need to feel some form of smug intellectual superiority, and this fits the bill.
Our server whizzes by our table with only the slightest of pauses to take our drink order, then returns with both beverages and beignets, despite our not even having a chance to order the latter yet. Either she's telepathic, in which case she seems to be setting her sights a bit low, or everyone always orders the same thing. Ultimately, the point is moot, as the coffee and beignets are excellent. We finish up, hopped up on caffeine and powdered sugar, and head over to Jackson Park for an amble before shifting our focus to a matter of great import: lunch.
Our lunch plans for the day involve meeting up with Randy, our haunted pub crawl guide. We call a Lyft to take us to the designated restaurant.
“Where are you two from?” the driver asks Sheila and me.
“California. San Jose, specifically,” I reply.
“Oh yeah? What brings you out here? The French Quarter festival?”
“No, actually, we came out to see WrestleMania.”
WrestleMania?” queries the driver. “And you’re still here?”
We are shortly thereafter introduced to boiled crawfish, one of the final boxes we need to tick off on our figurative NOLA meal to-do list. The crustaceous mound we receive looks like too much food at first glance, but I am more than happy to devour each spicy ersatz lobster baby nugget until only a pile of decimated shell fragments remains. My fingernails shall retain a unique scent and appearance for hours to come, despite numerous hand-washings.
We decide to walk off our meal in the nearby Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden outside the New Orleans Museum of Art. This lovely and serene area is home to numerous fascinating pieces of art, including this bust of Rodin that looks like the cover to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark...

...and my most heinous nightmare in tangible form: a giant metal spider.

We stroll around, taking in our surroundings as the end of our trip looms. Some particularly feisty geese attack us when we inadvertently violate their personal space. Ominous gray clouds move in, hastening evening’s descent, though fortunately we detect not a drop of rain.  As we head back to the hotel, our new Lyft driver asks us what we’re in town for.
“We came out to see WrestleMania!”
“And you’re still here?”
Our final night on the town consists of one last pass around the French Quarter. We finally have some gumbo (the last must-try food on our list), which is predictably fantastic. At a dive bar I try out some Malört, a liquor I have heard about at length courtesy of the online Old School Magic: The Gathering community but never actually seen until today. When the bartender asks me, "Are you sure you want to drink that?" after I place my order, a cold chill runs down my spine. And with good reason. Basically, Malört tastes like someone managed to distill all the bitterness that has fermented in my soul over the span of thirty-six years of endless disappointment into a single shot glass worth of beverage. All things considered, I've tasted worse. 
Souvenirs are purchased, copious amounts of Abita are imbibed, one last effort is made to sear the general vibe of my surroundings into my long-term memory. Lovely, ornate architecture and spectral flickering lamps are offset by shrill screams of frivolity and the occasional whiff of vomit. Honestly, in many ways, Disneyland pretty much nailed it.
Ultimately, the need to pack forces us to flee the Quarter’s temptations, but a compromise is made. There will be one more go-‘round with Willie’s, to end things the way they started: with ludicrously potent daiquiris and fried chicken. The meal of kings and colonels, Sanders and otherwise. Still, there’s no time to lollygag, so we get everything to go and hustle back to the hotel.
A boisterous fellow accompanying us in the elevator up to our room detects the fragrance of fried poultry and rhapsodizes about his favorite local options.
“I used to live out here,” he says. “Now every time I come back in town, the first thing I do is get some fried chicken.”
“Oh yeah?” I say. “Where do you go to get it? Willie’s?”
“Nah man,” he says, shaking his head, “Willie’s used to be the shit, but they kinda fell off. Now it’s all about Brother’s! You gotta get your fried chicken from Brother’s!” At this point, he notices the logo on our grease-spotted paper sacks and unconvincingly appends his previous statement. “Oh, uh, but Willie’s is cool, though. I mean, you know, they’re coming back, lately.”

April 14, 2018

We depart as we arrived, amidst the patter of warm, heavy rain. Soon after picking up some last minute pralines and a fried shrimp po’-boy at the airport, we are aloft. With the heavy cloud cover, New Orleans is already hidden from view, and as the Big Easy’s Bayou Magic fades, a sobering fact dawns on me: I’m probably going to be eating nothing but salads for the foreseeable future.

 If you enjoy Joey Marsilio's travel writing, buying one or more copies of his novel Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior will help finance his future trips/writing material. If not, well...he's about to get started on his Halloween stuff for the year.

Monday, May 14, 2018

To Wrestlemania and Back: A New Orleans Journey-Part 1


The idea came, as grand ones often do, after the drinks began to take hold. My girlfriend and I were drinking what could fairly be described as an excessive amount of alcohol for a Monday night, while watching the extremely appropriately-titled WWE Monday Night Raw. We had been discussing the possibility of going on vacation soon, when serendipitously enough, a commercial advertising the upcoming WrestleMania event howled across our television screen. Held in New Orleans, a city we both had long desired to visit, could this event be the unlikely inspiration for our next adventure?
Long story short, yes. The plan was simple: we would spend a week in the Big Easy, starting with WrestleMania and moving on to sight-seeing, exploring, drinking, eating, eating and eating over the course of the following days. And so, mere weeks later, we departed a gloomy, drizzly San Francisco and headed down south.
Our flight was largely uneventful, save for the child behind us who found great amusement in repeatedly saying "Ahhhh! The plane's gonna crash! We're all gonna die!" On the other hand, I experienced joy in its truest form when the flight attendant informed me that my canned Moscow Mule would be complimentary. A more encouraging omen I cannot imagine.
The plane landed in Louisiana amidst much the same weather we left in. If one were judging purely on atmospheric conditions, they could be forgiven for thinking we had never left our home state. But the sudden abundance of pralines and hot sauce at every airport kiosk made our arrival in Cajun Country undeniable. The plethora of massive WWE advertisements all over the walls and columns served as an electrifying reminder that we were less than twenty-four hours away from a sports entertainment spectacle for the ages! Or so we hoped. In any case, first thing was first: we needed to find our hotel.
I was every bit the gawking yokel during the cab ride into the city, pointing out pipes and buildings like they were ruins of a Martian civilization. "Look, it's a Michael's!" I said at one point. "Just like where we live!"

We arrived at our hotel during a break in the rain, and the receptionist immediately surmised that we were in town for WrestleMania (a dubious honor, perhaps) and scoffing at my half-joking desire to take a nap. "This is the Vegas of the South!" she said. "Get outta here with a nap." And fittingly enough, we soon did have to get outta there, because we were in the wrong hotel. We had foolishly mistaken the Courtyard Marriott Near the French Quarter for the Courtyard Marriott French Quarter, and the price we paid was a few blocks' walk that exposed the wheels on our suitcases to things no wheels should experience. Still, our detour gave us a chance to get a sense of our new surroundings, see a number of obvious fellow WWE fans walking the streets, and FINALLY catch a goddamn Corsola in Pokemon Go.
Our actual hotel was a comfortable retreat with the odd feature of its only window looking out into the hotel itself rather than outside. Though this was admittedly jarring initially--I didn't expect to see a twenty-something man drinking Mountain Dew outside the window when I first drew back the curtain--it was a bug that became a feature by offering perhaps the truest blackout curtains I've ever seen. Time became malleable as, so long as Sheila and I were physically within that room, we were granted the ability to pretend it was any time of day or night we desired to suit our circumstances. This would come in handy numerous times during our vacation. In any case, for the time being, we closed the curtains and shook off our travel weariness with a few Red Bull and vodkas. This is probably where I should note that this is a recounting of a personal experience, not a how-to guide.

Famished and let loose in one of America's culinary epicenters, we were nearly overwhelmed by a myriad of choices for our first official New Orleans meal. So as we headed out into the suddenly quite vigorous (but warm) rain, we opted for convenience and headed into a nearby restaurant that seemed quite popular: Willie's, a fried chicken joint with a few other locations in town. The heavenly aroma of crisp chicken skin and the whirring churning of daiquiri machines were clear indicators that we had made the correct decision. Now it was merely a matter of deciphering the somewhat unintuitive menu. Fortunately, I had essentially decided on fried chicken and jambalaya before walking in, and there was a suitable combo meal on the board to accommodate my desires. But what should we get to drink? Each individual 7-11-Slurpeeeqsue drink machine had a piece of paper taped to it with the name of the drink and some of the components therein. Think Everclear and Bacardi 151 in the same drink, a.k.a. the feverish nightmare of a college freshman. We were intrigued.
"Excuse me," Sheila said to the girl at the cash register, "what's in that orange drink over there? The 190."
"It's orange."
"OK, but...what's in it?" she persisted. "What kind of drink is it?"
"Orange."
Apparently it was the Area 51 of drinks, a closely guarded secret with details provided only on a strictly need-to-know basis. "Um, alright," said Sheila. "I'll get that one."
I went with the Willie's punch, despite the seemingly toxic nature of the labeled liquor blend within. You can seldom go wrong ordering an item with the same name as the establishment.

In any case, despite the enigmatic nature of the ordering process, our dining experience was excellent. The food was exceedingly moist and flavorful, with the jambalaya an instant favorite between us and the drinks as potent and tasty as they were mysterious. As we dined, we noted the plethora of wresting shirts adorning the chests of our fellow diners, feeling at one with our fellow travelers. This bond was cemented when the Jay-Z/Linkin Park mashup masterpiece "Numb/Encore" played on the restaurant sound system, and I found myself singing along to it with the table next to us, a group of grappling connoisseurs headed to the Ring of Honor show that night. Truly, we were all travelers on a strange, strange journey, and one last time, we all needed to roar.
After that, the weather died down again and we decided to use the evening to explore the French Quarter. Our movements were swift and somewhat blurry, and details were unimportant. We would ascertain some markers on our wanderings that would provide bearings for the rest of our vacation, like a hot dog cart that looked good but which we never patronized, a Walgreen's that would become our source of gallons of life-saving Ozarka water in the days ahead, and a statue of Jesus that cast an imposing shadow.

The final bar we visited that evening, purely by chance, was the historic Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, a structure that has existed since the 1700s and is one of the oldest bars in America.

A truly lovely and striking venue, it felt like the original concept that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was based on. I made a toast to buccaneers past with the first of many (many) bottles of Abita Amber we would consume during our trip. It was damn near magical. But then, we were seized with an inevitable impulse that would draw our night to a close. In short, we were hungry.
We ventured toward our (actual) hotel room, fueled by the twin realizations that we were due for additional sustenance and that we needed to not feel like absolute death in order to fully enjoy the next day's WrestleMania festivities. So we preemptively checked off one of the boxes on our figurative tour checklist: visiting a Popeye's in New Orleans. Based on an article we had read in anticipation of our trip, we were operating on the information that while visiting a fast food chain restaurant touting Louisiana cuisine in its home state would seem on the surface to be heresy, it was actually an example of a franchise elevating its food within its home state. As fans of Popeye's, we had to test this theory, and it ended up being true and then some. It was not only elevated, it was just...different.
Any Popeye's I've ever been to in the Bay Area has a standard fast food restaurant setup: you order at the counter, and when your food is ready, they bring it out of the kitchen and serve it to you at that same counter. This Popeye's ran on a different system. You ordered at one counter, paid for your food at a second counter, and then went to a third counter for condiments and food bagging. It was a lot for us to process, particularly in our somewhat foggy state of mind, but at the very least it seemed a clever way to provide more employment opportunities in the fried chicken industry.
We ate our Popeye's in our hotel room, on top of a towel we spread out on the bed. It was every bit as delicious as we could have hoped, and was sure to prove a valuable ally in the anti-hangover wars ahead. Sleep came swiftly soon after.

We awoke with no clue as to what time it could be, feeling surprisingly less than terrible. Some combination of poultry grease, Texan bottled water and excitement for the event to come fortified us for the day ahead. Still, we needed some breakfast, and so decided to try out the restaurant across the street from our hotel,  Serio's Po-Boys. As it happens, we would end up eating here multiple times during the trip, yet neither Sheila nor I ever actually purchase one of the sandwiches for which the establishment is named. The blame for this falls squarely at the feet of the most unexpected foodstuff we encountered during the course of our vacation: the muffuletta.
The muffuletta is a sandwich as delicious as it is difficult to spell. A combination of soft ciabatta bread, Italian meats, Swiss and provolone cheeses and a truly impressive olive salad, this particular version of the muffuletta apparently was judged to be superior than that of esteemed celebrity chef Bobby Flay. I can certainly see why...it was a remarkable dish: tasty, tangy, meaty, huge (I don't believe I've ever seen another sandwich you can purchase by the quarter, half or whole) and unique. Yelp turns up only one restaurant around San Jose that serves these, but after my experience at Serio's, I'm definitely motivated to go try it and see how they measure up.
Our bellies full, the time had come for final Wrestlemania preparations. Our remaining Red Bull supply served us well as we shook off the lingering effects of the previous night's frivolity and, with the NXT TakeOver special that had taken place just hours before playing on the iPad, we donned our Shinsuke Nakamura shirts and prettied ourselves up. The Superdome awaited.

Contrary to popular belief, the first match of Wrestlemania was a battle between Sheila and stadium security over her clutch allegedly being a quarter of an inch larger than stadium regulations allowed. Sheila insisted that she had looked up said regulations in advance and measured the bag with a ruler to ensure compliance, but the lady at the gate was having none of it. What she did have was a stick she was using to measure bags. It had no units of measurement on it, or really any markings at all, but she assured us that it was an accurate gauge of clutch size, and said gauge showed that we were in violation. Sheila vehemently disagreed, and given the length of the line and the sheer amount of time we had already waited in order to gain access to the building, the proposed solution of leaving the line and buying a new bag at the team store was not exactly ideal. The people in line behind us were less than sympathetic for our cause, grumbling that we should just leave the line, but after some increasingly strained back-and-forth, the gate attendant grabbed her supervisor, who quickly cleared up the situation and had Sheila empty the clutch and put it in her pocket as a condition for entry. There was no championship belt awarded for our victory, but the sweet taste of triumph was reward enough. Plus, you know, we didn't have to wait in line again.
For as long an event as it was (as I recall, it clocked in at somewhere around seventy-three hours, give or take), I don't have a ton to say about WrestleMania. Part of this can be attributed to our seats being situated right by the liquor vendors, who were more than happy to suggest we make our every vodka/soda order a double (for efficiency's sake, of course). This added immeasurably to our enjoyment of the event while detracting immeasurably from my ability to recount it in detail, but frankly there are a million write-ups of the show online, and I'm writing this a month after the event, so I'd hardly have the most timely analysis anyway.
What I would like to note, though, is the feeling of being at WrestleMania. When we walked in, we were greeted with a view of the gorgeous set.

Now, unless you buy some absurdly expensive tickets, any live viewing of Wrestlemania will likely include you squinting at the ant-like size of the in-ring performers from your vantage point before finally giving up and just watching things unfold on one of the big stadium screens. In a sense, you're probably missing out on some things by being there. If you were watching the show at home instead, you'd likely have a clearer picture of the action and the benefit of running commentary (annoying though the commentators can be at times) to give context to the action.
But what this ignores is the feeling of being at WrestleMania. You're in a giant Stadium, watching the Super Bowl of professional wrestling with excited fans from all over the world. Everyone mutually rejoices when Daniel Bryan comes back from retirement to wrestle as though he was never concussed into a forced exit from the ring for years. You join the chorus of applause when Ronda Rousey proves herself to be quite capable and formidable in her in-ring debut, and sort of murmur when massively popular (and just plain massive) Braun Strowman selects a random child from the crowd to be his tag team partner in a championship match. Yes, the second half of the show was largely lacking in comparison to the first, ending with a main event that no one was excited about due largely to the perceived predictability of its outcome and the lukewarm enthusiasm for the characters involved.
Even when the finish of the match went contrary to nearly everyone's expectations, the gasps of surprise were somewhat mitigated by the sheer exhaustion of the crowd. But in a way, individual match results are nearly beside the point. WrestleMania is an entity far bigger than than any individual match, or even any one year's card. It is a spectacle drawing on decades of history, fueled by the enthusiasm of fans from every corner of the globe who just want to spend some money to see people beat each other up in elaborate and dramatic ways. And until Cirque Du Soleil starts allowing powerbombs, there truly is nothing else like it. If you ever get the chance to experience a WrestleMania for yourself, I highly recommend it.
Oh, and you'll want to get seats close to the booze and the bathroom. Trust me on that.
Back at the hotel that night, we were thoroughly drained from a full day of watching other people being athletic, and grappled with the idea that we really needed to eat something approximating dinner before we went to bed. As we stood at the elevator, waiting to go down to street level in search of grub, a child and his father passed by, on the way to their room. As they did, the boy turned to Sheila and me, gestured toward the paper bag his father held and declared in a surprisingly intense monotone, "We got Willie's." Then the pair departed. Laughing on the way down about the child's Village of the Damned-esque personality, we nonetheless drew inspiration from his unprompted statement and, well, we got Willie's. For the second straight night, flakes of deep-fried chicken skin would nestle among the fibers of a bath towel draped over the foot of a hotel bed. As is only right and proper.

Joey Marsilio would like to remind you that by purchasing his novel, Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior, you are not only getting yourself a great book to read, but also adding to his "traveling to places and then posting inane musings about it online" fund.