Beer today, gone tomorrow

Healthwise, it's probably true to say that my lifestyle has not improved since I came to Arizona. I'm eating more, though the absence of Tesco Ready Meals is probably no bad thing, and I'm certainly exercising less - the occasional game of racketball (or racquetball - debate on that one rages in this house, along with correct pronounciation of vitamin: VITE-amin or VIT-amin?) is about all, and that largely consists of us trying to stay in one spot, and waving hopefully in the direction of the ball as it whizzes towards us.

One plus is that my alcohol consumption has also declined, and become...well, less regurgitated. In the 16 months since getting here, I haven't once found myself contemplating the toilet-bowl from the inside. [Not something I miss, at the risk of stating the bleedin' obvious] The reasons for this are largely logistical, rather than any conscious choice. You pretty much have to drive everywhere in Phoenix, so either I'm behind the wheel, or Chris is, and it seems totally ungallant to get pissed while she sips on a Diet Coke. Besides, where's the fun?

The only times we ever get moderately drunk is when we take a walk up the road. Though there are no dedicated bars in the immediate vicinity (not like Tulse Hill, where there were three within as many minutes), we have are a couple of restaurants with bars attached. The reason for this is, there's a fixed number of bar licences available in Phoenix: you can only get one by purchasing it from the owner of a place that's closing, which can cost $100,000. But if you get a certain amount of your sales in food, you can get a restaurant licence instead, and that's only $2,000.

So most places allow you to combine food with alcohol - usually margaritas for Chris, beer for me (and it's amazing how Mexican beer tastes ten times better when taken with Mexican food) - followed by a gentle stagger home. Occasionally, this meanders via Best Buy, for the purpose of cheap DVD acquisition. Though I'm not certain whether a bout of vomiting would be preferable to the Anna Nicole Smith double-bill, purchased on one such inebriated spree.

Our favourite haunt is Don Pablo's Mexican Restaurant, most notable for the fact that we've never actually seen any Mexicans in there, either eating or (more remarkably) serving. This is in a state where virtually every low-paid service industry job (gardening, cleaning, etc.) is dominated by immigrants - legal and otherwise - from across the border. Yet Don Pablo's appears to bar them from employment, at least in the front house.

This may be because it's a Mexican restaurant, aimed at people who don't actually like Mexico much (or perhaps, more pointedly, Mexicans). The interior is the sort of thing you'd see in Disneyland or a Las Vegas casino. Just as New York, New York is decorated to evoke the spirit of the city - without the rude residents, of course, so Don Pablo's has a faux-Mexican style, designed to give the feeling of eating in a little provincial village - without the flies and subsequent bout of Montezuma's Revenge.

My cynicism is, admittedly, from a point of view of ignorance, since I've never been to Mexico. But it's not something I really want to do, and going by the face Chris makes whenever the topic arises, she doesn't want to go either. Think it's some kind of Hispanic caste thing, her being Cuban and all - the same way there's a hierarchy of English speakers, with Scots at the top, naturally. :-)

But I've heard too many horror stories - TC-er Andy Collins was mugged on a recent trip...not particularly unusual, perhaps, except in his case, it was by the police. He still loves the place though, but I suspect cheap tequila may be influencing his opinion. Me, I think I'll be happier sticking to the fake version, available five minutes walk down the road.


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