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You. Quit that. Right away.

It’s a sandwich. Not a sammie. Not a sammich. Do not use those words, ever, because they are not words.* They are infantilized nonsense sounds favored by people who sing along loudly at Jimmy Buffett concerts.

Speaking of: Jimmy Buffett. Stop what you are doing and do something else. Your cheeseburger is full of sawdust and sand fleas. Your concerts are charnal houses for the alive-in-name-only. You are going bald, you have looked at 40 and a real pirate would cut your nose off and burn your house down.

Hipster neighbor. Your pants. Stop them from cutting off the circulation to your waist. Your beard is mighty, your tattoos cutting-edge, your friends identical. It is 98 degrees outside. You can put on shorts. Make them tight if you like. Your fixie bike feels badly for what it is doing to your grundle in this weather.

Internet snarktard. You are playing a character. That character is a dickhead. You would not use that sentence in public. You would not act this way in a grocery store. You would not tell that lady that thing because that lady would beat you. Beat you down.

Television show with the fat guy who has a gorgeous wife. This needs to end. The fat guy masturbates gloomily to a Victoria’s Secret catalogue in his empty efficiency. The gorgeous wife lives with a hedge fund manager and owns 56 pairs of yoga pants. Replace your laugh track with the sound of orphan children weeping.

Website telling me about the college degree I should have gotten. Website. Your servers are built from the bones of innocents. Your code is written in tears.

Reruns of Sex and the City. OH GOD JUST END IT NOW PLEASE I BEG YOU JIMMY CHOO SHOES MR. BIG IT BURNNSSSSS.

Coastal elite. Disingenous politician. Person with American flag screen-printed on tee shirt. Gwyneth Paltrow. Guy who blows through stop sign and meek-waves. Purveyor of jargon. Editor-in-Chief of local newspaper. Individual who eats corn cobs and motor oil and poops next to my back fence.

Just stop it. Stop it now.

*Westword got me started on this. Thanks, Westword.

Photo from jonathanpaulmusic.com

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As this is ostensibly a blog about eating and drinking and gallivanting and the like, figure I best get back to brass tacks. So, with only a tiny little bit of further ado, some photos of the culinary badassery that my mom, stepdad Rich and I experienced at Bittersweet last Friday…

I ordered the duck. It was, I say with not a trace of hyperbole, the single best thing anyone anywhere has ever eaten, ever, with the exception of foods made by The Wife. Gorgeous, buttery, the kind of thing that Diamond Jim Brady probably had shipped in by the ounce from Turkey in the days before refrigeration and suffrage.

The scallops, my mom’s order. Her own mother–a tiny, daffy woman whose outsize appetites and gigantic personal history nevertheless loom over my family’s recent past like a colossus–made a point of ordering scallops in every single restaurant she ever visited, menus be damned. I like to think of ma’s choice as a sort of homage.

My stepdad Rich chose the wild boar. If my own hadn’t been so stellar, the clutchings of food envy might have been too much for me to bear. I’m a sucker for those perfect little potato croquettes. (I should mention, as well, that our server was beyond awesome.)

So. That was Friday. The Wife returned from her business trip Saturday evening, and Sunday I welcomed her back to the bosom of home by smoking a rack of baby backs treated with my buddy Jason’s signature rub and some other techniques I cobbled together with the help of my friends over at The Internet. (Hey guys!)

Here’s what I came up with:

After letting the rack sit in its spice rub for 24 hours, I proceeded to whip it gently with a camel’s hair shaving brush, douse it in Hellman’s Mayonnaise and recite, in my best Paul Lynde impression, every single section of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. When it began the inevitable back-sassin’–you all know what I mean, I’m sure–I ate 14 packets of red hot pepper flakes and made sure to carefully monitor its socio-economic worldview through the end of the cooking period. I also drank about 14 cans of Rolling Rock.*

Following that:

*Try it yourself at home!

On Fandom


Yesterday, Westword ran a blog item titled “The top 5 non-bro, non-dude places to watch sports in Denver.”

The author, Patrick Langlois, threw out a few names (Bull & Bush, British Bulldog, Big Game among them–evidently, the DudeBros stay away from joints that start with B), each bearing a brief descriptor with a bit of sass at the close, such as “(T)he place feels like a true pub without trying too hard, and it’s somewhat off the beaten path, so as not to attract cologne-soaked dudes who reek of effort” and “(I)t has plenty of comfy furniture, quirky vintage decor and a diverse mix of patrons, most of whom sport ink rather than backwards baseball caps.*”

I attend plenty of sporting events, at great cost to my wallet, liver function and general tolerance. Fans can be assholes, especially at the venue and especially after drinking 26 cans of Bud Ice. And this is a tiny little throwaway listicle, as much about pumping up some (admittedly really excellent) bars as beating on a bewhiskered trope. Still, I’m fascinated.

Why is it, exactly, that some fans–and Langlois definitely is one, as he attests in the first paragraph–feel the need to partition the notion of Fandom?

Consider this sentence: “(I)n fact, there are plenty of sports fans who appreciate the artistry of athleticism and the strategy of its execution, and who enjoy watching it take place with a good craft beer in hand and a plate (not a basket) of thoughtfully prepared food to go with it.” Leave aside the too-too snottiness of the Mile High Nouveau Hip and consider his meaning, which is: they paint their faces, swim a sea of warm Natural Light and mack curly fries smothered in ranch dressing; I carefully sip Ten Fidy and sample bone marrow crostini served on a PLATE. They yell, I nod appreciatively. I am cool. They are not.

I understand the reticence with which some–many in my own non-sports-havin’-female-dominated family–view organized sport. It’s mechanical, warlike, simplistic, prone to stoke our basest impulses. And that’s just college football. Langlois’ DudeBro isn’t imaginary, either: anyone who has set foot in LoDo’s or any of the Tavern chain of schlocksteraunts knows the type immediately.

But let’s be honest with ourselves. I don’t know a single fan of any sport who hasn’t, at some point or another, embodied the worst qualities of the group as a whole.

We can forego our college dress and attitudes, we can order Left Hand Milk Stout instead of Coors, we can think that “Lebron’s Decision was a smart business move”** and yet, at some point, we’ll be at our seats in Invesco or Arrowhead or Coors or wherever, shouting at the top of our lungs and flexing like the world’s most moronic DOOD when player A beats player B for a __. At some point, we’ll talk trash. At some point, we’ll drink way, way too much and trip into a gutter, say something we will later regret to a parking attendant and spend a night in the hoosegow. Like the tides.

The attempt to form a circle of elites in such context is laughable. You may eat off a plate instead of from a basket and imagine yourself superior to the hooting hoi polloi, but eventually you will chant DEEEE-FENSE. You can wear skinny jeans and a scarf and still end up punching a security guard.

*I’ve seen his byline for a while, so he has to know that the sight of a DudeBro with full sleeves *and* a backward hat is about as common in Denver as Starlings and bum poop.

**This bit got me: he seems to be saying, look, not all fans are solely steered by emotion, some us truly understand. Which is such a boilerplate Colin Cowherd-y thought–most fans are simps with brains dyed in team colors who don’t know how The Real World Works–that I’m tempted to simply shrug it off, but no. Fuck no. This drives me nutty.

The average fan understands their position in the relationship perfectly well: loyal consumer of a product made by individuals who only reciprocate that loyalty when convenient. Yet still they buy team gear, spend money on airplane tickets to see humiliating losses in other cities, experience wild mood swings based on the actions of 20 year-olds…and regret not a piece of it.

So yeah, when followers of the Cleveland Cavaliers watch a coddled Golden Boy like Lebron James preen on national television–and why, exactly, was that necessary? Could he not have just signed a damn contract like everyone else? The hagiographies were already being written, all he actually did was give the authors pause–you’re going to get some unreasonable civic anger, and maybe not everyone will immediately think, well, that kid just made a smart business decision! Good for him!

That’s just humanity. And fandom is nothing if not human–greasily, drunkenly human, but still.

Certified Nurseryman

The only reason I graduated high school on time–backstory there later, maybe, possibly–was because my wonderful guidance counselor, a woman of near-saintly patience and benevolence, steered me toward a work study course in Horticulture at the local community college.

Every weekday afternoon of my senior year, or at least the ones I showed up at school (backstory maybe, possibly), I hopped on the TransFort to Front Range Community College for a few hours of plant identification, pest management tactics and greenhouse building. I learned the difference between Acer and Quercus, between Hymenoptera and Lepidoptera, between smacking my thumb with a hammer while alone at home and doing so in front of my instructor Mr. Feisler, who thought I was about the most rotten and useless seed in the whole Burpee catalogue.

Feisler was a muscular, salt-and-peppery fella partial to suspiciously tight polo shirts, casual racism (he told us of his first job in Denver, a terrible affair that required him to labor at night in a factory alongside “a bunch of colored guys”) and Bristlecone Pines. Yes, Bristlecone Pines. He called them “God’s noblest creations” or something like that–can’t believe I can’t recall the exact language, because he said it like 8 times per class–and even raised a grip of them in his home nursery. Given that Bristlecones (Pinus Aristata, to you) don’t do well outside of specific high-altitude environments, Feisler’s efforts were akin to breeding Bottlenose Dolphins to attack swimmers in the wave pool at Water World. He was a complicated man in the way that uncomplicated men bound to peculiar obsessions are: Kirk Feisler would not have hesitated to beat you to death with his bare hands, roll your corpse into an old carpet, throw said carpet in the Poudre and then lie to the police about everything if he’d discovered you somehow dishonoring one of his pines.

Yet despite our shared distaste for each other, the man did manage to help get me a job at a local nursery. I’m pretty sure he had to as part of the program, but still, I loved it: hauling bags of peat moss, unloading pallets of gallon-sized flowering bushes from Monrovia, driving the golf cart around the back 40, doing donuts around the piles of mulch, flipping the golf cart over, rolling it back upright in a panic before a boss saw, sneaking off to smoke pot in the parking lot with the other kids, speeding off on the golf cart again…

But I’d see the Certified Nurserymen, with their easy confidence, personalized shirts and knowledge of integrated natural control systems, and be struck by the thought that those were exactly the kind of professionals I would never be. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a vision of my future, it was just that the vision involved doing the exact same things I always had, except maybe in an apartment of my own, surrounded by girls with low expectations.

While that job ended the way they all did back then, in a muck of irresponsibility and recrimination, I finally realized that I’d had it backward–because these years later I do have a place of my own. I have a job with responsibilities. The girl (singular) I surrounded myself with actually has really, really high expectations, dammit, which means I’m wearing pants right now. But there’s a not-small piece of me that wishes I was spending my days tooling around the back lot at a nursery, whooping wild amidst the sheep-and-peat.

Easter

The Wife and I traveled to Fort Collins on Sunday to spend Easter with my family. Since we’re all–well, the kids anyway–godless secularists, we long since dispensed with the holiday’s cumbersome “Christianity” in favor of a sprawling, drunken egg-themed brunch: deviled eggs, champagne in the morning, deviled eggs, ham, deviled eggs and my sister’s Easter Egg Bread (seen above).

Yes, Easter Egg Bread. Don’t laugh, or gag, or gag yourself on a laugh–it’s actually delicious. And appealing! Look at those bright colors, the perfect symmetry, the hard-boiled eggs. I think far too much baking involves the clearly unnecessary step of eggshell removal.

I’ve had a lot of jobs. Probably because I’ve rarely been able to concentrate on one thing for very long.

In my youth, before I figured out the necessary calculus of workaday survival, that meant plenty of one-offs, missed rides, angry bosses and tiny, embarrassing one-day’s-worth-of-paychecks. Take the tax out of one day of minimum wage labor in the early ‘90s and you’d have just about enough money to buy a case of beer and two Burger King cheeseburgers (no pickles). Coincidentally, I used to have a whopping sodium count and smell like cooked onions.

A bad job is a job like the one I had working for Eli Romero. Eli was the coked-up scion of the Romero family of restauranteurs: they ran, probably still do, a Mexican joint in the tiny alpine hamlet of Silverton that was locally famous for being the only place a visitor could eat in Silverton. (Seriously. Silverton is about the size of this blog.)

He didn’t want to run a restaurant but did anyway, because I guess his mom made him, and he was terrible at it. I’d bus a table and he’d make me throw all of the uneaten chips in a big bucket in the kitchen so we could serve them to someone else. He’d rip the cooks for being lazy after showing up himself at 7 p.m. on a Saturday. He let me, and all of the other underage kids working there, go behind the bar and dish out liquor (I didn’t really mind that part). I finally quitfired in a screaming exchange after I’d found out he’d called my mom in Fort Collins (!) wondering why I hadn’t shown up to work that morning…right, yeah. Guess he might have had a point, there.

Then there was Teledyne Water Pik. Anyone from Fort Collins remembers Teledyne. When I was a kid it was one of the legit big businesses in town, along with the University and Kodak and Woodward Governor. Kids’ parents worked there—it had the official stink of respectability. But by the time I showed up as a teen, the Water Piks were about as hot as Seals & Crofts. I worked a late night shift on an assembly line with a menagerie of odds. We’d all change positions every hour or so, ostensibly so we wouldn’t get carpal tunnel but mostly to ensure that we didn’t crack the fuck up and start stabbing each other with tiny toothbrushes. That would have killed our quota. When I slept I dreamt an eternal, unbroken skein of gleaming white Water Piks.

The Silver Grill Café. I was training to be a dishwasher. This, perhaps more than anything, epitomizes what a complete boob I was: I had to be trained, over the course of several days, to wash dishes in a kitchen. And I never got it right. The regular dishwasher hated me and spent our time together insulting me in Spanish. I’d always ask one of the cooks what he was saying, and the cook would tell me, and then I’d feel bad and try to work harder but would inevitably be distracted by a cute waitress or a piece of tin foil blowing along the alley breeze and then–right back in the doghouse. I got too drunk a few nights into my first week, failed to exercise good wakeup habits the next morning and The Silver Grill and I came to a mutual understanding on the nature of our relationship.

When I couldn’t get a regular bad job I worked for a temp agency. Just about everyone I knew in town worked for this same temp agency at one time or another, but I doubt sincerely that any of them had quite the, shall we say, volume of experience that I did. I’d bounce in and out of those jobs like a tourist. One day assembling circuit boards, another stacking phone books on pallets, another tearing down billboards. Oh God, the billboards.

The company was called Root Outdoor. They owned, If I had to hazard a wild, rough guess, every billboard in Colorado and Wyoming. Off I went every morning, bright and wayyy too early for my nocturnal habits, with a guy whose only purpose in life was to replace one billboard image with another. Sometimes we’d drive for hours together in complete silence, but holy hell could that guy put up a billboard. My job was to stand in the dirt and trash below, alternately collecting the shreds as they fluttered earthward and hoisting gluey sacks of posters up the ladder. By the end of each day I’d look like I worked in the 3M Volunteer Adhesive Testing Labs. One time we put up a board at the very entrance to Rocky Flats, which particular task required me to stand for a few hours in a puddle of bright green fluid. I didn’t want to know then and I still don’t now, though the fact that I can kill green plants with my urine remains something of a puzzler.

So many. So, so many. Cold-calling people for donations to the San Francisco ballet in a tiny, dark, hate-filled room. Fighting through the lunch rush at the Subway on Market Street was like arguing for your life and freedom in front of a Star Court of urine-soaked crazies.

Even the good ones were bad at times. My ex-Brother-in-Law taught me a good deal of what I know about the importance of a strong work ethic, but I still ended up covered in cowshit when we got the truck stuck during an illegal dump on an industrial farm. Turns out, pitchforking mud and steer dung from beneath the bald, spinning tires of an old Dodge isn’t a great way to get said Dodge unstuck from said dung, but fantastic when it comes to a cheap Blackface effect.

I’ve been lucky to have good work the last few years. But just in case things go tits-up, I always know that I’m good to help someone tear down a billboard, or pitchfork a load of shit.

So I have supposedly been documenting all of the fancy-dancy meals I’ve been eating at all of these hip restaurants…right. Turns out that mostly I just crouch in the dark and gnaw bread with salt on it. Hard act to photograph.

Instead, sit down here beside me as I spin a tale of wonderment, a yarn rife with universal verities, colorful characters and stabbing.

I lived, for a summer, in a tent on the campus of a small mountain college. That’s the kind of thing you can only do on the campus of small mountain colleges, where adequate tree-cover coexists with official indifference. By day I’d lounge on the street with my fellow urchins, bum cigarettes from tourists and attempt to modify my sobriety, by night I’d wait tables and pour margaritas at a bad Mexican restaurant–I’ll save further discourse on that for the inevitable “worst jobs ever” post–before hitchhiking up a winding canyon road to the little campsite I shared with my friend Cully (hey!), where I’d sleep under the stars and not worry about owning a clock.

I thought it was the grandest life possible. I’ve never been very good at toting around a hefty load of responsibility nor was I cursed with a surfeit of ambition–being a homeless punk kid in the wilderness seemed like an impossibly awesome adventure. In retrospect, I wasn’t wrong.

But there are…angles, let’s say, that are part and parcel of the pirate’s life. How to deal with rainstorms. How to sneak in and out of the dorms to use the showers. How to trade dishwashing service for food at the campus commissary. How to identify potential murderers.

I’ll admit that the last one, important though it is, wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when Cully and I met The Cool Breeze. Breeze just seemed like the nicest old hippie ever–we were sitting on the steps near a local coffee shop, wasting a day like always, and somehow he just accreted to us. A big strapping big fellow, red hair and beard, remains of a Morning Zoo jock’s voice, perfect rap, all peace and love and do no harm and I call myself The Cool Breeze because I blow in and out, causing no hurt, maaan. We were young, he had a joint. We hung out with him all day and into the evening, hand-rolling smokes from a bag of drum and rejoicing in our general uselessness. When he finally took his leave with an extravagant blessing–I can’t recall the exact language, but it was somewhere between the Benediction and the poetry of Gregory Corso–we were sure we’d spent the day with some Other, some Advanced Being, possibly Allen Ginsberg’s younger lumberjack brother. Who’d had a joint!

Given the title of this post, I’m betting you’ve already grasped what happened next. When I saw the local paper the next morning, with its above-the-fold story about how our buddy had stabbed another transient to death with a pocketknife in an argument over a riverside bower, I could only think: but he was such a nice guy!

And really, he was. Then. But we weren’t trying to horn in on the one thing he called his own: a few square feet of muddy grass, unowned real estate that he would willingly kill to protect. Hours before my illusions broke I probably would have caravanned with the dude to southern Mexico to start an organic coffee farm.

Although maybe that would have worked out OK if I’d just let him choose his bunk, maaaaan.