Hunter S. Thompson spent decades searching for the American dream: in Las Vegas, on the '72 campaign trail, in Hawaii, and in so many other places. But did he ever think to look while also hunting for lunch? Keep your wits about you—this is food truck country.
I was somewhere around the coffee machine on the edge of the office when the hunger began to take hold. I remember saying something like, "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe I should go to lunch." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around me and my inbox was full of what looked like huge email files, all swooping and screeching and demanding my attention. "What disease-addled criminal let these animals loose in my inbox?!”
Then it was quiet again. My coworker leaned in from her cubicle. "What the hell are you yelling about?" she muttered, raising her glasses. "Never mind," I said. "I’m going to lunch.” No point mentioning those emails, I thought. The poor girl will see them soon enough.
It was almost noon, but still had another 3 months before my favorite lunch spot reopened. They would be tough months. Very soon, I knew, I would be completely starving. But there was no going back, and no time to rest. I would have to ride it out. I would have to go to food trucks.
Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on strange meats and breads wrapped in paper and eat it awkwardly outdoors. To relax, as it were, in the womb of the barely-smog-choked sun.
Just was nature of this lunch. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character. It was a gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country—but only for those with true grit. And I was chock full of that.
So there I was, waiting at a truck with a pun for its name that sold crepes—crepes!—filled with taco meat for some reason that nobody claimed to understand. "Just check it out," they said, "they make their own guac.”
Indeed. Check it out. But when I finally arrived at Greatest Crepes I was unable to cope artfully with the registration procedure. I was forced to stand in line with all the others—which proved to be extremely difficult under the circumstances. I kept telling myself: "Be quiet, be calm, say nothing ... speak only when spoken to: name, rank and work affiliation, nothing else, ignore this terrible hunger, pretend it's not happening..."
There is no way to explain the terror I felt when I finally lunged up to the clerk and began babbling. All my well-rehearsed lines fell apart under that woman's stoney glare. "Hi there," I said. “Gimmie everything, everything you’ve got. I’m so hungry, by God I’ll take whatever godforsaken animal carcass you’ve stuffed into your oily tissue cakes, please, please!!!”
The woman never blinked. “It’s going to be awhile,” she said. “Lots of orders today.”
"No!" I shouted. "Why?” My legs felt rubbery. I gripped the truck’s counter and sagged toward her as she held out the pad to take my order, but I refused to accept it. The woman's face was changing: swelling, pulsing...horrible green jowls jutting out, the face of an avocado! No wonder they make their own guacamole! Bunch of pun-loving cannibals. No thank you.
There’s many other food trucks to choose from. So I chose them all.
Memories of the rest of this day are extremely hazy. All I have, for guide-pegs, is a pocketfull of frequent buyer cards and cocktail napkins, all covered with scribbled notes. Here is one: "Get the burger man, demand a fried egg for science purposes ... photos? ... Instragam-worthy ... why not a crabcake? ...onion rings...tacos ON a pizza…heavy yelling."
I ate something I shouldn’t have. Many things I shouldn’t have. I know that much. I have those scars.
My central memory of that time seems be submerged in a deep-fried haze but nonetheless being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a food truck where people were just as weird and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. There was madness in any direction. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were eating was right, that we were winning…
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Boring and Conventional. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our artisanal, farm to table, duck fat fried energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than 2 hours later, you can go up to the rest room on the second floor, and with your eyes squeezed shut you can get a sense of the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back, into the toilet.