A friend of mine inspired this recipe during a trip to San Diego. My last trip there he introduced me to all kinds of weird and wacky things. He has this habit of combining food that at first I found greatly disturbing. I am already pretty disturbed by watching people eat, add in a man that puts mustard on his mashed potatoes, and it took all of me not to take his plate away and yell “ No Food For You.” One night though, it all changed. We were at an old-school steak restaurant, and he ordered steak, and our dining companions ordered buffalo wings. As the meal was finishing up, he had this little bit of steak left on his plate. Without a beat, he saw the new empty wing plate and just sopped up all the Buffalo sauce with his steak. At first, I was horrified, and then I was intrigued. I couldn’t help myself I had to know what this pairing was like, I was not disappointed. Don’t knock it till you try it. I decided to amp it up by marinating the steak and then throwing it on the grill. Serve this with a side of homemade Blue cheese dressing to take it to the next level.
Now his eating habits weren’t the weirdest part. It hands down was the strange motel he introduced me too in the almost completely abandoned town of Jacumba, Ca. From what I could tell the only functioning business left in this town is The Jacumba Hot Springs Spa & Resort and a small store. Now, this isn’t like the resorts you see in the rich lady reality shows ( By the way, in what way is watching a bunch of wealthy women and their weird rich lady problems reality?) Anyhoo, this was my type of “resort” The rooms are all around the perimeter of the pool. Like the motels, we stayed in when we were kids and went on family road trips. Seems there used to be bigger/fancier resorts when Jacumba was in its heyday but those have long ago disappeared. From what the locals say “ Mysterious fires” destroyed the others leaving just the facades of the buildings and in one case the only thing left is a giant fireplace just sitting awkwardly in the middle of the desert.
The town is located in a valley surrounded by mountains. Not a lush green valley, no this is like a desert. As we drive into town you can’t help but to notice the giant wall separating us from Mexico( Yes there is already a wall, a very large one in fact). Right before the resort, there is this odd subdivision mainly consisting of oddly painted travel trailers, a lot of them sporting sun bleached fake flowers. It was the kind of neighborhood that made you think, if I go in there I am either coming out with the best story ever or no one will ever see me again because Jim Bob needs a new wife.
We arrive at the resort and are greeted by a very friendly front desk person, as she is talking I can’t stop wondering Why do y’all live here? It's almost a ghost town. There is no beach, there is no commerce, it's not the most forgiving climate or topography. This, of course, led me to the rabbit hole of my thought process. Is this one of those places people move so they can never be seen again. Are you really a nice lady or are you a serial killer hiding in Jacumba? We check into our rooms, and as I start to settle in, I realize there hardly any phone or internet service, this is how it starts, first no communication with the outside world then I am running through the desert trying escape some ax-wielding killer wearing a mask made of human skin. After I tell my brain to stop being ridiculous I head to the all natural hot springs pool to enjoy some libations with my friends.
The pool is not fancy but still enjoyable. Now a thing to remember is this water is direct from the Hot springs so no chlorination and if you go after a busy weekend before they have had to drain it, you will instantly realize why Chlorine exists. After some disturbing realizations, we chose to head to the bar until the pool had been refreshed.
It all started out pretty normal. A very friendly bartender, some cocktails, and conversation. As the night went on it just slowly starting turning into a live action David Lynch film. A very tall, very white man with a t-shirt proudly pronouncing his self-proclaimed nerd status walks in. As per most bar scenarios he strikes up a conversation with us. Tom is immediately annoyed and heads outside. I try to persist but this Dude was so pretentious and annoying its like it was his major in college and he graduated Magna Cum Laude in the Science of Pretentious know-it-all Douchebags. Here is a little sample. After he stops barking all this information about his job(which we did not ask for) I ask him “ So your an archaeologist?” He says “ Yes, and I am a physicist” “ Oh really where did you go to college? He very forcibly yells at me “ You don’t have to go to college, I am self-taught”. Which I explain to him “ Well doesn’t that really mean that these are interests of yours or I’ll even give you that your an expert in the study. But you can’t call yourself a Doctor of that science. You need a degree and more specifically a Doctorate, i.e., a doctor." He then informs that he doesn’t need a degree or any formal education. Since we only have a limited time on this Earth, I exclaim that I need to excuse myself to inform NASA that I am their new Rocket Scientist because I said so. Move over Dr.Meaux has important things to do. Think of all those silly folks that wasted time and money on getting a degree, silly gooses. Natasha is way more tolerant person than me so she is left alone to discuss Physics with the great Doctor and I head outside.
Tom is a heated conversation with Border Patrol officer, as the man slowly drags at his cigar and nods his head Tom bursts out with “ I don’t like cops, but you seem okay you f’ing smoke cigars!!!” As I am sitting at the table trying to tune out the booming voices around me, I notice a woman entering the bar. There she was in a public place in her robe and a towel turban on her head dragging a tiny rolling suitcase behind her. She immediately goes to the jukebox, does some magic and gets it to play her song. She then dances back to the bar and proceeds to booty shake right in front of the very large window. The song ends she chugs her drink and leaves. As she wheels pass me she mutters ‘ I don’t need no damn ride” and just points her slipper laden feet toward the empty desert and walks into the pitch black followed by the sound of little suitcase wheels dragging behind her.
As if summoned by the void of crazy an older woman with one of those elevated orthopedic shoes comes limping past as to appear out of the air. She sits a couple tables next to me and proceeds to slump over with her chin in her hand and stare into the window of the empty restaurant. After about 10 minutes she gets up and heads inside. As I am getting a refill at the bar I turn around and there she is. Sitting in the same position inside the restaurant now staring at the wall. Sometime later she just stands up and walks out, disappearing into the desert. The realization that I may be losing my mind starts to sink in.
Once again as if summoned I hear a what I know is an old truck heading down the road at breakneck speed surrounded by a cloud of dust. It comes to an abrupt stop and outcomes three men in their late 60’s with dirty clothes and grey scraggly beards who I swear had to be triplets. They all walk into the bar grab large brown bags filled with who knows what and jump right back in the truck and peel out going the opposite direction they came from. Now I am trying desperately to see if I am crazy or if anybody else is seeing this. All my companions are involved in insane conversations with strangers so I am left to wonder if I have somehow been transported to some sort of retirement community for escaped mental patients.
Through the cloud of dust left by the creepy clones appears this small blond woman dressed in jean shorts and a tube top. She’s walking backwards down the street yelling into the vast emptiness “ Screw you Becky” and as if Becky answered back holds up two middle fingers and yells” You know it’s true Becky, you know. F*** you Becky F*** you Becky!!!!” and still walking backward disappears into the desert still yelling “ F**** you Becky” until I can no longer see her or hear the echoes of “ F*** you Becky.”
Where are they all going? There is nothing out there but a large stone fireplace and tumbleweeds? Is there a portal to another realm? Do you live in some sort of strange cult hidden in an underground bunker?
When the last call is done, I go looking for Natasha. After couple minutes I find her in the Springs Hot tub floating and spinning in a perfect rhythm. Y’all there were no jets, its like some force was spinning her and she had this look on her face as if she was in a trance. This is my cue to escape to my room, and try not to think about all the ways I may be trapped here.
Try not to think that this is Hotel California, It’s real! Have I checked in and now I can never leave? Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t unhappy. This weird shit is my favorite. Like a masochist, It scares me but I want more. I will go back and walk that abandoned town where strange men sit in lawn chairs in front of shells of buildings and stare at me. I will seek out this strange oasis of crazy with its travel trailer subdivisions, weird bathtub water pools and its desert which seems to consume people once they enter it.
This is where David Lynch gets his ideas, I am sure of it. The problem is I wonder does it really exist? How can it? It has to be a figment of my imagination. None of my friends saw any of this, did I accidentally take hallucinogenics, was it a side effect of swallowing some of that magic Hot Springs people infested pool water? Either way, I have to go back just to make sure it’s real and to see what the hell is going with Becky.
Thanks, Stephen Rey for inspiring this recipe and introducing me to this town and resort. You never know the older I get, the crazier I become I may have to join my people and get my little spray painted travel trailer and live out the rest of my days disappearing into the Jacumba horizon.