Saturday, July 13, 2019


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: 2 McDouble's, fries, Coke

It's National French Fry Day according to the social medias, so that made McDonald's lunch by default.  Unless I was in Wichita, then I would have gone to Freddy's, who has the best fries ever.  McDonald's has the second best fries ever.  The original beef tallow fries were probably REALLY the best fries ever, but who can remember for sure.

Volkswagen rolled the last Beetle off the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico last week.  This was a "Final Edition" of the newer water-cooled version based on the Golf platform.  The original air-cooled Beetle ended production in 2003 at that very same plant, 65 years after initial production and over 21,000,000 vehicles produced.  By that time the "New Beetle" was a few years into production and a phenomenon in its own right, though never even remotely at the level of the original.  The version ending production last week was the second generation of the water cooled version and never really caught on with consumers.

Still, the press found a suitable excuse to cover the event and be all melancholy, as am I, as I have a long history with the model.

My father was a VW service manager, and as such, we owned a few.  An old ivory 60's model that we watched "Herbie Rides Again" in at the Canyon Drive-In.  A '74 "Sun Bug" edition Super Beetle (gold with a sunroof), the only new car we ever owned.  He picked up and restored a second Sun Bug years later.

Dad and his '74 Sun Bug

My first two cars were '74 Super Beetles, a black one with red seats and a red one with white seats.  The black one was picked up for $150 and was tecbnically my third car.  My second intended car was a Subaru that he ended up selling to a family friend who really wanted it.  My first intended car was a late 60's Beetle he'd rebuilt from the ground up and was one of the most bizarre mutant car jobs you've ever seen.

When I first saw it, it was a powder blue Bug somebody had hand painted cute little designs all over in black.  Little "bugs" (flies) and such.  It was in the salvage lot behind the dealership.  He stripped it to the body and asked what color I wanted it to be.  I was reading a book at the time focused around a guy and his sapphire blue Triumph motorcycle, so I suggested "sapphire blue".  "I think I have a can of something like that," he said.  He pulled it into the paint shop and blasted it a haphazard metallic blue.  It looked like a matte finish.

From there, whatever happend to be on hand and available went into the car.  Blue Dasher seats (bolted in place, not adjustable at all).  Wheels and a bumper from a Scirocco, with the fenders flared out to accomodate the wider tires.  The bumper turn indicators even worked...he filled in the holes where the Beetle's old fender turn indicators would have been.  A gas tank from a VW Bus, installed where the back seat would normally be, with a filler drilled into the back side of the car.  He bolted in aluminum panels where a proper dashboard would be and used whatever dials and buttons were available in his spare parts collection for controls and instruments.  Think race car.  That's kind of what it looked like.

The thing was so light, you could lift up the front end and push the car around.  Ir was loud, and it didn't always make sense in the way he put it together.  The wiper motor was of the wrong voltage and the wipers operated at an insanely high speed.  One day, the entire wiper arm went flying off in traffic while he was driving it.

I'm still unclear on how this didn't end up becoming my first car.  It ended up being his daily driver.  My uncle years later told me Dad had told him I put my foot down one day and said I wasn't going to be seen in that thing, that it "just wasn't me".  I have no recollection of this whatsoever.

The black '74 wasn't exactly perfect.  The gas tank had a leak of some sort that made the entire car smell of gas fumes.  Nobody ever wanted to ride in it because of that.  Or because the floorboards had rusted through and splashing through a puddle soaked the inside of the car.  Dad eventually bolted some sheet metal where the floorboards used to be and I drove it until I bought the red Beetle from a former teacher of mine.  That one didn't have a working reverse gear, so I always had to be strategic in where I parked it to make sure I could drive out or at least coast out if backwards were absolutely necessary..

That was the end of my Beetles until I picked up my 2000 New Beetle GLX.  Dark blue with a black leather interior and the 1.8 turbo motor.  Those things had their faults, but it still ranks as one of my favorite cars ever.  It would also prove to be my last VW.  Dad, on one of his rare trips to civilization, got to see it once.

In memory of Richaard Graham 1936-2019
"Well I know they're really just a Golf with a Beetle-shaped body, but they're still pretty neat," he said.  "You've come full-circle."

Yes.  Yes I had.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Old Favorites

Place: Burger King
Lunch: Whopper (no lettuce, no tomato), 2 BK Tacos, Coke

You know how fans of different fast food chains will start social media threads asking the question "What discontinued menu item do you want brought back?"  And then everybody posts damn near everything every fast food chain ever offered, ahd maybe some items they somehow remember but never existed.  You'll even see some idiot bemoan the loss of the McDonald's Arch Deluxe burger line.  Seriously, people.  You're delusional.

I had a bahit of coming up with items nobody else thought of.  In the case of McDonald's, it was the Steak, Egg & Cheese bagel.  I loved that thing.  But the bagel line, let alone the steak version, were probably fringe items in most of the country (you could actually still get them in limited markets), so I never expected to see it again.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was watching the Wednesday night game show lineup on ABC and a McDonqld's commercial breezed by advertising breakfast bagels.


I couldn't have seen that right.

But I went down to the local McDonald's in the morning anyway.  And there it was.  My beloved Steak, Egg & Cheese bagel was BACK in my market, and systemwide.  And it was SO GOOD.  From the first bite to the nirvana of the center (where you hit the bagel hole which is filled with cheese and pops a flavor all its own), I savored it all.  And then I went back the next morning.  And the next.  And the next.  I've had close to a dozen of them so far.

In the case of Burger King, my most wanted item was BK Tacos.  You may not be familiar with these.  They've been available regionally since the 1980's.  In fact, the Portland BK's had a whole sidebar Mexican menu back then.  All I remember was the tacos.  They were direct copycats of Jack in the Box tacos at the same 2 for 99 cents price point.  I'd get a pair to side with my Whopper.

The Mexican menu went away, but the tacos stuck around in scattered markets.  They went national once, maybe ten years ago, for about five minutes before disappearing.  Back to a regional favorite, I guess, though I haven't seen a BK selling them in years.

But the other day, people on social media started talking about BK Tacos.  And BK started advertising them.  And I'm like, "Are you kidding me?"  So I headed to my local BK this morning.  And sure enough, there they were.

They're no longer 2 for 99 cents...they're $1 each now.  But they're here, they're real, and I'm eating as many as I can while they're here.

The BK Taco, like Jack in the Box, comes frozen with the meat already in the shell.  They're deep fried at the restaurant, then pinched open to add a little cheese, lettuce, and taco sauce.  They're the ugliest tacos you've ever seen, and they're delicious.  A girl in a WSJ article describing her first experience with Jack in the Box tacos called them "vile and amazing."  That's the perfect description for both brands..

So in just a couple of weeks, two chains brought back items I never expected to see again.  So it seems like a good time to do some fantasy fast food booking.

What else would I like to see come back?

Wisconsin White Cheddar Whooper (Burger King) - While McDonald's was bragging abotu their awful flavorless CBO burger, Burger King rolled out a Whopper that simply had a slice of natural white cheddar on it, and I claimed it may have been the best Whopper ever.  I mean, all you have to do to bring it back is keep around some white cheddar cheese slices in the kitchen...

Western Whopper (Burger King) - The original Western Whopper was a bacon Whopper with a slice of cheddar instead of American cheese and barbecue sauce instead of ketchup.  Pretty simple, right?  So simple, in fact, that I have been known to order a bacon Whopper with no cheese and ketchup and taking it home and making my own original Western Whopper with my own barbecue sauce and a slice of Tillamook cheddar.  Not that hard.  BK later marketed a Western Whopper that had American cheese, making it nothing more than a Bacon Cheese Whopper with barbecue sauce.  No, not ordering that.

Enchrito (Taco Bell) - We're talking the original back from the 80's with a corn shell and three slices of olives on top.  The good news is Taco Casa's Chilada makes an even better substitute.  It has a flour shell, but it's bigger, has better sauce, and unlike Taco Bell's more recent (and also discontinued version), is topped in olives.

Chilito/Chili Cheese Burrito (Taco Bell) - It was a burrito with Taco Bell's mystery chili substance and cheese in it.  Never exactly generous on the portion, but delicious and really a one-of-a-kind item.  Supposedly still available in some markets, or at least was for awhile.

Ultimate Taco (Del Taco) - This was one of the most perfect tacos ever.  It was in a larger shell and included sour cream and a salsa unique to that taco.  Just a perfect balance of flavors.  Del Taco doesn't even offer a supreme taco with sour cream included anymore, though you can add sour cream for an upcharge.  A really ridiculous upcharge if I remember right.  Closest alternatives out there are Taco Bueno's Big Freaking Taco and Taco Casa's Super Taco, but in both cases you're adding sauce yourself.

Bacon & Egg Quesadilla (Del Taco) - I have no idea why Del Taco would pull their breakfast quesadilla from the menu, but they did.  It was bacon, egg, cheese, and green sauce.  It's not like they go rid of the green sauce, they still use it on the chicken quesadilla.

Grilled Cheese Thickburger (Hardee's) - Hardee's has rolled this out as an LTO once in awhile.  It's the Frisco melt with extra cheese and no tomato.  Simple.  So why isn't it just on the menu all the time.  That sandwich drives me to Hardee's.

Bar-B-Que Cheddar (Whataburger) - Greatest Whataburger ever.  A double patty Whataburger with cheddar in between the patties topped with pickles, onions, and barbecue sauce.  Incredible.  Everything on it worked so perfectly together.  I'm not sure I've ever had a BBQ cheddar burger that compared.  I do not understand how this isn't a permanent menu item, especially with Carl's Jr selling a ton of Western Bacon Cheeseburgers in an increasing number of Whataburger markets.

I could probably sit here all day thinking of more.

But I have tacos to eat.