The Abandoned Station






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Gate 29…A



I knew baggage claim would be a crap wait so I slipped away from my fellow passengers who were zombie-trudging through narrow hallways beneath blaring signs for the so-called exit, and went back to the departure side of things.

I was sick of the planes and glad my trip was finally fucking done with the cramped seats and shit food and just a little turbulence, so while sticking around Gate 29 might sound like I’m feeling the opposite, the fact that it was void of any passengers or workers or a functioning sign that stated whatever flight was ultimately going to be cancelled made it an anti-airport space, a lounge for one, a wait-less waiting area.

“You look like you need a cigarette.”

It sounded like a robot voice to be honest.

I’d already buried myself in going back and forth between ten second videos of people falling of chairs while trying to dance after making themselves dizzy, so hearing any voice felt like it was coming from a loudspeaker, but I rip my eyes away from my screen and are ready to judge this person with my most disdainful face.

But they don’t react to it with any sort of shame and apology, beaming a fake smile like they were blind.

And they don’t say anything, either, just smile, so I take it upon myself to say the most bitterly sarcastic pseudo-friendly thing I could:

“Sorry, you are-”

but then they out-rude me by interrupting right quick:

“Call me Kazoo.”

“You don’t like Ishmael?” I reply with the same snark, but they were already onto the pitch.

There’s a restaurant just down the road from the airport. One of the secret hangs of the hot downtown new chef, using a basement of one of the old chain hotels that you can’t believe is still open for a night, transforming the lonely kitchen into a culinary wonderland for a select few.

And would I like to go?

To put it right out there, I like food. I eat it daily. And I’ve had to listen to friends and co-workers gush about their own gastropedic paradises, but I had yet to have such an event such as this fall into my lap.

But my natural suspicion of random strangers inviting me to unheard of places was strong.

“What are you doing here?”

“I work here.”

I looked him up and down and he didn’t.

“What do you do?”


“Airport marketing?”

“For their socials. Everything needs an online presence.”

Got me there, I know that branding shit too, too well. But still there’s the obvious question we ask ourselves every day:

“Why invite me?”

“Because…”, Kazoo says with an imperial smile and looking around as if someone was nearby (no one was) before focusing his eyes on the number at the nearby desk, “The restaurant is called ‘Gate 29’.”

“Oh fuck off it is.”

“No really. That’s why. It’s destiny. You should come. Really.”

The charm is oozing. I can resist marketing, but apparently not marketers who target individually.

There’s just the simple matter of travel practicalities.

“I have to wait for baggage.”

“Come back for it. You think it’ll be ready to go in three hours?”

“Well maybe-”

“Even if it is, it’ll just wait there or be put aside.”

“Someone’ll take it.”

“You can’t think like that. And if you’re gonna think like that, then your suitcase got lost and is at some other airport, getting stolen by someone else.”

God, that sounds so right and god, I’m so damn gullible and satan, my stomach needs attention.

So now I’m walking through the departures terminal with them, as if their marketing job was some sort of armour against any sort of customs or security officer.

But it works as we pass through usually locked doors that blended into beige walls with his keycard and the uniformed types who would get up and stop me now barely glance over. I’m impressed at the sort of credibility that Kazoo has clearly been building up.

We cross the old school check-in counters and new school check-in kiosks and then take a heated glass walkway over a clogged six lane road of taxis picking up and dumping off and go into one of the parking garages.

Their car is not a six figure flex or a shit box but just another forgettable four door sedan and there’s not even anything interesting in the glove compartment (which I always check like a nervous tic).

I ask them how they heard about this place, and they just say “former co-worker” and spend a rather long time on their phone picking out a playlist of late nineties acid jazz.

It was annoying just sitting there with the motor running as he mumbled the names of artists I could have sworn were dead, and I was starting to be concerned about the time, but when we finally got going the goddess of traffic and stoplights showed us mercy and we were at the mostly empty Best Eastern parking lot very quickly.

It’s open, and I wonder about the other cars littered throughout, and how many of them have sordid reasons for their abandonment.

We park close to the back, and go through a side door that has garbage and recycling bins awkwardly lined up beside it.

Taped on the door is a piece of paper with the title of the restaurant written in very expressive and unique handwriting:

‘Gate 29A’

Close enough, but I still asked Kazoo about it, but they just smile that smile, and open the door gesturing for me to go in first.

Now that should be alarm bells, right? But inside it looks like just a regular industrial-sized kitchen that looks like they finished with the continental breakfast and didn’t want to do anything else until the next morning.

Even though I go in first, they quickly take the lead and walks towards another door with the same stylized ‘Gate 29A’ sign taped on it.

Kazoo opens this door and it leads to a set of stairs, and this time they go down first.

It’s a storage room basement and not very bright, and there’s late nineties acid-jazz being spun on the decks minus the DJ, and for five seconds I am sure I made a terrible, fatal, soon-to-be-tortured mistake.

Then I see the non-beaming face of a man in full restaurant civvies beating up some egg yolks in a small glass bowl behind a card-table brimming with small appliances and bags of fresh food.

“This is my new friend.”

A grunted response.

“Don't worry, he's a maniac”, Kazoo says with that smile, “when it comes to how to best use bread crumbs.”

“I’m not”, the non-beaming chef-extraordinaire huffed, “you’re late.”

“You’re still on the eggs.”

“This is for tomorrow morning, shit.”

At another card-table are two other people, a frowning heavyset woman holding what has to be a Caesar cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and a rail-thin man doing lines of coke or similar powder off a blank DVD. There are four plates and cutlery and two open spaces, and processes of elimination brings Kazoo and myself to the available seats.

Introductions are not made, and just when I was about to take it upon myself to break the unbearable silence and ask what she’s having, heavy boot footsteps come from near the chef (who I still don’t recognize from any sort of foodie blog and don’t want to ask Kazoo about in front of these people for fear of being mocked) and appetizers are stomped over by an apparent waiter in a hockey mask, who then stomps away into a different door.

And that should be the focus, but my god, these pan-fried scallops with a zesty chili oil paste are astonishing.

I say those words out loud, and Kazoo titters as the woman rolls her eyes and the guy say he might sneeze.

Next up is a mug of French onion soup, and I want to say that it’s the dill that’s getting my tastebuds rock hard in all the best ways, but my attention moves to the guy sniffing constantly and the woman calls him out on it as she drains her drink, and he doesn’t just reply to her but takes his time to make lingering eye contact with all of us before announcing that:

“I think this is a good time to remind you all that I've lost the manual on how to give a shit.”

And then shovelled another spoonful of orgasmic soup into his mouth.

I make a comment on how at least there’s a manual, and while Kazoo howls with laughter, the woman just snorts and the guy goes back to the baggie in his jacket pocket.

“Excuse me, but I have lingering ailments”, he says, “from a traumatic twenty seventh year.”

I ask him what happened and he responds with:

"Sometimes you don't want to successfully dodge every bullet because getting shot reminds you that you're alive.”

Then a big snort using a knife from this dinner’s silverware.

The different door opens, and I’m the only one that turns in anticipation to what come next, but the body now holding a cast iron skillet has removed the mask, revealing a face of staples and nightmares.

It limps across the room and then my three dining companions look over in shock. Even the still-unnamed chef looks on in shock.

“I knew something was up”, they said to the lurcher as they stopped chopping parsley, “the way you put those side plates down.”

“You forgot to beat me today”, they respond coming closer to our table, “so I will show you-“

“29’s got all uppity”, the woman breathes out, clutching her empty Caesar glass.

“29A”, Kazoo quietly corrects, but then suddenly grabs a steak knife from the table and whips it around towards our sole wait staff employee who doesn’t have to move a muscle to let it zing harmlessly past their right shoulder.

I was waiting for anyone to do anything, but I didn’t know what to do with that. Because after trying to probably kill someone, no else did anything similar, or even run away. I try to see if the chef is going to try the same thing, since they’re a bit further away and probably has plenty of similar pointy objects, but they look as frozen as the rest of us.

“Are you ready for the next course?” The person with the scars and stitches running across their forehead, cheeks and neck asks, getting closer with the skillet.

“Don’t fuck up here, Delta”, the chef finally says, but with enough worry in their voice to tell even me that there’ll be no more knives being thrown across the room.

Despite the tension in the room that could be cut with a good pair of scissors, my stomach couldn’t help but rumble as I wondered what was in the heavy pan being held by our horrorshow waiter.

But the coke guy couldn’t hold it in any longer, and he burst out with:

“You retarded piece of-”

And that was all it took for them to serve all of us, suddenly wielding the cast iron skillet like a baseball bat, launching its contents all over the table and the people sitting on it.

I was hoping it was food in addition to the boiling oil, but nope, just white hot boiling oil.

The sizzling liquid burned right through my clothes and ate away at my skin, so I had to scream incoherently instead of about my luggage.



A penny for your thoughts is a devaluation of both concepts.