Nearly Executed by Hot Chicken

I have now lived in Tennessee for almost a month, but my mind continues to be blown every day.

 

I went to a local Toastmasters meeting yesterday. My former group was an Improv Toastmasters group, and a more experienced member warned me that other groups can be much more formal, and will actually fine you if you don’t use the word of the day. I asked the Grammarian if that would be so here, and he answered me with a straight face: “Yeah, and it really adds up.” Then, they started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance — do most Toastmasters groups do that, or is it just the Tennessean patriotism that is just not so in California? After some banter, I learned the use of the word of the day is celebrated by tapping pens in approval, and there were no fines. They were open to me introducing some improv games in lieu of Table Topics some time, and I found out Table Topics is being put on the spot (literally) for a minute to answer a random question, like “What is your favorite loud sound?”

 

One of the toastmasters started his speech with an anecdote about rolling through a stop sign. His evaluator mentioned that he was from St. Louis, where the rolling stop is normal. Wait a minute, I thought it was called the California stop for a reason! So I asked him when St. Louis co-opted our driving habits, and he laughed, and told me that’s so almost everywhere, but life here was just at a different pace, so people actually stop. And that during his first winter here, he couldn’t believe how practically everything shuts down just at the threat of snow, but when you consider how many people live in a genuinely rural way, and can’t get out when it snows, it makes sense.

 

Peter still needs to get his car registered in Tennessee, and I am holding off on getting a new one, but the time for it may be sooner than I think. Then we’ll have to decide if we want a special license plate. The regular one is fairly pretty, but this state gives you more than 100 options, all benefiting a charity. I can’t imagine being able to get a Pro-Life, Elvis, or saxophone-playing cat license plate in California.

 

But I haven’t gotten to the most exciting part of our recent journey to a new place yet. When we first visited, our realtor introduced us to Nashville hot chicken at a place called Big Shakes — where, ironically, the shake machine is always broken. We had the second hottest chicken (Death Row-level), and it was delicious, even if slightly painful going through. Yesterday, we went back to Big Shakes, and Peter ordered Executioner Chicken. The clerks made sure several times he was not joking, and that he was aware of what he was about to do, and then had him sign a serious waiver, exempting them from any liability in the case of injury or death. They pointed to pictures of a previous challenge winner writhing on the ground in pain.

 

As an aside, I would like to note that when it comes to spices and heat in food, the people here are serious, they do not play. I bought the “medium” salsa at the farmer’s market, and it was as hot as the La Victoria “hot.” Nonetheless, having easily survived Death Row-level chicken, and being personally familiar with Smoke Eater’s 911 Challenge (which is equivalent to eating police-grade pepper spray), we had thought Big Shakes’ Executioner challenge would be an easy way to collect $25. Especially, since unlike the 911 Challenge, you don’t have to eat with your fingers, you can drink as much milk as you want, and you don’t have to sit in agony for a while after finishing the chicken. The trick with Big Shakes’ Executioner chicken is that it goes down easily enough, because it is far tastier and less messy than chicken wings drenched in sauce. But then it goes off like a nuclear bomb.

By the time, he neared the end of the first chicken tender, he was on his third pint of whole milk, he’d gone through 3 napkins, and his eyes were turning red. That’s when he wisely opted to stop, much to the relief of everyone there. A fellow patron recommended drinking coffee to get the spices out of his pores; I went to get him a glass of water.

I’d eaten their Southwest Shrimpburger, which is made with ghost peppers and jalapeno, and that was hot enough to make me wish I had gotten some milk myself. Out of curiosity, I took one of the French fries which had come with Peter’s meal and dipped it into the sauce that had dripped off the chicken. At first it was so hot it was practically tasteless, and then (after Scout followed my lead and did the same, even though she’d been smart enough just to order Original chicken for her meal), the sauce went to war and started scorching my entire mouth. Both Scout and I drank two glasses of water to dilute it away, and we’d complain more but opening our mouths to talk would have meant letting in air that would fuel the fire.

 

I want to note the people at Big Shakes were far more concerned about personal and public safety than those at Smoke Eaters. Peter not only got a fork and knife with which to eat the chicken, but also a set of gloves in case he wanted to eat by hand, since the spice would burn his hands. I wanted to take the leftover pieces home to masochistically nibble at them later, as I have done with the 911 Challenge, but they took them away lest any children get into it, and replaced it with two Death Row chicken pieces. I suppose it is prudent, since the Executioner spices sneak in and then attack, while you know you’re a fool (and have signed the waiver thereto) just looking at the 911 challenge, and with your first bite. If you gobbled Executioner chicken like a speed eater, you might not know what hit you until it was too late.

 

And then, Peter went to Nashville to see She Wants Revenge play at the Exit/In. I didn’t go because I’m still getting used to how very dark it gets here, especially without street lights — which might help us see the deer crossing the road. (By the way, if we do accidentally hit a deer and kill it, it is explicitly legal to eat it. Though I really don’t want to go “hunting” like that.) He said the opener, Silk and Suede, sounded like The Chamelons UK and was so good he wanted to buy their CD — but there wasn’t one because it was their first time, ever, playing out. The next two bands, including She Wants Revenge, weren’t as good, because they hadn’t been able to do a sound check, due to travel difficulties coming in from LA.

 

Otherwise, we continued to get sorted. Tomorrow, we should finally get our vacuum cleaner back, and Scout turns 13.

 

 

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