Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The day the bottle dropped

The day the bottle dropped
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
There is a tale they tell in the Bronx barrio my boyfriend BG calls home. In the humid summer evenings, when the wizened old men and young bloods gather on the streets with their folding chairs, seeking respite from the stifling, sweltering confines of their air-conditionless abodes, a story is passed along that is so incredible, so tragic, that it has taken on the awesome status of urban legend. It is a tale of heartbreak, despair, and dashed hopes.

It is the story of the fateful day when Ubba the Gringo dropped the bottle.

BG's brother Ubba (derived from Stubba or Stubbs, due to Ubba's shorter stature amongst his 6 feet and up bros) came up to visit when he could from Louisiana, usually in late October, in time to celebrate BG's Halloween birthday. Liberal consumption of alcoholic substances inevitably ensued. Although I always made a valiant attempt to plan Halloween-related outings, they often backfired due to BG's hangover-ridden state. And so we wound up--day after day, during the time of year when New York City is at its most glorious--escaping the brilliant blue skies, low humidity, and perfect temperatures by hiding out in the small neighborhood Irish bar where the sun never shone. BG's favorite saying was, I believe, attributed to W.C. Fields; to wit: "It's much too nice of a day to spend outdoors."

This particular bar was the last holdout from olden days, when the street was lined with Irish drinking establishments. But times had changed, and unless one wanted to take a 45 minute subway ride into "the city," as we referred to Manhattan, the choices were limited. This particular bar had its pros and cons. The prices were way cheaper than Manhattan--no happy hour, but an everyday low price of $3.50 for a drink or a beer. Although the Irish bartenders were cordial but standoffish, they knew how to pour a man-sized drink, so if you ordered a few scotches on the rocks you were in for a rip roaring, rollicking time. With every three rounds came a buyback, like clockwork--while you were still working on your second, a coaster would be laid down in front of you to let you know the next one was one the house. No umbrella drinks here, my boys--just the old Irish tunes playing on the juke, a small pool table in back, and a bunch of hardened drinkers and sports fans.

So one fine dazzlingly beautiful and crisp fall afternoon, BG, Ubba and I headed over to "Hugh's" for a little hair of the dog. When we'd drunk our fill, we stumbled down the block to the small liquor store run by a Chinese gentleman who was strictly business. No matter how many times BG frequented this establishment, which got a lot of its revenue through selling Lotto tickets as well--Chinese guy was unwaveringly brusque, hardly ever cracking a smile as he wordlessly, solemnly slid the bottles through the opening in the bullet-proof glass and took our cash. Quick, clean, no-nonsense, it was a reassuring and predictable ritual --just like at Hugh's, you knew what you were getting, and that's what you got--no more, no less.

As we half-walked, half-staggered the three blocks back to BG's apartment, I sensed that catastrophe was about to strike, Call it a sixth sense, but my soul was suddenly seized with a felling of inchoate dread.

And then, it happened, so suddenly that it still seems like an awful blur. BG had been carrying the bag with the bottle of vodka for me and him, and the bottle of Bacardi for Ubba. In order to retrieve his keys to open the outer door to get into the building, he tried to hand the black plastic bag over to Ubba to hold. But Ubba, afraid of looking too "ritter" (familyspeak for gay) didn't want to touch BG's fingers as the bag exchanged hands.

Suddenly, and without warning, all hell broke loose. The bag went crashing to the ground, and the bottles came tumbling out of their delecate swaddling, as delicate shards of glass scattered everywhere, blinking and glittering in the blinding autumn sunlight.

There was a moment of awful silence. Time itself seemed to have stopped. A few neighbors, who had the good sense to actually be out enjoying the picture perfect fall day, quickly crossed themselves and thanked all the saints in heaven that such a shameful fate had not befallen them in broad daylight, in full view of the public. Their shocked, teary-eyed faces seemed to say, "There but for the grade of God go I...Si no bueno, mi amigo!"

Then BG, acting quicky and decisively, bent down to examine the extent of the damage. It was bad, all right, but not totally irredeemable. He noted with relief that although Ubba's bottle was indeed shattered, the bottle of vodka was not.

Stubba, totally chagrined and humiliated, sweating profusely, eyes darting furtively back and forth, muttered to BG--no man, just leave the whole thing.

BG replied indignantly--have you lost your mind, man? Wasteful! The vodka is perfectly good!

As he bent to pick up the shards of broken glass from the Bacardi bottle, again Ubba said in low whisper--Nah, nah, come on, just leave it...

As BG straightened up, his sad chore done, we looked around and saw that Ubba had vanished. We walked the few feet into the vestibule of BG's building and saw Ubba huddled and trembling in the corner, pale and shamefaced.

"Come on, Ubba, we're going straight back to the liquor store and get you a new bottle."

"Nah, nah, I don't need to be drinking anyhow."

I quicly stepped in to the rescue. "Stuff and nonsense, my good man! I will go to the Chinese guy and pick up another bottle of Bacardi for you."

Ubba, in awe and wonder at my generosity and forgiving nature, turned to BG and said, "Does Elvira have a sister I could meet?"

All was well, and the party lasted for many an hour, long into the night. But sometimes, we still think back to that fateful day when in the blink of a jaundiced, bloodshot eye, perfectly good booze went down the drain.


In the meantime, please share your own substance-fueled interludes in which you, too, faced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

What's with the tattoos?!?

Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
Though tattoos are now ubiquitous, many people still look askance at them. My boyfriend BG is a long time tattoo afficianado, and over the years has acquired many of them on his arms. Mind you, he doesn't strut down the street in a muscle top flashing them to the general public, but when he wears a short sleeve shirt, some of them are visible. And based on this-- especially combined with his triple hooped earrings in both ears--some assume that he is a certain "caliber" of guy--certainly not a bourgie kind of fellow, at any rate--and perhaps a sinister, dangerous sort to boot.

When I met BG, he did have some tattoos, but they were not of the highest caliber. Being a Halloween Scorpio, most of his tattoos celebrate this in some way--pumpkins, witches stirring steaming cauldrons, skulls, black cats, and so on. That fateful Halloween night when he walked into my regular bar and swept me off my feet, he was able to prove to me that it was indeed his special day by displaying a skull tattoo inscribed with his birthday, 10/31/50. But since the lame tattoo artist didn't know how to do clear numerals, the 5 looked like a 3, so I coyly asked him if he was born in 1950 or 1930. Very cute, I know.

Over the 7 years I've known him, I've treated BG to many new tattoos. Since I knew of one cool tattoo parlor in my neck of the woods on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, I insisted he go there and get his work done by the young "kids"--20 and 30 somethings--who knew how to do it up right, and were up on the latest technologies.

BG doesn't do the tattoos to intimidate others--he just loves them. And when you're into them, it's kind of an addiction. As soon as you get out of the chair, you forget the pain you went through and want more.

But once in awhile they do come in handy to deliver a "message." For instance, one time he was on the check cashing/bill paying line in the Bronx, paying his cable and phone bills. There was a long line, and he'd been waiting there for about 20 minutes, when some guy came out of nowhere and gave him a cock and bull story about how he'd been on line in front of him, but had gone to put money in the meter. BG rolled up his sleeves for emphasis, revealing an assortment of skulls and other horrific images, and informed the interloper that he wasn't about to let him get ahead of him. The guy instantly turned around and left, his check uncashed.

Anyway, shortly after I met BG, my friend (let's call her Babs) from work was anxious to meet this sweet guy who kept giving me flowers and presents all the time. Babs was a ditzy broad--likeable enough, but her supervisor couldn't stand her because she was so scatterbrained. She also was kinda a slut--and I say this with affection--because she told me about instance after instance where she chased after guys she had just met and wouldn't rest until she slept with them. That's not so unique, I suppose, but the thing is that she was not interested in a one-night stand, but rather became instantly infaturated with each guy and dove in head first.

At the time I met BG, Babs and I were both on the prowl--though I remained chaste in my pursuits for Mr. Right (of course). I'd even met a nice Scorpio online shortly before meeting BG, and kind of pawned her off on Babs, who immediately fell head over heels. Unfortunately, the guy turned out to be a soon-to-be-divorced, stone cold alkie, broke and sleeping in a church, and impotent to boot. Another recent Babs escapade involved the night she went to a bar, started chatting with the bartender, hung around all night until closing and then just wouldn't give up until he took her home--though he was far from hard up and it was not really his idea. Unfortunately, the guy didn't wear a condom and she neglected to tell him she had genital warts (ugh) until much later, so he was not a happy camper, to say the least.

So anyway, Babs was hell-bent on meeting BG. He picked me up at work, and we headed to a local bar. I told Babs it was our treat, since she was also the carefree, live for the moment sort who sometimes had to borrow money from me to prevent the electric company from cutting her off or the landlord from throwing her out.

So we met up, went to the bar, and settled in at a booth in the back. Things were strained from the start--the vibes were all wrong. But the moment that really sticks in my mind was when she abruptly turned to BG and demanded: "What's with the tattoos?"

It was an awkward moment. Babs was a Manhattan-born babe, who thought of herself as sophisticated and liberated, but like me, she was also a nice sheltered Jewish girl who hung with guys who were mostly college educated and tattooless. BG was certainly a wee bit different from the sort of guy I was used to, but I liked it. Needless to say, I was shocked at the way she blatantly judged and sterotyped my beloved BG.

I told BG to lift up his sleeve and show her the yellow rose emblazoned with my name. She said, "Oh, THAT one's good." (What she would have given to have a guy put "BABS" on his bicep for her....I'm sure!)

Anyway, she wound up drinking plenty of Stolis on us. She wanted us to wait and have her condom free boyfriend meet up with us, and doubless do a double glom of free rounds--but we demurred though she begged us to stick around. That was the last time BG and I got together with Babs.

How could someone who worked in Greenwich Village and lived in the East 20s not have noticed that all the kids in New York City were getting full sleeve, or even full body tattoos? Sheesh.

In any case, I love to humor and pamper BG, though I would never get a tattoo myself. One of the guys in the cool tatooo place I took him to was a twenty-something sort who was the spitting image of Brad Pitt. Of course, girls would come in and moon around him, but he was a young, free spirit. So one day after a tattooed girl had come in and invited him up to her parent's country house for the weekend, BG said to him, wow, that's cool--you must meet a lot of women in this line of work.

Tattoo guy and his colleage both laughed and said--"We don't trust women who get tattoos. They're all crazy."

Well, I'm a crazy bitch, but at least I'm not a crazy tattooed bitch. I leave the excitement to BG.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

These new army ads are BROILING my BUTT!!

Elvira II
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
Have you seen those new army commercials? Are you as sickened as I am? Well, BG's Halloween cat, Elvira the Second, is not fond of them either.

They represent yet another shining example of some things that really BURN MY ASS!!

Despite searching the internet and the army website, I could not seem to find clips from the current TV ad campaign, so here is my biased, inaccurate, impressionistic rendition of three of them:

Young guy, prime army age, in some jukejoint with his dad, playing pool. The dad is a tough, gruff sort. Obviously, the kid is eager to please this crusty authority figure, whom I gather has pooh-poohed his son's cockamamie career and life schemes many times before. The kid tentatively tries to chip away at dear old dad's skepticism, gingerly approaching the subject at hand.

Here's where the dialogue becomes hazy, but this is the gist I got.

Kid: Trying to be casual: "I think I've decided what my next step is."

Dad (No eye contact, of course, thanks to being absorbed in setting up his next shot, etc. "What's that?"

Kid: "The army will give me money to go to college. I can study any field I want."

Dad: But it's the army.

Kid: It's the reserves, so I can stay at home until they need me.

Dad: It's the army.

Kid: They'll train me; really cool stuff.

Dad: Suddenly looking up; close up to his craggy face with a glint of hope in his jaundiced eyes: "Good training?"

Kid: (a tad smugly) "It's the army."

Touche! Checkmate!

The presumed aftermath:
Ol'Grizzle Pop is convinced at last that his directionless, spoiled brat of a son will finally be in good hands; safely and swiftly on the road to clean-cut normality. And because it's the reserves, he'll be at home til they need him (like, yesterday). Doubtless the rigors of army life: the strict discipline, the humiliation of basic, the unyielding hierarchy, will make a man out of him yet. Plus, the kid is obviously starving for atttention from a stern but emotionally distant father figure, and his homicidal drill seargeant ("Get after it, you maggots!")should fill that role quite quite nicely indeed.


Kid sits down at the kitchen table with his moms for a little heart to heart.

Kid: "Mom, I know what I want to do with my life."

Mom: (With a world weary "I've heard it all before. What now?" expression): "Go on."

Kid: "I'm going to join the army, mom. I'll get money to go to college. Now, wait a minute, mom..."

Mom: (mentally rolling her eyes) "Yes, go on..."

Kid: "Mom, it's time for me to be a man."

Mom: (settling in for the Talk of a Lifetime): "Ok. Tell me more."

(Fade to black): Kid: "Well, I was thinking I'd like to be an engineer...."

The presumed aftermath:
Beleagured mom can finally stop worrying about her kid getting into trouble, not being a "man," and all that nasty stuff. He'll be out of her hair, on the road to a good career, and last but not least, she can have the run of the house again without having to pick up his dirty socks or make his bed. Hey, not too shabby, this army stuff.


Rainy nighthouse; dad has just picked up son at train station. He's on leave, in uniform. They sit at counter, apparently having stopped for a quick cup of joe before heading home to mom.

Dad: "You're a changed man."

Son: "How's that?"

Dad: (Too overcome to look at his boy: "Back there, when you got off the train, you did two things you've never done before at the same time."(Pregnant pause). "You shook my hand, and you looked me square in the eye."

(Shot to dad looking his son square in the eye; shot to son who seems to have an oh-so-slight smirk on his face).

The presumed aftermath:
Sonny boy was on a one-way trip to Deep-Shitsville. Then somehow he found his way to the recruiting office, and now he is a fine, upstanding, (albeit slightly cocky and smirking) young man who can finally perform two social skills simultaneously.

Bring us your brain fried, your poor, your teeming n'er do wells yearning to break free and stay out of the joint...

This brand new campaign, started recently, is quite blatantly aimed at the parents of potential recruits. Doubtless it is designed to quell some of the anxieties mom and pop might have about having their sons and daughters sent into harm's way. Typically, the target market is those young people whose parents have not had the means/wherewithal to send them through law or med school, let alone the college of their choice.

The impetus for this current campaign was apparently the distressing fact that recruitment figures and quotas are down, at a time when active troops are being pushed to the limit, sometimes obliged to extend their tour of duty in Iraq much further than they had originally bargained for.

These new ads--which sport the tagline "Help them find their strength"-- replaced the pre-Iraqi war "Army of One" campaign, aimed at Gen Y'ers--esp. African American men-- who were used to a youth culture based on individualism rather than blind obedience to authority. Those ads, as I recall, focused on the image of recruits as glam Tom Cruise types a la Top Gun: out there performing their one-man missions from God in really cool fighter jets, doing those super keen ego enhancing swoops and 360s in a pure, clean, cloudless, American sky. Sexy, cocky mavericks who make their own rules--including maybe squeezing in a little schtuppy duppy with their hot training instructor (hey, if you believe Tom Cruise is capable of that, you can believe Joe Schmoe might have a shot at it too).

Turns out that the long standing Be All that You Can Be ad campaign, while still a morale-boosting touchstone for those already in the military, was no longer too effective for recruiting new youngsters. But that catchy little jingle was ubiquitious enough to become hard-wired into the collective unconscious.

In any case, the new ad campaign disgusts me, on several levels.

If you've ever seen Private Benjamin, you may recall that Goldie Hawn, a spoiled Jap, marries a guy who dies on their wedding night and then escapes into the military to get away from it all. Her recruiter plays up army life as a kind of country club, and she envisions herself basking in luxe suite accomodations, with ample time to kick back, try on new shades of lipstick, and do her nails. The reality hits her, and hits her hard, on her first morning of basic, when the tough female drill seargeant literally slings her and her mattress onto the floor after she tries to snuggle and snooze through wake up call. She tries to convince the brass that there's been some mixup--some terrible mistake--she must be in the wrong company. But she's stuck, and she does, indeed, become a fine figure of a woman, after numerous Lucille Ball style misadventures.

This may be very funny, but I know of at least one woman who was similarly misled by her recruiter, and it was definitely no joke. In a word, she was lied to and swindled. And I'm sure she's far from the only one.

I can only wonder how many millions are spent on these ad spots. Don't even get me started on that.

Now on to everyone's fave, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11...

My leanings made it easier for me to get totally sucked into this movie. Although many on the repub right seem to feel this is misleading propaganda, to my mind it seems to pale in comparison to the propaganda entailed in the army's fantasy-land commercials.

One of the most moving segments of F 9/11 concerned a mom who was initially more than happy to see her kids join the armed forces, since she felt that, particularly in the economically depressed, job-impoverished area she hailed from, families of limited means who could not afford to send their kids to college might see the military as a great choice for thier sons and daughters. She maintained this stance until her son was killed overseas. She eventually wound up being an outspoken opponent of the current war effort.

Perhaps, as his detractors claim, Moore employed some deceptive or misleading editing techniques, but all I can say is that the sequence with Dubya sitting in a classroom, kiddie book in hand, boasting the look of a poleaxed mule while Rome burned, spoke much louder to me than his patriotic words ever could.

That's it. I'll keep this one mercifully short, just for a change of pace, and turn the floor over to YOU!

7/19/05 UPDATE....

Thanks to my pal Henry, I have two very relevant links to add for more info. In addition to a link to a site on military corruption, there is also a very interesting and chilling link to a site run by the lCentral Committee for Conscientious Objectors concerning Army recruitment vans touring schools around the country to glamorize the military life. The link to "Before you Enlist" gives myth-busting info on the supposed college and training benefits the army promises recruits. (Also: from the main site, click "military out of our schools," and then click on "military adventure vans" to get the full scoop on the recruitment vans). As they point out, "two-thirds of recruits never get any college funding for the miliary," and "joining the military is a dead end," since the skills learned are not particularly relevant to civilian jobs. The link also discusses issues such as the recuitment of minorities and women, the effect of the miliary on mental health and civil rights, and so on. Well worth checking out--although unfortunately, I think Blogger has once again gone senile and will not let me add the hyperlinks direvtly to these last two links, so just go to the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, and link to the specific pages from there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Arsenic and old meatloaf

Arsenic and old meatloaf
Originally uploaded by Elvira Black.
My boyfriend BG has had a number of near-death and other uber-traumatic experiences. A psycho-shrink almost OD'd him on methadone--twice. He nearly lost a leg to thrombosis after another OD from heroin. He had polio as a child. He got into a rumble with a dangerous psycho in a shelter. Another unhinged old shrink who administered a "painless one-day detox" from methadone promulgated a horrible hellish month of unspeakable horror for both of us. He also broke his coccyx bone after falling down drunk on his barbells. And so on.

But one of the most horrific incidents of BG's life involved the murderous "cooking" techniques of his mother, whose e-coli enriched meatloaf sent him into the hospital several times. He still sometimes wonders if she was deliberately trying to murder him.

Although BG spent many years as a sautee/broiler cook, he did not inherit his knack for cuisine preparation from his mother. When BG was a boy, he endured multiple "food issues." As the second oldest in a family of five, his parents literally struggled to put food on the table. As a growing boy, his mother often chastised him for "eating too much."

BG's typical diet consisted of hot dogs, cereal, soup, apples, powdered skim milk, government cheese, and peanut butter from a huge armly surplus can (his dad was in the air force). TV dinners, steak, and any other food one could think of was reserved for "rich people." Meat was generally frowned upon because of its expense--most of the time.

At age 8, to help out with family expenses, BG had his first job delivering papers. All the proceeds went directly to his mom. BG resorted to sneaking loose change out of his dad's piggy bank jar so he could surreptitiously purchase a few candy bars (for rich people). He is still wracked with guilt over this transgression. Although there was a dearth of substantial food, his parents did "surprise" him at age 11 with an accordion and private lessons. Likewise, since he started sneaking smokes early on, his dad presented him with 2 cartons of Camels for his 13th birthday. Heck, they were cheaper than food.

BG's mom was, and is, a very devout Catholic. Each meal was preceeded by grace. As BG describes it, they went through half the rosary. Thoughts abounded concerning Our Lord dying on the bloody cross following foul cruel tortures to His precious body, which had tasted the exquisite lash of the cat 'o' nine tails. These were the ruminations which went through BG's mind as the family gave thanks for their humble meal.

But almost nothing--save the Passion of the Christ--could compare to the fear and loathing of the Meatloaf Incidents. As BG remembers it, on rare occasions his mom would take some cheap ground chuck out of the freezer and first immerse it in warm water in the sink for 4 or 5 hours to thaw. She would then add her own special touches--some carrots and oatmeal. The result was a greasy concoction that BG recalls as the Meatloaf from Purgatory.

BG's mom would then let the leftover meatloaf sit in a dark oven for two or three days to "keep it warm." When BG was around nine years old, his mom gave him a meatloaf sandwich that had been "aged" in this manner. Being hungry, he ate it, and then was obliged to go mow someone's lawn for three hours in the hot sun (again to help with the household expenses). As he worked, he wound up feeling sicker and sicker; his stomach churning and aching.

Around two AM, he was whisked to the base hospital, where he remained for about 15 days. Although no one seemed to put two and two together (the base hosp wasn't exactly the Mayo Clinic), BG does remember nurses administering multiple shots of what he thinks must have been morphine. Whatever it was, he really looked forward to those shots, and by the time he was released his ass looked like a pincushion. He theorizes that this may be one of the things which predisposed him to seek out codeine and heroin later in life.

Another time, when he was about 14, Mom again fixed him a hearty meatloaf sandwich, "warm" from the oven, to fortify him before he went off to his current job. He started to feel sick, but his mom thought he was just trying to get off work--which at this point involved overseeing the conveyor belt as an assistant night manager at some burger joint. He really had the "knee trembles" that time--doubled over in pain, he nevertheless still had to ride out his shift. I believe this resulted in another trip to the hospital, and yet another failure to connect the dots.

It was only later--much later--that BG considered the thought that maybe his mom was trying to do away with him. I was amazed that no one else in the family went through this kind of stomach blowing experience. But BG says that he thinks his mom used to reserve the tainted sandwiches for him because he was "always hungry" before work.

BG enlisted in the army at 17, during the Vietnam Era. He'd just graduated from high school, and didn't foresee any other realistic option. He figured he'd get drafted anyway, and those who enlist usually got slightly better treatment in the army than draftee "cowards." He couldn't afford to go to college, and didn't want to run to Canada. Because he didn't exactly relish the thought of killing people, his MO was medic. Medics had about the worst life expectancy in the field, because the enemy would try to plow them down first.

Ironically, when BG enlisted, he discovered that army chow was a great improvement over his mom's cooking. In fact, in lean times ahead when he had to eat in soup kitchens or out of garbage cans, this humble cuisine still tasted like a Julia Child smorgasbourd compared to the typical repast offered by dear old mom.

While in basic, BG had to have an emergency appendectomy. I have the sneaking suspicion that this may have been the culminaton of all the multimple food poisonings from days of yore. In any event, while in advanced training, BG broke his arm badly and was given an honorable discharge. Shortly thereafter, he got married and became the youngest manager ever of a fried chicken franchise, which meant that he could at last eat this delicacy, unknown to him in childhood, in abundance. This was the first in a long line of cooking;/food prep jobs for BG.

As with many cooks, I imagine, BG has "seen it all" behind the scenes. This is one of the reasons we almost never eat out. The fanciest we ever get, due in part to BG's thrifty natrure, is a diner. We affectionately call the one in BG's neighborhood The Toilet Bowl. Although it's a roomy neighborhood place with plenty of those neat booths and even the old fashioned jukebox machines at every table, the cleanliness of the bathrooms leaves much to be desired. In one instance, I retired to the ladies room only to find that the toilet seat had been somehow dismantled and flung on the floor.

Subsequently, we took to making up names of possible Toilet Bowl specials. These included mouth watering items such as Tasty Toilet Temptations, which might consist of two eggs over easy with sausage and pancakes--all served on a dirty toilet seat.

In any case, having a cast iron stomach, I almost never got sick from any food in any restaurant, no matter how numerous the potential health code violations might be. But recently, an incident in McDonalds's took me by surprise.

We'd had a long day in Manhattan, and stopped by the Mickie D's on Broadway in the Village for a bite. Since I was hungry, I decided to go for the double meat Big Mac. As was our wont, we took our meal upstairs where it was more secluded, and settled in.

Shortly after finishing my burger, I started to feel quesy. Before I knew it, I was barfing into the McDonald's bags I had on the table (we always got the food to go so we could shlep it upstairs easily). Luckily, the upstairs section was practically deserted at the time. In retrospect, it did seem as if the burgers had probably been sitting awhile under the "warming lamps"--the meat had a film of vaseline-ish grease, and were not hot in the least.

As if in a dream, I suddenly recalled another rare food catastrophe about a year ago, when we went to visit BGs folks out in the hinterlands, and had a family reunion with the BG bros for about a week.

While there, we discovered the wonders of Wal-Mart, and made a pilgrimage to this most wondrous of super stores almost every day. In order to avoid a gastronomical horror show, BG bought a cheap but serviceable BBQ grill, and we purchased the best meat we could buy--Grade A, low fat sirloin steak and hamburger meat, and good cheesewursts. BG's mom prepared the salads, boiled potatoes, and other low-risk accoutrements.

All went well until the final night of our visit. It was just the four of us--BG's parents and me--and BG prepared jumbo burgers. Only problem was that BGs mom insisted that we also cook up some of the "really good meat" she had as well. So BG prepared both batches of meat--although he noticed that his mom's seemed to have some sort of funny white film on it.

I lost out on the burger-roulette wheel--I apparently got one of the good burgers and one of the bad, which also boasted a very questionable odor. The next morning, as we were at the train station waiting to go back to NYC, I started to feel faint. I rushed to the bathroom and had a hideous case of the runs.

Could it have been a nefarious plot to "end it all" for BG and I--sparing his brothers, who had already left town unscathed a few days before? Nah, BG's mom is a really sweet lady and she loves us both....???

Next time we visit, we'll just have to sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night and confiscate any meat products BG's mom may have lying in wait to spring on us. Then, when we sit down to grace, we won't have to pray that we survive yet another of BG's mom's unwholesome, "home cooked" meals.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

SIZZLING HOT Comments of the Week! Part Deux

Danger, danger Will Robinson! Warning, warning!! There's trouble in paradise between two of my lunatic blogger pals! In this installment, Ice accuses Henry of homophobia! Elvira tries to make nice nice, and Henry defends his right to use epithets against any race,religion, creed, sexual orientation, or mental incapacity! Check it out in the SHOCKING, EXPLOSIVE comments section of Annoying artiste assholes!

Hypomanic advises Elvira to use those "funny" cigarettes to cure her addiction to Marlboro Lights, and also to eliminate the need for her psych meds! Plus, although Hypomanic claims to need no meds, he implies that schizophrenics always do, and are "crazy" without them! Check out this wacky wacko's BIZARRE and DISTURBING theories about illegal herbal supplements in the comments section of Help! I'm turning into a pack of Marlboro Lights 100s!!!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"The lunatic is in my head"

Blogger-Slogger has done its dastardly deeds upon me yet again. I was all set to include a cool illustration here, but there is apparently yet another bug which is preventing me from posting it here. In the meantime, I am just posting this piece sans illustration, and hopefully will be able to add it in later. Sigh....

As the Fourth was my birthday, I decided to have a fireworks show in my brain by injesting some herbal supplements and listening to Pink Floyd's 1973 opus The Dark Side of the Moon,--the second-best selling album of all time, worldwide. Along with PF's Wish You Were Here and Meddle, it was in heavy rotation on my personal soundtrack for many a bong-induced bacchanalian college romp.

Even after 30 years, I find the album breathtaking, straight or stoned. What struck me most this time around, though, was how Clare Torrey's incomparable pre-Mariah, post-Arethra vocals on The Great Gig in the Sky seemed to perfectly mimic the majestic meanderings of a classic blues-tinged guitar riff. It sounded for all the world as if some fallen angel was alternately lamenting for and raging at her sad fate.

Syd Barrett, mentally ill acid casualty/musical genius, and one of the founding members of this legendary psychedelic/prog rock group, was the driving force behind Pink Floyd when the band was formed in 1965. But Barrett, whose behavior had become increasingly bizarre, was for all intents and purposes eased out of the group by '67-68. Stories, both verified and apocryphal, abound concerning his antics. From Wikipedia's article on Barrett:

"On one famous occasion, he refused to mime his performance for an apprearance on the Pat Boone TV show, and stood stock still, his arms limp by his sides, staring fixedly into the camera. In another well-known incident, shortly before going on stage, Syd crushed up the entire contents of a bottle of Mandrax tranquilizer tablets, mixing them with a large quantity of Brylcreem hair cream; he then placed the mixture on top of his head and as he played under the hot stage lights, the viscous mixture softened and began to ooze down his head, giving the appearance that his face was melting."

Forget Janet Jackson's nipple--now this, my friends, is what we call entertainment!

The mystique surrounding Barrett--and his short-lived but wildly experimental and influential musical career--endures today. As Wikipedia notes:

"Although his activity in pop music was short, his influence on 1960s artists (and those of successive generations), especially Pink Floyd, has been profound. Through his acoustic solo albums, he is cited as the first psych folk artist by many....Syd was one of the most original lyricists of his day and was also an innovative guitarist, being one of the first to fully explore the sonic possibilities of distortion and especially the recently-developed echo machine."

Dark Side of the Moon, which was peppered with such hits as Money, Time, and Us and Them, is one of several Pink Floyd recordings that are haunted by the ghost of Barrett. Again, from Wikipedia (I'm quoting them a lot, but you just can't get any better than this):

"Syd's decline was to have a profound effect on Gilmour and Waters' [Pink Floyd members] songwriting, and the theme of mental illness and the shadow of Syd's disintegration permeate all three of Pink Floyd's most successful albums. Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall. ...Roger Waters drew on Syd's departure and condition as a major inspiration for Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (1973)."

On a more metaphyical plane, there is a popular theory abroad about an alleged connection between The Wizard of Oz and Dark Side of the Moon. This synchronicity, called Dark Side of the Rainbow, occurs when the album is played as a "soundtrack" to the movie.

But wait: there's more...much more. See Wikipedia's excellent articles on :

Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd trivia
Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were Here
Syd Barrett
Asperger's Syndrome, which some speculate that Barrett suffers from.

The title of this post is taken from Dark Side of the Moon's song Brain Damage.