Ding

Food, when I was growing up, amounted to, “I don’t know; don’t bother me. Make yourself a bagel if you’re hungry.” My school lunch was perhaps a Fruit Roll-Up and a Kudos bar, in a brown paper bag. If there was nothing readily available, I just didn’t eat.

I think I never really got in the habit of, like… food. Even four decades in, I remain vague on the idea of Eating Things. Even when food is available, it’s this abstraction. Yes, ideally I would consume it on occasion. Mostly, I forget—and mostly, I don’t.

When I was a little older, the same friend who helped me to escape from my most recent abuse scenario and set me up where I’m living now—his parents sent me a sort of care package; just, all this food, to eat. Since they knew there was never anything at home.

I stored that in my room for a few months, until I worked through it. Saved me having to enter the same air as my parents.

The two of them, they had their own specific things they ate, which were always, uh. One of them was just liver and onions, all the time! The other, I hope you like boiled rhubarb. If not, tough. And if so… well, it was theirs, right. So they did them, and then went their way. And I had to figure things out on my own.

When I was a little older my paternal grandmother, who was a horrible person in every respect (I won’t approach the racism), regaled me with a story of when I was perhaps two, and she saw me trying to make a bologna sandwich with green luncheon meat. Which… tracks, yes.

Come to it, when I was really young they did that thing of, if you’re bad you don’t get to eat, right. And I was “bad” all the time because I was a weeper. Like, everything made me cry. So I just got used to self-punishing and keeping out of the way.

I’m 6’5″ now. I wonder how tall I’d be if I weren’t malnourished most of my life. I wonder if this has anything to do with how late puberty hit me.

Every so often my father would scream at me that I was anorexic. And, then, well, that was the end of it. He just needed to scream that at me, so that I knew it. It wasn’t technically true; I was just scrawny, as I remain. But let’s just say that I was. Do a little math. Why does one imagine I might be that way?

Both my parents were… shall we say, deficient. As people. It’s not my job to sort through or apologize for what damage may have brought them to the point that I entered the story; they were who they were, and they were the kind of people Roald Dahl served to illustrate. Of the two I think my father took a little pity on me, inasmuch as when he happened to be stuck with me and we were out of the house he would always take me for fast food. Often my choice. So there was that. When he had to be there and see that I existed in front of him, occasionally I received the bare minimum of care.

Too much contact, though, made him uncomfortable. If he could get rid of me he would. I’ve already talked about the mall thing, where he’d dump me all afternoon, evening, and night until closing, because he didn’t want me to burn down the house, as he put it every time, but if I chanced to burn down the mall then that was out of his hands. If he remembered he’d give me five dollars for pizza. But with my training, I could easily not-eat—especially if there was a new game in the arcade. Something that introduced new ideas, like Rolling Thunder or OutRun or Double Dragon or Rastan. Or one of a few favorites that happened to cycle back in somehow, like Vs. The Goonies.

As I unpack the tangle of disasters that has brought me to my current situation, I gain more and more perspective on the complicated intersection of ways in which I was set up to fail in life.

My whole response to any scenario, I was taught: go away; don’t remind anyone that you exist; keep quiet, don’t show any emotion; don’t give them reason to punish you. I was taught to be a non-entity, to want nothing, not to attend to my own needs if I even knew them. I’m a bad student, but eventually I learned.

If I make myself invisible enough, I an rewarded with neglect instead of active abuse. So, I can stay quiet. I can make myself sit still. I can just not ask for anything. Ignore my bodily functions. Remove myself from the equation, remove myself from myself. 

Maybe I should eat something.

Between all this and my lack of romantic or sexual attraction, such that every relationship I’ve been in has been a matter of other people inveigling themselves into my life, telling me they’re my best friend until I rely on them, then handing me this ultimatum where for the friendship to continue it must do so on their terms, to which I have replied, “no, don’t go; I’ll do what you say; I’ll be good,” I can recognize a few central mechanics to the manner in which my life has, historically, sucked.

Of course now, as I approach my 42nd birthday, I have begun to learn my own systems—as opposed to the whims of narcissism that have shaped my my every fear and expectation for the first two score of my knowledge. So we’re not great, but we are at a turning point. Had I the capacity to cope with everyday life, and could I support myself financially, I would be well on the path to hunky-dory, and could begin to address some bigger structural issues. For now… I have a quesadilla in the oven.

Got to eat, Azure.

Paswari Naan

I’ve barely nibbled on the food, so I can’t say much about its quality one way or another. What I can do is tell a little story.

Based on some online reviews, I finally plunged in and took advantage of SeamlessWeb. Not the most illustrative name around; basically it’s a service that lists restaurants which deliver to your area, and allows you to order online. No surcharge or anything. What’s swell about this, aside from theoretically not having to bother with the phone, is the breadth of participating establishments. At any time you might see a Jamaican barbecue joint, a Japanese restaurant, two or three Indian places, a vegan sandwich shop, and several pizza places. They only show the stores that should be open, so there’s little chance of confusion or fuss.

Again, in theory.

Granted the night of a blizzard was not the best night to order out. I wasn’t aware of how bad it was out there, as earlier in the day the snow was rather delicate. So my wife and I found a decent-looking Indian restaurant called Bombay Heights, put in our orders, set a tip, and submitted. We immediately got a confirmation, which said to expect the food in 30-45 minutes. Okay, fine. We set to our individual tasks and waited.

An hour later, we were hungrier. My wife suggested that I call the restaurant. Nobody answered. I then called SeamlessWeb. I found myself on hold for several minutes. One of the hold messages suggested that I send an email to customer support for immediate attention. I did so, and sat around for another half an hour. Eventually I called the 1-800 number again. Finally we got through. My wife snatched up the phone and reported that it had been 90 minutes since our order, and that we couldn’t contact the restaurant. The lady at SeamlessWeb tried to contact them, and also failed. She then refunded us our money, and gave us a 25% off coupon for our next SeamlessWeb transaction.

Okay, fine. We toasted up some cheese sandwiches and curled in bed with some Cap’n Crunch. My wife kept musing about how horrible she would feel if that delivery actually turned up.

After another hour, there was a buzz at the door. It was the dude from the restaurant. I opened the door, and there was a wall of snow outside. It was like I had opened a portal to Nunavut. The delivery guy was shaking and miserable. With a mind to how horrible it was out there, we tipped him another ten bucks and marveled that he managed to make the delivery at all.

In retrospect there was probably only the one guy working at the restaurant, and he had to take time out to deliver the food himself. And even then it took him hours just to make it up the block. So the food was late; okay, fine. It was still warm when we got it. And the mere fact of its delivery was kind of amazing.

In turn we called SeamlessWeb back up again, and asked that they reverse the reversal on our charge. I’ve no idea if this food is any good, but the guy prevailed in delivering it. We’re not going to penalize him for circumstances beyond his control.

Basically the point of this review is, if nothing else you will get your order one way or another. And it will be wrapped well, and warm. Even if it means slogging an inch at a time through a hurricane of snow.

Black and White

I’m in a new coffee shop a couple of blocks up into Bushwick. It’s a decent little place; more or less what I want in a cafe. The hipsters seem to have found it out, though not in such droves as to clutter the atmosphere. There’s a nice variety of perches, from the bar stools by the window (with a knee-level nook for bags and coats, and conveniently-placed outlets) to an antique couch to a booth to a quiet table in the corner, separated from life. Service is kind of slow, but the Americano is solid and the sandwiches are cheap. Relatively speaking. Instead of a toaster they’ve a panini press, which makes a sort of weird pastry out of a grilled cheese. Decent grade of cheese, decent grade of bread. I had apples in mine, and they were inserted before the press. Not enough apples, though it was interesting to eat them warm.

It’s a curious view, out the plate glass windows. The street is at an angled intersection — five back roads all meeting like a stick figure jumping for glee. diagonally before and above me — what is it, the L train? Does the J twist up here? I have yet to learn the trains. To the right is a park the size of a closet and the shape of a doorstop; to the left is an empty lot bounded by graffiti-festooned plywood. Across the street is a Tire & Wheel store, as it sells itself, displaying a fine range of hubcaps along the sidewalk. More prominently, and this is where this series of observations has been leading, is the Family Dollar. It feels to me that this view is calculated specially to insinuate that store into my mind. Every time I glance up, I think, oh — there’s the Family Dollar. When I’m done here, I might as well pop over for a moment and see what they have for my spare change. That would be the change left over from my coffee and sandwich, you see. You understand the positioning now.

Despite or perhaps in part because of the subversiveness, I like the feel of this place. The only downfall is that both times I’ve stopped in the barista has been awfully lonely — different barista, same pattern. Not that I’ve a problem with chatty baristas on principle; some of my best friends have been chatty baristas. It’s just that my whole goal in coming here was to soak in the atmosphere; to carve out a little bit of a world for myself. Once I’m settled, okay; the door is open. Come in, chat. Chances are there are some interesting people around here. Yet there is this process.

And so far it seems my process is being respected. The guy is friendly and helpful enough, without making me feel guilty for setting about my on business rather than passing his day a little more amicably. Maybe that’s the New York talking. It does encourage me to return, so good job there.

I notice the place holds a chess tournament. Or maybe it’s a club. Hang on, I think there’s a flyer. No, just a sign. Wednesday, 5-7PM. Bushwick Chess. If I played chess, this would appeal to me on more than principle. On principle, that gives me a strong impression what the management is trying to do with this place — and I like the feel of it.

A lady just interrupted me to point out a hole in the floor that I was in no danger of falling into. Well, that was nice of her.

Maybe I should look a bit into chess. Every time I play, I have to learn the rules all over. They have always seemed a bit arbitrary, especially as codified in the nineteenth century. If there were a more distinct representational logic to the system — well, it’s not like I’ve never learned an affected system. It’s just that I feel like I’m playing a well-balanced fighting game where none of the commands bears any analog to its outcome. You know the kind of fighter I mean. Whereas a quarter-circle forward makes sense for a fireball; it follows Ryu’s or Ken’s arm motions and body balance; another game might assign an arbitrary command such as a reverse dragon punch motion or a series of button commands, just to prevent all the characters from feeling the same.

Take the knight piece — what is it meant to represent, in its motion? So it soars up alongside another piece and then swoops to the side. Or else it steps to the side and then charges forward. What, in the nature of a knight or a horseman, does this motion represent? When does a horse scuttle or leap sideways, around a corner? What man, wearing several hundred pounds of steel, is inclined to suddenly pivot and pounce, waging a surprise attack? I am not as educated as I might be on Roman warfare, so there may be something in the phalanx; I seem to recall a certain craftiness to their motion. Regardless, it is difficult to digest these patterns when their representation seems to me so arbitrary. If the knight were to plow straight ahead, or serve a defensive role, I could better understand its place. Likewise, if the L shape is considered a crucial bit of the puzzle (and I would like to know the logic behind the balance of moves; it may well be brilliant), why not assign a representation more analogous to the motion?

What moves so craftily, in a mix of skips and charges? Some kind of a rogue? If we’re to keep to the nobility and infantry, perhaps a fencer? How then do we distinguish a fencer from a knight? As archetypes go, the line is fairly thin between the two. Casting further, perhaps a hunter? An assassin? Ninja, samurai? Yet again, what really distinguishes a samurai and a knight besides the shape of their armor? I suppose it’s all subjective in the end.

Well, hey. That was a thousand words.

Problem is, the Riddler would take them all away. :(

The older I get, the grosser I realize Hostess snack cakes are.

That said: blueberry Twinkies. Not Twinkies with blueberry “creme”; Twinkies with bits of real-actual, not-dyed-apple-or-pear blueberries embedded in the cake. Doesn’t that sound almost good?

In response to that question, I just did a Google search for “blueberry twinkies”. The first result seems to confirm my suspicion. Though he got it wrong. He went the obvious and most easily disgusting route that I specifically avoided.

Bean there; done that

Every time I open the microwave to put in a frozen burrito, I look around for the little plates I use and can only find one of them. I wash the plate if needed, position the burrito on it, and open the microwave.

And there’s the other plate, with a half-cooked burrito on it.

This has happened three times since the weekend.