Monthly Archives: June 2007

When Intestines Attack or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pill

By now, just about everybody with access to the internet or newspapers has probably heard about the new line of presciption pills that limit the intestine’s ability to process calories. Side effects for the pills are pretty severe, especially because if you eat the normal amount as usual, your intestines will rebel and push the food down out the poop shoot. In the medical lexicon, this is referred to as, “anal leakage,” and certainly causes pause for those potential pill poppers who may not wish to risk pants pooped.

Long story short, and this is for the reader’s benefit by the way, because I’ve been told right to my face not to stretch this story out, and even to shut up… Saturday my friend Kiki and I went to the Blue Ribbon, which is my favorite smoked meat spot and is located in downtown Arlington, Mass. He had smokin’ hot sausage links and I had the Big Daddy Brisket Roll Up, which was not quite as good as the King Brisket Sandwich with Spicy Hornet Mustard that I’d had earlier in the week, but was still damn good.

That night I hosted and he did what Kiki does, by which I mean to say I have no idea or care what he did that night, but I worked as a good looking young host in a busy neighborhood restaurant that caters mostly to fish fiends and those hung up on smoked meats. It’s a good fit for me. However, because of my busy power lunch schedule bleeding right into my workday, I had not had time to fit pooping into my schedule that Saturday. Not an emergency: on Saturdays I get out early.

This past Saturday in particular I got out wicked early: it was summertime slow. You see, I am a high volume host, not a low volume host, and the restaurant respects this aspect of my mental condition. I get jumpy, impatient, angry, foul-mouthed, and downright dirty when forced to fjord the low volume flow. Its all about the high volume flow for me. At our bar I drank a single beer and had a double bass cake special with baked beans, fried onions and house tartar, and it was damn good. We get good stuff from our bass killer, and those cakes made with fresh bass and potatos sure are tasty.

Fifteen minutes later I had befriended a straight boy from New Orleans up in Cambridge for a month on vacation with his family. I was interested, not romantically, because we had immediately dropped our sexuality cards, but interested in why folks from Nahleans would vacation in Cambridge for a month. He said to escape the heat. I thought, “witness protection program.” It was vaguely compatible: the witness protection program indeed allows certain folks to escape the heat. Even though I had brunch to work wicked early the next morning, I dedicated my night to showing him a couple bars in Cambridge.

Two hours later I left him in the company of new friends at the B-Side Lounge and made my walk home. It was after midnight, but nothing outrageous, and I used the available time to check my emails, open windows, say hi to my roommates, and read for a while before bed. Six alarm clocks set, and to bed. Not a second thought about how much food was in my intestines and how I had not yet used the toilet that day. But that would turn to be the disastrous turning point thirty six to forty eight hours later that came back to haunt me like a boomarang of bad will.

In the morning for some reason all six of my alarms malfunctioned. When this happens its never just one or two of them, its always all of them all at once. At least the condition is reliable. I woke up anyway, because I am the floor captain at brunch and because thats a deadly serious job. But I woke up with only thirty minutes before work, and so I used the time to shower and get coffee. If I don’t have at least two hours I don’t even open up the Sunday New York Times because I need that time with it, to get to know it, to savor it. Take it to the toilet and to bed. Bottom line: no morning evacuation.

The lack of evacuation only occured to me after I was already setting up for brunch, and I knew it could have deadly consequences. Because I can not shit at work, I can’t eat anything if I even think I might have to shit during work hours. To save intestinal space. To conserve what meager intestinal mileage might be available. No food means little blood sugar, which can influence how cheerful I am with tables. And today was my assistant manager’s birthday, and as the floor captain it would be totally unnacceptable to be grumpy. So I went to the Devil, a bartender named Nick.

Upon hearing my story, the Devil handed me two pills named Immodium and said that should cork it up for good, no worries, until forever and ever. And I took them and it did the trick. It was a miracle how little I even considered my intestines with those two magic pills, especially considering how constantly I usually consider and maintain my intestinal well-being. The pills did the trick, and all that brisket and bass cake shut up and stay put. Or rather, came along for the ride. And brunch is a wild, shit-dealing ride.

The irony is that I would be so intestinally placid while dealing the public items known to cause major bathroom breakthroughs. Eggs, coffee, greasy bacon, habanero sausage, more eggs, more coffee, alchohol, flying from my hands to their mouths and then back out their butts, while for me the cycle had stopped completely. It was a good brunch, after which I met back up with Kiki. He talked me into playing softball, so we headed down to the park on that sunny Sunday afternoon.

Yes it was slow pitch softball, but nevertheless I impressed myself. With little to no baseball experience of any kind since one traumatizing game of tee ball back when I was a fat five year old, I almost maintained a 1.000 batting average, ending up with two singles, an RBI, and a pop up to third. Yes I mangled my chances for MVP by letting a shot out to my position in center field fly over my dumbstruck head, but I had been watching a bulldog play soccer at the time, and our team still won 9-8. After the game, I went to Atwood’s, a nearby Cambridge St. joint where several of the players on our team work. I had grilled ribs and potato salad.

That night I took it easy and watched the VHS copy of, “The Buttercream Gang.” It was educational and my friends Brisket and Kiki and I talked about the various aspects in which it was important to put down peer pressure and remain pure, unfettered, in a word, “buttercreamy.” They left, and the Immodium continued to work. Again, the thought of pooping didn’t even cross my mind. At this point a little butter cream in my pants, also known as anal leakage, may have averted future disaster, but the pills from the Devil prevented even that. Night fell and so I went to sleep early.

Monday was the acid test of my intestinal awareness, and I failed. It was simply a beautiful day, and so I cleaned the house and showered and organized my treasures in my room and read email and newspapers of the world, and the Immodium worked on, and I forgot once and for all to rid my body of the Big Daddy brisket, the bass cakes, the grilled ribs, not to even speak of the baked beans, potato salad, or cole slaw. And the day was fine until it started to get busy. Until 7:30 PM to be specific, at which time I had an intestinal attack on the seismic scale of the underwater oceanic earthquake that caused the Thai Tsunami two years back.

Instantly covered in sweat, weak in the knees, the Immodium at last gone, I ran away from two tables trying to get my attention, told my manager, and went to the bathroom. It was mostly gas. Coming out of the bathroom Kiki, bartending, saw my pale face and bright red knuckles and laughed so hard he had to duck down behind the bar. The Devil was also there serving drinks, but he didn’t talk, because he didn’t need to be told. The Devil knew. As soon as work was finished I borrowed Keek’s car and drove home to let the demons out.

Kids, this story ain’t similar to the Buttercream Gang in that there is no clear moral. But if there was a moral, it’d be not to let the Devil give you little pills that promise to stop a force of nature.

To A God Unknown… Never Stop

No draft beers, no soft shell crabs, no ceviche, no grilled bread, out of four of eight bottled beers, I’m training the new guy. And the kitchen has a freshly installed forty two inch plasma screen television that only they and the food runner can see. Another day at work after a couple days off in good old CT, where I grilled outdoors, read two books, went to the beach and overheard a young snob and her snobby mothah snub Uconn. Its called a transition.

Needless to say, that day at work didn’t go so well, unless you were in the kitchen, drinking kitchen beers and watching the Red Sox in HD. But today is a new day with a new breeze and a brighter sun. Cambridge’s best bartender sent me over a couple videos from the early eighties. This time its Echo and the Bunnymen. An excuse to take time away from John Steinbeck and the White Stripe’s Icky Thump, and share with you good people the flailing, jangling indie rock music from my birth year.

“One thing’s for sure… in that graveyard, I’m gonna have the shiniest pair of shoes…” is a lyric from the Stripes new song, “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues.” And with it, back to the Grindhouse.

The City Formerly Known as Cambridge

I went to the river over the weekend, and met up with my webmaster and his sister. The affair was titled “River Fest,” which about summed up the reason why the city of Cambridge shut down Memorial Drive between Central and Harvard Square and the sudden and dramatic collection of freaks, Jesus-lovers, snake oil salesmen and Microsoft personnel. Booths hawking BBQ and Burt’s Bees competed with a gospel tent. A group of boys in green striped tights and silver capes wore roller blades to cling to the only moving car allowed in the fest.

As expected, the car was a fantastic vehicle whose sides were decorated with three dimensional murals depicting amongst other acts, a piece of toast being shot out of a toaster and into the atmosphere where it cooled and remained alongside the stars and moon. In three dimensions, of course. The car was permitted to drive slowly up and down Memorial Drive, and the boys in the tights and capes and rollerblades who minutes earlier had no apparent purpose found their’s by riding along with it. Girls in aluminum paint strutted in formation and explained nothing.

My webmaster, his sister Ari and I got drawn into the Burt’s Bees’ tent. It resembled a castle whose entrance was flanked by signs warning entrants that they may be interviewed, filmed, or otherwise recorded for future Burt’s Bees’ commercial purposes. This did not scare me in the least, although I noted that I’d make the perfect “before and after” subject for any array of skin care and/or beauty products. Look here folks, before we have young Kurt Russell and after we have skinny John Candy. I used their free sinks to wash my face with lemon poppy soap and left smelling like a scone.

Later, I waited in line for what seemed like forever to order and then eat what I would ultimately describe as a merely passable brisket sandwich while languishing on the riverbank like a snake in the grass listening to a children’s choir sing, “Amazing Grace” and other steeple staples. That brisket was no good, like dog food compared to the King Brisket I’d had earlier in the week from Blue Ribbon in Arlington, but amongst the great unwashed it felt right. Especially as I washed it down with a cranberry lemonade purchased for me by my webmaster.

If my webmaster seems like someone I rarely mention that’s because you only started reading this blog recently. I lived with him until last September and he was the main man in my life up until that point and if you search back into the biz archives you will find him. The last time I paid for bandwidth I tried to give him a blank check which he refused and then I wrote in five hundred fifty five dollars and he refused so I ended up giving him one hundred fifty in cash monies and a Gamecube game and a limited edition Wu Tang 3rdarm poster. And that he accepted.

He has a special style that is all his own. On Saturday by the riverside I met his doppleganger, a wiry young man with a Jewfro over aviator sunglasses who wore a lab coat and spoke with the speed and sophistry of a crank addicted mad professor. Like a young Phil Spector pre-penning his first million selling smash “To Know Him is to Love Him.” This was at the booth for the Institute of Infinitely Small Things which the mad scientist was running, in charge of a program called, “Initiative for the Renaming of Names in Cambridge.”

He may have been an artist of some kind. I approaced his booth cautiously, because the last free thing I had recieved at the River Festival had been a small cup of blueberry ice coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts van and it had tasted like dogshit, and the free thing before that had made me smell like a scone. The worst part about all that was that because of my proximity to the Dunkin’ Donuts van and it’s journeymen I felt the need to praise the product. “Mmmm, delicious,” I said weakly, as my tastebuds shuddered and my stomach churned. So my approach to the Institute was a cautious approach, but I was rewarded for it.

The man explained the Institute’s premise for the Initiative. That names should be renamed so that the old names get rest and the new people feel like owners in our village by the river. Or something along those lines, or maybe not. I don’t really remember why he said they were renaming things, but it felt right to me at the time, so he must have been an artist or a wizard. I do distinctively remember asking what the new name for Inman Square would be. He flipped through a thick spiral bound notebook of old names and new names and finally slid his finger down a laminated page and pronounced, “Ringo Starr Round.”

Impressed, my eyes widened and I smiled at the wizard and his eyes widened back and we had what I think would be called, “a moment.” I pumped my fist and said loudly, “Now THAT’S what I’m TALKING ABOUT. I can really get behind THAT.” It felt so good to know that soon I will live and work in a place dedicated not only to the famous drummer, but also to be maybe the first Round in a city of too many squares. Really. Every intersection in Cambridge is a Square named for someone who has been dead for many years, as far as I know. A Round would be really far out.

Further investigation brought me to their website, where I filed an email informing them of my blog and enthusiasm. There can be found on that website a list of times when the Institute will be manning more manned booths, maybe by the wild man himself.

Booth Service

Rainy day… 26 pounds of washed, dried, folded laundry… diner burger with fried egg. Okay people.


New Gold Dream

Summer is here. After swiffering the floor of my room with Wet Jet and wiping Good and Clean disinfectant over all my treasures, I finally flipped my family calendar to June and found a picture of my sister and I on the beach in Connecticut last summer. I love family calendars. This was after I did all the dishes in the house and cleaned the kitchen and living room. I save my private space for last and take the most time with it.

Last night I went to a cookout at Megan’s house and ate some all beef hot dogs with just mustard and wore my new Steely Dan teeshirt which has the album cover of Aja on it. Only cost me forty dollars, crazy. Then we all retreated to my casa to watch Game 2 of the NBA Finals, starring Lebron James who will always be younger than me. And he did not make it happen, which is disappointing, but as Charles Barkley has said, this is a young superstar with gears. For the East, I hope Lebron kicks it into high gear when the series swings back to Cleveland.

I have finished two books recently, one by Gene Wilder, an autobiography titled, “Kiss Me Like a Stranger.” In the late 90’s when I was in high school I worked on the student website for a group called the Connecticut Forum. They outfitted me with a laptop which I never used because it was underpowered and even as a youngin’ my thirst for bandwidth was wide and deep. At one of the forum’s press conferences I got to ask Gene a question. To be honest, I forget what I asked, but now that I’ve done my research, I’d like to take a mulligan.

The other book I read was “Sweet Thursday,” by John Steinbeck. I have read that this is the sequel to “Cannery Row,” and of course I will have to read that next. I may have to go out and buy it today, if there is time. I do not rent my cable modem, I own it, and that is another situation which demands my time. Like John Candy, I’d like a “Summer Rental.” Megan’s beau Justin told me that these two Steinbeck books are semi-non-fiction, and that I should read, “Sea of Cortez” or “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.” Whatever I can get my hands on. That Steinbeck is alright.

I was considering a move down to Provincetown for the summer but now that idea seems passe. I feel the need to stay here and re-establish myself for the coming year. So instead I am lowering my summer goals to a more realistic level: rent a cable modem at three dollars a month. That’s my new gold dream. Feels right. People have been sharing very interesting media with me recently. I had a book of Greek art thrown at my from a speeding car. It flopped onto the sidewalk open to a page with a nude statue of some Greek whose balls were much bigger than his stem. Maybe he’s a eunich, I thought. But those balls were huge.

There may have to be a special screening of the VHS tape I acquired from the bear’s basement titled, “The Buttercream Gang.” It comes complete with a family discussion guide, which could be good conversational fodder for post-tape. Jimmy already told me what happens, though, one friend of the Buttercream Gang comes back from out of town and suddenly he’s a “tough guy.” Discuss amongst yourselves. I will be sure to post a review if it feels right to do so. I’ll just need to do a quick gut check. Beef hot dogs are delicious.

John, otherwise known as Cambridge’s Best Bartender, shared with me this video from Simple Minds. The title of their song is also the title of my post today, which isn’t clever, really. Its a song called, “New Gold Dream,” and in a clean room, with the window up and Dr. Pepper on my lips, feels about like a young basketball superstar’s gears shifting, and June sparkling outside:

Last Dip

I am getting on the plane in a couple hours. To Iceland and then back to North America. I still have some pictures to post, and thoughts, but want to end in Europe on a high note. Here is my favorite video from the trip. From a health spa where my sister goes to swim with the wet Dutch dogs. Thank you to Kate and all of her friends who made my vacation so memorable. You are all welcome in Cambridge anytime.


The Spiritual Component

For years, my grandma Happy has told me about her brother who died in WWII. She misses him. Before I left for Holland, my aunt had found his grave on the military websites set up to help relatives find those killed in war and not buried in the United States. His grave was discovered to be in the Henri Chapelle cemetary in Belgium, within 15-20 km of where Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium meet. I knew that my sister and I would have to go.

We took the train because renting a car would have been ridiculously expensive. This is not because renting cars is prohibitively expensive in Europe, although it is, or because gas is crazy expensive with government taxes in Europe, which it is. I mean, thinking now how difficult it was to take the train (4 stops each way, transfer times as low as 4 minutes) I know that we would never have been able to drive it in. My sister and I both lack “New York sense of direction.” We have more of an “Incredible Journey” style homing sense.

Four stops and four hours on the train later we arrived in the correct town in Belgium, Welkenraedt. The American Battle Monuments Commission had sent a car for us driven by a French speaking Belgian named Joseph. He was a super speedy driver but would stop the car and take off my seatbelt for me when I tried to take a picture. I didn’t know what was going on or what to expect. When we pulled up to the cemetary I realized that the grounds were immaculate. Joseph led us into his office and introduced us to Michael, a really nice American, retired former military, from Tampa, who was the assistant supervisor to the cemetary Henri Chapelle.

Michael is also the name of the archangel whose statue looks out over the 7992 crosses and stars of David in the Henri Chapelle cemetary. After a short speech and explanation of the cemetary’s small WWII museum, we were led down to where our relative, our great uncle, Happy’s brother Joseph lay. It was June 6, the anniversary of D Day. At the cross, Joseph rubbed sand from Normandy onto the cross to bring the name out in relief, and took a digital photo of my sister and me. Then he left us alone. It is a sad and moving place, Henri Chapelle.

After a while a big man walked over to us, and introduced himself. His name was Walter and he was from New Jersey, visiting the cemetary for three days to spend time with his father who was killed months before Walter was born. We talked about the Yankees, because I didn’t want him to see that I’d been crying. Later, when the cemetary was closing down for the day, Walter helped take down and fold one American flag, and I helped take down and fold the other. My sister, Walter, his wife Marie, and I rode back to the train station in the village together in the same military car.

Before we left Michael gave my sister and I a hardcover book detailing what had happened to make places like Henri Chapelle possible, as well as a folder of information about Joseph Janovich, our great uncle. The digital photo they printed and framed for us. I would like to use my website as another way to say “Thank you,” to Michael and Joseph, and the military for doing such a fine job with the war cemetaries in Europe. After taps had played, when we were leaving, all five of us walking together with our American flags, an old Belgium woman with teary eyes thanked us.

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A Look Around…

…Henri Chapelle cemetary, on the anniversary of D Day.

Lollipops and Ghost Cats

al25.JPGWe were supposed to wake up Tuesday morning, rent a car, and drive to Belgium to the cemetary where my only living grandmother’s brother was buried. Happy’s brother, who died in his early twenties, was fighting in WWII when he was killed in action, on a boobytrapped bridge. He left her at home when he was a late teenager and she never saw him again. Now, with the power of the internet and the databasing by the U.S. government, our family was able to find where in Europe he was ultimately buried: in Belgium.

I’ve got to admit that my sister and I really dodged a bullet. After rowing the boat for 8 hours yesterday we both woke up super cranky and still super tired. It was almost a blessing that in Europe they rent automatic cars for twice the price as manual cars. The price was a super deterrent. I could just imagine the two of us in our worst moods having to work together to navigate the highways and byways of the European highway system to get to a small-town cemetary in Belgium. It would have been disaster.

The signs were all against us. For one, the day before I had ran out of my cigarettes from home, Pall Mall Nonfilters. It was a sign of foreboding. I had to pick up a pack of the Filters, with European tobacco. Europeans don’t know tobacco like North Americans know tobacco, and it can be kind of embarassing. I know this, because at the party my sister threw on Saturday night I had a conversation about American produce that really drew a strong reaction. I was talking to a man named Rudy who looks exactly like Sylvester Stallone.

Yes I had just smoked part of a joint and had jovially drank beers all night, but I did commit a major faux pas. In the heat of conversation I mentioned to him that corn was the stimuli for the American agricultural revolution. Corn itself does not self-propogate: an animal or a human must strip the corn of its husks so that the seeds can disperse. Europe and Afrika had no corn, knew no corn, were barren of corn before the Americas were discovered, and because of our history, Corn is Amerika. I merely mentioned this in passing conversation and drew the considerable irration of Rudy, the Italian Stallion (he’s really Italian).

He said to me, “How is that joint and beer combination making you feel?” What I wanted to say, but didn’t, because I really enjoyed liked this young Rocky Balboa, was… “How does it make you feel that no North America, no corn for you?” He said it, and I did not, and I took it, and did not dish it out… Even though I love corn and tobacco. But I think I digress. So Monday I smoked my last Pall Mall Unfiltered cigarette.

The same day I learned that my bank had put the Netherlands on its “Blocked” list because of fraud. They told me, straight up, on the phone, that I could not withdraw any of my money because of their policy. I have been a Wainwright customer for five years, and I told them so, yet they offered no alternative action, even though I declared it an emergency. So I would have been driving the car with my sister navigating, both of us overtired and cranky, me with no money, none of my cigarettes… it is almost like the script for an updated version of “Godzilla Versus All Monsters.”

Thankfully, because of the insane price in Europe to rent an automatic car, we chose not to. I napped for four hours, we hit the town and got ice cream. My sister bought me Gene Wilder’s autobiography for reading on… the train. That’s right. Tomorrow we take the train to Belgium, and when we get to the correct station, the United States Military will pick us up and take us to the cemetary to see our family’s deceased. Don’t tell me we don’t pay taxes for nothing. Serendipity has been re-affirmed as a way of living.

Tuesday night I went into the Hall of the Lion for a night cap. Three scotches later, I had made good friends with the current bartender and a former bartender at the establishment. (By the way, if you think that’s a lot, I am writing this right after, and I tell you they pour about a third a shot over ice per drink and charge you accordingly. Three scotches in the U.S. would be ridiculous.) I get home and find that my bank has responded to my email and has opened up my ATM and PIN options for the Netherlands, and offers deep apologies.

Tomorrow I get on the train and read Gene Wilder’s autobiography, “Kiss Me Like I’m A Stranger,” which my sister bought for me today at the American Book Center. I pay my respects to my grandmother Happy’s brother Joseph, because she cannot be there, and take pictures. Courtesy of the American Military. Then tomorrow night I take Kate, my sister, out on the town with my own damn money to make up for the damage to her checking account. That is not just serendipity… welcome to the hall of the lion.

(Note on photography: Pictured are myself, my sister Kate, friends Erica and Jason, and a new friend I met tonight, Madoka. Also pictured is a big black cat, perhaps named Betty (if it is indeed the cat in the missing posters), perhaps not. Sometimes “Betty” is photographed behind glass, creating the impression of a “ghost-cat.” Don’t worry, it’s really only Betty.)

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