The Fuck Up

A side note: When I wrote about Seattle a couple of entries ago, that wasn’t any kind of cryptic clue that I was moving to Seattle, that I missed Seattle, or that I was visiting or anything else. I write about random nostalgia like that entirely because I can’t think of anything better to write. Also, I feel some need to cement my random memories in amber for later preservation. Don’t read too much into it. In fact, the topic came up when I was in Alaska recently, because there are so many regional chains up there that reminded me so much of Seattle. And when we were vaguely, theoretically talking about if I would ever want to move back, the answer was a pretty easy no, because you can’t go back. There are times I miss when I lived in Seattle and was a 25-year-old writer, eating tuna salad and cup-a-soup every night to survive on $7 a week, writing furiously every night because I had no TV, no playstation, no DVD collection or player, and no long distance because I never paid my bill. But if I went back to Seattle, replace all that with worrying about my 401K and bitching about taxes and traffic and whatever else. And there are too many ghosts in Seattle for me. I haven’t even visited since I left. I probably won’t for a while. You can’t go back. But I do write about it a lot. Don’t confuse the two.

I’ve been trying to step up the reading a bit. Finished that Amy Hempel book, got her new one, and the first hundred pages are some (but not all) of the stories in Reasons to Live. So about 100 pages out of 400 are things I already read. At least I grabbed the new one off of Amazon in hardcover when it was still in the “new hardcover – slashed price” state, so I paid like $14 instead of $21. That book is in the queue, but a couple of others jumped in front of it while I was waiting for it to show up in the mail.

I re-read Arthur Nersesian’s The Fuck-Up again, which has become one of my “friends”, the books I can read and re-read on an annual basis without boredom. It’s about a kid in New York in the mid-Eighties who is hopping from couch to floor to lover and from job to job to lack of job, mostly on the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. There’s some other story arc in there, but aside from Nersesian’s fluid writing, the main character is this old New York that is now gone. Most of the novel takes place in a ten-block radius from where I work. But all of the porn theaters and slum apartments described are now yuppie condos and fast food restaurants and Gap stores. (I think Marie told me though that he has a few fuckups, like saying a certain movie theater became a Gap store, when it didn’t, etc.) Anyway, it’s a good read, interesting.

One of the things that stuck with me this time I read was that the protagonist has a friend Helmsley that was one of these uber-intellect types. His parents died in a plane crash, and he invested all of the money and lived like a pauper on the interest. All he did was read, and write. That made me really wish I could strip away all of the distractions of my life and get to the point where the two main consumers of time would be reading books, and writing books. Now, I don’t even know what the fuck I’m doing with my time, because I never write, and I never read. I don’t have a subway commute anymore – it’s like three stops, and I usually walk home after work to clear my head, so that hour or whatever is now gone. I’ve been trying to read more at night though. The writing, well, I’ll talk about that later.

Current book is the new Anthony Bourdain, called The Nasty Bits. It’s a collection of various newspaper and magazine pieces he’s done over the last few years, cleaned up a bit and pressed into a nice little 288-page hardcover. (I guess it isn’t that new – mid-May.) Some of the themes are repeated from his last two books, and if you’ve watched his TV show, some of the essays are longer versions of the different trips he’s taken. I like Bourdain a lot, and not for the macho pseudo-elitish chef shit that makes him a star. I seriously like his writing. He’s got the chops, and he’s read enough George Orwell and Hunter S. Thompson to keep alive that tradition of sharp observation mixed with entertaining craziness. Every good writer knows the best way to lure in somebody is to talk about work. And the best way to talk about work is to take some kind of work that is truly fucked up or boring or demeaning, and add some kind of element that makes it seem like a secret society to people. That’s why that bad jobs show on cable is such a hit. Nobody’s really interested in becoming a sewer cleaner; but when it’s presented in such a way that it makes people think (or think they’re thinking), it becomes gold. Bourdain does a lot of that. I’m not going to run out and eat whatever assholes and elbows make French culinary tradition great, and I don’t want a career in cooking, or even to learn how to cook. But his descriptions make it interesting, and I like that. The book is also much better than the TV show, which is glossied and cut up and pasted together in such a way that it loses part of the element. They’re entertaining, but the essays do a much better job. I’m only halfway through this book, but I have a feeling it will be done by tomorrow.

And I haven’t been doing that much writing, but I’m finding myself picking at these Bloomington stories again, like a scab that I will never let heal. These may or may not become a book called Six Year Plan, or maybe it needs a new title. No real news or agenda here – I’m just reading stuff that has sat for a while, taking out words, tightening lines, but not really doing much. Maybe I will get more productive with it, but it’s mostly something I do when I can’t figure out what the next project will really be. I think even if I made these stories as tight as possible and then put them in a book, it would only sell two copies, and that makes it difficult to jump into the thing with great gusto. I wonder if I ever would have written Summer Rain if I ever knew how many (few) copies it would eventually sell.

Time for lunch. I think we’re walking to this new farmer’s market on Orchard, then to a restaurant around here for some kind of brunch. It’s 70 and cloudy, very cool and maybe not bad weather for walking around for a bit.

Pocket books

Splitting headache. I think it’s from the heat, but it could be something else. I’m about to take some Tylenol PM, crank up the AC, and try to sleep it off. It’s been a slow weekend, which is good. I have a new dentist, and I think I can see his office from my window, so the commute isn’t a problem. He is also pretty laid-back and not all about the lectures, or the insistence that I need to cash out my entire 401K and spend it on veneers, braces, and who knows what else. I do have to go back next month for some work, but just fillings. No titanium post insertions or root canals or anything.

Lulu has a new book size, the “pocket” size, which is something like 4.25×6.875″ or something like that. I was thinking that I would love to make my own version of the pocket ref, which is my absolute favorite book ever, and I think pretty much anyone with a spare twelve bucks should buy it. It contains pretty much every reference table and material stuffed into 768 pages that fit in your pocket. I love to read it when I’m bored, and it’s always good to take on travel. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to glean together all of my most-used useless info and cram it into a little book, and others could buy one too. Like, what to do for a hangover or food poisoning, what presidents have been shot and where, the addresses of Denny’s in many major cities, a list of daily excuses to have a party, whatever. Anyway, it’s a thought.

I’ve been reading Amy Hempel’s Reasons to Live. No, it isn’t a new-age bullshit book, she’s a writer, very minimalist stuff, very good. All of her stories are told in as few sentences as possible, very tight, very deadly. It’s good stuff, except when I read it, I simultaneously want to rewrite everything I’ve ever written so it works like that, and I also just want to give up, because there’s no way I could. But I still read it. She has a hardcover story collection from this spring, I hope it’s not repeats from the book I have.

Nothing else. No writing, it’s been too hot, and my computer room has no AC. I have the laptop, but usually I spend half my time fucking with the WiFi to get it working or not working, and it won’t let me write.

Anyway…

jkonrath@indiana.edu

I spent all of my school years with the same email address – jkonrath@indiana.edu. I didn’t always get my mail on the same machine, and I had this complex shell game of trying to get accounts on as many machines as possible so I could have all of the quota to store my email and other junk. But I had that general philosophy of having all of my files in a central place. My computer at home was always a piece of garbage, and I was too nomadic to pop all of my mail to one place. So it all lived on various ultrix machines named after metals. When I left, those accounts got tarred and zipped and came with me to Seattle.

When I got to my first job, I hoped to get the address jkonrath@shitburger.com, but they assigned accounts by first name. In my case, it ended up being jonathan@shitburger.com. This caused great confusion on many fronts. First, everyone wanted to email me at jkonrath@shitburger.com. A lot of people still emailed me at jkonrath@indiana.edu, thinking it would still somehow magically work. I found (well, I already knew) that absolutely nobody can spell the name Jonathan. (Johnathan, Jonathon, Jkofuiw849fthan, whatever.) Also, this caused a lot of people at the new job to think I preferred the long form of my surname, when in fact I hate it. Since only my mom and law enforcement officials actually call me Jonathan, being in an office where every marketing droid called me that made me think I was ten minutes from an FBI bust or something.

I also quickly got sick of my personal and work email coming to the same mailbox. This was long before workplaces got really shitty about how proprietary email was, but it became increasingly difficult to get at my mail from home or away. And it sucked when someone was hovering over my desk and someone non-work-related sent me an email about dressing up a sorority chick in clown makeup and banging her on a pooltable. (I have weird friends.)

After about six months in Seattle, I decided to buck up and pay for a real ISP. At that time, the only place in town that offered a shell account was the Speakeasy Cafe. I think it was like ten bucks a month. Most people would go in there and sit at a computer, sipping their tea and sending emails, but I just wanted a unix machine, centrally located, a place to keep my junk, and run emacs.

Back before Speakeasy became a huge ISP, they were just a cafe. They had a big Solaris box, a bunch of terminals, and an espresso machine. The place was in Belltown, a part of Seattle filled with trendy art galleries, the kind where the walls are covered in dayglo tempra paintings of native american wolves fucking, the kind of stuff you don’t want to look at when you’re on acid. The cafe was all wood and black-spraypainted terminals, like something out of Singles, but with computers. I don’t drink coffee; they didn’t serve Pepsi or Coke, only Afri-Cola, a weird little import in a strange-shaped bottle that tastes like RC Cola at twice the price, but a penny of the cost went to the rainforests or something. They sometimes had food specials, scrawled on a chalkboard menu, free-range wok-seared something-or-other. No burgers. No BLT.

But I got that account, untarred my old bronze archive, changed three or four things, and it was running like I never left. All of my old mail was there. Emacs still ran, with the VM mail program and the BBDB address book. My web page came back to life. There were text files with lists of things I was selling six months ago, right before I left town. It was like taking everything in your house, shrinkwrapping it, and transporting it across the country into another house, so when you woke up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, you’d still find the glass on the counter.

I came to Belltown every month, to pay my tab. This was before the days of Visa-enabled online invoices; you showed up and put your cash on the counter. I think you could prepay a year in advance, but at this point, I was so tapped that all of my grocery shopping consisted of only buying the stuff in the Safeway coupon book. (And those are gone now too, thanks to those stupid cards.) But Belltown was an engram burned into my mind. Every time I came down there, I’d stop at a store filled with antique junk that was pried from houses that were gutted. Clawfoot tubs, ornate molding, wood bannisters sat on the floor, all of the pieces of last century that were yanked when some Microshit Millionaire wanted to redo their colonial house to look “zen”. I dreamed of somehow buying some land in Montana or Idaho or Wyoming or whatever and buying all of this shit and building a haunted mansion.

I never hung out at Speakeasy much, although it was the place to hang out for the hipster set. I tried to go in there once and kill a few hours on a Friday night, to see if anyone cool would be wandering around, but it was either people who already knew each other, or strangers who wanted to tunnel into their account and read the web with the lynx web browser. It wasn’t a swinging scene by any means. Later they started showing movies, having bands, but really eclectic stuff. I met Trent Harris there, when he was screening The Orkly Kid movie. And for a while, I was trying to do some kind of collaboration with a cartoonist named Daniel, and we’d meet there and then go elsewhere, where they had greasy food or cheaper drinks. (I was trying to get him onboard about filming a movie that parodied Apocalypse Now but was about trying to find a parking spot in Seattle, called A Parking Spot Now. Never happened, of course. I still have notes somewhere, though.)

Speakeasy became big and somewhat dumb, nationwide, and with DSL and wireless and whatever else. It was nice when I moved to New York, and I could keep the same service. But eventually, things got stupid, and they kept fucking up their shell accounts. Finally, I gave up, pointed my mail to my home machine, and turned on ssh so I could get to it anywhere. And the cafe, sadly, burned down. I think it’s condos now. They never reopened, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t think people can really wrap their heads around the idea of going somewhere to use the internet, unless they’re using their laptop and stealing someone else’s WiFi. Even the idea of a shell account is alien to pretty much anyone.

Bleah. Time to go read.

Little Axl

I probably mentioned a few times a while ago that I was working on a book called Six Year Plan, that was a bunch of short essays and whatnot about my time in Bloomington – sort of an extension of what I did in Summer Rain. Well, that never went so well, and I’m sitting on about 100,000 words of shit, some of it good, a lot of it not so good. In mucking around, I’ve decided to pull a few pieces and put them here. These are not stories. They aren’t essays. They are just pieces. And they’re rough. Let’s start with one that I call “Little Axl.”

In the summer of ’91, I needed a real job, pronto. My parents were on my ass about bringing in a solid 40 hours a week at a good rate, and my computer job dried up during the summer session. I checked the classifieds and noticed the major triumphant victory in the 17-minute-long Iraq war pushed the economy into a short-term upswing. Everybody in the rich states wanted a new house or a new RV, so every factory in our shit city had a want ad in the paper. Everyone was paying at least twice as much as I made changing laser printer toner cartridges, and some were already running mandatory overtime at time and a half.

The only problem with a factory gig would be going in as a student. Most blue-collar shops didn’t like to hire young peckerwoods who were into the book learnin’, because they’d question the wise ways of those who earned union wages drilling holes in plywood 800 times a day every day. And just when the school boys started to nice and indoctrinated, they’d pick up and leave for campus in August. Most employers preferred someone local, married, with a kid or ten, and a mortgage or two. They could break in a lifer and keep them in the gallows for 20 or 30 years. A few, however, liked to bring in a crop of college kids to enslave for three months, especially if they could do it to skirt some kind of union regulation.

I ended up lucking into a job at a brass plant in Elkhart, on second shift. I worked for the same company at a different factory the year before, with my dad. The brass plant meant no commute, no early morning alarm clock, and no dad. I also somehow managed to take a morning class each summer session at IUSB. And I dated Lauren, this girl in Bloomington, and made the trip down there every other weekend. Basically, the entire summer was a long run of little sleep, lots of trucker speed, and a swimming pool or two of caffeinated beverages.

Most of the people at the plant were typical factory workers, divorced, remarried, with a couple of kids, and never questioned the life laid out in front of them. There were a couple of students my age, also in for the three-month haul between college semesters, and I hung out with them at the lunch table. But one of the best guys I worked with wasn’t a regular friend, just a forklift driver I talked to here and there. I don’t even remember his real name. But in my head I called him Little Axl.

Little Axl had a mane of longish red hair that made him vaguely resemble the lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, and his raspy three-packs-of-Marlboro-Red-a-day voice sounded spot-on like he was going to jump down off of his lift truck, bust into “Sweet Child of Mine” at any moment and do that stupid snakey dance . Actually, maybe he completely wouldn’t remind you of Mr. Rose, but this was 1991, and the band was ramping up to hit ubiquitousity in a few months with the _Use Your Illusion_ albums. The guy did complete his work wardrobe with a few cut-up t-shirts of various metal bands, a red bandana, and ripped-up jeans, so I’m sure he would have appreciated the association if I ever would have told him.

Little Axl was always doing dumb shit, and the other lifers at the job were constantly harping on him about it. He was sort of like the hype man for a rap group, except he wasn’t acting like a dumbass to make Chuck D look more butch or anything; he was just legitimately off-kilter in the head. For example, one day he suddenly decided to quit smoking. A noble gesture, yes, but the main reason he quit is not because of cost (cigs were dirt cheap back then) or health (everyone in Indiana smoked, and didn’t worry much about cancer), but because he used to be on the track team back in high school, and in some Al Bundy-fueled nostalgia fit, he wanted to be able to run the mile in under six minutes or whatever the fuck he ran it a half-dozen years before. Part of his non-smoking regimen was that during lunch and at breaks, he’d run laps around the parking lot in his work clothes and steel-toed boots, trying to magically regenerate all of the lung cells he’d tarred up over the last decade. Calling this “running laps” was slightly misleading, though, because he’d manage to run about 20 yards before he’d double over and hyperventilate for a moment or two, trying to catch his breath for another quick dash, while the rest of us sat at the picnic table next to the front entrance and laughed at him. Within two days, the pack of Reds were rolled back in his shirt sleeve, and the smoking ban was long forgotten.

Here’s another story about Little Axl, although it’s also mostly about me. I was dating Lauren back in Bloomington, after hooking up with her over a Memorial Day visit. And because I racked up a $277 long distance bill one month, my parents disconnected our phone to all but local calls, which made the long distance relationship a bit more difficult. But I could get on the computer via a local dialup and send mail and chat with her when she also got online. I didn’t have a computer back then, but she loaned me her old Mac Plus and 2400 BPS external modem. I’d rush home after my shift ended at midnight, and she’d go to one of the 24-hour labs on campus, and we’d “meet” and type across the 250-mile void through the magic of primitive chat programs like bitnet and VAXPhone.

One Friday night, I ran home after work to got ready for my big VAX session, but when I pulled into the driveway, I noticed the house was dark. I walked inside, and found there was a blackout in the whole neighborhood. I suddenly realized that Lauren was probably in a computer lab, wondering where the fuck I was, and if I didn’t log in soon, she was going to get all pissed off and it would all be my fault. I couldn’t call her in the lab (no long distance, this was before the day of cell phones), and I couldn’t drive to school and sit at a computer, since the IUSB campus was 45 minutes away, and probably all locked up. Then it hit me: go back to work with the computer. I piled up the cords and keyboard in a bag, grabbed the Mac Plus by the carrying handle, and drove back to the brass plant.

I don’t know how the fuck I figured this would work, but I assumed that a place like a factory had to have some RJ-45 stapled to a baseboard somewhere with a live signal. I checked the lunch room with no luck, and then found a phone jack and a set of power cords in the long hallway that ran from the front door to the guard station and time clock. It wasn’t exactly the most ergo place in the world, but I plopped down all of my stuff on the concrete floor, ran my wires, and within a few minutes, I had dialtone, then a carrier, and I was trying to explain all of this to Lauren over a 2400 BPS connection.

The weird this is, aside from the security guard dude working at the front desk, my buddy Little Axl was also pacing back and forth by the time clock. Why? It turns out a cop was hiding in the bushes right outside of the parking lot, sniping off cars with a radar detector and hoping to peel off a DUI or two. Now that’s pretty much business as usual with the shithole Elkhart cops, but the problem was that Little Axl drove this fucked up truck that was lifted about nine inches, had no exhaust, no front grill, one headlight missing, another headlight pointed 89 degrees into the air, and probably had expired plates and insurance, not to mention that Little Axl had like 27 points on his license, two DUIs, and maybe a warrant or two. So he was freaking out, waiting for the cop to leave, and trying to get someone else to drive out there to see if the coast was clear. ]

Meanwhile, he found me on the floor, typing away, and was completely astounded at my piece of shit Mac Plus running Red Ryder. I don’t think he’d ever seen a computer before, and he stared at me as if I’d set up a Star Trek teleporter room on the floor and was beaming in long-dead celebrities of the 17th century for a polo game. He looked over my shoulder at my bitnet conversation, wondering what video game I was playing, mesmerized not only that someone could run a computer, but that they could also type words into it. I don’t know if he was more astounded that a person with such scientific prestidigitation skills could work at the same factory as him packing boxes, or if I was more amazed that a person who was about my age could know so little about technology. Either way, it was a strange evening.

It’s also worth mentioning that Little Axl also went to the big Guns N’ Roses and Metallica show in Indianapolis that summer to see his namesake, and I think he vaguely invited me down there if I wanted to catch a ride too, but it seemed too weird and I probably was going down to Bloomington that weekend anyway. In retrospect, I wish I would have scraped up the $40 for tickets and went with him, since it would have been a completely fucked up story culminating with him shooting a syringe of Jim Beam into his neck and then beating his trucker-looking girlfriend with the bottle. And this was also like one or two shows before the real Axl started a riot in St. Louis.

When he came back from the show, Little Axl would not shut up about the greatness of the Guns set, and how they played so many new songs. He also got a shirt that he wore to work the next day, but it said something like GUNS AND FUCKING ROSES WILL FUCK YOU UP on the back, and one of the old guys at work got upset and told him he had to turn it inside out or get another shirt because it had the f-word on it, and this was a family factory. He had it inside out for an hour or two, then he had it back, and I wondered if the ACLU had stepped in that quickly or what, until I saw that he cleverly covered the aforementioned f-bomb with a piece of electrical tape. Sneaky.

Little Axl was one of the most interesting people I worked with, although there were others. I worked at a QA bench for a few weeks with a woman that was my parents’ age who worked with my dad at the other plant and was a recovering alcoholic. She told me all of the usual stories recovering addicts tell you, about taking a bunch of drugs, driving through traffic at 110 while fucked up, almost jumping out of windows, being pronounced dead and then coming back, and all of the others. It made the summer go by a little faster, but it still took way too long to get it done, especially since I’d be back in Bloomington in the fall.

Coney Island

I think I wrote my best July 4 entry back in 2003, so go to the archives and read that so I don’t have to re-write it. I just finished watching the fireworks. We have a view here, although it’s not as perfect as when I worked in Seattle right on Lake Union, and we could go on the roof terrace and watch them there. But it seems like fireworks are improving with time. They had some pretty weird shells, with little dots of light that swarmed like alien beings, instead of just falling to earth. Very neat stuff.

We went to Coney Island today, a last-second decision. Turns out I can take the F train right by my house straight there, and it takes less time than from Queens. When we got there, about every person in the history of time was there, so pretty much everywhere you turned was like that ill-fated Who show in Ohio, except much hotter outside. Turns out I haven’t been there in maybe five years, and Sarah hasn’t been there in ten, so the train station was all new to us. The rest of the strip, not so new.

Coney Island is such a strange place. You’d expect, due to the fact that Nathan’s can sell a million hotdogs an hour, that every building in the place would be developed out to hell like Times Square. But more than half of the structures have been sitting boarded up and vacant since the second war. And the places running haven’t seen new paint since Eisenhower was in office. But people come, and people spent money, and it’s still a draw. It’s very strange.

Nathan’s has their big competitive hotdog eating contest on the 4th, and they were setting up for that. Competitive eating is becoming big now. It’s like what professional wrestling was in the eighties. And there were a shitload of people out for that. Plus, if you go to Coney Island, your one I-have-to-go stop is Nathan’s for a hot dog. The place looked like a fallout shelter at the beginning of a nuclear war. There were 20 or 30 lines, each with dozens of people, all trying to get a hotdog. I wanted one, but forget it. I didn’t want the line.

We walked up to the boardwalk and down a few blocks. Sean Maloney, who is running for NY Attorney General, was standing there and came up to me and shook my hand, which was really weird, because he was dressed like he was a tax auditor on vacation, and everyone else around us was completely thugged out. Also, there were at least 23 million people actually on the beach, more than I’ve ever seen in my life, cumulatively.

So, we didn’t do anything. We took a left, walked a few blocks away from the mess and the masses, and went to a nice, air-conditioned McDonald’s, where we got some lunch and watched the Space Shuttle launch. I also watched this guy who looked like that fat fuck on the Sopranos, except two times fatter and in a cut-off shirt, fill a cooler in his car with ice, a cup at a time from the McD’s drink dispenser. He seriously made like 37 trips from car to store, and they were either so busy or so apathetic, they didn’t say shit.

Then home. Then I caught some Twilight Zone marathon, which always reminds me of 6th-ish grade, staying up on vacations until 10:00 so I could watch it on WGN channel 9, before WGN was a big nationwide shitfest. I’ve found that more than 50% of the time, I can name a TZ episode in the first minute. I’m a little rusty right now, though. I have them all on tape, and a bunch on DVD, but I never watch it unless it’s a marathon on SciFi. Always loses something otherwise.

It’s hot as hell, time to go into the other room with the AC, go to bed, and drag my ass to work tomorrow. Anyway, happy 4th.

Food indecision

I get into this phase maybe once or twice a year when I simply cannot pick out what food to eat. I mean, the clock strikes noon, I am famished, got plenty of cash on me, and it’s not shitting rain or hot enough to liquify the sidewalk or anything else, but I simply cannot decide on what kind of food I want to eat. I can’t even think of a genre, or a direction to walk. And it goes on like this, meal after meal, until I am continuously more and more fatigued with things because I haven’t had a good meal in days. Yes, I’ve had a meal, and I don’t exactly look like a UNICEF kid, it’s just I can’t find something that makes me happy. And this is probably a bigger metaphor on life, because I also can’t get any writing done, find a book I can really stick with reading, and so on. I’m sure there’s a medication for this. And I’m sure one of it’s 7492 side effects are that it causes loss of appetite.

Anyway, yesterday we went out and went to Flowers Cafe, which is a sort of hippie-esque diner a few blocks over on Grand. It’s not a hippie place in that they serve wheat grass and tofu hot dogs, it’s just a deli, but with lots of retro flower-power type murals on the walls. It’s not too overdone, and they make a good reuben, so we order there a lot. And for whatever reason, we went there for breakfast on Saturday, and I got two eggs on a roll with bacon and cheese, and it completely kicked this food neurosis thing in the ass. It was a really good sandwich, and I loved it, and I wish I could get another one right now, except they’re closed, and I just ate dinner anyway.

After a day of walking around with Sarah and her friend Dre, we ended up seeing The Devil Wears Prada, which was funny, but probably not too relatable to those who don’t live here. We also went to this diner afterward called Big Daddy’s, which was the typical shit-on-the-walls genre, but not corporate, and with the typical menu where, instead of just saying “hamburger”, it says “Daddy-o Burger”. I just wanted a hot dog, and was presented with a giant plate that had pretty much an entire pig’s entrails stuffed and tied off into a hotdog. It was excellent, but it was also like half my body weight in food. Anyway, it’s a good place to crash if you’re just north of union square. I wish it was closer to the office, but then I’d probably need some paramedics to cut me out of my apartment in a few months.

Speaking of, I was on this food nutso thing the other day, and it popped into my head that I really wanted to run for the border and hit a Taco Bell. It usually happens once a year, but there are none by my new digs (there’s actually an old one, boarded up, with the tri-stripe awning still there and the logo spraypainted out) so I did the research and found the closest one was a half mile from the office, over on West 4th. Me and a couple of coworkers planned it out like a jailbreak, since we didn’t want to spend our entire lunch break trying to get over there. And Taco Bell has a very short halflife, before it congeals and turns cold and completely inedible. (And forget about microwaving that shit.) So we decided to cut over on the subway, one stop, hit the KFC/Taco Bell, and put in our giant order for all of the other people who wanted in but were too chickenshit to make the run. We got back in 30 minutes flat, ate, and then spent the afternoon wishing for napdom, hoping the gurgling in our guts wouldn’t go bad. ‘Beller’s regret. But I was happy.

There’s something in the sauce of that Mexican Pizza that reminds me so much of when I used to work there. And when I was thinking about it, I realized – it’s been twenty damn years since the summer I spent working the drive-thru at the ‘Bell, saving up for one of those new-fangled CD players and a dual exhaust for my Camaro. Shit, I remember when I was twenty, so it makes me feel even worse to remember something twenty years ago. It’s so weird though, that tomato sauce always reminds me of buying food when I went off-shift, leaving with a big bag of taco supremes and nachos and riding home on my ten-speed. When I first had my car, I dumped an order of those cinnamon crispas under the front seat, and spent months trying to vacuum up that sugar-cinnamon dust from the crevices of the carpet. Of all of the cooking smells mixed together in the back line of a Taco Bell, the most overpowering one was the crispa smell, maybe because it was the only sweet one. I don’t think they sell those anymore, but if they did, it would be an instant time machine for me.

Crap. It’s pouring rain outside. I have to go to work tomorrow, which sucks. Then I get the 4th off. Then a 3-day week. Whole Foods had nitrite-free uncured hotdogs, and they actually taste pretty much the same, so that’s my little homage to the whole July 4th, picnic, barbeque, drunken fireworks, whatever thing. That’s all.