Thursday, May 31, 2012


Food has always presented me with great joy, a joy sometimes bordering of hysteria. The first clear memory I have of an elevated food experience was at some fairground, I can’t remember where or what age, though it was an early age, probably around ten or so, having a turkey leg. It was an entirely new experience and one in which I was overcome with a sort of awe at the sensations that overcame me as I ate this, the absolute pleasure overwhelming me. It was a memory that stuck with me and an experience that I wanted to replicate. Whenever I was at a fair, not a common thing, I would keep my eye out for turkey legs, and would always get one if I was able to find one.

The other early culinary memory that I always think back to as one of my first heightened appreciations of food is when I was also a young child and went to the Minnesota State Fair with my family. There was delightful thing after delightful thing being sold at stand after stand. My mom ordered a big thing of fried cheese curds and immediately I experienced a bliss that food had never given me before. The easy analogy here is a sexual one with food. I am trying my best to avoid using them but it’s very difficult because sex is one of the few other times when you experience such physical and sensory delight. Food is just about the only thing that will make you moan with pleasure other than sex or a good massage.

It’s a mystery to me how food works, but indeed it does work. It is capable, when prepared certain ways, of inducing a range of emotions that when prepared expertly has a way of shutting everything else in the world down other than what is going on in your mouth as textures and flavors cross your tongue at that moment.

A couple nights ago, I went out to eat at Acme with some friends and I am still tasting some of the things I ate, trying to taste them again for as long as I can, holding on to these already fuzzy memories of taste before they fully fade away. There are times when spending a decent sum of money on dinner can seem extraordinarily wasteful and decadent, that you have nothing to show for it the next day, even at the end of the meal, that all you are left with are empty plates and a bill for a lot of money. But more and more those concerns have little hold on me, as I become more certain that the pleasure that food gives is worth it. Yes, there are memories that we will hold on to of the meal, though they will get foggier and foggier with time, maybe remembering what was ordered and that it gave you such pleasure that you were in fits of mmms, but the sensations of those fits will be secondhand, sketches of what the original was.

We started with the bread and some delicious cocktails, already luxuriating in the tastes that both offered. Next we had some oysters, which as oysters most usually are, were delicious and full of sensation. These, however, were paired with pickled cucumbers that added another layer or both taste and texture. This was followed by a plate of beets and a plate of shrimp and bison, the strings of the symphony starting to swell as I am became more and more overcome with delight, with happiness as I tasted bite after bite of perfectly prepared plates. Then we shared bites of the raviolo, which I can’t remember much about at this point, the filling for instance, but I do remember that this was the dish that began to elicit the mmms. Then we had the farmer’s eggs, which visually was the most stunning dish of the night, beautifully presented. It was egg foam, parmesan, and cauliflower whipped together and presented in hollowed-out eggshells and served on a bed of hay. The plating alone would have made me love this dish, but it was also so insanely delicious.

Round after round of cocktails were had, someone was Instagraming the meal of course, and we all talked about how delicious it all was as we shared stories about our lives as of late. We then split a couple of main courses, the chicken and eggs dish and the sea bass, both of which continued the mmms. The sea bass was cooked so well, in a way that I never understand how to do when I attempt to cook fish at home. The surface was a bit charred, covered in a buttery sauce, and the inside was perfectly flaky. The contrast of textures provided so much delight. And then this chicken and eggs dish – this is the one that I have been thinking about pretty much anytime I have found myself hungry over the last couple of days. Everything about this dish was so perfect. There were bits of chicken in an insanely delicious sauce, topped with deep-fried poached eggs served alongside fingerling potatoes, and all served in a clay pot. I have no idea why this dish works so well, but it tastes comfortable and then some, throws you bodily whole back into some childhood experience when you were sick and your mom served you chicken soup and you felt cared for and loved in a way that you probably never have since. Those memories wash around you, as well other less clear ones, as well as the absolute delight that this food brings about, its wonderful combination of flavors doing magic on your tongue, and by extension your whole body.

We then sampled three of the desserts, the Danish doughnuts, the chocolate crisps, and the beer and bread porridge. They were all fantastic but the beer and bread porridge was particularly so, doing some of that magic that good food is able to do, making you crawl into yourself, letting out moans, as you try to mentally hold on to what the moment feels like, this pleasure that you are experiencing, trying to hold the feeling as tightly to yourself as you can, not wanting to ever let it go.

This is why food is so meaningful. A good meal teaches us how to live, how to accept pleasure and its passing, how to let things go and how not to. Relationships and friendships that we have will end. People and things we love will die or disappear. So much work is put into a great meal, hours and hour of preparation, months or years of plants or animals growing and maturing. And all of that work will be expertly plated and consumed in a very short window of time. It will disappear, but what matters is knowing how to savor those moments that the food is still on your fork and enjoying every moment of that experience, every taste and sensation that crosses your tongue. What matters is knowing how to remember these experiences, to attempt to, and the seeking out of new ones, the plans for the next meal.

Monday, May 28, 2012


I went to the first barbecue of the summer at Metropolitan last night. Summer is here apparently. The temperature reached 90 today, it is Memorial Day, the scent of gasoline and charred meat fills the streets of Brooklyn. I installed my air conditioner this afternoon.

Time continues to move at a pace that frightens me, that seems quicker than it should.

Jacob and I left the barbecue after one pitcher of beer yesterday. We felt awkward but were a little stoned and so it was certainly our own fault. Every summer the crowd is a bit different, composed of less familiar faces, the experience less fun. There were pushy people trying to get counter space to set disposable plates on, not friendly guys serving food, and a man who talked like an elementary school teacher asking me how I would feel if there was ever a vaccine for HIV. I told him I didn't want to talk about that right now, when really I didn't want to talk to him. He tried to give me yo-yos and lollipops and seemed offended that I didn't want them. I saw a couple people I had slept with years ago. We left the bar and bought ice cream on the way home and watched various music videos on YouTube.

There is a passage in Middlemarch that I keep thinking back to ever since I read it a week or so ago. That is is now apparently summer already, that I again feel like I am not keeping pace with the march of time, has me again thinking to this, thinking in broader terms about how I am failing to keep pace with aspirations once a little more firmly held:

"For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their ardour in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardour of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly. Nothing in the world more subtle than the process of their gradual change!" (144-145)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"show them all the beauty they possess inside"

It has been nearly nine years since the first time I saw the Gossip perform at the now defunct Luxx space on Grand Street in Williamsburg, a small, sweaty show that is mythic in my memory as one of the best concerts I have ever seen, a religious experience, Beth Ditto, the evangelist, working up a sweat, filling the crowd with the spirit. I was so blown away that I saw them perform again the next night, at the Knitting Factory's old Manhattan location. I have seen them numerous times since those first times, still recalling what that first experience felt like and wanting to relive it. I have never been able to relive that first night's magic, but have come awfully close.

They are a much more popular, more known, band at this point and so play much larger venues that make that type of experience near impossible. Last night, I made the trek over to Terminal 5 on the far west side of midtown Manhattan to see them play along with CREEP and Ssion.

I was already drenched in sweat by the time they event took the stage, having danced hard for Ssion, who were really fantastic, and who I am liking more and more as a band each time I see them perform. When they played "Psy-chic," I lost a mind a little, arms flailing all over the place, trying to physically express how happy that song makes me.

The Gossip played a long set, taking the stage around 9:45 and ending near midnight. Along the way, the band played many gems that set the crowd dancing and screaming and Beth worked in bits of covers into several of her songs, doing brief versions of Bikini Kill's "Rebel Girl," Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" (though now I am doubting that I am remembering that cover correctly), Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and of course, the show closer that Beth did, the preacher we would only be so lucky to actually have, leading an a cappella singalong to Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All."

It was a fantastic show. I left soaked in sweat and with no voice, my throat sore from screaming. I had to buy a bottle of water at the subway station to rehydrate myself. It was the best kind of feeling to have after a concert - absolute physical exhaustion paired with awe and bliss and inspiration. I had wavered about buying tickets until only a couple of days before, thinking that either I was too old for this band or this band was too old for me now, too big now for the experience that I wanted. I am so glad that I purchased tickets despite my doubts. It was absolutely amazing.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

pomp and circumstance

I don't know how it is the middle of May already. To be even more to the point I don't know how it is 2012 already. I don't know how it is May in 2012. Time really does seem to be flying and I have very little, if anything, to show for it.

Jacob graduated from college a couple days ago and that event and his preparations leading up to it led me down trails of thought in which I pondered the progress (or lack thereof) in my own life, that I am still doing the same thing I have been doing since I met him - working a hotel job which pays me enough money to be comfortable but which isn't challenging at all and which is beginning not to seem like such a comfortable sum the older I get and the greater my desire becomes for meals out and proper cocktails, let alone the idea of vacations here or there. So there is that. But ahead of all of that is my failure to create something worthwhile, that all of these writerly ambitions that were at one time so strong have become less and less so. I work and I go the gym and then I make dinner and get stoned with Jacob and watch a silly movie before going to bed. I am not unhappy doing these things and some days I am even satisfied doing them but when I think of them in some aggregate sense, my days, my years, I become very unhappy with the way I have spent them.

The commencement speaker at his graduation was Laurie Anderson, who gave a really beautiful and inspiring speech that spoke to these concerns of mine. Commencement speeches usually tend to this and I get quite a thrill usually out of listening to any of them but this one was particularly apt because it was about art-making and having priorities in one's life. If one wants to be artist, one needs to make art. Simple really until you are no longer in school and have to spend most of your energy and your time working to put a roof over your head. The portion of the speech that really hit home for me was when she talked about priorities:

Around this time, I had a friend, an older artist, and I was always complaining, saying things like "I want to be an artist, but I have to figure out how to pay the rent and get a place to work. And how would I do this? How would I have time to work?" 

He just kept saying in the most irritating way possible, "Just do your work." 

And I said, "But Richard, that's really easy for you to say, but I have to be practical. I have to pay the rent." 

And he kept saying that. And it took me a really long time to figure out what he was saying, and it was basically about priorities. If your priority is paying the rent, then you will probably pay the rent but you might not get around to making art. But if your priority is to do your work, then that's where your very, very best energy will go and paying the rent will just kind of automatically happen. I know this sounds kind of ridiculous. But please believe me on this. You just have to take this one completely on faith.

And so, here we are in the middle of May in the year 2012.

Monday, May 7, 2012


My body is not getting younger and I become acutely aware of this each time I drink heavily these days, feeling its aftereffects in a way that I never used to. Hangovers become an all day, if not a two day, affair. I just want to sleep and am fairly useless for much else. That is what today has been.

It started at brunch. Jacob and I ate in the backyard of Santos Anne, a really cute Mexican/French place in Williamsburg with a beautiful and green backyard. We had a cocktail there and then wandered around Williamsburg, through McCarren Park, down Bedford, down to the waterfront, through the stalls of Brooklyn Flea, and then met up with Erica and some friends of hers. We first went to Matchless, which was rather awful, and then went to Spuyten Devil, which was much more pleasant. From there, we went to Night of Joy where they had really yummy cocktails and I drank way too many of them while sitting on this nice roof and then playing pool downstairs. From there, we went to Burnside and ate burgers and cheese curds and drank more.

We all came back to my house and watched Evil Dead and I fell asleep in the first ten minutes. I woke up this morning in pain, my body feeling drained of every life force. I drank cup after cup of water trying to restore it. I laid on my couch, spent too long (as I often do) looking again and again at Facebook and Gawker. I tried reading Middlemarch but after about two paragraphs of gorgeous prose fell asleep.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

he's so bloody tall

I woke up a few times in the middle of the night. One of those times was because I had a nightmare that for whatever reasons the sealed holes where my wisdom teeth once were became ripped open and started gushing blood all over my mouth. I knew this dream meant something but for either reasons of wanting to get back to sleep or fear of what the dream might portend, I didn't think too much about it.

I also woke up several times because my stomach was hurting, bloated, full of gas, and feeling sick. I drank a ton of whiskey and drunkenly ate a burrito soaked in hot sauce yesterday evening. I felt absolutely awful all day long and had intense stomach problems that are only now abating.

Once home from work, I took a nap on my couch and woke up and watched the Kentucky Derby with Jacob. A horse called "I'll Have Another" won.