Cap'n Dave is at the helm once again, navigating the Beeline en route to port in the Rim country.
If you didn't live in the Valley of the Sun back in the '80s when Dave Walker was a popular New Times columnist, you probably don't know about his alter ego, Cap'n Dave.
New Times is an often irreverent but always thorough and thoughtful weekly paper that used to give The Arizona Republic fits. A free weekly published on Wednesdays, New Times built a reputation as a hip alternative publication that dared to go places The Republic wouldn't.
As Cap'n Dave, Walker wrote a weekly review of fast food joints and neighborhood eateries and pizzerias that spoofed those hoity-toity restaurant critics and their nose-in-the-air reviews of upscale Scottsdale bistros.
Appearing with each column was a picture of a stocky Cap'n Dave complete with captain's hat. Instead of reaching for glossy superlatives to describe the fare, his reviews were written in the language of everyman.
Ambience? Cap'n Dave was more likely to be concerned with portion size. His culinary comments went something like, "The burgers at Burgers 'n Buns are not bad as burgers go."
Then one day some years ago Dave left New Times and went to work for The Republic. Gone was the captain's hat. Gone were the gut bomb reviews. Dave first became a TV critic and then did some normal reportorial type things for The Republic. I think I even remember a picture of him wearing a tie.
But The Republic recently revamped itself, and Walker is now doing a feature called "Real Map: A True Interpretation of Things That Affect Our Lives." I'm happy to say that it marks the return of the Cap'n Dave side of Dave Walker, a side that his legions of fans have sorely missed lo these many years.
"Real Map" appears in a new Sunday section called "Arizona Diary," and includes a diagram or map of some well known place or area along with Walker's irreverent asides in cartoon-like balloon comments.
One, for example, featured Bank One Ballpark, another Tempe's new Town Lake. Recently it was the Rim country's turn, with a map of the Beeline and balloon comments all along the route up to and including Rye, Payson, Pine and Strawberry.
Arrows aimed at various points along the Beeline were connected to such Walker bon mots as "Last beef jerky for 100 miles," "Lovely stand of sycamores, which always implant the song 'Moonlight in Vermont' in this driver's head all the way to Pine," "Dude wondering about his brakes," "All the people at this mile marker need to find a bathroom, fast," and, "That weird spot where the people going south are actually on the east side."
But Walker saved his best shots for the Rim country, unleashing a barrage of witticisms that hit wonderfully close to home.
Pointed at Payson, for example, was a collection of ballooned comments like, "A loooooong line of cars waiting to turn right," "A longer line of people inside McDonald's," "Locals struggling to mask their contempt for the city folk," "Big-city types, commenting on the comparatively high prices in Payson grocery stores," and "Big-city types buying steaks, charcoal and ice anyway."
But my personal favorite and the proof definitive that Cap'n Dave has been resurrected was, "Somewhere near here, someone is planning a gala pancake breakfast."
When I lived in the Valley, I was introduced to Cap'n Dave one day by a mutual friend. It was one of the high points of my 22-year stay in that inferno. Cap'n Dave was my hero a columnist for the common guy. The guy with no expense account. The guy who couldn't deduct his lunch off his taxes.
I called Dave at The Republic, just to make sure he was, in fact, the Dave Walker who once called himself Cap'n Dave. I also wanted to ask him if he had a place in the Rim country. He was obviously way too familiar with the nuances and subtleties of the Beeline.
I recognized his voice from years before, and he even professed to remember me. He said his in-laws had a place in Pine and that he had just been named editor of The Republic's Sunday "Ideas" section.
Suddenly the world makes sense again. Cap'n Dave is back and The Republic has put him in charge of ideas. The stars are in the firmament. There is order in the universe.
Just to make sure I wasn't dreaming, I opened the newly arrived Payson Roundup to "Community Almanac." An item about a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Rim Country Kiwanis leaped off the page.
Would you like fries with those pancakes, Cap'n Dave?