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We'd both woken up mad, the wife and I. Rolled out of bed pissed off, brushed our teeth pissed off, then gotten dressed pissed off, each under our own cloud of bad feelings and faulty neurochemistry. Wisely, we tried to avoid each other, to keep our two clouds from bumping into each other and striking sparks of matrimonial lightning that would, no doubt, lay waste to yet another Saturday in our long history of spotty weekends.
3230 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80206
Region: Central Denver
Coctel de camarones:
Tacos, three for: $5.95
Chips and salsa: $1.50
Huevos divorciados: $6.95
But in truth, a fight was coming, and we were both spoiling for it. Marriage -- our marriage, anyway -- is a blood sport, a border war with territory gained and lost by inches, a constant and shifting web of treaties and domestic peace agreements made, then broken almost immediately by harassment and guerrilla incursion. I am a difficult man to be married to under the best of circumstances, and Laura has a temper like ten pounds of dynamite in a five-pound bag. And if it weren't for the fact that we love each other like crazy-go-nuts and on some deeply damaged psychological level need the constant radioactive backscatter of hurt feelings and old grudges to prove that we're both still in this marriage -- that neither of us has yet been totally subsumed by the other -- I'm sure we would've done each other in long ago. It's a Pink Panther and Kato thing, these sudden and unexpected eruptions of connubial warfare serving to keep us both sharp and on our toes. That, and in all our wandering -- both together and separately -- neither of us has ever found a more worthy, more maddening opponent.
The fight came, and it was a bad one -- far-ranging and cruel. What's more, the thing had legs. It traveled, rolling from the bedroom to the kitchen to the living room, encompassing slights and moments of poor judgment in some cases ten years old. Marriage, monogamy -- frankly, just the company of other people -- does not suit me, and in the history of our on-again/off-again relationship (which now has taken up nearly half of our lives), I have had many Waterloos. So I'm not ashamed to admit that I took the worst of the combat here. Plus, Laura is smarter than me and has a better memory, so she comes to these fights with more ammunition. By the time we climbed into the car and headed out for breakfast, I was reduced to foul-tempered sniping from the heights while she -- proudly, I think -- held me under a brutal siege, armed mostly with the fact that I'd forgotten her birthday last year.
Like I said, many Waterloos. One of these days, I'm going to have to start looking at vacation properties in Elba.
In restaurant-critic school, they never teach you how to sit down to a pleasant meal with your significant other and pretend like you're just another young couple in love, when all you really want to do is clock your significant other in the head with a ketchup bottle, steal the car and go running off to Ensenada to live on the beach with a cocktail waitress who doesn't speak a word of English. It's no easy trick, let me tell you, but it's one we've gotten good at. And thank God, Mezcal makes it easy. This place has some kind of magic in its off hours -- when it's quiet and becomes just a little neighborhood spot for huevos rancheros, morning beers and salsa draped in cool jazz or happy mariachi party music.
Friday night? That's different. The night before, I'd rolled in solo around midnight and found the place packed with kids -- backflow from the Bluebird Theater across the street and shock troops of the local hipsterati in their LoDo best, bringing the game up Colfax Avenue, slumming it in an area that's no longer yesterday's slum. The bar was full of inexpert drinkers getting stupid on shooters with names I didn't even recognize, wasting good tequila on their dates who -- let's be honest here -- would've been just as easy with a bellyful of schnapps or PBR from the can.
Mezcal's kitchen keeps going until 1 a.m., and that's important. After 10 p.m., it bangs out tacos at a dollar a pop in a kind of reverse happy hour, which was the reason I'd stopped by. And the fact that I hadn't called my darling wife to let her know where I was? Well, that was likely part of the reason for Saturday's fireworks. Inconsiderate lout that I am, I'd grabbed a two-top by the big front windows, downed a couple Pacificos, and amused myself watching perverts and drunken knots of college kids trying to look cool while they slunk through the front door of the Adult Bookmart down the block -- acting as though they'd stepped up to the well-marked entrance expecting it to be a Bible warehouse, and then were shocked, shocked, to find pornography inside.
I ordered tacos while I sat there, two al carbón, two al pastor, and was heartened to see them served traditionally, in the coastal style, with two softened white corn tortillas laid flat, generously loaded with meat, topped with stiff streamers of shredded cabbage and a little sweet-tomato salsa, with fat wedges of lime for dressing. The meat was good: marinated, tender and braised, with a little charcoal back-bite. These were Tijuana street tacos, simple and delicious, with no one in the kitchen trying to do anything sneaky to them. No multicultural funny business. More important, no cilantro.
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