As you may have noticed, there is no moral component to these missives, no takeaways, zero hard-earned truths. I mean, who am I, Socrates?
You should’ve seen the sandwich I made the other night after a couple of rums with my buddy Michael. A gloppy melty mess. I strongly believe that sandwiches should always be gloppy messes, just as dogs should always bark and cats should always seek to smother you while you sleep. It is the natural order of things.
Well, when I flipped this grilled sandwich, it rolled into a snowball of tomato and cheese. There was nothing there to grip. It looked like an avalanche. I ended up eating it with an ice pick and a straw.
This, I think, sums up my life like nothing before. I knew the moment I put this giant grilled cheese sandwich in the pan that it was an impossible dream — poorly engineered, tilted, slippery, a crooked top hat. It was slathered in something – I can’t remember what…butter, mayo, ice cream, cottage cheese?
To my eye, the perfect sandwich.
In my defense, Michael double-distills his hooch. Technically, this rum we were drinking was moonshine, and though most rum has a tint, a tan, a sort of teaky Caribbean lacquer, this one did not. It was as clear as a Montana stream.
Me, I have no nose for danger. I can’t discern a difficult situation to save my life.
For example, I like newsrooms. The moment I set foot in one, I should’ve spun around and run the other way. In hindsight, I’d have made an excellent lawyer. Or, a truck driver perhaps. Maybe a monk.
But I stuck around the newsroom only to see whether – like this sandwich, like this moonshine – such a thing could ever really work. Early in my career, I worked for a former Marine who kept whisky and dirty mags in his newsroom desk drawer. Like I said, I have no nose for a bad situation.
Thing is, newspapers are a gloppy, beautiful mess. They are asylums. If the state had any sense, they’d shut them all down.
Wonderfully, and with great foresight, our forefathers prevented anything like that from ever happening, which is what separates us at this very moment from those close-minded cretins in tanks crushing their sovereign neighbors.
But I digress. I got drawn to Michael’s kitchen this chilly March evening, with a cold glass of backyard rum that tasted like tar. But good tar. The best tar you could ever drink.
To keep the kitchen conversation moving, I suggested that we live in the kind of town where all the streets should have speed bumps. I noted that the locals are chronically late and a menace to themselves and others.
They simply drive too fast, especially the tiny moms in oversized SUVs…they are the worst. At school dropoffs and such, I’ve seen them take a corner on two wheels. Sometimes their giant cups of Starbucks slosh right out the car window.
So, yeah, I say we should have speedbumps on every street, and in the longer driveways. We’d look like camel drivers. Up and over, up and over, up and over. Fun.
Speaking of driving, I have a new definition of total chaos: Two Priuses trying to merge on a freeway.
Ever seen that? One Prius is puttering along, then another Prius comes putters down the onramp trying to merge. Both slow down, then both speed up. Then panicked, one of them flips. Out of sympathy, and showing some sort of Priusian remorse, the other flips too. Like two turtles making babies.
Here’s the basic demographics of an LA freeway: At any given time, 10 percent of LA drivers are high; another 10 percent are putting on eye liner; another 10 percent are fleeing a bank robbery; another 10 percent are making soup.
For 10% of drivers, it is their very first time driving on a freeway. The car is stolen. They are either 13, or 97.
Considering that odd milieu, I think LA drivers do very well. Prius drivers aside, they are the best freeway drivers in the world. Oddly, they are still learning to navigate basic surface streets, where the average speed is now 105 miles per hour.
“That’s why we need all those speedbumps,” I finish telling Michael.
Then our friend Dolly, who we’ve known forever, tells us how she once sang backup on a Pat Benatar song when she was in the 8th grade. Then Michael’s wife (Karen) tells how she used to play Quarters with Brad Pitt at parties at Mizzou.
Like Karen, Pitt was a journalism major there.
“I mean, he was cute,” Karen says, “but there were better looking guys.”
Too bad Pitt changed careers, for he would’ve made a good, angry, chip-on-his-shoulder investigative reporter.
In my experience, all investigative reporters are that way – angry at everything, their pants a little short. They have been wearing the same Hush Puppies since the 8th grade.
These reporters fight for you day and night. To a democracy, they are more important than lawmakers and public policy. You should support them at every turn. Just don’t ever, you know, marry one (even Brad Pitt).
Anyway, there’s a side entrance to Michael’s kitchen that the regulars all use – like some sort of suburban speakeasy. When I come back, they say, I should use the side entrance too.
Careful what you wish for, Michael. I’m the kind of guy who calls with nothing to say. I’m the awkward guest at parties who asks: “So where’d you get that nice toupee?”
But I have to admit, I like this cold glass of lighter fluid — this Molotov cocktail, this nectar of the gods – that Michael made last weekend in an oily bucket in his garage.
I also have to admit that I like a neighborhood kitchen table where friends can stop by for an easy laugh.
In my grandparents’ day, the kitchens were essentially public spaces, with red Formica tables, with aluminum edges. There was always coffee, and a little hooch. You could drop in for a sip, a story, a grandpa joke. The windows steamed with friendship.
We hardly do that anymore. Why? Long commutes? TV? A misbegotten sense of personal space?
In our last episode, we touted vodka that wasn’t made in Russia. Tito’s is made in Texas, though that rubbed some people wrong as well, equating Texas with Russia, which seems a little too precious and extreme. Never mind that Austin, where Tito’s is made, is as loaded with liberals as west LA. Anyway, if Tito’s rubs you wrong too I’m fine with that. In that case, please consider Ketel One (Netherlands), Grey Goose (France), Blue Ice (Idaho), Luna Sea (Santa Cruz). You know, I’m only here to help. Cheers.