I hear that a lot of people are insane. I mentioned to my very good friend Ben Brown the other day that I enjoyed the writing of a particular person with whom he was acquainted, and he said that this person, who shall remain nameless, was quite clearly insane. “Ah,” I said, “you mean gibberingly, salivatingly, hair-pulling-outingly insane? Or a more simple, calm, organized sort of insanity?”
We were drinking beers at the time. Bass Ale. I order Bass from Webvan, and they bring it to my home in large plastic bins. They carry them right into my kitchen, these huge bins, and unload my beer for me. I never have to lift a finger. Until I put them in my refrigerator. I wonder if they would put them in there if I asked them? I wonder if they’d move things around to make them fit, and say things like, “I wonder how long this cottage cheese has been in here? It’s long past its ‘gone bad’ date. Maybe I should throw it out! And who needs two jars of capers, for criminy’s sake? Oh, wait. These are non-pareil!”
I use capers on my breakfast, sometimes. That’s when my breakfast consists of bagels–sesame bagels to be precise–with a schmear of cream cheese, some smoked salmon, a slice of beefsteak tomato and a leaf of Romaine lettuce. Then I put on the capers, but they always fall off. Like buttons.
I got one of my favorite shirts back from the laundry and there was a button missing. I didn’t notice it until I was already out of the house, because I sometimes wear shirts like very light jackets, because the weather in San Francisco? Whew. It’s wacky.
And So On
Summer in San Francisco is cold and dark. I mean, I knew that already? But the reality of it is a lot weirder than the knowledge. Because you get up on a day like, oh, today for instance. July whatever the hell day it is. And it’s, okay, July. July is summertime in everywhere I’ve ever lived. (I’ve never, you see, lived, in a manner of speaking, in the Southern Hemisphere where July is actually Winter, through some equatorial quirk that I understand but have never experienced. Boy, I’d sure like to go to Australia. Or London. It takes so long though. My brother went to Bangkok this year. They poured water on him in a disco. He said that was fun.) It’s hot and sometimes it’s sticky and mostly it’s air conditioning weather.
I haven’t lived in a place with air conditioning in seven years. I had a little window unit when I was living in Vermont that I brought with me to Boston. And then I bought this second big-ass AC that sat in the living room–well, not in the living room, exactly, but perched on the window sill and turned up all the way to try and cool the whole house, because it is hot and sticky in Boston in summer.
“Perch” is a weird word. I always think I’m spelling it wrong when I spell it, like it should be ‘purch’ or ‘pirch’, except I think ‘pirch’ is a bird. Or maybe it’s not.
So, Ben Brown, who I know very well and consult on his love life with because I don’t have one so who better to consult someone else about it, said this person was insane and did insane thing and lived as if they were insane. Which appealed to me.
I also like coffee an awful lot, but you have to be careful how you make it. You know what’s important? The water. Not so much the beans, though of course those are pretty damned important because making coffee without the coffee part, well, that’s just insane.
There’s this girl I work with who might be insane, or maybe it’s just the way she eats that makes me think she’s insane. Or not the way she eats, but what she eats–or, rather, what she doesn’t. So we’re, she and I, are sitting at this sushi place she said was good (and she’s extraordinarily picky about where she’ll eat, not just what she’ll eat, which she is also picky about, but where she’ll eat the few things she’ll eat as well) and I’m thinking, eh, whatever, it’s all raw fish and sticky rice and wasabi, but she’s convinced this is a great place, whatever. So I order some sushi, making sure I get some unagi, because Lance loves the eel.
She likes the hamachi. “Hamachi is the best!” she says, emphasizing “best” to emphasize it. And hamachi, you know, is good. But not as good as unagi, let’s face it. So she sees my unagi, which she did not order, and she orders some. And then when she eats it, see, when she eats the eel she…
Sushi should just be stuck all encompassing in your mouth and chewed and swallowed. Am I right? Of course I am. I use to try to eat it in two bites, but it always falls apart and there’s no easy way to eat that shrimp one, because you try to pull off the tail and the shrimp fall off the rice, and you can’t put it back together like it was supposed to be. And the shrimp is too chewy anyway. Like the octopus. Too chewy anyway.
And So Forth
So I’m eating the sushi like it’s supposed to be eaten. You cram the whole damned thing in your mouth. And I wonder, like I often do when eating sushi, if I’m eating it right. If I were in Japan, in Kyoto for example, and sitting at a sushi bar ordering sushi and eating there in the land of sushi, would the Japanese people laugh at me? And how would I know why they were laughing at me, because they always seem to be laughing all the time. And are they laughing because they’re happy, or because they’re nervous? And how could anyone be that nervous all the time? No, they’re laughing at me, because I’m a big, dumb, fat American who doesn’t know how to eat sushi.
And then I notice her, and what she’s doing to the unagi. Because what she’s doing is this: She’s digging her chopsticks under the nori, which is the seaweed strip holding the eel to the rice, right, and she’s digging under that and making a mess of the delicious jewel-like bite or two-bite piece of fish because, she explains after I start screaming like a woman and pointing at here and shouting “What are you doing you freak of nature?”, she won’t eat the skin.
And I’m like, “What?” and she’s like, “I don’t eat the skin” and I’m like, “What the hell are you talking about?” and she’s like, “My mother told me not to eat skin and I never eat skin” and I’m like, “Why the hell not?” and she’s like, “I always do whatever my mommy tells me, and she told me to never eat the skin. Do you eat the chicken skin?” and I’m like, “Yes,” thinking, “because that’s the best part!” and she’s like, nodding and all and goes, “the skin is bad for you” and I’m like, “You’re ruining it!” and she’s like, “No, I’m not” and I’m like, “It isn’t bad for you at all, you’re supposed to eat the whole thing, that’s how sushi works, they make it with care and dignity, training for years under sushi chefs, learning how to cut the fish and serve it and they can’t even make it in Japan until they’re like 50 or something because it’s a religion and sushi is a jewel-like bite and you’re ruining it, all digging in there and ripping the jewel apart and you’re wrong, wrong, wrong in every way you can be wrong!”
Then I started screaming like a girl again and clutching my head in righteous indignation. I think.
So she continued ruining the delicious jewel-like eel bits because an order is actually two pieces, not just one, which she can utterly ruin, digging into her food, tearing the seaweed into splinters, wrecking the carefully constructed rice cake thing and then she tries cramming the mess in her mouth and I’m like all disgusted because it’s disgusting and I’m thinking, “I bet they’d shoot her in Kyoto for doing that,” but instead I say, “why not just order it without the skin?” and she says, “Would they do that?” and I say, “Why not? They already have to cut the pieces up, anyway, so why not have them remove the skin so you don’t ruin the jewel-like perfection by digging into it with your chopsticks and ruining it so perversely?”
There’s this new book out, Kitchen Confidential, that’s written by this New York chef and he writes about what a sick, unhealthy place restaurants are. Because that food they’re serving you, and it looks so nice on the plate, but it’s been sitting in a fridge in back next to some calve’s liver and raw pork that’s been there since last Tuesday and everyone’s been touching it with the same fingers they use to scratch their asses and then they slap it on a grill and dress it up in endive and serve it to you with hollandaise and you’re thinking, “mmmmmmm.”
And that hollandaise? It has to be kept at the same temperature that’s perfect for breeding bacteria or else it separates, so the hollandaise they serve you at Sunday brunch looking all golden and delicious is probably a soup of amoebas waiting for a new condo and your intestine will do just fine.
And vegetarians get all smug and think, “that’s not me! I don’t eat that stuff! I’m perfectly safe!” But this guy? He hates vegetarians, so he makes it a special issue to relate this story about how this guy he knew sued a restaurant because he was always sick from working there, so they took stool samples from all the employees to see what they had living inside them. And everyone has stuff living inside them, except certain people from certain environments have even more, even worse stuff living inside them because their conditions aren’t quite as sanitary as some of us enjoy, but their systems adjust. But then they spread their amoebas to everyone else and you know how? They’re transferred most easily through the handling of raw, uncooked… vegetables. Particularly the washing of salad greens and leafy things. Yum!
You do realize that we have to buy as much stuff as we can off the Web right now because the prices are so low and it can’t last because no one’s making a profit and I use to worry about that, because I’m an idiot. “But what if they never make a profit! Then they’ll go out of business and we won’t be able to enjoy 30% pre-order DVD prices anymore! Look! Look! There goes Reel.com! There goes CDNOW! The low, low prices are driving them out of business! Whatever shall we do?”
Then the other side of my head kicks in and says, “Shut up, asshole. Take advantage of everything while you can. You’re a consumer, remember? This is the age of cheap goods and insane business practices! This is the time of Kozmo, delivering goods to your door in under an hour with no delivery charge! This is the time when you order something from amazon and in the box are coupons for $10 off at drugstore.com and $25 off at pets.com and $50 off at ashford.com and you can go buy, buy, buy!”
I used to buy a lot online because I worked at home and all those deliveries came directly there and I was there and they were there so it was all very convenient. Now I have to have them delivered to the office, which is good in one way because someone is always there to sign for things, but bad in another because now I have to haul that crap home and I don’t have a car.
When I’m walking, I hate people in cars. When I’m driving, I hate pedestrians.
Being a pedestrian used to happen by accident. I used to drive everywhere. It was ridiculous. There was a pizza place literally two blocks from my place in Boston, and did I walk there to get the pizza and bring it back? Of course not! I drove. What if the pizza got cold on the way? What if the fresh-from-the-oven, piping hot pizza managed to cool to a frozen wheel of hard cheese in the 300 feet from the restaurant to my front door?
But now that I’m a pedestrian by choice, I do my utmost to slow people in their cars down. They’re all rude, impatient assholes who are so focused on their destination that they never enjoy the journey. Their ears are glued to cell phones, they’re singing off-key to Ricky Martin crap, they’re edging their bumpers ever closer to you as you walk by because they just can’t wait to get around you and be first in the race to nowhere. I hate you all.
So here’s what I now do. When I’m waiting for the light to change so I can cross, I stand in the street. I stand where people want to turn. When I’m crossing the street, I sometimes drop change and have to pause to pick it up. Or I’ll adjust the volume on my minidisc player, slowing my walk across. I love delaying people in cars. It’s my new hobby.
Of course when I find myself again behind the wheel, I’m aiming my two-ton vehicle at people like me. I want to scare them. I want to get so close to them that they know that I own the road. This road is mine. It is all mine. You have the pathetic sidewalk, you slow cretinous freak. Get your ass out of my way. The street is made for me, and I have to beat the person in the car next to me to the next light, where I can sit there and watch the cross-signal turn yellow and get ready to jam on the gas and speed away at light speed, steering my death machine toward the next imbecilic fatheaded dork in bad clothing j-walking across my street, teaching them with the gusting cyclonic winds of my passing that I am the master of this universe, and they are the gummy black detritus I scrape from my Pradas.
I’m sick of all my music.
This happens occasionally. Sick of it all. All 800 of my CDs make me sick. I want something different, but I don’t want anyone to recommend what that something is, because then it isn’t mine, it’s theirs. And I need my music to be mine. Some music may be someone else’s, and when I listen to it, I can go, “this is so-and-so’s music, it is not mine, so I don’t have to love it, I may merely enjoy it as background noise and not really pay attention to the lyrics, should there be any.”
I am not a lyrics person, I’m a tune person. I’ve discovered there are both in this world. Lyrics people know all the lyrics, but generally can’t sing every well. Oh, they’ll tell you they can sing, and if you listen to them, it seems like they can because they know the lyrics exactly as they’re being sung in your average Top 40 mindless crap song streaming from the radio every hour on the half-hour. But if you’re able to tune out the song and tune in their singing, you discover they suck. They’re all nasal and off-key and decidedly not musical.
Tune people, like me, annoy lyrics people because we hum and dawdle and make up our own words. The words don’t really matter much, it’s the music that matters. When we say “I love this song,” we mean, “I love this music.” When lyrics people say, “I love this song,” they mean, “I love these words.” So I, as a tune person, can actually sing counterpoint, or back-up, or even, once I learn the words, sing around the tune, extending vowels and hitting consonants and so on. While lyrics people are stuck singing the song exactly the way they hear it on the radio. Note for note, word for word, making every note last exactly as long as the singer did, which is boring.
There are also two kinds of computer users in the worldkeyboard users and mouse users. I’m a mouse user. The only time I use the keyboard is to construct words. But all those shortcuts built in to software that allows you to perform magical feats with an Alt-this and a Ctrl-that and an F-something or two? Clueless. I point. I click. I point some more. I drag. I drop.
What else? Uhhhhm, so, I have this friend, Mike. Mike Bell. He hates when you call him Mike Bell. I used to do that because there were too many Mikes in my life, but now there’s only Mike Bell. I think. There may be other Mikes, but Mike Bell is now Top Of Mind. You know what that means? Top Of Mind? It’s a marketing term. It refers to the product you first think of for any given category, meaning you’re most likely to purchase it when you want one. Like, if I said, “Soda!” you’d probably say “Coke!” which doesn’t mean you want one or would even buy one, but that’s Top Of Mind and invaluable to a product or company. It’s actually kind of fun to see how products have succeeded in infiltrating our culture. Just say a few product categories to a friend and see what’s Top Of Mind. Then start doing it for other things, like “Mike!” Or “Web site!” Or “Biggest waste of time you ever spent reading something!”
Worst episode ever.
July 6, 2000