When the hunger strikes mysteriously at 2 a.m. and you can't handle another Roberto's carna asada especial-from the real Roberto's, complete with runny guacamole dripping from the tortilla-the best deal in town is still Jack-in-the-Box's two tacos for 99 cents.
Driving around, seeking something more than a 7-Eleven corn dog, when you see that sign for the taco special, you just have to stop. They've only been running this limited time deal on tacos for about seven years; you need to jump on it.
The tacos are flattened, greasy loads of crunchy goodness, with some sort of strange, stringy meat-like substance, cooked lettuce and globs of a watery red sauce. Given the right circumstances, your typical stoner could eat 37 of these strange, taco-like creations and still have money left over for a Big Gulp.
So, needless to say, there are millions of San Diegans carefully watching the latest communiqués from the Jack-in-the-Box corporate headquarters, announcing changes in Jack-in-the-Box's hollowed menu.
News reports say the company's earnings are set to "plummet"-never a word you want to hear during a discussion of corporate earnings, unless it's used to describe the cost of hookers for the annual executive weenie roast.
In response to news of these inexplicably "plummeting" earnings, the big chiefs over at Jack Inc. have decided on big changes, including plans to make the menu more "gourmet." This is, of course, a sharp contrast to the chain's most recent strategy, which was to go "cheap." A typical specialite on Jack's la carte was a tasty little chili cheeseburger, which put Jack-in-the-Box in a head-to-head culinary throwdown with vending machines.
As true connoisseurs know, the chili cheeseburgers are already gone, as the corporate brain trust embarks on a new strategy to bring glory to Jack in the cutthroat cheap-burger game. Restaurants will be spruced up. Salads are in. Gone is the dream of conquering the southeast, where, apparently, the hicks couldn't appreciate the complicated cost savings of the taco deal.
All this corporate maneuvering naturally has stoners on the edge of their seats. But it is also huge news in the grand corporate palaces and Rotary Club luncheons of the Des Moines of the West, the ancestral home of Jack-in-the-Crap. The clown dude and his fried foods are part of the industrial soul of San Diego, one of its only truly homegrown corporate success stories.
Tourists believe San Diego is a McDonald's town, which is bull. McDonald's guru Ray Kroc, who liked plaid jackets, simply moved here to shack up with his blonde honey of a wife and play with his toy baseball team, long after he made his billions serving salty fries.
This be Jack turf, bro, all the way.
At one time, the princes of the Jack kingdom were the real power brokers of San Diego, hearkening back to the days when Large-Hipped Ladies ruled the land. Former mayor Maureen O'Conner fought her way up from the mean streets of Point Loma by marrying one of the Jack-in-the-Box founders.
Later, Susan Golding pulled the same trick, boosting her political career by hooking her wagon to a guy with big-time Jack-in-the-Box money, Richard Silberman. And it worked out great until Silberman was caught on tape agreeing to launder money for a crook.
Those were the glory days for the Jack-in-the-Box gang, who once had grand schemes of developing the company into a food conglomerate, dictating foreign policy and turning Kearny Mesa into some sort of Silicon Valley of fake cheese, maybe Crappy Food Mesa.
For many years, the company called itself by the witty, deeply meaningful name "Foodmaker," reflecting its lofty dreams of expanding into a food empire. They even blew up the clown, the most radical attempt at re-branding in history.
But in the mid-'90s, with chains like Carl's Jr. kicking the crap out of them, the Princes of Jack apparently spent some time in a sweat lodge exploring their inner souls and opted to return to their ancestral roots. The Foodmaker name was jettisoned, the company was officially dubbed Jack-in-the-Box Inc., and the clown was brought back amid much hoopla.
For San Diegans, it's been a roller-coaster ride, from the confused years of the fried burritos to the heady euphoria of the Chicken Fajita Pita. The darkest days came a few years ago, when a few customers started getting sick and dying from Jack's burgers-a scenario that's known in the business as "bad publicity."
Jack's recovery from that wee bump in the road was a source of pride to folks in this part of the world. The rocket makers may have moved to Arkansas and places like that, but we still make a damn fine Chicken Supreme.
As the Kings of Jackdom attempt to reestablish Jack as a major player in the fast food game, all of San Diego, of course, will be rooting them on, pulling for the home team. But the great minds of Jack better trod carefully. They've already jettisoned the Chicken Supreme, a tasty bit of fried compressed chicken.
If they drop the 99-cent taco deal, they're toast. Masses of bitter deadbeat stoners will grab torches, march to Kearny Mesa and, after a quick stop for a snack at AM/PM, demand corporate justice.
Write to MsBeak1@aol.com and editor@SDcitybeat.com.