Standing by myself

Rob Reiner’s iconic film, Stand By Me, was released twenty-five years ago, today.

It was only two months ago, I saw the film in its entirety for the first time.

Embarrassing, right?

I had seen portions of the film, heard countless references recounted by my peers, but it took a random Monday night in May to finally sit down and watch it. I think I was in the process of moving, and I conveniently suggested to my girlfriend that we should pop it in and procrastinate from the perils of packing.

The four main characters, Gordie, Chris, Teddy and Vern, were twelve year olds or tweens, most likely two years from beginning high school.

Many portions of my childhood memories lack specifics, I can generalize events and moments, but I lack the ability to speak with certainty on what actually transpired. However, when it comes to the summer before seventh grade, when I was twelve years old,  it’s crystal clear.

Seventh grade marked the first year I entered public school. It came with dreaded public school fears like whether or not I would miss the bus, would I be able to memorize my locker combination, did seventh graders have to actually shower after physical education class, and did swirly-soliciting bullies stalk the hallways looking for the shortest kid in the class (that was me).

I distinctly remember the morning I walked out to the bus stop for my first day of seventh grade, off to a school absent the familiar faces I had gone to school with the previous seven years of my life.

Guess what happened?

I missed the bus.

In fact, my assigned bus stopped right in front of me, but I opted not to take it because its number didn’t match the bus number I was told to take. (Lesson # 1 of seventh grade: Don’t always trust the “experts,” particularly in matters of public transportation.)

After waiting 20 minutes, realizing bus #245 was never going to arrive, I walked home in tears. Terrified that all the fears I had rehearsed were going to become my reality.

I eventually got to school. Twenty-five minutes after the first bell had rung.

Looking back on it, arriving late erased the potential of having to stand around awkwardly for the first class to commence. Then again, the school year had 35 weeks and 4 days more to go. Bummer.

When it was time for lunch, I walked to the back of the cafeteria and pulled out my lunch. It was the first time in my schooling life I had to eat alone. I saw my classmates, who were basically strangers, catch up with the friends they hadn’t seen over the summer.

As an outsider, that’s the worst part about public school, the fact that many of my classmates had been schoolmates their entire life. There wasn’t necessarily an incentive to mingle with me, the new kid in the dorky outfit his mom picked out for him the night before.

It’s crazy to think that it’s been more than half a lifetime since I started seventh grade.

I’m not far from turning twenty-five, three months younger than Stand By Me.

At the movie’s close, the narrator played by Richard Dreyfuss, writes: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”

Truthfully, I don’t recall sharing that bond with anyone when I was twelve. (Maybe it’s the only child in me that often found sanctuary in solitude.)

On the other hand, I vividly remember that awkward, nightmare first day of seventh grade.

Being twelve was scary, but I made it.

Bland at Blue Star Brewing Company

Blue Star Brewing Company

1414 S. Alamo, Suite 105 • 210.212.5506

$5.00

As we rolled into the Blue Star Arts Complex, Lyle commented that the sidewalks along S. Alamo are going to be expanded in order to meet the needs of a large pedestrian population. Being that it was 2:30 on a Monday afternoon, pedestrians were nowhere to be seen and parking was ample. Approximately 8 – 10 people dined on a late lunch, while the bar remained unpopulated. We took a seat and ordered a Blue Star Michelada.

Beer: ✪✪✪✪

  • Your choice. Currently, according to their website because I can’t remember what was actually posted in person, Blue Star offers six house-brewed beers on tap: Texican, Pilsner, Apache Amber, Smoke Dark, Stout, and Pale Ale. Both, Lyle and I, opted for the Texas conceived, Mexican inspired, playfully named, Texican.

Dressing: ✪✪

  • I’ve only found chile powder dressing at two places as I am presently in the infant stages of my michelada hunt. Instead, salt dressing is the norm. I can’t fault Blue Star for going the salt route, but let it be known chile powder earns one more stars.

Spiciness: ✪✪

  • The bartender didn’t skimp on his pepper pouring with each sip offering plenty of punch. Unfortunately, due to the beers solely being on tap, Blue Star doesn’t provide michelada minions the usual portion of beer remaining in the bottle. Otherwise known as the chaser, used at times when the michelada gets too spicy.

Color:

  • Our micheladas looked like iced tea with shards of pepper. This unappealing color stemmed from the noticeable absence of tomato juice/Clamato  from Blue Star’s recipe. Moreover, the mountain of ice initially heaped into the glass quickly watered the color of the beer and the michelada’s other ingredients (Worcestershire sauce, lime, possibly soy sauce).

Overall Taste:

  • What a disappointment. For starters, they don’t use the necessary tomato juice. There was entirely too much ice that caused the beer to quickly deteriorate from its intended taste. In other words, I left Blue Star with the feeling that I had paid extra to have someone water down my Texican, and in the process dump some pepper on the beer water.

I’m assuming the impending renovations will increase foot traffic to-and-from the Blue Star Arts Complex. That being said, I can guarantee no one’s going to be running to the Blue Star Brewing Company for a michelada.

Next, please.

— Ryan Sachetta

The Monterey’s Michelada

The Monterey

1127 S. St. Mary’s • 210.745.2581

$3.50

Beer: ✪✪

  • Pearl – the faux-Texas beer. No longer brewed in San Antonio, Pearl is brewed by Miller Brewing Company in Fort Worth. I noticed a gentleman seated at the bar drinking a michelada with a can of Brooklyn Brewery’s Summer Ale. Thus, I’m not sure if you can request a substitute beer (possibly for an additional charge) or maybe the patron at the bar is a regular.

Dressing:

  • The glass lacked dressing (salt/ chile powder) around its rim.

Spiciness: 

  • This michelada lacked that smack of spicy. I probably said “this could use more pepper” on several occasions.

Color:

  • Personally, I prefer micheladas with an indistinguishable red color (that way I don’t have to ask the bartender if tomato juice is included in their recipe). The Monterey’s was a faded tomato red, highlighting its perfect beer:tomato juice ratio.

Overall Taste:

  • Despite this michelada’s poor showing in individual categories, its overall taste was indisputably refreshing. The light, is-this-even-beer-taste of Pearl coupled with the tomato juice made for a quenching summer drink. I appreciate a spicy michelada and The Monterey’s completely lacked in that department. Nonetheless, at only $3.50 in the comfy confines of The Monterey, it’s well worth a try.

— Ryan Sachetta

Speedys/The Steer

Departing from Lyle’s Southtown abode, we headed east looking for food to eat at a place we’d never been before. Preferably, a place we’d never heard of. After driving a five-mile lap past unappealing places or now vacant spaces that once billed good food, we changed our trajectory and headed west.

Speedy’s Chicken is located on S.W. Military Drive among a sea of fly-by-night businesses, payday loan predators, fast food franchises, and the necessary H-E-B. The white exterior of Speedy’s has the nondescript look you associate with a space that’s been through several tenants. The interior walls of Speedy’s are this beach bathroom looking white tile coupled with occasional lines of smaller red tiles. I commented to Lyle that it felt like I had entered a locker room.

I’m predictable when it comes to chicken strips. Bill Miller’s is my usual choice because it’s relatively inexpensive, large portion, and the chicken’s battered in-house. That being said, I’d like to switch my allegiance to Speedy’s Chicken. I ordered the # 1, which comes with three (gargantuan) chicken strips, one side (I got french fries), dinner roll, side of gravy, and a gas-station sized soft drink. All for five dollars and some change.

The Diet Coke I sipped on while I waited for my order was flat, but fountain drinks are often inconsistent. Within five minutes, I had my meal in front of me. The cumulative size of the three chicken strips could easily hold its own against any mainstream competitor – Bill Miller’s, Popeyes, Church’s, etc. The strips were generously battered, but not to the point that it overwhelmed the chicken. Gravy proved creamy, but not too thick. I wasn’t impressed by the french fries that lacked in salt. Then again, I’d rather a fried chicken establishment concentrate a majority of its energy on the namesake chicken rather than defrosted and eventually grease-dropped french fries.

In short, if you are looking for above average fried chicken at a decent prize, hurry to Speedy’s Chicken. Order the iced tea, according to their menu it’s 46-cents. (Does it not come with ice? Because right next to tea on the menu it reads there’s a charge of 46-cents for a cup of ice.)

I’m glad I wore athletic shorts to eat. Forget luxury, spandex is a necessity after consuming the generous portions at Speedy’s.
Lyle and I decided to stop in for a few beers at The Steer, a dull, boxy looking bar we passed on the way to Speedy’s. I had my doubts about going in for several reasons. One, it had no windows. Two, it looked like a seedy strip club that, assuming the strippers walked to work, had less than five cars in the parking lot. (Digression: Who wants to be that guy who finds out he’s just walked into a deserted strip club at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon?)

Laughs were shared, but Lyle and I eventually walked into the Steer. Coming inside from the blinding sun light proved disorienting for a moment as my eyes required adjustment. As soon as you walk into the Steer, a seat at the bar is less than five foot steps away.

Beer selection is sparse, Corona might have been their fanciest beer. There was a Bud Ice sighting, you know, the good stuff. After sitting at the bar for about five minutes with beers in hand, and the handful of other patrons glued to the Maury Povich show, Lyle and I opted to play pool. A game of pool costs 75-cents, which doesn’t sound bad. However, that doesn’t include the opportunity cost of having to go find the sole piece of cue stick chalk.

Admittedly, I don’t know if I have much to say about the Steer. Would I go back? Probably not. Between the meager beer selection, suspect television programming, the man who requested country on the jukebox, the lingering smell of smoke that glues to you worse than the awful baked smell one wears when they leave a Subway restaurant, and the child left sitting in the corner while his father drank at the bar, it was only as good as the company one brings.

My opinion of the Steer is meaningless. For the few patrons I saw while I was there, it was their comfort spot. A place to find a sliver of community. Silence and shade from the rigors of daily life.

The Steer was a place I’d never been to nor heard of.

I found what I had sought.