Safari Club, Estacada OR, circa 1979 by Chelsea Biondolillo

Our knives and forks clatter against the simple white plates. Over my grandfather’s shoulder, a leopard is frozen in mid-leap, his chipped claws sinking into a gazelle. The gazelle has been painted with red stripes to heighten the illusion of split-second predation.

I always ask to walk the perimeter of the restaurant. My grandmother takes my hand and we head first through the Arctic, where ermines, captured behind glass, are stuck forever half white. The walrus head seems impossibly large. She hoists me up so I can rub my fingers across his hard muzzle, play the whiskers like strings on a ukulele. Then under the jaguars leaping above the dance floor. The killing isn’t worrisome to me—the blood is paint, the postures of fear and survival, all posed. The hunter is long dead, too.

Back in the Serengeti, a lion carries an antelope in his mouth while a hyena menaces from across the glass case behind my chair. Dik-diks and warthogs edge the display, watching the drama unfold, presumably. The lion is dusty, and there is a cobweb between the “limp” antelope legs.

My grandfather saws through his Swiss steak while my grandmother navigates her Monte Cristo into and out of her raspberry jam. She dabs a red spot on her blouse with the corner of her napkin that’s been dipped in her ice water. I get the fisherman’s platter and devour everything but the oysters. We eat languidly, while hundreds of dull eyes look on.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Safari Club, Estacada OR, circa 1979 by Chelsea Biondolillo

  1. “…the jaguars leaping above the dance floor.” And, soon, the Cougars will arrive to prowl their parquet territory.

    Such rich detail, and so much of it, just flowing out in a mad rush. Love that last contrasting paragraph, too – such docile savages we have become.

  2. Others killed so we can be bored while their dead eyes watch us eat other creatures. Very well done piece of flash.

  3. Thank you Fred & Catherine! I hate to say I miss the place, but I do…

  4. You have done a remarkable job with the various details woven through the story, evoking a memory, long forgotten, of a restaurant a friend took me to someplace on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The taxidermy in this place freaked me out too much, I couldn’t even eat there. Drinks at the bar was enough for me with those eyes staring, indeed.

  5. Fantastically detailed flash, but wow, what a strange place to eat (I like that you go for the fish). It no longer exists, or you’ve never been back?

  6. Pingback: Week #26 – Animal behavior | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  7. wonderful evocation of the dining ritual, in this case framed through the eyes of a young person with grandparents…on the surface, sweet, but there’s the terrific description of all that’s hanging around on the walls….the violence subdued in 2 dimensions and through the soft edges of taxidermy. The grandpa sawing away at swiss steak, grandma dabbing, the child devouring…the whole room feeding the beast within, this is the clincher image…very well done.

  8. Al, Thank you so much and yes, it does still exist. It has seen a recent hipster resurgence after almost getting auctioned off. If you google it, you can see some of the displays.

    Doug, thank you for your close read! I am glad that the various diners reflected off of each other well, along with the nostalgia. I have often thought about the Safari Club and wanted to write a poem, but any attempt seemed too surreal. This exercise worked out better, I think.

  9. Robert, I’ve often wondered if I could eat there now. The last time I went was on a Hunter S Thompson kind of night in college and I didn’t stay. There is a giant Kodiak and Polar bear each reared up on their back legs in the front foyer, and that was enough for me.

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