It’s a strip mall in Kemang, an expensive midtown district of Jakarta. There’s a book store. Restaurants. And in one corner, stairs up to the second and then the third floor. As you climb the banging of drums gets louder. On the third floor landing, two wooden doors with rot iron bars across small glass windows open into another world. A smoky room, walls orange-red like the desert, green painted cactuses and real geckos. The focal point of the room is a stage where a live band is singing ‘Country Road, Take Me Home’ by John Denver. Then La Bamba comes on, and six young Indonesians who barely speak English, let alone Spanish, belt out “yo no soy marinero, so capitan” followed by Johnny B Goode. You have now entered Amigos – perhaps the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Southeast Asia.
You might think my country & western music roots may have had something to do with growing up in Texas, when it fact it was Amigos, in Indonesia, that did me in. I loved going to Amigos – it was the only place where you could find Tex Mex food in Indonesia’s capital city in 1990. I would order a soft taco, a coke, and frantically fill out request cards to have the band play “All My Exes Live in Texas” by George Strait or “Achy Braky Heart” by Miley Cyrus’ dad. The female singers would sometimes convince me to come up and dance with them. And my dad would sometimes hire the bands to perform at our house for office parties.
Besides my school and our house, there is no place I have stronger memories of than Amigos, and I wish the bands, the staff, and the owners well, from a continent away and two decades later.