DAY 328: Hogging down at Hooters

26 Jul

I DON’T want to come to Hooters with a gaggle of girls doing the testosterone tourist thing. I want to come alone, to hit it like a SWAT team, soak up its juices and browse what I imagine will be quite fetching cotton merchandise.

You’re supposed to pull your obnoxiously large Subaru into the parking lot before entering – that becomes obvious when Hooters turns out to be a 25-minute walk from Parramatta station.

“Welcome to Hooters!” a disembodied voice calls out.

There are 460 Hooters across the States, and more restaurants in 27 other countries.

At the bar today is a group of fluoro-vested men, here for the beer, but it’s only 5 o’clock so the cavernous joint is largely empty. It’s done up like a kid’s party, with orange and black balloons, coloured lights and comfortable, wipe-down booths. My booth has a TV screen, my own dedicated bottle of barbecue sauce, and a whole roll of kitchen paper.

I peruse the menu, which is littered with boisterous humour and has a misplaced apostrophe, here: “EXTRA’S”. It’s got a friendly enough tone, though; I like it.

Fittingly, I’m reading John Birmingham’s collection of essays, Off One’s Tits. Birmingham’s like the last bastion of blokehood; he directly challenges the masculinity of any man not admitting to a carnivorous mania. Here’s a sample passage: “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a pack of hefty blokes in possession of a good appetite must be in want of a pork fest.” And another, from another essay: “real chicks dig guys with cars, scars and bacon breath”. Elsewhere he observes that tweedy-looking college boys seem like “a good fuck and some pork crackling might be the end of them”. You catch his drift?

I think Birmingham would disapprove of the fact that my Hooters Girl turns out to be a middle-aged man in a finely striped shirt. Maybe this is down to the multiple lawsuits Hooters has had to contend with in the States, from litigious larrikins who were denied employment on the grounds of not having humungous breasts. (If this cracking down on funbags strikes you as unfair, you can always subscribe to Hooters Magazine.)

My signed memorabilia.

I order a soy latte and my serving man doesn’t so much as flinch. Then I order a smothered chicken burger with curly fries, and it arrives within 10 minutes. It’s hot, salty, and indeed smothered to death by capsicum, mushrooms and Swiss cheese: all for a mere twenty-two bucks. The spiral design of my potatoes keeps me amused for so long (much in the manner of crinkle-cut chips, when they were first invented) that my smothered chicken burger goes cold. It’s no less tasty, though. (NB: If you’re a bloke of the Birmingham persuasion, you should be ordering ribs. Hooters are famous for them.)

Meanwhile, there’s nothing for the surrounding Hooters Girls to do, so a bunch of them choreograph a boot shuffle to Steps’ ‘5,6,7,8’, which is blaring through the speakers: “My rodeo romeo / A cowboy god from head to toe…” I will report that their hair is disappointingly unboofy, but points are won back when one picks up a hula-hoop and starts spinning in her regulation orange hot pants and white tank top, apropos of nothing.

Back to me, and I’m having both stomach pains and palpitations. I’m not sure what the former’s about, but I’m putting the latter down to my revamped salt intake.

And on to that merch. I’m sorely tempted by a $40 tight tee, and I like the tasteful owl logo… but I’m concerned that plastering ‘Hooters’ across my chest might invite ridicule from the sort of men I’ve seen at the bar. I might appease myself with a laptop bag, baseball cap, or even a kid’s tee for the young nephew, but instead I opt for a $15 stubby cooler – it seems churlish not to.

On the way home, a Doctors Without Borders fundraiser corners me at Redfern Station. After just 30 seconds of startling stats about starvation in Kenya, I thrust that incriminating cooler deep into my bag and resurface with my purse, signing up for two years of donations on the spot. And whaddaya know – my indigestion eases.

Keeper? Ye-es. I think.

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