Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What I did on my Holidays: Part 3

Waiting patiently in a squished-up queue for an alleged bagel at the gate in O’Hare, I was blatantly queue-jumped by the woman behind me, an air hostess who immediately apologised when she realised – I mocked sheer disgust just because I could and she parried back with equal mock horror and shame. So as we pretended to chat I was my usual sickeningly charming self, throwing out more dangerous topics of conversation just to see how unserious she took things. Tall, thin and very pretty for her age, she must’ve been a stunner 25 years ago when the profession itself was still just about holding onto its glamourous past.

When we realised we were on the same flight together, I wondered if I should have been quite so risky in the stuff I said. I like to push the envelope with strangers, but always to give them a laugh they don’t expect. Never to offend or attract and usually not if I think I might actually see them again. So I stepped aboard hoping for a calm, hassle-free flight where I could keep my head down and not have to do the polite smiling thing every time she walked up and down the aisle – until we reach the uncomfortable point where I don’t. Followed by an embarrassed stepping off of the plane where you say ‘goodbye’ and mean ‘I’m sorry I ignored you but I am overly bound up in the stresses of polite behaviour within the confined space of this plane and of modern Western society’. And she will say ‘goodbye’ and mean ‘I know, you fucker. But it’s ok, I’ve had thousands of confused young men pass through this pressurized cabin and a respectable proportion of them pass through my own pressurized cabin and your inability to deal with such a simple situation due to a misunderstanding of the implied rules of the game is nothing new to me, you fucker. Have a nice day’.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, as I often do (I can also get head from myself, which I almost never do). Let it be said that I’ve never flown first class and unless I marry a rich man I probably never will but I got just a taste on my trip from Chicago to Seattle. Sat next to two very talkative guys in coach and with the seatbelt sign barely off, she appeared from nowhere and leaned in over my neighbours to ask ‘are they bothering you? I’ll see if I can have them moved if they are’. I almost shat myself with laughter and embarrassment – the guys were too stunned to say anything, probably both thinking they’d misheard. She then smilingly explained to them that I was getting special treatment on this flight. I literally gulped. They laughed. She moved off to deal with other, less important passengers.

5 minutes later, on a supposedly sold-out flight, she returned to tell me she’d found me ‘a better seat’. I very sheepishly gathered my stuff up, shrugged to my neighbours and left. Walking the full length of the cabin until I just before reached first class, there were two empty seats at the very front where I was sat down, handed a pack of peanuts and a drink and left to deal with feeling of 80 pairs of envious eyes on the back of my head. But it was worth it, for damn sure. I get restless if I’m in a confined space, so I stretched my legs out to the fullest extent since there was nothing but empty space in front of me. It’s why I don’t live in a priest-hole (though I’ve met a few unfortunate Irish lads who…um...never mind).

The most embarrassing moment of all was when she came and offered me and only me a cookie. I felt like a kid who’s travelling alone for the first time and whose parents have asked for him to be looked after. I swear she turned and swished with tangible umbrage simply because I declined the gesture. Of course, maybe I shouldn’t have turned it down like this:

“no, thanks, I’m ok…..Mum

Oh god, I’ve just reminded a lady of a certain age of her certain age. The envelope had been pushed too far. It’s been turned into a jiffy bag filled with burning dog shit, marked ‘return to sender’

And the stupid thing is, I wanted a cookie. It’s just that I sometimes struggle against the key lesson my mother brought me up with, which is: Always, but always do look a gift horse in the mouth.

Eventually we got chatting again and when I asked for her name and how to spell it, in that faintly understood way that maybe I’d be sending a letter of praise to her employer (which I have), any perceived slight was forgotten. She absolutely made that flight for me. It’s rare that anyone cares that much about what they do anymore. Of course she was just having a laugh in a job she’s done a million times before, trying to keep it interesting. I was reluctant but ultimately happy to oblige. I’d blog her name and the airline I flew but for the fact that they’re probably crazy enough to discipline her for that free cup of peanuts.

When it was time to disembark (or de-plane, as they say here, leaving themselves open to justified ridicule), I had to wait until every other passenger had left before I could nip to the back of the plane to get my luggage. As I grabbed my stuff, over the intercom a voice came through ‘Come on Nutgroist, will you get off the goddamn plane please, we’ve been waiting 10 minutes to close up here. Do you love it so much you really want to stay on? Did I look after you too good?’ And she’s standing at the exit talking down the intercom phone next to the other stewards and both pilots, all arms folded and looking straight at me. So I deplaned pretty quick, saying a hurried ‘goodbye’ and meaning, of course, ’goodbye’.

Today's Keith Jarrett encore is from Paris in 1989. Blues. And it is.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What I did on my Holidays: Part 2

So after the KJster we went for a drink at the John Hancock tower, the second tallest building in Chicago and 96 floors above the city; the whole thing spread out in front of us with thousands of little tangerine lights (honestly) stretching into lines beyond the horizon. Lake Michigan was like deep space compared to what enveloped it. My friend said it was as if we were looking into a Canyon of Skyscrapers. A hyper-real 3D high-definition slowly-evolving painting, like 21st century Nazca lines, like a circuit-board seen from the top of the CPU, like that scene in Tron, like the pear martini I had ordered lavishly garnished with overblown simile and a dash of hyperbolic, fruity regret. Here’s a photo I took with my camera phone that does it about as much justice as the State of California gave OJ's in-laws.

We stood over this city, separated only by a pane of glass and felt immensely satisfied with the way the day had gone. But we still took a cab to a 24hr diner famous for selling big fat dirty sausages. For me, it was the resolution of an unconscious wish to visit such an establishment. Though largely unbeknownst to my conscious self, the minute I stepped through the door this dream was realised. After a lifetime of receiving a whole century’s worth of Americana, suddenly here I was: In The Movies. And so tasty were the hotdogs that after eating two plus a box of fries, I went ahead and ordered The Big Al. I had visions of a large long heavy sausage, perhaps baked in a mould fashioned from Big Al’s own, original sausage. Maybe it even came with balls and a cheese filling. But no. Indeed, as the words came out of my mouth to order I realised I’d got myself into a world of trouble:

“You want that diiiIIIiipped?”

-I don’t know. Do I? What is it?

Turning to his colleagues at the grill station. “Aw man, he don’t know what diiiiiiipped is.”

-I don’t even know what a big al’s is. Im from out of town (said in an accent somewhere between Bertie Wooster, Billy Bunter and Little Lord Fauntleroy)

“Yo’, I give it to you haaaalf-diiiiipped. Sweet peppers or hot peppers?”

-Hot, please

And with that, in some portakabin on the upper slopes of Mount Olympus the minor official that deals with the Retribution for Foodic Hubris took a break from his work to crack open the vintage Ambrosia, having just won himself a fat bonus for the classically Greek way he’d guided me to engineer my own downfall, fatal flaw and all.

2 minutes later I get a big wrap of far-from-grease-proof paper and have to unfurl a good five layers of this thing. I feel like im at a pass-the-parcel party where it’s been decided to put a big lump of sticky dog shit in the middle and im the lucky winner. But no, underneath the soggy catering paper is a soggy, sodden hot dog bun jammed with 20,000 very thin slices of mystery meat (at a guess, somewhere between free-range Dog and factory-farmed Cat) and slathered in the chilli equivalent of hundreds and thousands - four colours of minutely chopped hot peppers. Half-dipped meant, I think, that they take the whole thing and immerse it in a big pot of bubbling animal grease for a short space of time. What would it have turned out to be if I’d gone for the full dip? The bap was literally falling apart in my hands as it was.

It looked disgusting but it tasted vile. I only ended up eating nearly all of it, the last little bit I left when my inner adult kicked in and reminded me that this holiday from Planet Vega didn’t mean I was contracted to spend my time in last summer's Beirut. As I left, I noticed they had a framed Zagat certificate on their counter. Either they’d stolen it or Zagat’s standards have slipped a couple of thousand points

The difference between my shits the next day was quite, quite fascinating. Do read on. The one I took at 3am when I got in was smooth, slightly oily, neatly packed and densely flavoured. In appearance it had a nutty brown hue generously marbled with strains of rich mahogany. Delivery was friction-free with gentle and satisfying ploppage. Aftertaste was clean, fresh and sharp. No crumbs.

The one I took at 7am when I woke up was a whole different ball game, if the ball is a lump of loosely congealed poo-flakes and the game is to spray as much of the toilet bowl as you possibly can in the few billionths of a second you have betwixt sitting down and total bowel evacuation.

So I had a shower and washed away the bad memories stuck to my inner thighs.

The one I took at 7:15 am cannot adequately be described within the paltry confines of the English language. It was so spectacularly angry.

If the one at 3am had been the perfect child and the one at 7 was the difficult, tantrum-prone middle child, this third one was the axe-murdering, kiddy-fiddling, black shite of the family. It offered no openings for redemption. That morning I stared into the face of pure evil. Happily, due to a youthful phase of self-experimentation, I rendered myself blind in my brown eye so I don’t actually know what that face of evil looks like but I got a taste of it, a taste even pigs would turn up their snouts at. It was dead. It was wrong. It was a holocaust. A pooclear holocaust.

It was born and it died in the same moment, just a flash of hot black stinking disgust at the world and it was gone again. No name, no recognition, no mark of influence did it leave on the world. And out of the corner of my eye, I swear I saw things swimming in the bowl. I wanted to investigate further but remembered that the Truth may never let me sleep again, so I sent it packing to poo heaven.

(There is no poo hell, in case you’re wondering. It’s not that some poos aren’t good and some poos aren’t bad (and of course ugly), as I hope I’ve gone some way to explaining, and maybe you can argue that there should be some method of segregation for these babies, but really it’s a matter of logic. What could possibly constitute a poo hell? The life of a poo is already poo. How do you make that worse? Burn it in sulphurous fumes?!)

Another absolute classic Jarrett encore from the mid-70's, this time Nagoya. Play it loud.

What I did on my Holidays: Part 1

You shoulda been there.

12 hours in Chicago to rank with the best of ‘em. Chicago is my kinda town. Chicago is your kinda town. Trust me. Aside from a delayed flight, no cellphone coverage and no backup plan to meet my companions, it was a supremely successful excursion. A costly cab ride took me to a hotel that was so grand I thought id got confused and booked somewhere else, much to the amusement of the desk staff who assured me I really had made a reservation there and it really was only the price I really was quoted. Personally I still think there’s been a fuckup. It was a tragedy to leave the room after only a few minutes and head to the Art Institute of Chicago where I knew my friends would be (sadly the Art Ensemble of Chicago was shut for winter renovations. They were busy redecorating Malachi Favors). I must have known a good third of the paintings in the modern section and had no idea that they all lived in Chicago. Rooms full of Monet, Picasso, Chagall, Modigliani, Leger, Seurat, Kandinsky, Dali, Cezanne, Gaugin, Klee, Miro, Mondrian and even some Van Go - which is what I did very quickly upon realising I only had 45 minutes there before my next chance to find them. You cannot possibly see that much genius in one go.

So I ran back to my hotel, ironed my shirt and put my suit back on to keep my early dinner appointment. Yup, I flew to Chicago, in a suit, in coach. And I looked cool.

A frantic cab ride later, I met my pals in the lobby of Tru restaurant, a place so fine in the dining department that it was taken to the point of absurdity, then nudged over the edge and left it to hover calmly above the canyon of pretentious foodery. Which is to say, what a fucking extraordinary place. Warhols in the lobby was a nice touch, a perfectly made Tom Collins was another but a crack team of Peruvian service commandos ushering us in to the main room might have been called a little over the top.

We kicked off with a unique hors d’oeuvres: A choice of napkins. A. Choice. Of. Fucking. Napkins. This was followed by a welcome greeting from the manager who explained to us the rarity of the experience in which we were about to partake. And I, oh no, I was having none of it until the food arrived, when I suddenly realised that the service and ambience probably has to be this serious if they’re to frame the experience right. Just as taste is partly down to the food’s appearance, that same appearance is partly determined by what happens off the plate. Our Maitresse d’ was a faintly ludicrous porcelain statue of a woman with powdered white skin and african features (which I could also have happily taken as an amuse guele), a voice smoother than a silk worm’s shag pad in the 1970’s and more resonant than Dr Niles Crane ordering another fucking fancy coffee in his elder brother’s sitcom (but unfortunately with all the same intentions and inflections that American foodies must go for but cynical Brits find grating). Adorable and completely silly.

We went for the Chef’s Special Selection. An absolute steal at 140 dollars. Paid for by my dear, dear, dear friend.

The waiting staff might have done their training at the Ballet Russes, such were their synchronised swoopings down on our table to place dishes, replace cutlery and refill our glasses. I don’t think anyone has ever invaded my personal space more effectively and unthreateningly without warning (and why can't girls be more spontaneous?). The first thing actually edible that landed on our table were tiny gravy boats each with a small ball of mozzarella sitting in pheasant consommé, sunk in one and loved by all. There followed another ten or so dishes involving incredible variations on Borscht in a tea cup, Sashimi with crystallised Peppers, Shellfish Fricassée in a Coral reduction, Veal Cheeks, B.C. King Salmon, Prime Beef Ribeye with Cherries and then Cow, Goat & Sheeps' Milk Cheeses

How did they taste? Let’s just leave adjectives out of this. Assume everything tasted as it sounds, only lots better because the best ingredients were used and even if you could manage to approximate the flavours intellectually, I think textures cannot so easily be imagined. There’s no point in saying it tasted great. Of course it fucking did. There are only 43 Relais Et Chateaux restaurants in the whole of the US and this is one of them.

What we didn’t finish (Petit Fours, Banana Bread, Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse) was bagged up and given to us to take away. Part of me was relieved we didn’t have time to eat the full meal at the table. The tastes were overwhelming. You cannot possibly taste that much genius in one go. So we didn’t.

But why was I in Chicago at all? The company, the food, the first decent mattress I’ve slept on in 6 months were all worth travelling for but none would have happened without Keith Jarrett.

That’s right. Keith Jarrett. Keith Jarrett. Keith Jarrett. Keith Jarrett? Keith Jarrett. Keith holy mother fucking Jarrett. There. In front of me. Once again. And in a good mood. How good? Good enough to begin the concert with a humorous anecdote about doing his first ever recording session in Chicago. Good enough to be amused by spotting someone illicitly videoing him (“"I can see those two little red lights... you should at least change the color or unscrew the bulbs. You didn’t think I might be able to see a little red light in the middle of a pitch black auditorium? Why don’t you people ever tape it over with something? It’s like candles on a birthday cake when the lights are off). Good enough to stop playing 10 minutes into his first piece because a woman sat up in the gods above had a rhythmic coughing fit and then resume the instant she stopped with a huge development of the piece, going from dark abstraction to rollicking glorious funk in a hacking splutter and a heartbeat). Good enough to play some of the most beautiful, heart-rending music that’s ever been spontaneously composed. Good enough to cut the first half short when he played a piece so delicate, so intense and so shudderingly gorgeous that he asked us all how he could follow it. Good enough to return for FIVE encores: Miss Otis Regrets, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off, something I recognised but couldn’t place and finally another beautiful variation on his traditional performance sign-off When I Fall In Love. Definitive stuff. And yet, from the second encore I was secretly hoping that that would be it. I was wrecked, drained, exhausted. Didn’t want to hear more incredible music. Didn’t want to hear any music. Worn out. Now I get why the man himself can’t deal so easily with what he does. You cannot possibly hear that much genius in one go. But we did.

You shoulda been there

EDIT: This is the sort of thing you might have heard as an encore, though from Bremen in 1975. You can't buy it, but you can definitely go buy some other stuff of his. Enjoy! Treasure Island


Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Famous last words of mine in religious history: episode 3 has been cancelled due to the fact that im a pussy


See? that was just a distant one

(i only wrote that because im taking a plane toChiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-TOWN!
the windy city
city of wind
ol' chicargy
the 'Go'Le Chic'
tomorrow and in the unlikely event of something bad happening, i dont want *boom* to be my very last word on earth)




Thursday, February 15, 2007

Famous last words of mine in religious history: Episode 2a

Jesus: If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also


Jesus: (rubs cheek) Ow! What did you do that for?

Me: Go on, you little bitch. Turn the other one!

Jesus: (sighs) Here you go


Jesus: (rubs other cheek, retreating) I'm gonna get my Dad on you!

Episode 2b

A giant fist emerges from the sky


tomorrow: The Prophet Muhammad!

From the comments box below:

no need 4 words just a smidgen of anthrax

I think this is too important a reply to leave hiding in the comments box to a blog that less than 40 people a day read, 50% of which are after the latest research on Cuntbusting methodology (if i wanted more readers, perhaps I should just give them what they want?) and another 25% interested in "sexy arab girls" or "arab sex girl" "sex arab" "arabsex" etc. So...

I'd agree with you if it weren't for my crossing the US/Canadian border 4 times in the next ten days. So let me state for the record that your comments are wrong, treasonous, anti-american and most importantly do both slayer and metallica a great disservice by not mentioning them in the same breath.

boom boom

I'd also like to add that I strongly support the troops, foetuses, heterosexual marriage, Lord Jesus and the Divine Right of Kings.

For a man with more cogent views than my own, I recommend Jesus' General

And on an only slightly more serious note, listening to the debate in Congress the other day for the non-binding resolution to condemn the President's troop surge plans I found myself siding with the shrill Republicans who were urging a 'no' vote. It seems to me the new majority in Congress and many on the other side of the floor don't know how to say sorry for collectively losing their heads and voting for the war in the first place. Hilary's excuses are not apologies. Speech after speech was concerned with how they got themselves into this mess in the first place - four years too late. If you're going to condemn the war, actually condemn it and yourselves with it. But after 4 years of bullshit rhetoric about how supporting the troops means supporting the war and the commander-in-chief, what hadn't been true in the past now is. Sending a message to those poor fuckers out there that you don't believe in what they're doing doesn't help matters. But that's a side issue to killing and being killed in general. Nobody knows how to run a war anymore. The generals should be able to do what they need to do and the Commander-In-Chief should fall on his fucking sword if they and he fuck up. Both should have happened by now.

Nobody knows what to do. At least Bush has decided, if only by default, that he started this mess and he's going to finish it. Pulling out now (or ever?) will exacerbate this civil war and prompt a serious grab for the spoils by every neighbour. It could be a battlefield for a very long time as Iran, Syria, Saudi, Jordan and Turkey all feel it necessary to play out their respective differences with eachother and their own ethnic minorities. 3000 american troops dead is really not very much. 60,000 died in Vietnam (Hands up who knows how many Vietnamese died?). Politicians the world over regard people as a resource and maybe they have to if they're going to make any decisions at all. So it's rich, nay luxurious, of anyone to start getting a conscience now about how many people have died - either all human life is sacred in which case you should protest all conflict or its all expendable in the cause of the greater good (which this President's stated, unstated and implied aims aren't).

I have no problem with Valentine's Day but I think in the interests of balance there should be a day around about the 14th of August where you can send a card to someone you quite passionately hate.

"Ain't Valentine's Day" perhaps?
Which got me thinking. What would I write in such a card? Not that I'd send it to anyone because I just can't be bothered to waste my time and effort on hating anyone that much. The surest way to express contempt is to turn your back upon someone. ~There is no more effective way to make them suffer. So no-one truly deserving (and i cant even think of anyone) will ever get such a card, but underneath there follows a few ditties of I hope may add some fiery balls to the canon...

Roses are infra-red
Ultra-violets are blue
Science takes the fun out of life
And so do you...Professor

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Wrap your tulips
around my kazoo

Rose's are red
Violet's are blue
Varicose veins
The scourge of old British women


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Noses have bled
Violence was blue
Like the bruises to your head
That I am giving you

Roses are dead
Violets are too
Carnations are next
And then it's you



This morning I woke up at 7am, with my face in a book about Buddha

I made myself a tea of penny royal honey and organic apple vinegar.

Ate a breakfast of hemp cereal and a grapefruit.

I worked solidly without distraction until lunch

Listened to Laura Veirs' new album on CD, out in April*

Ate a lunch of eggplant curry with fried noodles

Worked til early evening, listening to the World Service and NPR, having shifted from my office to my lounge and thus missing the advent of the snowstorm

Finished booking a complicated trip to the West Coast and back in which I shall travel by plane, train, automobile, clipper and foot

Bought more supplies at the organic food shop opposite me

Got a last minute call to attend a gig and agreed readily, not realising that I would have to wear 4 layers, 2 pairs of gloves, a hat and a hood because the weather had changed a little since this morning

Saw this guy, Brett Dennen, who is going to big (well, Ron Sexsmith-sized at the very least) because he is a great live act and his recorded output aint bad either

Shot some pool (in which I beat my more skilled opponents) and got to pick the music in the poolhall (Iron+Wine, Sufjan Stevens because I'm going to Chicago-o-o on Saturday), then stole a gorgeous scarf that no-one else was claiming as we left

Bought a vegetarian hotdog, got the streetcar to Spadina and then trudged home through the minus 25 blizzard that has entirely covered Toronto in deep snow. Roads and pavements are indistinguishable from eachother. The streetcar driver had to stop twice to dig out the tracks in front of him with a specially-issued TTC spade.

And if you'd have told me this a year ago?

I'd have presumed you'd got the wrong guy.

But I'm not the wrong guy.

Not anymore, anyway.

EDIT: Here's a Laura Veirs track from her last album, Year of Meteors. As you'll notice when you listen to it, it's fucking brilliant (and you should buy the album)


Monday, February 12, 2007

What an indifference a year makes


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Famous last words of mine in religious history.

Episode 1:

Lord Shiva: Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds

Me: "Have", Shiva, it's "Now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds"



Thursday, February 08, 2007

János Joplin?


Ferenc Szinátrá?

Some people have been adding their own interpretations to wikipedia entries:

Was Matthew Kelly really born under this name?

Is the FA of Ireland really this?

Are these really the Seven Wonders of the World?

all seems a bit suspicious but...

I have no doubt that Terry Nutkins really did this

and this

and this

Two more things to say.

a. He's nailed a good few things about Britain and its peoples. Im no judge of the quality of a man's wordsmithery (just look at my own flimsy rhymes) but I am of the content it delivers and I pronounce it accurate. Good man.

b. There's another Berlin-Era Bowie song on the album!


There is a wall that runs right through me
Just like this city I will never be joined
What is this love? Why can I never hold it?
Did it really run out? In those strangers’ bedrooms

I have decided at 25
That something must change

Saturday night, in East Berlin
We took the U-Bahn to the East Side Gallery
I was sure I’d found love
With this one lying with me
Crying again in the Hauptbahnhof

I have decided at 25
That something must change

After sex the bitter taste
Been fooled again, the search continues
Concerned mothers of the west
Teach your sons how to truly love

Bloc Party have just released their new album and i'm listening to it as I write this. There are plenty of people on the internet who can tell you what to think about it, that's not why I'm here. I was just struck by the lyrics to the opening track. Apparently inspired by a Brett Easton Ellis novel (although how anyone can be inspired by his work is up for debate), it sounds to me more like they were inspired by a certain International Man. Note the explicit references to the brand of cigarettes, drug of choice, locale, the last two words of the song and of course the complete desire to forget the 1980's.

Song For Clay (Disappear Here)

I am trying to be heroic
In an age of modernity
I am trying to be heroic
Because all around me history sinks
So I enjoy and I devour
Flesh and wine and luxury
But in my heart I am lukewarm
Nothing ever really touches me

At Les Trois Garcons, we meet at precisely 9 o’clock
I order the foie gras and I eat it with complete disdain
Bubbles rise in champagne flutes, but when we kiss I feel nothing
Feasting on sleeping pills and Marlboro Reds
Self-pity won’t save you

Oh how our parents suffered for nothing
Live the dream like the 80's never happened
People are afraid to merge on the freeway
Disappear here

We stroll past the queue, into the magazine launch party
I am handed a pill and I swallow with complete disdain
Kick-drum pounds, off-beat hi-hats, remember to look bored
We suck each others’ faces and make sure we are noticed
Cocaine won’t save you

Because East London is a vampire, it sucks the joy right out of me
How we long for corruption in these golden years


Sunday, February 04, 2007

There's chips and carrots in my head
With cabbage in my knees
I see them when I lie in bed
But not my inner peas

My fingers fat with fishy stuff
And bacon in my thumb
I've candy floss in belly fluff
And gravy up the bum

I've sushi where the sun don't shine
Cos I love Japanese
My veins contain a nice rice wine
But still I find no peas

My waist is like a swiss fondue
All filled with stinky cheese
I've checked the contents of my loo
Yet still no inner peas

The guru and the gourmand both
Request I drink green teas
To rouse myself from rotting sloth
And find my inner peas

"Seek old peas and ye shall find
a multitude of Mendel's clues
forget your stomach, try the mind
your peas are frozen, join the queues

To heat them, eat them, even beat them
whizz them, fizz them, make them slushy
your inner peas arent hard to find
but im afraid they're somewhat mushy

So sow some seeds in armpit hair
And cultivate new pods
Then warm and stroke and pray for rain
Appease your Nature Gods

You'll not find peas in the Seven Seas
Nor in the lands contained
Not even in the birds and bees
Where you feel unconstrained

They dont exist in toxic bliss
Nor all the worldly arts
You need remember only this:
They hide in human hearts"

...and smelly farts


Saturday, February 03, 2007

...and if I end up on the street, here's what I'll say to Joseph Public and wife

The inventiveness of Toronto's homeless community knows no bounds. I was just chased down in the street, literally chased down, by an old guy holding a shitty Tim Horton's empty paper cup and pressingly queried with this:

"Hey, buddy, can you spare half a million dollars?"

That's some twisted genius right there. For of course I can't spare that much money - who can? And out of those who can, would? But it's designed to get you thinking about what you can spare and for the right kind of person automatically illicits a recompensatory response. If he asked for a dollar, most times you'd say no or sorry and whisk yourself away, feeling bad maybe but leaving him empty-handed nevertheless (and by extension empty-veined, -lunged or -livered because they're all addicts, arent they? Well arent they?!). But to ask for a ludicruous sum of money is to engage your interest in the proposition in the first place and thence to implant the idea in your head that, even though you know they're not serious, perhaps you can help out anyway with a bit of spare change. What's a dollar, anyway? There are almost 5 million people in Toronto; if he gets a dollar out of just ten percent, he's made his target and you should be happy for him.

Actually, 90 cents seems to be the fashionable asking price these days, for similar reasons - you don't ask for change when you're giving money away. You should be able to, perhaps of all the situations in the world handing over a gift is the time you're most justified in dictating without conditions the precise value, yet we are made to feel like we can't. For some reason it feels crushingly awkward to hand over a note and ask for some coins back. Some say the reason is because it belies your still-selfish nature and some say it makes you look like a dick but I think the reason is because this is not a simple, one-sided transaction. It's not just that many, if not all acts of charity are carried out from a motive of self-interest - enlightened perhaps, but nevertheless it's done for one's own benefit as much the recipients'. The other side of the spare coin is that the beggar is not only providing a service for you (Irregular Guilt Assuagement), the key thing is that he knows it. Once you've stopped to take notice of him, he is essentially in control of the situation. You will give him money, there's very little doubt about that. Just how much is up to both of you though be warned, your hand may be doing the coin selecting but if he or she is a skilled vagabond, it is as if they have taken momentary control of your essential motor functions and before you know it, you've handed them a goodly proportion more than the usual.

I did stop for an old lady who was clearly a bit addled though not obviously homeless last week and ended up not giving her any money, though I don't recommend it. Of course, once you've stopped, as noted above, it's impossible to move on again (I didn't realise she was asking me for money or i'd not have stopped) and yet I did manage to get out of it because my phone rang as i was fishing in my pockets for a cigarette to give her and as I answered it, stared her in the face with a very severe and mildly apologetic expression and left her in the street, empty-handed and most decidedly befuddled. I felt pretty shit too.

The reason I give cigarettes over money (not always, but it's my preference) is that I really don't want them spending money on stuff that will kill them and if this sounds hypocritical, then i'm pleased that i've written a successful sentence. I also would prefer not to smoke, so it's my preferred way of cutting down. I am taking back 5 minutes of my life every time I give a cigarette away; I'm also shortening that person's life by 5 minutes, which i'm not overly fussed about since they're not enjoying it anyway. Then there's the reason that I don't mind helping people out - quite the opposite, i wish i could dedicate more time and energy to it than this meagre practice - but i prefer to do it on my own terms. Yes, if you've got the temerity to try and hussle some money out of me, i guess you deserve a reward (though not the Hoser prick that sells the homeless paper on Bloor and Yonge, who I swear I will turn round and fucking deck if he tries his agressive and manipulative shit on me again). It's just that Im not going to give you what you ask for. I will dictate what it is I give you, as is my right since im the fucking donor. If you want a really nice gift, like some fruit or a sandwich or some money, my advice to you is to sit there looking very miserable, wretched even and not solicit money or even attention from passers-by. You will get preferential treatment from people like me, if there are any.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

There was a spot on KCRW last month about Death Row Prisoners' Last Meals. I was shocked to discover that the days of Lobster, Caviar and Dodo Egg feasts are long gone. I quote from www.foodreference.com

In the United States, the actual parameters of the last meal vary from state to state. Naturally there are limitations on the requests. You will not find any convicts chowing down on foie gras and Russian caviar before meeting their maker. Texas limits the meals to food that can be made within the prison. Florida imposes a twenty dollar price limit. Some states will allow take out from pizza parlors or other popular restaurants. Maryland conversely, does not offer its inmates a special last meal. Alcohol is universally forbidden and a final smoke depends on whether the prison is smoke-free or not.

Being on death row in Texas or Florida is bad enough, obviously but I absolutely refuse to be executed in Maryland. I wouldn't even risk committing murder there. There's just no way.

But it's got me thinking about what I'd have as my last meal. Would I go for something I never got to eat in my my life before (and unless that last-minute call for clemency from the Chief Rabbi is heeded, unlikely as it may be in Texas, I never will)? I've never eaten, um..... shit, what have I never eaten?

I've never had Camel or Giraffe or Rhino or Dolphin and I've never desperately wanted them. They're not world-renowned great delicacies either, as far as i know. Then again, I've eaten tinned Tuna a few times, so maybe I have had Dolphin and it wasn't spectacular. My dad extols grilled locusts and deep-fried guinea pig and they do sound perversely tasty, but what if i don't absolutely love them? It seems an absurd choice for a last meal. My grandfather's favourite meal was monkey brains by all accounts, but again, it seems wilfully odd (and pretty close to cannibalism) at a time like this to try something so new. It's probably an acquired taste and I don't want to be eating it going 'yeah, no, hmm, yeah, i can definitely see me getting used to this. i'll probably really appreciate it the next ti...'

Speaking of perverse and primative (sic), it's also not the moment to finally eat bum with chips, peas and gravy. Nor shall I follow it with a dessert of freshly chilled poo in hot custard either, not even if Friar Couscous himself walks in carrying a silver salver upon which sits a juicy deep-fried vagina with a lightly battered dick-dipper, I shall not be tempted. This is neither the time nor the place, thank you.

In fact, if I could have a 22 course tasting menu sent over directly from The Fat Duck or El Bulli, Im not sure I would. Do I want something that fantastic, that life-affirming just a few hours before I'm to get my brain burned out of my skull to satisfy the medieval bloodlust of a deeply-troubled modern society and a State Governor up for re-election?

And besides, nothing too fancy is going to be that filling either. For example, I don't think I could eat Fruits de Mer as a last meal, it seems too light, too frivolous and maybe just a touch too romantic for such an occasion. In fact, no seafood is going to cut it. I don't want to fill up on Moules Frites or Grilled Sea Bass or Crab in Black Bean Sauce or even Grilled Conger Eel, no matter how much I love them all. They're just not substantial enough by themselves. Rightly or wrongly, I always associate fish with alternatives to a hearty, meaty meal. You can slather it in as much beurre blanc as you like, it still doesn't give the same sensation as eating something with legs.

So it's going to be something I know and love. Sadly a lot of meals are connected to people and memories, so it just wouldn't seem right to have them on my own. It might be my favourite meal of all time, but I could never have roast lamb, buttered greens, yorkshire pud, beer gravy and 200 roasted spuds on my own. What would be the point? It's a collaborative meal, one to share with loved ones.

I could have Chicken Curry but only if it's my own recipe and i'm allowed to cook it. It wouldn't need much more than that and a big plate of basmati rice to make me deliriously happy. But if im not allowed to cook it then what's the point? I know just how I like it and no-one else is going to make it better. In fact, I can't even do it myself anymore. It's a recipe that I haven't achieved perfection in for at 3 or 4 years at least, so that's out.

Would it it be my childhood favourite, Steak and Chips (Rump and Rare from the Berni Inn)? That'd be hard to beat and sadly impossible to recreate, since the chain doesn't exist anymore. No chip will ever taste as good, I swear. Maybe I'd be persuaded by an evil slab of Kobe beef with a huge wodge of marrow on top and thrice-cooked frites but if im not allowed a bottle of very good Bordeaux with it, it's a curious form of torture Im not prepared to go through.

I could have gone for a big bucket of KFC with chips but for 3 crucial factors:

1. it's fucking disgusting
2. you call that chicken?
3. it tasted amazing in 1979. it tastes like shit today and even the chips have changed for the worse.

The same applies to a Big Mac meal. Once a glorious evening out and one of the few untainted happy memories of childhood for me was visiting McDonald's in the late 70's with my whole family. How naive we were to think it was so class but truly delicious it all was back then. When the Hot Apple Pie had real bits of apple in it, when everybody said it was Kangaroo Meat (as if they could really afford that!? how little we knew. Though it's interesting that we could easily believe it was not beef) and when the fries came in white paper packets that tasted almost as good as their contents. I date the decline of McDonald's in the UK to the moment when they removed Root Beer from the menu. It still feels wrong to drink anything else with a meal there (not that i've eaten there in many years). I was 6 when I ate my first Big Mac. And my second, straight after the first. It was complete heaven on earth and none have ever tasted as good since. I spent the next 16 hours on a plane to South Africa, silently farting every 15 seconds and loudly, repetitively excusing myself just as my mother had taught me to do. The businessman who I sat next to was very understanding.

I wouldn't say no to a Nando's chicken with chips, rice and extra-hot sauce. But why stop at Nando's when I could have the real thing flown over from Portugal or, even better, Mozambique? Yeah, it's a pretty tasty meal and definitely my kind of soul food. Yet I can't help feeling it's food that doesn't travel well (not sure they treat their chickens any better than KFC either). It works in a Nando's just barely and that's mainly because all the staff, decor and music are from Africa. But really, is it a last meal ever? I don't think so.

Could all this pondering be related to my ongoing veganism? Why yes, I think it could.

So after 'much' thought and because i've got to get back to work, I think i've settled on my final meal at last*

Rhubarb Leaf Salad
Take a big bunch of raw rhubarb leaves, mix with tomato leaves and green potato tubers, dress with a nice vin-regret of nolive oil and mustdead

Chicken Sashimi
Remove skin from breasts and slice into wafer-thin strips. Raw chicken can be a bit bland so i'd recommend a corn-fed variety at the least. Maybe a Poulet de Bresse. Have a big dollop of Wasabi on hand too. Be sure to wash hands, knife and chopping board after preparation as you dont want to spread bacteria everywhere.

Pork Tartare
Take a good piece of Organic Pork and again, slice ultra-thin as if it were prosciutto (which it is, only fresher). Dress with raw bitter almonds and a puree of apple pips.

Colourful Mushrooms on Toast
Gather all the mushrooms you can find in a forest, the crazier looking the better and fry them up in butter and garlic. Add parsley and introduce to toast.

The pooey-bit-on-the-back-of-the-Shrimp Gumbo.

Sure, it's labour intensive but this is a mighty fine southern stew. Good eating. If possible, use whole Fugu and Squid Spines as a stock.

*legal disclaimer - if you're damn fool enough to actually try any of these recipes, i take no responsibility whatsoever for the consequences^. I do suggest you nominate yourself for a Darwin Award though

^certain death


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