I have never made a point of celebrating the Gregorian New Year’s, but over the past few decades, I have spent it in ways far from intended. I remember spending the hours leading up to the new millennium arguing with a girl about ecological niches in the savanna. It went on for some time until she finally said “I don’t even know what the savanna is.” (Only Jedi was there to appreciate this). I have spent it dodging firecrackers in a Bolivian jungle village, standing in an airport in my pajamas, and playing chess variations with a man I’ve always called a communist for no discernible reason. . . and probably in a number of other ways which I am failing here to recall.
This year I spent New Year’s in a Trailer Park, where I lived for about a month. For some of you, this is simply the next logical step when taking some of my gypsaic tendencies into consideration. I commend you on your insight, because at no point did I ever expect to end up in a trailer park. Indeed, I thought it far more likely that I would find myself spending my days on a sailboat, growing my own yeast, tending a small vegetable garden, and fishing while I sailed from place to place or nowhere in particular. This still may happen, I suppose. But the trailer park happened first.
There is no shortage of weirdos in a trailer park. There was a Welsh guy who got really really angry when he heard people whistle. He said it was disrespectful to Princess Diana. Somehow. He took similar offense to people standing with their arms crossed or with their hands on their hips. It had something to do with Star Wars and Darth Vader, which both linked back to the royal family and ‘the twins’. And while I was one of the few people who bothered to find out why he was pissed off so often, I was never able to discover the link between any of the offending behaviours with the royal family. I will not here discuss my frosty attitude towards the Queen of England, but I will say that here was a different kind of crazy. And please know that there was careful calculation involved every time I turned my back to this Welshman.
Despite his interesting views on body language, the Welshman was not a bad guy, and he was usually my ride to work. And despite what you may assume about his mental stability, he was an excellent driver. ‘Work’ for the most part entailed ‘trolling through kiwi orchards, dropping ‘ugly’ (yet perfectly edible) fruit onto the ground. In doing this job one becomes reflexively discriminate against anything that does not match the day’s arbitrary selected criteria for beauty, and I hypothesize that becoming practiced in this task certainly does not promote a mindset conducive to healthy social interactions.
There were other weirdos at the trailer park, but they all seemed like nice enough folks. I don’t understand why one guy decided to take his vacation there and spend all his time watching TV, or how that lady knew her husband was a better cook than her since she’d never tasted his food. A lot of people there either had little use for a house, or were just passing through. For the most part they were friendly and generous, and being there was nothing short of fascinating. I do not, however, have the time or space to delve into the dynamics of the trailer park community on this occasion, nor was I there long enough to adequately appreciate its intricacies.
Among the greatest things about the trailer park, in addition to the presence of a multitude of gorgeous Argentinian women, were the communal oven and gas stoves. I spent most of my free time cooking, and it is here that I noticed that I can take a really normal thing and make it weird.
We can start with eggs. My good friends Tom and Tina1 waaaay back from the animal refuge once told me that they’d figured out a way to poach their eggs using nothing but a mug and hot water. I thought it involved filling the mug with boiling water and adding the egg. I guess I thought the egg would float and cook above the water. It didn’t. It sank, but only kind of, and it didn’t stick together. It just kind of spread out into the water. There was a group of Argentinian guys that more or less adopted me (I probably spoke Spanish more often here than I did in Spain or Latin America) and they were always wondering what I was doing. In this case, “Why are you drinking a watery egg?” The truth is I didn’t know how else to go about consuming the abomination I’d created.
If any of you are still in touch with Tom or Tina2, please request more specific instructions on their egg poaching method.
And while cooking and baking is quite normal, it may be perceived as weird if you’re still doing it at 3am when it is clear that you’ve already eaten. I was the guy compulsively cooking and baking all day long for no apparent reason, and the idea of having people eat the food appeared to some as only an afterthought. I think I actually witnessed the moment when someone decided that my baking was no longer cute, but disturbing. Apparently starting a second batch after midnight all by yourself while reading a book about the extinct birds of New Zealand is not normal.
The first time, however, that the Argentinians asked me what the hell I was doing, it was one of my days off. I’d taken the opportunity to gather a large quantity of walnuts, which you may recall could be found around my trailer. I didn’t have a lot of tools available to me, and so was sitting in the kitchen late at night smashing them in my classic blue bowl with a glass bottle filled with organic olive oil. I did this for about 2 hours, and since most of the walnuts were rotten or mouldy, I ended up with about 6. walnuts. (Yes, that’s about one walnut every twenty minutes). Enough for a decent batch of cookies, but not enough to make it look like what I was doing could possibly be worthwhile. Mostly it looked like I was sitting there all night smashing things and then throwing them away.
They politely smiled at me and ignored the shards of walnut shells flying all over the kitchen and possibly landing in their lovingly prepared food. I’m glad none of them had stopped in my trailer, because they would have found the sink filled with immature rotting walnuts which never amounted to anything3.
But the point of all this was to acquire additional powers, and to hone existing ones. My Power of Cookie is now far more formidable, and I now also wield the Power of Bread. I will here note that eating bread will satisfy your hunger, but it is only a temporary fix.
. . .
Some of you may wonder why anyone would bother to point this out, but I only do so in case recounting the painfully obvious is a new literary convention in non-fiction, since in the Lonely Planet Tunisia, Donna Wheeler wrote something like “The ice cream will offer a reprieve from the heat, but it is only temporary!” No shit. Thank you, Donna Wheeler, for informing me that when I eat ice cream, it will only temporarily offer me a cooling sensation. Some of her readers might have otherwise been under the impression that eating ice cream would cause a permanent drop in body temperature, and that’s what really happened to all those cavemen trapped in the glaciers — they just kept eating ice cream. Maybe that’s where all the glaciers really came from — dinosaurs and cavemen that kept having ‘just one more’.
It is worth mentioning that this passage was in reference to a specific city. She mentions ice cream in other cities, but never points out that its effects are transient. This led me to wonder if Donna Wheeler was suggesting that these dynamics (that one can eat ice cream in response to hot weather, that it will have a cooling effect, and that the cooling effect is temporary) were unique to this town. If so, you would think that such a localized aberration in the laws of physics would have warranted more space (and perhaps a nobel prize). Just like that guy’s kitchen in My Cousin Vinny where the grits cooked more quickly.
Maybe she was just too lazy to find the right place to include this tidbit, but thought that it was so vital that it would have been irresponsible not to make the information available somewhere. . . Perhaps this passage was not intended for the common reader at all, but was a coded message to someone specific.
With whom she was communicating, I can not say. And I don’t really care. But man, what a crappy nemesis. I believe I already decided that she didn’t make the cut. She’s just a cloudy headed hack still trying to find the words to describe a thousand shades of blue, beneath that beatific fucking smile of hers.
Well, it’s a new year, and a new Ground hog’s day, and I have found a brand new nemesis. And once again I have turned to inanimate objects in order to procure worthier opponents. This year, my nemesis is millet — that ancient little grain that refuses to soak, or mash, or whatever. After two defeats, I managed a small victory on the field of Cookie, but it still dominates the landscape of the main course — and it is a territory I am desperate to gain. I must bend millet to my quiches, my patties, my sides, and my breads. Yesterday was somewhat of a draw, in that I did sprinkle it on my buns (baked bread, not my buttocks) but they did not set, and kept falling off — worse than you would expect of poppy or sesame seeds. They’re just too round and hard (again. . .).
On my second-last night in the trailer park, I suffered a casualty: my plastic soup spoon broke under the heavy pressure of stirring cookie dough, and judging by the difficulties I had the following day, I was not aware of how much I used it. It is the second of such spoons to break, and if you count that with my two fallen sporks and all those sewing needles that snapped in the line of duty, you will have a vague idea of the pure intensity in which I live my life. Tiger Blood, Mr. Sheen? How about some rabid fucking fire-breathing mongoose blood over here? Never mind that I will sit on a park bench and simply space out for several hours on a given day, I am breaking shit! Plastic shit! And sometimes even metal shit! And that shit isn’t always getting replaced! And I don’t even care! (Well, I do care, a little. The spoon made me sad. . .)
Today I acquired a wooden spatula. We became fast friends, and it is as much a weapon as a cooking utensil. In reality, it is a Comrade in Life, and together, with the various other things in my pocket and scattered about the world, there isn’t a thing I can’t do. Just ask that stray dog that wanted to stir up some trouble on my way back from the beach yesterday4 — he thought he was pretty hot shit until I brandished my spatula and water bottle5. Didn’t hear a peep out of him after that.
In other news, I met a dog named Douche, I have lost my pants, I am low on socks, and my underwear are nearing the vapour stage of their life cycle. I now travel with yeast, a 10 cent bread pan, and a couple of other things I’m still afraid to use. My sandals have undergone a maintenance repair, and one of my favourite shirts is falling apart. None of this seems to matter now, though, now that I have the Power of Bread.
Until next time, I bid you all a fine Groundhog Day. May our shadows lie where they may, and may we see them in full light for what they are, as well as what they may be.
of the broken spoon
the fallen spork
and the long way home
2. I haven’t really heard from them since I phoned them claiming to be the Peruvian Embassy, asking them to come in to explain some irregularities that I knew they’d have in their in their passports. Tina was panicked enough that she didn’t really notice when I said that we’d need urine and fecal samples as well. I’m not sure they found the whole thing as funny as I did. ↖
4. I say ‘yesterday’ because it happened before last night. However, if we are talking about universally acknowledged dates, one might say today, since it occurred on the same date that you are now receiving this message. And that is because I am writing in the future and (most of you) are still trudging through the past. ↖