[Editor’s Note: As the temperature falls and the leaves begin to change, time has come for the IHO team to re-assemble and begin overanalyzing this year’s Ancient Eight. While we brush up on offseason news and prepare our predictions, please enjoy this fictional short story from the ever-polarizing, always-antagonizing Ancient Quaker.]
Once upon a time there was a small New England coastal town. It was a beautiful place with pristine beaches, luxurious housing, and high end shopping. Four months a year it was flooded with mostly wealthy tourists from Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
It was a magical place that had remained unspoiled by the outside world. Strangely, this select spot had only eight restaurants. The eateries were all very different in cuisine and for more than 50 years, it was a happy and stable collaboration.
Still, two restaurants always seemed to get the vast majority of the customers and, thus, all the fame. Every Friday and Saturday night during the tourist season, these two culinary stalwarts were jammed with people. One was The Palace, an haute cuisine restaurant situated high on a hilltop overlooking the town. It catered to only the wealthiest patrons and boasted a Cordon Bleu-trained four-star chef who knew how to cook even the most complex dishes with elegance.
The other restaurant had the rather ungainly title of Everyday is Halloween. Serving mostly overpriced orange and black cookies, cakes, and candies, the place was extremely popular with children. Many of the adults liked it as well because the Halloween snacks reminded them of their childhood. They would eat the delicious treats with both hands, get all sugared up, throw around big words like sesquipedalian and equipoise and then think they were better than everyone else. It was a powerful, but unfortunately, transient high: a kind of hypnosis if you will. However, when all that sugar was eventually metabolized, the deluded customers all came crashing back down to their sometimes painful reality. Nevertheless, young and old alike always found themselves going back to Halloween for more.
The other six restaurants were mostly forgettable places. A shack in the woods called Ezra’s Place served all manner of disgusting fare. The management couldn’t make up its mind regarding what to make so they decided to make everything from grilled cheese to turkey tetrachloride. It was so terrible that state aid was often needed to keep Ezra’s from closing. Eli’s Corner, a dive bar, and The Lion’s Den, an even seedier dive bar, also offered little competition for the mighty Palace and Halloween. Season after season, they’d effortlessly soak up the tourist dollars like it was their birthright. Arrogantly, the duopoly thought nothing would ever alter this tremendously lopsided balance of power. However, there was one restaurant in the town with tremendous unrealized potential, Dirty John’s Burgers and Fries.
The simple fare at Dirty John’s was serviceable enough, but the one thing it had that no other place in town had was an amazing view. It commanded some prime real estate overlooking the ocean: a magnificent vista where its customers could watch boats sail, sea birds dive, and waves crash. In fact, the seascape was so mesmerizing, no one really paid attention to all the crap they were eating.
One day a man in a fancy suit came from the Big City to meet the owner of Dirty John’s.
“Hey, I love this view,” the man said with a sly smile, “but burgers and fries are all wrong and ‘Dirty John’s’ sounds well too…lavatorial. Ever think of changing the name and the menu? You’re by the ocean Mr. John, why not sell seafood?”
“I don’t know nothin’ about sellin’ no seafood,” Dirty John replied innocently.
After recovering from the unexpected double negative barrage, The Man said, “That’s no problem sir. I just happen to represent The Crimson Crab Restaurant Chain. How would you like to sell your place to us? I guarantee every year we’ll get you more customers than The Palace and Halloween combined.”
Dirty John was a simple man but an open-minded one. He was tired of being pummeled by The Palace and Halloween every year. Why should they get all the tourist dollars? After about two minutes of careless thought, he held out his nicotine-stained hand and agreed.
A few short months later, Dirty John’s was torn down, almost all of the old employees unceremoniously fired, and a brand new Crimson Crab restaurant, a staple of strip malls everywhere, opened in its stead. Its neon lights, clapboard construction, and immense parking lot however looked strangely out of place in the small traditional town. Nevertheless, The Crab’s timing was impeccable. Halloween was alienating customers by the boatload since replacing the natural sugar in its treats with a new, cheaper artificial sweetener, Scottpartame, thus eliminating the all-important postprandial high.
“Hey, I don’t feel any different,” their customers would exclaim after eating a $20 cookie. “I feel like I always feel… I hate that.”
Even the mighty Palace was suddenly vulnerable. In a rather boneheaded, cost-cutting measure, they let their esteemed chef go and filled his venerable position with a waiter from Bruno’s Diner across the street. However it soon became apparent that the lowly waiter was in way over his head. Unable to meet the challenge of refined cooking, the best he could do was offer a few feeble attempts at diner-inspired imitations instead.
“This food sucks!” the regulars screamed. “My escargot tastes like…like corned beef hash!”
On the other hand, the Crimson Crab immediately began drawing huge crowds. The other restaurants in town could only watch the seemingly magical, meteoric rise of a once pathetic, broken-down establishment. Still, the mobs of people waiting at the door didn’t seem to be enough for the Crimson Crab Corporation. A few times, the owner of the Palace caught Crab employees offering discount vouchers in front of its doors to help lure even more customers away. Then, after three seasons of consistently outdrawing all of the other restaurants, a few patrons of the Crab started puking their guts up after ordering the New England clam chowder. Soon thereafter, a few more diners, including the mayor, got a wicked case of the shits after chowing down on the halibut steaks. The Health Department was immediately alerted. Not surprisingly, vermin were found in the basement and fecal material cultured from the bouillabaisse. The kitchen was a veritable cesspool, but stunningly no action by the authorities was taken.
“The Crimson Crab is good for the town, good for business,” the mayor said when interviewed with his pants down from his toilet. “Don’t worry though, I’ll make sure it cleans up its act.”
Then he paused for a moment while he allowed another wave of nausea to pass. A big smile swept across his face.
“Besides, with all the people we have coming back this season, I know this will be our best year in history!”
Stay Red and Blue my friends.
(This has been a Notorious TAQ™ Production.)