I think it was the fifth day of my stay in the hospital that the doctor told me what I had.
Go figure. You mean I don't have TB, after all? Rats. I was just getting used to this ward.
At least, for all my trouble, I could boast that I had survived a particularly nasty strain of E. coli. Apparently, it entered my body, set up shop, and began purging my intestines of unnecessary things -- like its own lining. Too bad any and all the scars are on the inside. I mean, could you have imagined me in that scene in the boat from 'Jaws'!
"Oh yeah? You think that's something? Well check this out. This is from when a bug tried to eat my colon."
When I got back to work on Monday, my buddy Bob had a welcome-back present for me: a plant.
Potted in a carry-out box.
30 September 2007
I think it was the fifth day of my stay in the hospital that the doctor told me what I had.
28 September 2007
Well, not right away.
Explanation: MJ figured out pretty quick I was probably suffering a bad case of food poisoning. (The doctors apparently had no idea what I had as they put me in the TB ward for a night). But MJ deduced that I had caught something from the last thing I had eaten: that egg roll. You see, she had eaten everything else that I had eaten that night except the egg roll. And so, she figured that if she gave the egg roll to the doctor, they'd be able to look at it under the microscope and say: "Yeah. That's where he caught the bug. Thanks, MJ."
They didn't do that.
Yeah, MJ brought the half-eaten egg roll to the hospital. And yeah, the nurses had said they would give it to the doctor.
They didn't do that.
Instead they put the white plastic bag with a Styrofoam box inside filled with mutant egg roll in the hospital room's closet. Right next to my street clothes.
Let me tell you something. As I laid there for the next five days eating out of a bag (drip method) and spending lonely nights watching Scorsese's 'The Blues' series on PBS on the hospital TV (a high point of the ordeal... especially the Farka piece), the meal began to rot. And rot. And rot.
And despite my pleas, the nurses just couldn't "figure out" why the room smelled so bad.
Here's a few reasons:
1) You had me give "samples" to a bucket in the bathroom you never bothered to collect.
2) I didn't take a bath for a week as the toxins sweat themselves out of my body.
3) A genetically-altered egg roll was growing a beard in the closet of my room.
American health care. Alas.
(and tomorrow the conclusion...)
25 September 2007
Earlier that night, I'd walked passed a curtained-off hospital bed where a team of nurses was pulling the spear out of a young woman who was screaming in pain. Bright red blood covered the floor. The screaming echoed and reverberated throughout the ER.
I looked up at the spear in the ceiling. Didn't look like much now. Not like the spear I'd seen the evening previous.
That was while I was driving up the Baltimore Beltway. Long before the fire-demons started appearing.
I was driving north when a Jeep Cherokee passed on the left. Suddenly, from out of the rear window, a spear shot towards my car. I don't recall swerving. I do recall being snapped awake, or at least more alert. "You ok?" asked MJ.
The fire demons lived in the grain of the door. I recall asking a doctor to pull the curtain over so that I'd be out of their line of vision. The fire demons never approached me. They just stayed there in the doorway waiting. Glimmering. Flickering.
I was the one who had called 911. Actually, as luck would have it, Phil was visiting and I asked him to call for me.
I was thinking at the time that I had gone insane. I also thought I was having a heart-attack.
I remember standing alone in front of the bathroom mirror holding in one hand what I was sure was my detached finger. I remember being curled in a wheelchair comatose in the waiting room. I remember making bloody treks down the hall of the ER and back. I remember the mad stare of the janitor on duty.
I was insane.
(To be continued...)
24 September 2007
It has to do with refrigeration. And the nine easy steps.
Dig: as I said before, following the hurricane power was out in some parts for almost a week.
That's probably when the bug festered. And grew. And planted itself deep within the crevices of each and every piece of warm butchered flesh.
Now, some of you are asking: But, Shelly, aren't you a vegetarian? How could you possibly catch a meat-borne illness?
Alas. This is the story of the filthy kitchen knife. Here's what I figure:
Step One: power goes out.
Step Two: the owners figure the power will come back on.
Step Three: the power is still not on (days later).
Step Four: owners toss things that smell bad.
Step Five: power comes on.
Step Six: carry-out business picks up because folks don't have groceries.
Step Seven: cook slices a piece of infected (not-quite-smelly-enough) beef and then uses the same kitchen knife to slice up some veggie-innards for an egg roll.
Step Eight: I walk in and purchase said eggroll.
Step Nine: I eat said eggroll, hallucinate for days, and come close to death.
There you go. Nine easy steps.
(Tomorrow's installment: cool E. Coli hallucinations... bring on the spears and demons!)
23 September 2007
By the time I knew it was living inside of me, I was already hallucinating spears and disembodied fingers.
There I was standing in the upstairs bathroom of my in-law's house. I pulled off my thumb and stuck it where my ring finger should have been. No, I didn't. Did I?
The confusion brought on by the fever accompanied by the stress produced by my anxiety and hypochondria only made things worse. Twelve hours previous I had been driving up 695 when I saw a spear fly out the back window of a Jeep Cherokee. Ten hours since I had a freak-out in a parking lot in Towson. I was now standing in a bathroom bleeding, feeling like I was going to die.
And it all began with an egg roll.
Days earlier, Baltimore had caught the brunt of a hurricane that had come right up the Chesapeake. Fell's Point flooded to the roofs of cars and boats throughout the east-side marinas were dumped onto land and onto one another. Power in some parts was out for days. One of my students said his family had lost twenty-one trees on their wooded lot.
We got off fairly well. Maybe some torn siding was the worst any of the local family had suffered. MJ and I were actually preparing to settle on our house at the time and had been nervous. The house is relatively ancient by American standards (built in 1840), and the roof at time of purchase was in terrible shape. We were relieved that the storm hadn't seemed to inflict any serious damage.
And so, on the evening before we were to settle, I decided to surprise everyone by bringing home Chinese carry-out.
This turned out to have been one of the worst mistakes I've ever made.
(...to be continued...)
21 September 2007
Ok. So I had to add one more in our series of "food"-movie trailers.
I remember the first time I saw this. It was like someone had crawled into my brain and planted images in my memory and from then on it just all made sense. This is the best movie ever made revolving around food.
And the title sequence to this movie is among the top three ever.
20 September 2007
There was the story about the number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan rising in a way that the folks there really can't understand since the likelihood of getting blown up by a suicide bomber five years ago in that country was about equivalent to the likelihood of getting blown up by a suicide bomber in Des Moines and the likelihood of getting bombed now is equivalent to the likelihood of catching a commercial for a Chevy planet-killer during the viewing of any of America's favorite autumn sports. Well, you know what they say: if you choose to live in a country that is obviously as dangerous as Afghanistan, then you are just some crazy kind of freewheeler to begin with! [note from editor: 'The previous was an example of an ironic statement. Please direct all hate-mail to your congressman -- we here at LTSRP sure as heck don't need it... you frigging crazies!'].
Next up, young Afghani child-actors are being threatened in Kabul for appearing in a film that depicts the Taliban as being... um... a men's club full of crazy frigging violent fundamentalists. Nice. I hope the film's production company worked that one into their budget: lighting rigs, catering, bodyguards and / or forged exit visas.
And lastly, there in that foremost of pre-9/11 terrorist hotspots -- Iraq -- the civilian death toll has risen to the greatest levels of the war (which, incidentally, is not over). And the prognosis of the American Leader (TM) amounts to: it'll be better when it gets better.
Makes me yearn for the days after 9/11 when the American people spoke in one voice. When the producers of canned meat stood beside fellow patriots in discouraging acts of terrorism.
19 September 2007
That's what my grandfather called the water that came out of his tap in South-West Philadelphia.
Maybe it was like an Ent thing (sorry... Tolkien reference...). The Ent water was nourishing to some and made others a bit dozy; but everyone recognized that there was something magical about it. I think the Sharon Hill Punch harbored the same qualities.
Grandpa used to call us into the kitchen for a drink. We'd rush in expecting orange-juice or apple-juice or some other fruity blend. Instead we'd be presented with twelve-ounce glasses of Philly H20. But protesting got us nowhere. My Grandpa had been a train-yard and ship-yard pipe-fitter his whole adult life. He was a presence, even during the onset of old age. You just didn't mess with Grandpa.
And so we drank the Sharon Hill Punch. In fact, as we grew older, we learned to play the trick on our own younger siblings. "Hey, want a glass of Sharon Hill Punch?"; "Well, okay."; "Here you go!"; "Hey! This is just water!"
Funny how things like that come back to you. These days, my grandfather is stumbling along bravely as a 90 year-old man. My grandmother is long passed.
There are days now and then that I could use some Sharon Hill Punch.
18 September 2007
Several years ago -- over a decade ago, actually -- I was living in a walk-up in Mt. Vernon right there in the center of Baltimore City. I walked out my front door and the Walter's Art Museum greeted me. Turning right put me in-between the Basilica and the Pratt Central Library. A left put me a block from the best sandwich in town. It was a good place to be and it was a good time for me to be there.
In those heady days, I was always looking for new sensations. This was often tempered by my empty-as-usual wallet. During a particularly hairy financial crunch, I was forced to eat nothing but Idaho potatoes. The Epicurean in me got by by spicing up the diet trying any and all condiments with my daily potatoes. Classics like mustard and sour cream worked just fine. Mayonnaise was strangely addictive. Relish didn't work for me at all, but straight dill and vinegar -- excellent. Old Bay and butter is classic around here, Wasabi made me cry, lemon juice made me pucker. I used to bring home little take-home samples of all the condiments from the place I was working; though the Wasabi was left-over from a jaunt to a sushi buffet. I guess I didn't so much live on potatoes as I lived on condiments. The potato was just for texture.
Anyhow, all this mix and match got me itching to try out all kinds of new concoctions. That's where I came up with what is either the greatest idea I've ever had or the most utterly useless taste sensation known to humankind.
It started with a bag of ground coffee beans.
At this point in my life, I was completely and utterly addicted to coffee. It was useless trying to get anything done in the morning before my third cup of Colombian. I was averaging two pots a day. A late night could easily turn that into three or four. (For the kids in the audience, this was in the days before Starbucks... a cup of joe cost maybe $0.75 and refills were free. Yeah. That's why we hate Starbucks).
So there I was trying my best to distort the natural readings off of every synapse in my body. I was made for coffee.
I had a second love, however. A food item that to this day I consider the greatest of the earth's spoils. (Ironic I remember this story today after my post of yesterday about the fish). You see, dear reader, I humbly concede that I am a slave to GARLIC.
Dear Lord. Honestly. I bet heaven smells like garlic bread.
Can't get enough of the stuff. I can still remember the first time I ever tasted garlic. I was a kid and we were visiting my grandparents in New Britain, CT. This was after they had left their homeland of Jersey City, NJ. They were old, but there is some sort of connection between the very old and the very young and I remember I loved my grandmother any much. Anyway, we all went out to a pizzeria one evening.
Now, my grandfather was blind. Went off to W.W.II. with sight, came back without. He actually had a pinhole of blurred sight in one eye, so he'd often aim his eye at what ever he was trying to make out and lean his whole body forward towards the thing (menu, TV, cash in his wallet). I always imagined he must be using his whole body's energy to see through this tiny pinhole. I couldn't imagine how frustrating it must have been for him. Nonetheless, there he was in the pizza joint trying to make out the condiments on the table. My father put them in front of him in a line: crushed dry parmesan, dried red pepper, powdered garlic.
I watched him make his choice. He picked up the cheese first and shook it near his ear. No, that wasn't the stuff. He picked up the red pepper and did the same. Bingo. He shook the flakes onto his slice of NY cheese. Then came the garlic. I swear as he poured it out the whole environment changed. I was like the kid in a Joyce short story. Suddenly it all came together.
The old man put down the glass jar. I picked it up. "You don't want that," said my mother. I ignored her (a mechanism which would prove useful for the next eighteen-or-so years).
I shook out a little too much garlic. It sat in a little mustaba-like mound in the center of my slice. That pyramid represented my future.
Back to that little apartment in Baltimore.
I confess. I'm an idea man. Very rarely do I ever actually finish anything. There's the opera libretto based on the story of Germanicus and Agrippina. There's the children's book about the rabbit-creature and the giraffe and the trio of ladybugs. And there's the screenplay about the guy who thinks he's a werewolf. And the sci-fi novel about tribal androids. It's a wonder I actually finished the new album. Amazing, actually. I'm mostly good for ideas.
So, I get these ideas. Sometimes they are just temporal sorts of things. Other times they become like these wild obsessions. I roll them over and over and over in my mind. And the best of these ideas turn into experiments. Like when I got the notion to use tinfoil as a musical instrument.
This thing that went down in that apartment was one of these sorts of things.
There I am, living a quiet existence when it comes to me:
I love coffee; I love garlic.
I can tell by your smile that you know where this is headed. For the less erudite among you, I offer these two words:
Yup. Say it together, now:
Friends, I tell you this. It was only seconds after I came up with the idea of mixing garlic and coffee together into one blend that I was convinced that my genius had revealed itself to me.
I immediately went to the cupboard (in times like this, there is no time to waste... just ask Archimedes).
As luck would have it, I had a quart-sized plastic container of powdered garlic on hand. I stole it away from the shelf and immediately threw a pot of French Roast ground-bean in the great god-like icon we call the coffee-maker.
But instead of just brewing the coffee straight -- and for those of you keeping score at home, this is where the 'genius' moniker earns points -- I flipped out a filter and filled it two-thirds of the way with ground beans and the other third with straight garlic powder. A third.
You know how sometimes you have dreams and you can smell stuff in the dream? I hope this happens to you because it is one of the most incredible psycho-physiological events our bodies offer us. So, I have this now-and-again dream where I am in a pizza parlor and someone is brewing coffee back in the kitchen. That smell -- the scent of fresh pizza, crushed peppers, garlic, and the distant brew of a dark coffee -- is what I would consider the closest thing to a perfect smell. A perfect smell is -- well, for you folks who remember 'Northern Exposure', it's the nasal equivalent of a perfect moment. It defines beauty. It's like what the Sistine Chapel is to the eyes; what Stevie Ray Vaughan's Strat is to the ears.
So that's the place I'm in as this perfect blend is working its slow magic in my little rental kitchen.
And before I realize time has passed, it's ready.
Slowly, I take my favorite cup from off the counter. With the care of a biomedical researcher examining the latest form of Ebola, I gently pour the GARLIC COFFEE (TM) from the glass pitcher.
I stare at it. Somewhere deep down, I realize that in there lies all my dreams and aspirations. I realize that this cup contains all I know about what is good in the world. This cup represents the highest level of my sophistication -- the highest level of my artistry.
This cup defines me.
And so it is with great deliberation and trepidation that I bring the steaming cup to my lips.
I take a swallow.
And in an instant I know.
I know a secret truth no human ever before had dared to know.
I know a secret that only today dare I share with those of you who actually read through this whole post.
The truth is:
Garlic Coffee tastes like hot spit.
17 September 2007
Not a typo. I just realized -- sitting here looking at the ingredients in a 28g container of Top Fin Betta Bits -- that I contribute to my fish's cannibalism.
Let's take a quick peek at the main ingredients.
1) Fish meal. Now, I'm pretty sure that this means very finely ground up fish. Why is this considered a reasonable thing to feed fish? We don't feed dogs ground-Lab. But, I guess fish eat each other, don' they? (Big fish swallows the little fish). Never before did I pause to reflect on just how gross that is. Eesshh.
2) Shrimp meal. Mind you these are Betta Bits. Meant for little Betta fish. How in the heck could a Betta fish eat a shrimp in the wild? Do you think they've all developed a taste for shrimp after generations of eating Betta Bits? I'm gonna plump a single grilled jumbo shrimp in Mick's bowl and see what he does.
3) Soybeans. Really? Soybeans? Lord knows it's a great source of protein, but do you really think there is anything remotely natural about feeding sea creatures a bean that grows in Kansas?
Ok. Ok. So on and on the list goes: wheat, corn meal, fish oil, squid. And then I get to the big one. The one that may explain why Mick is alone in that little tank...
That's right, folks. Fish can't get enough of the garlic.
I'm sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why my cannibal fish needs garlic in his diet. Must help with digestion.
16 September 2007
With Steve McQueen and a cast of 'exciting new people', how can this film be anything less than the progenitor of all films where an inner-galactic being eats all the residents of a cheap-50's home-planet bred on kitchen-aprons and double-features? The last of our series,
14 September 2007
Ok. So night 2 in our little Trailer-Fest is an 'eating' movie of a whole other kind. This is actually one of my top ten favorite films. A piece that deals not only with the technical aspects of making a zombie-flick, but also the racial and societal problems of the time, this is more than an eat-'em-up. It's a real thriller. And check out those hungry zombies!
13 September 2007
12 September 2007
Any kid who ever got lost in a dog-eared copy of the Guinness Book of World Records sooner or later came across Monsieur Mangetout. He's the guy who ate a bicycle.
Since c. 1960, the Frenchman with the stomach of steel (born Michel Lotito) has eaten everything from bicycles to television sets. His greatest coup was stomaching a Cessna 150 (a feat which took two years... fortunately Cessnas don't need to be refrigerated).
I was thinking about this on the way home today.
Remember back in high school there was 'that kid' who would eat/drink anything for a buck? I remember we had one of these immortals among our crowd at school and for a buck a head, he'd drink whatever you put in his 16 oz paper cup. Got Dr. Pepper? Pour it in. Mix it up with Mustard? In goes the Mustard. Relish? Coffee? The grease off the top of a slice of cafeteria pizza? Pour it all in, that'll be a buck an ingredient.
Stir it up and down it goes.
And let's not even get into bodily fluids.
So I was thinking about how there is this fascination we have with people who will eat 'weird' things. We have television shows where contestants are rewarded for eating live insects. Cannibalism is always a sure bet to make the front page of cnn.com (US edition).
In the Old Irish sagas, heroes became so awash in rage that they might eat their enemies on the battlefield.
And there's Monsieur Mangetout with his bicycles and airplanes, that kid with his blended gross-out shake, Divine and the dog-poo.
What's left to eat? What is the Everest of eating-oddities? What mountain is left to eat?
11 September 2007
From folks who lost parents and siblings and cousins and friends and neighbors to folks who lost their innocence in front of a corporate TV screen. And from folks who've been brought back from overseas just-not-quite-right to folks being prepared for new duties and new separations from families. And from folks who trusted that their government would do the right thing to those who got blisters walking in protest against the start of this whole damned useless war.
It all makes me sick.
Do yourself a favor tonight. Skip dinner and read some Robert Fisk. There's a good chance that that man's the voice through which this history will be understood by future generations.
10 September 2007
He was really into the mashed potatoes. Liked peas too. And he bore a striking resemblance to Henry Rollins.
Kids are funny about food. I've got a niece who won't eat anything but chocolate and French fries. Talk about living the life. If I could eat nothing but chocolate and French fries and maintain a reasonable weight and metabolism, you'd never see me out of the house. I'd sit in the kitchen all day with the Hershey's and the Utz.
I bet that would get really gross after a while.
But kids can pull off food-things that adults can't touch. Example: baby-food. Why do we spend money buying food for our most vulnerable human friends that we wouldn't feed our cats?
Babies know this. Ever watched a baby being fed? That face they make? Uh-huh. That's the beginning of profanity right there.
But they deal.
My kids' favorite is sushi. Every couple of weeks I pick up a pack of Nori sheets from the grocer and roll avacados and cucumbers for dinner. The kids have helped me discover a few things, too. I think it was their idea to put strawberries in the sushi. Talk about genius. If you've never eaten strawberries with sticky rice and seaweed, you just haven't lived.
Funny. When I was a kid, my favorite was Count Chocula. And I don't just mean that it was my favorite high-octane teeth-rotter. I mean it was my absolute favorite food. Count Chocula and bowling-alley pizza. More proof that I was a born Epicurian.
07 September 2007
It's been humid this week. Mid-Atlantic humid. Which according to my cousin Steve is blissfully pleasurable. Steve lives in Houston. He said it was 105 degrees most of last week with humidity at 70%. Yup. And they've got mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds. So I guess I won't complain.
Nonetheless, out recent heat-wave and our recent purchase of a killer new Kitchen-Aid blender got me thinking about one thing:
When I was a kid, we used to get in the old VW Rabbit and mom would take us out for fast-food milkshakes. Chocolate was my favorite. I remember a good day was a day spent walking around with a chocolate milkshake dirt-mustache.
Now, the trick to enjoying a good milkshake is in the manner of consumption. You're gonna need a straw. But you won't be sucking the milkshake through it. No, the proper way to eat a milkshake [notice I said 'eat' rather than 'drink'] is by spooning the frothy goodness into yr maw via a striped plastic straw. If you have never eaten a milkshake in this fashion, well shame on you. For those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about, well, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
06 September 2007
05 September 2007
My mother-in-law and my four-year-old daughter made my wife and I a fruit salad to celebrate out anniversary.
That was a very nice thing to do.
I think I'm going to start giving fruit salad as a gift. I write this with no trace of irony. I really think fruit salad is a great gift.
Receive fruit salad as a gift and you will understand.
04 September 2007
Ladies and gentlemen, I've seen the Promised Land. And it is stocked with Stonewall's Jerquee. Yes, and if I've said it a million times, well that's just not enough. Because throughout the land, all good people should know that there is an alternative to putting a bolt through the brain of a thousand-pound animal, skinning and dicing said animal, heat and salt curing left-over parts of said animal, and then selling those cured parts of said dead animal in truckstops and convenience stores across the highways of this nation.
The answer is Stonewall's!
And just today I discover I can purchase this stuff in 5-pound boxes! Hallelujah!
By the time my insides get done with today's lunch they'll look like I swallowed depleted uranium. But no matter.
03 September 2007
Ah... wedding food, the pros and cons.
On the plus side, there was an excellent tasting veggie option of a conch-shell sized noodle filled with ricotta cheese. In my mind, I sort of visualized this situation in which vegetarian Scots found themselves inventing the world's first veggie haggis substitute.
On the con side, the salad. My brother-and-law spent about ten minutes botanically analyzing the contents of our bowls. We know there were dandelions in there. Perhaps stalks of grass, too. If it was grass, it wasn't that bad. For eating grass, that is. But you're not going to see sod on my pantry shelf anytime soon.
My cousin gave great kudos to the bride and groom for refraining from serving the wedding-chicken. I think wedding-chicken must be a special breed. I'm sure I saw them displayed at the State Fair last week. Prize-winning wedding-chickens. They're lean, they're mean, and they come with some weird sauce.
Finally we came to dessert. Why is it that only at weddings do folks serve desserts that no one wants to eat? I don't understand why people spend $500 on a cake covered in velvet and shellac when a $12 sheet-cake from the supermarket would do the trick. And don't tell me that I'm just not sophisticated. It is a proven fact that no one actually prefers wedding cake to sheet cake. And if you do, well you're the freak. Go see a doctor. There's something wrong with you.
That said, the desserts at this wedding were pretty darn tasty. We especially liked the chocolate dollops with sliced peanut ears made to look like little mice. Yummy.
All in all, I'd say that this wedding was a gastronomical success. I didn't meet anyone who had anything less than stellar to say about their entree, be it sirloin, salmon, or veggie haggis. And the wine kept flowing and the band kept the dancefloor shaking.
And not a wedding-chicken seen all night.
Congrats to the bride and groom.