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This picture is making the rounds because NPR did a follow up on the girl seen here smoking and staring at the camera with a mature swagger that far belies her nine years of age. My first thought about this picture was that I'd grown up with a lot of kids like this. I was an army brat who bounced around the globe living in base housing along with other army brats doing the same thing. Usually a mixed bag of races and social classes crammed together in tenement-like conditions on military installations who's main focus was military defense, not civilian housing. Our family like most everyone else's was essentially a one parent operation with the military parent coming and going in chunks of weeks, months or years. It was tough in a lot of ways, but my family did alright. My dad was an intelligence non commissioned officer which got us a housing preference. Once he was even assigned as Base Housing Officer which got us a three bedroom apartment the same as the upper echelon received. Better housing didn't extend to the playground or school though. Everyone got thrown together - segregation wasn't really a thing even in the southern bases in the US. The Army had one color - O.G. - Olive Drab. Most of the people that chose a career in the Army were not your one percenter types. They were from the lower rungs. People who chose the Service because they had no other options in their lives, economic or otherwise. Mostly economic. The Army was a steady, if meager, income, a roof over your family's head and stability of sorts. My dad, somewhat at loose ends in his life had chosen the Army and in choosing, he found a home.

              I had any number of friends who routinely stole, played hooky, fought, cursed and even drank. All before they were ten. Smoking kids wasn't that common, but it wasn't rare either. It just depended upon how good they were at stealing and how attentive their primary parent was. Drinking was easier. Every household had a liquor cabinet that usually wasn't locked. Despite all this petty criminality, I have generally good memories of the near endless series of friends I made as we went from base to base every year or so, criss-crossing the country and the world.

              I was a timid kid with a mom addicted to pain killers because of her slow burning cancer and three older sisters who did most of the cooking, cleaning and taking care of me. When dad was home, it was like vacation for them - their duties decreased and they could spend some time being kids themselves. Dad was good about picking up household duties and making sure we got what we needed. For where and what we were, it was pretty typical. I didn't have trouble making friends, but I did have trouble following along with some of the bullshit they could get up to. I was too afraid of getting caught and ultimately having to face my dad once he found out. I inherited his temper but he had levels of anger I've rarely achieved myself.

               The base housing neighborhoods tended to be awash with groups of little kids ramming around like some twisted Little Rascals scenario where Darla's a smoking barfly in training and Spanky and his gang are petty thieves making their bones doing shoplifting jobs at the base gas station. Not all of the kids were like this, but a lot of the ones I remember were. I had my share of rotten incidents at the hands of bullies and witnessed some heinous crap of the sort that only felony-bound little boys can manage. I particularly remember a bunch of my partners in crime throwing dirt clods at a group of Down Syndrome siblings along with their older sister and chasing them home threatening to kill them if they ever showed up at the playground again. Their mother came out of her apartment with a broom and swatted one kid right off her stoop with a baseball swing that had major league potential. Despite this, we never saw them at the swing sets again.

                 As I got older, it got harder to brush off these incidents and I understood that I had to be more selective about the friends I chose to make at the next base we were sent to. This became solidified on Christmas of '67 at Fort Bragg when my new (they were always new) best friend took off with the brand new Schwinn bike I'd gotten. I spent most of the day running around the vast base housing area there searching for the little bastard, knowing I couldn't go home without that bike and tell my parents some "friend" had stolen it. It was dark and streetlights were coming on when he finally showed up telling me he'd rode into Fayetteville to go to the A&P for candy and thanks for letting me borrow the bike. I acted like nothing had happened. A few months later I stole one of the walkie talkies he'd gotten for his birthday and threw it into the woods.

So, when I saw that picture of the smoking little girl and her cousin, I didn't think of how exploited she was by the photog. How she could have used some of the money that got made from her picture being sold in galleries. I didn't think of the shit life she's had and the injustice of it all. I didn't think about her admirable resilience and positivity despite the poverty, drug addiction and general sadness in her life. Selfishly, I thought of my own friendships with kids like her growing up and the crazy stuff we used to do both good and bad. Mostly, I thought of what they must doing now and how their lives had wound out. I could guess, but I hope I would be wrong.

Trans I Have Known

I'm still processing the racist slaughter in Charleston and I'll address that when I can get my head together on that awful shit. Until then I'm gonna pick something from the current events file that I've wanted to talk to myself about.

Transgender Caitlyn Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair and everyone loses their minds about how wonderfully positive for the transgender community this is and how its yet another milestone in the LGBT saga in this country. Thing is - I remember Renee Richards and her whacking tennis balls back and forth with Billy Jean King on TV. I remember staring at the picture of Walter Carlos on the cover of my copy of "Switched on Bach" and trying to figure what he looked like now as Wendy Carlos and how did that all work anyway? Famous transgenders have been around for a while sure, but this time it was different, this time people not only took notice, most didn't knee-jerk recoil in the sort of mild disgust and morbid curiosity reserved for circus freaks and mutant animals. A lot of people reacted with "Meh". There were no pitchforks and torches. And that's progress. Now the pendulum's swung the other way and people are taking things further than they should. Some are now saying that "Transracial" is a legitimate thing now that that deluded white girl Rachel Dolezal got called out for passing black all the way to the executive level of a local NAACP chapter. Jesus. Stop yourselves. No way is Transracial in the same realm as transgender. Transgender is a label dealing with reality. Transracial is a word fit to excuse somebody's pathology. The only white person that gets a pass for insisting he was born a poor black child is Steve Martin in "The Jerk" and that's only because that is some straight up funny movie shit right there.

My own personal transgender experience involves an author who wrote what I think is the best food fiction ever set to paper. Food fiction is kind of a small niche but my favorites include Jim Harrison's "The Raw and the Cooked" - essays he wrote for Esquire which were mostly him weaving pure bullshit with fact into a tapestry of culinary themed wit, whimsy and bombast. "The Banquet Bug" by Geling Yan, a novel that winds food, politics and social justice together in a story that skewers modern communist Chinese society, and "The Last Chinese Chef" a culinary love story by Nicole Mones that is equal parts filled with culinary love, romantic love and love of life.  All of these don't nearly seem to compare to the food fiction from writer, Poppy Z Brite (now Billy Martin) who wrote with no bullshit. He knew his stuff. He lived in New Orleans, one of America's iconic food cities, where he was born and raised. His husband (pre Katrina) was a chef at a restaurant there. The books are referred to as "The Liquor Series" and include the novels Liquor, Prime and Soul Kitchen. They chronicle the lives of a pair of gay chefs named Gary "G-man" Stubbs and John "Rickey" Rickey as they try to conquer the cut throat restaurant world of New Orleans. I was hooked immediately on these books not only because they were eminently relatable to me, but that they were so well written with humor, detail and great plotting. I came to these books in 2006 - the year the last one was published, Martin lost his publisher shortly after the last novel, Soul Kitchen. Coincidently, this coincided with the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It seemed as though Katrina had basically destroyed Martin's will to write and continue the wonderful saga of G-man and Rickey. The New Orleans that those characters lived in no longer exists and Billy Martin can't bring himself to visit them again. This is evident in this sad last paragraph of his Wikipedia page:


"On June 9, 2010, Martin officially stated that he was retired, in a post entitled "I'm Basically Retired (For Now)" on his Livejournal.[10] He stated that he had 'completely lost the ability to interact with my body of work,' then went on to state that business issues were in part a cause of this issue. Along with this, he specifically mentioned being unable to disconnect from aspects of his life relating to Hurricane Katrina. He ended his statement by saying that he missed having relationships with his characters and that he did not feel the need to write for publication."



I can't figure how, as an author, you could miss your characters yet not want to write about them any more. Or maybe Martin has written about them, but only for his own amusement. I can only speculate what happened to Martin but I can guess that he had a Katrina like event in his personal life that directly reflected the devastation he saw all around him. The success of his books probably allowed him the financial ability to finally address his gender dysphoria and he became the man he was meant to be. I'm guessing the chef husband left the picture shortly after and then Katrina blew in obliterating not only Martin's personal world but his physical one as well. God knows what happened to him and his family during that terrible time. All fan speculation. It's all just guessing and gossiping. But it's just sad any way you see it - the reality or the speculation. None of it seems good for Billy Martin.

Selfishly, I'd like to stalk him on Livejournal and somehow help him get his mojo back. If he even wants it back, that is. These books really are extraordinary (at least to me) and it would be amazing to see Katrina through those character's lives. The film possibilities are terrific, IMO. That said, I realize this is the real world and not some Blind Side/Sandra Bullock Disney story where the guy comes back from a deep hole with the help of some stranger out of nowhere who has super human powers of persuasion and positivity. I must go on and be happy that I can re-read those wonderfully fun books and thank Billy's muse for sticking around long enough to let him give us those three novels at the very least. Oh, also - in 2007 I found out that there was a novella about G-man and Rickey called "D*U*C*K" that I promptly stole from the library once I found out it was no longer in print and unavailable anywhere. So that's my author creeper, super fan story.

Little bit of an Update from 2011ish:

Billy immersed himself in his love of visual arts and shares gallery space with his life partner in New Orleans. The art is available through Etsy and is heavily influenced by Voodoo hoodoo, Santaria and the many other Catholic-centric spiritual iterations you find in New Orleans. You can even purchase potions and such for whatever ails you or whatever ails someone else. He seems happy, so that's good. Here's a link to the gallery/Etsy....

https://www.etsy.com/shop/PZBART/about?ref=announce


Corporate Growing Pains and Gains

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Passing the torch, transitioning, growing the brand, turning a page, writing a new chapter, continuing the vision....the company I work for is celebrating their 25th year in business. It's been a year of changes. We have a new CEO. The last founder has retired. We have a newly revamped HR department along with a new HR guru. We have a gaggle of new board members and many new managers. I just finished getting through the first year in a newly renovated dining facility. Lots to celebrate. I was recognized as one of the company's OGs. I was the fourth hourly employee hired when the company began and worked my way up that ladder to my present exalted management state. We've gone from a little company with a handful of clients and quirky business practices (home office was a broom closet for the first year) to 70+ accounts spread out across the country and a more conventional corporate culture. At the anniversary celebration, they gave me a medal in a box, which serves no purpose that I can figure. A symbol of my loyalty I guess, but I'd chalk up my longevity with the company more to comfort and inertia. I like where I work and see no reason to go elsewhere other than for a change of scenery and a larger salary. How large? I don't know what my price would be until it was in front of me. I'm not a greedy man - something that would make me and mine comfortable would likely do. Still, I'll probably stick with where I am until I get too old to stand all day in a kitchen for 10-12 hours expediting and cooking food, managing the krew, and kibitzing with the customers; in this case, college students who are eternally exasperating, entertaining and rewarding to be around.
             

The company also gave me this gift book full of appliances, gadgets, trinkets and such to pick from as a thank you for my service. The thing was like a SkyMall magazine. I flipped through it for days, trying to find something I liked. Finally settled on a pair of head phones even though I already have a couple pair. The ones I have are cheap, go anywhere sets that I use with my ipod. The ones I picked were a couple hundred dollars and literally something I would never, ever spend that kind of money on even though I love me some high end audio equipment. So this gift was a good thing however I would have appreciated just getting a cash bonus, but I get the logic. I would have spent the cash on practical stuff for the house or the kid, etc. Not on myself. The SkyMall idea was a good trick.

We had a 25th anniversary celebration dinner for the managers at a nice venue with an open bar and hors doevres. Everything was fine and about what you'd expect but the caterer was definitely not up to our usual corporate standards. The staff were all in mis-matched uniforms and looked like they'd been sent here by a temp agency based out of a homeless shelter. The food was beyond bad and embarrassing especially since this was a celebration for a Contract Food Management company. Whoever was on the catering committee was going to have some explaining to do. Much as I enjoyed being served and not having to cook the meal; had I known what sort of horrible shit was going to be served I would have gladly given up my seat at a table in order to cook food befitting the occasion and the client. The worst meal I've had in a while and it's at my company's 25th anniversary dinner. Oh, the irony. Being polite midwesterners, most of us have held our tongues but I'm sure the upper reaches, particularly the new CEO, have let their displeasure be known quietly, but firmly. That said, this dinner won't be forgotten amongst the chefs who were there and it won't happen again if we can help it.

We had our annual corporate meeting which was an all day affair filled with themed break-out sessions and sub committee meetings. We had an actual key note speaker which we'd never had before. A friend of the new Head Cheese who talked about something he called "Upside-down Leadership" which essentially is leadership modeled after how Jesus lead the disciples. My company is faith based in its mission statement and motto so this keynote theme was no surprise. I thought it was more of a sermon than a speech and at times I thought I'd been transported into a church service rather than a corporate meeting. But again, this sort of thing is no surprise with my company and something I've grown used to. I will say that working for a company that's faith based has been more positive than negative, but at times the spirituality seems out of sync with what we may be involved in on any given day. I'm still getting used to having a prayer before doing a food demo or having a catering strategy session. I've even been asked to pray with an employee before their annual performance review. I wonder what the new HR guru will make of that? We'll see.

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It's What's for Dinner

http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/03/the-food-lab-complete-guide-to-dry-aging-beef-at-home.html

I'm part of a social circle of disparate people joined by the common bond of love of all things culinary and anything remotely nerdy. Started out as a group of regulars at my local watering hole playing trivia and cards against humanity. The group has grown into a loose affiliation of people of all different ages, walks of life, etc. The bar lets people bring in their own food, so once a month or so we take over a couple tables had feast together under a common theme. The last couple meals revolved around Chili Creations (February), Hotshit (March) and Ramen Bowls (April). The next one is going to be Umami Steak Fest 2015 which will coincide with a farm market demo I'll be doing on July 4. The concept of Umami is one of my favorites because it celebrates the particular food genius of Asian culture particularly the Japanese. Umami is the name given to that previously undefined taste we percieve as "savory" or "rich". It is often referred to as the Fifth Taste next to Salty, Sweet, Sour and Bitter.  Steak with sauteed mushrooms is a perfect example of Umami in American cuisine.

It's fun and envigorating for me as a chef to mix it up with people who share my food love and are up for diving in and trying new things or learning traditional techniques. In preparation for the Umami Steak Fest a couple of the group members are going to dry age some beef for a couple months. I've never done this myself so I'm excited to take a crack at it. I've been cooking professionally for 40+ years and I'm still learning. It never ends and I love it. People always ask what is my favorite thing to cook and I always say, "Something new."


                                                                       

                                                                      

Honey! I'm Home!



Ok - so it's been a year. Or nearly. Not that I took a break from journaling/recording/whatever - I just took a break from here for reasons that include everything from being tired of LJ ddos breakdowns to merely finding it easier to scribble at length in a moleskine saving the non-work computer typing/squinting for the popcorn fun of Facebook. No real reason now for starting back again except for the symmetry of the dates and feeling like doing it here again. So there. A lot happened in the last year. But not going to enumerate it now - have to save it for days when I got nothin. Which hopefully won't happen. So this last year will go quietly into the past perhaps to be mined later. Maybe.

Recently my office mate, A, (third one in as many years) came up with an annoying idea in our weekly staff meeting. I'll never get used to the more tediously ridiculous parts of staff meetings i.e. when the boss asks at the end if there's anything new anyone would like to share. A, who I'm good friends with and like, even though I think he's a shameless striver and future executive toady, comes up with a brainwave to have the management team complete a Personality Survey as part of our annual retreat a month hence. Before I can spit out the words "Myers-Briggs" and "over my dead body", he quickly points out that this survey is NOT Myers-Briggs but something meant to highlight our strengths as individuals and to show us how we can play to those strengths in our work life. So, it's some other Fresh Circle of Hell within the whole Meyers-Briggs universe. Terrific. Fuck. Of course, boss LOVES this idea as it SEEMS to be more FUN and POSITIVE than the old Meyers-Briggs survey which was all the rage for us as a team over 15 years ago and which served to only solidify my position in the work group as the outlier iconoclast to be viewed with skepticism and maybe even a slight amount of dark suspicion. The survey clearly indicated I was the only one with a personality type that can be succinctly described as "Creative Pagan Intellectual". A type that didn't match up neatly with any of the other career managers on the team at the time and the only one my boss can still remember from that time all those years ago. He immediately points out my ancient Myers-Briggs results as an example of how USEFULL this exercise can be and how it helps bring a team closer together once we understand WHERE WE ARE COMING FROM. Godammit. At this point, I'm lasering A with my heat vision and he is pointedly avoiding eye contact as he describes something called StrengthsQuest which he found quiet easy to take and very enlightening. Blah-de-Blah.

So I take StrengthsQuest because I don't want to be hounded about the thing by my boss who can be as tenacious as a three year old wanting ice cream when he detects you are dragging your feet on something because you really, really hate it. So my results were positive (big surprise - its about strengths not weaknesses) and somewhat accurate - it says I like thinking (wow), I like achieving things, I like people but don't need a lot of friends, I'm creative and like ideas, I like to create projects but not executing them, I am committed to learning and hold education in high regard, I like encouraging people more than leading them (whatever the fuck that means), and I'm pretty tolerant with people I come across (Duh, I work in service - kind of a pre-req). So it wasn't as painful as I thought it would be and I even think this stuff could be useful. There's reams of data and PDFs the size of novelettes. I really didn't want to be singled out for being wildly different again - I know internally that I'm a weirdo, I didn't need scientific proof. Again.

That Time of Year

 

J sits across from me with concern, desperation and regret passing across his big mug like semaphore flags on a sunny day.  He's not hiding a thing, which assumes that he ever could. J is the proverbial open book.  "I have more to offer and since I'm about to be fifty I figure I need to move forward with whatever opportunities are out there. I mean opportunities here. I'm not looking to go elsewhere."  J's voice is a booming bass that echoes in this high ceilinged echo chamber of a room tagged onto the end of the Communications building like a silo attached to a barn.  J has the sort of voice that lends itself to singing Johnny Cash tunes at Karaoke bars, which is exactly what he does for fun with his wife on their days off. I hear they do a spot on version of "Jackson". I'm all for J getting ahead, and yeah, he could contribute. Maybe.  Trouble is, nearly every time he's been put in a position of responsibility beyond supervising a couple guys on a shift, he's fallen apart.  But this time it'll be different he tells me. This time he'll be ready, more prepared. Sure J - we'll get you more training and the next time something comes up that looks good, you throw your hat in the ring and we'll see what happens.

It's yearly employee review time and I am spending my days listening to all manner of stories, both guarded and completely open, about people's lives at work. People I work with every day. It's not my favorite time. Everyone wants something and no one likes to hear why they can't have it.  Or at least some of it. Some of these people are pains in the ass who need to grow up, shut up and just work. Others just put their heads down and grind through the every day. And a very few, take it as a challenge and point of pride to do their work above and beyond anyone's expectations including their own.  The thing is, I'm doing these reviews and handing out these raises with virtually no guidance or direction from my boss. He's trusting me to get things right with the staff. A staff of about 70 people. It's daunting if I think about it too much, but then I realize that I'm the one manager that has the most exposure to all of these folks, so actually I am the best one to do the evaluating.  Doesn't mean I'm wholly comfortable with it though. Not by a long shot.

Signal from Radio Free Albemuth

I'm a big fan of Ryer's and it's not for the obvious reasons - he's an artist that works in as many mediums as he can get his hands on, a quality I've always been attracted to in artists I like. Also, despite his love for and obsession with trains, he is willing and interested in exploring most any subject to bash his art against. I've collected art for a long time and besides being attracted to multi-medium artists, I like collecting pieces that represent an artist working outside of their box i.e. a printer creating oil paintings or a potter creating tapestries - that sort of thing. I've known Ryer for many years now and he's always had a talent, but in recent years that talent has started to grow into that undefinable something that helps him create wonderful work in whatever medium he turns his hand to. As I said, I've collected art for decades, and I've always followed the cardinal rule of art collection which is don't buy for an investment, buy what you like. and I have a favorite print of Darth Vader grilling burgers with a light saber to prove it. I also like Ryer's work and that little monsters are calling to me so take my money, boy! Here! Take it!

Guy was a pretentious, arrogant prick who captured the proto-punk zeitgeist of the 60's and 70's and rode that wave to the bitter end. Every pierced-up, no talent, two chord thrasher pissing on authority, writing shitty poetry and playing gigs in urine soaked basement clubs owe this guy a blood debt. My favorite record from him was "Metal Machine Music" - a double disc "fuck you" to his fans,his label and anyone else who didn't get it. Perfect.

Puttering around the house, writing, laundry, writing, dishes, writing, and putting off turning in my bottle/can deposits at the store...

Iron Butterfly providing the soundtrack to this Sunday groove. "Metamorphosis" is a little known, highly under rated album that followed the group's monster hit "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" by a few years. This record is a very tasty mix of vocal and guitars all wrapped up in a psychedelic blues burrito of rock. "Easy Rider" is probably my favorite tune if only because I think it should have been a bigger biker anthem than "Born to Be Wild" - it has everything- chugging rhythm section, amazing guitar licks, growling gumbo vocals and outstanding in your face lyrics. IMO - a great little gem of a record that sounds even better cranked up to 10.

Way to sneak back into it Bosox.

Fall light slanting in through my windows with that special golden glow suffusing my darkened office and this hovering in the air.....

A picture of Hellen Keller with her beloved cat, "Mittens".


I am going to Hell.

Yeah - don't feel so superior - I know you laughed too. So here, share a seat with me on the bullet train to The Lake of Fire...

Yeah I'd really like another beer but my ancient cat, Siam has found a comfy place to nap and I don't have the heart to disturb him. A small price to pay.

A lot of the point of Japanese food is subtlety. Today we are serving udon noodles with winter vegetables and beef at Hope Dining - it's hard to keep things subtle when you prepare 400 servings of miso broth and udon, but we're Americans and sublety isn't usually our strong suit.
Here's a clip from my all time favorite food movie, Tampopo. In this scene we see the Japanese version of the Heimlich maneuver. Let this stand as a warning to the dangers of over eating noodle soup.

Happy birthday to the great Jon Anderson...

Check out my sweet new wine glasses I got at work today.

This is true. I've walked by Secret Service like this, carrying a 200 pan and shouting "Behind!" for extra effect.

You can have your marathons, mudders and fun runs...running with the bulls takes REAL fortitude and bravery...:D

My Halloween season film fest continues with "Cold Fish"
Crazy creepy gory fun. If cold blooded murder, dismemberment and violent insanity is your thing then this one's for you. Bring mops and sponges for the clean up.
I give it 4 bad dreams out of 5.
Waiting for you now in the stream at Netflix.

Dog just posted this great recipe on Pinterest...

Oh yes...

What a delightful interview. A pair of brothers who brought a huge load of love and light into the world. If only their were more, just like them.

So flipping through the channels I get stuck for five minutes on a 60 minutes expose of "leadership PACS" used by members of congress to feather their nests and create generational wealth. Rage welled up from nowhere so I quickly dashed off a rant e-mail to my rep, Bill Huisenga and switched the TV to Netflix. I shall watch American Horror Story (how apropos) and drink beer while waiting for the Secret Service to knock on my door...

This amazing piece of Epic brought to you by my friend Janis of Tanuki.

Fall commute in Michigan...

Dressed for success...

Churrasco beef with chimichurri sauce - Lunch today! Phelps Dining Hall, Hope College

My co-worker and office mate Mimi Lixey left work at 5 today(early for foodservice folks) being chauffeured by our boss, BobV to the hospital in Grand Rapids so she could have her baby. About two hours later Baby Boy Lixey arrived! Congratulations to the Lixeys on the new addition!
BTW - Mimi, are you coming in early tomorrow to finish up the staffing schedules or are you taking the morning off? Just checking...

We really need those schedules ASAP.

And you have a couple interviews to do tomorrow, also.

Just sayin'...

Yes is finally being inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame. As a life long fan I'm so pleased. In their prime they were a mesmerizing live experience. I hope they have enough room on the stage at the ceremony for everyone that's been in the band over the years. And I hope we see the return of the amazing Jon Anderson to the fold.

So I'm custodian of Zoe's goldfish while she's away at school. His name is "Gordo", which is Spanish slang for "fat". Which he is - in his own charming goldfish way. Anyway, I've never cleaned his tank solo before and tonight was the first time. I housed him in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup while I rinsed and scrubbed his tank squeaky clean. I really got into it, letting my OCD take control of the situation. When everything was perfect and sterilized, I turned to the measuring cup to retrieve Gordo only he..wasn't..there. Oh. My. God. Where is he! He's a frickin' goldfish! What? Did he up and decide to take a stroll? A frantic few seconds and I find him wallowing around in the kitchen sink about to flipflop himself into the drain screen. I grab him and toss him unceremoniously into his tank with a quick look around to make sure no one saw this shameful episode. Good. No one around. Whew!

Great points and good overview of the unintended consequences of streaming music. Myself, I've always felt an obligation to throw money at artists I like and even extra dough to the ones I fan. I suss out new music by keeping my ear to the ground, so to speak and Pandora/Spotify is part of that process - for me they are tools to finding the New Music not sole sources of music entertainment. I'm old school in the respect that I like owning the recording medium in a physical sense - I grew up with the LP as part of the whole experience. I learned to live with CDs, but I prefer owning the vinyl. Right now I'm busy replacing my Peter Gabriel era Genesis vinyl and some Be-Bop/Fusion Jazz favorite discs. Small price to pay for the near-lifetime of listening pleasure these artists have given me.

Ryer's cool train that he built with his train buddies... I just keep thinking of "Bridge Over the River Kwai".

ames Dean's last film "Giant" was released on this day over half a century ago. It's not a great movie, but I like it anyway because of Dean. He makes everyone else look like high school drama students tripping over lines and stiff as two by fours. Love the little "see ya" wave he improvises at the end of the scene here.

Cabrera lights the fuse....

It's Breakfast at Dinner, Hope Dining style! Chef Steph peeling apples for tonight's stuffed pancakes at the vegetarian station...
It's Monk's birthday. Dig.

Yes! Keep battling, Tigers - don't give up!

Incredible. Most say, "Ohmygod, the piano!" but for chefs it's "Ohmygod the knives!"
Oddsmakers pick three of my favorites to win the Literature Nobel this year. Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro and Joyce Carol Oates. I enjoy reading everything they write and you would too.
Forward...

...and now he's playing the Big Room at Caesar's.

Babysitting brisket.

At GFS food show. I think I've found our new staff uniforms.

John C, Calhoun looks like Willem Dafoe. Oh, and an article about one party about to go supernova, taking us and possibly good portions of the rest of the world with it.

                                                                       

                                                               Back Yard Blue Chair      
If I were in Santa Fe I would so be there for this.......



Originally posted by grrm at Seven Days And Counting...






 We're down to seven days till the grand re-opening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe.

[That sound you just heard was me gulping.  Work is proceeding apace, but there's still a lot to do, and that opening is bearing down on us like a damned locomotive.  I need to whip my minions harder.]

First up, the classic 1956 MGM big budget SF classic, FORBIDDEN PLANET.



Tickets for FORBIDDEN PLANET... and Jean Cocteau's ORPHEUS and John Carpenter's DARK STAR, our other featured attraction... will all be FREE, but they're going fast, especially for opening night.  If you're in Santa Fe, drop by the box office and get yours now.

Oh, and we also hope to have signed copies of some of my books for sale at the theatre... and maybe other cool stuff as well.

Where Reality Goes to Die

                                                               Photo 65     

I enjoy Vegas but not for the gambling or the shows or any of that. I enjoy it's world class people watching, I enjoy the food, I enjoy it's energy of corruption and yes, I enjoy the hedonistic vibe. I've been going since the 80's, mostly for conventions and as a jumping off point for hiking trips in Utah and Arizona. I've only been there for strictly vacation purposes a few times. My wife's 50th, a bachelor party trip and a one time, solo three day layover on the way to culinary training in Napa. Vegas is constantly evolving. Over the time I've been visiting I've seen it go from Sin City to Sin City with the Family back to Sin City and now it seems like it's Sin City 2.0 with special add-ons; those being the less Mortal of the Deadly Sins - Gluttony and the uniquely American Sin of Consumerism. Vegas is now one of the culinary hubs of the world - any famous chef worth his salt has a restaurant (we call them "properties" in our business) in Vegas. Same goes for upscale retailers and major International Brands. Versace, Hermes, Coach, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Chanel, etc. They are all there and they are everywhere. Vegas is becoming a shopping Mecca, supplanting Rodeo Drive, Mall of America, Fifth Ave and any other Hive of Shopping in America you can name. What the world has to offer in consumer goods Vegas has in concentrated form contained in an 8 mile radius surrounding the Strip, Fremont Street, The Fashion Show Mall and the International World Outlet Center.

I'm always a little unsettled by the amount of money floating around when I first arrive in Vegas. This time I had a monetary out of body experience while buying a $5 toothbrush on the first morning there. Along with the outrage and shock of paying 5 bucks for a toothbrush at Walgreen's, I was further shocked when the guy at the register next to me plunked down 2 grand for a new laptop like he was buying a pack of cigarettes. And yeah, they had laptops at Walgreen's - it's Vegas, you sell anything, anywhere. This was 6 in the morning and I was approaching being awake for 24 hours by this time, which is something else I do in Vegas - not sleep. My former SousChef and now newly minted Banquets and Catering Chef was with me. He had never been to Vegas. Even though the counter person didn't bat an eye at the laptop purchase, my convention partner and Vegas newbie, Josh, couldn't help but say something.

"Dude! You're buying a laptop at Walgreen's?"

The guy peered at Josh with a look of friendliness tinged by a hint of disdain. It's a look you get a lot of in Vegas from the truly heavy weight hustlers you run across.

"Yeah, my old one took a puke down at the sports bet and I need to have one for the afternoon races."

"But its two grand."

"Yeah, now I'm only up 22 grand." And he grinned like Satan barbecuing babies.

Josh looked at me in gawping shock. I smiled big enough to hurt.

"I love Vegas."

Another thing I like about Vegas is the Casinos on the Strip. Some, like the MGM Grand, Wynn, Riviera, and Treasure Island are casinos that happen to have hotels wrapped around them. Others, like the Venetian, the Bellagio and our hotel, the Cosmopolitan, are actual, huge grand hotels that just happen to contain casinos.

Our chef's convention, for whatever reason, was booked in the newest place on the Strip - The Cosmopolitan. Perhaps you've seen the commercials on TV. It's a hotel specifically targeted for the younger crowd. From my perspective of a 55 year old aging hipster, it was a delightfully weird hotel with a Goth/Matrix theme full of 20-something party girls and their douchebag paramours. Their were the Italian Guido douchebags, the Persian douchebags, the Asian douchebags and the Hustler Hip-Hop Brother douchebags. The girls were non-descript and interchangeable hoochies with no delineation from each other. Whereas the GUYS all had their separate style identity, the girls all looked very much like they were taking their stylistic cues from Maxim magazine and the BET channel. This didn't bother me so much as the little accessory obsessions did. I am so over the baseball hat turned backward, sideways, flip up thing. The bill perfectly straight preferably with the hologram UPC sticker still attached. Bad tattoos. Japanese kanji and barbed wire bicep bracelets for the guys and tramp stamps and ankle tats for the girls. Ugh. Sheath dresses with nothing underneath but perhaps a thong seemed to be de rigueur for the girls. And sky high stilettos. Some things don't change.

Of course, Josh was in his Glory, ogling every girl that flounced past him even though he has a wedding looming with the Love of His Life in December. All I saw was my daughter, the Z-Girl, wrapped around some gorilla tricked out like the rapper Pitbull and reeking of Axe. Disconcerting doesn't come close to covering it. That said, I delighted in the occasional Grey Panther that glided by me, usually attached to some corporate, high roller drone, on their way to the Roulette or Craps or Cirque du Soleil show VIP section. Their were a few unattached women of a certain age wandering the casino, but I had no time to discover if they were pros trolling for guys like me, or just there for the Gambling Jones or there attending the convention. I had to remain focused on keeping Josh from going off the rails and I had some certifications I had to attain before I left. Opportunities for a Vegas tete a tete would have to wait for another time. I would be back again soon, with no obligations. And then we will see what we will see.

I love Vegas.

Next: Fremont Street, Las Vegas - Hell's Pre-Registration

Nimrod Neiman Needs a Plan

Nearly two months of browsing LJ with nary a post by yours truly.  The time does go by. Especially when chaos reigns. Still, I've had time out in the real world to polish this nugget here, amongst others in the sieve....



“How long we gotta stay out here, Nimrod?”

“Don’t call me Nimrod. I told ya that before!”

Neiman stamped his feet, which only refreshed the slimy chill of the large amount of slush that had already leaked through the bottoms of his boots. He was standing on the busiest corner in town in twenty degree weather holding a huge sign that said “Sanford’s Sporting Goods. Going Out For Business! 3 Days Only!” Neiman’s partner held a similar sign, but his stature allowed him to hold the sign high above the traffic whizzing by. Neiman gazed at him with exasperated contempt. He swore his eye balls were starting to freeze. Neiman pointed at the big man’s hat.

“Jesus! Fix your hat, Dan. Ya look like a retard out here.”

Neiman giggled a little at his own irony. After all, Dan was a retard, but one of those kind that could actually do stuff like have a conversation and not have to be watched every second. Dan shuffled his feet and did a dance like he had to go to the bathroom. The guy looked like a version of Elmer Fudd built by Dr. Frankenstein. Close to seven feet tall with hands like platters and a round head that sat on his shoulders like an orange sitting on a table. Dan straightened his Green Bay Packers hat then stared back at Neiman with eyes like blue marbles in a pail of milk. Neiman spread his arms.

“ What?”

Dan blinked.

“How much longer we gotta stay out here?”

Neiman leaned out into traffic a bit so he could see the bank sign clock two blocks down. Shit, it had only been a little over two hours. It felt like a day. The wind got suddenly colder.

“We got another few hours, Dan. Then we can go back.”

“How long’s that?”

“A while, Dan. Try not to think about it. Walk around a little. It’ll help keep you warm.”

Neiman knew if he didn’t distract Dan he would be trapped in a long circular conversation with him that would include copious amounts of whining and repeated requests for the time.

Is there a plan? Was there ever? Move on and find out....Collapse )

Neiman had known he was going to have a long day when the Rescue Mission director told him at breakfast that he was assigning Dan to go with him to work at Sanford’s. Neiman not only hated being partnered up, but this was a little worse because he felt uncomfortable around Dan. Neiman felt Dan was unpredictable and could quickly become uncontrollable if something spooked him. Truth be told, Neiman was a little frightened of being responsible for Dan. If something happened to him, it would fall on Neiman. This fear of responsibility was one of the root causes for Neiman’s being in his present situation. Whenever his responsibilities became too great, he drank. A lot. An inhuman amount. Over time his drinking solved the responsibility problem for him like booze solves most problems if you allow it; by leaving you with nothing but yourself and the liquor. No responsibilities, no family, no home, nothing. Neiman had been cool with it until he’d begun to lose whole days, and when he wasn’t doing that he was starving and freezing to death out on the streets. He had had just enough wit left to figure that he needed a better plan. The first step to this still nebulous plan had been to find food and shelter. He’d stumbled into the Mission on a clear, cold night in November and had been there ever since. It was now February and his head was just now surfacing from the ocean of drink and deprivation. The last thing he needed was to be charged with taking care of Dan. Neiman took it as a sign that he needed to update his plan and focus on getting the hell out of the Mission.

At breakfast that morning Dan was working his way through an enormous pile of corned beef hash when Neiman came up to his table. The sight of Dan shoveling the Alpo-like stuff into a maw that was lined with semi rotted teeth almost caused Neiman to lose his own breakfast right there. He focused on a point beyond Dan’s head.

“Looks like it’s me an’ you today, big boy.”

“I ain’t a boy. Pete says I’m a grown-assed man.”

Pete was one of the senior residents who had almost completed the Rescue Mission program for rehab. Neiman hated Pete because he knew the dude was scamming and he always put on this Snoop Dog bullshit nigger front. Neiman knew the guy would be dealing and using within a week of leaving the place. Pete had told Neiman once that for him, coming to the Mission was what normal folks call taking a time out. It was this and the fact that Pete had been the one to come up with the Nimrod nick name that caused Neiman to build a pretty good hate for the guy.

Neiman shrugged at Dan and hooked a thumb over his shoulder towards the front entrance of the Mission building.

“Yeah whatever, big man. Look, finish up quick because we’re gonna work together at Sanford’s today. The van leaves in 15 minutes. Dress warm – we’ll probably be outside for a while and its cold out.”

Dan squinted at Neiman, his eating hand never stopping its circuit from plate to mouth.

“You gotta help me get my stuff.”

Neiman sighed.

“Alright. Wait here when you’re finished I’ll come get you and help you with your stuff.”

Neiman left him to finish while he went and gathered up his own gear. He had a pea coat that worked well keeping the cold out if he layered stuff underneath it. By the time Neiman was finished getting ready he had every stitch of clothes he owned on his body. He worried about his lack of gloves and the rubber boots he owned had cracks everywhere. He had a feeling the two pairs of socks he had on weren’t going to be enough. Passing down the hall towards Dan’s room he met Pete coming the other way.

“Nimrod! Don’ worry ‘bout Dan’s stuff, I got him all set. He’s waitin’ downstairs in the lobby. Damn son! Y’all look like Frosty the Homeless Snowman! Y’all probly only be out for a hour or two. Ya don’t need all those clothes.”

Neiman shook his head.

“I’ll take my chances. Can always take the stuff off.”

Pete gave him the eye like he was laughing at him on the inside.

“Okay, okay. You do what you gonna do. Have a good one today.”

Neiman just nodded and turned back down the hall. He met Dan at the front door. Dan was dressed in colors that made him look a little like a giant traffic cone. Red snow pants with a yellow ski jacket and yellow and green scarf. His gloves were yellow and he had on a yellow stocking cap with a Green Bay Packers logo on the front and a ridiculously huge pompom on top. Neiman noticed that as dumb as the stuff looked, it was all brand new. The ski jacket was a Columbia brand, he knew those weren’t cheap. Neiman had shop lifted one before. Dan was a sort of mascot at the mission and Neiman had no idea why he was there. Neiman knew he’d better not let anything happen to Dan or his name would be mud with everyone. The thought was making his breakfast turn sour. He piled into the van with Dan and a small group of other recovering drunks and addicts being dropped off at their day jobs. Neiman told himself again that he had to get a plan together soon, otherwise every day was going to be a long day if he had to keep this shit up.

Sanford’s Sporting Goods was on the other side of town and the best way to get there was by the highway, but they couldn’t take that route because everyone knew Dan got carsick on the highway. So they wound their way through side streets that were either clogged with snow or polished to a frictionless sheet of ice. When they arrived at the store Dan was the first one out, but not before he spewed his morning’s intake of hash all over the sidewalk from inside the van door. Neiman, shuffling out right behind Dan almost fell on his face trying to avoid the mess.

“Well, hell Dan. That stuff doesn’t look any better the second time around.”

No one laughed at the joke and the others in the van all gave Neiman the stink eye before they buttoned up and drove off leaving him and Dan at the curb. Before they could go inside Mr. Sanford himself came out and met them on the sidewalk. He went right to Dan and shook his hand vigororously.

“Well hey there, big boy! Haven’t seen you in a while! I’m glad you come! How have you been?”

Sanford was barely five feet tall and round as a basketball. Dan looked down at him like an ostrich getting ready to peck. Neiman noticed that it was okay if Sanford called him “big boy”.

“I’m fine Mr. Sanford.”

“And how’s your ma? You been keepin’ in touch?”

“Yah, I call her once a week ‘cause they make me down to the Mission.”

“Well good! Good! You ready to do some work today?”

“Yah, me an’ Nimrod’s ready, Mr. Sanford.”

Sanford frowned and shifted his gaze to Neiman, looking surprised to find a second person standing there.

“Nimrod? That you’re real name, son?”

“No sir – just a nickname the guys at the Mission gave me ‘cause it rhymes with my last name, Neiman.”

“You sure it ain’t because you’re stupid?” Sanford beamed then winked.

Neiman resisted the knee-jerk reaction to clock Sanford in his round, porky face.

“Nah, I think I’m smart enough. It’s just somethin’ that rhymes.”

“Well that’s fine! I’m glad they sent someone down to work with Dan. His mind wanders. Last time he was down here it was a little tough. But that was last time. We gonna do better this time, eh Dan?”

Dan didn’t answer. Dan was watching clouds go by. Sanford blinked and re-focused on Neiman.

“So…what’d you say your name was?”

“Neiman.”

“Oh! Yeah! Yeah! Nimrod! Well, okay! Look I only have a few hours for you guys today and its real easy work. We’re having a sale this weekend and we want to make a big splash. We’re calling it a “Going out for Business” sale. Get it? “Out for business”. The wife came up with that one. A real attention grabber!”

Neiman thought it was a stupid idea. People would only see “going out of business”. He smiled thinly at Sanford.

“Sounds good, Mr. Sanford.”

“You boys are gonna help get the word out. I’m gonna drop you off out at the bypass with a couple of signs and all you have to do is wave ‘em at the passing cars and make sure everyone that drives by sees that we’re havin’ a sale.”

Neiman was relieved. It sounded easy enough except for the standing out in the freezing cold part. He glanced at Dan. He was still looking around distractedly. Neiman thought he was being pretty patient. Sanford waved them inside then stopped Neiman at the door.

“Dan and I’ll go get the signs, son. Would you take that snow shovel and push that puke off the curb? Gotta get movin’ – I want you boys out on the corner before the morning rush!”               Neiman could have sworn he saw Dan smirk a little as he toddled in after Sanford. So that was how it was.

Neiman and Dan rode out to their work spot in Sanford’s gigantic SUV which was painted a garish electric blue and orange with Sanford sporting goods signs plastered on three sides. The thing looked like an automotive version of Dan’s outfit. Neiman sat as far away from Dan as possible in case he got sick again.   Neiman couldn’t imagine the guy having anything left to spew; the amount Neiman pushed off the walk had almost been too much for the snow shovel to handle. Dan and Sanders chatted, ignoring Neiman completely.

“Dan, do you like my car?”

“Yessir, it’s nice.”

“Like the colors?”

“Yeah. Blue’s my favorite.”

“Those are the colors of my favorite basketball team, the Detroit Pistons. Do you like basketball Dan?”

“Yessir. We watch it sometimes at the Mission.”

“Maybe sometime we could go see a game in person. How’d you like that?’

“I’d like that.”

It when on like this for the entire 15 minute drive out to the highway bypass. Neiman had been invisible, while Dan, by the time they reached their spot, had been offered a trip to see a Pistons game, dinner at a restaurant, a part-time job at Sanford’s and an autographed basketball that Dan would receive at the end of the day if things went well. At this last, Sanford fixed Neiman with a laser-like stare through the rearview mirror rendering him suddenly and uncomfortably visible once again. Sanford let them off on the only vacant corner of the intersection. There was a Village Pantry gas station directly across from their designated spot. When cars weren’t pausing for the stop light, they were careening by at better than 60 miles per hour. When Neiman and Dan finally got situated with their signs Sanford gave them the game plan.

“Okay boys, I’m gonna leave you out here for five hours. I’ll be back to pick you up and take you back to the Mission in time for lunch. Now, if you need to go to the bathroom or take a break and warm up a little you can go on across to the gas station. You can get a little coffee or somethin’ too – I have an account there. Just give’em my name. They know you might be comin, but they are also my eyes and ears so no screwin’ around and no slackin’ off or I’ll know.”

Again, he fixed Neiman with a dead fish stare then gave Dan a beatific smile. Neiman’s eyes drifted back to the gas station. Right above the entrance was a blinking sign. Packaged Liquors. Neiman felt a small stir deep in his brain pan. Next thing, Sanford was driving away and Neiman was there with Dan who was already wiggling and waving his sign at passing motorists like he was landing planes on an aircraft carrier. Neiman took up a spot a few feet away, facing the traffic coming the opposite direction; his back turned to the gas station. He didn’t move his sign at all. He shuffled his feet to keep warm and glowered at the cars as they passed. He’d already cleaned up puke for Sanford and he was damned if he was going to dance like a trained monkey for the guy. Neiman saw Dan out of the corner of his eye bouncing his sign and shuffling around in a kind of dance. He was singing “Yellow Submarine”.

Neiman was to the point of stepping out in front of the next semi that came roaring by when Dan finally stopped tonelessly repeating the line “We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine”. There was about five minutes of blessed silence before Neiman heard Dan’s footsteps crunching in the snow, coming up behind him. Dan whined about the time and getting cold. Truth be told, Neiman was getting a little frozen himself. The bank clock down the street let him know they had over three hours left. The wind was picking up and dark clouds were moving in. Snow clouds. He told Dan to walk around a little faster to get warm. Neiman’s gaze fixed on the gas station. The packaged liquor sign seemed brighter in the gathering gloom. Time to take a break.

“Hey Dan – let’s go over to the gas station to warm up and maybe get some coffee.”          

Dan’s moon pie face lit up then instantly went dark.

“I don’t like coffee. Do ya think they have hot chocolate?”

Neiman clapped the giant on his back.

“I’m sure they do – let’s go get out of this cold.”

They trudged hurriedly across to the station once the light turned. Neiman’s eyes moved not an inch from the blinking liquor sign as they made their way across. When they got inside, Dan announced that he had to go to the bathroom. Neiman waved Dan on without looking at him. Neiman was busy scanning the shelves.

“Yeah Dan you go on ahead – I’ll get your hot chocolate.”

There was a spot where you could make your own cup of coffee, cappuccino or, by God, hot chocolate. Neiman poured chocolate in the biggest cup he could find then made himself a small cup of black coffee; Tanzanian Yirgacheffe, whatever the hell kind of coffee that was. He brought the cups up to the counter, looking over the shelves and shelves of liquor bottles behind. Neiman knew it wouldn’t do to put booze on Sanford’s account, but he had a five stashed in his coat that was his emergency fund. If standing out in the freezing cold for another few hours with an annoying half-wit wasn’t an emergency, he didn’t know what was.   He set the drinks down and was about to order a half pint of Kessler’s when he spotted a small plastic bucket full of airline sized bottles next to the cash register. The bucket was being held by a plastic polar bear wearing a stocking cap just like Dan’s. The cap was emblazoned with the word “Rumplemintz”. Neiman knew the brand. Schnaaps. One hundred proof liquid candy cane goodness. The counter guy pointed at the cups.

“That gonna be it?”

“Uh, yeah. This is gonna be on Al Sanford’s account. He said you knew we were coming.”

“Oh yeah sure. Lemme get the ledger. You’ll have to initial.”

When the guy bent to get under the counter Neiman took a quick look-see around then swept a fist full of the small Schnaaps bottles into his coat.

They crossed the street while Dan tried to slurp his cocoa, walk a straight line and talk all at the same time. It was like watching a three legged cat trying to bury turds on a frozen pond. Dan made it to the corner without getting run down thanks to Neiman running traffic interference for him.

              About five minutes later Dan finished his cocoa. Refreshed and revived he started up with “Yellow Submarine” again. Neiman popped the lid off his untouched coffee and tossed it on the ground. He fished two bottles out of his pocket and one after the other he expertly unscrewed the tops using a thumb. He dumped them into the cup. He opened a third, and drank it down not caring if Dan or the passing traffic saw him. Instantly the old familiar warmth and well-being spread throughout his body. It started to feel like the cold wasn’t there anymore; not warmth necessarily just neutral temp neither cold nor warm.

Neiman began to feel better about standing out on a corner in the freezing cold. He downed the rest of the cup and fished around for more bottles. He had two left, which he promptly snapped open and poured into his cup. He took a sip and told himself to go easy and pace himself. Make it last.   He looked over at Dan. The big doofus was singing at the top of his lungs now and he had figured out how to twirl his sign like a baton. About every third twirl he hit himself in the side of the head, but he kept doing it. He was having the time of his life. Every so often a person driving by would honk. Jesus Christ. Neiman drained the contents of his cup, stared hard at Dan bouncing around like some demented giant bear and tossed the empty cup into traffic. He watched the crumpled cup bounce off the windshield of an Escalade with pitch black tinted windows. Florida car, Neiman thought nastily as he smirked at the thought of the poor bastards driving around in the Great White North freezing their asses off. The car hit its brakes and swerved. It bounced over the curb and came to a stop just beyond where Dan was swaying and dipping to his own tune. Neiman gaped as three guys jumped out of the vehicle.

Neiman saw immediately that they were gang bangers. What the hell they were doing up here was a mystery. They had on the required uniform. Hoodies, flannel shirts, Raybans, baggie pants pulled down mid-thigh. One guy was rockin’ the bandana down tight, almost covering his eyes and another wore one of those dumbass pork pie hats. The biggest one led the way. Neiman watched, fascinated by the steam rolling off the guy’s bald head. They came straight for him bypassing Dan who stopped his dancing and singing to stare dumbly at the bangers as they pushed by him. The Big One walked up until he was nose to nose with Neiman. Even though the situation was dangerous, Neiman felt calm. He had hundred proof courage. Big One spoke in a whispered growl.

“What chew think you doin’ trowin’ trash at my car?”

The guy’s accent was laughable, Neiman smiled.

“Look, it was an accident. I didn’t mean anything by it, esay.”

Big One’s eyes narrowed.

“Who the fuck you callin’ ‘esay’? You Latino now? You thinkin’ you down if you talk the talk?”

“No man, I’m just tryin’ to be friendly.”

The guy stepped closer, touching Nieman nose to nose.

“Oh we friends now? You toss trash at my car an’ now we friends?”

He got a thoughtful look on his face.

“So, since we friends now I guess you could do me a favor, right?”

Neiman could see the other two smiling wolfishly just on the edges of his peripheral vision.

“Sure man. Wadda ya want?”

Big One hooked a thumb over his shoulder.

“Come over here an’ take a look at the mess you made on my windshield. See if you can do somethin’ about it.”

Neiman felt adrenaline killing the buzz. They walked over to the car, the three bangers surrounding him. Dan stared like a dog watching a magic trick; mystification coating his face. He reached out to Neiman as they passed.

“Are these friends, Nimrod?”

Neiman waved Dan away.

“Its alright Dan. We just have a little business to do.”

Big One gave Neiman a quizzical look.

“Nimrod? That your name? What kinda name is that?”

Neiman shook his head.

“It’s a long story.”

They got to the car. It was still running, its exhaust sending out huge clouds of vapors in the freezing air. Big One pointed at the windshield.

“Take a look. What chew gonna do ‘bout that?”

Neiman looked but couldn’t see anything. He shrugged his shoulders.

“I can’t see anything.”

“Look closer. It’s right there.”

Neiman started to bend closer when one of the three grabbed the back of his neck and slammed his head into the windshield with such force that a spider-web of cracks formed where his forehead met the glass. Neiman saw black spots popping then it was like he was looking out from a tank of water. Big One’s voice sounded tinny.

“Oh man, look what you did! Now its really fucked up! Now we got a problem…esay!”

His head was slammed into the car again and this time the black spots stayed. Neiman’s legs gave way and he fell to the ground. He cried out as the first few kicks to his kidneys landed square. After he pissed his pants he didn’t feel the kicks so much. They kept on coming and he could hear all three of the bangers yelling at him, but it was like they were too far away to hear what they were saying. One of the black spots opened up wide and Neiman headed for it. Right before darkness closed over him Neiman saw Dan grab Big One around the neck.

Dan stopped singing and dancing when the Black Car pulled over. He didn’t like the guys that got out. They felt wrong. They felt like some of the men that show up at the mission. Their eyes all covered with scary dark glasses and wearing mean clothes. Dan was starting to have the bad feeling in his tummy like when he rides in the car and things go by too fast. He watched them closely when they talked to Nimrod. The Big One looked like a cage fighter like what some of the men watch at the mission. The mean ones who like fighting. Dan liked the wrestling show better. Pete said it was fake and no one really got hurt so it was okay. The Big One was almost yelling at Nimrod. Dan didn’t know what to do. He hoped they were Nimrod’s friends and it would be fine.

They walked over to the Black Car and Dan asked Nimrod if the men were friends. He didn’t even yell at him for calling him “Nimrod”. He just looked worried. Dan watched them close and suddenly one of them pushed Nimrod’s head into the car. Big One yelled at him then did it again. Dan saw blood and Nimrod’s eyes were all scary like a zombie’s. He fell down and the men all started kicking him. Dan was frightened to death, but Nimrod was a friend. Nimrod lived at the mission with him. Dan started yelling for help then he went to stop the men.

Dan grabbed the smallest man around the waist and was surprised at how light he was. He easily spun him around and threw him over the hood of the Black Car out into the road. His friend with the rag on his head stopped kicking Nimrod to watch where his friend landed. Dan grabbed his arm and twisted it up like he saw on Wrestlemania. He heard a crack sound and the man started screaming. Dan let him go and the guy fell on the ground next to Nimrod.   The Big One tried to punch Dan but he jumped to the side then grabbed him around the neck in a choke hold and started squeezing. Dan heard cars honking and sirens. He kept squeezing, waiting for the Big One to give up. Dan felt him go limp, but he kept squeezing. The other man on the ground was moaning and Dan didn’t know where the one he threw into the street was. Nimrod wasn’t moving. The sirens got closer.

The first thing Neiman saw after swimming up through syrupy unconsciousness was Pete’s face. He smiled a huge grin showing his piano-key sized teeth complete with a gold incisor that fascinated Neiman; momentarily distracting him from the fact that he felt terrible. Like the worst hangover of his life combined with a case of the flu combined with a ride inside a cement mixer. Pete’s voice rang through Neiman’s head like a bell on fire.

“Heeey, buddy! You up! Man, you done got fucked up real good. Just lie still. You got all kinda shit broken and bruised. Good thing our man Dan was there to get your back. Otherwise…who knows?”

Neiman felt like his mouth was full of steel wool. He tried to speak.

“A…an? Wh…wha..?”

Pete chuckled.

“Oh Dan’s alright. The director’s straightening the shit out with the cops now. They gave Dan a ride down to the station. An’ guess what? The dude hurled all over the inside a that cruiser.”

Pete’s booming laugh made Neiman’s head vibrate like a tuning fork made of razors.

“Oh yeah! The cops er alright wit it though ‘cause Dan’s a regular hee-ro. Saved yo’ life he did, Nimrod! Those cholos were diggin’ you a dirt nap when Dan came chargin’ in an’ tore they ass up. Put ‘em all in the hospital. They say the big un probably won’t ever regain consciousness. Oh yeah, Dan’s a regular bad ass. You owe him the biggest thank you your sorry ass can think of.”

Neiman sluggishly processed what Pete told him, horror and sad resignation dawned. It couldn’t be. The big dumb Baby Huey had rescued him. Had even saved his life? He was a hero? Neiman moaned. Pete patted him on the shoulder, a shit eating smirk smeared on his face.

“Yeah, I know Nimrod. Life’s a bitch then someone stupid saves it. You just lay there and try not ta think about it. You just get well an’ we’ll see y’all back at the mission in a few months. I gotta go. I don’t wanna miss Dan’s press conference. See ya on the flip-flop buddy!”

Press conference? It just kept getting worse. Neiman felt nothing now. Pain faded, giving way to a budding determination. Neiman had months of free time ahead of him. He couldn’t go back to the mission. He couldn’t be Dan’s bitch for life. He had all the time he needed right now. All he needed to do was think; think of something good. Think of a way out. He needed to think of a plan.  

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