A tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards, broken things, and deep fried foods
Headed out to Queens yesterday to see another doctor.
Ended up grabbing lunch with my brother, who’s in town for the week. The thing about the two of us, and my sister, is that we have pretty strong stomachs, which I think is direct result of us growing up poor. My parents tried their best to give us a rounded diet but we essentially ate anything we could get our hands on.
Him: (picking at fish) This is terrible. Do you want to try it? Me: No! (thinking) On second thought…
There’re all these dishes that are the result of poor people taking scraps and making something amazing out of them: oxtail soup, collard greens, liverwurst, broiled bone marrow, and fried rotten tofu (as seen above).
People are no different from the food they make.
In Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister says, I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things.
I think I’m similar, for similar reasons.
Some of the most broken things in the world aren’t easily seen as such. A good tailored suit can cover up almost anything.
But I suppose that if you had some device that could look and see what we look like on the inside, I’d be a patchwork of duct tape, splints, and glue. All baked in steady childhood of beans, canned tuna, caned ham, white rice, and slightly stale bread.
I have a tender spot for those of people patched together and baked in a similar way.
My brother’s a doctor and I’m a lawyer, but there are few things that give us as much simple pleasure as eating at a local dive.
If I meet people like us in the world, I’ll ask if they want to grab a $5 meal at the local dive around the way.
And if they’re members of my tribe, they’ll have no problem sitting down to a meal complete with plastic forks and sticky condiment bottles.
Me: We probably shouldn’t have eaten all that. Him: Yep. (standing up) I’m going to get some caffeine. Me: Good call.
I wanted to write more but I think I said it best already in the two posts below.
I thought of my own grandma when I heard the news. We were close because she lived in Taiwan and I’m an insomniac. When I was up at 3AM, I had someone to speak to. After she passed, when 3AM rolled around, found myself just sitting in the dark by my lonely. So I wrote her this letter.
Grace and Mercy
And in that entry, talked about the difference between grace and mercy. One is when you get the good things you don’t deserve; the other is when you don’t get the bad things you do deserve. You can read which one is which here.
I remember what I was doing that day/night well since it happened just under a year since the 9/11 attacks.
Was actually in a real estate closing when I realized that I was missing a check. So I made a mad dash to my office to get it.
On the train ride back to the meeting, the train got stuck in the tunnel. Was already panicked as this was only my third real estate closing so I remember that when the AC shut off in the subway car, I was already a sweaty mess. I also remember the subway car windows steaming up because of the humidity.
Hours later, the car doors opened in the middle of the tunnel and we worked our way in the dark to the station – we used our mobile phones for light. When I finally got out, I was a mile or so from the closing so I ran there with the check.
Was so absorbed in getting to the meeting that I barely noticed that there were no lights.
Arriving, I banged the door repeatedly when the building manager finally came and opened the door. “I’m…here…for the closing. Checks.” I said, breathlessly.
“Closing?” he said, “There’s a ___ing blackout. There’s no closing.” And the slammed the door in my face. Only then did I look up and think, Well, that’s weird.
Eventually, I made it over to Rain’s apartment where we ended up BBQing on his roof since his fridge was stocked. I remember sitting on his roof ledge in a rumpled suit, dirty from my tunnel run.
Hours later in the dark, finally managed to grab a $80 cab ride back to my pad. We went at like three miles an hour up to the Upper West Side because of all the pedestrians and lack of light.
When I got home, found my sister waiting for me since she couldn’t make it to her home. Back then I had a car so I lent it to a buddy to go check up on his mom in Philly. End up eating everything out of my fridge for a late dinner.
Two things happened that day:
I have a checklist for closings now so I never forget another check.
Back then it was kinda dive-y but I was younger and stupider then. Back then, the legendary P&G Bar – which you might know from the Runaway Bride or any number of other films – and the Yogi’s Bar were typical for the neighborhood.
Al Pachino’s Needle Park took place just a few blocks from my doorstep and the film the Warriors had shots all over my hood including the 95th Street Station exterior shots.
After Trump moved into the area and fixed up the pier and they installed the new subway station at West 73rd Street, the place really took off.
But last week, my old haunt, Big Nicks closed. Their menu was as big as a book and if you wanted a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, and a side of gyro with chili at 2:34 AM, they had it. With a Fosters beer, for some strange reason.
As an insomniac, wrote a lot of stuff there; a lot of The Men Made of Stone was done in front of greasy plates there.
That leaves me with two dive bars left in the UWS.
There’s this poem in Chinese I like that goes:
shao xiao li jia lao da hui, xiang yin wu gai bin mao shuai.
er tong xiang jian bu xiang shi ，xiao wen ke cong he chu lai.
少 小 离 家 老 大 回， 乡 音 无 改 鬓 毛 衰.
儿 童 相 见 不 相 识， 笑 问 客 从 何 处 来？
Basically, this dude leaves his hometown and comes back an old man for the first time in decades. He sees children playing and laughing – like he did with his childhood friends – but they’re not him, and they’re not his friends.
But they’re just like him and them when they were kids.
And they call out to him: Hello stranger! And it’s nostalgic and sad in the sense that he’s now a stranger in his own hometown – it doesn’t recognize him and he doesn’t recognize it.
I think one day I’ll leave here and everything will have changed and be like I remember it, but not.
Suppose that’s true anywhere.
More practically: Dammit, there’s no place else now to get a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, a side of gyro, with chili and a Fosters Beer at 2:34 AM.
I wish some things stayed the same.
Not all. Just some.
In other news, went to see the folks last night. It looked and felt like spring.
Him: It’s funny, isn’t it? How something like a song can snap you back to a time in your life? Me: I don’t think I’ve heard that song in decades.
A scytale’s just a stick that’s of a certain thickness.
If you took, say, a belt, and wrapped it around a stick and then proceeded to write across it, it would make a rudimentary code. While wrapped around the stick, you could read it normally but unwrap it and it would just be a jumble of letters unless you had a stick of the same diameter.
Spartans and the Athenians use to write to each other in this code. Somehow got onto the topic of codes with my wife.
Me: I used to write these coded letters to myself. Her: Why yourself? Me: (laughing) No one’d ever play with me as a kid. No one ever wants to play with the really fat minority nerd. So I just wrote them to myself. Her: (patting me on the head) It’s hard being a kid.
This all came about because my brother called me to talk about that song above and our childhood in general. It was rough for both of us but for different reasons.
However, my one saving grace may have been my insomnia. Because it’s all very hazy. I just remember being lonely a lot but not really discrete things about it. I wonder if he had such a buffer.
In any case, I think my wife feels sorry for that version of me. And in a weird way, I do too. Because he’s me but he is not I.
But I remember that version of me sitting and listening to that song and wishing he could sing.
Sorry kid, 28 years later, we still can’t.
But we can do things I never dreamt I’d be able to do. And have the most amazing life.
Still, while I am very grateful for everything I have, I did wonder what it would be like if I could send a coded message to my younger self. After all, listening to that message was like him talking to me.
I’d send two, actually:
One would tell him that everything would be fine: Everything is the same but different. The acne would clear up, the fat would go away, and sheer terror of life would stop. Just stop.
Of course, the other would tell him to buy Apple stock when it was $7 a share like there was no tomorrow.
Causea the vacation last month, plus the hurricane and Labor Day, things have been slow. Actually, all of summer’s traditionally slow for me so it’s when I map out my trajectory for following year.
As I said, all businesses are comprised of three parts so I like the use the downtime to concentrate on the other two (sales/marketing & research/development). More on that some other time.
Yesterday, though, was running around Staten Island for work. Stopped by the Brooklyn Ikea on the way home to pick up some cabinets; HG’s a lot neater than me so I feel I’ve got to step up and get my stuff in order. Spent far more time yesterday pounding together funny flat boxes than reasonable.
Evidently, there’s this theory that obesity is contagious, which I could have told you – your friends’re mirrors to yourself so if you’ve got friends that love to pound food, chances are you do as well, or will. Think that HG’s a good influence on me in a number of aspects, neatness being just onea of those things.
Part of the reason you cut friends is to make room for the one’s that’re better for you.
Other friends you keep around for years, decades, even.
Speakinga decades, Sunday’s September 11th. Ten years, it’s been. There’re all these memorials and constant news clips whatnot. Which I understand, especially for those that were too young to not know what happened.
Thing is that I remember every goddamned minute of that goddamned morning. Suspect mosta my fellow New Yorkers do as well.
Friday had lotsa meetings lined up, onea which was with an old work associate. Ended up being a three hour meeting. In a nutshell, he got screwed. I’d fight hard for any client but even more so when it’s a friend.
As an odd twist, on an unrelated point, his old boss was the CEO of a Fortune 100 company – and a kid that I went to elementary and junior high school with. We both knew each other because we were in the nerd group. It’s like being in the cool group except the complete opposite of everything and no one calls you except to get homework assignments.
Me: Tell him you know Fatlogan. Him: They really called you that? Me: (laughing) That or Whaleboy. Ask him and see. He’ll remember me only because I was the second fattest kid in the whole school and always wore the same four shirts.
Afterward, my boss and I grabbed some food and rum over at The Bryant Park Grill. Then more rum at the Cellar Bar. And then more rum at Salute. He thinks I’m good at what I do. It’s nice to hear. Even nicer when there’s rum involved.
Saturday, HG and I rented a whip and made it out to Staten Island for some family stuff. Spoke to HG’s cousin for a bit.
Her: I think that when people have kids, they’ll be a lot like they were. Me: Then that means my kids’ll be pantsed a lot.
It was a nice drive there and back. Afterward, the wife and stopped by to get some frozen yoghurt at a new joint down from us called 16 Handles. Afterward, we lumbered home.
Me: It was a nice weekend. Her: It was. But it’s good to be home.
The weather’s been relatively cool this summer; my running joke’s that in NYC, we go from Winter straight into Summer without a stop in Spring. This year, however, we’ve had spring and there’ve been several nice accompanying days.
Stopped by my old law school to pick up some things and it’s a bit shocking to me that it’s been 15 years since I first walked through those doors. It still smells the same. Smells are the first things I ever remember.
Speakinga remembering and smells, saw my mom and dad along with some uncles and aunts this past weekend. HG and I headed out to Flushing where we met up with them in the same restaurant we went to for our Chinese wedding. Somea my relatives were in Asia at the time and they wanted to meet my wife.
Still feels strange writing the word, “wife.”
We took the train out there insteada the subway. It was my first time ever. Afterward, HG went home first so I could get a haircut. My thoughts and I took the 3:06 train to Penn Station.