The smell of sage and cumin permeated the air in my truck “Smokey”. Both the chile and the truck were red. I was listening to the radio playing some Willie Nelson as I drove down Red River from Prather Hall on the University of Texas campus.
(”Blue skies looking at me, Nothing but blue skies…”)
The skies were really blue on Saturday morning. I made my way to the Town Lake City Park next to the museum on the water. There was plenty of parking at 9am since the official time for cooks to arrive and start cooking chili was 10am. I was an hour early but wanted to set up my booth and make sure I had a convenient place to park near where the entrance was setup.
The event I was attending was called the “Texas Chili Challenge”. It was sponsored by several corporations in the Austin area, but I was most interested in the sponsor called Bikinis. That was the bar that Amy Jo worked at on weekends. I was early, because I wanted to set up my booth and then have time to help her. She was going to be the MC at the Chili Challenge, and I was not only a cook, I was an entertainer. There would be many musicians and singer-songwriters in attendance like me at the contest.
Before I started unloading my gear, I wanted to talk to someone in charge and find out exactly where was my booth and when could I move my stuff. I wasn’t sure if I had to wait til 10am or not like everyone else. If so no sweat, I got my parking spot and that was all that mattered to me at the moment.
I saw rows of tents with folding tables inside. Each tent was a 10×10 plot of grass and the tents were numbered 1-20. There was a larger tent say 20×20 foot next to a small stage. The sound system had not been delivered and no one was in the larger tent. So I was the first to arrive.
I decided instead of sitting in my truck to wait, I would walk over to the coffee shop and get a couple of coffees. I had only known Amy Jo for 3 weeks, since meeting her at the Willie concert but I knew she liked to drink “Caramel Macchiato” with two shots of espresso in a 16 oz cup. Myself, I could survive with an Americano in a 12oz cup with two shots of espresso, black with no cream of sugar.
While I was waiting for my order, I used the pay phone that was next to the rest rooms to call Amy Jo and see if she had left or not. She didn’t answer the phone, so I assumed she was already on her way. (No cell phones in 1978) I couldn’t wait to see her again. I mean I saw her almost every day after my classes when I went to her house for 4:20.
It was about 9:45am when I returned from the coffee shop and walked the full width of the park to get to the stage and judging tent. Then I saw her little yellow racing striped VW bug next to Smokey. I knew she was there somewhere, most likely the judges tent next to the stage.
When I got to the tent I went in and there she was, “Good morning, Amy Jo”
She turned around from unrolling a poster board that she was writing on and looked at me and smiled.
“HI Lance, you actually got here on a Saturday morning earlier than I expected.”, she smiled.
I walked over to her and leaned in and kissed her. She put her arms around me and kissed me back and then held me tight. I was in heaven whenever I was around this girl.
You see Amy Jo was a farm-girl, drove tractors and rode horses growing up as a kid. She wasn’t afraid to change the oil in her bug herself. She also loved to hunt and fish and besides all that she was beautiful. At 5’7″ with long brown hair and big brown eyes she turned heads.
“Amy do you know what booth that I am suppose to set up my stuff?”, I asked.
“Let me look on the schedule and assignments list.”, she said as she opened her notebook and thumbed through the sheets of paper she had written on.
“Here honey, you are at booth 5 over on the right.”, she answered.
“Do you need any help from me before I go and lug all my stuff to the booth?”, I asked wanting to be helpful.
“No there are others that will show up to do check ins and I don’t really have to MC anything until the tasting starts at Noon. But the music starts at 1pm and I do have to check in all the musicians and let them know the schedule. BTW, are you still willing to sing?”, she explained.
“Yes, I brought my guitar and will bring it out whenever you let me know what time I am on in the schedule:”, I answered.
“It looks like I can put you at 1pm til 1:20pm. You will be the first to play after the official lunch hour begins and the voting starts.”, she said. “That gives you enough time for 3 songs.”
That was also when the first draw for the judges would be expected. I was glad that Ed would be coming later to help me out at the booth. He could serve any chili up to passer-byes while I was playing my guitar.
I went to Smokey and loaded my pots and propane burner along with a basket of food ingredients into a little red wagon. I got my guitar case and strapped that on my back and pulled the wagon to the tent #5 not too far from the stage.
All the chili had to be started and finished at the park, no precooking or marinating was allowed. I planned to marinate my steak in Shiner Bock beer while my chile sauce was simmering.
My booth was setup, but we were not allowed to start cooking until 10am and then the judging started at 1pm. That was three hours to tenderize the meat and simmer the chili. Since I was setup, I decided to tune my guitar and strum a bit until the cooking began in 15 minutes.
My chile does not contain beans.
The recipe that I use has been passed down from the days of the wagon trains that had come to Texas when General Sam Houston was the President of the Republic of Texas.
Recipe for Lonesome for San Antone Chile:
- 3 lbs of rib eye beef (Any beef will do but I was using steak for my chile today)
- 2 cups of Gebhardts chili powder
- 2 cups of cumin
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 6 pack of Shiner Bock (any stout will do but I’m in Texas so Shiner is my beer)
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
The trick for competition chile is that I use a pot and a black skillet. The reason is that there are only 2 hours to cook the gravy and tenderize the meat. To tenderize the meat requires a sear and then a boil and then a simmer for an hour. That would be too hot of a temperature to cook the gravy. The dark red gravy is simmered on low for the 2 hours. The whole process requires also two propane burners to get the job done.
Heat up the big black skillet on high heat until a drop of water will dance a jig popping and sputtering until it flies into the ether. Put in the olive oil. Throw in the cubed meat. Did I mention that you have to cube the meat? Yeppers, a 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch cube is the goal. This can be accomplished by cutting the meat into 1/4 inch strips then cutting the strips into cubes.
Once the meat is seared on all sides, turn the heat down to low and pour in a bottle of Shiner. Until the meat is just covered by the liquid goodness. It might take 2 Shiners, if not then you can drink the rest of the beer. Oh did I mention that since you have to let the judges have a taste and the crowd to be fed, I doubled up on the recipe.
Let the meat simmer, now it time to make the gravy. Put all the leftover dry ingredients into the pot. Pour in the rest of the beer. (That is if you haven’t drank them all. Bad.) Put the temp on low and simmer for 2 hours.
That’s it! Oh, that’s not just it, you have to combine the meat and the gravy for the last hour of cooking. That way the tenderized and softened cubes will soak up all the red goodness.
The last 15 minutes is critical. It is the last taste.
Taste the chile. The cube should have some definition but be broken down. I know there is nothing you can do about it at this point but just saying. The gravy should be a deep red brownish color, this is something you can do by adding more chili powder. But I usually end of adding some cumin for taste. This is also now where you take some flour and mix it with cold water and add some to the gravy and meat to thicken it. It is an ART and so it is hard to explain but this will help make it the consistency that you want.
That’s it my friend. That is a bowl of red competition chile. (I keep using the word “chile” instead of the word “chili” just cuz I think it gives it more a Spanish origin or Texican when I talk about it, but they sound the same).
(Sharp sound of feedback from mic on stage)
“Hi, my name is Amy Jo and this is the Texas Chili Challenge”. Welcome to everyone that has come to have some fun, some music and some great tasting chili. Also, welcome to all of our chili cooks! Today one of you cooks will be crowned the Texas Chili Champion. And one of you will be crowned the Traditional Texas Chili. The Champion will get t-shirts for your team. The Traditional will be qualify to go to Terlingua to compete in the World Chili Championships as our competition is a regional qualifier event.”, said Amy Jo in a spunky elevated mood type of way.
(Amy was definitely hypo-manic today, and so was I although I didn’t know what the term meant back then)
“It’s NOON and it’s time to taste the chili and to vote. The way the voting works, is that you get a taste of each chili (a little dixie cup with a spoonful of chili) and if you like the taste and/or you like the team that cooked the chili then vote for them. A vote is $1, or $5 or any amount. The money will be used to donate to our charity the “Little Black Dress Society” which is an organization that helps abused women feel good about themselves by having girl’s nights out and support groups. So vote big with your wallets. Every 30 minutes, while the bands are setting up we will collect the money from the tip jars at every booth and tally it on this big white board behind me. The teams will be ranked by the total tips they receive. After the judges tasting we will stop the voting and at 4:20pm we will announce the winners.”, Amy Jo announced.
“Let the tasting and the voting begin, And BTW, you can put gold in the tip jar too as we can weigh and value to the market price into dollars that vote. Diamonds are also accepted. So please open your hearts and let the love flow. Now to entertain you we have 20 different groups that will be singing. Some of them are professional musicians and bands from around the Texas area. Some of them are amatuer singer-songwriters. The first artist that will be playing should come up on stage and will have 20 minutes of fame. So come on up, a guy that is really sweet and has unlimited good vibes, and yes I haven’t told him yet but he is my boyfriend! His name is Lance “Ghost” Merrick. So give it up for Lance!”, she shouted.
I had my guitar, and Ed was manning the booth so I went on stage.
“Hi, I’m Lance “Ghost” Merrick and this is the Pole Jerkin Blues”, I shouted over the mic.
(guitar strum in the key of G, I always play most of the time in the Key of G cuz that is my vocal range and it is the Blues.)
Pole Jerkin Blues
“Don’t get the Pole Jerkin Blues,
don’t get the Pole Jerkin Blues,
No it aint no good news, when you get the Pole Jerkin Blues.
She let me call her honey,
spent all my money and left me home alone.”, I sang with a bluesy raspy voice.
I also sang a Willie Nelson song, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys.
Then I finished up my 20 minute set with my signature song called:
“Smokin MaryJane and Riding Cheyenne”
“Smokin MaryJane and riding Cheyenne.
Smokin MaryJane getting all of it I can
All my troubles be over when I’m feeling no pain, after
Smokin MaryJane and riding Cheyenne”, I sang at the top of my lungs.
I got a nice round of applause and had a lot of hooting and hollering from the crowd as I sang my songs. I was on a high, probably cuz I had just smoked some weed and had all this (manic) energy for the last 3 weeks since the Willie Nelson concert. Oh, the Willie Nelson concert I loved it. That was where I met Amy Jo and wow I was now her boyfriend, what a trip!
“Ok, GIVE US A BIG ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR LANCE “GHOST” MERRICK.
That was wonderful, now we are going to give you the tally of our first 30 minutes of voting.
In third place is Lonesome for San Antone Chili by Lance with $150.
In second place is the 5 Amigoes “Mexican HotCha Cha Ahhhhh Chili”, with $220.
And in 1st place is “Do You Love Me, Do you Want Me Chili” by the Bikini’s team with $325!”, announced Amy Jo.
The Bikinis team was in 1st place. It was no wonder. I don’t know what their chili tasted like, but what they looked like WOW! It was 5 girls from the Bikini’s bar all dressed in their uniforms which consisted of very little. Bikinis! Yellow, Blue, Red, White, and Hot Pink. Damn. There is just no way that anyone is going to beat that!
Then I had an idea. I had a hay bale that Ed had brought to decorate our booth from his Mama’s farm out in West Texas. I carried the bale of hay up onto the stage and stood up on the bale with a Habanero pepper in my hand. Then I grabbed the mic.
“Attention everybody. I have a Habanero pepper in my hand. The first person that gives me $100, I will eat this habanero and swish it around my mouth. If I’m about to die like gasping for air, I hope the paramedics will get me to the hospital before I die. I do not want to die, but I want to win and I want your vote. AND for $50 I will eat a cayenne pepper. For $20, I will eat a jalapeño pepper. So, put me in the grave if you can and vote for me with your pocketbook, Rock On!”, I challenged.
I was amped!
Just then Amy Jo entered by booth. She walked right up to me and gave me a deep lusty kiss with tongue action and hands running up and down my back.
“WOW, What was that for?”, I gasped trying to catch my breath.
“Well, 1) you are my boyfriend now and I can kiss you whenever I feel like it and I felt like it. And 2) If you are gonna be eating those peppers I don’t want to burn myself on your lips so I figured I better get er done while it was safe!”, she smiled with her hands on her hips looking spunky as ever.
“Well, I haven’t ever told you this before. But being your boyfriend was a dream I had the first time I met you at the Willie concert when you passed me the weed. And also something I haven’t said before is… I love you!”, I beamed.
She smiled and said, “Lance, I love you too cuz if I didn’t you wouldn’t be my boyfriend. BTW I gotta work tonight at Bikinis and was wondering if you wanted to hang out afterwards and like maybe if you recovered from the peppers we could smoke some shit and cuddle up on Mount Bonnell overlooking the river below?”, she was so pretty as I looked and listened.
“Amy Jo, I would be honored to be your cuddle buddy tonight. I have a pool tournament that I will be going to at 9pm but I can be at Bikinis after I win, yeah I plan on winning big time baby. I can be there at Midnight.”, I answered.
“That is perfect, we should have the rebroadcast of the Texas vs. Texas A&M game on one of the TVs at least and we close at 2am, I should be done at 2:30am. You can bring the Beam, and I will bring the weed.”, she said as she turned around and walked back to the judges tent.
After a little while, a man came into the tent wearing jeans, cowboy boots and hat and had a Big Vote for Me button on his white button down shirt.
He said, “Hi there son, I’m Senator Jim Stuttsman and I want to see you eat a pepper!”
I reached out and shook his hand and thanked him for his wanting to donate. Behind him a TV guy with a camera came into the tent and said that he would like to tape me eating the pepper and interacting with Senator Stuttsman. The tape will be part of a broadcast on the 11pm News about the Chili Challenge Fund Raiser and the Senator’s campaign against women’s abuse.
“What kinda pepper do you want me to eat, Senator Stuttsman?”, I asked.
“Son, first off you can call me Jim. I like you and enjoyed listening to your music. Now, you know MaryJane is illegal in Texas, but I won’t tell anyone. Instead I’m going give you this $100 bill to eat that damn habanero pepper cuz I want to see the tears streaming down your face just for the hell of it and to support the Little Black Dress society which I have made part of my campaign to voice my support and announce a new live-in group home for women that are escaping abusive relationships. So here ya go Lance.”, he spouted.
I took the $100 bill and waited for the camera guy to say he was ready to film. I then took the orange krinklely pepper and placed it in my mouth and started to chew.
Immediately a fire beyond my wildest delusional dreams hit the back of my throat and rose up over the top of my head where the sweat started to bead up on my forehead. I felt like my face was turning red and I was going to faint as the tears started to drip down my cheeks and my eyes got bloodshot from the hell’s plant.
I knew that drinking water would only swish around the oils of the evilness that I had placed in my mouth. So I was looking for some milk which was the only cure. I didn’t have any. Now, the pain was going down my throat as I wanted to spit the whole experience out but couldn’t do that and still maintain my pride. So I finally decided to just go for it and chew the sucker up and swallow.
“Son, I see you are starting to tear up. How do you feel?”, the Senator said.
“Well, I am feeling the pain. The tears are from the pepper and also I think that it is because I am a little emotional about this fund raiser. I really am touched by the Little Black dress society and what they are trying to do. But yeah, this pepper is evilness deluxe. I feel bad, real bad in a good sort of way. I am feeling a head rush like when you get a tattoo and the pain causes the endorphins to flow. I’m feeling the burn but also feeling the high.”, I explained.
Well, all of that was on tape and I knew that it was going to be televised later on tonight, as long as it didn’t get cut out. I figure though they would want to show the Senator and all as a special interest and seeing me sweat, well now that was entertainment the people would want to see.
People kept coming into the booth and I shook everyone’s hand and thanked them for coming. Just when the burn of one pepper would subside, someone would come in and put a $20 bill into the the jar. Can you say jalapeño? Ouchy!
Ed came back from roaming around and seeing the other contestants and tasting chili.
“Heh, brother, how are we doing on tips?”, Ed asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, let’s find out why don’t you count it.”, I answered.
We took out the wad of cash and counted out $550 and one gold nugget.
“WOW, I wonder how much that gold nugget is worth? And how about that $550 that gives us a total of $700 and a gold nugget. If that nugget is one oz then it is at least worth $800 bucks. That would be $1500, we can win this thing brother! Awesome dude!”, Ed said exuberantly.
I took the gold nugget and walked over to the judge’s tent where they had the scale to weigh out the gold that was donated. The scale said the nugget was exactly 1.5 oz. And that was a $1200 boost to our tip jar for a total of $1900!
I went over to the Bikinis tent in order to see the girls and to brag about our gold nugget. When I got there I had to wait in a line. What was going on was that there were so many people in line to get in their tent, it wasn’t just a line it was a swarm!
When I got up to the front of the line there was a sign next to a beautiful girl in a thong bikini. The sign said, KISSES for $20 and HUGS for FREE!
“Hi, what’s your name?”, I asked.
“It’s Chloe and what is your name?”, she asked.
“My name is Lance. You are really beautiful, do you work in bikinis?”, I replied.
“Yes, I will work there later tonight. You should come on over to visit. BTW do you want a KISS or a HUG?”, she said demurely.
“Well, to be honest, I want a KISS but I will have to settle for a HUG. You see my girlfriend is Amy Jo and she is the ONLY one that I give out my kisses or that I kiss.”, I said apologetically.
“Oh, I know Amy Jo, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind a little KISS, I mean it is for charity and all and I promise you it will be worth $20.”, she flirted.
“Chloe, I would and I know I would like it. I like you. BUT I just can’t. I don’t want to mess with my mind and worry have it on my mind all day and night thinking of it and wondering if Amy was pissed or not.”, I answered.
Then she reached over and put her arms around me with her big breasts pressing up against my chest. A warmth ran up and down my body and settled in my lower body. I was getting aroused, so I undid my arms and stepped back away from her. I wanted so bad now to kiss her, hug her, fuck her. I don’t know why I was having these feelings. (Hyper-sexuality a symptom of bipolar) I just met the girl and didn’t have any feeling one way or the other, but I just felt so horney. I wanted to ask her for her phone number and was about to ask, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and it was Amy Jo!
“Hi, Amy Jo I was just talking here to Chloe about the contest and well…”, I stammered.
“Are we feeling a little guilty are we, no worries sweetie. Chloe is my best friend in the world and we not only work together, we party together. And she comes over for 420 a few times a week, but hasn’t been over for a month now and I am missing her. Where have you been Chloe?”, Amy asked.
“Well, you know dear I got a new girlfriend and we are playing house together in her condo. She is a bigtime lawyer and she and I are really close. We met 2 months ago and well she really is smart and not that it matters but she is rich. She has a pool and a jacuzzi up at her condo on Upper Riverside drive. You guys should come over sometime and we can sit in the jacuzzi and smoke some weed. Maybe even eat some sugar cubes. (LSD).”, Chloe said.
“That sounds like a great idea. Tonight we are going to Mount Bonnell for a little cuddle time ourselves, we just became boyfriend and girlfriend today. So we would love to come see your condo and smoke some weed with you and your girlfriend. Maybe this week sometime.”, Amy said as she moved in and gave Chloe a hug and told her she loved her and wished her the best with her new relationship.
It was so hot seeing them hug each other, I was so horney! That was that hyper-sexuality coming into play. I had fantasies that were hard to stop from playing in my mind. I wanted to see them together and here they were best friends and all. I wonder if they ever did it together. I wanted to be in the club. Up until this time, Amy Jo and I have not had sex. We have touched each other and masturbated in front of each other in my truck. It was a magical intimate thing which I thoroughly enjoyed, don’t get me wrong. But intercourse just had not happened as of yet. But I was bringing a sleeping bag to Mount Bonnell tonight and a Bottle of Wine. Boones Farm Strawberry Wine. No Jim Beam. We would make love in the moonlight overlooking the town lake below. So romantic. I will have to bring some candles or a fire starter stick and some wood. Star Light. Candle Light. A fire. Passion. I am getting aroused in my heart to think of it and how good she already makes me feel about myself. I will feel even better being together tonight.
Amy Jo and Chloe separated after hugging each other for a long time. And she turned and looked at me, and said, “Let’s go, I need to get ready for work and we can still have 420 but have it tonight later.”
I then took her hand and we walked back towards the judges tent to get her clipboard and markers to white the last tallies on the board and make the final fund raising push.
(We got her stuff and then she headed on stage, and I went back to my booth to relieve Ed.)
“Everybody gather round. We have the final tally for the voting. All the money and gold has been accounted for. And we have a winner. A team that raised the most in the last 2 hours.
However, before I announce the tally. I want us to have one more chance to give. What we are going to do is announce the tally. And then, you have 5 minutes to magically find some money and give. Maybe the artist or chef will open their personal pocketbook and give enough to win and add a cushion. How badly they want to win is the question.
The winner let me remind you to get t-shirts for all the team mates. And an evening out, if it were the bikinis team for instance there would be a girls night out at a private residence. Where we will cater a meal and have live comedic and music entertainment. The event is called, “Lonesome for San Antone presents A Night in Olde San Antone”
You will be inspired to laugh, to cry and to be pampered by two artists. The house also has two kitchens on different levels. The owner is a dog mom and has some loveable pets that like people.
That is it, t-shirts and a night out is the reward. Besides the bragging rights to winning the People’s choice award. The second 1st place finish will go to whomever the judges chose. That team’s reward is being qualified to go to Terlingua and compete in the World Championships. The cost is covered, and $500 is provided to cover transportation, lodging and food for 2 people. That is the reward including a podcast interview about whatever you want to talk about. We want to promote your projects and get to know about your life. What is your Why? Do you have a mission? Etc.
So given those are the ground rules, I am ready to announce the tally and rankings.
Here we go, I think it will be a surprise.
In third place, is the 5 Amigoes with $750.
In second place, is the Bikinis team with $1500.
And in 1st place is Lonesome for San Antone Chile, by Lance Merrick.
Oh, he has collected and raised some $2500 which included a gold nugget.
That is the rankings currently, Lance would win the people’s choice hands down.
Now comes the challenge. You have 5 minutes to give more to your charity recipients. Little Black Dress Society is a support for abused emotionally and physically abused women. Your money is going to provide more beds at a shelter. Two rooms just need to be framed in and painted, then beds and lights and furniture and bathroom supplies are needed. So whatever you can give, give.
OK, the time starts now for 5 minutes.
(Team Bikini girls are pulling out their checkbooks to write each a personal check for what they can’t afford. Hope the check doesn’t bounce.)
(5 minutes is up)
:”OK, we are sending runners to collect the final draw in your jars. You still can give while he is on his way.”, Amy Jo barked.
Some 15 minutes later all the tally had been counted and Amy knew the order. But she wasn’t saying it just yet because she wanted to toy with me is what I think.
“Hi y’all, I have all the money counted and there is a new winner. In first place is the Bikini team with $5000 cash and personal checks. We trust you we will accept the personal checks. But $5K is epic. They win the people’s choice award.
Now onto the World Championship Qualification. This coveted award goes to Lance for Lonesome for San Antone Chile..
“It has a hard press down court in the back of your mouth but mellows out for an easy lay-up and gives you a high.”, I muttered under my breath.
That is how I described my chile because a secret ingredient never before revealed was cannabis oil in the olive oil. So eating chile will make you high. That is why it is good to just eat a little bit in the dixie cup. A taste. Not a meal. A meal size portion would knock you out for 2 days. I have to go to work in about 2 days. Less now cuz it’s afternoon on my Saturday.”, I said.
“Amy Jo, well I think that a lot of people ended up liking you and that is why they gave. You raised $2500 which included $100 and some weed. Plus a one-time donation from a good friend you met on Twitter, my BETA reader @MissFuckYou.
“I am going to take Amy Jo with me to the contest that we won the trip to for two.”, I said.
As great as that sounded, I was more focused on ruminating on the date nite at Mount Bonnell me and Amy were going to have. We were probably going to do it. So I took a hot shower for 20 minutes. Pleasuring myself thinking of her and Chloe hugging in my mind’s eye.
I couldn’t wait to see Amy Jo. I loved her and she loves me. What else do I need?