Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Picking Up a College Track Star in Front of My Brother
We're on our way back from a funeral, my brother and sister-in-law in the front seat, me in the back, driving down I-74 through a wilderness of small towns and vast plains: Danville, Farmer City, Mahomet, LeRoy, Downs, Carlock.
Katie points to the sign of a town with a quirky name. "We should stop there for dinner. It will probably have a cute Mom and Pop restaurant that all of the locals go to."
"Small town locals? Sounds scary. ZZ Top wannabes driving red pickup trucks with Confederate flags and 'I Heart Trump' bumper stickers."
"...and rows of cute boutiques and antique shops," Katie says.
"I think we should just press on to Bloomington. According to Google Maps, there are three Thai restaurants..."
"I can't wait another hour!" my brother Ken exclaims. "And I'm not eating rest-stop McDonalds!"
"It will be fine!" Katie jokes. "If your hot pink tutu and drag queen bouffant attract rednecks, we'll tell them you're my hairdresser."
To get to the small town, you drive north from the highway through one of those horrible retail strips, with a Wal-Mart, fast-food restaurants, and car dealerships. Then through a residential district of the same white-porch houses you see everywhere in Illinois, across a river, and to downtown:
A park with a bandshell.
A clothing store for Cowgirls.
Two closed banks, a closed antique store, a hair salon, a lot of deserted storefronts, and two restaurants, only one open: The Paradise Soda Shop.
We go into the soda shop. Maybe it serves sandwiches, too.
It's in a historic building, with restored booths and seats from the 1920s,
There's a hot bear in an old-fashioned soda jerk costume behind the counter: in his 40s, chubby, black hair, beard, nice square hands. His name tag reads "Seth."
I go into full cruise mode: eyes, crotch, eyes again. Unfortunately, Seth's crotch is covered by an apron. "Hi, Seth, my name is Boomer. My associates and I are traveling through on the way to the big city, and we were wondering what kind of local delicacies you have."
"Carbonated water with all different kinds of flavoring. They were popular in the 1920s. But we have flavors they never thought of: watermelon, papaya, kiwi, sriracha..."
"Sriracha? The hot sauce?"
Our eyes meet with that unmistakable vibe. "It's an acquired taste."
"We were looking more for dinner," Ken says,
"Well, there are two restaurants in walking distance: Burger King and Pizza Ranch. But be sure to come back for a phosphate later. I'm here until 7:00."
So much for a down-home Mom and Pop restaurant that everybody goes to.
The Pizza Ranch is the franchise run by fundamentalists, with the goal of Glorifying God with bad pizza and deep-fried chicken. Two buffet tables loaded down with fried stuff. A salad bar consisting of wilted lettuce and sliced cucumbers, and some long rows of family-style tables.
Where the entire local high school football team is eating! Eight beefy guys squeezing past us to get to their table, then returning for more fried stuff and squeezing past us again.
Crotch view after crotch view!
Legs and thighs an inch away!
Chests and biceps in full view!
A smile and an "Excuse me, sir" as a guy shifts toward me to scoot around.
Plus a cute boy eating with two rednecks, a pair of men in muscle shirts, and the father of a nuclear family with a blatant bulge in his pants.
There are 23 men and 3 women in the room. My kind of restaurant!
I nudge Katie. "I think I'm going to move here, and eat at the Pizza Ranch every night."
"You do, and you'll be as big as a house," Katie says.
"Ok, I'll go somewhere else for the food, and come here for the view."
I try to push us through, so we can get back to the Paradise for phosphates and cruising. Unfortunately, we arrive a little after 7:00, and Seth is gone. A gruff older woman takes our phosphate orders.
Seth may be gone, but there's a cute college boy a nearby booth, eating ice cream with his two friends -- both girls, I notice. He's tall and slim, with a long face and dirty-blond hair. And he keeps looking over at me and smiling.
Seeing a chance to cruise, I excuse myself and go over to his booth. "Hi, you look familiar..."
"You must have seen me at the meet. I'm Ryan H**** -- I placed at 10.23."
I have no idea what he is talking about, so I say "That sounds very impressive. Sorry I wasn't there to see it. I'm Boomer -- my brother and sister-in-law and I are just passing through town."
His face falls. "Are you interested in track and field?"
"Sure, I like all sports. I used to write for a bodybuilding magazine."
"Cool! What do you do now?"
While the girls text furiously on their smartphones, Ryan and I talk about college. He's a freshman at the University of Illinois, where he's on the track team (10.23 is his personal best for a 2-mile run). He wants to major in criminology and go to work for the FBI.
"I can tell you all about the field of criminology," I begin. Then I see Ken and Katie gesturing at me and looking bored. "But we should be going -- we have a long drive ahead of us. But you and I should stay in touch. I'll give you my email address."
He thanks me, but doesn't offer anything in return. We shake hands and head out into the night.
"I'm definitely moving here!" I exclaim.. "This place is cruisier than the Rage on a Saturday night at last call!"
"Are you sure Ryan wasn't just being friendly?" Katie asks. "There's a big difference between friendly and interested. He didn't give you his phone number, did he?"
"Anyway, he lives 600 miles from your town," Ken adds. "A little far for dating."
"Well, I'll be passing through this way again at Christmastime."
I'm guessing he's gay.
Suddenly my cell phone buzzes. Ryan has sent me a photo: nude, at a pool, his enormous Kovbasa semi-aroused. Probably photoshopped, but who cares?
I'm guessing he's interested.
Only three months until Christmas!
See also: My Christmas Date with the College Track Star; Hookup with the Waiter at a Christian Restaurant; and Ryan's Three Way with Harry Styles.