Monday, February 27, 2006

Things I Do Not Reccommend

I'm better. I have been for most of a week now. I tend to bounce back from illness pretty quickly, and, in fact, I was on solid food the day following the virus, with the result that I almost immediately had material for a blog, and have taken an entire week to get around to setting it out because I kept getting distracted by other things. So, in that spirit, here are a couple of things I do not reccommend, and why.

  • A Double Whopper (with cheese)
  • Beef broth
  • White wine

Now, it would be easy here to take the high road, and simply claim that you shouldn't have all three of these things at the same time, but that's not what I'm about here. Firstly:

The Double Whopper. Two days after my adventures, I felt well enough to venture out in search of sustenance, and I was hungry. Man, was I hungry. During the period of the virus I had had nothing solid, in fact nothing substantive at all, and the following day very little; so, I reasoned, this would be a good time to embark on something I had not had in many years, in order, if nothing else, to re-visit why.

Now, a Burger King Whopper is a hell of a thing. Oversized bun, oversized beef patty, piled and drenched with toppings, there is always something vaguely suspicious about it, as there should be about any example of, to paraphase Bryson, drippy food. Some years back-- Gad knows how many-- I discovered what exactly it was about the whopper that is being hid, by way of ordering and consuming (or, if memory serves, attempting to consume) the Double version.

And here's what it is: the meat. It is, in fact, a flacid, droopy, grainy, dry piece of institutional grade efliuvia. All the dressings are there to distract you from that. But, as always happens in corporate setting, not only does the right hand not know what the left is doing, for all the right hand knows the left hand is a toaster. Despite the marvelous job the camouflage has done in hiding the fatal flaws of the product, the impulse that says "Hey, if they'll buy one, sure as hell they'll buy two!" That this doubles the mass and presence of the offending article does not enter the equation, verily, does not become part of the cogitation, insofar as such operations can be considered cognitive. So, where with the whopper, you have a chance of getting through the thing without incident, the chances are that, if you are any kind of sentient, sensitive human being with a reasonable palate, at some point in this excercise (the Double version, or Whopper 2.Blech), it will occur to you that you hvae a mouth full of gray, greased sawdust (albeit finely cut), and wonder if you either could or should swallow it.

Beef broth. Now, I specifically mean Campbell's, and for some of you that might raise objection enough already, and I mean as consumed alone, as a meal. And I mean a whole can.

I can consume an entire can of beef broth, reconstituted. In the aftermath of the Whopper debacle, I found myself not hungry for a conventional supper that evening, snacked on a bit of this and that here and there, and found myself standing over the stove at something after midnight.

This is not an uncommon occurrence for me. Fairly often, my body will simply instruct my unconscious mind that it is hungry and popping out for a snack. The mind will take this as a perfectly reasonable suggestion, and think nothing of it, until coming out of unconsciousness to find, say, a large pastrami sandwich being assembled on the production floor, at which point it will judiciously counsel "More mustard."

This time, the mind, before returning to it's inert state, had the wherewithal to say something to the effect of "Nothing too big or complex, you were just ill, and I don't want to go though that again." So, it was over a pan of quickly heating beef broth that the mind found itself focusing it's fuzzy, slowly focusing vision this night.

Now, the mind was able to counsel against imbibing the fluid until it had cooled somewhat, but not enough, resulting in a slight scalding of the gums, lips, tongue and palate. But it was still sleep-weakened enough that, when it's request to stay up for the rest of Ghostbusters was met with the bargain "OK, if we can have the rest of the broth in the mean time," it seemed not just reaonable, but in fact a bargain. In return, however, the mind decided it needed a glass of white wine, just one, to aid in returning to sleep at the film's conclusion. The final result was that, when lying down, fluid sloshed around the stomach, which, trying to process said fluid, protested in it's favorite, sadistic way, which is to contract painfully. So it was that sleep was staved off by part of another hour.

Now, I know the easy conclusions ("What the hell do I care?" and "What a dumbass!" spring to mind) would be easy to reach, but I would counsel you, dear reader against them. You should conclude that your humble author, this simple poet, has simply performed the role of the Good Scientist, undergoing these experiences, collecting the data, and presenting the results, cheifly so that you, dear reader, won't have to.

And when I say I don't reccommend these things, I mean specifically that I don't reccommend them to you. I figure to be doing this kind of bizzaro crap all the way to my grave.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Sick, Sick, Sick

So now I'm sick.

It's either food poisoning or a stomach virus. If you've ever had either one, you know what that means. I will not elaborate.

Blog amongst yourselves.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


The phrase "forced death boogie" has now officially entered my vocabulary.

I am known, among my friends and associates, as one who is capable of coining words and phrases, and I do so on a regular basis. (As does the Wifey, although not to the same extent.) While in New York, "walk" was "little white guy, while "don't walk" was "angry red hand." This is my fault, and by the time we left, not only the Wifey, but also Chris and Lauren were heard to say, for example, "Uh-- Little White Guy! Cross!" or "If we cross now, we won't get an angry red hand." They have yet to pick up "Forced Death Boogie," so far as I know.

This comes from an entry I made in the old blog (identified alterallyas the Non-Blog), in which I recounted my late-found love for the disco tune "Boogie-oogie-oogie" (Which might actually have a different, proper name, but who knows and who cares). My contention is that I love it for the diabolical guitar lines and the damned near dismissive lyric, but as a youngster the lyric bothered me. It didn't sound like fun to have to boogie-oogie-oogie until you just can't boogie no more, eg., you die of exhastion. It sounded, I wrote, "like some kind of forced death boogie."

I didn't intend this particular phrase to enter parlance, but it's just too damned fun to say. And to be fair, it almost always gets used to describe an activity I am undertaking myself, mainly because I walk fast. So, for instance, Rachelle has urged me to slacken the pace while hiking by saying "My love, can we make this a little less of a Forced Death Boogie?" At least once, when I was going to head to the car (again on a hiking trip) to get something, and my niece Cayla wanted to join me, I quizzed her thusly: "Are you sure? It's likely to be something of a Forced Death Boogie." And Cayla, bless her little heart, didn't bat an eye. She simply aknowledged that her Uncle Jim was indicating that the course would be taken at abrisk and uniterreupted pace, and assented.

My favorite, though, was a while back, when discussing the possibility of hiking Manhattan from 125th Street all the way down to the Battery (by way of Riverside Drive, Central Park, 5th Avneue and Broadway) on the first day, before Chris and Lauren joined us in the city, I concluded that it would be too strenuous an activity for the first day of the journey. I said, and I quote: "It wouldn't necessarily have to be . . . Nah, it would. It'd be a Forced Death Boogie."

I have no one else to blame. It's all entirely my own fault.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

GOTHAM ain't what it used to be.

Used to be diners and liquor stores on every block. Now it's all nick knacks and shoe stores.

Of course, it is February, so alot of the stuff that would have been out on the sidewalks was tucked away inside, and people were even more alienated and closed off than usual. Still, it seemed . . . different.

Anyways, the architecture hasn't changed much. Aside from the one big change, and I'm not going to talk about that. We went there, just the Wife and myself, and we had completely different reactions. She was bowled over by the reality of it, and the whole thing suddenly came home to her. I was stunned by the unreality of it, the sheer, overwhelming absence, my almost complete inability to conjure the image of what had been there from this ugly, jagged scar in the ground.

(Just one hole. Don't know why that should bother me.)

Wall Street is Wall Street, beautiful and stoney white and running hot and cold. I'm always suprised how small it it. Such a small place, and it damned near all but rules the world.

Too cold for Battery Park, but the Staten Island Ferry is always a good ride (and free at that). And they took all the police, put 'em in a Police Museum. It was actually pretty nice, emphasized the role New York's Finest played in being New York's Finest. We dropped the "suggested donation" of five bucks a piece with no qualms, but the place didn't move us enough to make us want to buy a tee shirt.

Anyways, after Chris and Lauren joined us, later in the day, we started hitting the high points. Dinner at Katz's, pastrami on rye, corned beef on rye, no cheese, and-- get this-- Anchor Steam Beer. I had to have one, just for the sheer damned novelty of it. When they started serving beer there I know not. I only know I had a Dr. Browns the last time I went. (Cream Soda. Call me a mook.)

Chinatown, the Lower East Side. Like I said, February, so there were far fewer store fronts open until after 10. We did manage to find a tea shop where Lauren got a semi-authentic chai, but what we found out, through the course of the days, was that if you wanted to find something reliably open and warm, get thee to a Starbucks.

(Or a McDonalds. A McDonalds on the Lower East Side. Around the corner from a Synagogue. Oi.)

Speaking of Synagogues, Bialystocker. The walking tour we were following put us on Bialystoker Street, and passing the building itself, a helpful temple worker asked us if we wanted to go in. She led us to the administrator, who admonished us to cover our heads. (Good Southern boy that I am, I doffed mine on entering, and Chris followed suit. Later it was assumed that I didn't know the customs 'cause we don't have synagogues in the South. Au contraire: down here, the Yids frown on the lids. If it isn't a yarmulke, it's just a hat, and take it off!!!) He guided us around the place, uncomfortable at first and then gaining speed, and finally gouging a donation out of us before letting us go, rather grudgingly, back onto the streets.

Back to the HoJo on Houston to recouperate, where we watched Chinatown. "Forget it, Jake. It's just Chinatown.")

Midtown. NOW we're talking. The Strand, where you only conquor by going there two hours a week for the rest of your life (and then only just). The Flatiron, the building that shouldn't be there (and almost isn't). MoMA, which is all new, all blank, and laid out top to bottom, with the result that it's marginally easier to get lost in than it used to be.

Times Square, and yeah, that is what it says on the signs. Times Square is still Times Square, even without the hookers and the sex shops. Radio City and Rockafeller Center, where we got hot dogs off a cart for lunch (Sabrett's, the superior dog, mustard, ketchup, relish, Amen.)

Sure, I'm skipping around. That might give you the idea there are gaps. Nope. There are no gaps. The whole thing is one, long, continuous blur, punctuated by the occasional pause to refresh and the hotel room overnights. New York is a rock, and it gets me stoned.

Next: taking the train up alongside the Park to the Museum of Natural History, where, as always, I ended up staring at the diarama backgrounds way more than at the dead animals. Told Lauren and the Wifey something they didn't want to know: on some of the animals, if you look closely, you can see where they were shot. Never mind; never mind. I won't point out that this one was taken down by buckshot, that one took a .38 cal slug in the neck, the lion was taken down by a shot to the rump and had to be stabbed in the neck. Never mind. Place maybe oughta be called The Church of the Great White Hunter.

Central Park. Nowhere else on earth looks like the Park, and I say so, dammit. Halfway across, a kind maintenance worker offered us a map. I guess he thought we were lost. How do you get lost in New York? It's a FALKLAND ISLAND. (If you don't get that, ignore it; it's only funny if you know the routine.) We followed it, but we needn't have. Just walk across the park until you see this BIG FREAKIN' BUILDING. That'll be the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of course, by this point, we were whipped. We hit the high points: Rennasiance & Dutch, the instrument collection. I didn't get to see my 19th Century landscapes, but that's OK. I still remember them from the last time. I'll get back there again one day. (And I do mean one day.)

Something borrowed, something blue: dinner one night was Ray's Original Ray's Famous Pizza, slices of sheer audacity. We ran the gammut, from pepperoni, onion and black olives to a spinach-based architectural piece with huge slices of garlic studding the surface. The next night we hit something called the Heartland Brewery, which is a chain and completely new to me. The Wife and I had had a late lunch at the South Street installment, where I had a beautiful, creamy stout and a fried cod sandwich and the Wifey chowed down on popcorn shrimp. At the Midtown version, on the ground level at the Empire State Building, everything but the beer was two bucks more expensive, so we splurged: two samplers of beer, enough for 3 (da Wifey don't drink beer), a rack of ribs (or nearly), fish and chips (the same lovely cod as had been in my sandwich), a salmon burger, American food. Huzzah!

Then, on our (to-be) last evening, the Curse of Manhattan strikes (it's always something). The flakes danced menacingly, tauntingly, teasingly, suggestiong that they might fall, they might not. We ducked into an ersatz Irish joint for dinner, and when we came out, the hammer had fallen: the snow is really coming down outside, I wish you wouldn't make me leave. We went back to the hotel, watched it fall, went out singly and in groups to watch Manhattan fill up with snow. The next morning, the city was dead. We ventured out like shell-shocked survivors, walking wounded, looking for any sign of life, trading laughs with the few others we crossed paths with. I threw thumbs up to the plow drivers, and they cracked their stoney faces for brief smiles before turning back to stone and guiding their beasts around the road. 27 inches of snow, so they say, and it slammed the city shut.

We took the train to Queens and spent a very mundane and gratefully mundane day at the Pan American hotel, watching questionable TV, playing cards, eating diner fare at the hotel restaurant. The airlines had cancelled everything, and tried to re-chedule everything the next day. I bitched about having to go trhough Chicago to get to Charlotte, but where it took us four hours to get home, it took Chris and Lauren twenty. If they tell you you have to go through Reagan International, ask them why. No good can come from it. The place is cursed.

And now I'm here, I'm home. Our winter has passed, we have blue skies and 60 degree days.

But I'm still stoned by Manhattan. Always have been. Always will be.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Going's On

So we have been outed. As anyone who reads either This Girl I Used To Know or Jerk OF All Trades now knows, This Girl is the wonderous and ubiquitous Wifey to Yours Truly.

As it turns out, that is almost all I have to say this morning. I had the second night of fitful sleep in a row last night, due to a rather disturbing incident which had almost nothing to do with me.

As no doubt you know, I drive a Miata.

It's that big.

So yesterday I was on the way back from running some errands, taking the not-quite-long-way home, when I was approached from the rear by a big, ugly dump truck.

There's a lot of construction going on in our area, what with the I-485 outerbelt construction, house farms, shopping centers and so forth getting built, so I'm pretty much used to dump trucks, and I give them a wide berth, for the following three reasons:

  • They are too big for the brakes they have to stop them.
  • They are unstable when empty and unweidly when full.
  • Dump truck drivers are stoooooooooooooopid.

That last one is an uncontrovertable fact. Think about it: Would you drive a dump truck? See? The sole exception to this rule (in our area) is the Blue Max drivers, who must get paid alot (and trained alot), and who are courteous and skillful drivers. I wave to them.

This was not a Blue Max truck. Like I say, I am used to dump trucks in our area, but this one caught my eye. First off, the grill was made of a sub-standard material, and was about 75% missing. This is never a good sign. A dump truck is a big, heavy, expensive piece of machinery, and any sign that it was built or is being maintained on the cheap is not good.

Second, I could not see the driver's face, but his passenger was leaning forward, looking down at, well, almost leering at me in my little Miata. A passenger in a dump truck is bad news for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the tendency to make the driver want to show off. I could only surmise from the passenger's leer that the driver was saying something to the effect of "Watch me scare the shit out of this little faggot in the Miata!"

So the light changed and traffic started moving, and I laid on the gas and was outta there. The dump driver jumped on his accelerator and produced, probably to his chagrin, a great puff of black smoke and a slow, chugging start. Thus the second sign that this was trouble: badly maintained equipment does not respond well to force.

I'm within an ace of quoting from Serentity here, but I'll just paraphrase instead: you shouldn't drive a vehicle you don't love. You don't love it, you handle it badly, it runs out of shape, gets poorly maintained, and turns into a piece of crap eyesore and an impediment to others' navigations. So when the poor, dumb, asshole dump driver hopped on his accelerator in an attempt to scare the crap out of the poor little schmuck in the Miata, it was more or less like driving a spur into the side of an old, underfed mule.

I was well out of his way, but in the rear view I could see him, humping and straining and over-clutching, trying to get the truck up to speed. By the time he got the thing up to 30 miles an hour, he was well behind me and around the bend. Not my problem.

A few miles later traffic was stopped to make way for a bit of utility work. One of the crew's diggers needed to be turned, so they had traffic temporarily stopped in both directions, leaving a twenty-yard gap in the road between the two columns of stopped traffic. (This will be important in a moment.)

While sitting there, I saw a column of traffic approaching in the rear view, headed, of course, by the big, ugly, blue dump truck. (I probably forgot to mention the blue part earlier. I was concentrating on the ugly part.) I could see, just by casual observation, that the column was slowing.

But not the truck.

As it came up on me the driver swerved the behemoth into the opposing traffic lane, barely missing my bumper. And then I saw the real bad new. He was hauling an oversized heavy equipment trailer with a commercial road grader on it.

So not only was this asshole driving a badly maintained truck he didn't love, he was hauling a trailer and equipment that weighed way more than his truck had ever been rated for. Hey, watch me scare the shit out of this idjit in the Miata!

He came around me and the trailer just cleared my right rear fender, as I reflected that, had he snagged it, he not only would have tossed my car around like a cat with a sparrow, he would have ruptured my fuel intake and probably ripped out my gas tank, which was about 2/3 full. As it was, he cleared, and as he passed I heard the unmistakable sound of an engine and gearbox straining to slow more weight than they could have reasonably have been expected to haul in the first place, and smelled the unmistakable stench of burning brake pads on rusty discs.

He barrelled down the lane and managed to squeeze into the 20 yard gap, narrowly missing both flagmen, both of whom had to scramble out of the way. The digger was clear of the road by this point, and traffic was released by the flaggers, and the column of traffic sped up to a lively thirty miles an hour.

Slowed by the dump truck and it's trailer which had just barrelled through the stopped traffic, unable to stop itself.

I caught up to the monster at the next signal, where I was turning left and the Leviathan was struggling to advance from a dead stop, which it had acheived grudgingly. I scanned and committed to memory the tag on the trailer before concluding that reporting it would do no good. If the rest of the rig was that badly maintained, the odds that the tag on the trailer would in anyway correspond to the truck, much less the driver, were dismal indeed.


I could have been killed by this rotten, lousy, loveless bastard, and there was zilch I could effectively do about it. What had been up to that point, a perfectly lovely drive was suddenly no damned fun at all. That was the real sin.

So what I dreamt of last night was catching the sonuvabitch in a parking lot, spotting the vehicle by it's damaged grill, dragging him down out of the cab, and reading him the Riot Act. Which is never a good thing for me. I am not heavily into revenge, and wrath makes me feel horribly guilty, no matter how richly it might be deserved. Along about midnight I finally decided to get up (for fear of my tossing and turning disturbing the Wifey), made my way out to the living room, lit a Camel, and downed a couple of vodkas, while trying to convince myself that none of this was in any way my fault. It wasn't the best night ever.