Monthly Archives: January 2008

Spacewalk at Eleven Eleven

Today was the birthday of Tina, a friend and coworker of mine. She will sometimes perform the ancient “No More Customers” dance a few minutes before the restaurant closes, so that we can all go home earlier. The dreaded latecomers are repelled by her dance. It is a mystical ritual that combines rhythm with profuse and dirty swearing. The work team can reach extraordinary exultation when the dance is successful. On her birthday, today, with no dance, we didn’t have a customer for the last forty five minutes, perhaps an hour.

I thought it must be some form of karmic reward, the lack of customers which allowed us to be out on the street thirty minutes after we closed, on Tina’s birthday, the woman who dances away selfish, lazy latecomers who demand to be served. One of my favorite slogans for the fictional energy drink “PowerThirst” is “IF God Gives You Lemons… FIND A NEW GOD!” But in this case, on her birthday, God or the variables of the universe came through. Regardless of one’s point of view about such things concerned, lemons, God, lemon-God (lemon flavored), the dancer danced. The supposed latecomers did not.

Report of similar occurrences was radioed in by an anonymous witness on the night of my birthday last Saturday. I was driving back to Somerville at the time with my laundry basket, black travel briefcase (soft-shelled), and assorted presents. First I noticed the clock for the first time at exactly 11:10, and then my favorite radio station began fading in a song from my childhood. It was that old classic from “Brothers in Arms,” by the Dire Straits, titled, “The Walk of Life,” and the song faded in full right as my car clock struck 11:11. One thousand one hundred eleven is my favorite number and always has been. I also enjoy eleven and one hundred eleven.

The idea that an invisible hand, perhaps in a white glove, and JUST PERHAPS actually the hand of Mickey Mouse, was controlling several variables all at the same time to conspire that this Dire Straits song faded in right as my car clock (set six minutes fast for anxiety relief) hit my favorite number, normally a time of day when I observe prayer, was one I could not turn over in my mind because contemplating that horrible abstraction would take away from the power of the moment. I’m not trying to take away from the Mouse, I just happen to believe the lyrics are much more important, as it should be:

Okay, nevermind. Its actually possible that I can fully accept that no one who reads my blog wants to read the lyrics of the song, “Walk of Life,” by the Dire Straits. Instead I will just tell you what they are. There is a be-bopping guy, named Johnny, a woman and a knife. He is “down in the tunnels, trying to make it pay,” so to speak, which of course was written in the 1980’s in England I think, so its probably the equivalent of someone today being in the 1970’s and trying to build a pipeline. I mean, that is a tough spot, but sometimes these things work themselves out. And then there is the global warming as well, the polar bears. I guess the lyrics don’t say much beyond that people on this earth walk around, which is true.

It just felt so right, I had to find out more. So later that week, today in fact, I cloistered myself in my room and got on my computer. Unfortunately I am not a dedicated researcher, and soon lost track of the scent of importance. A show on TV blared on about how Russian scientists (and science fiction writers) in the 1940’s deduced that the extra-planetary explosion over the Tunguska forests on June 30, 1908 was in fact an alien nuclear weapon or perhaps the destruction of the engines of an alien ship from Mars. The magnitude of the event was in fact one thousand times more powerful than Hiroshima… and to this day the Russians still insist it was a comet, not a meteor, and I have no way to know the truth.

Hmm third spacewalk robot arm you connect the dotsSometime after all the dramatized felling of 80 million trees, the TV got switched over to more neutral territory, the 1978 “Bad News Bears,” and I learned that the song, “Walk of Life,” was the song played during the Space Shuttle Discovery crew wake-up call on STS-114 Flight Day 7. Painting a picture of a team of astronauts rising and shining to the tune of “Walk of Life” brought me to my spiritual senses, and I decided firmly that God, or Mission Command for the secularists, played me “Walk of Life” because I am waking up on the seventh day of my first shuttle flight since my last shuttle blew up. Just like this Discovery flight was the first back up in orbit following the Columbia disaster.

That makes this a new era for NASA and obviously myself as well, we two organizations who danced to the tune years ago but fell out of step recently. The picture of the man in the spacesuit on the robot arm is actually literally from the seventh day of the Discovery flight, the third spacewalk. LITERALLY THAT SAME DAY THEY HEARD THE SONG, in outer space, as they woke up, and so too did the highs and lows grace my ears and wake me up on the drive from Connecticut to Massachusetts, and so too did I extend the robot arm and then in my spacesuit go to the end of it and spread my arms for apparently no reason except to delight in a dangle over the planet’s horizon.

This may be the appropriate point to pause and reflect that in home-economics class in middle school once, I fed a machine multiple answers to its questions about my life (I don’t remember if I was truthful or not) and it promptly printed a slip of paper telling me that my fullest life would be ultimately realized as a priest or rabbi. The machine did not give such a distinction to anyone else I knew, but even with good company I am not going to accept religion shoved down my throat by some mechanism of the state. Lets turn the tables and suppose I told a machine to fuck off and become a priest or rabbi: excommunication from the public school system would inevitably follow.

Which just goes to show, we like our machines to be efficient, not collared and preachy-feely-willy-nilly. They would never allow a machine of the cloth around young folks in our kind of society; it would be a social outcast. I feared that I too could befall just such a fate by believing in birthday blessings from the mysterious beyond… but the evidence in this case is justifiably overbearing. God (and whenever I invoke “God,” what I really mean is, “wikipedia,”) sent me a message on the day of my birth by playing that song on the digital display time that I infer is an abstract form of my favorite number: “The band explained that a “walk of life” in the context of this song is a traditional journey taken by a storyteller in the countryside, in which he went from town to town telling stories, in the days before radio, television, and recording.”

That is the form of my transportation when I am not updating this blog. When I am, I am this.

Before the Puking

Well, its all “before the puking” for me, or “long after the puking,” considering that puke has not flowed out of my mouth in the past days, as it has with such rapid force and ropy texture for some of my coworkers and friends who were “over-served” at our holiday party. They are now in the time frame of “Not Long After the Puking.” Koh took some beautiful photographs, which are below, capturing many of the nicer moments of the affair. I was too busy messing up on the computer, trying to keep the music playing as designated deejay (alcohol free.) Good times…

The day before (still technically “Before the Puking):

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The party itself:

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Thank you again Sharon Koh for the beautiful pictures.

Its Highland Kitchen

Its highland kitchen snitchesThe following is the rough draft of a news item I wrote today for The Somerville News. Its basically a sample of my news writing style, which clearly needs some work. The part about Mark Romano cutting chicken in the basement is all true. Dave G. was managing the floor like a true captain this Sunday. Tomorrow night Highland Kitchen will be hosting our holiday party, and I will be the all request designated deejay for the evening… for sure I will keep you all updated.

Highland Kitchen Now Open
by Arthur Mullen

On 150 Highland Ave., closer to the Somerville Hospital and High School than Davis Square, Highland Kitchen, a new pub-style restaurant, opened on Thursday, December 20, and has generally garnered positive first impressions from local residents. The spot had been home in the past to Madison’s on the Ave., Devlin’s, and Virgie’s Rendezvous Cafe, respectively. There is still a jukebox and the champagne of beers, but now they accompany a menu put together by owners Marci Joy and her husband, the chef Mark Romano, that features a collection of regional favorites as varied as R.I.-style fried calamari and Southern-style bluefish cakes, as well as entrees such as mahi mahi and steak frites, with lower priced sandwiches and a burger available as well. It seems to be a good fit for the neighborhood.

“This place has been a black hole since going from watering hole to …well, whatever you wanted to call Madison’s, which went through two iterations, and failed miserably at both. I can’t imagine a simple rejiggering of the same formula will work in this locale – divey local pub is pretty much the only thing that seems to thrive here. Virgie’s and Devlin’s (which was pretty much the same thing) were always hopping, esp. late afternoons on weekdays and Friday and Saturday nights,” said one anonymous local on the website chowhound.com. About the drinking crowd, another recent diner and Somerville resident wrote, “As for the beer, selection, I agree that it’s a nod to the ‘hood. I don’t think they want to alienate the neighbors – I got that sense, and it didn’t come across as feeling forced or insincere. The guy sitting next to us at the bar was enjoying his Bud Light bottles all the while appreciating the menu. That’s such a great balance in my mind.”

But some complained the service was not yet up to par: “The one hitch to the good food and beer was that the service was inconsistent and slow,” was the comment of one customer, who nevertheless planned to go back. Others who showed up expecting a more intimate experience were turned off by the hustle and the wait. A strong local interest that even the new owners found “happily surprising” should be the least of Highland Kitchen’s problems. Service and staff cooperation can be slower to develop in a new restaurant than the food menu. Or vice versa. The path to being one of Somerville’s restaurants of note will be tough, but Highland Kitchen has made a strong start.

Cutting chicken in the basement one night, Mark Romano said that Marci’s and his combined vision for the space would be to appeal to as many of the residents in his particular point in dense and diverse Somerville as possible. “Its a family run restaurant, Marci and me,” he said of the new place, adding, “No corporate backers.” Highland Kitchen is open Tuesday through Sunday, food from 5 p.m. until 12 p.m., with the bar open until 1 a.m., along with Southern country style brunch (shrimp n’ grits, biscuits n’ gravy, etcetera,) served on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The ceiling of the bar is pressed tin, there are plenty of booths, and the jukebox contains mostly blues from very early on through to the sixties, classic country, and the occasional curve ball such as Steely Dan.

There’s An Insane Fluffy Blond Skunk Tail Laying Across Donald Trump’s Head

It’s sending out weird vibrations from the TV as it grapples mightily against Conan O’Brien’s red beard. Both heads of hair resemble rendered marmot extras from Ratatouille. That’s all I have to say about that. No it isn’t…

The Trump Skunks name is Blond Truffle

The Photoshop Diet

Actually, this is the Gimp diet. Gimp is the open source digital editing program that I was using to make myself a proper face for Facebook. My sister popped over and asked if I’d enhanced myself like a silicon valley babe, and I was forced to admit that I had. But then I showed her, in just a few seconds, how much farther I could have taken it. Who needs the gym?

3rdarm goes on a digital diet and loses some chins

Dunkin’ Yo Nuts

Slam Dunkin like young Shaq I amA friend of mine once told me that only a fool would order any kind of espresso drink from Dunkin’ Donuts, but I was never quite deterred. There is a soft spot in my stomach’s heart for cheap espresso, especially of the “mocha” variety. A few years ago, Dunkin’s had a machine dedicated to delivering just such a scrumptious beverage which they called the “Dunkachino.” That was one of my favorite espresso drinks of all time. It was hot, sweet, and reliable: The employees needed only to press a button that correlated to the size of ‘Chino and the exact concoction could be counted on.

I know this because I saw the machines in use, and then I saw them taken away to make room for exotic new beverages like the, “White Hot Chocolate.” I have no idea why the Dunkachino, or the White Hot Chocolate drinks need dedicated machines, but if I had to guess I would have to make some kind of guilty connection between the English language skills of many Dunkin’ employees and the fast paced nature of a volume business.

Although I drank it down while crammed knees to neck in the jump seat of a small-size pick-up truck, on the highway in the rain, with the back window open and water pouring in on me, to my Dunkin’ deadened tastebuds the White Hot Chocolate tastes exactly like liquid bird shit. Probably the shit of a pigeon that lives behind a Dunkin’ Donuts, to be super-precise, because of the ultra-high sugar content. Sugar can be a force multiplier in a good Dunkin’ Donuts drink, but as the White Hot Chocolate contains zero caffeine (which is insane for any drink served at Dunkin’ Donuts), the sugar is simply sickening.

While America may very well run on Dunkin’s, at least on the Northeast, Americans would do well to run away from the White Hot Chocolate. Maybe removing the Dunkachino machine and replacing it with White Hot Chocolate was a cost saving move: Dunkin’ Donuts knows flocks of pigeons feed out the dumpsters teeming with days-old bagels and pastries. In a tip of the hat to Al Gore and the environment perhaps they are now recycling all the white liquid bird shit those pigeons produce into White Hot Chocolate, using some sort of rooftop receptacle. Do I sound bitter? The Dunkachino was bitter; oh delicious blend of espresso and real chocolate.

Replacing it with the White Hot Chocolate was not so sweet. For now, when I want the employees at Dunkin’ Donuts to make me a drink similar to the Dunkachino it involves engaging those occasionally limited English language skills in a complicated and arduous conversation that lead to very mixed results. Sometimes I get half black coffee, half hot cocoa, with some cream and sugar. I think that most Dunkin’ Donuts call this a “mocha regular.” Other times I get a cup of coco with one shot of espresso. Experience has lead me to believe that most locations call this drink a “mocha latte.” For a period of months, I felt pretty confident with the beverage I’d receive ordering a mocha latte.

Then something happened that forever changed my outlook on mocha lattes in particular, and Dunkin’ Donuts in general. I was driving down the highway between Boston and New Haven late at night after my shift, on the way to visit family, when I stopped off for a sweet chocolate espresso from good old Dunkin’ Donuts. The restaurant in question was located in a shopping plaza somewhere in Connecticut, and it was well-lit but deserted. I pulled into the drive-thru lane, and into the mouthpiece confidently ordered a “mocha latte.” The disconnected male voice on the other end of the microphone repeated back to me, “Cocoa latte?” Thus trouble ensued.

No, I replied, I was interested in a mocha latte, and because there were no other cars in the lane, or indeed customers in the restaurant, I took the time to describe the correct ingredients and even the procedure I pictured in my head the young man would carry out. “Okay,” said the young man, “A cocoa latte. Please drive up.” At the window I looked in and saw that he was frantically searching around for something. As most of Dunkin’ Donuts drink-making is pretty well automated, I was confused, and made the “open the window motion” made famous by the television advertisement for Grey Poupon. When he opened the window, in a decibel level oft-used by officers of the law upon a pull-over, I asked the young sir if he was having any trouble.

“I’m sorry man, but I can’t find the cocoa.” I told him to take his time. After many minutes of reading labels, and going from machine to machine, he found a large plastic container with a pump top that even I could read from the drive-thru window labeled, “Mocha.” Into the paper espresso cup I watched him pump and pump; way too many pumps, and my fear enveloped the whole car. But he wasn’t done yet. No, then he disappeared for a full five more minutes, completely out of my view, before finally appearing, now sweaty and exuberant, with my beverage.

Thanking him, even going so far as to say “no worries” about the time elapsed, I drove off. What I wanted to believe was that he was simply a new employee. Probably the young man had to call up his assistant manager to ask for instructions on how to turn on the latte machine, or something similar. I sniffed the mocha latte, and then sipped. Very high level of chocolate intensity, but I thought that some espresso could be detected. I drank it down and it was steaming hot and super sweet. But then at the bottom of the cup I discovered a primordial ooze that was pure mocha pump.

I know now that its not a good idea to throw a lidless cup of any beverage out the window of speeding car. The wind whipped the coca latte all over the side of my white car. The effect of which was like a giant smear of shit that didn’t come off until days later when I used a gas station squeegee to scrub it off. While doing so I imagined I was like a peep show booth cleaner. Regardless, now when I go to Dunkin’ Donuts I only order regular coffee.

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