Archive for September, 2008

arrectores pilorum.

30 September 2008

the first time i met her, slightly over six years ago, we went to an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in manhattan that was recommend to her by devin ratray, buzz mccallister from the home alone movies. during dinner she threw a piece of nigiri at me, which landed in a little dish of soy sauce, splattering on my arm and clothes.

now we were sitting across from each other, at woodfire grill in atlanta, working through the three-course chef’s tasting with wine pairings accompanying each course. many things had changed since that first meal, the most welcome change being her use of conversation rather than thrown food to fill silences. before the meal, our sommelier, whom we wanted to take home with us so he could pair everything in our lives, told us he had opened a lot of great bottles and he was going to have fun with us. he was knowledgeable and beautifully verbose: describing an area in spain, for instance, he rambled about how the soil couldn’t really be considered soil, it was more like rock, grapes grown from rocks. the wine produced there, which was served to us with a wild arctic char tartare, was reminiscent of mineral water, bubbly and sort of gritty. he gave us a stubby bottle of beer with a smoked bacon, wild mushroom, and onion ragout with cornmeal fried okra and a cayenne pepper sauce. this was him, he repeated, having fun with us, as the beer paired well with the saltiness of the dish. rose wine was poured to accompany a taste of figs and goat cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. the main course, a wood-grilled pork-leg filet, was accompanied by a wine with a strong buttery finish. it was served with bubble and squeak (cabbage and potatoes, fried together) and squash puree. we were told by our server that the dessert, sweet potato panna cotta with candied walnuts and marshmallow sauce, was poised to win an award for best dessert. there was a newspaper food critic dining near us.

one always expects something like lobster to taste wonderful, but it’s fascinating when something as simple as, say, squash puree can completely change the way you think about, well, squash puree. there’s another atlanta restaurant, watershed, that has altered the way i think about chicken salad sandwiches, and, quite possibly, the world. their recipe contains golden raisins, pignolias (we’ve been over this before), and white truffle oil.

it’s also nice when this happens with people. obviously, i understand, before going out with the smartest person in the world (not this guy), my intelligence will be matched, and when i meet up with the most beautiful person in the world (regardless of people magazine’s views, definitely not this girl), i know i’ll be greeted by my equal in the looks department. yes, i realize, i am about to compare a girl with whom i had a wonderful dinner to squash puree in human form, but i think that’s fitting. later that night, via text message, i tell a friend who has been depressed and contemplating suicide that this is why we push against the sometimes debilitating sadness, because maybe wading through life is worth it when you’re confronted by one of its surprises. maybe you even find something, some food or some person, that continually surprises you. these you try to keep near you.


the case of the missing wine.

26 September 2008

after a long day of doing mostly nothing i made gnocchi with chicken and peas. i improvised on the sauce: milk, heavy cream, a block of blue cheese that needed to be used. it turned out pretty well as the saltiness of the cheese was diluted by the milk and cream. i’ve always had a knack for sauces, probably owing to my patience and meticulousness, rather than a knowledge of ingredients and their properties.

i decided to have a glass of wine (and soon after i was finished with that glass, the rest of the bottle). it was not in the fridge. like anyone in my situation (i say that to comfort myself, but, actually, i doubt it’s the case), i checked the garbage can and found my poor bottle of white wine, emptied of its contents and tied up in a plastic grocery bag along with the remnants of a six pack of light beer. my friend, though that term is becoming more frayed as time passes, drank it while i was away. i’m not particularly interested in talking about inconsiderateness, even though this is the person for whom i stopped eating nuts, for fear that i would accidentally bring something into the house that would lead to face-swelling and throat-closing, even when there was absolutely no chance anyone other than me would handle these groceries. i would alter my favorite recipes and check the panels of food containers to make sure someone hadn’t slipped in god’s only begotten nut a cashew or the sweet buttery kisses of macadamia or, and this was the worst for some reason, pignolia (yes, i mean pine nut, but i’m a proponent of not using the word nut as part of a nut’s name, like using filbert in place of hazelnut. plus filbert sounds like the name of that underdog uncle or cousin for whom you cannot help but root.) this is not what i want to talk about, because i will soon forget or forgive these injustices as i’ve forgotten and forgiven everything else. in short, if my heart were a nut, and if the size of a heart directly related to its capacity for forgiveness, then it would be a coco de mer. if my heart were an inedible nut and all that other stuff still applied, then it would definitely be this pecan in brunswick, missouri. (notice how having a twelve-thousand pound pecan only makes brunswick the pecan capital of missouri, not the world. at any rate, i think a road trip is looming. put the coffee on, mrs. james.)

what i actually wanted to write about here was the wine, which i researched after its disappearance, mostly so that i could be even more outraged. it comes from a region in california, between san francisco and los angeles, originally named el paso de robles, the pass of the oaks, which, in a decade, will be as well known as napa valley. the wine is named for another place in california, tres pinos, or three pines. the final spanish phrase on the bottle, tierra blanca, is not, so far as i can tell, a place in california. it is, however, the site of a major battle of the mexican revolution, where pancho villa overwhelmed jose salazar’s troops, who were more disciplined and had more artillery.

okay, maybe i don’t want to write much about the wine, because, honestly, how much can i write about wine i’ve never tasted (my sister determines a wine’s quality by the label: put a cute little fox or llama on the bottle (and charge $10 or less) and she’s yours).

instead i want to concentrate on this idea of oak and pine sharing the same turf. these trees were dichotomous, always at loggerheads, never growing beside each other, and the more digging i did, the more i learned about their uneasy shared history. to wit: during the american civil war a battle took place in henrico county, virginia. the two-day battle, in which both sides claimed victory, was the second largest battle in terms of casualties, about eleven thousand, up to that time. among the union soldiers it was remembered as the battle of fair oaks station, while the confederates called it the battle of seven pines.

from a tiny acorn comes a mighty oak. that is, keep stealing my wine if you want to experience northern aggression first hand.

a night with the anarchists.

24 September 2008

upon approaching the house, i phoned her, the call going staight to voice mail. i tried again and again, while circling the block, with the same results. an hour previous, i had first talked to her, she telling me she would call me back once she was drunk. i’ll be a better conversationalist, she assured. it only took her ten minutes to call again, not yet drunk, but inviting me to come over nonetheless.

it was a bad part of town, but i decided to park my car at the curb and approach the front door. i had traveled too far to pay attention to the many ominous signs (the slight rain, the burned out street lights, the homeless huddled against a wall of an abandoned building). i crossed the threshhold and pronounced her name, a girl seated on the floor turned to catch my gaze — it was her. she was playing stratego, a chess-like strategy game where the pieces are numbered, which determined the strength of the pictured soldier. her opponent looked like a pokemon trainer, only less japanese.

she apologized about her phone. it had been left somewhere, maybe the grocery store. at any rate, her girlfriend and boyfriend had gone back to look for it. please reread that last sentence. now read it again. okay, do it again. in order to live vicariously through me, at this point you should read that repeatedly for the next, lets say, ten minutes, at least, until it sinks in. i opened a beer and waited. they returned without the phone.

the house was full. i sat in the middle of the stratego players as if i were the referee, a beer in my hand, probably my second by this point, and a bag of tortilla chips at my feet. the boyfriend and girlfriend were there, as well as a guy who came into the room carrying a chocolate sheet cake that he had purchased for work the next morning. five minutes later, after saying that he was so stoned he pulled out a box of plastic forks and, as if to prove he wasn’t lying, ate half of it. the rest was still for work. in the next room, a thin eighteen-year-old boy was sewing an anarchist bandana (half red/half black, in case you’re as naive as me about anarchy) that he intended to wear to rock the vote (what’s that thing we’re going to? rock something. dude, what’s that thing? you know). a thin seventeen-year-old boy, who looked exactly like him and may have been his boyfriend, had to go to bed early because he traveled an hour and a half in the morning to get to high school. one of them said he had seen me before, probably at the snoop dogg concert i didn’t attend. one of them asked me if i wanted to smoke with him. when i accompanied him out to the porch, he said he only had one cigarette left but he would give me most of it. they thought i looked like dave grohl. everyone did. i drank another beer.

someone approached the open front door, limping and saying something about a cell phone. he said something about finding it on the orange couch (everyone seemed to know what he was talking about but didn’t know how it would have gotten there) and saving it from the rain fall. returning it, he waited for his reward and was eventually given two cigarettes. i should mention here that on the door leading to the porch was written, in thick black marker, you have our money, our computers, our guns, our sunglasses. next time you come back, you better pay rent. leave us the fuck alone. that’s not an exhaustive list of the items stolen, mind you: there were eight or nine things enumerated.

the final moves of stratego now played, all of us, except the sleeping seventeen year old and the cake-laden pothead, moved to the kitchen to play risk (how appropos, i thought!), another strategy game, this one concerned with building armies and conquering the world. it was here that i pointed out to the girlfriend that her clothing, a knit dress, was a peculiar choice for a hot summer night. she asked if i wanted to wear it, suggesting it would look better on me. i’d had enough beers to follow her to the bedroom where we changed.

we needed more alcohol. someone ordered two pizzas but gave the wrong address for delivery. i didn’t hide my confusion and someone quickly helped me out. the plan was to arrive just before close and ask if they had any canceled orders. apparently you can get free pizza this way. the boyfriend used to work there, he knew what he was doing. anyway, if that failed, they always had the dumpster. they mentioned the free beer store also. again, i was confused and, again, someone elucidated: it was simple, you carried an extremely large purse. they returned: the boyfriend dejected after getting ignored by his former coworkers, the girlfriend’s purse empty.

it was just me, the girl whom i had come to meet, her boyfriend, and her/their girlfriend still awake. risk sat unfinished in the kitchen. after much debate they decided to make another attempt at acquiring food and beverage. i gave them three dollars and lent them my car.

i’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question many times throughout your life: what would i do if i were alone in a bedroom with a girl while her girlfriend and boyfriend were borrowing my car to get us fast food and beer? oh, of course, you remember, you’re still wearing her girlfriend’s dress, and, honestly, it really does look better on you, a lot better, maybe if you just shaved that dave grohl beard you would be considered pretty. you’d probably take shots of everclear, in an effort to become more interesting in conversation, then, maybe, if you’re feeling ironic (you are the guy that’s been drinking pabst blue ribbon all night after all), play indie rock songs on the ukelele. it’s possible, though unlikely, you’d invite her over to the bed, ask her if she wants to kiss you. just don’t have sex with her, not while you’re wearing her girlfriend’s dress, who do you think you are. fine, roll the dice, it’s been one game after another tonight, but, hear me out, don’t fall asleep next to her. next thing you know, it’s six o’clock in the fucking morning and you’re being woken up by the boyfriend and he’s not handing you a bacon cheeseburger or thanking you for the three measly bucks. you’ve got five minutes to get out of here or i’m taking your car up the block and having it stripped, he shouts.

he leaves the room so you can change out of his girlfriend’s (actually, maybe, girlfriends’) dress and put on your own shirt and jeans and boots. you frantically search through piles of laundry and rummage through the bedclothes, finally finding your shirt wedged under the ukelele case. in the front room the girl is wrapped in a blanket, crying perhaps. the boyfriend is sitting on the far side, glaring at you, but not looking particularly intimidating. you grab your car keys from the table between them, and you want to say we’ll just say i won at risk, okay? as you stare back at him. maybe you do, even though the reality is that your pitiful troops couldn’t even hold onto south america.

when you get to your car, the doors are unlocked, the cds are scattered on the passenger-side floor, there’s a new disc in the player, and, you won’t believe this but it’s true, you heard this song earlier in the night accompanied by the strums of a ukelele. you wait until after the thirty-minute drive home to check if anything — your checkbook, your ipod, your designer clothing and shoes, your wii — is missing. it’s all there, and you have little trouble falling asleep.

music notes.

22 September 2008

from the past week and this week:

1. i received in the mail some cds i ordered. there’s recent stuff from artists i’ve liked for a long time, including sparklehorse’s dreamt for light years in the belly of a mountain (i want to interview mark linkous on this site in the future), iron and wine’s the shepherd’s dog, which has some of the best cover art ever, and heretic pride by the mountain goats; i by the magnetic fields, which i owned in the past but lost in a tragic battle with a car cd player (i will soon be singing i thought you were my boyfriend over and over until the end of time); pulp’s this is hardcore, which i can finally stop pretending i have.

2. speaking of the mountain goats, they’ve released a song from their upcoming collaboration with kaki king, an ep titled black pear tree. the song thank you mario but our princess is in another castle is sung from the point of view of toad.

3. aside from attending two braves games in atlanta in early june and vigorously checking box scores to see how my fantasy team, the muffin nine, is faring, i haven’t paid much attention to baseball for years, so it’s somewhat surprising how many times i’ve listened to the eddie vedder tribute to the cubs. i like when art (i almost said high art but caught myself, because even using the term art in reference to pearl jam can be argued; not be me, but i’m certain it can) and sports intersect (someday i want to write the great canadian novel, about hockey, and sell about seven copies). plus i like eddie’s voice.

4. if anyone who reads this is going to the magnetic fields show in either raleigh (preferable) or atlanta in mid-october, please let me know, because i’d like some company.

5. i’ll be in atlanta this coming weekend to see stereolab on friday night at the variety playhouse and do many other non-music-related things around the city.

6. my friend made me a copy of kimberly denise jones’s lil’ kim’s album hard core as a joke, but i’ve been listening to it constantly. i bob my head even though i understand, and this is being generous, half of the lyrics. there’s at least one song where i cannot even comprehend the chorus. it doesn’t matter though, because there’s a vision i am unable to erase from my head when i listen to her music: lil’ kim and i having sex. she would be wearing these to cover her nipples and a wig, turquoise being my top choice. a bearskin rug would no doubt be involved. so, queen bee, if i may call you that briefly, let me make one thing clear: i’m not looking to settle down, have kids and white picket fences, i’m here, to quote your old friend biggie smalls, if i may call him that briefly, for a t-bone steak, cheese, eggs, and welch’s grape. i hope you know what i’m talking about, because i surely don’t.

letters from a nut.

16 September 2008

something you should know about me: i do a lot of trial runs for things that do not require them. i’d like to always chalk this time wasting up to research but oftentimes it’s just plain boredom. for instance, i recently sought quotes on auto insurance. it’s true that my coverage does end on 28 september, but i really had no intention of accepting any of the bids. if we can use history as an indicator (and i assure you we can), sometime late on the 27th i’ll find an acceptable quote and buy it then, without looking back at the previous offers.

something else you should know about me: i write messages to corporations where the only goal is to amuse myself with some sort of witty wordplay or reference. again, the undertaking is more a time waster than anything else, as a need for response, if there is one (and i’ve actually had good luck), isn’t the impetus. maybe i can try to see it as a motivational tool, where companies have hired me to send a funny little email to their employees, something to lighten the mood and pierce the monotony of an eight-hour day spent sitting at a desk. though, it can be argued, after the employee has just worked for two hours on an auto insurance quote i’m not only intending to disregard for the most part but for which i’m also going to pick apart and ridicule them by email, it most likely becomes one of those humorous-in-retrospect things.

within minutes of completing the questionnaire regarding auto insurance, i received two quotes. an hour later i received word that state farm was preparing something for me. slightly over an hour after that, someone else wrote me from state farm to let me know i’d receive a quote from them momentarily. they were confident they could exceed [my] expectations. i had to wait another forty minutes for the quote. my response follows:

thank you for taking the time to send me a quote for my auto insurance. i’ve thus far received two other quotes from competing companies — one was slightly more than half state farm’s quote, one was slightly less. in your attached quote, you did offer me a rental car in case my car is in the shop due to collision or accident. as someone who was without their vehicle for a month while it was being repaired, i understand the value of such an amenity, but I’d be remiss if i didn’t add that i still don’t think it justifies an extra $500 on my six-month premium. i do appreciate your hard work (you’ve definitely been there for me in my time of auto insurance need, much like a good neighbor), but i think i’ll have to look at other options.

she later told me that she appreciated the feedback and to keep in touch in case i wanted to check rates again.

the next day i got an email from allstate with a quote that was somehow even higher than state farm’s. again, i wrote:

i appreciate you taking the time to prepare an auto insurance quote for me. that being said, your estimate is almost 60% higher than two of the other quotes i’ve received. it’s debatable whether my wallet would be in good hands with allstate.

my sister is my chaperone.

3 September 2008

for most of the last month my sister has been trying to set me up with one of her friends, and, in turn, trying to set up one of her friends with me. we exchanged a few text messages that first day we became aware of each other’s existences and we’ve since added each other on myspace, but tonight we finally meet with, in an awkward but not unwelcome twist, my sister as chaperone.

via text message my sister insisted that we should go out because i’d make a good wingman. i told her straight out that i play second fiddle to no one but i would of course let all the attractive boys know that i am her brother and i will not interfere in their dalliances. she, for her part, told me that she would let all the attractive girls know that i’m not gay. although i do appreciate her watching out for me in that respect since it is a constant problem, i let her know that i’d be fine. after all, the girls would be aware of which way i lean, even if by lean i mean an almost imperceptibly slight shift to one side, when i was removing their panties later.

fast forward to tonight then when i meet a girl who previously has known of my family only through my sister. my sister has urged me to wear a shirt with a skull on it. when i pressed further as to why, she explained that her friend’s former boyfriend was a tattoo artist, then she changed her mind, perhaps realizing why this other guy was former, saying that i should just be myself.

at any rate, i’m going to let my parents know not to bother waking me up in the morning if there’s a bra hanging on the doorknob.

buyer’s remorse.

2 September 2008

recently i read in the greensboro news and record that bbs compact discs was closing up shop on 31 august 2008. the article mentioned that there may be a band at the farewell party. i didn’t attend because i’m a little angered by the whole thing. see, about fifteen years ago for $15-20 i bought from the store a lifetime membership which saved me a couple dollars off each music purchase. i can’t help thinking that the last fifteen years, with bbs slowly losing customers and becoming less relevant, have been an elaborate plan to steal money from me. i really wish i had known then that they didn’t mean my lifetime.

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