When it comes to the riskiness of accepting questionable dinner invites, the wisdom of the great Dejuan Walker applies quite beautifully and consistently: if you stay ready, then you don’t have to get ready.
My Dad was quite a storyteller, and as an older dude I’m not entirely sold on what percentage of his stories were actually true, but one of my favorites was about his buddy Tony King and the life-changing gem that Tony gave my Pops in the early 70s.
My Pops was working at Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center on the overnight shift right after he had moved down to L.A. from The Bay Area. I think at this time he was working like 3 jobs just to keep moving and support himself. Anyway, he had this group of buddies on that night shift crew that was the source of a seemingly endless stream of anecdotes, gems, and tales that he would share as I got older and as I gradually developed the right antenna to appreciate the gems contained within.
Anyway, the one particular gem from this crew that has woven itself deep into the fabric of my existence is what I was raised to know as “Doing the Tony King”. So my Pops had a buddy on this overnight crew–Tony King–who used to go to a lot of dinners with friends and family, and for some reason the people in his life just weren’t that gifted in the culinary department. Time after time Tony and his wife were going to these dinners where either the food tasted terrible or–even better–there’d be one bowl of Lay’s potato chips, a cup of French Onion dip a little bit bigger than a golf ball, and one missing guest by the name of Jesus H. Christ who would be the only person capable of multiplying these 42 chips into a spread actually fit for a houseful of people.
Eventually Tony became so fed up with going unfed (pun intended) that he and his wife devised a system: whenever they’d be set to go to dinner at the house of someone who was notorious for either burning the pot roast or providing a less-than-impressive assortment of crumbs for their guests, they would make it a point to eat on their own at the crib before they headed out the house to the residence of whoever had extended tonight’s invite.
It was genius.
In the best case scenario, they’d arrive with their having already eaten, dinner would be served, the meal would actually end up being on-point for the first time in 40 attempts, and Tony and his wife would eat a little just to keep up appearances while also being surprised at this magical twist of fate.
Not a bad outcome.
In the worst version of their dinner date, they’d similarly arrive full just like in the first scenario, the food would end up being a let-down for the 40th time just like they anticipated, they’d eat a little just to maintain face and be polite, and then when the time came they’d be on their way home laughing at how they had cheated the system (and happy that they weren’t having to find someplace open for a desperation burger and fries at 11:00pm back in the early 1970s when they didn’t have all the late-night options that us youngsters have today in these times of 1:30am taqueros on multiple corners).
I feel like at this point in our story you can see where this is headed:
GOD BLESS TONY KING AND HIS GENIUS WHEREVER HE MAY BE CURRENTLY CHILLIN’…WHETHER THAT BE SOMEWHERE HERE IN THIS LIFE OR SOMEWHERE SMILING DOWN UPON ME IN THE NEXT
Do you know how many times I myself have done The Tony King?! And do you know how many times doing The Tony King has saved me from the wackest of meals?! Even when going to visit my own cotdamn parents?!?! (FYI there’s no rule against using The Tony King in the presence of whoever it was that taught The Tony King to you in the first place)
“Doing the Tony King” is a practice that all of us should embrace immediately. Especially in this time when we’re all in our cribs learning to make bagels or perfecting our three-egg ham-and-cheese omelette technique (mine is pretty cotdamn flawless these days…the secret is putting butter on the pan so that the egg can move, flip, and fold when you need it to…and yes, OF COURSE Cil was the one who gave me that ever-so-essential technique tidbit).
Because soon enough The Rona will have passed and the invites for dinner will start flowing in.
And since you still love these very same people that can’t seem to rub two baguettes together to make bread crumbs, you’ll accept these invites, you’ll pick your favorite mask to go with your outside clothes that you haven’t worn in months, and you’ll make the trek on over the house of someone who has been blessed with the gift of having a big heart but also has simultaneously not been blessed with the understanding that Flaming Hot Cheetos and sour cream doth not a dinner spread maketh.
And before you leave the house you and your partner will stand there in your kitchen fully dressed and eating a quick peanut butter and jelly sandwich, feeling like a couple of pre-planning geniuses as this small move of preparation will several hours later have you both laughing in the car on the way home as you recall the look on the faces of your poor cousins as they sat right beside you watching your Tita emerge from the kitchen with that single 8-piece of Jollibee fried chicken and 2 baseball-sized mounds of rice with gravy being brought out on the fine serving dishes like it was actually homemade and like we don’t all know what Jollibee smells like and like it would actually feed the 10 people seated around the dining table.
“HELLO, PILIPINO JESUS? KUMUSTA NAMAN KA? IT’S ME ABRAHEEZEE…DO YOU THINK YOU COULD COME BY MY COUSIN’S HOUSE TO HELP MULTIPLY THIS FOOD SO WE CAN ALL EAT? H…HELLO?! JESUS?! ARE YOU STILL THERE?!”
And to think…here, on this day, on this simple website, your life was changed forever thanks to the wise words of a dude named Tony King who worked the overnight shift with my Pops back in the early 1970s and in actuality may or may not have even existed in the first place.
Fuck it…in the interest of maintaining a proper written record and oral history, let us not give credit to a dude that–given my Pops’ track record–may have never actually been a real person. Instead, let’s credit the great man who was benevolent and giving enough to share his inherited wisdom with you here today in written form.
From this day forth, anytime you find yourself heeding the wisdom of this here tale and grabbing a quick quesadilla with avocado before you and your partner head out the house to yet another potential bummer dinner party, I want you to raise your quesadilla skyward and say out loud:
And then I’ll be somewhere chilling with my nephews, playing XBox and listening to Labi Siffre, the hairs on my arm will stand up as I feel your gratitude traversing the expanses of the universe and finding its way to me wherever I may be in that moment, and in the same way that your thanks found its way to me through the whisper of the wind I’ll gently whisper back to you with my eyes closed:
“YOU ARE WELCOME, BELOVED READER…YOU ARE WELCOME…AND HEY, LISTEN…IT’S NOT WEIRD OR ANYTHING, BUT IF YOUR DINNER ACTUALLY ENDS UP BEING GOOD, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SEND ME A PICTURE OF YOUR MEAL?…YES, I KNOW IT SOUNDS WEIRD BUT TRUST ME IT’S NOT WEIRD…IT’S JUST ME BEING SUPPORTIVE…OKAY, I HAVE TO GO NOW…MY NEPHEW JUST SCORED ANOTHER GOAL ON ME AND HE’S TALKING MAJOR SHIT AS PER USUAL…OKAY, TALK TO YOU LATER…I LOVE YOU…PEACE OUT”