The Old Man and the Sneak

Share on Nextdoor
The Old Man and the Sneak
Fernando de Sousa, Wikimedia Commons
Dara Strickland is a leading expert on sneaking food and drink into the movies. She reports on her exploits for Gut Check (from an undisclosed location) every Monday.

Show: An astonishing schedule of St. Louis' cultural high points.

Food: Not a damn thing.

Difficulty: Outrageous. I've reached the point in my life where it's actually easier for me to Sneak than not. At one point, I was going through such awful Sneak withdrawal that I had to sit on my hands lest my fingers, unbidden, uncontrollably unwrap phantom burritos.

This weekend, my father came up to visit me during prime Sneaking time. He and I get along very well, and I love it when he visits, though there are two things that cause some stress when he does: I don't do any Sneaking, and he has a gobsmacking amount of energy and appetite for novelty for a retired guy in his early 60s. His visits go quickly from pleasant amusement to a deathmatch-intensity competition to see which one of us will give up and take a nap first.

click to enlarge Aztec warrior, presumably not about to be electrocuted.
Aztec warrior, presumably not about to be electrocuted.
Notable things my father has actually done since retiring:
- He's become the stuff of high-school legend by sneaking up to a truck full of 16-year-old boys (intent on drinking their way through a cooler in what they thought was an empty field) and drawing his piece on them. In any given horror movie, underage drinking in a bucolic setting gives you a 50% chance of Jason Voorhees impaling you on a tree and a 50% chance of my pistol-packin' dad asking to see your license and making you pour out your beer.

- He's been the filling in a collision sandwich between a stone wall and the front of an Oldsmobile. It crushed his Miata like a beer can on a DZ pledgemaster's forehead, but he climbed out of the top of the car and asked the elderly lady in the offending land yacht if she was all right or needed him to call an ambulance for her.

- He was moderately electrocuted in an Aztec gold mine.

Despite his many adventures, Dad's a law and order kind of guy -- and not that spinoff where the world's dumbest cops not currently beating a suspect on camera are constantly shocked by the ickiness of the crimes they encounter working in their special Icky Crimes Unit -- and is not a Sneak, which leaves him as the odd man out in the family, as my mother and two brothers are Sneaky. This leads me to believe that Sneaking is possibly a dominant gene that breaks down thusly:

Mom (Sneaky) - Ss or SS
Dad (Not Sneaky) - ss

In this example (Ss x ss), my parents have a 50% chance of having a Sneak and a 50% chance of a Non-Sneak. The odds that they would have 3 children who are all Sneaky is 1 in 8, or 12.5%.

In this example (SS x ss), my parents have a 100% chance of having Sneaks. In both, my brothers and I risk Non-Sneaky children even if we choose a Sneaky partner because we all carry the recessive Non-Sneaky gene. Wash U has declined my earnest entreaties to look into this three times because they are busy curing Alzheimer's or something. SLU won't even return my calls, but I think that may be a religious thing.

Here is a list of all the things Dad and I did this weekend:

We go to City Diner, his favorite restaurant and my gold standard for restaurants everywhere. If I eat something in a restaurant that I couldn't make just as well in my own kitchen or get at City Diner, I'm impressed. I introduce my dad to the joys of the chocolate-hazelnut milkshake, but he opts for a slice of Milky Way cake that is so insidiously sweet that Wilford Brimley brings it out to us from the kitchen and stares disapprovingly as we eat it.

We see Sunshine Cleaning, a fantastic, understated dark comedy about two sisters who start a crime-scene clean-up business. Dad happily declares it "much better than that Thai cowboy movie you dragged me to." I think it could only have been improved by some suitably irreverent snacks, like Dia de Los Muertos marzipan skulls or maybe some devils' food cupcakes with gummy worms. I cannot Sneak these things in because he is right next to me. I suffer.

We go to MOBOT early enough to pass a peaceful hour or two admiring the full-blown splendor of spring before taking in the opening parade of the Chinese Culture Days. Dad gets the 60-foot dragon to dance for him so he can take some good pictures. Miraculously, he does this with a big smile rather than by shooting at the dancers' feet. I mock the Climatron for its current immobility due to lack of spidery mechanical legs; it silently mocks me in return for not drinking a mimosa while viewing the tulips. I suffer -- until I purchase and eat a freshly grilled seafood pancake and a mango smoothie at the Culture Days food court. The Climatron knows none of this joy, for it has no lips.

We go to a murder-mystery dinner fundraiser for the Belleville YMCA's Partner With Youth Campaign put on by the Immediacy Theater Project (of which I, in as full a disclosure as you'll ever see on this blog, am a board member). Dad and I wear pirate hats and eyepatches and wave foam pistols and plastic cutlasses, yelling "Arrrrr!" at every available opportunity. As food is provided, I Sneak nothing, though this is one of the rare instances in which it would be ethically neutral to Sneak food into a restaurant as long as you're polite about it. Dad confirms all the stories about him that I've ever told the friends sharing the table with us in a single gesture: as soon as he picks up his plastic cutlass, he slips it down the back of his collar like a machete.

click to enlarge The dining room at Eclipse. - Nick Lucchesi
Nick Lucchesi
The dining room at Eclipse.
We have dessert and coffee at Eclipse, the restaurant in the Moonrise Hotel, where Dad was the very first guest to stay in his particular room. He orders some amazing thing with ice cream and sauce and all manner of completely unsneakable garnishes. I order a compact, brilliantly textured homemade moon pie covered in rich chocolate ganache. So delicious. So sneakable. I eat it quietly, imagining all the places I could take it for want of some wax paper and the courage to tell my father what kind of deviant I am. I suffer.

Brunch at Puck's in the St. Louis Art Museum. Very tasty, the menu definitely more breakfast-focused than I've ever seen it and to excellent effect. Dad and I are seated directly next to the dessert table and I happen to have my sneaking tote with me. It would be so easy for me to origami up a little foil envelope for a few of the delectable bite-sized desserts so they could be snuck in somewhere later. What prevents me from enjoying my ill-gotten bounty of quarter-sized orange zest cookies and thumb-length toffee nut bars? The jaundice of cowardice, that's what. I try to convince myself in the Ming exhibit that my non-Sneaking and inability to come clean with my father is out of some kind of Confucian fillial piety and respect for his values.

We go to the Zoo. It is brilliantly sunny and 85 degrees, so everyone is drinking a beer but Dad and, of course, me. My shame at my inability to come out to my father as a Sneak has mutated into a temporary deficiency in my appetite for mixing licit food and beverages with my entertainment. I suffer.

We go on a bicycle tour of various landmarks in Forest Park. Our tour guide, Chris, hands me a cold bottle of water to take with us before we start. Good thing, too, because there certainly isn't anything like that in my giant tote bag!

Dinner at Racanelli's Cucina. They flub our order and so end up bringing us two pizzas instead of one. Thin-crust pizza, light on cheese and sauce like Racanelli's, is pretty much the perfect Sneaking pizza -- unlike, say, Pi's saucy cornmeal pies, which we would have had instead but for the lingering Obama Effect pumping the wait for a table up to an hour. I have two of these perfect pizzas and am only expecting us to eat one. Now would be the perfect time to just tell Dad that my excitement about getting an extra has nothing to do with packing a lunch for the office the next day. I say nothing of the kind. I suffer.

In the end, I could not bring myself to confess my Sneaky ways to my father, who should honestly be expecting it considering the propensities of the rest of the family. I suppose he and I have always thought of ourselves as unique confederation in the cohort of five Stricklands and I fear it would damage that bond somehow for him to know that not only am I as bad as my mother, I'm the worst of the entire lot. The pockets of my soul are stuffed with tubular sins wrapped in a foil of secrecy. The closest I came all weekend was a pregnant pause just as we sat down in our booth at the South City Diner.
Dad: (sincerely) Hey, can I ask you a question?

Sneak: (with tender anticipation) Sure, Dad.

Dad: What is...'Twitter'?

About The Author

Scroll to read more Food & Drink News articles (1)


Join Riverfront Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.