Monthly Archives: May 2009

Foods at the street fair

I made it to the food fair, on 9th between 57th and stretching, it seemed, as far down as 40th.  I only made it to 44th or so, but I still saw a crazy bevy of sights.  Games, food, shows, amusements – it seemed totally out of place for New York City. 

I was assaulted in quick succession upon entry to the area by water-gun games and ‘horse racing’ games (the kind in which players roll balls up a ramp and into slots on a board, each trying to push their horse to the finish fasted in order to win a prize); I saw underwear vendors and bedspread salesmen who touted the thread counts of their linens; I saw a man selling Sham-Wows (no mention of the oroginal pitchman being in prison for hiring, and then assaulting, a Las Vegas prostitute); I saw children playing on inflatable slides and in bouncy castles, which sparked in me for the first time in years the yearning to be young and tiny once more.

But mostly, I saw food.  Here are the things I saw for sale, and which I ate:

Fried fish, fried chicken, chicken wings, rice and beans, mac and cheese, and fried shrimp, all of which were for sale at a vendor who marked their wares halal, of which I was suspect, given that I believe shellfish to be as verboten for observant Muslims as they are for Jews.  Carribean food – jerk chicken, curried goat, meat patties.  Mozzarepa, a grilled cheese sandwhich served on grilled two corn pancakes.  Chinese food – which I saw plenty of people eaating out of the white-and-red takeout containers.  Why they decided to walk around eating fried rice in the middle of the street, I have no idea; there is almost no other food less conducive to ambulatory walking.  Burgers, one vendor of which touted as the best in New York and offered a challenge for people to find better – a challenge which is easy to make, given that few people at the street fair would have the means to walk home, make a burger, and carry it back to the man still fresh and hot and in time for him to try.  Pizza, which prompted me to strike up a discussion with one guy I ran into – a man whom I found out is a trained chef, though not someone who cooks professionally, and whom had once been on a Food Network TV show – about the glory and ease of making Breakfast Pizza.[i]   Chocolate-dipped-anything on a stick: marshmallows, strawberries, apples, and grapes (which, few people know, is actually the best of all possible chocolate-dipped fruits; they are sweet, but tart, and the skin gives a natural and satisfying snap as you bite through the chocolate shell and into the fruit, a snap which yields to soft, unctuous, and sweet – but, again still tart – inner flesh).  Chocolate cake, topped with raspberries, which, after mac and cheese, delectable flour-battered shrimp, and sangria from an outdoor bar stand that also served the Asian Chicken Salad that a number of people with whom I had since joined up tried, I bought from a pair of men whose prinicipal ware was soft shell crab sandwiches.  They let me watch as they pulled a live crab from a bucket, ripped out its guts, floured it, cleaved off its forebrain and face, and threw it, still twitching into a pot of boiling oil that sat just a foot above the city’s pavement whereupon car tires had passed screeching not two days before. 

There were plenty of alcohol vendors besides the one sangria place, which was nice, though most sat in front of brick-and-mortar bars to which it was clear that they belonged; it seemed in fact that the only restaurants along the busy 9th avenue that bothered to open storefront street cafes were places with liquor licenses that relied primarily on the booze trade both in al fresco settings and inside.  There was greek food, delicious looking shwarma and gyros and kebabs.  I saw whole roasting pigs on spits, which took me back to Texas in my mind; there were also pulled pork sandwiches to be had.  The Cuban places served pork as well and didn’t shy away from showing off whole hindquarters of roast pig at their stalls; the Latin booths (Dominicans, especially) offered a whole varieyty of foods all their own that were no less tantalizing for their relative obscurity in the American culinary landscape: empanadas, patties both meat and vegetarian, tamales, items con queso and con quezo, et al.  In fact, in hindsight, the most glaringly absent ethnic foods were some of the more popular in regular New York City culinary life: Korean, Japanese, and Indian were nowhere to be seen.  Instead, there was all the bevy listed above, plus more.  I saw clams being offered, and fresh-shucked oysters on the half-shell; more than once did I see folks chowing down – in the middle of the street! – on opulent whole red lobster!

 


[i] Breakfast pizza is a bachelor’s dream.  It’s a great food in the morning in the afternoon, equally good whether hungover or not, requires little in the way of ingredients and nothing at all special or out of the ordinary.  It’s hot, but the cooking and prep time are minimal, and it makes for great use of leftovers that would either go to waste, or be consumed under sub-optimal conditions and without a great deal of pleasure.

How to make it?  It’s easy.  First, take your leftover pizza, the stuff from last night that you threw into the fridge.  Now get a pan, butter, and some eggs.

Scramble the eggs and pour them into the hot buttered pan.  You can keep scrambling them in the pan, but it’s better if you leave them omelet-style – it tastes better, looks better, and is easier to eat.

When the plain omelet is about ready, pull off the top of the pizza – the cheese is cold and congealed now, so this should be pretty easy; it doesn’t have to all come off in one piece – and place it into the middle of your omelet.  Look at that!  You’ve just made a cheese omelet – hell, maybe a pepperoni and cheese omelet, or a mushroom, cheese and onion omelet, or whatever else you had the pizza topped with!

That’s pretty good, but it gets better.  You’re going to take that now-naked slice, and stick it in an oven, toaster oven, or microwave.  Heat it up, and when it’s done, drop your nice hot omelet onto your pizzatoast.

Ta-da!  You’ve made breakfast pizza!  It’s delicious, and I bet no one has ever thought to show you that neat trick before.  Go ahead, impress your friends.

Bad Rainbow

She bled black like bad rainbow
Skinny wrist cut skinny still
Ink colored back slash black back pack stuffed pack
Pretty pills make her pretty still
She dance none but one more bad rainbow made her black
She cut ink pen on skin like steel spike just right
Just wrong just off but not off center off kilter
Light filtered through broken glass painted black made bad rainbow but not quite
Dead tree bleeds black leaves
Weep willow weep leaves black leaves tears leave black smears on a notebook page
Like balled fist rage like animal caught cage like older without age
And still she’s so still
She smiles dark sky almost black eye liner with finer lines traced countless times
Colored wrist map like skinny waist covered skinny belt buckle 
Skinny like sideways head cracked wide
Bleed out slow like bad rainbow blood
Good comes from nothing for nothing but bad rainbow stains like always
Roots rot quick like hollow trunk thick
Burrow home hurry back bury one in the sack
Like your bag brim stuffed with pretty pills give tiny thrills make giants ills never pretty still
She painted black on grey white yellow paper typed strong word like flutter hard fast night bird
But dark star heart broke black and shattered bleak again
So black sky moon shines bad rainbow on the roof
And still she’s so still because pretty pills make her pretty ill

I loved her from the moment I met her, but I can’t contain her bad rainbow and I don’t know what else to do.

New clothes…

A couple weeks ago I was in Chicago with a couple of friends. We went to the Art Institute and were quite impressed with the wondrous works that we saw. From Van Gogh to Toulouse-Lautrec, the pieces seemed to emote history and power. Standing in the presence of Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Seurat’s masterpiece, I was overwhelmed by the enormity. And yet made up of tiny dots. To be close to canvas was to understand the amazing skill and control that was necessary to create such a marvelous work. The idea behind the work manifest in colors, technique, and the brilliance that separates an average artist from a truly iconic one.

As I walked from one room in the institute to another, I continued to stand in the presence of truly authentic pieces that resonated happiness, sadness, desire, and beauty. As my patience began to dwindle, we walked into the modern art section of the art institute and I was struck by __________. Absolutely nothing. Now, you can ridicule my understanding of the art world, and I will gladly accept the criticism. But, as an art nonner, I was still able to appreciate the intricacies and lovely brushstrokes that went into other pieces. In the modern art area, I could only question what separated a brilliant piece from the trash heap. The answer, of course, is subjectivity.

To hide my ignorance as much as possible, I will ignore the pieces featuring multiple lines and come areas that happened to be colored in. I guess it’s not as haphazard as it seems. Nor is it made in Microsoft Paint. The work that caused me to truly detest this… art… was a piece titled Erection. I couldn’t see it initially but heard the woman in front of me whisper, “maybe they put a piece of paper over it…”. When my turn finally came, I witnessed the absolute nothing that was Erection. I can describe it nearly perfectly: 18 inches x 14 inches or so… fringe still on the page… attached at the top… appeared to have been ripped out of a book with metal spiral rings. Nothing else was there. It was in a frame… but I don’t think that the artist had provided that.

As Robert and I ridiculed the painting, Lyndon attempted to explain that it is the ‘idea’ that is essential and not the work. In response to the question of whether or not I could have done the same thing and gotten my piece into the art institute, Lyndon responded that I possibly could.. but did not think of the work. Well, ignoring the fact that not thinking of anything is something that I have done quite a lot of, I can’t argue that I would ever think to submit.. nothing.. to a prestigious institute.

However, this defense of the piece from Lyndon drew an interesting response from Robert. He cited the Emperor’s New Clothes – and what I believe is a completely valid criticism of art, music, fashion, and other circles where correct answers can never be persued. As in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, when somebody with power asserts that something is great or valid, no matter how ridiculous, it is taken as such. These feelings trickle down to the public until everybody is essentially lieing to themselves and the community claiming to see something that is not there. By placing this piece, Erection, on display, some higher, probably artistically brilliant, ‘pioneer’ is claiming the work is great. And every person that walks past it and considers it momentarily and lets it go is a) passively agreeing to it as an artistically valid piece and/or b) deceiving themselves to find something worthwhile in nothing. We are lucky to live in an internet world where any of us can critique and criticize behind a veil of anonymity; and I will agree that these art fields receive a large amount of harsh words because the nature of art is public. We are raised to examine and select what we like in all of the arts- but we are driven by these higher powers selecting and displaying what they consider to be worthwhile. It is time that we attain a more personal attachment with art. Myspace gave us access to bands in a whole new way- anybody could search and listen to hundreds of thousands of bands to determine their tastes. Rather than merely relying on large institutes, perhaps art can be revolutionalized in a similar fashion. Although I am not sure if there is sufficient interest in this.

The Syster

Syster! Syster! far away
In the suburbs of Jersey,
What immortal deity
Made us siblings, you and me?

From what upper pantheon
Was our fate decided on?
What was planned for us by He,
God of Genealogy?

And what purpose, & what plan
Did a sibling so demand?
And on the day you came to be
Was fulfilled some prophecy?

What the future? What the past?
Why were you nor I the last?
What the others? What their role
When our histories are told?

When the fates who guide my hand
Wrote the life that they had planned,
Did they know that you would be
Tied into my destiny?

Syster! Syster! far away
In the suburbs of Jersey,
What immortal deity
Made us siblings, you and me?

Dr. Feelgood, meet Dr. Strangelove

I asked him how he felt about Motley Crüe and he asked me what that was. I bit my bottom lip to keep mouth shut because I didn’t want to say something mean and ruin the interview — nothing kills the mood like a missed metal joke. Wait, that was a lie; Crüe kills the mood much more violently (unless you’re Pam and it’s 1995, but I’m not and it’s not).

I took a few moments to collect my thoughts; he took the silence as an invitation, and told me that I smell like an arboretum, which I suppose was flattering, but still. Is there a more un-sexy word than ‘arboretum?’ Even ‘syphilis’ is sexier; it’s smooth, and sibilant. I said “Thank you,” as he twirled my hair around his finger and looked up at me with puppy dog eyes. Except you know those little tiny dogs that hump everything they see? It was those kind of puppy dog eyes. I reminded him that this was strictly professional.

“Of course,” he said. His eyes narrowed as his brows raised.

“Um, so, what else do you have in your uh, medical bag there?” I asked, hoping he would stop touching me. He didn’t.

“Do you want to see?”

“Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point, right?”

A moment of hesitation. “Right,” he said, and got off the bed to grab his bag. It even had a red medic sign on the side. I would have laughed if I wasn’t so afraid that his cologne might suffocate me.

“Lie back,” he said. “Trust me.” So I did, and he tied a blindfold around my eyes and bound my wrists to the bedpost. But I wasn’t nervous. “You know, it’s difficult for me to…truly demonstrate what I can do if you won’t remove your clothes.” I got nervous.

“That’s alright. I just need an example to get the idea of it. So I can write about it later.”

“As you…desire,” he said, and by the sound of it, went back to his bag of tricks.

” So women let you do this? Find a stranger on the Craig’s List, and let him tie them up and blindfold them? Really?” He pressed something cold, hard, and smooth against my arms. As much as I hate to admit it, I felt kind of nice, like metallic fingers tracing lines along my skin.

“There’s nothing strange in what I do,” he said, with a lonely trail of reverb in his throat. “I offer them pleasure. Release. An escape from stress. And I ask nothing in return.”

Nothing at all? I pondered this for a moment, but my thoughts were interrupted by the realization that he was using a spoon to turn me on, and that it was actually kind of working. I asked him, with a distinct tone of urgency, to take the blindfold and the handcuffs off. And he did. He wasn’t offended at all; in fact, he was remarkably sweet about the whole thing.

We ended up lying in bed, just talking for a while, about his loneliness, and his search for true intimacy, and how this hasn’t worked but he keeps trying anyway. I couldn’t decide if he was noble, pathetic, or just plain sad. And then I couldn’t tell the difference between them anymore, so I fucked him. What else was I supposed to do?

238

I just got home to New York, place of my birth. This past Sunday, I went to New York City for the first time since I’d gotten home – the first time in about a year, in fact – and I was expecting great things.

I was told to go fuck myself by three different people within my first hour.

The first was a man driving a black sedan with Taxi & Limousine Commission plates. He pulled up right alongside me as I was getting a clean shirt out of the trunk of my car.

“I’m not getting out,” I said.

The car didn’t pull away, so I repeated myself. Rather than drive off though, the car inched forward, creeping up right alongside me. I noticed that the side window was open.

“Sorry, I’m not getting out,” I said once more, exasperated at my failure to communicate.

But the guy didn’t pull away.  Instead, he inched forward, looked me right in the eye, and glared. “Did I fucking ask you if you were getting out?” he said. “Huh? Did you hear me ask you once if you were getting out?” And with that, he threw his car in park in the middle of the street, hopped out of the car, and blew right past me on the way into the Korean deli.

Quite a welcome home.

The second guy who told me to go fuck myself – actually, he called me a fucking asshole – was a fellow riding a motorized wheelchair. I was just walking by a stand selling back copies of Life magazine, and as I turned to check out what else they might be selling, a voice called to me from my side, “Hey, man!”

I glanced over and saw a fifty-something gentleman in glasses and a black baseball cap sitting in a motorized scooter right in front of me. I stepped out of the way, and as I did, he muttered his obscenity.

I was taken by such surprise that I couldn’t keep quiet. I literally was shocked past the point of stunned silence and into the domain of immediate respose.

“Did you just call me a fucking asshole for walking down the sidewalk?” I said. Immediately, I noticed the appendage I’d tacked onto the end of that sentence, and the irony inherent in uttering it to a man riding in a wheelchair.

He just tapped the side of his head, near his temple, right above his eyes, and drove off.

The third was at a small public park just north of Lincoln Center that was dominated by metal wire coffee tables, placed in a triangle at the intersection of Columbus Ave. and Broadway. I seated myself outside, enjoying the pleasant afternoon air, and glanced at a few sections of the New York Times. It was a few minutes before there was anywhere I had to be, so, having just taken the Arts and City sections, as well as the Sunday magazine, from a pile of discarded paper parts left in the corner of a Starbucks that I’d popped into to take a napkin to blow my nose, I began flipping through the pages.

When I was done, I decided to do a good deed. I left behind those parts of the paper I’d brought – minus the crossword, which I’d taken care to rip out of the magazine and save  for later – on the table at which I’d been sitting, thinking that whomsoever might next come there might enjoy reading them. Rather than have to sit with nothing to do, I figured, they’d get to pass the time by checking out some of the week’s more interesting news stories. Paying it forward, that was me: fresh in New York and ready to add a little levity to strangers’ lives.

It wasn’t five seconds before I was cussed out.

“What the fuck you think you’re doing?”

It was a parks employee. I’d seen him darting between the tables with a wheeled trash can just moments before.

“Just gonna leave your newspaper there like that, huh? Not even gonna fuckin’ pick it up.”

I was so embarrased that I didn’t even dare turn to explain to him why I’d left it. I just lowered my head and scurried across the intersection.

Ahh, springtime in New York.  It’s magical.

Another Alcoholic Apology

This warm beer reminds me of you
Your place always smelled like the morning after
I remember the bathtub full of empty bottles
We laid there, entwined like gin-soaked barnacles
Sucking on each other as if to keep from being swept away by the tide
They say the first time is always the best
But I would beg to differ
I would trade youthful hope and alcoholic joy for the longing despair of the last time any day
I remember lying there in the woods
The leaves crinkling under my feet as I pulled my pants back on
I never should have said the things I did
I meant every word, but we both knew the score
It was selfish, but I hope you can understand

The label is slowly peeling away from the bottle
Your eyes were always so bright
I remember lying in the dark in your bed
Your head on my chest rising and falling with the rhythm of my breath
You told me how you could read people so well
But you were never able to figure me out
And how much that scared you
I told you not to worry, that I would never hurt you and that everything would be alright
But sometimes marijuna and vodka make me say things I know aren’t true
Sometimes lies hurt less than the truth
Lonely New Jersey nights make me nostalgic for things I never had

My fingers smells like smoke and sex
I miss the cold bathroom tile on my back
Your mischevious grin as you locked the door behind your
The crunch of Pennsylvania leaves
The dark back corner of a Valentine’s Day movie theater
No one else really understands why I like Daredevil so much
I wonder if Ben Affleck in red leather makes you think about me
I wonder if you think that sex just feels better on the bathroom floor
I wonder if you were ever able to figure me out
I’d sure like to know if you did
I’ve never been too sure about it myself
I drift in and out these days
It’s hard to keep yourself when you’re busy loosing everything else