Monday, March 31, 2008

Tight Skinned, Well-Oiled Insides

My mom has a bad habit of repeating stories she’s told a hundred times before. She retells them with excitement, as if her tongue were making each word, "and"s and "the"s included, for the first time. If the story is short and I let her get through the whole thing, she awaits my response with a toothy, open mouth. After June 1999, eating hot dogs with my mom ensured a well-practiced diatribe. The first bite barely hits the back of her throat before she opens her chilli-filled mouth to sputter “Nothing will ever come close to those hot dogs in Vail”.

Vail, Colorado- June, 1999:

I was thirteen on a family road trip to South Dakota, between and back again, packed tightly in a white '96 Suburban (my parents feel guilty enough about owning it and I would prefer if you withheld your judgments of them as heart-less Mother Earth haters). Re-crafting this memory, I toyed with different descriptions of the store-front, of the man or woman who sold it to us, of what I was wearing when it happened, but aside from my outfit (Levi’s, button up shirt, turquoise horse-head lariat) I don’t really remember any of that. I vaguely remember what we did before. I know because I’ve seen pictures that we road on a Gondola to the top of a mountain and I’ve pieced together that we hiked our way down. I don’t remember much of anything else between the last bit of the best hot dog of my life and the next three weeks of American adventure. But I remember every inch of the meal in my hand.

The bun was warm through the wax paper that held it and I felt the stubble of semolina flour against my palm. The girth of the hot dog said it meant business. The skin was tight and hard to bite through. It broke almost with a crunch but the filling was soft and full and the oils were still hot. The 100% veal dog was seasoned with caraway, sage, and white pepper and topped with spicy, grainy brown mustard and alfalfa sprouts that had been gently tossed in olive oil and salt. We went back the next day for dinner, only to turn our messy heads ground-ward on seeing the "Closed on Sundays" sign.

If I were to write a semi-autobiographic bildungsroman about a troubled 16 year old Valley girl, the Cupids Hot Dogs on Lindley and Nordhoff would be its major meta-fictive symbol. The original on Lankershim has been serving these gems for 63 years; if only I'm lucky enough to be eating them in 2071. I grew up eating Cupid's with the whole family on summer nights after long surf days, but the hot dog took on a new level of importance senior year of high school, eating two or three at a time in my boyfriend's mother's Astrovan stopping only for Dr. Pepper or a chili-filled French kiss. Some nights we'd eat hot dogs cruising in the Astrovan, eyes peeled for a dark street to park the car and make-out. When we had worked up an appetite again we would return for seconds. We ate Cupid's hot dogs and made out like it was all we could do. Once when I was 17 he told me that he would take hundreds of Cupid's hot dogs into a field and with them spell out the words "Will you marry me". I fell even more deeply in love. At 17 I was real easy to please.

The dog: the softest bun around, slightly sweet, extra tight skin, all beef, a little salty. "Everything" means chopped white onions, tangy yellow mustard, and perfect bean-less chili. The white paper wrapped around them did little to keep your hands from oil.

In descending order, we also have: Mexican Bacon Dogs for $1.50 in Downtown Los Angeles' textile/fashion district. The fat dog is wrapped in bacon, pressed onto the grill and topped grilled onions and red peppers. I like these with mayonaise and a bottle of Mexican Coca Cola (real sugar).

Nathan's at the Original Nathan's in Coney Island. I've lived in New York for not even a year and I've had about eleven hot dogs at the Original Nathan's. I like it with grilled onions and lots of ketchup with an extra-extra large $4 Killian's Red. The win over Papaya Dog only because of its proximity to soft-serve pistachio ice cream from Denny's Ice Cream Stand and the Wonder Wheel...the happiest place on earth. Also, if you really want to, you can buy an order of 2 dozen frog legs for like $13.50.

Grey's Papaya/Papaya King/Papaya Dog: Maybe I haven't had enough of these sober to be able to tell the difference but holy HELL that's a good hot dog for a damn good price. Their corn dogs are sweet with honey and never soggy. The last I had was in December on a Tuesday night at 3:30 am with a good friend. Walking steps behind him on the stairs down to the F train I tried to hold my hot dog in one hand and my fries in the other instead of the railing. He didn't notice me having trouble in my high heels until I slipped on black ice, skidded down the concrete, contorting my body mid-fall to save my hot dog. I did, but only at the cost of a large and bloody bump at the back of my head.

It's getting late and this is getting long. Speaking of long, tied for 4th are Dodger Dogs and free, bar hot dogs kept on those concession rotisseries and served on Wonder Buns. I'd take either or both right now.

A conclusion to come, but I think it can wait.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cyclones, Comedy, Cocktails and Carbombs

Some mornings you don't notice yourself fall asleep at 7:45. Before you know it it's 8:37 and you're awake already and the sunlight has moved only inches up your shoulders. Your head hurts and your eyes are crusted together and every inch of your skin, the parts between your toes and behind your ears and your knee caps aches and burns and itches and smells.

By 8:42 this morning I was walking toward Greenwood Cemetery, coffee in hand, with unlikely company deep in sleepy, wordless conversation . The past seven days have been a dizzying cloud way too much booze, too many hot dogs, and not enough sleep. I'm exhausted and satiated, my eyes are glassy, my head hurts.

Sunday: We celebrated Easter a week early because my parents were worried about me being lonely on such an important holiday. Easter brunch at Tasting Room in SOHO with Dad. French-pressed coffee and French Toast filled with homemade ricotta. Dad tried hard to order vegan but they brought him a big bowl of yogurt instead of oatmeal. They brought him the right order eventually but the oatmeal turned out to be a big bowl of butter. Mass at Old St. Patrick's. There was more congregation than there were Bodies of Christ so I only got a nibble of Jesus. Maybe a full serving would have prevented the debauchery that was to follow my first mass since Pope Benedict.

That night I drank with my dad and Jack Morgan at Milk & Honey. Lavender Fizzes, Rosewater Gimlets, Fernet, Fernet, Fernet.

Come Wednesday I was pouty and sleepy as I pulled my warms sweats down and my cold jeans up at 11pm to meet with Veronica and her friends R and R at Le Souk, a Marrakeshi hookah lounge, bar, dance club, restaurant with belly dancers and cheap pitcher drinks galore. R managed to fill my glass with fruity sangria despite my fervent protest. It went from there.

The next four days straight brought mimosas at 10 am, Coronas at 11 am, Bordeaux at 3, 4, 5, 6, on and on and on til falafel and shwarma at 6:45 am.
Thursday we got lost in Central Park, walking with mouths open and eyes wide through signs of a new season. Grass is on the hills. Daffodils, cherry blossoms, sunshine. After dinner with an old friend I met Veronica and clanat the Comedy Cellar where cocktails and racial humor were followed up with 4.5 more hours of consumption on the LES.

Friday was for dresses and high heels. Lychee martinis, Jumbo lump crab cakes, Blue Point oysters and icy cold cava at Park in the meat packing were the perfect amuse buche to vodka and Red Bulls and salsa dancing at Son Cubano.

My very best friend Bridge, in town for just two days, kept me from nap-taking. Two minutes after she stepped out of the cab we were Coney Island bound. I combated the hangover I could feel approaching quickly with a preemptive strike of corn dogs and chili cheese fries from Nathan's. We met R and Veronica on the street corner, guzzled some $2.00 Coors before screaming our faces off on the Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, and Spook-o-Rama (aka Hell on Earth). The sun was only starting to set, the sky blushing, the sun cast halos on our faces. We walked bare foot on the cold, glass and covered sand, packed tight and damp, holding hands with our toes in the Atlantic. Our hands were cold holding cups of Bud Lite.

Dinner with Nick, Jackson, Jackson's date, Bridget, and J-Dubs at Belcourt was cucumber cocktails, Kumamatos and Wellfleets, sweetbreads with poached pear compote and marjoram aioli, and very rare, plummy purple, hangar steak topped with bone marrow. Dancing. Tempers. Exhaustion. Tears. Complete satisfaction.

The harder the drug, the harder the come down. Now, pass me the aspirin.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hibernation is almost as hard to believe in as Catholicism, but maybe they both really happen?

My skin looks like a lizard's. My hair is dry and dead and frizzy and dull. I've developed spotty red rashes up and down my wrists and arms and my skin is translucent and bluish like an old, veiny man. I likely am deficient in vitamins C & D and am developing a pot belly and flabby back fat from day long sessions of inactivity and my nostrils are caked in wind blisters. I am much nicer to look at in California.

The television in the elevator says New York City will have a high today of 60 degrees. It doesn't feel like 60 degrees yet but when it does I think maybe I'll be able to write more, too. I think the thing is, since the environment (and my job) is causing so much wear and tear on my body, and because I've been feeling pretty negative for a good run, writing this all down just isn't rewarding. It's punishing.

I'm going to California next Wednesday. I wish it were Wednesday right now. I've played host to guest after guest after guest, and as much as I love them all, a girl needs a second to sleep in her own bed and listen to her own music and follow her own schedule.

Sad things happened this week. But good things happened too:

I went to Kitchen Bar with my incredible roommates for Polly's birthday. We feasted on spare ribs and grilled figs and mango margaritas. We watched American Idol on our big blue couch and our big wide-screen television, I got a taste of what "relaxing" means.

My mom came to visit at the beginning of the month. At the Bar Room at MOMA's restaurant, we met a wonderful man who used to be in the Metropolitan Opera whose mother was a communist and whose chess partner was Pavorati. Eating oysters in Grand Central we talked for hours with a woman named Karen who shared stories of her jet pilot grandfather and her quarter-back brother's recent engagement. We saw plays and drank cocktails and ate too much.

My dad came, too. We rode bikes to Red Hook, listened to enough live music to blow our faces off, chowed down on late-night, post-boozing falafel, had Turkish/Armenian (take your pick) coffee with the Russians at Brighton Beach, rode the Wonder Wheel on the opening weekend, and shared our share of secrets.

In between, though, I've drank too much, been too cold, felt too lonely, thought about home, neglected to pay any of my outstanding medical bills, eaten horribly, missed my parents, not cooked a damn thing, felt anxious and guilty and tired of this city and it's weather and it's dirt and it's crowds and waiting 20 minutes to get onto the escalator to go to my horrible office.

I could end this with some trope about New York and it's magic, but I won't.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Getting Back At It

I've been made to feel guilty by one too many people. Also, I'm starting to feel a little all talk and no walk...or all bark and no bite...or all bang and no buck. So I'm going to start writing on this thing, even if I'm ashamed and even if I get bored before I even start typing and even if I talk a lot of bullshit about blogs and the people who write them. But really, the things I do instead of blogging aren't really much cooler or more legitimate or more worth my time. But right now I'm going to watch some Goddard and eat more frozen yogurt with Jack Morgan.