Nostalgia and Shrimp Sauce

Yes, it’s that time of year again, friends. A couple of weeks ago, I took another trip to Tuscaloosa as a corporate representative at the career fair. I promise I’m going to try to write about things other than my trips there, but it always seems like I come away from these trips with more to say than usual. Fortunately, I’m in a much less introspective mood than usual, and you even get a few pictures this time.

So, after the usual hanging out at the house and obligatory inhaling of Buffalo wings with Patrick and Julie, Julie convinced me to go throw some darts with her (mostly because she found out I had never played before). Apparently, Julie has become the unofficial darts tutor for the Mu chapter brethren, and I think my attack of beginner’s luck was quite frustrating for her. We had fun, though.

Speaking of Patrick and Julie, Amy had the good sense to tell me to take the camera with me this time. So, at the career fair the next day, I managed to get shots of me and Julie and of me and Patrick. After I got done there, I took the chance to walk/drive around and get a few more shots. Many were just for me, so I’ll spare you. However, here are a few that might be of interest:

No photo tour of the campus is complete without a shot of Denny Chimes, so I went ahead and got that nostalgia shot out of my system.

I think living in the hole-in-the-wall freshman dorm is a perfect example of the love-hate experience. So, I decided I needed to get a picture of Paty Hall while it’s still there. Start from the front door, go up three, then to the right two. That was my window. I wanted to be on the “science and engineering floor”, which was 5. They didn’t put me there, but I was in the highest-numbered room on 4. I’ll never forget Robert, the janitor, who could occasionally be seen taking a break in the study room, listening to his Walkman.

If you ever find yourself in town at 4 in the morning needing breakfast, then City Cafe is the place. Early morning breakfast here is a tradition among my fraternity brothers, and I always regret not taking Amy there for the excellent and cheap “meat and three” lunch.

Some of the other shots were of things new since my graduation. First, the Alabama Institute for Manufacturing Excellence, yet another building full of multimedia classrooms and such on campus. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a shot of Shelby Hall, the massive new science building under construction. The weirdest one for me was the new shopping center (shopping center shot 1, shopping center shot 2), which is on the land once occupied by the college student center at the old site of my church in town.

So… finally we get to the subject line of my post. One of my favorite places to eat in town is a Japanese steak house called “Benkei”. Going there is a real treat for me. Nowhere else have I ever had the really delicious sauce they call “shrimp sauce”. Before I left this time, I loaded up Patrick (who had never been there) in the car and headed to Benkei. Unlike the normal crowd I experience there, we walked in to see only two other people in the dining room, a mother and daughter. Conversation struck up quickly, and Patrick and I learned that our dining companions were much more faithful followers than I. With dinner, we got a bit of history lesson about Benkei. Apparently, the place was opened about 15 years ago by a Chinese couple. Only a few years afterward, the husband died. Rather than go back to China, Mari decided to stand her ground and run Benkei herself. Lucky for me she did. The place is very successful, and the shrimp sauce is a secret recipe she makes herself every day. I even brought some home.

It’s always interesting to go back to Tuscaloosa. I never know what I’m going to see or what I’m going to learn. Here’s to Mari and to many more delicious meals to come.