Dining Out & Making Memories
By Clint McElroy
You have to be impressed with what’s going on with our region’s burgeoning restaurant scene. You should also be somewhat impressed with me using the word “burgeoning” for the first time. Think about it. The origin of the word is Old French, and it means “to grow or develop quickly” or “flourish.”
But back to the matter at hand — a restaurant is not just a place to receive nutrition. It’s not called “Jim’s Trough and Spaghetti House.” It’s a place to make memories and enjoy the company of others. Some of the most momentous “firsts” in my life have taken place in restaurants:
- Performing my first marriage at The Peddler
- Meeting my future daughter-in-law Teresa for the first time at Fat Patty’s
- Playing Pac-Man for the first time at Davis’ Place
- Watching the first “My Brother, My Brother and Me” television show at Marshall Hall of Fame Café
- Having my first date with Carol at Applebee’s
- Initiating childbirth at Heritage Station
Okay, maybe I’d better explain that one, since your minds are obviously racing straight for the gutter. My firstborn, Justin, likes to make an entrance at social events. That includes his birth. He was two weeks late, and Leslie was not a happy camper. We had tried everything to speed the process along including extremely hot showers, walking and jumping up and down. Nothing could coax the kid into making his grand debut.
Someone suggested eating a very spicy meal, so we went to one of our favorite eateries — Heritage Station. We ordered enchiladas, which I believe were stuffed with cheese, peppers and molten lava. As Sheldon Cooper says, “Science cannot be denied.” Leslie went into labor the next day. Labor lasted 42 hours and he was 11 pounds at birth, but that’s a story for another column.
Whereas my son’s birth was all about life, I also had a brush with death at a local restaurant. When the Cedar Knoll Galleria in Ashland first opened, the radio station worked up a promotion with the new mall where a group of listeners could win a lunch date with soap opera superstar Drake Hogestyn. That’s right, it was a chance to break bread with John Black of Days of Our Lives. Of course, at the time we all thought he was Roman Brady, not knowing that John Black was actually an imposter, implanted with the memories of the real Roman Brady. And when the real Roman returned…
Anyway, the big day arrived and I escorted actor Drake Hogestyn to one of my favorite restaurants — The Dragon Palace. The winners of the promotion met us there. Drake was terrific. He was funny, charming and a great storyteller.
I had ordered an orange chicken dish that I had never tried before and found it delicious. I had almost finished when Hogestyn pointed to a couple of peppers left floating in the orange sauce and said, “Oh, man, you have to try the black peppers. They are incredible. Sweet. Almost like candy.” So, I speared three of them on my fork and stuffed them in my mouth.
Then, like one of the dragons on Game of Thrones, death reared its ugly head in an explosion of fire! The heat released by those peppers was otherworldly. My sinuses erupted and my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. I would have called out for my “Momma,” but my throat started to close up. No one offered to help because they all thought I was doing a “bit.”
“Oh, that funny Clint. He’s such a jokester. Pretending he is teetering at the edge of death’s abyss. What a card.”
The only person who knew what was really happening was Drake Hogestyn, who I’m sure would have helped me had he not been paralyzed with paroxysms of laughter.
Eventually someone realized I wasn’t being funny and gave me a glass of milk. I quickly swallowed that life-giving moo-juice and the crisis eventually passed. Those who were in attendance that day say it was scarier than the time John Black thought he was a priest and performed an exorcism on Marlena.
I’m sure you have plenty of restaurant firsts in your life as well. Dining at one of your favorite eateries isn’t just about enjoying a good meal, it’s also an opportunity to make memories. So, turn your cell phones off and embrace life. Or, in my case, death.
And as for you, Drake Hogestyn, I will have my revenge!
CLINT McELROY was a major radio personality in the Tri-State for more than 30 years. He was named the “Funniest Man in Huntington” by the Huntington Quarterly in 2011. Most recently he co-authored The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins, a graphic novel that reached No. 1 on The New York Times’ list of Paperback Trade Fiction.