Archive for the ‘a Paranoid Food Blog’ Category

LOCKHART, Tex

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAffliction, as defined by a rabid rogue who approached me at a Portland MAX station last year, is different than possession. “The Devil possesses, understand…” Spake he with wild-eyed abandon, as if said Devil was pushing his orbits outward from within. “It is God who causes affliction.”

Affliction was what gripped my mortal coil in a ditch somewhere outside Lockhart, Texas. Hours prior, in the fiery pits of heaven, I was exposed to too much of a divine thing. The Cow of Knowledge, having been slain and scorched, was brought to my plate as a serpentine temptation and I feasted. I feasted and became afflicted – driven mad by God, shamed by my nudity from where I had lain near the motel ice machine, sweating as only the guilty can sweat. It was no ordinary omnivorous sweat, mind; this was guilty Texas meat sweat. If there was a confessional, I’d confess; my admissions would include carnivorous gluttony six ways from Easter Sunday. My sweat was a sweet-tea of sin, common in these here parts where I had come and been conquered; conquered by the vanquished herd of cattle I devoured with just knife and knuckle. Apparently folks, forks in Texas are reserved for sushi.

Texas. I hadn’t brought my food blogger expertise upon these pastures since the tyrannical father of my then-girlfriend pledged the wrath of his North Dallas fire brigade and local masonic lodge, let alone his idiot cop son, upon me (Me! – Vic Neverman), should I cross the border into Texas again… which is why my Ophelia & I would only rendezvous in Colorado from then on. Nevertheless, to Texas I’ve returned, this time to Lockhart, home of barbeque in Texas, the capital of beef.

Smitty’s Market

Erasmus and Vic venture down the dark pathways of Smittys

Erasmus and Vic venture down the dark pathways of Smittys

I once had a near-death experience. Actually, I have had half a baker’s dozen, but none of them resembled the gateway to Hades that is the hallway down Smitty’s gullet to the fire pits. Imagine Jonah swallowed by a whale with severe chronic acid reflux; imagine the heartburn which would shear the Old Testy beard off of Jo’s meaty jowls (poor regurgitate, he, Jonah). Likewise, into Smitty’s Inferno went Vic & his merry bunch of meaty marauders as a clean-cut bunch of gentiles with naught an Old Testament beard between us. Aye, Able had a few days afforestation, but Doc Kelly was as rosy-cheeked as he was at birth (beautiful cherub, that Doc) which leveled us out. Together, we approached the River Styx where the ferryman had drawn forth the most charred embers of bovine flesh, which we gladly paid cash for by the pound.

There is barbeque and then there is Texas. For one, the brisket was haunted with the dreams and visions of this morning’s slaughtered cow. It lay there on the platter, this scorched gray matter which once was Bessie, her greasy slab juices steaming vaporous ghosts mooing a farewell to whichever pastures it fed and shit and (if lucky) fucked over. We paid by the pound and it was a pound of Bessie’s flesh we received… plus four pork ribs and a jalapeño sausage to balance out our meal with the other white meat and slight hints of vegetable packed into the sausage casing.

Brisket, Rib, Sausage, white bread at Smitty's

Brisket, Rib, Sausage, white bread at Smitty’s

There is barbeque and then there is Texas. For two, there was this dude Able Archer, “What are your thoughts on Mars, then?” Years ago, a Jamaican once told me, maybe we not know the man, but we know the spirit. Conspiracy theorists can sense a fellow paranoid with just a shared look in the eyes. This dude, Able Archer, and I shared the look of fellow paranoid. We conspiracy theorists tend to not congregate within anthills, assuming they’re bound to be kicked-in at any moment. Certainly, there have been events, state-sponsored of course, such as ‘The Grand Gala Gathering of Conspiracy Theorists’ held at the Drake off US-41 where no one attends but G-Men and Spooks and double-crossing red herrings and No-Such-Agents and Interpol lackeys and East German Stasi and members of the International Chinese Waiter Union all looking to bug and chip and control society’s cynical disbelievers. The appropriately paranoid & wizened conspiracy theorists know not to attend such an anthill, which makes socializing with our own introversive kind all the more difficult, but when we find common company, the frenzied inquisition begins. Able Archer was fixated on the red planet and wanted to know my take. His: “We’ve been there for years. Mars. You look at the black budget? Where did all of those funds go? Mars. We’re there right now. Just look at the video. Fuck NASA’s official story, we’ve been there for decades.”

Black’s

IMG_0961Travelling to Texas, I packed plenty of condoms, yet in my hurry forgot to bring deodorant which made the meat sweats all the more relevant to this narrative. My natural musk, a chemical agent of lust which attracts interest of the fairer sex at least once every thirty moons or so, was replaced with the aroma of cow tears dripping down my armpits. This, surely, was why the leather-booted country-western girls at Black’s, when confronted by my masculine wiles, feigned aloofness along the range of Helen Keller. Nevertheless, never the more, Never the Man, I remained undeterred. So too, was our fearless leader, Erasmus of Otter Dam.

Alas, poor Eras. I knew him Horatio: a fellow of infinite digestion, of most excellent fancy.  It was Erasmus who led us to Lockhart to mess with Texas. He was the brains of the operation, Doc Kelly was the beauty, Able Archer was the muscle and I was the international food blogger.

Erasmus versus Rib

Erasmus versus Rib

At Black’s, my gut quivered as a newly birthed deer at the sight of beef. I was still half mad from Smitty’s, this was too soon. I settled for a brisket sandwich and a side of pinto beans baked within a cauldron heated, seemingly, by a thousand suns. Ever intrepid Erasmus, however, went whole hog – or heifer, as it were – and had Black’s butcher carve up brisket, sausage and a rib… A rib which, if beef, must have been Minoan… A rib, if it was extracted from Adam the First, would have bred the Amazonians… A rib to cause Hägar the Horrible to shudder with a fearful delight… A rib, so profoundly obscene and goddamn unwieldy, Erasmus had to share it with Able.

Judgment Dénouement

Prior to arriving in Texas, I had eaten a week of salads in attempt to proactively pay some karmic debt. Indeed, the scattered remains of the departed cattle may have found a green paradise within my digestive tract, but this arrangement did its host no favors. I would have been glad to turn off all nerve sensation below the neck – especially considering the lady-repellant seeping out of my pores – while allowing my palate and olfactory full range of motion, however, thems ain’t the breaks. The orgiastic splendor the buds atop my tongue experienced were countered by the bull in the china shop that was my innards as three days of Texas barbeque cried havoc and let loose the dogs of war… dogs of war… gods of war… Mars.

“There is video of an astronaut fixing a Mars rover!” Able Archer insisted as I climbed out of my meat coma.

All present and accounted for, except for Doc Kelly. Where the fuck was Doc?

“He was last seen whistling some country song.” Erasmus noted. “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Able Archer and Erasmus conjecture on the whereabouts of Doc

Able Archer and Erasmus conjecture on the whereabouts of Doc

The trail ran cold. Texas is big country, wide-open prairie with an oppressive sun unkind on the on the untrained eye. If I was Doc, where would I be? If I was Doc, theorized Able Archer, I’d be in Mexico looking for my illegitimate bastards I couldn’t carry-on when returning from Playa con Loco. If I was Doc, hypothesized Erasmus, I’d be seeking out a place where women love beautiful bald men. Eureka!

We arrived in Austin too late. There we found our old mate, Doc Kelly, wide-smiled with beer in one hand and his new bride in another. Doc, always game for a new adventure, clasped my shoulder with one of his meaty paws and said, “So Vic! What do you think? Is this going to be best damn food blog ever or what?”

Yes, Doc. This is the best damn food blog post ever. And congratulations to you and Flo from the Progressive car insurance commercials. May you be ever happy, et al.

Mr and Mrs Doc Kelly

Mr and Mrs Doc Kelly

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PINE HILLS, Fla

Across the tracks there exists an oversized barnacle which was converted into an oyster bar at some point while Truman was in office. Inside the barnacle and over the commotion of shell-shucking, I was barstooled and attempting to follow the logic of Erasmus insofar: he wasn’t listening to me and if he wasn’t listening to me he couldn’t hear my questions and if he couldn’t hear my questions he certainly wasn’t going to fucking answer them.

“What’s this broad to you, anyway?” between grumbles.

“What’s she to you?”

Oysters are meatier when harvested in months with an

Oysters are meatier when harvested in months with an “r” somewhere

Erasmus, stoic and chilled as the Apalachicola oyster on his cracker, glared into my skull. It was apparent he fancied Viv and he growled when I mentioned her name as if it were too sacred to be spoken within ear-range of the salty characters surrounding us. He asked again. I told him: Vivien Escobar was the cruise director for the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society. What of They? This of They: according to my source, the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society happened to be a clandestine club of elites who secretly ran Orlando.

“Who’s your source?”

GOTHA, Fla

“Have you ever heard of the Bilderberg Group?” Doc Kelly winked at me over something which qualified as a sandwich only in taxonomical terms – it was built between boundaries of bread, but this is where the similarities ended and where the slaughtered pig, pineapple slices, crushed peanuts, granola and a pint of the house barbeque sauce suggested something more abstract than sandwich.

the word barabicu derives from the Timucua People native to Florida

the word barabicu derives from the Timucua People native to Florida

“Of course I have heard about the Bilderberg Group!” And I had. It was an annual rendezvous of the world’s most influential bankers and politicians where world policy was allegedly set. It is Conspiracy Theory 101, every paranoid worth his caffeinated hand-tremors knows about the Bilderbergs.

“Well, these guys…” Doc Kelly went on, using an entire roll of paper towels to wipe a shmear of greasy pig tears from his left cheekbone. “Are like the Bilderbergs, but worse.”

I was halfway listening as the other half was in the bag. I was quickly quaffing pints of the house draft in an attempt to build up enough Dutch courage to make an assault on my own sandwich whose girth qualified, uniquely, as a First World Problem.

“Worse?”

“Yeah, well they golf and they don’t pay their taxes like everyone else, but these guys are evil.”

“Evil? How is the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society evil?”

“They built the Eyesore of I-4.”

“Jesus.”

YAKISOBA SUPPER CLUB, undisclosed location somewhere in Fla

Doc Kelly infiltrated the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society. If either of us were to get in, he’d be the surer bet. I have the social graces of an asthmatic cat having just licked itself clean whereas Doc… the man can sell. He can walk into your living room and tell you fifty-three ways your home is a tinderbox just waiting to roast you alive and oh!, by the way, he happens to have a trunk full of fire extinguishers if you’re in the market. Doc has the smile of a buzzard at a roadside buffet and the determination of one of those golems of Jewish lore (you know the ones – the clay robots you put magical scrolls inside and they do all of your bidding, not that Doc is a robot or made of clay or even circumcised for all we know, but he’s damned persistent). Doc Kelly isn’t even a physician; he is just a salesman of snake oil and other acne-reducing, libido-enhancing, baldness-correcting formulas where the nickname of ‘Doc’ comes in handy. Between his golemic tendencies, his moniker and his carrion charm, Doc Kelly was able to will his way into one of Central Florida’s most illustrious secret social clubs.

Which brings this narrative to the close of the latter year: Doc Kelly’s newfound elite caste status is how we found ourselves at the Yakisoba Supper Club on New Year’s Eve.

The Yakisoba Supper Club is not the sort of establishment you look-up in the yellow pages. It was founded by a bunch of World War II Marines who returned from the Philippines with a shit-ton of Japanese/Nazi gold and needed to find a place for the bastard sons they brought back to valet park cars. Or so reads the Zagat review… Today, Yakisoba Supper Club is an underground sushi den of intrigue with an exclusive VIP reservation chart. It is rumored hostess Vivien Escobar whittled down the list of those invited by way of Ouija board.

NYE Yakisoba EventAh yes, Vivien Escobar, the gate-keeper. While Doc Kelly may have gained entry into high society based on good breeding alone, his bearded sidekick (your narrator) would have been left outside the velvet ropes if not for Erasmus of Otter Dam persuading Vivien Escobar into accepting both beastly heathens into her New Year’s Eve bacchanal brouhaha. Vivien Escobar, as it seems, is at evens, when not at odds, with the mercurial lothario, Erasmus, a semi-permanent resident on happenstance sabbatical leave from Otter Dam Military Academy where he lectures on Cold War etiquette. Vivien’s strange inclination towards Erasmus served, if you will, as my entry fee into the realm of relevance. Of course, I still had to pay the nominal cover-charge to get inside the Yakisoba Supper Club: a second-born son, a $23 money-order made out to Renaldo Hammerstein and a virgin on layaway worthy of sacrificing.

GPS directions will not lead you to the Yakisoba Supper Club. In fact, satellite navigation systems tend to go debunk this deep in the bayous of Central Florida. Fortunately, I am an esteemed member of the Pizza Delivery Guild and thusly educated with celestial navigation, but, unfortunately, the valet car attendants (Filipino-American great-grandsons of the WWII Veteran founders of the Yakisoba Supper Club) upon arrival take your keys, then your shoes, then your sight (via blindfold), spin you around in a circle, tickle your abdomen and push you down a garden path to be picked up by a trolley car and dumped off in a cemetery, still blinded, mind, where St Bernards are present with casks of champagne for refreshment before, finally, you are given back your keys and your car and provided a map of evaporating ink illustrating where to find the Supper Club of lore.

The Yakisoba Supper Club existed, at least on this night, in a Cuban Missile Crisis concrete bunker resurrected as an early-post-(post-modern) Japanese dojo. The front door lied behind a complicated maze of bamboo forest, tiki torches, a giant phallus of some Norse deity, a pond of koi feeding off of indiscernible human waste, a few rusty Cambodian landmines for good measure and a waterfall façade. We opted for the kitchen entrance. Within the Supper Club, we were greeted by anglicized geishas with angular mascara and a proneness to fits of courtesy giggles. I was handed a Kemosabe Crawl (a martini glass filled with two fingers of gin, a finger formaldehyded, a splash of vermouth and a cherry pit) which I passed along to Doc. Doc fed the Kemosabe Crawl to an unsuspecting bonsai and ordered himself a Wasabi Ruin (two fingers dry gin, one finger vodka, a spit of vermouth and a gumball of wasabi) to clear up his sinus allergies, which is what he claimed was responsible for the rash he picked up during his last trip to Ybor. I opted for Florida-brewed ale adequately hopped and malty. From behind a Golden Buddha (which I believed was a statue until I realized it was just another fat dude spray-painted into performance art) emerged Vivien Escobar with her hair tied-up in Alpine golden pigtails and her fingernails manicured by indentured Vietnamese exchange students. Ever the gracious hostess, Vivien fawned over the regality of our appearance. Being of noble birth, herself, by way of Pittsburgh, she tended to speak in the plural and use the fullest extent of first names, so I was always “Victor!” and Doc was always “Doctor!”

Vic Neverman sipping nigori, photo-bombed by Vivien Escobar

Vic Neverman sipping nigori, photo-bombed by Vivien Escobar

“Victor, you appear so dashing!” Vivien feinted to faint. Then she pretended to find consciousness. “We love the irony of your outfit. We’re unsure if you are being facetious-chic or fascist cat-fancier. Either way: LOVE!

“And Doctor, Darling!” Vivien swooned, kissing either of his cheeks, “We’re inspired by the multilayered patterns of black. You’re a living expression of a canvas void enough to fill with your sophistries and oyster-oil miracle cures. And let us just tell you, your datil pepper cream has done wonders on our athlete’s foot.”

Vivien Escobar guided us to a table near the platform where drummers and juggling unicyclists and contortionists would later hold the stage. At the table, sat Vivien’s endeared Erasmus, he of Otter Dam Military Academy, who held court with an audience of Kip Jurgenson, the “Realty Queen of Winter Park”, and a quartet of Royal Dutch snooker players. Vivien blew kisses and evaporated into the champagned humidity.

Set to the rhythm of maniacal drumming by five-foot Japanese girls, our feast began. Doc and Kip were downing sake in quarts and though the Realty Queen was bellowing laughter vaguely reminiscent of the Late Permian Extinction Event, her thin lips tightened like a jealous husband’s handshake when I asked of the secret dealings the Lake Osceola Cocktail & Leisure Society was involved in. Breaking the awkward silence which followed, I turned to the geisha at our threshold and ordered a few more bottles of sake and a sushi roll called Widowed Mantis which involved a Bahamian lobster tail stuffed with shrimp tempura, all bound in eel skin and topped with fried kale flakes.

“Okay, I will tell you something.” She offered. “Just don’t use my real name. Call me ‘Kip Jurgenson’ and say I am ‘the Realty Queen of Winter Park’.” We agreed to terms. Kip went on, “Here it is, my big reveal: ‘Life is a sexually-transmitted disease.’” Kip then burst into laughter which killed off the last of the Royal Dutch snookers and none too soon as I never trusted the Dutch, let alone snookers.

“Who are you calling ‘hooker’?” Doc Kelly winked at me as Kip Jurgenson fell into epoch-ending guffaws before the two of them broke into a duet rendition of Jimmy Buffet’s Come Monday.

Yakisoba SushiI was eating pickled-ginger by the handful to wash the taste of paranoid angst from my palate. The radioactive spicy tuna, courtesy of fucking Fukishima fallout, wasn’t helping the bilious humors either. Kip Jurgenson’s message was more than meaningless – she was quoting (“life is a sexually-transmitted disease”) a message on the wall of a Yakisoba Supper Club’s men’s lavatory stall etched fifteen minutes prior by the unsteady hand of yours truly, Vic Neverman. This brought to my mercury-laden mind a few essential questions:

  1. Was Kip Jurgenson quoting my random graffiti as a means to let me know she knew what I was up to (sniffing for conspiracies)?
  2. Or was it dumb-fucking luck she happened to find the graffiti I scratched into the wall using the screwdriver I hid up my sleeve from the Supper Club bouncers?
  3. What was she doing in the men’s room anyway?
  4. Or was I so lost in a sake fog I wandered into the ladies’?
  5. Could that have not been a urinal, but rather a French horn left by the unicyclist from the last juggling act?
  6. Where did Doc Kelly find a cheeseburger?

“What cheeseburger?” Doc Kelly licked his fingers. “You’re talking to yourself again.”

Not only that, but fifteen minutes had passed unaccounted for, which typically only happens when I am drinking French Canadian Canadien beer, which is why I don’t do Montreal or at least I cannot account for ever having done Montreal. In this particular unaccounted fifteen minute span, a new sushi roll was delivered, appearing innocuous despite its name Fist of God.

“Yeah, it is imitation crab.” Erasmus admitted.

“Err, krab. You mean ‘krab’.”

“That is what I said. But instead of your standard fare California roll, there is sprinkled on top a particle recently discovered inside an Illinois hadron collider.”

Cue Doc Kelly to sing the chorus of a Dave Matthews song, “Crash… into me, bay-be…

Erasmus ignored Doc and began an interrogation of my intent, “What is your obsession with the Lake Osceola Cocktail & Leisure Society’s involvement in the Majestic Tower?”

Majesty Tower north of Orlando

Majesty Tower north of Orlando

“First, I have spoken to psychics in Cassadaga who believe the Eye-Sore of I-4, your Majestic Tower, is built on powerful magnetic lay-line vortex for the purpose of pulling in a lot of bad vibe energy. Perhaps the Eye-Sore was never intended to be occupied, perhaps it is meant as a portal to whichever dark shit the Orlando Illuminati is trying to summon.”

“Illuminati and bad vibes?” Erasmus smirked. “Groovy, man.”

“Second, the dishwashers of the Yakisoba Supper Club are playing a Cantonese dice game in the alley by the dumpster. This is supposed to be a Nipponese joint, why are the staff playing a Cantonese game and smoking cheap Chinese cigarettes, unless, of course, they are a part of the International Chinese Waiter Union*.”

“Which you believe to be the most entrenched intelligence network in the world.” Erasmus rolled his eyes without ever moving them. Maybe the earth just revolved around his pupils, but there was an eye-roll in there somewhere. You see, dear reader, he was familiar with my ICWU rants.

“Exactly. Chinese restaurants, and by extension waiters, are everywhere. And if the Orlando Illuminati is in cahoots with the ICWU*…”

“You’ve been packing too much jimson weed in your pipe.” Erasmus interrupted.

@ which Doc Kelly piped-up, “You know what jimson weed is good for?”

“If the Orlando Illuminati is in cahoots with the International Chinese Waiter Union*, we could be at the epicenter of a global CIA plot to fund Black Ops through distribution of heroin.”

“Which you infer because the dish boy is smoking cheap imported cigarettes…” Erasmus spake cynically.

“Jimson weed, also known as Devil’s cucumber or moon flower or Datura in India or Toloache in Mexico, is great in salsa…”

The Eye-Sore of I-4. Ground was broken in 2001. This picture is current as of 2015.

The Eye-Sore of I-4. Ground was broken in 2001. This picture was taken by Vic January 2015.

“Third.” I continued. “The Christian Right in town have blamed the failure of the Majesty Tower on a New World Order conspiracy to bankrupt the local Born-Again movement. The Eye-Sore was supposed to be the headquarters of a new evangelist cable network instead of a hollow monolith built to pagan gods…”

“Or guacamole, I mean, within limits. Jimson weed is toxic in doses too large.”

“So you are chasing the paranoid beliefs of psychics and Bible-Thumpers while interpreting the playing of Chinese craps by Japanese dishwashers smoking ChiCom cigs as some great plot by the Orlando Chamber of Commerce to deal heroin?”

“Or mixed drinks, the Brits in Bombay would garnish datura in their gin & lime-juice rickshaws…”

“Well, yes.” I affirmed. “I mean, it is a working theory.”

And suddenly, the clock struck midnight and we all turned to pumpkins.

*NOTE: the International Chinese Waiter Union intelligence network is the paranoid supposition of the late great Kyril Bonfiglioli, who I believe was onto something.

EAST STUMPTOWN, Oregon

Sunrise is only revealed accidentally on the eastern banks of the Willamette* River. Dawn, if you let her, will creep quietly across the morning dew of your backyard in attempt to leave the neighborhood with you never being the wiser. Sometimes she may escape entirely, leaving you wondering where the day went. Other times Dawn slips on the rotten kale of your compost heap and, losing balance, exposes brief glimpses of the UV radiance of her nether regions she was attempting to conceal with the woolen winter coat she grabbed from off your bedpost. Eureaka! It is in that moment of accidental flash of sunburst you become aware of Dawn… as long as you know where to look. Phineas Crux, well-familiar with this dance of Dawn, knew where to look. “Daylight” Phineas announced the arrival of Sunday while scratching the coarse course of sideburn as the hairline descended from a temple to contemplate his chin before fleeing for the moral high-ground of the opposite temple to complete a circuit somewhat resembling a beard. “Daylight, Vic. Pack your gear. We shouldn’t lose the light.”

*the pronunciation of the river ‘Williamette’ remains elusive to the foreign tongue. ‘Willamette’ derives from an indigenous hipster term for ‘splishy-splashy’ and only tribal leaders know its proper use. I would suggest an enunciation attempt of ‘willahuahua¡¿’ with a heavy emphasis on the ensuing ‘river’ so your audience at least understands you are referring to something wet.

Dazed with the relativity of time zones, I was slow to rise and when I rose, I did so one crooked & crackling joint at a time. I couldn’t find any gear to pack (including my elusive toothbrush – much to the chagrin of the most proximate bits of humanity), leaving me with little preparatory work beyond adjusting my britches, tying shoelaces and climbing out of the forgotten Shanghai Tunnel whence we slept & towards the trusty sedan waiting for its master’s ignition. Phineas ignited and the automobile bucked in accordance, flinging us off the curb like a steroidal lady high diver from the Republic of China and onto the mud-slicked asphalt of the previously mentioned East Stumptown. “We’re not going to some trendy-hip brunch place now, Vic.” Phineas looked over his shoulder at where I cowered in the backseat, nursing a fit of agoraphobic tremors. “We’re going to the eye of the storm.”

I didn’t half despise Phineas as he I. I mean, I had my poor opinions: Phineas Crux was a deplorable lecher, a learned scoundrel (the worst sort of scoundrel) and a man mad with ambition for subtle sabotage, such as hiding my dental floss when he knew I was plagued with some encumbrance stuck between my teeth from the latter night’s mystery feastings. His inverse distaste for all things Neverman began with his childhood distrust of aquatic mammals and was further exasperated by his envy of my ability to haphazardly whistle without any particular tune in mind. Despite, or, indeed, in spite of all our antagonistic qualities for the other, we made a pretty damn good team. For certain, one doesn’t wander the streets of Stumptown** without a reasonable guide at the elbow and Phineas Crux was my guide steering me free of elongated bouts of mayhem, for the most part. Any wrong turn on these muddy slopes could put the casual visitor into a fighting pit against enough hipsters to man a full G.I. Joe Mustache Brigade (a dicey predicament, emphasis on the dicament, a gum favored by mustatchioed hipsters, a piece of which I could’ve used at that present time).

**Stumptown often overlaps with the geographical location of Portland, Oregon, but not always as Stumptown is off-grid & shifty, at least 75 minutes late, never where you left it and frequently in the last place you would ever look for it.

G.I.Joe Ironic Mustache Hipster Brigade with their clashing camo absurd hats.

G.I.Joe Ironic Mustache Hipster Brigade with their clashing camo and absurd hats (pic is courtesy of my camera from within Billy Galaxy Toy Store, Downtown Portland)

Phineas’s “eye of the storm” was aboard a pirate-themed bar appropriately named Long John Shivers or Davy Joneses’ Mullet or The Yo Ho Whorehouse or some like-minded kitschy moniker. What daylight existed in this murky part of the world daren’t enter these nicotine-hazed quarters patronized by recovering ascetics served by the buccaneerist of broads with prison-caliber tattoos splashed about the buxomness bared by their low-neck sweaters. This wasn’t my first foray atop this barnacled barstool, nay! Indeed, in a former life, seemingly eons ago, the local cabin boys addressed me as Curly “Squiddz” Chamberpot, Sir! whilst the resident wenches called me, most affectionately, Squiddz. Nowadays, I was just another bearded bloke stumbling in off the street, so I appropriately ordered a life-affirming breakfast of Bloody Mary and chicken-fried steak.

“Is that gravy?” Phineas inquired on the contents of my plate.

“Nah, I think that’s the steak.” It was edible and the Bloody Mary celery masked my foul-breath, in theory. “I could wait out the apocalypse here.”

“What need, Vic?” Phineas asked over his land-lubbing burger. “When we already know of the ideal bunker, secured under a veil of surburbanity and stocked with plentiful rations of fermented cabbage?”

I snatched the quill from my cap and opened my journal to scratch out the Virtues of Piratical Dining: a paranoid food blog and asked Phineas to tell me more of this magnificent place. Was it near? Phineas drank a sip of his heavily-hopped elixir before guffawing and harrumphing at my ignorance, wiping the excess beer from his facial hair with my sleeve, mistaking it for a napkin. “Why Vic, it was where we were last night.”

Dear Reader, I know what you are thinking: This is the shittiest cabbage blog post of all time. I’ve barely touched upon the fair flower and you are right, which is why I am skipping past the small talk to get to…

“The heart of the matter…” Phineas began, before smirking. “Or ‘crux’, if you will, is that cabbage is a dish preferred by your torch & pitchfork peasantry and for good reason. It is a sturdy crop. It holds up to the cold. And there is the bonus benefit mentioned by Cato the Elder, some Roman from the classy days, who suggested bathing infant children in the urine of cabbage eaters.”

“Fantastic. And what was the bonus benefit of such a practice?”

Phineas waved the thought away, “A lesson lost to history, dear boy. You’re missing the point. Allow me to recharge your memory by ordering another Bloody and take you back to last night when we entered the Pumas Homestead. You may recall through the dimness of your memory, Pumas, the Norse lad who waxed philosophically on morality. You can’t blame him, though, when he learned his existential angst from some Swiss Alpine taxidermy school or something of such ilk. You and he discussed using his pot-work to create incendiary devices for Armageddon.”

“And likely the use of scorpion bombs. Put a bunch of devilish crawlies into a ceramic pot and launch at the enemy. Please, Phineas, go on about last night…”

“There was Mrz Pumas, the pickler. She is our gastronomical mad scientist responsible for the friction your bowels are engulfed with.”

“Pickler? Friction?”

Mr & Mrz Pumas and her beloved kombucha SCOBY.

Mr & Mrz Pumas and her beloved kombucha SCOBY.

“Indeed, Vic. That isn’t the earth vibrating, my friend, it is your smallest intestine. You see, you & I, Vic, we ate quite a bit of cabbage last night and now our innards do not know what to do with the byproduct trisaccharide raffinose.” Phineas paused as I ah-ha’d. “I can tell you are impressed with my catalogious memory, Victor. You may think me just some policy wonk, grandstanding in Salem against the evils of fiscal liberalism, hoofing the pavement politicking, shaking babies and kissing hands, but I’ve a memory most elephantine. It’s like a vise. Regardless of what sort of narcotic I drank down beside you.”

“I am humbled by your superior grasp of the past. Please do go on…”

“Mrz Pumas is quite gifted at her craft. If she lowered the salt and added more red pepper, her kimchi could last us for some time.” Phineas explained. He was, of course, the foremost expert of kimchi in the greater Stumptown region after spending his youth in lower Korea corrupting the inhabitants of Seoul. “We’d probably need to raid the chicken coup when the Pumases aren’t looking, but the homestead would do well as an extended ‘End of Time’ scenario played out.”

“I beg your pardon?” Mrz Pumas raised a furrowed brow. “You know nothing of kimchi.”

“Where did you come from?” Phineas was aghast and suddenly the second foremost expert of kimchi in the greater Stumptown region.

“Vic forgot his toothbrush.” Mrz Pumas produced the apparatus, delivering my salvation. I shan’t pause long enough to seize it, though, as I had to quickly pen Mrz Pumas’s retort to Phineas’s criticism. “Don’t shame the salt! My fermented cabbage could last years in cold storage, but without the salt it would lose its crunchiness and turn to mush.”

“Years?”

“I heard one story of a family in Soviet Russia that survived a whole year on nothing but sauerkraut and potatoes.”

“Sounds dangerous. No methane explosions?”

“No mentioning of any explosions.” Mrz Pumas said. “Fermentation is the safest form of food preparation. It’s definitely the oldest. It’s virtually impossible for bad bacteria to survive in that environment. Mold can even grow on top and the food underneath is still good. You just scrap the mold and any discolored pieces off the top and enjoy your kraut.”

“Savor the thought.” Phineas said before turning to me, “You could package up some of that mold into one of Pumas’s jars to fling at the barbarian hordes.”

“No biological warfare with my cabbage.” Mrz Pumas denied the thought. “Find your own bacteria.”

Phineas wincing through his abominable abdominal pangs, opined, “Fermented cabbage stores a lot better in jars than it does in my belly.”

“Actually, fermented food leads to a healthy gut and that can lessen the effects of depression, anxiety…”

“Scurvy!” The buccaneerish barmaid hollered.

“And scurvy.” Mrz Pumas admitted.

“Actually, I think she was hollering at her fellow bar-keep.” Phineas negated. “Who’s affectionately referred to as ‘Scurvy’ as that is the one thing you won’t catch from her.”

I danced half a jig to gain Mrz Pumas’s attention so I might cut-in on the conversing, “Speaking of healthy guts, mine likes beer. When wandering the darkest corners of the globe, one beer every meal has always kept me upright. Could we make some sort of cocktail out of the fermented cabbage runoff?”

Gauging the blank expression on Mrz Pumas’s face and Phineas’s visible regurg-reflex, I came to quickly doubt the plausibility of my get-drunk quick scheme.

“Did you drink from the kimchi jar last night, Vic?” Phineas asked, scoldingly, after wiping the regurg off on my sleeve. “Is this how you woke up amnesiac?”

“Sounds familiar.”

Vic and Phineas chopstick their way through Mrz Pumas's Sauerkraut and Kimchi, respectively, or not

Vic and Phineas chopstick their way through Mrz Pumas’s Sauerkraut and Kimchi, respectively.

Mrz Pumas humored my idea, “I guess you could add some cabbage to flavor the kombucha I made. But really, you could make alcohol out of about anything else. Please, anything else. You could use maple sap, bamboo, green corn stalks, agave, really any fruit or grain. I have made mead which is doing really well. It’s quite bubbly and frothy, still pretty sweet so I am letting it ferment a little longer.”

Ahh, sweet mead and sauerkraut! No need to question where I will be spending my next cataclysm season: somewhere on the eastern banks of the Willamette River. I’d be more specific, but there are only so many chickens in the coop, if you catch my drift.

I give Pumas Homestead a 63 out of 63 Never Stars! despite my foggy memory.

“I object, the kimchi could use more red pepper!” Phineas bellowed from his barnacled barstool. “What kind of paranoid food critic are you?”

Okay, so 62 out of 63 NeverStars amendable upon application of more red pepper.

DOC PHILLIPS, Fla

This is a blog post about food.

Mexican food.

And distrust.

Misology is the distrust of reason. Misologists prefer to be guided by devices other than reason, be those devices televised talking heads, intuitive indigestion or prophetic fortune cookies. While we may not all distrust reason, every one of us people is susceptible to that reptilian irrationality at the core of our lesser evolved brain – the underlying misological urge to lick the flagpole, mail a check to Nigeria or piss on the 3rd rail. This innate yearn for mis-thunk whimsy brings our narrative to the topic of Cinco de Mayo.

Rocco's Taco Skeleton considering the many taco options....

Rocco’s Taco Skeleton considering the many taco options….

To give-in to the faux-holiday propaganda of Cinco de Mayo (or other American Drink First, Ask Questions in the Morning holidays like St Patrick’s, Columbus Day, Boxer’s Rebellion Day, Bastille Day, Valentine’s, etc., etc., et al) and prostrate oneself before the agave altar of free tequila shots!shots!shots.shots.shots.shots!shots! is certainly an act committed with absolute disregard for reason. One might say it is misologetic, even.

Yet, here I was, as I am a professional food blogger. To shun the tacopocalypse occurring in South Orlando would be to discredit every greasy quantitative bit of gastro-journo integrity I might possess. So Southward Ho! to Doctor Phillips, an affluent truck stop off of Interstate Four between and betwixt the monstrous amusement parks. Southward Ho! to here where the well-to-do purchase their organic groceries, have back hair laser-zapped and pursue whichever litigation their enlarged hearts desired. Southward Ho! to Rocco’s Tacos – an eccentric franchise specialized in glamorizing tacos, tequila and the eternal Día de Muertos.

Attending the Cinco de Mayo fiesta at Rocco’s Tacos required some derring-do. The parking lot was engineered by Germans with an appreciation for schadenfreude; the vision of available asphalt was no more yielding than a dream. Beamers and Mercedes hover’d like buzzards in attempt to obtain a vacancy that simply did not exist. Three strip-malls of bourgeois splendor north of Rocco’s Tacos, I found the last available parking spot within a drive-thru ATM. Fact: more people are attacked by bears and/or killed via pedestrian manslaughter in Central Florida every year than all of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. Attempting to navigate the parking lots back to our destination, dodging the strip-mall luxury sedans, was more threatening than swimming across the serpent-infested sinkhole Rocco’s Tacos looks over (though no dryer in the early summer humidity).

Vic's 4th Grade Class: 1) Lily Kudzu, 2) Cuda

Vic’s 4th Grade Class: 1) Lily Kudzu, 2) Cuda

In these ventures your narrator was accompanied by Cuda: the dastardly, bastardly, feral child scoundrel raised by a pod of disestablishmentarian dolphins off of the shore of the island I grew-up on. You might recall previous Cuda tales when we fought Imperialist Russians in Galway, hid from spy blimps in Key West, swam for our lives in the Marquesas, bartered for our souls in Nassau and fought Cajun girls with lobs of cabbage in the Irish Channel of New Orleans. Yes… that Cuda.

Chicks on Sticks - stilted & un-jilted

Chicks on Sticks – stilted & un-jilted

Rocco’s Tacos: embrace the mystery. Cuda and I were both charmed by the brouhaha over-boiling about us. Chicks on sticks danced from above as booze industry reps pushed their brands with gratuitous helpings. A local band belted-out cover songs no one recognized. A masked wrestler danced from the roof of the building. There were no Mexican girls to be found, only pretty Puerto Ricans dressing (and dancing) the part. Cuban girls were rolling cigars along their virginal thighs as the tradition demands. Gringos – pasty, blushed with apéritif, bloated with digestif, overall outlandishly fantastic – clamored for more of the Apocalypse.

Apocalypto Mas! Si – it is fiestas like these why the Mexicans kicked the French out in the first place.

Amidst the melee emerged a surprise figure, “Hollywood” – a dude from Cuda & mine’s collective past. Gold chained along the loosened collar of his shirt, Hollywood arrived bloodshot and happy, sunburnt and weathered, a ghost from years prior erased from memory by morphine and penicillin.

“And Vic Neverman!” Hollywood clasped me on the shoulder. “Jesus, Vic Neverman! What do you do, man?”

I shrugged, “Conspiracies, conspiracy debunking, pizza delivery…”

Hollywood didn’t seem to be listening, but he handed me his business card nonetheless.

Cuda cut in on the dance to promote my literary achievements, “He’s writing a book, Apocalypse Tao: the Art of Surviving the End.”

“The end of what?” Hollywood squinted.

“The world as you know it.”

“Maya Apocalypse stuff?” Hollywood asked. “That was supposed to be 2012. But it never happened.”

I turned my head ninety degrees in either direction, “Are you certain?”

Hollywood inquired on how many offspring Cuda, then I, had sired, how many wives or ex-wives we have between us. He feigned sympathy for my “unaccomplished life” and invited Cuda and I to join him at his ranch somewhere or something. After Hollywood dispersed into the crowd, Cuda remarked how random the encounter with our old acquaintance was.

“Random?” I doubted. “Sure. If you are someone who still believes in coincidences and places their broken teeth under their pillow hoping for a quarter to appear by morning.”

“What? You think he is a spy?”

“Everything happens for a reason.” I explained. “You and Hollywood both currently reside in the same Gulf of Mexican town. If you by happenstance attend the same event here in Centralist of Florida… this isn’t random, it is causal, it is synchronicity, it is a pattern worth recognizing.”

Of course, Cuda was a spy himself… or at least an activist against Anglo Imperialism as a member of a nonviolent neo-Sinn Fein group. A descendant of men from Northern Ireland’s “Bandit Country”, Cuda is always eager to hone skill and keep abreast of tactics the enemy employs. Which is what brought Cuda here – not to Rocco’s Tacos, mind you!, but rather – to the South Orlando area for a conference. Out over there, yonder, roundabouts the theme park region resides a convention center where a Professional Intelligence Community convention was taking place simultaneous with an Athletic Director’s convention. Having been a coach for the competitive dance team at Catawampus University (“go Feralcats!”), Cuda was able to obtain an invitation to the Athletic Director conference.

“I would pretend I was lost, wandering for the men’s room.” Cuda said as the apocalypse swirled around our ankles. “And then I would shadow some goon into the Intelligence Professionals room. I sat through a strange propaganda class that lectured on recent events, like ‘Spin-Ghazi’ and ‘the Malay Bait-n-Switch’. There were a couple lectures I snuck into where I wasn’t sure if I was in the spook room or the AD room. I mean, either way, the spies and the glorified gym teachers all have buzzed haircuts, potbellies and goatees. When the subject matter is ‘crowd control’ or ‘youth activism’, you have to wait to see if they start talking about Pep Rallies or Arab Spring before you know who you’re dealing with.”

Ultimately, Cuda absorbed enough strategy during his conference sessions to overthrow a small Caribbean island nation while hosting a southeastern regional swim meet. As for the fifth of May? Once the Maya high-priestesses ushered forth with albino pythons to begin the bloodletting, we decided to call it a night. Viva Mexico! Viva Maya Apocalypse!

Alas, the review…

Cinco de Mayo (4)Rocco’s Tacos: a pleasant celebration of death ambiance with an appreciation for the skeletal system, free tequila, taco variety and beautiful Puerto Rican girls promenading as Mexicans. The beer was of an expected Latin American assortment and overpriced, unless considered in proportion to the income strata of the gringos present. The food… well, Rocco’s Tacos was too fucking busy to sit down and eat so we went next door for burritos at Tijuana Flats. 5 out of 5 NeverStars!

As a dog returns to his vomit, so too a fool repeats his folly

– Proverbs 26:11

Put the potato peeler back into its sheath, this is not déjà vu you are experiencing. 2014 has risen like a Phoenix (or at least a Tucson) out of the ashes of yesteryear and has presented us with this… Vic Neverman’s 2nd 2014 prediction blog.

YES, dear reader, we are two weeks into the new year and already we have a second blog of unlikely and equally-irreverent prognostication. Surely a harbinger of ill-tiding! We can only pray to our deity du jour there shan’t be a third. By now, you have read the original  2014 predictions which is ultimately all you need to know. Yet so many of us tingle with a yearning for knowledge of what we do not want to know and this is where Vic’s Predix Part II comes in. Instead of using my own uncanny inductive logic to foretell the future, this blog post is entirely composed of sails blown by the gusts of guests to the NeverVerse. Far and wide comes forth peoples inclined to contribute and herein lies the fruit of their labor.

IT SHALL BE NOTED the following predictions are not made by professional futurists like me, Vic Neverman. And by “professional futurist” I am referring to someone who earns a living off of predicting the future. And by “earns a living” I mean “attempts to earn a living” and when I say “predicting the future” I mean “gambling on sporting events whose outcomes have yet to be decided”. So, just as an FYI, keep in mind the below contributions are by amateurs.

Since the blog will write itself like a blind mosquito being guiding by the trade-winds right into your ear canal, I shall take the night off and cook-up something I like to call, “Vic’s Ridic Taco Salad.”

Without further ado, I present the future according to random people I kinda know:

Rufus Holdsworth – camping near Turkey Point where the nuclear warmed waters keep him and his manatee friends warm in the chilling South Florida climate

  • China’s lunar rover, Jade Rabbit, will uncover artifacts of an alien race long left vacant. Because the Chinese are not
    Vic's Ridic Tacos: boil sweet potato chunks and add to stir-fried meat, onion, green pepper and garlic. Then pour in taco sauce of choice.

    Vic’s Ridic Tacos: boil sweet potato chunks and add to stir-fried meat, onion, green pepper and garlic. Then pour in taco sauce of choice.

    following the same protocol of American, English & Russian imperialists, they will not hide the truth from the world and instead will broadcast their strange findings of an ancient civilization on the moon in attempt to demonstrate to the “hidden watchers” that China is the crème de la crème of Earthling civilizations and the one to negotiate with. Ultimately, the progenitors of the human race will laugh upon their celestial watch tower as the Chinese lunar rover picks over yester-millennium’s takeout.

  • Remains of a Sasquatch are dug up and the DNA matches Vic Neverman.
  • Turkey invades Sochi ahead of the Olympic Games, holds captive until granted access into the European Union.

Reverend Chette – Agonizing over the Fallen War Eagle somewhere near Muscle Shoals, Ala

  • In 2014, armies of homeless will learn how to write programming code and will overthrow the financial sector via assault en masse.

Frieda Johnson – ‘Fashionista Philanthropist of the Year’ in Winter Park, Fla

  • Due to the inclement weather ahead in 2014, ice hockey will become the U.S.A.’s new national pastime.
  • #1 Most lucrative pop-up business in 2014? Gay Wedding Chapels
  • 2014: The Year of the Sticker Book

(Note from the editor: Sticker books are books that hold stickers. While Frieda was speaking strictly of childlike fancies, she did confirm my suspicion of the potential for adult sticker books to venture into markets with “50 Shades…” and “Game of Thrones” themed stickers).

Heat up black beans with some chocolate stout  for flavor

Heat up black beans with some chocolate stout for flavor

  • 2014 will be the year of the Vintage CD coaster. Silver is the new cork!
  • With Cycling and gas prices on the rise, Tricycles for Adults will hit WalMart like wildfire in October 2014

Desdemona Riley, texting from some brew-pub in Oakland

Sometime between 2014 and 2016, marijuana will be legalized in California and the Bay Bridge will collapse as I am commuting to San Francisco. In my will, I leave my cats to Vic Neverman as well as my ashes, should they find my body at the bottom of San Francisco Bay. Vic should then proceed to feed some cremated ashes to the boys in their cat food and then mix into the following beverages: 1 shot Jameson Irish Whiskey, 1 draft Russian River Sanctification, 1 draft Great Basin Mayan all to be consumed by him, Vic Neverman. Whichever ashes are leftover shall be sprinkled wherever Vic wanders on his swashbuckling trips.

Captain Dick Neverman, happy-houring from somewhere on Florida’s Mosquito Coast

Vic’s Uncle belches his favorite quote, “Only Captain Dick knows what happens in 2014 and he ain’t sayin’.”

Erasmus in between his classes on Foreign Relations at Otterdam Military Academy in the foothills of North Carolina

A covert Iranian Republican Guard force will infiltrate the World Cup to kidnap US players, however the Brazilians will intervene by getting them hammered on caiprinhas and doing the samba until 3am the next day

Cyrus Lee Hancock – Apocalypto-Evangelical smoke-signalling from the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee

  • Squirrel hunting becomes the new national sport due to the sudden and precipitous decline in other game populations leading to a famine.
  • Wombat populations explode down under. Many stow away on import ships. The wombat becomes the newest and most devastating invasive species.
  • Ammo shortages worsen. Machetes and hatchets become the new weapon to stockpile — these have proven effective while researching the apocalypse (watching ‘The Walking Dead’)
  • Chancellor Merkel pisses off the right wingers by doing a George Bush impression that gets secretly taped on an iPhone by the NSA. All German shepherds are now referred to as ‘freedom shepherds’.
  • Iran suffers many unexplainable and sudden setbacks to its nuclear program. Israel definitely has no idea what they are talking about
  • The Federal Government finally stops enforcing its ban on weed. Hippies around the country celebrate. The national average IQ plummets another 7 points. This is great for our (post apocalypse) movement. This makes for easier targets when (the) SHTF. Zombie fodder population boom.*
pour that shit into the rest of the taco meat

pour that shit into the rest of the taco meat and Keanu Reeves will win an Oscar .

  • Keanu Reeves will win an Oscar (7th Seal of John the Revelator’s Apocalypse!). 
  • Gun lobbyists will finally get legislation passed to include .22 caliber hand guns in McDonalds ‘Happy Meals’ (13th Seal of Charleton Heston’s Damned-Dirty-Ape-calypse)

*Zombie Fodder is a reference to those startled and helpless citizens in a “Shit-Hits-The-Fan” situation when the rush for resources (nutrition, shelter, drinking water, prophylactic) forces “civilians” to turn on one another. Cyrus’ intent here is to suggest a narcotically impaired civilian has a greater chance of becoming a victim in cataclysmic situations.

Layla Santana Crow-Hancock – nursing the wounded in the wake of her betrothed Cyrus Lee

  • Hashtags will begin being used on tombstones and in obituaries (#yolo,#lol)

Conversations with the Puerto Rican Psychic Sidekick from Milwaukee

From within the food court of a north Orlando mall, a single table exists amongst many and is populated by two suspicious familiars. She is bearing a disposition unseasonably malevolent and is disguised as someone who is not from Milwaukee. He is in sneakers and disguised as a jogger with shin splints. The stranger-pulp around them feast like jackals and the floor is awash of smoothie sample jetsam and mayo-packeted flotsam. They are Vic Neverman’s Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee and Vic Neverman. They are discussing the future of what’s left of 2014.

Vic: You’re my Puerto Rican psychic sidekick even though we both know you are not truly from Milwaukee, so give me three good predictions.
Vic’s Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee: Predictions on what?
Vic: You’re the psychic! What do you see in 2014 for Vic Neverman?
Vic’s PRPSFM: That’s all you want to know? Three things that will happen to you in 2014?
Vic: Yes, me
PRPSFM: You will become aware of your own hubris.
Vic: What hubris?
PRPSFM: It is a long year yet. Prediction number two is Vic Neverman will learn how to shop for his own clothes.
Vic: I can shop for clothes; I just don’t know what to buy. Plus, that is what I have you for.
PRPSFM: To remind you of your own hubris?
Vic: That too, whatever that is. Give me a third prediction. Something meaty. With gristle. Sniff some incense and give me something from way back in your psychic psyche.
PRPSFM: Vic Neverman will learn the whereabouts of his unknown child.
Vic: Oh yes, the mysterious offspring I don’t yet know about.
PRPSFM: Hey, at least I am only predicting the one. Your own aunt thinks there are fifteen.
Vic: She overestimates my fertility. Tell me more of my bastard spawn.
PRPSFM: (scoldingly) This is your child, why would you call it a “bastard”?
Vic: “Bastard” is the medical term, I think. Where do I learn the whereabouts of the mystery bastard?
PRPSFM: On the internet from an anonymous email.
Vic: Okay, but where are the whereabouts of the spawn-in-question?
PRPSFM: I’m thinking Vietnam, but your child isn’t Vietnamese. Or he or she is Vietnamese, but isn’t in Vietnam.
Vic: That narrows it down. What if I don’t open up any anonymous emails in 2014?
PRPSFM: Oh, but you will.
THE END OF 2014 PREDICTION BLOGS
or is it?
Toss the contents of the taco meat, beans, sweet potato, et al over a bed of ARUGALA because Arugala is the finest weed worth eating. BOOOOM ridic taco salad

Toss the contents of the taco meat, beans, sweet potato, et al over a bed of ARUGALA because Arugala is the finest weed worth eating. BOOOOM ridic taco salad

Food Blog – (noun) a writing assignment recommended by Vic’s life coach to transfer his attention away from less paranoid matters to something more digestible.

MiscellAsian – (adj) describing a quality of miscellaneous Asian origins.

Nestled in between Central Floridian train rails and Interstate #4 sits the thin strip of Ivanhoe, a brief median between alternative transits where the most vulnerable curators oversee shops of antiquities and wine cellars rub sports jacket-patched elbows with archaic furniture priced for someone above your station in life. At the southern end of Antique Row rests “The Hammered Lamb”, a sportsy bistro invested in its own irrelevancy between signs for the railroad and the freeway. With every train pass comes a free shot of revelry booze that is hardly free from consequence. It is the kind of place where you find hipsters of bygone decades sporting fedoras along with their grunge-era concert tour shirts. It is the kind of place where you find Erasmus.

I speak, of course, of Erasmus of Otter Dam Military Academy, the professor of military analytics and a foreign policy aficionado. A creature spawned, nurtured and de-virginized during the Cold War, Erasmus is of a skeptical nature and only agrees to see me every Winter Solstice or so…

Now I, Victor Ulysses Neverman, am not entirely certain of my birthdate thanks to the gypsy nature of my parental units’ fact collecting, but I can reverse-engineer the very month of my birth based on the characteristics of zodiacs and horoscopes. For someone as dark, secretive, passionate, distrusting, conniving and sarcastic as your narrator, it is obvious I was born a Scorpio in the Chinese Year of the Snake. Given that, my Winter Solstice horoscope was one of suggestion, “You need to indulge in a power struggle today – so make sure you are ready for whatever comes! It’s a good time for you to strike first, because surprise may be your only asset.” Well said for someone born under scorpion and snake signs.

Advised by the stars, I arrived at the agreed upon destination with a sharpened wit and a pair of brass knuckles I won off a Persian in a contest of Fantasy Football. Did I expect antagonism from Erasmus? Well, no, but one would be wise to consider the stars.

hammerd lambI met Erasmus and we ordered draft ales, some of those popular craft beers of high gravity alcohol content reminiscent of eating moldy cinnamon toast. Simply lovely. I began the chat with an Arctic inquiry, If a government fell in Iceland and no one was there to report it, did it really make a sound? I was referring, of course, to the revolution in Reykjavík, where the banking and political establishment was entirely upended without the American media ever noticing it. Erasmus shrugged it off, “It is an island nation of 300 thousand people, you cuckolding’s your neighbor qualifies as a power coup in Iceland.” Yes, yes, but the fact that a government and its banks were overthrown by the people, the fact the American media did not report this; doesn’t it say something about the corporatization of the fourth estate that they would censor such details from us, the American public? Erasmus again shrugged, “Iceland isn’t exactly a microcosmic example of what is possible in America. There isn’t anyone in Iceland that isn’t in some way a relative of anyone else in Iceland. If America is a melting pot, Iceland is mutton.”

And so the lamb quesadilla arrived. It was very lamby. I am not big on lamb, so I went on…

“I foresee the Sochi Olympics this winter being an absolute disaster. The Olympic torch has become unlit umpteen times and has set several Olympic torch-bearers on fire. Seems a bad omen. What other kinds of disaster can we expect in Russia this winter?”

Erasmus, between hammering lamb quesadilla betwixt his molars, commented, “I like the way Obama slapped Putin in the face by assigning openly gay Olympians to the American counsel. It may be more of a back-handed slap, but a power-play nonetheless. Sochi is a shithole. The fact the Russians were able to turn it into a winter sport Mecca overnight speaks to the efficiency of the mafia running that corrupt state.”

I hurried to the next subject as the house-wings arrived, “What do you think about China on the moon?”

“China doing what on the moon?”

“Just having a lunar rover roaming around and taking pictures?”

“It’s eventually going to come to arms, it is sadly inevitable.”

“You mean open conflict?” I sought clarity.

House Wings, worth tearing through like a mugger on a sacred cow

House Wings, worth tearing through like a mugger on a sacred cow

“Yes.” Erasmus confirmed, handling a house-wing like mugger pulling a sacred cow into the Ganges. “Out of a demand for resources. They’ve bought the ground underneath the feet of Africa already.”

“And Australia for mineral rights.” I added. “China owns most of the earth at this point.”

“Fortunately…” Erasmus spat out a bone of one of the fallen. “America has found enough resources under us, as far as natural gas, as long as we are not too big of a pussy to draw it out of the ground.”

“Fracking has got some long-term bad mojo, man.” I countered.

courtesy of defensenews.com

courtesy of defensenews.com

“And so does China. And don’t overlook Japan, man. Since World War II, Japan’s military has been strictly defensive. With China annexing the waterways of the South China Sea and setting new air defense perimeters, Japan is starting to get edgy.”

“Especially with North Korea.” I offered. “North Korea is China’s gimp in the box. China can keep Pyongyang in check or they can let Kim Jong-un loose and shrug their shoulders at the result as if they had nothing to do with it.”

“Sure.” Erasmus agreed, washing his pallet with some dopplebock elixir from a domestic brewery. “Given all of these threats, it might make sense allowing Japan to assume proactive military measures, but I warn you… beware waking the Shogun. We’ve kept Japan’s military in check since World War II for a reason. Just because half of America is driving Japanese cars doesn’t mean we can trust them.”

Paranoid Food Blog Rating – loud and festive atmosphere at the Hammered Lamb, good for conversations not to be overheard. There were fanatical holiday-goers, but nothing too tinsley. 45 out of 63 NeverStars.

CHERRY CREEK, Colo.

From within the cemented bunker
of a suburban Denver parking garage
a curiously-clad and burly bearded paranoid perches as a slightly-more-animate gargoyle
spying out at the onslaught of precipitous precipitation.
The precipitation was less rain than
snow that just couldn’t keep its shit together;
it fell hard,
as hard as underachieving snow could fall betwixt the competing STOP lights.
The crossroad traffic signals twisted and swung in the wind
(a red-light dance-off),
its illumination reflecting off of the precipitation
until the rain shone like splattered neon blood.
All the while,
the un-stoned gargoyle watched from the concrete stairwell of the aforementioned parking garage.

Cherry Cricket of Suburban Denver

Cherry Cricket of Suburban Denver

Across the street existed a popular burger joint, the Cherry Cricket. I, the aforementioned gargoyle, arrived early to the parking lot to perch and wait… only to descend and arrive late to the agreed upon restaurant. I opened the external doors like a space cowboy on zero oxygen and a taste for whiskey (not just any whisky, you see, but that requiring the extra-e). Once within, Bubba at the door assumed Charlie’s Checkpoint position and asked for my papers. I showed someone’s identification and was immediately allowed entry into the innards of the establishment and once there I came across the vision of Her: sitting as a lotus flower amidst a swarm of buzzing menfolk seeking to pollinate. She brushed off their advances as her eyes summed the arithmetic that was I. Her maths figured me to be the remainder of Victor Neverman, a young lad she knew once in another life. Lily Kudzu smiled warm enough to break the Arctic and spur me forward.

Vic's fourth grade class photo (Lily Kudzu is top left with 'LK')

Vic’s fourth grade class photo (Lily Kudzu is top left with ‘LK’)

“You asshole.” She chimed in songbird harmony from her side of the booth we were escorted to. Her words alone could be read out of context if you did not witness the exhibit of mirth upon her face. “Upon minutes of friending you on Facebook, I am suddenly followed by vans with excessive antennae and I always get the TSA ‘upgrade’ at airport security. Who are you?”

“Do you not recognize me?” I asked, curious and waving off the waiter.

“I expected someone less bearded, half as tall, with no white hairs.”

“You may be perceiving time too relatively.” I explained, consciously reminding myself to stop pulling nervously at the edge of my beard. “I’ve grown some since last sighting and these hairs are black with some excusable silver. No white hairs.”

“Blame it on the fluorescent lighting.” Lily Kudzu shrugged away her apparent misconception.

She wasn’t exactly what I remembered from the fourth grade, either. She admitted that her 80’s hairdo was gone and she had chosen eye contacts over the windshield of spectacles that had rivaled my own in those days of lore. She no longer looked as I remembered. She looked… a Woman.

“I do realize…” I admitted with utmost candor, weighing my words within a dramatic pause. “You are a woman.”

“That’s a good start.” Lily Kudzu admitted hopefully, her worried brow in a furrow.

“Why did you agree to meet me?”

“Because…” Lily Kudzu began as any earnest mirage of vaporous memory forming in the desert of your mind would begin, at least, until, that mirage sights you attempting to eat a hamburger topped by sloppy green chilies. “Vic, you are really a messy eater.”

“I, um…” I stumbled with a verbal response as I rejected the messied burger in my hands. Pulling half-chomped onion and specks of green chilies from my beard, I admitted, “I may have bitten more than could be chewed.”

Lily Kudzu studied me with an expression that was attempting to be supportive in a “your poor thing” kind of way. As in, “you poor thing, you’ve been a feral child living off of corn cobs for thirteen years, of course you don’t know how to consume a sandwich without it turning into something resembling a finger-painting project.” Of course, I wasn’t a feral child who had lived off of corncobs, which left her sympathy even less deserved.

My sense of civility dented like a participant in a school bus derby, I put my burger aside and listened to Lily Kudzu’s story. There was a man from her recent past. He was a dick. They were married, then unmarried and then he really became a dick. This man, the ex-husband, was allegedly a purveyor of dental implants. Yes, “dental implants”, otherwise known as the trade of spook.

Lily Kudzu's ex-husband "sold dental implants" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Lily Kudzu’s ex-husband “sold dental implants” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

While it might seem improbable to the mainstream flotsam, there are hidden keywords – cryptographic double-entendres, if you will (and will you must certainly should) – that may mean something benign to the virginal ears of the uninitiated and yet something entirely different to the well-spooked. “I sell dental implants” is practically synonymous with “I am more or less a domestic spy with an eyeglass pointed at your bathroom window, a camera behind your mirror, a bug on your phone, a GPS under your car and a drug-dog snouting your luggage.” If you are at a common dinner party choosing amongst the ill-catered charcuterie and some fellow with a misaligned smile introduces himself as a dealer in dental implants, you shall be well extolled should you douse his mustachioed face with whichever inebriant elixir you possess in hand for this scoundrel is surely a member of the Military Industrial Intelligence Complex and likely already intimately familiar with your web-browser search history.

Where was I before I was so misled by an interrupting thought? Ah yes, Lily had an ex-husband. I offered to Lily my unique set of skills to assist in sabotaging whatever life direction this X might have had in mind, but she wasn’t interested. She wasn’t vengeful, she was proud of the strength she found in his absence. Why… then, did she agree to meet me: this Gypsy drifter, rolling through town like a tumbleweed with green chilies hanging from its beard?

“Because I wanted to know if you really existed? I mean, it’s been so long, I wasn’t sure if I just accidentally dreamed you some night.” Lily Kudzu then inquired in turn, as she had patiently waited for this, her turn, “Why did you ask to see me?”

“Same reason.” I responded, eyes wide with admission. “I wanted to know if I really existed.”

Cricket burger with monster green chili

Cricket burger with monster green chili

CHERRY CRICKET RESTAURANT: burger joint with real burgers, a variety of toppings and a damn good draft selection. High energy & loud enough that others cannot eavesdrop on your conversation. A good den for conspirators. I give it 5 out of 5 NeverStars.

The night was tempted with summer, yet desirous of known comfort within the weakening embrace of spring. The airborne cumulus was congestus, resembling a dusky sky of cotton balls doused with acetone and what was formerly some broad’s deep red toe nail paint. I speak of broads because I was being followed by one. Her toes I could not see without appearing conspicuously curious. Without my trusty beard, I dared not appear conspicuously curious spying on toes on such a temperate night so tempted by summer. I daren’t, though I did play back a memory of the brief flash of her smile set to stun and the rich hues of red at play there upon her lips.

Mind astray with brief flashes of smile I nearly walked back out into the parking lot. I turned, suddenly, haphazardly, and spilt drops of iced water onto my cuff. It shan’t stain, I think. The turn did, however, provide access to an outdoor table.

I choose this restaurant because patrons may seat themselves. I never trust restaurant hostesses to lead the hungry procession to a table marked-off on some clipboard. While the seventeen year-old niece of the chef may not be guilty of masterminding the plot to eavesdrop on my conversations, whoever the hostess’s management overlords may be might be guilty of such voyeurism. What buggy devices could lay beneath this table they so considerately picked out for me on their damnable clipboard? Indeed, a thought worth pondering. This is why I prefer to seat myself. If THEY are going to spy, let them bug every bloody table in order to do so.

I picked a table and put my flag down. I turned to see the broad behind slow her approach and angle her way towards a chair at this table. Her chosen chair lay dormant. I realized, despite my intuition for lady company being somewhat impaired, it was tradition for a lady to have her chair… I dunno… slightly removed by whichever gentleman was most conveniently within proximity. I reached out a toe to nudge the chair. It was enough of an effort, she gladly took her seat. Kudos to me, I smiled, the accidental gentleman.

“What a lovely table.” She exclaimed. Our table looked like a birdbath, just flat. It had a mélange of strange pieces of tile arranged in a tropical scene of golden beach sands, turquoise waves, green palm trees and blue fish-ish shapes. She continued, “It looks like someone’s do-it-yourself project. Somewhere on Youtube, there must be a tutorial on how to assemble a beach scene into drying concrete.” I grunted something unintelligible. She went on, “Somewhere in Vietnam, there must be children with nail files chiseling away at concrete to make fish shapes in blue lead paint to sell in DIY shops in America for $2 a piece.”

I mentioned something about how she seemed pretty cynical to be a Life Coach.

“The best Life Coaches are.” She said, her arched brows teasing at her own enlightenment. “Cynical.”

A waitress meandered her way from out of the kitchen and to the patio to give us a splattering of fish spread, courtesy of the chef. I don’t trust courtesies, especially from chefs, and abstained. My Life Coach was more daring and soon wished she weren’t. The waitress returned, honing in on my flag to present to us our two dollar fish tacos.

Between bites of grilled mahi and cabbage slaw drenched in Thousand Island dressing, I discoursed with my court-appointed coach. She mentioned the difficulty of coaching a life (mine) that remained anonymous. Understood, but my anonymity was by design. Secrecy was a safety measure. She asked, two dollar taco poised just so… “Do you really feel like people are following you? Don’t take this the wrong way, but what makes you so important that you think the Mossad is watching us from across the street.” The Mossad or the NSA, I couldn’t quite tell as I spied over my shoulder using the reflective properties of the fish spread spoon. I told her that if I told her why I was so important, she would be paranoid too. My Life Coach redirected, “Why not focus your writings on subjects a little less severe? Why don’t you just write a food blog? We could start tonight, with the fish spread and two dollar tacos. Vic Neverman, food blogger. The greatest dangers are indigestion and a lack of dental floss.” Sure, she posed a great existentialist question: why chase the shadows when I could bury my head in the sand of fried clam-strips and deny the injustices of the world (at least those beyond the fish spread)?

Why chase shadows? Because I am Vic Neverman. It is what I do.

phasers set to stun...

phasers set to stun…

“Have you ever seen a therapist?” My Life Coach inquired. I tell her that I had. “How did that originate?” Whimsically. “But why did you start to see the therapist?” The responding shrug didn’t evade her questioning. I mentioned I was seeing the therapist because she smelled nice… and laughed at my jokes. My Life Coach, herself, laughed at this, “No, I mean, have you ever seen a therapist professionally?” What, like a hooker? “No, not…” My Life Coach smiled that set to stun smile and shook her head. “So… you like people who smell nice?”

I wondered if I smelled nice.

When this life coaching appointment was made, I was able to view my adversary’s picture online. She was more than one bargains for in a Life Coach. I immediately went to my trusty Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee and asked for advice. “’Dito.” My Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee said and sympathetically informed me I was, “not ready for a woman like this.” Oh? My Puerto Rican psychic sidekick from Milwaukee then counted off three fingers which represented different necessities when combating life coaches: 1) nice shoes, 2) shiny watch & 3) cologne.

I had the shoes. The watch I was able to dig up. It hadn’t ticked a second past 11:13 since Quito, but that is a story for another day. Cologne I had naught. Not yet. I braved the apeshit circus depravity of a Florida shopping mall, hiding behind the shield of what once was my beard and found my way to a cologne counter. “May I help you?” the clerk inquired. I told her I needed cologne, but didn’t know where to start. “Do you have any questions?” Yes! I was slightly panicked. Of course I had a question: where do I start? “Well…” she sighed, not registering the mortal danger I felt being surrounded by throngs of sweaty and strange others. The clerk, she told me, “The Gucci is new.” What hell, woman? Everything is new to me! The poor clerk became startled and cowered in fear. I grabbed the closest cologne and offered to pay cash. Now I smell like Mexican hot chocolate: vanilla with subtle cinnamon spice and a tequila finish. I could have made this cologne in my pantry, saving myself $113 and the public meltdown likely caught on security cameras and filed away by the Police State.

Vic's cologne is prepared in Oaxaca

Vic’s cologne is prepared in Oaxaca

My Life Coach and I finished the tacos amidst the circling air current scented with cinnamon. Yes, it does smell like someone is drinking a Mexican hot chocolate, I agree with her. We left the restaurant and I escorted her through a strange neighborhood, along a highway and under the dusty lamps of a fast fried chicken food parking lot where I attempt flattery for the first time since the Bush Administration. “Well, thank you.” My Life Coach thanks me, not quite blushing and not quite surprised I would think the people of Popeye’s Fried Chicken were not used to seeing a girl like her in their parking lot.

We crossed the highway to a coffee house where there was live music. We were then stopped at the entrance by a prophet of doom. She was young, wearing awful jean shorts (I hadn’t noticed, but my Life Coach did) and massive coke bottle eyeglasses. While still on her cell phone, she held up a hand to us, “Wait… wait, wait!” I peer suspiciously inside this den of libertine debauchery (or at least as libertine and debauch as vegans can be in a place without gluten). “Wait! The coffee is good, but do not try the food!”

“Not a problem.” My Life Coach affirms. After closer inspection, she told me, “The food is wrapped in cellophane. Someone’s mother must have brought it from home.” We spied one such candidate breaking a chair in the corner of the coffee house as a one-man jam band kept on keeping on whatever he was on. My Life Coach critiqued, “They wouldn’t pass a health inspection. Or any inspection for that matter.”

The music was of a hypnotic quality reserved for bad dreams and suggestive of having an out-of-body experience, which is why we made sure the ginger tea we ordered was decaffeinated. Full-caf was out of the question. We shared our tea on the patio, reading over a “Vegan starter-kit” as several other one-man jam bands took the open mic. These bloody Millenials – the dreadlocked, me-first Generation – not one of them thought to combine all their one-man jam bands into one actual jam band.

My Life Coach counseled me to look on bright side of life. She did so sarcastically, which is why I listened so very intently. At night’s end, I told her that speaking to her was not like speaking to others. Other people, other women… Speaking with other women was different, it was like… I struggled for comparison. I settled on finger-painting. Conversation with most women is like finger-painting, I told my Life Coach and the conversation free-fall began from there. Not that there is anything wrong with finger-paint, I offered, it is pretty and can be fun, but in the end it is messy and you need to wash your hands and you wish you hadn’t bothered and you certainly don’t have any resulting art to put on the refrigerator. I then referenced back to our conversation, her Life Coaching and my humoring her coaching of my life. Our conversation over the course of tea and tacos, this I would print out and put under a refrigerator magnet as a work of art.

She, my appointed Life Coach, smiled and nodded. “I kind of see what you are saying. And Vic, as paranoid as you may be, whoever your alter-ego du jour may be speaking, you are very nice to talk to too. And… I guess if women are finger-painting, then most men are spitballing. There might be an art to what they do, certainly a skill. There is a little bit of danger involved; a little excitement: I have no idea when or where the spitballs are going to fall. But in the end, I am left with little else than spit in my hair. You’re different. In the very least, you are different.”

We agreed to agree upon each other’s excellent conversation skills; skills elevated above spitballs and finger-paint. We parted; my life well-coached for now. I returned home to Bayou St Bas, tucked myself to sleep under a tin-foil blanket and dreamt of brief flashes of smile.