Monday, January 28, 2008
I was hanging out at the convenience store that my friend runs. He is the franchisee. It is a nice location, in a good, old, neighborhood which was, and remains, predominantly Irish. There is a bar nearby which has a jukebox containing many old Irish ballads such as Danny Boy, Molly Malone, Galaway Bay, plus a nice handful of reels and jigs. There is a faded and yellowed picture of Bobby Sands MP, the famous IRA martyr who died as a result of a hunger strike in Long Kesh Prison in 1981. This neighborhood is strictly working class.
Down the road a piece is an exclusive neighborhood which is home to Judges, Congressmen and CEOs. This neighborhood trails down the hill to a medical campus which more or less declines into the poverty stricken "block" inhabited mainly by Latinos. So you get a pretty good cross section of the inhabitants of the city coming into the place.
The scene last night was typical of that of any other night. There were four or five Gangsters near the condiment area. And I use the term gangsters with utmost respect. They are not the facsimile of the yahoos you see on MTV or BET, these guys are the real deal. They were having their nightly "sales" meeting. Nobody messes with my buddy when they are in there. And if they do, they are taken outside and explained in a non-violent way, the errors of their ways. Still, I avoid eye contact and would definitely not cross them.
Near the cash register, there is the Arab contingent. Those whom you would expect to see running the show. But they are leftovers from the previous franchisee's Dynasty. Hamoudi, Riad and Ahmad. They are funny and enjoy a good camel joke. Tonight they are engaged in a conversation with an Egyptian named, Essam or E-money.
E-money is always checking out the jackpots for the Mass Millions drawing. "63 million dollars, where does the money go? Somebody has to win, but you never see the money." He laments that in a more civilized society such as Egypt, where he can't return because he avoided military service, there is no lottery. But he plays anyway. He speaks seven languages about as poorly as he speaks English, but his dialect is hilarious. Instead of saying he wants to kill someone he will wish that "they are graved in the cemetarian."
All this is taking place while Geoff, the franchisee, is very proficiently mind you, playing a Thelonious Monk tune on an electronic piano set up near the register. There is an endless stream of customers. Mostly buying milk, cigarettes, candy and lottery. There are the ones who come in looking for wraps. By wraps I mean blunts, flavored Phillies and other cheap or flavored cigars. Green Garcia Vegas, commonly called "Garshas," are the most sought after.
But Geoff, limits his inventory for two reasons. Since I am using his first name only I don't feel I'm breaking his anonymity. He is, just as I am, a 12-stepper. A lot of his custies are in the same fellowship or otherwise. So he doesn't like to promote drug use, but realizes it is a necessary evil of owning the type of business he does. He doesn't sell beer and wine. Reason two, and I don't blame him, He doesn't like sweeping up tobacco from the parking lot. So when Paco, Flaco and Lateesha can't get their wraps there, they will go elsewhere and dump the cigar filling in the parking lot of another convenience store.
A custie with braids and SF 49ers Gear lopes in and looks around confused.
"Yo, dawg, you got Vanilla Dutchies?" Geoff grabs a Brown Garcia Vega and holding it like a pointer in a visual demonstration, goes into his schpiel.
"We've got Brown Garsha's..." And he points with the cigar to the EZ Wider rack behind him, "And rolling papers."
The confused look continues, "You don't got no Dutchies?"
He displays the Brown Garcia Vega in his hand pointing to it with the finger of his other hand. "We have Brown Garshas..." he turns and points, again with the cigar, "and rolling papers."
I think he's getting through. The custie reaches down to his ankles and pulls his pants back up to his knees. I can hear the two brain cells in his intricately coiffed head rubbing together and causing a little friction burn...
"You don't got no other Garshas?"
"well, we have the Brown Garsha's (again pointing)...and we have Cherry Garsha ice cream in the freezer."
Custie frowns his best urban scowl and mutters something about the situation being effed up...but he leaves to soil someone else's parking lot. Geoff goes back to Thelonious Monk ignoring the next custie, allowing the chick who thinks she is his girlfriend to take him. After the sale is completed, she passive aggressively delivers, "Why are you so mean to me all the time?" (He is not mean, I would tell you if he was)
He chit chats on this question for a little while explaining in recovery speak that he is not mean but she is needy and high maintenance. What he is saying eludes her. She is determined that he is being mean. He goes on playing while he speaks.
Then a couple of anonymous alcoholics come in and he engages them in conversation. She harrumphs and sits on a couple of milk crates. I can see that she feels that he is now "Ignoring her." They leave and I wander to avoid the "you were just ignoring me" conversation.
I walk over to one of the shelves...Mmmm Oreo Cakesters...too much sugar. Chips? too many carbs, but boy do they look appealing. Hmmm...Firecracker Red Hot pickled sausage. Okay. I look at the nutritional content, as if I was actually expecting there to be a nutritional content. Too much sodium. But wait...my culinary background kicks in. What is this? Mechanically separated chicken?! What on earth is mechanically separated chicken?
I let my mind wander and meander into the darkest recesses of what is left of that drug addled lump in my skull. I've been clean and sober for some time, but the remnants of all that LSD and other mind bending consumables is trapped down in there. Occasionally the right situation will present itself and I can dust off those lysergic trap doors and have a peek in, drawing upon the creative residue left over from all of those experiences. I bounced back to a Phish show where I was imagining what the AC/DC Bag might look like.
The AC/DC Bag, for those of you not in the know, was a contraption from the Gamehendge Saga. The tale of "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday." Colonel Forbin stepped through a door into Gamehendge, A mystical land inhabited by the Lizards, a peaceful people who are under the rule of the Evil King Wilson. Colonel Forbin meets Rutherford the Brave a knight whose liege, Errand Wolfe has charged him to retrieve the Helping Friendly Book. The knowledge contained within the Helping Friendly Book was stolen from the Lizards by Wilson who used the book to enslave the Lizards. One of the tools Wilson used to ensure obedience was a mechanical robotic hangman called the AC/DC Bag. I took the little flashes of the hallucination from that Phish show and totally perverted it by envisioning the AC/DC Bag, in a factory somewhere in West Virginia plucking chickens off of a conveyor belt, biting off their heads before clawing at their carcasses and removing the bones from the flesh. Hmmm...mechanically separated chicken.
I was doing a good job amusing myself, who said you can't have fun in recovery? So I began to pick up other packages of food. Slim Jims...mechanically separated chicken (MSC), Armour Potted meat product - MSC. I bought a Slim Jim. I could feel the fat coating my toungue as I noshed on the fibrous mystery meat. that is it...those reddish rat hair looking strands must be the MSC. Mmm...Oh boy, is that good.
So, this was a job for Google. My hallucination centered on the AC/DC Bag wasn't that far off the mark, actually. I saw one picture of a mechanical separator. The bones go into a hopper where they are crushed and the small amounts of flesh and albumin are pressed through a fine mesh sieve which is then stabilized and emulsified. There was one hilarious picture. It was photo with beef spines, chicken necks (the best part according to Moe Sizzlak), fish spines, asses, heads and other parts a butcher may "throw away". Then they had examples of the many types of machines available to produce this culinary delight. This product could be pressed through and on the other end, I kid you not, a picture of hot dogs and baloney and other fine forced meat products.
And let's not even cover the subject of "desinewers" pardon, moi...a Francais? "denerveuses" Sinew. What we put into our bodies...and to think I enjoyed that Slim Jim as the novelty it was intended to be. You can eat it quickly without thinking about it because it has already been digested for you, once. And it has been desinewed so the sinew can be later replaced in a more orderly and structurally sound manner than nature intended. To think I have been eating this tripe, yes it includes tripe, all of my life. The USDA approved this barbaric form of food production in 1969.
No wonder when Americans travel to other countries there is such culture shock when we encounter real food. In France, dejuener is unrecognizable to the average American palate as breakfast. Hand formed croissants glistening with an egg washed glaze. Not produced and frozen in a factory two months ago. The dough was made yesterday and baked this morning. I've made croissants from scratch it is not difficult, but it is time consuming requiring patience. The yogurt in little glass jars. That milk was inside of a cow three days ago. It is not hermetically sealed with a three month shelf life. Those glass jars are going back to the farmer when they drop off more as well as some hand crafted cheeses, tomorrow morning. Eggs with hard firm shells that do not disintegrate in your hands, containing sun yellow yolks standing in a firm pool of albumin the way a fresh egg should. You dip your croissant into that liquid gold yolk and it is unlike any thing you have ever tasted. Certainly not like liquid eggs stabilized and de-lipified and ascorbic acidified that pass over our tongues as we exit the drive-through window lane at the local fast food eatery.
Now I regret having that Slim Jim. I feel a need to continue to rediscover my culinary roots as I have been doing for the last 18 months. Fresh organic products whenever possible, farm raised local produce. Milk and cream from the local dairy sold in glass bottles. Perhaps some good down home fried chicken would call me back to my culinary roots.
I'm running out of steam it is late and I'm tired, perhaps it is poor nutrition which is a contributing factor. I think I'll have an apple.
As Always You will find me...
Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.