Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tale of the Taco Bell

There are a thousand different reasons a person might take up a pencil and jot down his thoughts, his dreams, the story of his life or someone else's. Ego, tragedy, catharsis, the need to make people laugh, think or cry are all good enough reasons.

For me, it's all about seeing my name in print and standing back as the accolades wash over me and that, my friends, is what happened to me yesterday. Last April I wrote a story about the Taco Bell Tuesday Club for The Commercial Appeal (Taco Bell Tuesday Club: Old friends swap reminiscences, tall tales at weekly gathering). The club is a group of mostly septuagenarians who all hail from the same neighborhoods, schools, ethnicities or businesses in Memphis. They gather every week to tell lies and eat tacos and, for most, it seems to be the highlight of their week. Their numbers have grown, ninety-plus now, and in no small part to their story that ran on the cover of the M section two months ago.

Their de-facto leader, Ernie Barrasso, called me shortly after it ran to tell me how much they all enjoyed and appreciated the story, which was very nice of him to do. I don't get many of those calls, but when I do they seem to be from older people, people who are genuinely pleased and grateful to have their story told. I just enjoy hearing their stories and being able to share them. Barrasso asked me to come by the Taco Bell at Poplar & Estate in East Memphis to pick something up he had for me. I told him I would and then promptly forgot. I felt awful that I forgot and told myself I'd stop in there on some subsequent Tuesday, but, of course, I could never think to do that.

So when he called me last Monday and asked if I could come by the next day, I promised him I would. And I did. He quieted down his troops to re-introduce me as the one who wrote the story, he drew my attention to the poster-size story from the paper that now adorns the Taco Bell wall and he presented me with the framed photo below. It's a picture of Barrasso selling Elvis a car on So. Third Street and it is signed by Ernie Barrasso himself. It now commands a prominent place in my office.

I didn't go to college, didn't know anything about journalism school, really, and have no formal training as a writer. I'm just a young man with a passion for the written word and the dream to be recognized as the bard of burritos, the de Tocqueville of Taco Bell.

See you next Tuesday?