Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kabobs of Death; Alien Food on the Frontier

Today, I drove down past the lower ninth ward with my friend, Willow. We were on a mission to get supplies for the renovations at Skull Club, and the Lowes & Home Despot in Chalmette have it all, being recently built & stocked. The people working there are also nicer than in urban New Orleans, and there's little traffic hold up. In fact, in many places along the way, there's very little at all. Rebuilding St Bernard Parish is an ongoing task that would make Hercules sweat bullets... But I digress... One of the things that seems to happen when one is totally absorbed in a project, is the forgetting of the day to day things of life that keep us going strong, like making (shopping for) groceries. I hadn't done it in days, and the slowly blackening pair of limes were obviously tired of standing guard over the empty mayonnaise jar that shared my refrigerator with them. Still, I soldiered on. As we headed for The Parish, I became aware that last night's tortilla and side salad were not going to hold out for long. And this was certainly not the time to divert to make a grocery run. Hunger began to gnaw mercilessly, and we weren't even to the store yet. I'm not a fan of fast food, largely because it's not really food, but an experiment in how bad something can be for you, taste barely edible and still make you want it. In the past, having managed to put myself in this same predicament, I'd stopped at the Brothers Gas Station on Elysian Fields & Claiborne (for gas, mind you) and found an absolutely delicious empanada stuffed with chorizo & scrambled eggs, nearly as tasty as real street food found in the Caribbean and Northern Mexico. Another friend, Dan the Man (of NOOMOON fame) swears that the Brothers Station at Elysian Fields & the 610 has the best fried chicken in town. So. As we pass through Arabi, headed down St Claude Highway, I see a Brothers Gas Station and scoot right in. The smell of hot peanut oil awaits. I went inside, hoping that my lovely empanadas were in there, too. And they were. But these were the deformed and angry cousins of my delicious treats, sagging with yellowed oil and smelling greasy from out here, on the other side of the glass. No fucking way. Then, on the menu behind the 'sneeze guard' glass, I see: "Kabobs - $1.99". Now, having spent a reasonable amount of time in the Third World, I'm a big fan of indigenous meat on a stick. You can also see them cook your food at street carts, where as in any restaurant, you're clueless 'til it's in you. And I've done way too much restaurant work to trust such flimsy truths. The Kabob it is then. It gets boxed and bagged and handed over to me, exactly as I hand over the 2 bucks & change. For some reason, certain cultures insist on touching the money before they release the food, like I'm going to jump in my super villain helicopter and escape James Bond by flying it under water all in the name of stealing a fucking kabob. I guess I could have, but the under water chopper is still in the shop until they figure out the warranty on the photon torpedo launcher. Okay. Fine. Outside, I get in the truck and my stomach growls. Like a hooker who can smell money, it wants what it wants and it wants it NOW. So I open the box and there it is. A roll of fried dough that would gag Elvis, looking like a cross between a baby's arm and a corn dog from hell. To my limited knowledge, a Kabob is meat and maybe some veggies on a stick. This huge coating of breaded godlessness was a surprise to me. And that's the most positive description I can offer. Great. Whatever the fuck it was, it was also now mine. Money had been touched and boxes handed off. Sometimes, there's just no going back. "Fuck it" says Mister Stomach. Paul Neuman's character in 'Hud' was made fun of by the white folks because he said he ate dog. Until they were starving and begged him for some... So I closed my eyes and figured, "How bad can it be, they're still open." You have no idea. Until now.... The first thing I noticed was a sharp pain in the back of the roof of my mouth, and something hard clacking between my teeth. Pulling 'the thing' out of my mouth, it's innards were revealed. It was, indeed a kabob. Of sorts. It certainly was meat on a stick. Two sticks, in fact. They were shoved through the meat side by side, so that a sharp point poked out either end, as though a thorough trapper wanted to make sure his kill would not easily escape. One of these had scraped against the back of my mouth as I gingerly took a bite of this strange and deadly object. They had both been there, through the middle of this beast, when I bit down, making my teeth jar against the wooden sticks. I wondered if some demented cook had laughed aloud during the impaling. As I looked into the maw of this strange device, I saw layers of filling on the sticks. Chunks of cheap smoked sausage alternated with little rolled up pieces of some sort of fabricated lunch meat, creating a textural & taste cornucopia of disgust. It began to seep. I like to think of myself as a guy who's been around a bit, not squeamish or faint hearted, able to do what it takes to get through whatever must be got through. What Carlos Castaneda would call a 'Warrior'. Still, this seeping roll of thick, fried dough, complete with Pun-gee Sticks of Death called for more than rising to an occasion. It called out a challenge like a duel, a fight to the death, a final curtain for somebody. And it wasn't going to be me. Rolling my eyes up into my head, I drew upon every mind and body control teaching I had ever learned. It also kept me from looking at the damned thing. I yanked out it's sticks like I was ripping bones from a mortal enemy, and stuffed one end of the seeping log of doom in to my mouth, biting down quickly, as if my reflexes expected it to try to squirm away. As I chewed and snorted my way towards the other end, I noticed that Willow had turned away, looking out the window, like he was dreaming of escape by jumping from the car as I rolled along, hideous demon in my mouth, strange orange fluid on my chin and the wheel held by my trembling knees. Somehow, I got it down. I may have blacked out. Willow isn't talking and I can't remember. I know we'll never speak of it again. Ever. I know, I know, I should have gone back, complained, whatever. But what good would it do, except to perhaps teach me where, exactly THEY GET THAT MEAT. And I have no interest in winding up in some miniature Vlad Kabob Experiment, out there in the Parish. Out there where no one can hear you scream. All they hear is the growl of your stomach, and they plaster on a nearly human smile, easy to mistake for the pleasure of service and sharing of interesting cuisine. Don't be fooled, my friends. Even the Jackal seems to smile as it eats it's still living prey. And somewhere, deep in the Ninth, strange creatures scream into the night, not as they are being impaled for these hideous creations. Oh, no. They scream as they find out they must eat one. So you've been warned. And I won't warn you again. Because even as I write this, I can feel it's twisting, turning, nauseating presence as it grows inside me. Perhaps it is, right this very minute, hatching it's young.

Bob Dylan on New Orleans

The Unofficial American Poet Laureate of the later 20th century, Bob Dylan, offers his point of view on the City I Love, New Orleans. CLICK HERE.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shifting the Balance

Although I have recently found myself to be the object of a hateful and relentless tirade from someone I have never met or dealt with, I find the human capacity for compassion and love to be inspirational, and, in fact vastly out weighing these paltry horrors. It is often in the worst of times that the best in all of us rises to the occasion. Love is always somewhere in our hearts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Agreement

Agreement (noun) - An arrangement as to a course of action. Imagine with me for a moment. Pretend that all of the world were involved. And that we, all of us humans, had reached an agreement. An agreement that for one day, a single consecutive period of 24 hours, starting simultaneously, all over the planet, nobody killed anybody. For one day on earth, there would be no murder, no war, no bombings, no executions. 24 hours in which to lay down our guns, abate our bombings, stop killing each other in the streets over imaginary territory, material objects, currency or the imagined verbal slight. All over the entire world, each & every person. Now imagine that 24 hour period coming to an end. Imagine looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, "Okay. Now it's time to go on killing people." Really? Is that who you would chose to be? Or will you make The Agreement last? We can begin today....

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cox Cable: The hard working & the complete fucking idiots.

I recently abated my use of the internet, even going so far as to put a notice on Facebook, expressing my disappointment in Cox's 'service', as their service wouldn't let me on line for more than about 8 seconds at a time, if that. I called repeatedly and was walked through instructions as to how I could dismantle my modem, router, computer & TV configuration, in order to "trouble shoot" the problem. I did this once, and only once, back in January when the connection started to weaken. Eventually, it just disappeared altogether, yet the 'phone service' people kept insisting all I had to do was take everything apart and put it back together, and everything would be just fine. Lies. All lies. I finally broke down and bought a new modem, on the off chance it would help. Nothing. Today, I got a call from their "Customer Service Department'. I had no idea there was such a thing, as I'd asked a dozen or so of the 'phone service' people if there was such a place and they assured me they were it. Chilling, I know. Anyway, one of the conversations I had with the 'service people', during which I ranted loudly about paying for goddam service for six months or more while some idiot told me again & again to dismantle the universe and rebuild it out of Popsicle sticks, was 'recorded for customer satisfaction'. Something I am completely unfamiliar with. Trust me. So they finally sent a guy. He drove by the building and parked, as I watched out the window, ready to point out the pole and hardware on the building, so he would know where to look. After the last few months, I expected little or nothing from anyone at Cox Cable. Before he got to the sidewalk, he called me on the landline. Oh, great, I thought. He'll want to come in and take the walls down. But no..... "When was the last time someone was here?" he asked. "Back in January, when my neighbor got cable internet, I guess", I replied. "Is that about when your problem started?" he asked... "Yeah, as a matter of fact, that's when it started to weaken" I said. "I called, but they assured me those things were unrelated." He pointed to a series of spider web wiring, hooked into several splitters, stuck haphazardly on the wall. "I gotta see who's paying for cable here, or if it's being stolen", he said. Then he made the call. After several bouts of "I see" and raised eyebrows, he hung up. "I'm sorry man, but these are all wrong. They're draining the signal and that's why you can't get on. It gets worse as these splitters degrade." Then the kicker: "These were all installed by the last Cox guy, but that's not how they're supposed to do it. It takes a dedicated line from the pole. I guess he didn't want to hang one." Fifteen minutes later, the line had been hung and everybody reconnected. At first, I was furious that some moron had cheated at his job, taken a short cut, and screwed up my service. But then, he was hired, trained and sent out as a representative of Cox, so there's some responsibility there. However, in the six months since then, as many as seventeen employees of Cox Cable New Orleans have had the opportunity to remedy this problem, by simply putting in a check order for this address. Not one of them did so, until today, and only then because I cussed out a supervisor and ended my rant with a polite request for Earthlink's phone number, and it happened to be randomly recorded. So there we have it. The squeeky wheel getting the grease. Again. Is this the sort of society we're becoming? Where service is a promise made only by nameless phone operators who never put in the work order? When we have 'available tech solutions' that include only a mumbling voice telling us how to do the work we've paid them for? Thank god for the working stiff on the ground, eventually dispatched by another employee fearing for his job, due to a computer's random recording of an irate customer, threatening to take their money elsewhere. I'd like to buy Tommy the Technician several ice cold beers. He showed up, found the problem, fixed it, and went about his day, just like millions of us do every week, waiting for that cruel joke of paycheck, and swallowing the bullshit that comes along with it. I'd like to have the 'service people', who sit on the phone, playing God and reading from a sheet of instructions that don't apply, giving me attitude because 'it's my turn to talk now, sir', lined up where I can see their faces. Their lying, lazy faces. Fuck all of you worthless bastards. Knock it off and quit complaining. I'll give you a turn to talk when you actually DO something other than read a script and take my money for not doing a goddam thing. And if that happens to include almost 100% of the politicians who are sitting pretty with a six figure income (plus), an equal retirement plan and free health care for life, well, I guess you know what I think of your 'service', too. A hard rain is gonna fall one day, maybe sooner than we think, and those bureaucrats who do nothing but get in the way of the rest of us, struggling to make a life and unafraid to work for it, are going to find little sympathy from me. Anyway, I'm back online & preaching revolution, starting from within. In the meantime, I've been watching Fight Club over again. If the system continues to fail us, perhaps it's time to take it down. Not just in our own minds, but in the ethics we hold dear as a Nation. You may now return to your usual activities.