ever dumbening the visceral pit of memory 011205
birdmad reverie reflux? 011205
ClairE pouch-like bag

phantom limb

almost a lover
unhinged gets heavy and disturbed with the thought that childhood came to a very abrupt end with nothing to show for it but a wet t-shirt sleeve 011206
mental indigestion every little flashback is a little mental cud to chew 011206
god i vomited, then i forgot all about it. 011209
ever dumbening Summer, 1997. Colleen and I were preparing to head off to Chengdu on our eventual way to Lhasa. Her small-world-story friend in Beijing (someone she knew back from Granger, Indiana) Mark had lived in Chengdu. He insisted that we go to this one restaurant that had a Cultural Revolution theme. The Cultural Revolution was certainly no Great Leap Forward in terms of tree bark consumption, but it was no festival of tounedos in cream sauce with wilted greens either. So we were a bit skeptical. Apparently it had something to do with the naming of the dishes.

Following directions in China is an adventure in the best of situations—signage is pretty spotty—and having to translate from one kind of Chinese to another (as our European-named language tape friends, Gubo and Palanka, were of little help in the pronunciation department when it came to toothless Sichuan residents) just added to the cirles around the lovely Stalinist streets. "Didn't we just pass that statue of Mao? Or is this a different one?" Being hungry and tired can compound the issues of orienteering as well. Rarely did we find ourselves not hungry and tired in China. There's always a reason for the doubly vexing state—from arguing over prices, to tape worms taking your hard-earned food away. Well, I never really had tape worms (just Giardia, twice), but hunger was omnipresent.

Sometimes being hungry and tired can cloud one's judgement of a meal—a la Eddie Murphy's Ritz cracker (though he was really just talking about sexual droughts). But when you stumble across that one meal, or even one dish, that is just so damn perfect, you know it has nothing to do with hunger.

The menu was indeed quite wonderful. Some kind soul had taken the time to translate the menu, so we could all enjoy the humor of the Cultural Revolution. [Yes, the humor of the Cultural Revolution.] The dishes all had funny plays on the old terminology in their names. Stuff about running dogs and the hearts of the enemy. Ming ming bai bai. Very clear.

After all the silliness of the names settled down, along with getting a good laugh out of the guy in full Maoist regalia (not that there weren't regular folks still wearing that type of get up; but they were rare and lacking the intentional irony) it was time to order. Even with strong Chinese skills, or in this situation an actual translated menu, ordering can be tricky. A dish could be called 'golden rainbow lotus' in one restaurant and 'long life three treasures' in another and contain the exact same ingredients. We did however see the word crawfish; and since the last place called home before Beijing was New Orleans, we dove right in.

Just because you know something is going to be hot doesn't always brace you for the full flaming terror. Sichuan is known for superior heat (though the Hunan folk have a funny word-play claiming an even greater affinity for culinary fire). Still, we were shocked when the dish was placed in front of us. The top layer of the bowl was a good half inch of oil. Underneath was a devillishly red-brown pasty broth surrounding nothing but crawfish tails and hot peppers. Our grinning, blue-suited cook re-emerged from the grotto-like kitchen to show us how to take a tail out, peel it, then dunk it back into hell with the chopsticks to seal the deal.

Chengdu summer sweat. Pepper sweat. Tears of joy and pain. Wait, am I going into anaphylaxis? No, I just need another cold beer. Xiaojie, zai lai yi ping!

It will be a long time before I forget that little bend in the street.
unhinged april 1999 during my high school orchestra's concert tour of central europe. we were sightseeing in budapest, some forgotten corner of baroque (?) architecture, cobblestones, vendors selling russian gasmasks and other communist regalia. our chaperones turned the other cheek and we bought small shot sized bottles of liquor. the shop owners, happy to see our money, not happy to see us.

we walked to the end of the cobblestones to a square with a fountain. that was something i particularly liked about europe; all the squares with all the fountains. the excuse to gather and covertly eye each other. to linger and read and eat and watch.

we decided to stop at a streetside cafe and eat. i saw paprikash on the menu and looked no further. sometimes when my grandpa took me to the mom and pop diners back home paprikash would be the special and it was always a favorite. (years later i found out cleveland was one of the epicenters of hungarian immigrants after the iron curtain descended; or maybe right before. anyways, i grew up closer to that part of the world than i realized. and everywhere we went, i saw familiar noses and jawlines, heard familiar languages i didn't understand other than if the grandmas were speaking in those guttural but musical words there was bound to be good food near by).

it came to the table a little different than i was used to. a chicken leg with buttery greasy sauce, chicken fat on top, paprika deep red underneath, on top of dumplings, with a good dollop of sour cream. at home, the sour cream was usually mixed in, but the subtlety of the other fats was way more apparent unmixed. back then, butter and meat fats were always a surely tasty way to fill my tummy. i thought of my mom's family. the way butter in the kitchen was a testament of love. and i sopped up every bit of that sauce. the dark meat chicken, usually not my favorite, was more than adequate with the saucy dumplings. i was probably hungry; i remember being almost always hungry on that trip. but i could tell there was something especially tasty about that paprikash even through the hunger.

i haven't eaten chicken in years. but i might just be willing to compromise my values to get another plate of that paprikash.
jane stomach_nostalgia

the time my ulcer from when i was 8 came back ten years later, the same day my father came to visit me in new_york_city, the same day my best friend at the time also came to visit, having to juggle them both, hurting everybody's feelings, not being able to keep food down, being in bed for a week, that picture of my back - the one where i look so sick and vulnerable - that's the time.
unhinged i didn't even remember the subject matter of my original blathe when i signposted this just now, but


today my dad and aunt were talking about the best place to go in the cleveland suburbs for paprikash and i was reminded of that plate in europe. i even turned to my gram and told her about it.

my taste for flesh has waned even further in the past few years, but the photographic_memory of that plate made my brain revisit the idea of developing a vegetarian version
In_Bloom Cicus Peanuts, Sen-Sen and Black Cherry soda. Little tastes muddled up with dry powderdy dirt, smelling of green corn. 120109
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