Thursday, July 30, 2009

State Memories Project: New Mexico

I was 13 when we visited Uncle Rick and his family in Albuquerque and headed down to Carlsbad Caverns. The caves were gorgeous, and have certainly stuck in my mind. But the move vivid memory is from the restaurant the night before.

The town was Whites City, an assemblage of tourist crap at the opening of the cave. There was, as I recall, some sort of Mexican buffet in the restaurant there. It was quite expansive. I had a thing for hot food, and liked being that far south for Mexican fare. So I piled a whole lot on my plate, including 3-4 jalapenos.

“Are you sure you want all those? They’re pretty hot,” my mother suggested, kindly.

“No! I’ve had these before. I can handle them,” I replied.

What I had had before was, I believe, banana peppers alongside my salad at the Pizza Hut. In case you were wondering, those are NOT jalapenos.

I turned many, many colors. Liquid oozed out both nostrils and both eyes.

It was hell. I think Dante may have written about this feeling.

For about 5 minutes (but it felt far longer), I ran back and forth to the salad bar trying to find something that would take the hothothothot out of my mouth.

Water? Hell no.

Bread? Forget it.

Cola? Surely you jest.

About a billion other things? None worked.

I was stuck with this torturous maximum-spice all over until finally we came upon the solution at the salad bar: cottage cheese made it go away. I don’t like cottage cheese much, but you will never hear me speak ill of it again, as it saved me on this day.

I haven’t eaten a jalapeno since. Nor will I again.

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