Last weekend Jeff and I took a mini-mini-trip to Arcola and Tuscola, two small towns about thirty minutes south of Champaign. Mysteriously, both of their names employ the exotic "cola" suffix. Last year we read a stellar restaurant review of Arcola's El Taco Tako, and it had haunted us ever since, because it implied that the little shack was The Second Coming of Tacos:
"...the best tacos you will ever eat...every bite is perfect...culinary gold...the best goddamned taco joint in Illinois..."
"If we're ever down there, we need to try those tacos," we promised each other, and on Valentine's Day weekend, we did it.
The place was a tiny ten-seater, and we were the first lunch customers. As instructed by the review, we ordered a couple of plates of tacos (chicken and pork) from the cheerful owner who spoke about as much English as we speak Spanish. He left to fix them while we took in the kitchy beauty of the place and tried to hear each other speak over the television that was blasting a Spanish-language sports program. Jeff's looking up at it.
The walls were painted a brilliant, some would say gutsy turquoise that I just loved and liberally festooned with all manner of Mexicana.
Jeff got a kick out of the curtains in the window behind me. They were decorated with an incongruous John Deere motif. It was a cold, windy day, and I kept my coat on until the tacos arrived.
The wee tacos were indeed very, very good, and just looking at them makes me want some more. But. The amount of time that had elapsed between reading that amazing review and actually eating the food was too long. The glory of these tacos had been built up too much!
(ff to 7:35 or so)
"They're great tacos," concluded Jeff, "but in the end they're just tacos."
You know? It was kind of a three-note meal: the spicy meat, the interesting par-fried shell-within-a-shell, and the (fantastic) grilled onions. Plus we each had five of them, and a certain amount of taco fatigue had set in.
So we left feeling slightly non-plussed and bloated, and the tacos came back to say hi to us via a series of burps that lasted well into the afternoon, during which time we hunted for shoes for me.
Jeff and I will be visiting Paris in early April (hooray!!), and I've been trying to figure out what shoes and clothes to wear. It is not easy! I wanted some shoes that I could walk for miles in--but I also wanted to wear dresses with them and not look like a complete dork wearing big chubby American sneakers. My feet are huge, flat, and ducklike (wide at the toes, narrow in the heel). I can't wear high heels and walk for more than a few blocks without bitching. I can't wear cute shoes, period. I can wear boots, but I'm not sure if they're appropriate to wear in the early spring. When is it officially springtime in Paris, anyway? Can you wear boots all year? Would they be too hot? What about sandals? Would they be too cold?
So with those problems and more swirling in my mind, I set off to find the perfect dressy-but-comfortable shoe appropriate for the not-exactly-spring week of April 6. Jeff was patient as I tried on and rejected pair after pair through seven stores, most of which were located in an outlet mall in Tuscola. I found only one pair that met my comfort criteria, although style had to take a backseat. Have any of you ever heard of S.A.S. shoes?
I've worn their style-free sandals for years, especially when I was a teacher, because the foot pad was so incredibly comfortable. I believe the pads are made from a combination of Milky Way caramel, saltwater taffy, circus peanuts, marshmallow fluff, and miniature helium balloons. S.A.S. stands for San Antonio Shoes (made in S.A. Texas), and they refuse to sell their products online, so nice people like Joel, the knowledgeable man who helped me find the right size, can keep their jobs. It's adorably 19th Century. The shoes are plain but extremely well-made. I've heard the description "fug" bandied about. Some would call them Old People Shoes.
Actually they're Rich Old People Shoes--most styles cost in the neighborhood of $100-$150, and that was way more than we had planned to spend. As I tried on other, cheaper (cuter) shoes, I was frustrated because nothing came close to the comfort of the S.A.S. shoes. We thought we could try to find them online somehow, like on Ebay, but I've tried that before and failed. After we gave up, I may have admitted to Jeff that I was "slightly disappointed."
We rolled out of Tuscola and were about to get on the interstate when Jeff said, "Damn it! It's Valentine's Day!" and did a quick U-turn. It was downright cinematic. He drove us back to the S.A.S. store and bought me the shoes.
He was richly rewarded once we got home.
I mean, they're not that bad, right? They're so austere that they're actually kind of cool, right?
PS Please do not leave frustrating comments telling me that you have found better, cuter, cheaper, more comfortable, perfect shoes. My feet are freaks and will vary with your mileage, I can almost guarantee you. I've been wearing these in all week and am beginning to bond with them. Thank you for respecting our privacy during this beautiful time in our lives.