Indian food in downtown Staunton
Wednesday, April 6 2011
location: five miles south of Staunton, rural Augusta County, Virginia
A thought occurred to me this morning: what is the point of saving money your whole life if all you end up spending it on is for a few months of end-of-life nursing home care? It would be better to live life to the fullest, not a save a dime, and then, when you're reading to participate in the living decomposition known as nursing home residency, do it as a ward of the state. For the time being, at least, society feels obligated to maintain the lives of the elderly no matter their circumstances. (Of course, this could easily change once the country wakes up the fact that it's spending the plurality of its tax dollars on its least-productive, most potential-free members.)
At the nursing home today, my Dad (who no longer has good days) was having one of his worst days. On seeing me, he moaned something about how this morning he'd thought he'd been dying. He'd felt pain, but it had been mostly in his thighs. It seemed his problems were, yet again, mostly psychological and suspected something was amiss in his medications. He gets one for Parkinsons, another for depression, and an antibiotic to treat any infections resulting from the injuries that put him in the nursing home to begin with (he'd fallen twice a couple weeks ago but those injuries are now mostly-healed — another testament to the tenacity of life). I could tell my father was in an especially bad way because he declined to join me in drinking the coffee I'd brought. Amusingly, though, I taught him a new expression today: "land whale," my preferred term for grossly overweight Americans, the most numerous demographic in Staunton. My father even made correct use of the expression later in my visit in reference to members of the staff (who could be seen waddling back and forth in the hall; they were the huffing and puffing slowpokes without the walkers).
At some point in my visit both my mother Hoagie and Josh showed up, and there were no longer enough places for us to all sit. Hoagie had some coffee, and Josh whispered something about there being "good scenery" in the hall, a reference to the one hot nurse on the floor. (I was a little surprised he had correctly identified the thin, youngish brunette instead of, say, a mullet-wearing blond fifty-something with an ass the size of a pony keg, a staple of that trucker porn he used to make me watch.)
This afternoon, I climbed Pileated Peak to get up where the good cellphone reception can be found and debriefed with Gretchen about the generally depressing nature of my visit to my childhood home. As for her, things had improved for the poetry part of the Woodstock Writers' Festival. She'd managed to find two replacements for the two poets who had canceled on her. And she'd also managed to negotiate away most of the last-minute entrance ticket price inflation. As we talked, I found myself walking through regions I'd never been able to walk through before. In the past they'd been impenetrable thickets, but over the years trees had grown in and shaded-out the undergrowth. This wasn't an entirely good thing, revealing a number of old tires that I hadn't known were there.
While poking around again in the ruins of Bob's Body Shop, I came upon the nearly-perfect skeleton of some sort of small carnivore. It was about the size of a cat but had the head and claws of a small dog. After mentioning it to Hoagie, she said that this past summer there had been a fox den under one of the old buildings, and she'd seen them playing on numerous occasions, adding, "They were so cute!" I'd already collected the skull and lower mandible, but I went back to collect the rest of the bones, figuring I could use them to maybe make a space alien sculpture. At that point I realized from the arrangement of the bones that when the fox had died, one of its legs had been caught between a piece of aluminum siding and a concrete block. It was another one of those unpleasant Shenandoah Valley omens.
A pair of Sassafras trees on Pileated Peak.
This evening Hoagie took me out for dinner in Staunton at a new Indian restaurant called Taste of India, which was actually in the downtown area, in the area between the Wharf and the Stonewall Jackson. There were only a couple people there when we arrived, but a good number of additional customers showed up while we were there, which didn't seem bad for Staunton on a Wednesday. The restaurant just might be close enough to Mary Baldwin College and the Staunton Theatre District to survive.
Hoagie didn't seem to know her way around an Indian menu, so when it came time to order, I played a role similar to the one Gretchen normally plays with me, helped enormously by the word "VEGAN" appended at the end of all dishes that were, well, devoid of animal products. Hoagie got the Shrimp Jalfrezi and I got the chana masala. She said she didn't like spice and I said that I did. That was all. At the Staunton Taste of India, all you have to say is that you like spice and they give it to you. My Chana Masala came out easily as hot as food does in Kingston when I tell the guys there to spice up "just like back in Bangladesh." In addition to the main courses, I also got us an order of samosas, two orders of garlic nan, and 12 oz. Kingfisher beers for each of us (it's vaguely similar to Beck's; because Hoagie's beer interests seem to have frozen circa 1983, her favorite beer remains Beck's Dark). I'd wanted a bowl of mulligatawny soup, but had to settle on vegetable soup instead. But it tasted almost exactly like mulligatawny once I added the spicy red sauce that came with the samosas.
The food was actually really good (if a bit overly greasy). Strangely, though, the place was expensive. One of the charms of Staunton is the survival of the $5 entrée. But there's no such thing at Taste of India. Our food, plus a chicken-and-mushroom curry to go for Don, came to over $70, which is still a lot to pay for three meals and two drinks in the Queen City of the Shenandoah Valley.
My food had been so spicy that I could actually feel it causing discomfort inside and lower esophagus. These discomforts gave me yet another bout of insomnia on my last night at Creekside on this particular visit.
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