Chi-Chi’s Fight Club

abandonedchichis2.jpgAt a potluck dinner almost a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us were just sitting around afterwards, yakkin’ and snackin’ on cookies, fruit and other goodies, when for some reason the topic came up, of restaurants people went to for birthday parties as kids.

And for some reason, it reminded me of Chi’s-Chi’s Mexican restaurant. You remember Chi-Chi’s, right? “A Celebration of Food” (cha-cha-cha)? Fried ice cream?

Well, I do – kind of. 

I mean, we had a huu-uge one in Scarborough – just a six-minute drive away from my house – when I was a kid.

For fourteen years of my life, I was six gas-fueled minutes away from fried ice cream. But we never went. 

My dad just ended up occasionally taking my brother and I to the McDonald’s down the street instead. Usually all thoughts of Mexican food were silenced with a greasy, slimy cheeseburger or – as I got older and could handle it – a Big Mac.

But damn, how I secretly wanted some fried ice cream. So the mere mention of anyone saying how they remembered going to Chi-Chi’s as a kid, always makes me a little bitter.

So at the party, my friend, said, “Oh yeah, I remember Chi-Chi’s …”

And the 10-year-old in me immediately blurted out, “What? You went to Chi-Chi’s?! That’s it. I can’t talk to you anymore.”

He just looked at me like he’d caught me eating Elmer’s school glue. And really, I don’t blame him, ’cause honestly, I don’t know where that came from. Wait – I take that back. I do.

But I always counter my bitterness by recalling a story my friend Patty told me a while ago.  

Back in the day, when her older brother was in high school – and probably about the time I’d yearn for fried ice cream – he and some of his high-school football buds used to work in the kitchen at Chi-Chi’s. 

And how horrible they were! I’d have to double-check for sure, but I’m pretty sure she’d tell me about how one of his friends sometimes spit in the food.

And the fights! Oh, how they fought. It would be, like, one guy would have a beef with another, and then on meal break, it would be score-settlin’ time. I’m sure by the end of it, someone had lost a tooth or gained a shiner.

It was almost like they were members of Fight Club, Chi-Chi’s Scarborough Chapter. I can imagine it being a bit like cock-fighting, only minus the spurs and fight-to-the-death factor, ’cause they’re high-school football players. ‘And you know the boss would notice if someone was missing.

But I’m sure in recalling this, I was mentally exaggerating what my friend told me actually happened. But it always makes me feel better about not going there.

Since those Chi-Chi’s days, my family moved out of the area and that location, I believe, is now an enormous Chinese buffet restaurant. But I always wondered what happened to Chi-Chi’s. So one day I did a Google search.

And when I read the second sentence of this Wikipedia entry, I was like, “So that’s what happened … huh.” Maybe it’s a good thing I never ate there. I could have been a “citation needed” footnote in Wikipedia.

But at least I now know where to go, if ever I feel the need to combine my love of European travel with my quest to eat fried ice cream.

I just hope Belgian kids have Tektonic dance-offs on their meal breaks instead of sparring , when they want to settle scores.

(God, I love You Tube.)

The Brown Snowsuit

It’s on cold days like these when I remember the days of my childhood …

And that time my mom decided to get me a snowsuit.

snowsuit.jpgPicture it: Scarborough, 1981.

My mom went shopping around for a durable, decently-priced snowsuit in which to clothe me during the harsh winter months.

And she found one which fit all her criteria. So much so, she didn’t even blink twice at the colour.

It was brown. Not reddish-brown. Not dark brown. Just. Brown.

Looking back, I can completely understand the adult’s point of view. I mean, if you get a really good snowsuit built to last, why care what colour it is?

Well, if you’re a four-year-old boy, no biggie. Slap that bad boy on and you’re ready for some play in the snow.

But if you’re a four-year-old girl, well … it kind of causes problems.

Once I was at the supermarket grocery shopping with my mom, in the brown snowsuit. We were in the produce section, and I guess I’d wandered too close to one of the fruit or veggie displays.

The next thing I know, the produce guy says to me, “Buster, be careful. You don’t want to knock over the display.”

According to my mom, I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him. And I was probably frowning.

Another time, I was with my mom at the doctor’s for an appointment. It was Christmas time, and there was a huge tree set up in one corner of the waiting room. The place was full of patients waiting their turn.

According to what my mom told me, I’d wandered over to the tree to take a look at the decorations.

The receptionist apparently turned and said to me, “Sonny, don’t touch the tree. You might break the ornaments.”

That did it. She had gone too far for this pre-schooler. 

“My name is not Sonny,” I replied. “My name is Diane.”

The receptionist just ignored me. Me being four, I figured she just didn’t hear me. So I repeated myself.

Still, nothing. She didn’t even look my way.

According to my mom, I continued to try and correct her … getting up on my tiptoes to get her attention over the big desk. And still, the woman ignored me.

But everyone else in the waiting room was paying full attention at the scene I was making.

My mom – seeing my plight and how rude the woman was being – said, “Honey, why don’t you show her your pretty braids?”

And that was all the ammunition I needed.

I apparently clomped over to the receptionist’s desk, ripped off my toque and yelled in a shrill, four-year-old voice:

“MY NAME IS NOT SONNY!” I squealed, my tiny, multi-coloured, barretted plaits shaking. “MY NAME IS DIANE!”

Apparently my mom nearly lost it and was trying so hard not to laugh.

And the receptionist finally noticed.

“Okay, Diane,” she replied sheepishly. “Don’t touch the tree.”

It’s memories like these that make me miss that sassy little four-year-old who didn’t take shit from anyone.

I should try and summon her up one of these days.

Childhood Flashback # 1

So, as I was updating my Facebook profile with some of my favourite books, my thoughts wandered back to some of the books I read as a kid.

And then before I knew it, I hit Google and came across this little story pictured at left.

Oh. My. God!

You really don’t understand many times A WEEK I had this book read to me when I was three or four years old. It was just your run-of-the-mill, cheapie supermarket Little Golden Book. But I’m sure I drove my mom crazy every time I wanted to read this. It’s just so cute, I had to share.

And now you have yet another piece of insight into what makes me the weirdo I am today.

You can actually read the whole book here.