I have nothing funny to say today, so I'll talk about the end of summer, which I'm sure will just bum all of you out. I love Autumn, it's my favorite season. I just wish it was longer. Around here, if you blink you'll miss it.
PJ's Chicken n' Ribs is a landmark in Saratoga, and every year about this time, they close up shop and head to wherever people who run seasonal food joints head to for the winter.
Pretty soon, the countdown will appear on their sign. It usually starts out something like "Closed for the Season: See you in 22 weeks" which is really depressing when you're driving by during the first snow flurries of the year. Every week, they have someone change it, until it eventually works its way down to 1 or 2 weeks sometime in April.
I hate seeing that sign at the beginning of the winter, but toward the end it does give you some small ray of hope when you're driving home in a mid-march snowstorm. You see that sign and you can believe in your heart that Spring will actually arrive . This sign is how us locals keep track of the seasons. In Saratoga, by the way, these seasons are "Winter," "Concert" and "Track" and sometimes, as a town resident, you don't want to be here for any of them.
Winters are tough and long, and the less said about them the better. You'd better have a winter activity you like, because without one you will probably hang yourself. Concert season means that every weekend-night during the summer there is a traffic jam 5 miles long as people wait to get into concerts by the likes of Dave Matthews and Phish. (I don't care how good he is, and I don't care how drunk or stoned you are, how long and smelly your whiteboy dreads are, or how much you rule at hacky-sack, I want you the eff out of my way so I can just get to my house, thank you very much.) Track season means lots of bitchy rich folks from downstate come up to drop their cash and their attitudes on the local populace. I am willing to bet that more sent-back food gets spit on (and worse) in Saratoga in August than anywhere else in the world. It also means that the price of everything in town from gas to camera batteries goes through the roof.
When PJ's first started doing this sign thing way back when, they used to count down the individual days. I think this turned out to be a major pain in the ass, because they switched to counting down the weeks a few years ago. My best guess is that grandpa PJ got sick of hauling his ass out to the sign in the middle of a snowstorm just to make us townfolk happy.
They cook their chicken on a gigantic cinderblock and rebar grill out back, and when you drive up that way you can smell the chicken from about a mile down the road. In the summer, when they're really hopping and the wind is blowing west, you have to drive through a dense cloud of chicken-flavored smoke. If you are ever on your way to the thoroughbred track, keep this in mind. You'll want to roll your windows up as you go by or stray animals will be following you around all day.
I've only been there a few times, but I'm probably going to stop there this weekend just to officially say goodbye to summer. It has to be a lot better for the cooks this time of year than in the Spring. They got burned a few years ago when we had one of our 'extra-special' late season snow storms in the middle of May. It sucked to drive by and see nobody in the parking lot, and three poor bastards in goosedown parkas standing out back grilling chicken nobody was going to eat. (You almost wanted to stop in and order a pity chicken, just so the day wasn't a total waste for them.)
I've got no closer for this one. Eat Chicken, I guess, and if you like chicken n' ribs, now you know the best place to get it. Speaking of white meat, I'm off to St. Maarten for a bit in October. Maybe that will shake me out of this seasonal funk. Look for the glow in the Southeastern sky. That'll be the sun reflecting off my pasty skin.