I am mostly full of meat, and anticipate that this condition will persist through tomorrow as well. It is a time of much meat, and it’s left me logy. This is nature’s way, of course; when one animal is filled mostly with another one, it’s supposed to rest.
Yesterday we drove to the end of the earth, at least from our perspective; from our host’s perspective, it’s the Center of Things, and I can see why: a peaceable community in the rolling hills of the far southwestern exurbs. When the town was first founded, Minneapolis was a day’s ride by horse. So I imagine they didn’t head in very often for Thai.
Meat was had.
As I noted to our hosts, this is the sort of development that makes right-thinking urbanists’ heads ache – it’s not compact enough, the streets have cul-de-sacs, the houses are too big, there’s a golf course, and you can’t walk to the store for your daily ration of beans and soy milk from the People’s State Comestible Distribution Node #23. On the other hand, it’s a town in its own right – a small community of 6,000 souls, isolated from the large urban mass, and hence is one of those incubators of small-town values on which we depend to supply the big city with sensible, rounded youths who grew up in Rockwell Country. We passed the church, and noted the graves: all the stones had sprouted flowers, and you were reminded of the name this day once had: Decoration Day.
Monday we went to North Minneapolis for the kickoff grubfest at the Crazy Uke's: the first of three summer-time get-togethers with the gang. The ol’ crew. The kids fall into the same easy camaraderie, even though Gnat hasn’t seen them in a while; these alliances are picked up as easily as they’re dropped. We’ll meet again in July, when the season is at its apogee; the kids will cheer the fireworks and light sparklers in the dusk. But that can wait. I’m in no hurry. This is a summer I want to savor.
I should note that meat was had again, in satisfying amounts. Meat topped with meat, actually. If dessert had been whipped meat on fresh-baked meatcake, no one would have been surprised. Or complained.
This week I find out whether or not I has a bucket. Friday I had a meeting about taking on a certain portion of the paper’s online effort. I’d be blogging all day, building a community site – or rather reviving the effort to build the site, since it’s been up and running for some time. There are other candidates. Call me a starry-eyed idiot if you like, but I’m hopeful. My proposal was basic, but there’s really not much you can say: either you can come up with lots of daily content worth a few seconds of someone’s time, or you can’t, and I have more practice at this than anyone else applying for the job. I still miss being in the paper, though. Every time Gnat says “put that in the newspaper, dad” about something she sees it’s just a stab in the heart, and I have to tamp down the mutterings. That’s over and that’s done and I’m not going to spend any time grousing about it. You can get angry about something like that, but you can’t feed it. You have to let it starve to death or it eats you whole, in the end.
Let’s put it this way: I’m not taking any of this personally.
I hope I has a bucket. It’ll be an interesting week.
Sunday afternoon I was watering the plants my wife put in. Every spring, the same drill: she spends one long back-cracking weekend making Jasperwood bloom. I don’t help, because I’m not any good at it. The other day I knocked over a small vase with some silk flowers; the vase shattered and the flowers fell apart, and I thought: egads, I’ve killed a fake plant. That’s a whole different level of skill. So I water the parts she wants me to water. I was standing at the top of the stairs, watering the petuneraiums or whatever, when three youths came up the sidewalk: big lout, skinny-giggler who thought he was BAD and hence GOOD, and the obligatory nerdy tagalong who’d let the lout punch him in the ribs to toughen up his knuckles. The lout spat on my steps, because this is what louts do; they spit. A lot. Somehow when I was growing up it was imparted unto me that spitting was wrong, and spitting in front of a girl showed you had no manners. But louts have no manners; it’s what makes them so exciting, I suppose.
“Thanks,” I said.
The lout looked up. “What?” he said.
“Thanks for spitting on my steps,” I said.
He looked away quickly, but I read him in a second: anger and shame. Anger at being challenged; shame at knowing he shouldn’t have spit on my steps. The girl kept giggling. I wanted to say something to her, too: do the world a favor and tell him not to spit, okay? Civilize the poor bastard. Yes, it is your job. It's everyone's job, in a way, but you have certain persuasive powers.
They were too far away before I realized I should have turned the hose on him.
That’s as close as I’ve come to a real “get off my lawn” moment in some time.
Via Insty, this Sullivan excerpt re: Michael Moore. He wants to eliminate private health insurance. Here’s a suggestion: let’s eliminate private movie completion bonds, too. It’s a form of insurance, right? You get a bond that assures your investors the movie will be completed on time. Let the government handle the job. Let the government decide which movies will get the bond. It’s not like they’d ever use that power to control an artist's message, and it's not as if Congress woudl ever abuse the power of the purse.
Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys has come out against the global warming tour, noting, quite sensibly, that he finds rock stars lecturing the rest of us to be a little presumptuous. Thank you, Neil. Now go back in time and redo the lyrics for your last album, chum, because the amount of enjoyable music was inversely proportional to the amount of Important Issues Vaguely Tackled.
Saturday we went to a local Thai place – and why I think “local” is necessary information, I don’t know. You wouldn’t think we drove 195 miles for Thai. Maybe I’m aiming for that hip, urban tone. We have local Thai place. Pity those people who don’t, and have to go to Chili’s! How we laugh at them, in our knowing way. Anyhow. The Thai place used to be a Big Boy – the American Buddha - and still has some trappings of its original 60s style, mostly in the exterior design. Inside it’s Thai City. Before it was a Thai place it was also a Thai place, but a lackluster example; the staff was surly, the plates were dingy, and the beef had the thin, tough texture of old roof shingles. Now it’s authentic, and purports to cook along the theories of Chinese medicine. Really. I have no desire to argue with anyone who wants to seek Chinese medical treatments for their ague or gout or any other condition, but I’m an antibiotics & anesthesia kind of guy, so food based on Chinese medical principles isn’t necessarily a particular attraction, and it’s like reading that the menu has Chemotherapy Hamburgers. Wha?
Well, the menu explains everything; it’s about balancing the spices, or something, to achieve harmony, balance, equilibrium, and territorial control over Formosa. Fine. Just make with the curry, friend, and don’t stint on the green sauce. My wife ordered a seafood mélange; I had chicken. The waiter asked if I would like organic chicken for a dollar more. It was free-range and had not been stuffed full of hormones and chemicals to make them grow bigger, he said.
Interesting: Federal regs prohibit adding hormones to chicken to buff ‘em up. So he seemed to be suggesting they got their chicken from some under-the-radar poultry provider. “Where does the other chicken come from?” I asked, but my wife, correctly detecting my instant transformation into Mr. Pedant With A Mission, said “oh, you know what he means” with the tone wives use when they can’t find your foot under the table, and I realized she was right, as usual.
I went with the inorganic chicken.
I was served, 20 minutes later, a plate of basil-infused fried rice. This not being what I ordered, it was sent back. I watched my wife enjoy her seafood, right up until the moment when she discovered that the crab was actually surimi, which is fish parts mechanically compressed and tinted into the likeness of crab. Warm surimi is not a good thing. It’s like hot congealed shower-tile caulk.
My dish arrived. The onions were delicious. The meat had a character I recognized straight away: chewy and greasy. Dark meat. Well, that’s typical; the always toss a little dark in with the white. But the entire dish was dark meat. Sixteen dollars for a plate of dark meat. (And onions.)
The waiter came over to ask how everything was; my wife inquired about the faux crab, and he said it was crab. She said it was not. He corrected himself, and said it was imitation crab. Which, I suppose, is a form of crab. I noted that my chicken was dark, and as such, I found it unpalatable. He apologized and left. The manager arrived a few minutes later, and we were pitched into a moment that had the faint whiff of Basil Fawlty doing his best not to unload.
My wife asked if the crab was, as she suspected, imitation.
“Pressed whitefish, yes,” he said.
“Surimi,” I said.
He nodded, although I got the impression I had actually said “shite-fish in pus.” My wife asked if this was how dishes were prepared in Thailand, and he assured us that was indeed the case. He said he could have used real crab, but he would have to charge much more. I detected a certain note of resentment: you honestly think you would get real crab for $16.00? Do you know what the margins are like in the restaurant business? We work our fingers to the bone to bring you food balanced according to the principles of Chinese medicine and you complain about six inches of crab? He noted the presence of other quality seafood items. The balance of power had shifted away from our position, ever so slightly. So we countered with the chicken. It seems like there was a lot of dark meat, my wife said, wisely taking the reins. Because I was in no mood to pay $16 for a plate of onions and greasy poultry nubbins, or listen to a defense of meat that had the mouthfeel of someone else’s congealed lung-bolus, okay?
“It seems like there was a lot of dark meat,” my wife said.
“It’s all dark meat,” he said.
“Really!” my wife said, intrigued, and asked, unwisely, if this was also a hallmark of authentic Thai cuisine.The owner explained that many restaurants use white meat, because that’s what Americans are used to. They’ll buy chicken breasts, he said, and have the dishwasher guy chop it up and pound it and add MSG to satisfy the American palate. But he buys it all from a butcher and hand-trims it himself.
I wanted to ask why he couldn’t just hand-trim the white meat, and use a sharp stick to fend off any prep cook bent on adding MSG, but he also noted that this process was costly, and required him to have a larger staff, which meant paying more in withholding tax, and again I heard the passive-aggressive tone: you fancy, spoiled gits with your white-meat tastes waltz in her and expect me to provide a genuine Thai-spiced breast of chicken for $16.00? Why don’t I just drizzle the rice with some 40-year old cognac and charge a dime while I’m at it? Pearls before swine! Or, for all I knew, hand-trimmed swine before swine.
My lovely wife was quite nice through all this, smiling and taking the answers with good grace. I probably looked like a guy who wanted the address of that place where the dishwasher poured on the MSG.
The bill came. It was apparent he knew we weren’t coming back again, and intended to recoup his investment in the meal. I tipped the waiter 15%, because I suspect he will be out of a job in six months. Besides, he was friendly. I won’t knock off the tip for mistakes, unless they’re constant and don’t seem to bother the server. Hauteur, disinterest and vague contempt: that’ll get you a bad tip.
I wanted to note on the way out that they were using a modified version of the Ren and Stimpy font for their menu, and that was played out ten years ago. But I held my tongue. I’d need it later that night when I got hungry at 9 PM, and wanted something a chicken didn’t use to squat.
Well! That brings us to a close for today; I hope you had a grand weekend. New Match and new Comic to while away your Tuesday morning, and I’ll see you tomorrow. With or without bucket.
Oh, right: the "24" Update.
UPDATE: Jack Bauer has checked into his room at the motel - it's the Crossroads Inn; apparently he meant that literally - and has spent the last nine hours in front of a television, a remote in one hand and a pistol in another. He has the look of a man who just saw his family consumed by spiders.
UPDATE: Jack has fallen asleep. Commercial.
UPDATE: the maid just knocked and entered. Guaranteed that's the last time she'll ever do that again. The crazy man was pointed a remote at her, holding it with both hands, shouting WHO SENT YOU? She said the manager, and that seemed to satisfy him. Then he picked up a bar of soap and pretending to talk to someone and said he needed a complete background check on a man named A. Ger. She noted that the sheets had not been disturbed; if anything, the bed was made tighter than it had been after she'd made up the room the day before.
UPDATE: President Tolliver has just finished drinking an entire bottle of Maker's Mark in one draught.
UPDATE: Audrey has evacuated her bowels, involuntarily. Commercial break.
UPDATE: The nation of Fayed's Home Country has petitioned the UN for a real, serious name. Something like The Islamic Republic of Ninth-Episode Complications. Meanwhile, at CTU, Chloe breaks the news to her colleagues: she is carrying a healthy Season Seven Subplot. Life has begun to return to normal, and people are learning to step over the shrouded body of Milo on the floor. The oversight committee finishes its work, clears Nadia, and recommends that CTU remove the sign that says "GUNS ARE PROHIBITED ON THESE PREMISES," as they really don't seem to deter motivated Chinese special forces.
UPDATE: Jack jerks awake, and realizes he is hungry. He walks down to Denny's, where he has a stack of pancakes and some eggs.
He salts the eggs with a single tear.