Whap! Not sure if it was the beer or my intelligence but the theme for my two interviews hit me with the force of a thunderbolt: future San Clemente legends. And what better persons to start with then the two brothers, Paul and Pat Wong, serving me beers. At the ripe age of thirty-one, these brothers aren’t only some of the best bartenders in town but they also produce commercials and are working on a film. If there were a San Clemente hall of fame these two would be well on their way.
As I finished my second happy hour beer, at the quaint Beach Fire restaurant, on San Clemente’s Del Mar Street, I decided to test my luck. Pat walked over to the corner of the wooden bar where I was sitting, “McCormack you needed another one?” “Goddamn right,” I said, “But could I also get an interview with you and your brother?” Without hesitation Pat replied, “lets do this.” Thus began an interview that would take me from a benign conversation on food to the mean streets of Tijuana. I guess that is what I get for interviewing future San Clemente legends. (Reader disclaimer. Some names of people and places have been changed for legal purposes.)
It all started off innocently enough. While Pat and Paul zipped around the bar pouring drinks I started tossing out questions. Who is the best cook in your family? At that point, Pat was closest to me reaching into the ice bin with a smile on his face. “ My dad.” Your old man? “Ya, the old man. Anything he cooks on the barbecue is really good. Also his meat lasagna.” Paul, now standing behind his brother, “Barbecue and the meat lasagna those are really good.” What is your favorite dish? As I asked the question, Paul was laughingly walking away, “ last time Pat got laid? Yesterday.”
After a quick laugh and pull from my beer, Pat continued, “My favorite dish…my mom’s funnel cake that she fry’s with powder sugar on top. It’s Dutch. It taste a little like Funyuns. Looks like a wonton. When we would go to my moms house in Rancho Bernardo, by the racetrack, she would make them” Who is Dutch in your family? “My mom is a hundred percent. My dad is mixed Asian, Irish, Spanish, a bunch of things.”
All right, what is your favorite Mexican dish? “Avila’s soup next door to the bar.” At this point several of the people sitting next to me started talking about the virtues of Avila’s soup as both Pat and Paul busily worked to fill drink orders. While I finished my beer I decided it was time to bring a little excitement to this interview. Pat, when was the first time you got drunk at a Mexican restaurant? Once again a big smile came over his face, “ It was at a restaurant in south side San Clemente.” How old where you? “Sixteen or seventeen.” We all laughed, “I was in high school and after we got off work we would go there and party with a friend who was a waiter. We would party with all the Mexicans that worked there. Also, they had a lot of surfer parties. We would drink with the bartender Alberto, and the bus boys from Sonny’s restaurant.” That is when Paul chimed in, ”Sometime there were strippers.”
The next question was obvious. You guys ever make it down to TJ after one of those parties? Pat, grinning, “I didn’t but my brother made it down one time with John, Nick and Joe.” Joe? “ya, you remember Joe? Who played basketball and got too stoned one day and scored on his own team.” I do remember him. So Paul, can you explain this trip to me? “For sure. I think I was seventeen; we all went down with this guy Adam who I didn’t know. This dude Adam had on a jump suite and was carrying a huge duffle bag that was filled with something. I thought damn this guy is bringing a lot of clothes down for a night of partying.” Sounds like a heavy trip. “For sure, the whole way down we were drinking tequila. Once we got in the hotel John, or someone, pulled out a bunch of drugs. Back then you could take whatever you wanted over the boarder. We then hit up Club A. You remember that place?” I do remember that spot. Was it a school a night? “I can’t remember but it was a fun and scary night.” As Paul handed me another Bud Light I asked what do you mean scary? “Well, John stole a bottle of vodka from behind the bar and the bouncers grabbed him and started beating him up. After that we left. Then, as we were walking across the boarder at 4 am we found Adam.” Where the hell was he the whole time you were in Mexico? Paul continued, “He went back over to San Diego to sell the drugs.” So the duffle bag was filled with money that he used to buy drugs in Mex and then went back to San Diego to sell them? “Something like that. He was grower kid from Nor-Cal. He was ahead of his time. Then we took Sablista home…” Wait Sablista? Who the hell is that?
“You need another one McCormack?” For sure. After Paul came back with my beer he continued, “Salblista was a nickname he got when they were eating acid or something. When we dropped him off, his crazy psycho dad, who I think was a cop or detective, was waiting for him. As John (AKA, Salblista) got out of the car his dad started beating him with a club or baton. “ What did you do? “We were in a T-Bird I think and flipped a bitch. John out ran his old man, jumped in the car as it was moving and we went to Denny’s. It was around 10am. We still had not slept.” Christ man, after that I need a shot but before I do, let me lay out a few more questions. What is your favorite Mexican food? Pat took this one, “Mole, sauces and avocados.” All right last one, how do you like your taco? After I asked the question one of my fellow patrons chimed in with and inappropriate comment about the color of the tacos he likes. We laughed and I decided to leave it at that. I then ordered my shot.