The image above is a new apartment complex going up by Southdale, the First Mall, and don’t tell me otherwise. I mean about being the first mall, not the existence of the apartment complex. Who will want to live there, I’ve no idea; the views are meh. It goes without saying they’re building another across the street.
And that’s great! Why? Because it leads to angry comments on our newspaper’s website, because whenever anyone builds anything anywhere brings out Grumps O’Downer and his entire extended family log in and denounce it, because it will increase traffic, or it’s stupid to think people will live there, or it’s not affordable, or it will ruin the schools, or so on. It’s miserabilism of the most predictable sort.
I snapped that as I headed to a particular fast-food “Mexican” restaurant. My wife had her book club over, which is like bunco, except now they ignore the book instead of the game. She had been working on dinner for two days, nearly taken off a thumb cutting an onion, filled the house with the most amazing scents from this seafood soup - but it was for the gals, and I didn’t want to join the hen party anyway. Tacos! Hurrah! Beans and rice and that extra hot sauce that makes you sweat, and then you go outside in the cold and your head freezes, and you get in the car and turn on the heat and the sweat melts. Minnesota.
At the Taco Place the clerk apologized for the wait, and said they had so many in the drive-thru it would be 15 minutes before the order was served. Fif-teen minutes? Are you kidding? This is AMERICA. I want my tacos now.
“Well,” I should have said, “that sort of wait is ridiculous, so I’m going to spend 20 minutes driving around to find something else.” Because that’s what I did. My palate had been set on hot and spicy, though, so McDonald’s was out. Also because it was McDonald’s. I actually parked and went inside a Five Guys, thinking “the burgers are okay; it’s the fries, and the quantity of same” and then I saw that the price of a Five Guys hamburger was now $6.99. That’s ridiculous. I don’t know what it was before, but I’ve never had a seven-dollar hamburger there, ever, and never will again. Note to self: remember, you’ve never had a great time at Five Guys. It’s bright and loud and charmless. But such large portions!
Chick-Fil-A was out, because I ate there two weeks ago, and my internal food selector had not reset to crave. Drove through Sonic lot with a rising sense of desperation, until I said out loud I DON’T WANT A HAMBURGER, OKAY? And that gave me clarity.
Then I remembered: Zantigos! Before Taco Bell, there was Zantigos, and yea, they were good. Taco Bell devoured the chain decades ago. A few years back some locals revived the chain. There are four. Once there were thousands, like the Bison! Great masses of flatulent Bisons! Now only four. If I remembered correctly, it would be found on Lyndale in the 90s. Off we go, then.
I passed a Taco Bell on the way there, and snarled. No. I’ve come this far. I can’t turn back. I must go all the way. I passed chain after chains, and realized I was so far from my usual grazing grounds that I had encountered an entirely different grouping of the same chains.
Do I - do I need a visa to go this far?
Eventually, Zantogo’s appeared - in a strip mall between a LeeAnn Chin and a Dominos. Man, that’s weird - where I come from, the LeeAnn Chin is blocks away from the Dominos, like they don’t even know about it, but here they’re like family. The Zantigos was as I remembered: very large and deserted. The guy who took my order had the character of someone who had been slathered with novocain gel and wrapped tightly a sleeping bag for a day.
While I wanted I examined the hot sauce options. Taco Bell, as you may know, has many. Many. Mild, Hot, Fire, Diablo. Sometimes there is Green; sometimes there is not. Zantigos had boiled it down to two options: Mild and Hot, and I wondered: if you combine Mild and Hot, do you get Hotter? Think about it: there’s the Scoville Rating of Spice, and if something had a 5 and you added it to something with a 25 rating, wouldn’t you get 30?
Of course not. That’s like saying four packets of Mild would equal one MHot. The Mild would dilute the Hot. It is the way of things.
As it turned out I didn’t need either. The Green Chili Burrito, a delectation I used to get at Zantigos back in the 80s when I worked downtown and we’d go to the Zans in the old bank building - there was a big vault door in the kitchen area, too big to remove. It was superb. The spices and the green sauce - delightful. But there was something else that impressed me.
Non-standardized meat segments.
Think of an ordinary taco. The meat paste contains a hundred or so pellets of identical size. This burrito had irregular chunks - a grim portend, probably, but it meant they didn’t get a palpable sack of Prefabricated Taco Paste delivered every other day and shoved in the cooler like a limbless torso. No one had applied some sort of efficiency calculation to the filling and determined that the optimal taco-production method required meat particles approximately .73 the size of a BB, suspended in a viscous solution of Spices and Tomato Derivatives.
I had gone far for this, and would return home with tales of the food of distant lands.
Tell us the story about Zantigos again, Grandpa!
Again? Oh, you’ve heard that one -
No, again! Tell us!
Okay, okay, settle down. Well, in our land, Jimmy Johns had a sandwich shop next to the Walgreens -
That was the Walgreens on Penn!
Yes, Bobby, that’s the one.
(Bobby grins and looks around the room with triumph, because he remembered that part)
Now, McDonald’s was across the street, kitty-corner from a Panda Express. There was a Caribou coffee shootin’ it out with the Starbucks across the way, too. Down the street you had Sonic set up next to Wendy’s, and we’d all figured that Wendy’s would have given up the ghost, but she stuck around, and those two were like an old married couple that don’t speak to each other any more but can’t think of life without the other. Along came Whichwich -
Which wasn’t! all the kids say in unison.
Now, that’s a bit harsh. It was a good idea with a smart graphic presentation, but it wasn’t fish nor fowl, you know? Actually, they had fish and fowl, that might have been the problem. It was next to Red Robin, which might have been a good burger but we never knew, on account of the world “Gourmet” and “beer” on the sign, which meant you probably had to sit down and look at a menu.
Booooooo all the kids say.
“Exactly. Well, one day I got it into my head that a man might want to light out for the territories and see what there was, so I set my sights on a southern star and drove down Lyndale. And what do I see but Erbert and Gerbert sandwiches, right next to McDonald’s. I see a Taco Bell on the east side of the street.
But you didn’t stop! Bobby says. You believed the legend!
That I did, Bobby, that I did. The legend of Zantigos.
Ten seconds of the trailer says it all:
Yes, it's another Torchy Blane, a series of movies that detailed the exciting exploits of a wise-cracking, tough-as-nails single working woman. A newspaperwoman.
As noted when we did the first one, the newspaperwoman was a familiar archetype, a sign of changing mores. First the flappers shook off the surly bonds of the culture's expectations; the next generation went to work - if they could. (And if they wanted to, of course.)
Along for the ride is her cop swain; they were always about to get married, but something came up. Like murder!
There needs to be another woman we can boo and hiss:
First wife of Phil Harris too. Her career didn't set Hollywood on fire - this film provides some clues why, alas - and she became an Arthur Murray Dance instructor after the roles dried up.
Here's the plot:
Girl! A girl who dashes. Who flies against men. Whatever plot we had ends up as an excuse for three reporters to fly around the world. In 1937, that was still a challenge. I don’t know why it’s a competition, a “sporting venture” - why not just book the fastest way? If the other guy’s on the plane, then it’s a tie.
I'm a sucker for this stuff, because you get a look at the early days of commercial air travel - or rather what people in 1937 thought it was like.
TSA was easy:
The interior of the plane:
They're looking at Officer Comic-Relief, who fell down. Note the overhead bins: lots of fun during turbulence.
Here's what makes you smile.
Yes, it's the classic transition device - a plane flying along a black line. And there's quite some inadvertant documentary:
It's quite the journey:
Baluchistan, Persia, Arabia - and the country with no name, aka Mandatory Palestine, or the British Mandate, or other names.
If you're wondering whether they take the same plane around the world, no. They're here:
And you do recongize it, don't you?
Why, it was the only way to fly for the smart, sophisticated set:
They based the sets on the real thing.
It's very 1937. The Zeppelins are wonderful and Wake Island is just a dot on the map with no particular meaning . . . yet.
One more thing:
Yes, Kilgallen was a newspaperwoman. Even better:
In 1936 Kilgallen competed with two other New York newspaper reporters in a race around the world using only means of transportation available to the general public. She was the only woman to compete in the contest and came in second. She described the event in her book Girl Around The World, which is credited as the story idea for the 1937 movie Fly-Away Baby starring Glenda Farrell as a character partly inspired by Kilgallen.
I hadn't put Torchy and Kilgallen together before, but I get it now. Kilgallen even played a reporter in a move shot the year before.
I think that's quite remarkable. Torchy Blane was real, in a way. But the character was retired before she could end up doing panel shows in early TV and dying from mixing barbituates and booze, leading to speculation she was knocked off to cover up what she knew about the JFK assassination.
I'd like to think Torchy fared better. Will she? You'll find out - there are movies to come.
There you have it. Happy Monday! See you around.