Every Sunday, Rick, T-Nuts and I would go to Acme Bar and Pizza to watch the NFL games. We got to know the bartender, Kelly, and a few times we waited around the place before it opened and she let us in early. Those were, very likely, the best days of my life. Sitting at the bar, drinking Budweiser with my two best friends and watching football from noon until night…nothing could beat it. I remember how we’d do shots of Rumpleminze with a great drunkard named Paulie who went to Acme every night of the week, and how we’d put five bucks in the juke box and play Prince’s Greatest Hits in its entirety. I get misty eyed just thinking about it. About those Sundays, I mean. Not Prince’s Greatest Hits. That’s more about booty shaking.
Rick and T-Nuts were still going to Acme football Sundays when I moved away to North Carolina. Upon my arrival, I immediately began looking for a Sunday hangout – a replacement Acme, if you will. It took a couple weeks, but I eventually settled on a little piece-of-crap joint called The Room, where I started spending my Sundays. It was a dive like Acme and the bartender looked sort of like Kelly. Really, though, it wasn’t the same. My friends were gone, I couldn’t stagger home, and Lynyrd Skynyrd is not an acceptable alternative to Prince . The whole operation got depressing quickly.
The next season I watched football at home. I likely saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars that year.
Although The Room was really its own entity, to me it was an Acme knock off. Today, I found myself thinking a lot about knock offs. In Korea, they’re all over the place. It seems like for every foreign product or store, there’s the wacky Korean imitation running along besides it. There are a lot of McDonald’s here, for instance, but there’s also Lotteria. It’s a similar operation; the interior of the “restaurant” (I refuse to refer to either McDonald’s or Lotteria as a restaurant without putting the quotation marks around it) is identical to McDonald’s and Lotteria’s colors are even the same. On the other hand, McDonald’s has the Big Mac, while Lotteria has the bulgogi burger and the shrimp burger.
I needed a coat, so this afternoon I went to the store and purchased a puffy North Face knock off called “Plus Mountain.” The North Face is super popular here, and there are plenty of knock offs floating around. The Plus Mountain is pretty awesome, but my favorite has to be The Black Face. I somehow have difficulty imagining a store called “The Black Face” finding success in most places. Its appeal, much like the shrimp burger, is probably limited to people who just don’t know better.
I also found myself munching on Jacker potato chips. Jacker looks exactly like Pringles. The big difference is that it totally sucks. The chips are half an inch thick and taste burnt. In the morning I enjoy my Lion cereal, with the cartoon character who looks a lot like Tony the Tiger and, like Tony, gives me the thumbs up when I see him. He’s a happy knock off, and he encourages me. The tagline for the brand should be, “Theyyyyyyy’rrrrreeee Good!”
In addition, I find myself frequently having knock off nights here. I go back to the same bars or restaurants over and over, apparently with the hopes of reliving certain times from last year that were marvelous. But here’s the thing: ten years ago when The Room bummed me out, I started to wonder if my weekends and social life had become a sad simulacrum of my college days. I felt like I should be doing something different, that I should be progressing. The booze was the same, the people might’ve been different but they filled the same roles, and I was trying really hard to have a great time, but there was always something that seemed to be missing.
Now, I don’t mind my knock off nights at all. I even look forward to them. My Plus Mountain jacket keeps me warm. As bad as Jacker potato chips are, I still keep buying them. And my lion cereal is good for my self-esteem. Yeah, I admit, I live the same night over and over…that’s cool. Knock offs have value, apart from simply reminding us of the real deal. So the next time I’m with the same people at the same place, I’ll remind myself: Tonight might not be the greatest night of my life, but it looks an awful lot like it.