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Distillations: Peace and Goat Tacos at Padrecito 

Tuesday, Nov 25 2014
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The bartender at Padrecito was wearing a goofy fishing hat and an even goofier smile. That didn't work with the room, which consisted of a small, lovely, wooden bar separated from the gourmet Mexican restaurant it's attached to.

Bartenders ought to match the room — shouldn't they? If a place has a persona, shouldn't the people who work there enhance it? Or is that the first step on the road to kitsch, where everyone is wearing a matching uniform and a plastic grin? I frowned thinking about that, but the truth was that I wanted him to conform.

The couple next to me at the bar were having an intense conversation. "She's dead inside and I'm not helping," the woman said, in agony.

"The best way to help ..." the man began. Then my drink was placed in front of me. A Copa Verde (mescal, chipotle powder, cilantro, lime). While I'd been taking it in, the man had said something about how you're not really being supportive if you're not being true to yourself.

I don't believe that. In my experience very few people who are suffering deeply need the Truth: They need something to cling to.

I sipped, pleased at just how good a drink can be in a broken world.

The man got up and stood behind her, embraced her shoulders, kissed the top of her head. She didn't seem comforted. He massaged her neck; her expression didn't change.

I was struck by a long-ago memory of me sitting by an outdoor bonfire, telling my former teacher, Robert, "She won't listen to me. Even my presence seems to shut her down. What can I do?"

He smiled gently. "The best thing you can do is give someone as much space as they need, leave them alone, and live your life so that you are a good example, in case they ever look your way when they think you're not paying attention."

I took that advice. It worked. I kind of wanted to tell this couple that, but I'd already stolen their drink menu and we weren't on good terms.

The bartender in the goofy hat came back. "You want anything to eat?"

"Sure," I said. "I'll take the chips and guacamole."

"Good choice" he said. "Everybody loves the chips and guac."

"Yeah? I feel so unoriginal."

He looked a little hurt. "It's not unoriginal."

"It's chips and guac at a Mexican-themed bar. Let's not give me points for creativity."

"Well," he said, "if you want to go off the beaten path, order the goat tacos. People shy away from them because they're scared of goat. But they're missing out."

I gave him a look. "Be honest," I said, though I'd been mentally criticizing him just a half-hour ago for not matching the furniture. "What are you telling me?"

"I am telling you I endorse them. Full force."

"What's your name?"

"Brad."

I leaned over the bar. "Benjamin," I said. We shook hands. "And I'm ordering goat tacos."

"That's great!"

"I'm trusting you."

He nodded solemnly. He placed the order, looking satisfied.

I got my second drink, a sandia (chile vodka, watermelon, lemon, egg white). Over the course of the evening I determined that all the mescal and tequila drinks at Padrecito are exceptional. You're safe picking something off the menu at random. In fact you should.

Brad checked in when the goat tacos were delivered. "First bite?" he asked.

Brad had not let me down. "That," I told him, "is some damn savory goat."

The couple to my left were now in a different place: holding hands, looking into each other's eyes. I was eating amazing food, drinking tasty concoctions, and a wave of happiness came over me.

Padrecito, at least that evening, was a good place — the kind of place where things just turn out right if you give them enough time. That's a wonderful quality, and it doesn't happen by accident. Another memory came back to me, this time of visiting a hospice. I walked onto the grounds and a sense of peace and joy welled up. Later the staff told me they'd never had a bad death there, and I believed them.

Brad stepped over. "You want another drink?"

"I do."

"More of the same?"

"No. You did such a good job with the goat — what do you recommend?"

He grinned. "How about I make you something."

"I think you should."

I'd gotten the relationship all wrong. The bartender shouldn't resemble the bar, the bar should resemble the bartender. How else could this possibly turn out so right?

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs

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