Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Today’s post No. 40 focuses on a case of mistaken identity at Popeyes in Spanish Harlem.
A pregnant, prolonged craving for biscuits – buttery, artery-clogging biscuits – motivated me to ride the subway two stops north earlier this week into the heart of Harlem to find Louisiana’s Kitchen. In the process of satisfying my Nickelback palate I became known as Bill Gates’s cousin at the Spanish Harlem Popeyes.
How I became connected to a billionaire is tied to an interaction I had with someone Jesus would’ve referred to as “the least of these”, if Vacation Bible School memory serves.
I sat next to a window overlooking 125th Street near Lexington Avenue on this cloudy afternoon, with two boxes in front of me. The first box contained five chicken strips, Cajun fries, and a biscuit. It’s important to note I did not realize a biscuit came with my original order. My ignorance and a gluttonous desire for biscuits resulted in the second box and the six additional biscuits inside.
As I wolfed down the chicken a bald, haggard-looking stranger knocked on the window three times as if seeking entrance to my solo Popeyes party. I had no “key” to this window so I just stared. He mimed the universal symbol for “smoking a joint”. While he did this I counted four top teeth – two per hemisphere. I shook my head to indicate I carried no crazy fire. He continued, opening his mouth wide, mistaking me for a dentist carrying weed. I laughed and shrugged my shoulders.
It’s worth noting the Popeyes I visited featured a security guard and counter-to-ceiling glass like a bank teller’s window. “Gimme all your chicken or I will shoot,” is apparently a thing at the Popeyes in Harlem. Whatever horrors had come before, the seasoned security guard (read: old) acted like he was on-stage at a comedy club not standing in the back of Louisiana’s Kitchen. “Look at that nigga holding a vodka bottle up to his ear like a cell phone,” he blurted out at one point, with a wonder generally reserved for neighborhood landmarks.
After this observation, the security guard resumed his L-O-U-D!!! conversation with a friend about Harlem happenings until Ole Mr. Two Teeth arrived and subsequently wore out his welcome. “Leave Bill Gates’s cousin alone,” the guard said, wagging his finger like an AARP version of Dikembe Mutombo. After Ole Mr. Two Teeth continued walking the guard addressed me. “I’m sorry about that Bill Gates’s cousin,” he chuckled, referencing the Microsoft cofounder a second time. I politely laughed, all the while communicating telepathically, “I am eating at the Popeyes in Harlem, I am more ratchet than you know.”
I polished off the box with the chicken, fries, and single biscuit, and headed toward the door with my take-home box of biscuits (of which only four remained). “If I see the homeless man again I’ll give him one of these,” I deadpanned to the security guard.
“Don’t give him none of your biscuits, Bill Gates’s cousin,” he commanded, before wishing me a nice day.