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The Observer and the taco truck surprise 

The Observer was down in Southwest Little Rock the other day during the lunch hour, and as is our custom, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous taco trailers along Geyer Springs. Spouse always looks askance at us when we do this — says something about the wisdom of putting something in our body that comes from a place that might be hooked onto and dragged elsewhere tomorrow — but we can never hear her over the sound of our vigorous chewing and yummy noises. The Observer is a wholehearted supporter of the influx of Latinos into our fair city, and the concurrent influx of great authentic tacos, burritos and tortas, in all the flavors of the fleshy rainbow, has been an added bonus.

From the trailer, The Observer ordered our usual: a whole mess of chorizo tacos. We probably don't wanna know what's in that chorizo, but it sure is some good eatin'; the perfect balance of greasy, meaty and spicy. Tacos like that are too messy to try and eat in the car (every shirt we own seems to have a mysterious, permanent grease stain on the front, like a ghostly map of Madagascar) so we decided to drop over to The Observatory in Capitol View on the way back to work, tie on our Jethro Bodine-grade bib, and go to town in the comfort of our easy chair.

The Observer was sitting at a stoplight at 12th Street when the smell of those tacos got the better of us. With mouth watering, we opened the box a crack to sneak a peek. In addition to the tacos, Samantha No. 2 always throws in a bunch of lagniappe stuff: limes, grilled onions, and tiny grilled chilies. We usually eschew that stuff and discard it along with the styrofoam carton, but this time we decided to pick up one of those little peppers.

It was really a lovely thing: browned on one side, dark green on the other, and shining with grease; a little shorter than our little finger. We know better than to mess around with the peppers real-life Latino folks call edible, but our hunger knew no bounds. Being careful, we took a tiny little nibble off the barest tip and swished it around a bit. No problem. A sweet pepper, we decided. Still sitting at the red light, we opened wide and took a big ol' bite.

What happened next can't really be described. It was as if our mouth was suddenly filled with fornicating wasps. We rolled down the window and spit the half-chewed pepper bits into the street, where we're sure they likely melted through the asphalt and down to bedrock, but by then it was too late. Molten lead coursed down our gullet, up our nose, and finally crawled down the tubes of our ears, where our earlobes began to glow cherry red. It was, without a doubt, the hottest hot ever; hotter even than the time we were dumb enough to try the smoldering cactus, chili and beef concoction my uncle's Panamanian friend brought to a party. Through the haze of tears, we saw the light turn green and stepped on it, anxious to cover the 10 blocks between our own private hell and The Observatory. We keep a fire extinguisher there.

There was a Wendy's cup in the cupholder, a quarter full of long-since-melted ice that had been sitting there so long we don't know exactly when it was purchased. It was the only liquid in the car other than the washer fluid and the antifreeze, so we drank that on the way. We're not proud of it, but it was an emergency. A blown stoplight, a near collision and a half-gallon of milk later, we finally got our tongue put out for the most part, but spent a good bit of the afternoon with our lips feeling like they were somewhere between asleep and quivering ever so slightly, like the needle of a Geiger counter.

In short, take it from your ol' pal: beware taco wagon vendors bearing gifts. Just eat the grub you ordered and toss the rest. Unless you're blessed with a cast iron stomach and an asbestos tongue, your innards will thank you.

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