N by sarah schmelling
News item: Continuing the trend of rock ‘n’ roll eateries, an R.E.M.-themed restaurant recently opened on the Strip. Hello. I saw you. I know you. I knew you. I think I can remember your name. I apologize for that. But if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish that line: Name. Okay. Force of habit. I’ve been a server at the R.E.M.-themed restaurant, “Athens (The One in America),” for a few months now, and the management likes us to incorporate lyrics into what we say. At first we were asked to mumble and turn our backs to the customers while reciting the specials because it’s more honest and unaffected, but then they realized no one could understand us. So now we kind of wiggle around and throw our hands in the air and sometimes use a megaphone. What specials do we have? Oh, you know. Talk About the Passion Fruit Salad, that was a hit. Near Wild Mushroom Heaven Risotto. Automatic for the Cheese Fries. We’re all about having a wide, eclectic menu, though there will always be customers who don’t want us to try anything new. They get all, “You’re a sellout, man” and, “I liked this place better when there was no menu or signs outside or any mention of it anywhere and no one could find it but me.” But what can you do? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Wow, I need to stop doing that. So you’re wondering about the restaurant’s name? It was originally just “Athens” but then a gladiator from Caesars took his job too seriously and came over here, charged through our Southern-Gothic-themed entrance, speared all the kudzu, knocked over our Everybody Squirts condiment bar, and then started screaming in Latin and threatening to decapitate our Elvis impersonator. Or, I should say our Andy-Kaufman-impersonating-Elvis impersonator. Anyway, it was a big misunderstanding. So now we want to clarify we’re “Athens, not the Greek one,” which was another potential name for the restaurant.
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What else can I tell you? We have fun stuff to do: Stipe Poker, capes and X-ray specs for playing “I am Superman,” a free sandwich if you can name any song off the album “Reveal.” We’ve got this contest sort of like limbo, except you just stand … stand! ... wherever you are and try to move around only using your head. We like to be friendly, though we no longer wear name tags since our DJ, Kenneth, got asked “What’s the frequency?” too many times and kind of lost it, started going off about ’80s politics and dedicating every song to the one he loves— some girl back in Rockville? Yes, we do have our critics. Like Prince’s restaurant, “_”, and Sting’s “Lugubrious,” people complain that our best stuff is at the start of our menu, while the later entrées get quirky and are only good in spots. Lots of times our experimental stuff gets laughed off or ignored. During the holidays last year we shaved our heads, doused ourselves in Vaseline and had
constant tickle fights to look like “shiny happy people,” but I don’t think everyone understood. Here’s a picture from Christmas. That’s me in the corner. We just can’t wait for the day R.E.M actually stops here on their next tour because … They did WHAT? Oh god. It’s the end of the world as I know it. And I don’t feel fine! Where am I going to go now? I refuse to go serve Achtung Baby Back Ribs and Bloody Sundaes over at U2’s “All I Want is Food”! I’m meant to serve cuisine with jangly, playful-yet-melancholy undertones and subtle introspection making you think while also going on a journey and … I’m sorry. [gasping] Obviously I should take a break. [loud sobs] I’ve been on this shift too long. I need to talk to Kenneth. Writer Sarah Schmelling is author of the social networking literary parody, Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don’t Float.
Illustration BY AARON MCKINNEY