Rain falls gently in a Paris cemetery and I, guarded by a cheap umbrella, walk among this silent village of the dead. Here, in Pere Lachaise cemetery, you won’t find small headstones or paupers gravestones. Each grave is a …Read More
I’ll be honest, I started at least three different films, each encompassing various elements of the appealing variety (magical hot babysitters, rape and write mean and unflattering notes Dennis Quaid, drunk screamy Patty Duke married to William Shatner acting, …Read More
“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM…Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…We quarreled last
I ran across the movie, Don’t Go In The House from 1979 by chance, and the title reminded me of my niece once saying, “Guys, I have a question. Don’t go outside.” While I realize that is not a question, …Read More
The London of my day was a filthy city, where waste buckets were dumped onto the streets, where baths were rarer than birthdays, where deadly plagues were an inevitable part of life, and where the air of the city was …Read More
The first issue of HungryLit has arrived! A motley band of writers and poets have here assembled to enrich the world with new words, new ideas, and new creations. Click on the cover below to begin your exploration into the …Read More
Wine can bring us moments of pure bliss. In a glass of wine you can find a snapshot of Elysium—quintessence and elegance and complexity bottled up exquisitely.
Wine can take us to heaven, but only beer can bring heaven to …Read More
Rain falls gently in a Paris cemetery and I, guarded by a cheap umbrella, walk among this silent village of the dead. Here, in Pere Lachaise cemetery, you won’t find small headstones or paupers gravestones. Each grave is a stone temple–each one seemingly a monument to the vanity of its occupant, as if the conspicuousness of your resting place could make your soul more visible to the eye of God. Here I think of the crumbled statue of Ozymandias, and wonder on the fruitlessness of all human endeavor, beggars and kings all bound for the same destination.
But perhaps this is unfair, for graves do not exist to house the dead, but rather to give comfort to those who love them. And here, in this small cemetery, lie the bones of many who were loved by the world–Moliere, Gertrude Stein, Balzac, and Chopin to name a few.
But, although I have respect for those names, there is one person in particular to whom I have come to pay my respects–a man who, although we are of different ages and have never met, I consider a dear friend.
By the northern edge of the cemetery lies the final resting place of Oscar Wide.
There, beneath a great white statue designed by Jacob Epstein, both sphynx and angel, are the remains of a man who knew more about truth and beauty than most of us could envision in the world.
This was that same Wilde who held a mirror to Victorian England’s trifles and hypocrisy, whose wit had London’s crowds changing “author, author” at the end of his plays, so enticed they were with his words and the magic he could do with them. This was that same Wild who had Salome dancing in the moonlight, seducing Herod for the head of John the Baptist.
This, too, was Wild the “sobdomist”–the Wilde who, once the most loved of England, became suddenly and cruelly hated and scorned when his homosexual love affair with a younger man named Lord Alfred Douglas became public. For loving another man, he was sentenced to two years of hard labor in a British prison. After serving his time, he fled to Paris, disgraced in his former kingdom.
At Wilde’s trial, a poem by Lord Alfred Douglas was a key piece of evidence–a poem which referred to “the love that dare not speak its name.” When interrogated about this on the witness stand, Wilde answered:
“The Love that dare not speak its name” in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the “Love that dare not speak its name,” and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it.”
In these friendlier times, when such love may, in enlightened places, speak its name freely, Wilde’s grave–that same Wilde who died disgraced and poor in a Paris hotel room, muttering his famous last words (“either this wallpaper goes, or I do”)–he rests in a world that once again loves him. Until recently, his grave was covered with the lipstick marks of hundreds of kisses, as adoring visitors came from all over to kiss his grave. Wilde’s descendants, upset by this, had the statue cleaned off and covered it with a glass barrier. Only a few kisses remain, from intrepid visitors who climb to kiss above the barrier, perhaps standing on the grave of Wilde’s neighbor. But what is the true monument–the grave or the kisses? Which honors Wilde more–the lipstick or the marble?
The back of the monument bears these words:
“And alien tears will fill for him/ Pity’s long broken urn./ For his mourners will be outcast men/ And outcasts always mourn.”
An outcast I must be, in a world where outcasts thrive.
On the way out of Pere Lachaise, after stopping by the grave of Edith Piaf, the singer who gave Alice and I our wedding song (“La Vie en Rose), we stopped by the grave of another outcast who, like Wilde, died in a Paris hotel room long before his time–the singer James Morrison.
Morrison supposedly named his group “The Doors” after The Doors of Perception, a book by Aldous Huxley about Huxley’s experiences with mesculin. However, as a poetry scholar educated at UCLA, Morrison must certainly have known where Huxley got his title–from William Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is–infinite.”
A more religious man would imagine Wilde and Morrison and all the great men and women of Pere Lachaise watching us, seeing our place among the infinite, bound no more by mortal vision and the fetters of our human eyes, too myopic to guide us to our full potential. But I, like Matthew Arnold, embracing poetry as religion, prefer to think of them as they lived–each a beautiful passage in the book of humankind–the kind that echoes in your head after you read it. The kind that inspires you to dog-ear the page and return to it again and again. The kind that makes our story a book worth reading.
I’ll be honest, I started at least three different films, each encompassing various elements of the appealing variety (magical hot babysitters, rape and write mean and unflattering notes Dennis Quaid, drunk screamy Patty Duke married to William Shatner acting, etc.), but when I started a movie that opened with a crazy 1970′s Liz Taylor playing ping-pong with Michael Caine, I was hooked. The film that I settled upon is from 1972 and titled, XY & Zee (which makes sense because Liz’s character is called Zee and the other people in the movie have letters in their names).
As I mentioned, the opening scene is a ping-pong battle shot in fancy slow-motion and stuff. So, who will win? We should know in seven hours. Luckily, the film switches to regular-motion and the game wraps up, but to be fair, I would have watched Liz/Caine slow-motion ping-pong for eight hours. I don’t have a lot going on right now. Spoiler: Liz (Zee) wins. and then there is some chasty…? And goosing…? (Look, I could not quite make out what my notes said. Also, it may have been my grocery list.)
Now they are at a party and everyone is drunk. It is obvious, at this party, that Caine (X) is some kind of a sculpture expert, and he bigtime digs broads. He spots a woman (Y, I presume) whom he fancies and casually asks if she needs a bodyguard because that is a really smooth thing to ask a stranger at a party. Caine (X) then asks if she (Y) is a lady of leisure and if he is well dressed. He might be autistic. Liz (Zee) comments that the woman (Y) looks like a bag of bones, which reminds me, I need holiday cards.
Now they are playing pool, but mysteriously, still talking about ping-pong and steak dinners. I seemed to have jotted down “Prone to weeping if anything nice happens” on a piece of paper, but that could just be my notes from tap dancing therapy. So anyway, Cainex asks the womany out in front of Lizzee, his wife. Did I mention they are married? They are married.
The womany agrees to dinner with Cainex and they talk about having two times to fall in love, one is true and one is false and something about cabbage I think and they do the sex and Cainex wants an egg and then he leaves.
Cainex returns back to the house he shares with Lizzee to find her blaring what I have written down as either fundly or funky music. It’s probably fundly. Lizzee yells to Cainex, who is clearly getting all gussied up to go out, “You can’t go at it every night.” To which Cainex replies, “Why don’t you take a lover?” I am no scientist, but this relationship seems moderately fucked.
I won’t go into detail, but surprisingly (not at all surprising. Dogs know it), circumstances result in Lizzee, Cainex, and Womany having a romantic dinner at home together. Should be fine. It’s not fine. Lizzee promptly instructs Cainex to “Make the ladies a martini, Boobie” and then Cainex shouts to Lizzee, “Wouldn’t you like to chew on a bone or a piece of gristle or something?” Obviously, this is an invite for the three of them to go out to dinner instead.
The three of them go out to dinner, but Cainex leaves in a huff and the two women are left alone to exchange stories which result in a series of flashing to each of their faces while they repeatedly shout, “NO YOU! NO YOU!” while hysterically cackling. Guys, it was weird and now I feel like someone slipped them some acid or overcooked their meats.
Also, it is indicated at some point that Womany is actually a repressed lesbian and she likes to eat things. I mean steak. So, the lesbian dinner fades out and back at home, Cainex wants to go over bills, but Lizzee wants to ride horses and wear fun hats so Cainex ties her up with a belt and then they do it. I mean sex.
Some other things happen and Womany is scared of crazy Lizzee so Cainex and Womany go on a trip together to get away from Lizzee. Cainex returns from the Womany sexy trip to find Lizzee packing his things, telling him to leave and also, “She’ll get fat once she has a man; I’ve seen her eat, you know.”
Now suddenly Cainex is looking for a place to live with Womany. This apartment search is immediately followed by the weirdest pre- divorce conversation between Cainex and Lizzee, complete with porno music in the background. Then Lizzee slits her wrists in the tub and she bleeds a lot and ruins the bathroom for people.
Womany goes to visit Lizzee in the hospital and then she talks about her dead husband and his slow cancer to cheer her up. Meanwhile, Cainex is making out with his secretary all of a sudden in his office building and Womany tells Lizzee that she was expelled from school for making out with a nun really bad.
Now Lizzee is out of the hospital and goes to see Womany at her new place that she shares with Cainex and they bang while Cainex is off bonking his secretary(Q?). Cainex returns to find Lizzee at his new place and Womany naked in their bed and then Lizzee says, “Come on daddy, baby wants something to eat. It’s been a hell of a day” and then they hug and it is over.
I am giving it one angry thumb up for the heavily implied ladynun on lady and actual happening wife on mistress action and because I love steak meats and playing that fundly music.
“`If you knew Time as well as I do,’ said the Hatter, `you wouldn’t talk about wasting IT. It’s HIM…Now, if you only kept on good terms with him, he’d do almost anything you liked with the clock…We quarreled last March…it was at the great concert given by the Queen of Hearts, and I had to sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you’re at!”…Well, I’d hardly finished the first verse,’ said the Hatter, `when the Queen jumped up and bawled out, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”‘
`How dreadfully savage!’ exclaimed Alice.
`And ever since that,’ the Hatter went on in a mournful tone, `he won’t do a thing I ask! It’s always six o’clock now.’
A bright idea came into Alice’s head. `Is that the reason so many tea-things are put out here?’ she asked.
`Yes, that’s it,’ said the Hatter with a sigh: `it’s always tea-time…”
Sometimes it’s difficult to be inspired when you’re at home. There’s a comfy couch (or in my case, a sort-of-comfy futon), a TV, food at your disposal if you’re lucky and have been responsible enough to visit grocery store recently….and so sometimes it’s tough to fight the vibes to just kick back and relax on said futon and watch the aforementioned TV. So when I REALLY need to get work done, I need to leave my apartment. And finding a place to study in the city is no easy feat!
So, I’d like to tell you about one of my favorite places to go to do work: Argo Tea. It’s a chain but I usually go to the one on 26th St and 7th Ave. When you walk in, you’ll instantly know why it’s one of my favorite places to work. Walls full of windows on two sides make it well lit and full of daylight. And it’s very spacious and open. You don’t feel like you’re walking into a closet and bumping elbows with people as you try to make your way to the line to order a drink or as you balance your computer on your teeny tiny table that you might be sharing with a stranger who enjoys talking way too much people he/she doesn’t know (e.g. you!). Nope, that’s not the case at Argo Tea. I can ALWAYS find a seat!!! This is pretty amazing when you consider how swamped other cafes get with their share of college kids, entrepreneurs, people on business meetings, and then your general cafe oddball character.
As if that’s not enough, they have a ridiculously awesome menu! Especially if you like tea! I find it saddening to look through the tea options at most cafes, as you usually have your generic brand tea bags and maybe a decent chai latte, but Argo Tea has, as you might have gathered from it’s name, a specialized menu of tea drinks. You can get your coffee and cappuccinos if you like. But it’s very much a tea drinkers heaven! And even a coffee drinker might be convinced to order tea when seduced by flavors like: Tea Sangria, Red Velvet, Chocolate Mint, and Mojitea! And they have cute little sandwiches with interesting things like chai-infused cherries, brie and chicken. Yum!
I’ve been accidentally falling in love with the seasonal flavors only to have my heart broken when they are no longer available. But c’mon: Valentea (sweetened hot hibiscus tea with passion fruit flavoring), Irish Creme, Green Tea Strawberry Créme (with strawberry puree and milk!).
It’s a friendly place. A place where you can feel comfortable, so that you can muster your creative energies to put them to productive use as you sip your steamy hot or icy cold cup of deliciousness.
I frequent the one in Chelsea:
275 7th Ave, New York NY 10001
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I ran across the movie, Don’t Go In The House from 1979 by chance, and the title reminded me of my niece once saying, “Guys, I have a question. Don’t go outside.” While I realize that is not a question, the advice , is sound. (At least in the film it is, I have no idea what the out of doors situation was like to cause my niece such great concern.)
Like all of you, I admire a movie where a man catches on fire straight away; great, now I am hungry again. Anyway, as the movie progresses to the next scene, I start to get a very familiar feeling…it reminds me of another film, but I can’t quite put my hairy, yet remarkably useful finger on it…a young man who lives with his abusive, overbearing, religious mother…a bed and breakfast of some sort is coming to mind…one word title…Patholigist…Pediatrician…Sociopath…anyone? I give up.
So, the young man, Donald finds his mother dead in the house and takes it…badly. This is displayed by a zoom in on his face, which is making a series of ugly expressions, not unlike someone eating a piece of bad fish or getting a whiff of a one and a half star motel room in Oklahoma.
Donald does what anyone would do in his troubling position, he pretends she is just asleep and demands that she drink her tea. At this point, the tea thing is not happening and that is when the random voices say he is free and he can do whatever he likes. Obviously, he plays his disco music super loud and jumps on the furniture and smokes and fucks up some Precious Moments figurines real bad.
The figurines are clearly the last straw and Donald starts to hear his dead mother’s voice too-so he checks on her- yup, still dead. Now, things start to get weird and he sees flashbacks of his mother abusing him, you know, like holding his little arms over huge flames on the stove (gas, obviously), but in all fairness, she did warn him not to run and/or yell inside the house.
At this point, Donald is still hearing the voices, which is very distracting while driving and separating the whites from darks on laundry day. Okay, so now he spots a woman at a plant/flower shop and the shop is closed, but he begs her to just sell him something simple for his sick (dead, so really sick) mother and she does, reluctantly.
Now, plant lady has missed her bus and wide-eyed, Donald offers her a ride. After plant lady accepts, he suggests stopping by his house to drop off the flowers to his mother. Again, she hesitantly agrees. This can only be a mistake. (Dogs know it.) He eventually gets her to come inside to say hi to his mother, who undoubtedly, will be unable to have much to say back.
The plant lady starts wandering around the house, seeing strange, but typical, dead/abusive/mother/awkward/disconcerting/delusional/son stuff. It is now clear that Donald has a problem with using inside voices, as he yells and makes plant lady jump, “Mother must be upstairs!!’
Big surprise, she’s not upstairs, and something really bad happens, but let’s not spoil it. (You’re chained to the ceiling, naked-go!) I won’t say why, but it is apparent at this juncture, that Donald has some mild to moderate fire abuse issues and his friend at work, Bill (who looks a bit like Bill Pullman) speculates on this very matter.
By this time, Donald (who I am just now noticing looks remarkably like Bill Bixby) has found his thing (giving unsuspected, stranded women a ride and then setting them on fire, maybe). It is, at this moment, abundantly clear to me that, Don’t Go Into The House should have been called, Don’t Need/Take A ride From Some Guy That Looks Like Bill Bixby.
Donald (Donaldbill)’s friend from work (Pullman look alike, Billbill) tells him that if he is not at work Monday, he is out of a job. Donaldbill assures Billbill he will show up (as soon as he is finished punishing his dead mother, by burning a bunch of random broads, like his head voice friends want; he does not mention that part to Billbill).
Now Donaldbill has decided he needs some order around here, and instructs the crispy, not living dames to “Stop laughing!” This should not be too difficult because nothing is particularly funny and no good shows are on and they are dead. Midway through, I pretty much have the gist of this movie (hears voices, flame broils dames, mom laughs, I get it) and just want it to end.
However, apparently, Donaldbill has also grown a bit weary of his routine and decides to call his only friend from work, Billbill to hang out. Billbill says he has an even better idea and that they should go to a disco because he has “Two live ones.” (I can only assume he means two women who are not dead, which admittedly, would be a refreshing change for Donaldbill.)
Billbill advises Donaldbill to look snazzy for the disco date, so Donaldbill picks out a fancy new disco suit, and now we are cooking! (No offense burnt dead ladies.)
Once at the disco, there is a bit of snap dancing happening, but Donaldbill does not want to snap dance, so his date snap dances with some other dude and Donaldbill promptly sets her hair on fire with a candle (so, presumably, no second date for them).
Anyway, after lots of screaming, Donaldbill runs off and drives away and picks up more women, blah blah, fire, blah blah, voices, blah blah…zzzzzzzz…
Basically, this is just a movie about a motherboy, who burns women to a crisp big time and also enjoys disco music sometimes, but definitely not snap dancing of any kind, standing in front of a dead mother, with an apparent predilection for Precious Moments figurines, who won’t drink her tea, wanting to be loved.
I’m giving this movie one angry thumb up because I have yet to figure out how to make my thumb go down, however, I assure you, it is the angriest thumb of all. Get off my back. Now, who wants S’mores?
The London of my day was a filthy city, where waste buckets were dumped onto the streets, where baths were rarer than birthdays, where deadly plagues were an inevitable part of life, and where the air of the city was thick with flies and stench. And yet, as filthy as those 16th century streets were, our world was clean. Although we had begun to spoil the Earth in numerous ways, mankind was too few to do our planet loss.
But what horrors we have since brought upon the earth! Our bodies are cleaned methodically each day, but our consciences have been stained. Consider this–the number of humans alive today is greater than that of all those who have died since the stone age. We are a pulsating, multiplying horde, in unsustainable numbers, wielding the Earth like a child’s toy. “As flies to wanton boys” we pillage and destroy pure nature with direst disregard.
And yet, in spite of this troubling future, there is great hope. Never has there been such an awareness–scientifically, culturally, and spiritually–of the things we do to the world. In my era, we could not fathom that a creature as diminutive as man could do harm to the Earth. In this beautiful age, so many are fighting passionately for a sustainable, prosperous future.
Rockin’ Raw, a raw and vegan restaurant on Sullivan St. in the West Village, is one such warrior in this fight, and their weapon is fresh, delicious, ethical food.
Do not misunderstand me. I have oft written about the glory of a burger, and dined upon such things as foie gras and veal and wild boar with little thought to ethics of eating factory farmed food. And Alice can barely go a meal without tearing apart the flesh of some animal. I do this because, despite my reservations, it is too painful to me to imagine, in this ephemeral and paltry existence, flavors unknown and tastes
unexperienced. The miracle of food is too powerful to ignore, especially in an age such as ours and a place such as New York City, where the flavors of the world unite.
Rockin Raw has given me hope that one day these flavors may be experienced without the ethical and environmental cost. All the food at Rockin Raw is both vegan and raw. By vegan, I mean that no animal products were used, and by raw I mean that nothing on the menu was cooked.
Allow me to explain the science, beauty, and complexity of an uncooked meal.
For an appetizer, we began with jalepeno poppers. Deep fried and loaded with cheddar? No. The peppers were fresh and raw, filled with a cheddary sunflower paste, and coated with a flax seed “breading”. I was expecting to cringe when I had the first bite, so dissatisfied I was with prior vegan approximations of “real food.” However, I found that the experience was remarkable. This was not a meal assembled in a factory–it was fresh, real, raw food, assembled through human ingenuity into something familiar and comforting.
For the entree, I had the burrito. How does one make a raw burrito? First, the tortilla: flax seed and sun-dried tomatoes are blended together, flattened, and placed in a dehydrator. The burrito is then filled with mixed greens, salsa, delicious and creamy guacamole (if my soul were tangible, there would be avocados in it), and meat, cheese, and sour cream all made from seeds. Strange and improbable as it seems, I, a man who craves meat, found each bite fresh, fulfilling, and
interesting. I could close my eyes and taste the richness of the earth while still paying tribute to that creation I love more than almost anything–the burrito (I could still find happiness in a world where every meal was wrapped in a tortilla).
Alice had the pasta dish–Tallarines Verdes de La Lala. The noodles were made from raw squash and coated with a pesto sauce. It had all of the flavor and satisfaction of a regular pasta dish, with a kind of freshness and purity that cooked food can never give you.
But I know you, readers. I know that some of you are shuddering with each word, gagging at the word “vegan,” thinking, “that sounds awful,” and dismissing the idea that something raw and unprocessed could ever be satisfying. I am asking you to give it a try. Before you turn away from this thought, here are six reasons you should reconsider:
I will leave you with the words of Kahlil Gibran, from the chapter “On Eating and Drinking” from his magnum opus The Prophet–a book that, about 15 years ago, brought a new era of spiritual and poetic awakening to my life:
“Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
“But since you must kill to eat, and rob the newly born of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it be an act of worship.
“And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in man.”
The first issue of HungryLit has arrived! A motley band of writers and poets have here assembled to enrich the world with new words, new ideas, and new creations. Click on the cover below to begin your exploration into the world of HungryLit.
Wine can bring us moments of pure bliss. In a glass of wine you can find a snapshot of Elysium—quintessence and elegance and complexity bottled up exquisitely.
Wine can take us to heaven, but only beer can bring heaven to earth. Beer is the flavor of life—complex, bitter, sweet, filling, fizzing with entropy, bringing warmth even at its coldest, flat and stale before its time.
If you wish to escape—to fly off to Neverland—wine is the way to go. If you want to be here and now, drinking the marrow of life, you need beer.
And if you need to drink beer, German beer is never a bad choice. Germans know something of the bitterness, sweetness, order, chaos, joy, and sorrow of life, and the these things, along with a small dash of hops, yeast, water, and malted barley, are the ingredients of a good beer.
In search of the true flavor of life, I went off to Lederhosen, a German bar in the West Village. I had the Kulmbacher Eisbock, a potent 9.2% ABV brew with that trippe. Kick that sends your tongue into epileptic fits. Another diner promised it would taste like banana bread. I could not find that flavor, but it was intriguing nonetheless. It was a beer Nietzsche would have loved—an uberbeer, stoic and proud, a little bitter, and sure of itself.
Other beers at the table included Schlenkerla, a smoked beer tasting of a fire-heated cabinamong the mountains of Bavaria (much like those mountains painted on the mural overlooking the dining area), and Kostritzer black lager, a pleasant potable, smooth and dark (and a beer with a history—the first Kostritzer brewery was founded in 1543—22 years before I was born—and the poet Goethe lived off their black lager for months when sickness made it difficult for him to eat).
The only thing Germans know as well as beer is the food beer pines for in its lustful dreams. Foods like pickled herring (do not judge beer for this strange attraction—the heart wants what it wants), German potato salad, and sausage of every kind, including the currywurst and bauerwurst we ordered.
Bauerwurst is not like Bratwurst or other things you might think of when you think German sausage; it is more like a close relative of the hot dog—a swollen, juicy hot dog, more wholesome and dignified than its dirty-water cousin. The currywurst was similar to bauerwurst, with some German interpretation of curry added in.
As for my first experience with pickled herring? Do not fear it, as I once did in my younger days. The slight fishiness is offset by the pickling process, and all the improbable flavors mixed together on the plate—mustard, cabbage, and fish—combined to form something pleasant, unexpected, and refreshing.
We live on a quick segment of time—a thin thread of experience emerging from and returning to limitless oblivion. In this flash of consciousness we are given, ephermeral and saturated with wonder and mystery, there is a great debt we owe to ourselves: some new flavor, or sensation, or parcel of knowledge must be offered up to our experience every week and every day and every hour as tribute to the tenuousness of our lives. Our existence is not a gift—it is on loan from the cosmos, and she will one day claim what she has given.
And when this repo man of mortality comes I would not lower my head in shame and cry, “but I have never had bauerwurst! I have never tasted pickled herring!”
Chuck’s Margarita Grill: A Restaurant Review and Tale of Gothic Horror
By our special guest author, Edgar Allan Poe
I was breaking into an uncontrollable perspiration, and my head was swimming. What had been done to me? I clasped at my innards through this stranger’s coat, as though my hands might pass through the clammy skin of my abdomen to assuage my aching organs. As I slumped down from a bench in Branford center to the night’s unforgiving cold concrete, I pondered… how did I get here?
I had arrived at Chuck’s Margarita Grill in Branford early in the evening filled with merriment and determined to make the night all the merrier. My bartender Reynolds slid me the first of my Cuervo Gold margaritas, a tasty confection suited to the tropics. Two of these accompanied a small bowl of salsa, and some over-fried and oily tostado chips.
“How strange it is, Reynolds, that a watering hole once simply called ‘Margarita’s’ has now come to be called ‘Chuck’s Margarita’,” I noted to after washing a mouthful of rim salt down with citrus glory. “’Margarita’ surely conveys a Mexican flavor. But surely ‘Chuck’ does not. Should it not be ‘Carlos’?”
Reynolds took little note. The Branford Regal cinema had let out, and a few tight-sweatered “Twilight “ enthusiasts had settled into the bar next to me. They fiddled with their iPhones and took little note of Reynolds’ attempts to take in their physical charms.
The choice of food was to be had off of a Mexican menu, which was of the normal trifold variety, and from an American menu, which was scrawled onto a plastic barrel. “Los Nachos Fantasticos Grande, and the fish tacos,” I said to Reynolds. He nodded and disappeared.
I hungrily consumed the nachos, which were larded with cheese and mild beans, sour cream, jalapenos and house made guacamole. There was nothing special about these. The fish tacos soon followed, as did two more Cuervo Gold margaritas.
I thought little special of the meal, and as I stood to leave, I felt the distinct onset of borborygmos… a rumbling of the intestines so profound, the young ladies at the bar took notice over the jukebox selection of Triumph’s “Tonight We’re On the Loose.”
Indeed, something was on the loose tonight. I made my way quickly to men’s room, and barely made it to a stall before a great explosion from my nether-throat startled other occupants into a hurried departure. And as I sat there, with little warning, I vomited into my shirt and underwear.
When I felt it had subsided, I washed up as best I could. I had ruined my coat hopelessly, and deposited it in the waste receptacle. I then searched the coatrack for a replacement to protect me against the night’s chill.
Having found a suitable fit in a man’s topcoat, somewhat over-sized, I made my way out. Driving away I only reached the idyllic center of Branford, and stepped from the car to once again vomit, this time into the still, quiet night air.
What had taken hold of me? Was it this Cuervo Gold acting as a Gold Bug, biting me and sending me into madness and despair? Cursed Reynolds… what had he served me?
I looked up to see black bird, a raven, observing me with interest. It astonished me as it spoke. “Nevermore.”
“If only,” I said, but knew I would vomit again. For on this midnight dreary, I found myself quite weak and weary.
I shall eat at Chuck’s Margarita Grill… NEVERMORE.
Edgar Allan Poe, our guest writer this week, began his career as a 19th century author and literary critic. He is now involved with Connecticut politics.
I can do a remarkable impersonation of Michael Caine introducing himself and then eating an invisible banana (or whatever invisible fruit is preferable and in season at the time). It was at a party, while doing that very impression and pantomiming fruit eating that I first learned of the film The Island, from 1980, starring Michael Caine. The film starts strong, and much like Tom had Rene at hello (I was once held captive and forced to watch Jerry Maguire and listen to Color Me Badd for fourteen hours, which is how I learned English and shame and that I do not care for small, blonde, mostly balding gorillas with above average-sized heads), The Island had me at axe-wielding pirates, people in small swimming bottoms, and numerous flying bloody body parts.
Michael Caine plays a reporter who plans to go and investigate the disappearance of a number of sail boats and yachts in the Caribbean, but his ex-wife throws a human wrench into the works by dropping off their son with him for the weekend unexpectedly. Caine decides to bring his young son along on the investigation with the promise of a fun trip to Disney World (just as soon as they solve the whole missing boat mystery because surely that won’t take up the entire weekend). They set out on a drive, stopping along the way to maybe grab a snack, buy a gun for the kid to play with on the way to Disney World, and take a leak. They then hop into a tiny plane with a shady (he is decidedly sweaty and wearing little shorts) pilot, and after a crash landing of sorts, they all flee the wreckage mere moments before it explodes.
Caine and his boy find themselves on an island, which is pretty much abandoned, save for some old nut-ball man and some law officer type person. Caine tries to make the most of their misfortune by renting one of the crazy man’s boats and taking his son fishing (practically the same thing as Disney World, so everyone wins). Things seem pleasant for the moment, I mean, what could possibly sully a nice relaxing fishing excursion? An ill-tempered pirate with a great big knife jumping up out of the water
and onto your little boat that you rented from some wack-job on a desolate island. The good news is Caine still has his boy’s gun and shoots the tetchy pirate, killing him. The bad news is there are more pirates with more really big knives and now they are really mad.
The indignant pirates take Caine and his boy to another island with nothing but a shit-ton of fuming pirate men and one livid, very recently widowed (by Caine’s gun-toting hand) pirate woman. After a fair trial of spitting and shouting and laughing and taunting and setting various things on fire, the pirates decide that Caine should be the widow’s new thruster man and make a baby with her in the hopes of strengthening their gross, incesty bloodline (let’s face it, these guys are not getting out to the clubs to pick up non sister/mom/daughter/cousin/aunt/grandmother dames much) with Caine’s wang. It is also deemed appropriate to take Caine’s boy, rename him Rhubarb or something, and turn him into a ruthless blood-thirsty murderer who hates his real dad (Caine) and only answers to his new dad (Crabbypants Pirate). As you can imagine, a process resulting in changing everything one has ever known or loved as the base of their well-being and very existence would take a while, like a good two to three hours.
Caine (now prisoner/breeder man) and his boy (now biological dad hater/new little brat pirate) are brought along on the next yacht pillaging raid, upon which Caine notices many large bags of cocaine and the pirates encounter and kill many drunk/high people and one ready to fight everyone while donning only his tiny underpants guy. Fortuitously, some Coast Guard people are looking for this cocaine and stumble upon the pirate yacht takeover and things seem to be looking up. My point is, cocaine saves people. Or, maybe not and they are all severely knived and die horribly. But, as luck would have it, there are plenty more Coast Guard people and lots of cocaine to find…so that all of them can be brutally slaughtered too, leading to some confusing Coast Guard radio talk, “Our men were attacked by pirates.” “Pilates?” “Pirates.” “Pyrex?” “Pirates.” “Prom dates?” “PIRATES!” Now, I don’t want to spoil things for you, but let’s just say Micheal Caine suddenly turns into Rambo and we all know there is nothing like a giant blood bath to remind you who your real daddy is. All right, we’re going to Disney World!
I am giving The Island one angry thumb up because, in the words of a reasonably furry man who is wise in the ways of life, love, and oatmeal, “It’s the right thing to do and a tasty way to do it. Diabeetus.”
I am not a rich man. Sure, there was a time when I had some wealth, due to my share in the original Globe Theater, but that burned down long ago, and I have been dead for 400 years, and all my copyrights have long expired, so my income has been quite limited in the centuries past. Alice and I, a graduate student and a teacher these days, must live from paycheck to paycheck.
And so, to you wealthy readers who prate about luxury, who favor champagne and caviar as a midday snack, who fly to Aruba for a weekend in a private jet to battle the ennui, who live in estates with an “east wing” and go for treatments from your personal Swedish masseuse in your personal spa while enjoying food prepared by your personal chef, I declare that you do not know what luxury is. Luxury is too common for you. Luxury is banal and ordinary. You have forgotten how it feels.
Luxury is a rare and precious thing, and when I cradle it in my arms, oft for no more than an hour, I am sure to admire it wholly and completely, to savor it’s warm embrace, to treasure the moment of completeness it brought me. Luxury, much like our lives, is ephemeral and precious. One must never take it for granted.
Alice and I, poor folk though we are, were seeking out this Sunday night an evening of pure luxury. There were many reasons for this quest, chief among them the celebration of our lives together, in honor of St. Valentine, who, against the cruelty of Roman law held secret services between Roman soldiers and their lovers. We sought as well a rest from the vicissitudes of life—a reward to ourselves for the hard work and the long hours.
Yet I had still another reason for my quest of luxury, unknown to Alice until the moment the truth was unveiled. My true intention this evening—my motivation for a romantic evening and an expensive restaurant and an outpouring of luxury—was to ask of Alice her hand in marriage.
I know what you are thinking. You are remembering something you may have learned in your High School English class—that I had already married—to Ann Hathaway in the 16th Century—and had three children—Hamnet, Judith, and Susanna. A marriage of convenience, I assure you, from a past life, from which all parties have perished through the passage of cruel time. This is a new eon, and I seek a truer love.
Love, unique among luxuries, does not get stale with age. It grows with each day, and new facets emerge. It is not a single luxury, but a journey of luxuries—like a new glass of wine each day, a new experience in each hour together, a new sensation, pure and perfect, radiating through your life, bringing warmth and joy to each corner of your soul.
Alice and I, through our seven and a half year courtship, have known love in many forms—silly, silly love of youth, the tumultuous love full of struggle and doubt as we fight to make sense of our dreams, and the mature love on the other side of the mountain, sure of itself, perfect and complete, readying us for all that is to come.
We began the evening at Vin Sur Vingt, a Wine Bar on West 11th Street by 7th Avenue. We experienced a delightful wine flight in the intimate, romantic setting while two gentlemen played Flamenco guitar (including an ironically serene and pretty version of the Rolling Stone’s “Paint it Black”). We gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes, and spoke of our lives together.
But that was just the beginning. For the place of the proposal I chose Aureole, Charlie Palmer’s famed French Restaurant in Midtown. Normally I am wary of any restaurant within three blocks of Times Square, but my research into the location promised a romantic, classy setting, different from the tourist traps that define the area, and a prix fixe meal of divers, magical experience, to rival the magic of love.
In case you are wondering the word “aureole,” from the Latin for gold, does not refer to a part of the breast—that is “areola”—but to that golden glow surrounding sacred figures in religious paintings. Since I was seeking such a glow in my own life, it seemed like a fitting destination.
The restaurant did not disappoint. Each course that came was a miracle of science—an ingeniously crafted work of art arranged on the plate to dazzle the eye and offer up to the senses experiences never before known.
It began with a complementary amuse-bouche with egg, ham, and caviar bathed in a savory dash of pork broth. Then came the appetizers—foie gras for me, and butternut squash agnolotti for Alice (short rib and hazelnut and a number of other dazzling flavors arranged carefully on each plate), complemented by the Prosecco I ordered when Alice was off in the bathroom.
Then came the main course—Pork Loin with black truffle jus, and aged ribeye. The food was so marvelously arrayed that I insisted Alice take a picture. It was a few moments after the photograph that she noticed the ring in my hand.
And then came the most spectacular, delightful, delicious part of the evening—she said, “yes.”
All that followed was divine, and endowed us with that same aureole that the name of the venue promised—there was indeed a sacred glow about us from that moment on.
Dessert was a chocolate soup and a toffee pudding with Maker’s Mark ice cream each adorned with a candle and the word “congratulations.”
Luxury is all around us. It is in a rich meal in a rich restaurant, in the crackling of a spoon against crème brulee, and in an elegant cappuccino. It is in the feel of satin and velvet under your fingertips. It is in a warm, percolating Jacuzzi that nibbles on your skin. But it is also in the palm of your hand pressed against the palm of the woman you love. Luxury is sharing Darrel Lee mango licorice with someone special while sitting on a futon and watching “The Walking Dead.”
I have Angie (aka “Alice”) in my life, forever, and count myself among the 1%—we few, we happy few, rich in love and luck and luxury, savoring the warm glow (or aureole) that each day brings, treasuring each moment together, and knowing that in the trials of life we shall not stand alone.