Last night was College Fellowship at our house. It includes food (chips and homemade salsa, brownies, French bread pizzas, and soda), prayer, and games. Usually we play “mafia.” If you’ve never played the game, here’s the short version: two people are secretly assigned to be the “mafia.” Everybody closes their eyes, and the mafia kill someone. Everyone wakes up and then we decide who must be guilty. This continues round after round until either the “townspeople” win or the “mafia” win.
Last night in the final round, it was down to Ariel, Tim, and me. I wasn’t a Mafioso so it had to be Tim or Ariel. Tim argued why he wasn’t the mafia. Then Ariel mouthed, “It’s not me, Mom.” I voted against Tim. I lost. Ariel won. Incredulously, I said, “Ar, you lied to me.” She said, “Mom, I played you.”
Normally, my mafia/organized crime instincts are much better; after all, I’ve come into contact with them a couple of times. Okay, I haven’t actually met them (I don’t think), I’ve just come into contact with their money laundering schemes. The first time was in Santa Cruz. Cal and I found this wonderful Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of the city. The first hint should have been the two-way mirrors all over the restaurant. The second hint was when my dear friend (an immigrant to the US who happens to be Chinese) was visiting, we took her there. On the way she said, “Um, I don’t like to eat Chinese food in the US. It’s not very good.” We assured her this would be different. She smiled, politely.
After she tasted the food, she said, “This is amazing. This is authentic. But, it’s so strange because the prices are so cheap—you can’t buy the food for what they’re charging.” On a side note. We asked Ling why the waitresses, who didn’t speak a word of English—when you ordered you just pointed to things on the menu, always rubbed Matthew’s head whenever they walked by the table. Ling smiled. “You have three boys. That’s incredibly good luck—they hope by touching it will rub off on them.” Ariel was duly insulted.) At any rate, the second indication of crime ties was when the ATF shut down the restaurant for one weekend. A small article in a newspaper told us that the restaurant was “the money laundering arm of the biggest gun running operation from China to the US.” Within two days the restaurant was up and running. Why? Walls full of photos of the owner with politicians, including Bill Clinton, seemed to answer that question. Did we continue going? Absolutely. However, Cal couldn’t help but order “gun pow” chicken every time we went. I kicked him under the table and hissed that the restaurant was probably under surveillance. He laughed.
Our second experience was with a wonderful restaurant in New Haven. Imagine a small restaurant whose walls are covered in original art work, where the wait staff only serves a table or two per person, and you get bread, bowls of home-cured olives, salad, tournados of beef tenderloin in Roquefort sauce, etc., and the bill is under $20 (we did have a coupon). Yes, you read that right—under $20. The first time we visited we thought that the restaurant must be going out of business. But, no, we could always find a coupon and the food was always five star quality. We couldn’t figure it out until various politicians were arrested for kickbacks to the mob, etc. In the seven years we were in Connecticut, one governor, two or three mayors, and assorted other politicians all went to jail for “mob relationships.” Right before we moved to Chattanooga, we went to the restaurant one last time.
We have yet to find a money laundering restaurant in Chattanooga. Consequently, we’re not eating out very much. Maybe someone could start a mob venture down here. I like cheap food.