My best friend is somewhere between nine and eleven years old. She’s incapable of intelligent speech; she often smells like a dumpster — one full to the brim with overripe French cheeses; and she has been my constant for the last eight years. She is a Basset Hound, for better or for worse (but mostly for better.) She has lived with me for all these years, but has not yet grasped the concept of personal property, nor does she help pay the rent. Some might call her a hairy, Marxist freeloader.
As would befit a veteran hound: she has scars, as do I. One of her back legs doesn’t bend so well — her knee joint is knotted and stiff from an old war wound. She has a hairless slash near her shoulder blades that looks like it was placed there by Voldemort. The end of one of her long, floppy ears is nicked where her Malamute brother (R.I.P.) disagreed that she should have an entire slice of pizza all to herself. My own scars came, as happens to humans, from heartbreak and loss. Those scars always seem to heal over, largely mitigated by the warm, curious, empathetic sniffs from my loyal beast. (She also helps me recover from the most grievous physical injuries.)
She’s changed a lot over the years, the shiny brown fur along her snout giving way to mottled white. She has dutifully honed her snoozecraft, sleeping more and more each day, perhaps beyond my mathematical ability to tally. Two days ago, her post-bath nap had been waged for thirteen and a half hours by the time I left for work. But in other ways, she’s still the same as when we met. She still seems to be as dumb as a sack of hammers, yet has no problem — morally or functionally — pulling off a crafty challah, chicken or couch cushion heist.
On September 28, 2004, I adopted and fell in love with Gertrude. I’m grateful for every stinking moment we’ve had and the ones that are yet to come.
Yeah, so I’ve been replying to a bunch of misfired email again. Here we have correspondence between a teacher and her fifth grade class, which she apparently takes to include me:
“Hello my stellar students!I hope that each of you have enjoyed a spectacular weekend! Our homework choices are the same this week. I will be sending home new choices on Monday, March 5th. I am attaching your spelling / Vocabulary words so that you can get a head start! This is going to be a fantastic week in 5th grade!We have 3089 Reading Counts points!!!!!!!! You are doing an amazing job reading AND comprehending what you read! I want you to know how proud I am of you! Your perseverance is commendable!Also, keep up the momentum on Reading Plus— you just never know what surprises I have in store for you! :)”
SPACE CATS: THE FINAL CONTACT
By Zachary Smith, Age 32
As Zimphatron-XVII piloted the elongated, metallic, Dachshund-like Space Ambulance above the crystalline landmasses of Fronklyn-9, his thoughts turned as always to the blistering ignorance of his Director as he explained three moon-revolutions earlier the need for his new partner.
”It’s true that you are the finest Space Ambulance pilot in the Nine Colonies, Zimphatron, but it is your reputation that is holding you back. You see, appearances are of the utmost importance in the 19th Intergalactic Space Army Fighter Group, and perhaps some … assistance would help you achieve a better performance review.”
Zimph, as he preferred to be called, rather than that cumbersome identifier on his name-sphereprism, glanced sideways at his copilot, Grxxtn-blart. Grxxtn-blart was dozing peacefully on the copilot’s seat, curled into a tiny, croissant-shaped ball. Zimph had never considered genetically-enhanced cyberpugs to be capable navigators of spacecraft, but even he had to admit that they were loyal to a fault, habitually capable of perfect attendance and even more dogged persistence, if not known for their brilliance.
The ship crested the horizon and the blinding radiance of Sun 5.23 made him close his eyes in a sudden, wincing motion. He averted his eyes to the instrument panel as he cursed his dependence on the electronic displays and gauges.
Just then, tiny blips began to appear on his detector-panel like starspices being ground onto a Galaxy Salad. The ship was engulfed by a cloudy, dark substance as the light from Sun 5.23 winked out.
”Resistance is rather silly,” mewled the instantly-recognizable multitude of voices in his spacecomm unit. Discarding his reluctance, he nudged Grxxtn-blart awake.
“Space cats, Grxxtn-blart.”
Pawing sleepily at his eyes after the sudden disturbance, Grxxtn-blart’s lack of strategic acumen was immediately notable in its absence. He began woofing sharply and painfully at the feline voices filling the air, lost his balance on his copilot’s chair, and tumbled to the floor. He ran around uselessly in circles before taking up residence under Zimphatron’s chair.
Then the meowing stopped. After a mere microsecond’s hesitance, the space cats unleashed their Quasar Claw Cannon upon the hull of the Space Ambulance, pulverizing it into a gaseous cloud of metal, upholstery and bone-flecked pug jam, all miniature particles whizzing off into the cold distance of space, eventually floating softly to the ground of inhabited worlds and confused by the natives for winter’s first snowflakes.
It’s been far too long.
Here’s an email I received that was meant for someone else:
Just a reminder, Nick’s GRADUATION PARTY will be held on Sunday, June 26, 2011, beginning at 4:00 PM. Drop in and say, “HI!” Stay a little or stay all evening!
Please forward this message to your kids and their (girlfriends/boyfriends) etc.
Also, please forward to email addresses of those who I don’t have (which is many)!
We’ll set up volleyball, horseshoes, pool, and darts!
Plenty of food and drink!
Come help us celebrate Nick’s milestone and wish him well on his next adventure: Rider University!
See you all next Sunday!
Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there!
Barb & Rob
And here’s my charming but family-friendly reply:
Hi, Barb & Rob!
This party sounds really exciting. I have some concerns about the volleyball, horseshoes, pool and darts, though. Last time I tried to play all of these at the same time, things got a little crazy. (Apparently, it’s difficult to aim your dart-throw whilst tightly-inflated volleyballs, heavy iron horseshoes and billiardy death-spheres are flying around all willy-nilly.) Not many of us present will speak of that day. The scars I carry will last a lifetime.
As for the food and drink, will there be vegetarian options? Scratch that — will there be vegan options? My new girlfriend is a vegan, which is pretty much the same as Al Qaeda if you ask me. I have my own dietary restrictions in that I won’t eat any food that isn’t flat. Think pizza, saltines, Kraft singles and graham crackers. I think this dates back to when my parents would lock me in the house and feed me through the mail slot as a child. :(
Rider University looks great! Reading its Wikipedia page, I was reminded that Andrew Jackson Rider became its first president. As you could guess from his name, he’s famous for his cavalry prowess at the Revolutionary War’s Battle of New Orleans, during which he rode Andrew Jackson.
In any case, can’t wait to see you all!
Haven’t heard back yet. :(
This is, without irony, my favorite movie. Surrealism at its finest, and quite possibly the most courageous comedy out of Hollywood (though ten years too soon.)
It’s @cliffnuttman enjoying quality time with the cooks at Taqueria El Rey Del Taco!
I’M A MF-ING COOKIE MONSTER
NO ONE MAN SHOULD HAVE ALL THAT FLOUR.
LET THAT BOY COOK
Baby I got a plan, bakeacake fast as you can.
Seriously, IKEA? It is September.
Sitting at Holeman & Finch for brunch, icy Bloody Mary glass held to my temple while a family of frenzied, battle-crazed, (apparently Viking) badgers tried to pickaxe their way out of my head via my eyeballs, I came to a realization: this was not one of my better ideas.
The plan was to see how many Bloody Marys I could drink in a weekend. Call it a pub crawl, but restricted to vodka-laced gazpacho. (Gin is okay, too. Or even tequila:Sangriento Maria!) Call it gonzo restaurant journalism. Call it “running a Marython,” which is what I did, much to the groans of my less pun-inclined brunch partners, Bobby and Josh. The brunch — or bronch as I call it, given how it was just us three bros — was the end of the story.
The story begins with yours truly as a child. I never could stomach tomatoes. As an adult, I decided that sometimes you have to “put on your big girl panties and deal,” as my mom loves to say. So I set out on a Steingartien quest to learn to like every food, and I finally conquered the tomato one serendipitous day with a seasonal, fire-red Roma and a bottle of balsamic vinegar. My priorities being what they are, I turned my attention to the Bloody Mary, since I always seemed to see those as haggard as I was on Sunday mornings slurping them down while I effeminately sipped my mimosa at brunch.
“I DRINK YOUR BLOODY MARY! I DRINK IT UP!”
Since this initial foray, I have greedily sucked them down, far and wide. There have been winners, Holeman & Finch chief among them, and losers, such as the sake-Mary I downed in New York City that has been blissfully banished from my memory.
The Bloody Marython began at home after work on Friday night. I’ve got something in my freezer resembling the H&F Bloody Mary mix, except the consistency of a milkshake (I DRINK IT UP!) and lacking the depth of flavor and seasonality of bartender Greg Best’s masterwork. He was kind enough to inform me via email that the current concoction contains watercress and toasted cardamom pods, improving upon the recipe that was featured in Bon Appetit as the “definitive artisanal Bloody Mary.”
Saturday night, my blood running hot after witnessing the Braves lay waste to
Pure Unadulterated Evil the Florida Marlins, I decided that I would run the second leg of the Marython at Six Feet Under, since everything’s better with a raw oyster in it. Made with over-the-counter but delicious Zing Zang mix and aggressively spiced, Gulf oyster clinging to the side of the glass like a hopeful child at the toy store window, SFU’s offering admirably primed the pump. They even give you a shot of Guinness to drop in there. How nice! Unfortunately, the pump was overly primed, and some oyster shooters followed that, and as the evening progressed, I learned that snow crab legs don’t make the best hangover-prevention food. (Butter shots may also have been consumed.) From that moment forward, everything went blurry in a haze of booze and debauchery. Think VH1’s “Behind the Music.”
Sunday, I woke up mere hours after
going to bed passing out, still inebriated. The gods smiled upon me and I managed to dice a potato without losing any more of my fingertips (coming soon: the 2008 Honey Pig Shochu Story). A little Vidalia and smoked paprika later, I had breakfast. There might have been a nap somewhere in there. Then came brunch. A very, very hungover brunch.
Due to the recent Serious Eats burger porn about Holeman & Finch, there were between ten and three hundred people waiting outside the door at noon. (Hangover math isn’t my strong suit.) Greg Best’s perfect Bloody Mary and the first cool day in ages made the wait more than tolerable — it was downright acceptable. The food was, as always, phenomenal: crispy, sweetly-glazed boar belly over vinegary greens and fluffy grits, piquant crowder peas with chunks of the seldom-seen tasso ham, and perfect pimento cheese. Oh yeah, and the two bros had their first H&F burgers. Seeing their grizzled faces light up just about numbed the pain behind my eyes.
Oh, wait. That was the Bloody Mary.
[Editor’s note: this was written a few weeks ago for another, more secret-y blog. DUN DUN DUNNNN.]