As always, we start off headed for one place and end up at another.

Today our intention was a chain Mexican restaurant in Hicksville - yes, there’s a town called Hicksville - because I wanted their avocado fries and I knew they’d have the Euro game on the tv.

We drove into the clouds. They were low and bright white and fluffed out like they all just had perms. When the clouds are that low and the sky that blue it always feels like I’m driving straight into them, like if I drove fast enough my car would become airborne, the road would disappear beneath us and we’d soar into the sky, a Magic School Bus without the teacher. Or the valuable lessons.

My enjoyment of the flying car scenario playing out in my head was cut short by the constant changing of songs. There’d be a two second snippet, my brain would process what song it was - and I shuffle so much I know the beginning to every song on my iPod, even those “what the fuck is that” songs that came with compilations - and the song would change.

“You need to fix this thing.”

It’s the same conversation we have every time we get in my car. The last time I emptied and reloaded my iPod was the last time we flew and I just jammed a thousand or so songs into that I thought would lull me into a false sense of security as we flew way too many miles above the planet. I never put the rest of my favorites in there, never loaded up all my good punk rock and metal or anything but those same 1,000 songs we have listened to the beginnings of over and over.

“I know. I know. Just find something.”

He woke up in a Mötley Crüe mood, I woke up in a Manchester Orchestra mood and never the two shall meet.

We settle, as always, for the first thing that shows up from The Bends.

We get to this chain restaurant which is either called On the Border or Over the Border or Run From the Border. When I say chain, I mean big ass chain, because Todd went to one of these in South Korea. It was the closest thing to home, I guess. When in another country, eat what you know. Especially if you got food poisoning the last time you were in that country.

“It wasn’t food poisoning,” he says. “I think it was the raw hamburger.”
“Or, you know, that sea slug you ate.”
“It wasn’t a sea slug.”
“Semantics.”

Anyway, we walk into the restaurant and I see trouble right away because all the booths are taken and the tables are set up in such a way that you’re practically giving a lap dance to the stranger at the next table.

“Can we get a booth?”
“Sorry, there are no booths.”

Todd looks over to a whole section of booths that sit empty and lonely, just waiting for someone to slide into them and order avocado fries. The hostess notices and says “Sorry, that section is only open for dinner.”

We look at each other but I already know what we’re going to do. I can’t sit in the middle of a restaurant at a table and I can’t sit squished next to another couple. It’s my claustrophobia and my reverse claustrophobia come into play at once. Also, my desire to not listen to other people chew while I eat.

Of course we leave. I don’t think we’ve ever gone out for lunch on a Saturday without leaving at least one restaurant before we find somewhere to eat. As a former restaurant manager, I am fully aware we are a hostess’s worst nightmare. I feel bad about it, but not bad enough to stay.

We end up once again all the way back in our town, at the local Mexican joint. We like it there. I don’t know why we don’t just go there first. Maybe because they don’t have avocado fries. But they do have guacamole made at the table and owners and waiters that know us and greet us with handshakes and hugs.

The wife portion of the husband/wife team that own the place seats us. We haven’t seen her in a while and now I can see why. She’s pregnant. Hugely pregnant. Like, about to burst pregnant.

“Hey!” Todd says. “You’re pregnant again! How’d that happen?” Because he says stuff like that and gets away with it. It’s part of his boyish charm. I’m told.

Everyone at the bar watching the Spain/France game laughs.

“Want me to explain it to you?” I ask. Only the wife laughs. It’s a tired “get this baby out of me because it’s 100 degrees outside and I am tired of carrying this human being inside me” laugh.

She tells us to sit anywhere we’d like. We choose a nice, secluded corner table by the window. There’s no view of the game but I want the view of those awesome clouds instead. She gets us our beers. The guacamole maker comes over and he knows just how we like it. When I order my steak tacos, the wife doesn’t ask how I like the steak because she knows how I like it.

They don’t have avocado fries, but I didn’t need them. This is what I needed.

And on the ride home, as we listen to “Just” again, I remember I also need to fix up my iPod. Maybe put some Crüe on it.