The heady joie de vivre that emanates from my neighborhood Dallas BBQ restaurant has always been a thorn in my side. For the past two years, while watching my cholesterol and pursuing a low-fat lifestyle, I’ve sped up every time I’ve walked past, lest I be tempted by the new red velvet ropes and the fabulous stench of fried food and barbecue sauce.
When gay and inviting banners announcing “Watermelon Daiquiris” appeared on the facade, I could resist no more. I made a reservation for four people at 7 on a Wednesday night and prayed my doctor would not spot me munching away through the plate-glass windows.
There are five Dallas BBQ locations in Manhattan, but my recommendation goes to the Eighth Street and University branch, not just because it is near my apartment (and the only one I’ve been to). The largely African-American clientele adds to the atmosphere of unpretentious frivolity. Many are dining en famille ; others, in Mary J. Blige wigs, are replenishing their strength after a Greenwich Village shopathon at Joyce Leslie, Strawberry, Bang Bang or at the boutique of the original Eighth Street kook, Pat Field.
Every table is dominated by enormous, umbrella-adorned fish bowls of frozen daiquiris; the giant 20-ounce size costs $6.50 and contains enough hard liquor to stun a cow.
“What exactly is a daiquiri?” I asked the waiter as I marveled at the artificiality of the colors of those on adjacent tables.
“It’s a fruit drink with rum and daiquiri mix,” he said. My advice: Order two 10-ounce virgin daiquiris, one lime and one Blue Hawaii, but do not drink them. They are horribly sweet and should be treated as table decorations only.
My dinner partners, one of whom was pregnant and ate like a horse, loaded up on artery-hardening fare–ribs, French fries, corn bread, halves of chicken. The only criticism: Without a 20-ounce daiquiri to wash it all down, the food, especially that clunking brick of cornbread, is un peu sec . My half-pound turkey burger was totally satisfying, and, according to the menu, low in cholesterol. The repast was efficiently served; moist towelettes, inscribed ” serviette humidifiee ,” were distributed to indicate that we should wipe our fingers and ask for the check. No complaints about the price. Four of us ate for $50 (including tip). It was all mercifully quick; we were home in time to watch Survivor .
In retrospect, I realized that the Dallas BBQ experience offers something far more significant than fresh, speedily prepared and well-priced fare. I’m talking about that universally desirable, increasingly rare, hard-to-define commodity: fun . My hour in the local Dallas BBQ was more fun than two hours at Il Cantinori–or two and a half hours at Da Silvano.
Would-be funsters should not waste their time trying to define fun . Take my word about the following:
1. Fun is barreling happily toward the dessert cart even though you’re 15 pounds overweight.
2. Fun is leaving work early and getting squiffy on a Booze Cruise. Every Wednesday, the Queen of Hearts leaves Pier 40 at 6 p.m. (on the West Side Highway near Houston Street, 987-BOAT). It’s a cash bar, so you don’t have to pay to board. You can pay per drink or, for $35, help yourself all night to the open bar and chicken buffet. It’s dorky, it’s a great place to find a husband, and its totally fun .
3. Fun is not going to yoga.
4. Fun is renting a car and driving, in your swimsuits, to Morey’s Piers Raging Waters in Wildwood, N. J. ($20.95, open 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Oct. 8, 609-522-3900). Fun is knowing people pee in the water and not caring.
5. Fun is taking goofy out-of-town visitors to Rockefeller Center to wave at Katie Couric and then having your picture taken next to Jeff Koons’ Puppy .
6. Fun is running into Wal-Mart (Exit 64N off the Long Island Expressway) and shouting “Target!”
7. Fun is squeezing a lemon on the cat and shouting “sour-puss!”
8. Fun is learning to surf. The next time you are in L.A. on business, extend your trip and spend a few days at the Paskowitz Family Surf Camp (949-361-WAVE or e-mail email@example.com). New York artist Tom Sachs is a graduate. “It was beyond fun; by the end of the first day I was surfing,” he told me on a recent Friday morning. “I surf all the time now in East Hampton. In fact, I’m going right now. I’ve made myself a Chanel logo surfboard. It’s life-changing–it makes therapy obsolete.”
9. Fun is knocking on the door of the Russian embassy and asking, “Is Len in?”
10. Fun is causing trouble at the annual Dachshund Parade at Washington Square Park. Douse the unsuspecting dachshunds and grope them while the police aren’t watching.
Are you the office screamer? On the rag 24-7? Do you bitch-slap your assistants and scream at your colleagues about nothing? Revamp your harridan ways before you reach menopause and lose any remaining ability to control those hissy fits. It’s not attractive and it’s certainly not effective. Your colleagues have all become habituated to your ranting, so it’s time to find a new tactic. Look deep inside and see if there are any vestiges of the demure little you–that simple girl with a dream who sat so quietly in Human Resources waiting to be interviewed.
Kick off your personality rehab with a trip to the Poppy makeup counter (at Barneys and Sephora stores) and buy yourself a $15 Loose Powder Blush. Choose from four tints: Shy, Chaste, Demure and Coy. Now we get to the most important part: Each Loose Powder Blush jar comes with its own little powder puff. Whenever the urge strikes you to rip somebody a new one, take out your Loose Powder Blush and daintily powder your nose. This arcane activity will diffuse the mounting tension, and the new disarming, demure, matte you will get whatever she wants.
Jack Spade (fictitious person and brainchild of Kate Spade’s husband Andy) is the name of a spiffy men’s specialty store at 56 Greene Street (625-1820). This gorgeously improbable boutique sells travel bags, trench coats, books, vintage Playboy s and balsa gliders. Among the comprehensive range of drill nylon, canvas and waxwear accessories lurks an alternative to the messenger bag for those of you who are sick of walking around with a diagonal strip across your ensemble (I know I am): the Jack Spade tote (canvas, $210; waxwear, $270). It’s a masculine tote–unless, of course, you decide to carry it in the crook of your arm.
The aw-shucks, earnest vibe of this nifty store has now been further ratcheted up by the addition of a lending library. How twee! Borrowers leave name and number and return the books when finished. There is no time limit.
Fun is borrowing a book and creatively and anonymously defacing it à la Joe Orton. In the early 1960′s, playwright Joe and his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell (he later bludgeoned Mr. Orton to death in an unrelated fit of pique) defaced 72 library books over an 18-month period. The defacements consisted of doctoring the jackets with surreal and suggestive collages and pasting mildly obscene blurbs over the existing ones. Creative defacing is fun–but the real fun comes from lurking in the library and watching outraged borrowers reacting to your kooky defacements.
N.b.: Joe and his boyfriend were caught and sentenced to six months in jail, where they are rumored to have had even more fun .
Follow Simon Doonan via RSS.