As much as I gripe about how the Beach has turned too plastic and homogenized, plastic homogenization isn't all bad.
Take, for example, McDonald's. My mom and I were talking the other day, and I inadvertently admitted that McDonald's might be my favorite restaurant. It was one of those blurted out confessions that's only caught after it's said. It felt dirty to say, and it's filthy to write. And I'd never number it in a list of my favorite restaurants in a conversation with someone who wasn't genetically obligated to love me, but McDonald's may be my fave.
There. I've admitted it. It's as much of a relief as when I told my parents I was gay and they were like, "Yeah. We know. Let's have brunch."
I demarcate my year by certain McDonald's traditions. Christmas is the Eggnog Shake. February and March is the Shamrock Shake. April brings Monopoly. The long n' lazy summer months are a bit of a McDonald's desert. And then November brings the McRib.
When I lived in Madison, I was in HEAVEN, because it was a test market for new products, and in the autumn, there would be Johnsonville Brats sold at McDonald's and late January was McChicken Parmesan Sandwich season. (BLISS!)
I even kind of mark periods in history based on what I was eating back then. There were the early nugget days until '86 when I found a bone in my Chicken McNuggets; then there was the McDLT, which was, in my opinion, a fantastic representation of the excesses of the '80s. The early '90s were the McLean Deluxe days (made with seaweed!) and the late '90s were the Arch Deluxe years. I remember when my grandmother was dying in 2000, all she would eat were Chicken Fajitas from McDonald's... Now I'm a Big n' Tasty or Quarterpounder guy...
But the point is, McDonald's is part of the fabric of my LIFE. And the nice thing about that part of the fabric is that, reliably, anywhere in the the good old U.S.A., I will reliably be able to get certain things at McDonald's. Like a Big Mac. Or Coke Products. Or a green, mint flavored, terrible milkshake in the St. Patrick's season.
Which brings us to St. Patty's day.
On March 16, 2010, I nonchalantly cruised up to my local McDonald's at 16th and Alton, and ordered a medium Shamrock Shake.
"We don't carry the Shamrock Shake, sir," was their response.
"Uh... what," was my dumbfounded response, "Okay, do you know of any other McDonald's that DO carry the Shamrock Shake?"
And with that, for the first time ever, I backed out of a McDonald's drive-thru without buying anything. Although my world had been shaken, I would recover. That McDonald's at Alton and 16th sucks anyway. It must be run by Nazis or something. No matter, one of my other nearby McDonald's would carry it, no doubt.
I drove over the Tuttle to the McDonald's at 35th and Biscayne, and ordered a Shamrock Shake. "We only have chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry," was the response. Again, I asked if that guy knew where I could get a Shamrock Shake. "No."
Who drinks fucking vanilla milkshakes? That's what I want to know.
With a mounting sense of panic, I drove up Biscayne, over the 79th Street causeway, and went to the McDonald's in Mid-Beach. They would have to have a Shamrock Shake. I parked my car, and ran in, fiercely determined. It was now almost 11:00 p.m., and I wasn't going to continue this quest forever, but the Milkshake HAD to be nearby.
"Do you have the Shamrock Shake," I asked the pockmarked troll behind the counter.
"Yes. The green milkshake? For St. Patrick's Day?" (Stella Comedy Quote: "JELLY REMOVER?! FOR PHOTO ALBUMS?! SPEAK-A-DA-ENGLISH!?!)
"Ehhhh. I theen we get dat for Semana Santa."
"No. It's sold for St. Patrick's day."
"Ohhhh. No. We no hab it."
"Fine," I spat, as I stormed out of the McDonald's, defeated.
On St. Pat's, I called all of the local McDonald's around where I work. There are a mind-blowing number of McDonald's in Doral. Alas and alack, not a one had Shamrock Shakes. (Office eyebrows were raised at my fervor and intensity at finding this milkshake, but it was the one vestige of my white childhood that I was determined to find and claim in Miami-Dade, and I would DO IT, GODDAMN IT.)
The website www.shamrockshake.com delivered the potentially bad news that they were NOWHERE to be found in Miami-Dade. Which couldn't be possible. Because a Shamrock Shake is a MCDONALD'S PRODUCT, and they're supposed to be THE SAME. EVERYWHERE.
It's not like I was after an effing McLobster McRoll outside of McMaine - I just wanted a green, mint-flavored Milkshake to satisfy my yearly need for one. The Irish are all over America, McDonald's is a restaurant with a Scotch/Irish NAME, for crying out loud, how was it possible that in a county with over a MILLION people, there weren't enough Irishmen to warrant one restaurant carrying the shake? I would eventually learn, as St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, so too, apparently were the Irish driven out of Miami-Dade.
My friend Carrie mentioned that she had once gotten one at a McDonald's on LeJeune below the Airport. So I found it and called it. And after having called 10 McDonald's and visited three, in response to my question, "Do you carry the Shamrock Shake?" I got this response, "Yes."
"THE GREEN ST. PATRICK'S DAY MILKSHAKE!? YOU HAVE IT?!"
"AWESOME! YOU MADE MY DAY!"
I slammed down the phone, giddy.
My boss buzzed me laughing, "Oye, chico, estas loco por ese Milkshake!" "Yeah, but I FOUND it," I exclaimed!
I made a plan to detour far out of my way home that night, to get my mythical milkshake. On the way home, I stopped by another McDonald's to see if I could cut the trip, but they didn't have it, but that was okay, because I had found the One. McDonald's. In Miami. That had it!
I pulled in to the McDonald's just south of Calle 8 on LeJeune and walked up and ordered a Medium Shamrock Shake, please.
"We only have Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry."
"What? But I called! A lady said you had them! The green shakes! For St. Patrick's day!"
Other patrons continued ingesting their sesame-bun encased despair. I wore mine on my face, as I slumped out the door.
Crushed, I drove to the McDonald's on US 1 by UM. That McDonald's HAD to have it, right? I mean, it's a college campus!
My last attempt would be the McDonald's at Coconut Grove. I walked in, head down, defeated, and asked, "Do you carry the Shamrock Shake?"
"You know, you're like the 5th person today that's asked for that! No, we don't."
After some playful dissapointed banter, I bought a McDouble, and left.
I wish I could end this post with some modicum of success, but I can't. I went shakeless this year. McDonald's corporate was less than conciliatory or helpful when I called today, raving about the absence of this food product in all of Miami-Dade County.
And I'm sad. Because not only will I have to drive to Boca Raton if I want to get this item (I'm not that crazed) but it's shaken my faith in an unshakable institution (PUN!).
And also, I failed. But what hurts even more than the failure? Is that some crazy bitch at a McDonald's (the one at LeJeune and 8th) LIED to me about a milkshake!
I mean... what the fuck, right?!