Mama Would Be Proud
Every once in awhile it occurs to you -- even
while you're still doing it -- that you're smack damn in the middle of
something that will eventually qualify as being "the good old days."
I had a job like
that, way back in my very early twenties. It was nothing fancy. I
was attending the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, and I
ran the bar attached to a restaurant called "Mama Would Be Proud."
And Mama's was a magical place. Mama's was always busy, it had the
best bar and restaurant crew in the region and morale was always
high. (We could even beat the other bars and restaurants at
liked our jobs, and we liked one another. Mama's was one of those
places where people didn't call in sick -- you had to send them home.
And we didn't just work together; we hung out with one another
afterwards. All you had to do to join the club was get your name on a
The bar at Mama Would
Be Proud was an independent entity, with its own clientele. But for
both the restaurant and bar employees it was our headquarters and our
clubhouse. We named it "The Armadillo Saloon," after a rather ineptly
stuffed and mounted member of the species that stood on the back bar.
I'd acquired the unsightly -- but holy -- object from my college
roommate after he got himself married and was no longer allowed to
keep such things in the house.
The Lobster Hoax:
A Tale of the Armadillo Saloon
Armadillo Saloon regulars frequented the attached restaurant just
often enough to know that lobster wasn't on the menu. But they didn't
frequent it often enough to know that the restaurant owners
occasionally liked to run lobster as a special of the day.
That meant that on
Lobster Day I could borrow a live lobster from the cooks, turn it
loose on the bar, and tell the regular customers that the thing was a
pet. They didn't know lobster was the special. As the lobster had
himself a look around, knocking over beer bottles and whatnot, I would
explain that I had purchased him with terrible intentions, but didn't
have the heart to murder him when the time came. So now he was my
It was a different
lobster every time, of course. And the cooks inevitably murdered them
all. But there are still people in Champaign, Illinois, who will tell
you -- to this very day -- that I keep a live lobster as a pet. If
you doubt them they have a ready answer: "But, dude -- I've seen
About once a week I'd draw an "Armadillo Comic" and hang it on the
wall in the waiter's aisle. The characters were the bar and
restaurant staff, and the jokes were so inside that I don't understand
half of them myself anymore. Some I do remember, and they make me
smile. For example, a waitress we called "Tuffy" once announced that
she was fed up with donating to the "kitty" tip system. "Kitty," she
announced, was clearly a completely arbitrary word. Effective
immediately, she said, she would be donating to what she now referred
to as the "tree toad" system. (You had to know Tuffy; you had to be
So, for any of you old Mama Would Be Proud or Armadillo Saloon orphans
who happen to be stumbling through this website, here are a few of the
old Armadillo Comix. I hope they jog loose a few happy memories for
you -- they certainly have that effect on me.
-- Paul Frisbie