A few months ago I discovered a wonderful new restaurant: Tequila Chitos. It isn’t a hipster joint or a foodie establishment or even particularly awesome in any one specific way. It’s just a humble neighborhood spot with great prices, friendly service and a menu of margaritas in unusual flavors. I found it because I wanted to meet up with someone — a sex blogger, to be exact — en route to an art opening that my friend Dian Hanson, visiting from LA, was co-curating with John Waters. Because of the magical and inexpensive margaritas, my evening’s plans were upended; I got so smashed that I kept saying, “Oh, I can be late,” and by the time I made it to the opening, it was over. I arrived, drunk with a purple tongue, blathered some sort of fan insanity to John Waters as they were preparing to depart and was decidedly NOT invited to what I’m sure would’ve been an awesome after party. Oh well.
My return trip to Tequila Chitos was for a similar reason: I was meeting people in the neighborhood. Two of New York City’s kingpins of underground events had sent out this intriguingly vague email:
“Wednesday at 7:00pm you are invited to a special, deep sneak preview (do not forward or extend this invite to anyone) of a new, wildly ambitious production being built out in Chelsea. Imagine stepping into a 100,000 square foot living theater set spread across multiple floors of an infamous building. You are invited to see the space for two reasons:
– There are opportunities to potentially host special nights there.
– They need volunteers to make this thing as great as it can be, and your network of people might be interested in being involved in a project that is grand, ambitious and resumé-building.
PS: For a lot of reasons they are really trying to keep this project under wraps. Please don’t spill the beans.”
(We were later advised not to blog or write any press about this but, well, hey, no one reads this fucking blog anyway! Okay, back to my rambling tale.)
After a few hours at MoMA, a friend and I took a brisk walk downtown to the warmth and welcome of Tequila Chitos. We ordered up a couple magical margaritas and a chorizo quesadilla. Yummy! We were joined by a friend and then her friend. More margaritas ensued.
But I had to excuse myself (and my blue tongue) to attend the semi-clandestine gathering. A colorful cast of nightlife characters assembled in a posh “pizza parlor” west of Tenth Avenue, then filed across the street to the secret location, which was precisely the space I’d guessed we’d be seeing. Nothing could have prepared me for what was inside. I won’t provide any details, since I was sworn to secrecy! I’ll just say it was mind-blowing.
However, I will say that their post-tour plea for volunteers fell on deaf ears. Well, at least my ears were deaf. While I can completely appreciate peoples’ passions for their art, and this project is so ambitiously beyond the realm of almost anything anyone has ever attempted before that it would, indeed, be amazing to participate in its realization, I found myself wondering why they hadn’t asked for our help earlier on in the process? I would’ve loved to assist with…um, everything they’ve already accomplished. And perhaps, had I been included earlier on, I might have felt more invested. Now that the project is nearing completion and will be, as they said themselves, “a commercial venture,” volunteering to help them realize their vision seems somewhat…unreasonable. If they’re going to be selling tickets and booze and, perhaps, even souvenirs, they’ll be making money. Though it may be quite some time before the project is profitable, they’ve obviously already spent thousands (and I mean thousands) so there is cash coming from somewhere.
I suppose a parallel could be drawn between this project and Burning Man; the two share some similarities. I have worked for weeks on end to make Burning Man happen and done it for free. I was a Burning Man Regional Contact for a few years, essentially serving as an unpaid ambassador for their for-profit corporation. But now when I work for “the Man” I make money. Perhaps that’s why I’m no longer interested in volunteering, regardless of how spectacular the project.
But again, back to my tale. After so many margaritas earlier, during the post-tour sales pitch, I really had to pee. While our guide was busy explaining why they needed us, all I could think about was where the working toilets were in the labyrinthian building. I headed off in what I thought was the right direction but wound up finding the front door instead, so I decided to head back to Tequila Chitos for one more margarita. As I was texting my friend to make sure she was still there, my phone rang. When I answered it, the person on the other end said, “Guess who?” I hate that game and I said so. “I’ll give you a hint,” the guy said. “Who’s your only friend in Austin, Texas?”
“I know 100 people in Austin,” I said, “just tell me who you are.”
“Fair enough,” he replied, sounding deflated. It was an old friend — a very old friend — and he had bad news. A guy we’d grown up with had died. Isn’t that always the bad news people have when they have bad news? Ugh. I asked a few questions, got a few answers and didn’t have much to say. We spent our formative teenage years together but I haven’t seen the guy in two decades. The funeral would be held in two days — in California — so there was no way I’d be able to make it. I told my caller friend that we’d talk later and hung up just as I was entering the restaurant.
Luckily my friend was still there. I managed to pacify myself — from the unnerving news of an old friend’s untimely death, from the unrealistic imposition of being asked to work for free in America’s most expensive city in pursuit of profit for people who aren’t even Americans and from all the wheels that both of these things set spinning in my brain — with one more blueberry beverage. The prospect of continuing on — to the weekly Burning Man happy hour or the monthly Pleasure Salon — no longer seemed appealing, so after finishing off yet another bowl of chips and that grand finale of a margarita, I jumped into a cab.
The moral of this story: Don’t drink too many of the magical margaritas at Tequila Chitos and expect your evening to go as planned.