Posts Tagged ‘the Man’

Some people tell me Gene Porter made pretty good barbecue. I wouldn’t know. Every time we went to Dixie’s, we waited for him to come around and ruin our food with his obscenely hot, blackish paste. It was an oily paste so nasty it earned its own name, the Man. It made you sweat and hiccough. It rendered you speechless. It made eating a numbing ordeal. But that was part of the experience, and the experience is why people went to Dixie’s.

We used to see Gene once a week. Watch his family bicker in the kitchen. Sit at the long cafeteria tables in his old RV repair shop. That was back in the heyday, when scores of people would stand in line for 50 minutes during their ½ hour lunch break, waiting to see who he would single out, and hoping it would be someone else.

He singled people out for parking badly, for wearing the wrong clothes, for looking down at their feet when he approached, for just showing up at his restaurant. If you parked badly, he’d demand your keys and move the car himself. Men with sports cars feared Gene.

But worst of all was to be singled out once you had your food because Gene was always prowling the tables with a toothpick in one hand and an old saucepan of the Man in the other. Gene would ask, “How many you want?” If you said you’d take one dose of the Man, he’d give you two. If you asked for two, he’d give you one. The question itself was just a game, and the rules changed from table to table. The only sure thing was that someone at each table would be made to suffer dearly for the amusement of others, whether they were willing or not. 

Other Dixie’s memories:

  • CD player gets stuck, skipping back and forth on Clarence Carter‘s raunchy blues song, “Strokin'” for 10 minutes. Gene goes upstairs to fix it. Starts the song over from the beginning.
  • Kid throws aluminum can in the regular trash. Gene yells across the room at him. Kid explains that he didn’t see the recyling bin. Gene makes him go upstairs, find a permanent marker, and write RECYCLING in huge letters across the front of the can.
  • Server dishes out pork to our Jewish friend right after he orders beef. Do we tell?
  • The Man melts a hole through the bottom of the metal saucepan Gene has been carrying around for years. The same sauce we are ingesting. Gene keeps the saucepan around to show off.
  • The tip jar next to a bucket of peanuts. For the second tip.

We knew Gene had gone through major heart surgery and it had been a very tough fight. We didn’t know about the cancer that would eventually claim him at 71. But it was clear on our last visit to Dixie’s that the days of the big crowds were gone. The prices were high. The family had quit bickering in the kitchen. “Strokin'” no longer played. And Gene sat convalescing at one of his cafeteria tables, vaguely watching television, too weak to turn around and talk to his patrons. So we ate our heaping messy portions of brisket and hotlink quietly, wondering if we were staring at the consequences across the room. It was our final visit to the theater after the show had ended. We put our hand on Gene’s shoulder on the way out the door. Dropped a second tip in the peanut jar. Farewell, Gene.

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