A lot is happening in the City of Quality. In addition to Publishers Weeklynaming Maverick Jetpants a book of the week and author Bill Peters making a heartbreakingly funny contribution to Dear Teen Me, the Jetpants website (kind of like a cross between a geotagging community and a scavenger hunt) went live. Somewhere in there, Bill found the time to discuss a few choice Rochester spots — the good, the bad, and the divey.
Applebee's is a key setting in your book. Give us one of your fondest cheap-family-restaurant memories.
There’s one that I used to always tell, about a guy who worked a single night shift at Pizzeria Uno, where I was a pizza cook. On the opposite end of the conveyor oven, the guy in question would transfer the pizzas to a large cutting table, slice them with an also-large rocker knife, and place the food in the server window. He’d just gotten out of the Marines, he’d said, and it was a busy night, and he worked the window with this amped-up, military precision.
And then at one point, I looked over, and there was blood all over the cutting table. But the guy was still slicing away, pivoting, slicing, serving. Eventually, a waitress yelled to him: “Sir!” He kept working the window. “Sir!” He told the waitress to hold on. “Sir! You cut your hand!” And he looked at the fold of skin hanging off his palm and, very matter-of-factly, said “I am not sure how that happened; I, uh, do not have any recollection of the incident.” He went back to the manager’s office, opened the first-aid kit, wrapped some gauze around his palm, and put on a rubber glove over that, and went back to serving, the rest of the night.
Now let's talk about the Bug Jar: a real Rochester institution where one of the book's more unsettling chapters takes place. What should new visitors look out for?
I suppose at the Bug Jar, you are never too old to kick / be kicked in the face by another equally never-too-old person. You may also wonder how just many dudes can wear jeans and black T-shirts and play the same garage-rock-sounding stuff, and if, by sheer probability, there might be a band composed of dudes who wear jeans and black T-shirts who maybe just want to play some spacious, chorus-pedal-heavy Andy Summers chords and just let people think. After age 30, you’ll probably want to bring earplugs, as the techs move those soundboard levers up and down all at once, with a forearm.
Let's say someone reading this heads toward Rochester (en route to a Niagara honeymoon, for example). Can you recommend one stop for a taste of the City of Quality?
I’m going with Mark’s Texas Hots, a diner. My case is this: 1.) It’s downtown and centrally located — on Monroe Avenue, near the Bug Jar, near the Krown and all the other bars; near the Monroe Show World building. 2.) It’s open all night and the Garbage Plates are a total cannabinoid massage. 3.) Because of 1 and 2, it’s always crowded so there is no end to the nonsense that happens here — always someone yelling about something, always someone about to be kicked out, always someone about to get in a fight and be thrown into your food. If this couple cares about preserving their marriage, they should be drunk.