Breaking news: I just ate a whole steak n cheese sub―a large―when I’d intended to just eat half. What can I say, I’m a go-getter. When I see something I want, I go after it. I’m not sure what kind of world you live in but in mine, there’s no such thing as “stopping short.” There’s no such thing as “quitting." When the older Greek man at the neighborhood pizzeria slid that sub in front of me (even though I’d asked for it in a bag to go, no disrespect, Artemis), and handed me my can of Coke, I gave it a once over and, I’ll admit, thought, “Oh, I’ll eat half of this. That’ll do. Save the rest for later.”
We all have our weaker moments. I’m not proud of that thought. But unlike most, I’m brave enough to admit that I had it―that it crossed my mind. When I finished that first half, it was up to me and only me to decide whether or not I’d engage in the second. You know, in life, we’re all waiting for the moment when we're asked to step up, when a higher power calls us to serve. Most people are never called upon, and many of the chosen aren't prepared to be. Well, after I took that first bite of that second half of that (large) steak and cheese, the voice―excuse me, one of the voices in my head said, “Are you going to be a coward today? Or are you going to be a hero?” A montage of my life’s peaks and valleys flashed before my eyes: tearing up from stage freight while presenting on “turtles” during my first science fair in third grade; landing my first kick flip in the local college parking lot in 2001 after two years of failed attempts; dropping out of college (likely related to having learned kick flips in 2001) after freshman year, then returning a semester later and going onto graduate (with honors, fyi, ladies call me). Was this sandwich, this “sub,” going to be a highlight or a lowlight? Because there’s no in between. Was it going to be a moment I look back on in shame, or one that I would tell my son about, so he could tell his son, and he his son?
Just as my clutching hand began to lower in defeat and I felt the sandwich's roll brush the wax paper beneath it, I recoiled and, holding my breath, took another bite. Now some might say, well, you were probably holding your breath because that’s how everyone eats food―you can’t really be inhaling while food is going into your mouth, you’d choke. And sure, I get that. But all I’m saying is, even if that wasn’t the case―say I didn’t breathe through my mouth but instead, like an insect, through a network of spiracles distributed across my exoskeleton―my breath still would have been somewhat bated due to the sheer suspense of the moment. I’m happy to speak with any skeptics who'd like to refute this claim during my office hours. In any case, I recovered from the emotional turbulence, collected myself, and, conjuring memories of my grandfather―even though I never really knew him and sort of feel like he may have been a bad, compromised person―took another bite of the sub. I’d soon reached the second half of the second half, the final “quarter” if you will, for any Bobby Fischer types out there. Stopping, at this point, was out of the question. With another sip of water and a splash of coke, I picked up the final bite and sent it down to its final destination. The war was over. Victory was mine.
A lot of people claim to have integrity, self-respect, perseverance―grit. I can’t refute that. I don’t know you. I haven’t met your mom. But if you were in my situation at that pizzeria, would you have done what I did? Slayed the dragon before you? Climbed to that mountain’s highest peak? Finished what you started? It’s unsuspecting challenges like that steak n cheese that keep me inspired, grateful, and hopeful. It’s why I work hard, wake early, meditate, workout, say “thank you,” and put one pant leg on at a time. Because the grass is always greener. And so I pass the candle to you, dear reader.
I just got back from Paris. City of Lights n shit. Clinton and I packed a lot in. He has this beautiful, sun-drenched apartment in Le Marais, which is French for “Maria Maria” by Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana. It’s like the East Village of Paris. Type of place where you walk outside surrounded by any number of brasseries and patisseries ready to deliver on your daily baguette fix. All these adorable little balconies and storefronts everywhere. Whole place had me cruising around feeling like Jeffrey from Barefoot Contessa.
One highlight was this three course brunch I had at one of the local haunts next to our courtyard. I love the whole prix fixe mentality over there by the way. I can’t handle these restaurants in Boston where it’s like, Vietnamese Thai Japan Kitchen. Really? Those places are interchangeable to you? I’m no Carmen Sandiego, but last time I checked, they’re, like, way different from each other actually. Maybe it’s time to pump the brakes on the net your casting with that cultural appropriation, Mike. Or whoever owns Vietnamese Thai Japan Kitchen.
Could you also make your menu a few pages shorter than the Quran, please? I would have gone to the Pompidou if I wanted to kick back and read Infinite Jest.
Anyway, the first course was a little pastry with butter. Can’t go wrong with that, am I right? Course two comes out. It’s something I’d never experienced before. Are you sitting down?
Foam, bro. It’s a bowl of foam. A decadent, frothy elixir of wild mushrooms and heavy cream. Parmesan shavings sprinkled on the top. The bowl itself weighed almost nothing.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s soup, Tim. That was a light soup.
No, it wasn’t. Stop questioning my judgement, you weren’t there. If it was soup, I would have written the scathing Yelp review a long time ago―I don’t “do” soup. But that’s a whole other discussion.
It’s not over though. At the bottom of this magical bowl of foam was a poached egg. Yeah, you heard me right. A poached egg. With the runny yoke and everything. It was like a little secret you discovered while you were working your way through the dish. I love secrets. I played games in my head anthropomorphizing the egg, imagining how it had wound up in the bowl. It was like the poached egg was trying to get away from the cooks in the kitchen, and it took cover under the foam. It was like the foam was a stop on the egg’s Underground Railroad, where it could seek refuge from oological persecution, rest and wash before another day’s trek northward. The egg had hoped, perhaps in exchange for a tilling of the morning’s fields, to stay for another evening’s slumber, but the foam said, “No, you mustn’t. They’ll find me. They’ll find us.” The two embraced.
We didn’t see the Eiffel Tower. That’s what the internet’s for. Instead we took to the streets for casual jaunts about town, weaving ourselves into the urban tapestry, touching shoulders with fellow Parisians et Parisiennes. Sipped a lot of espresso. Sought out many an eclair.
I actually have to go right now, more Parisian brunch reconnaissance to come soon.
I've been hanging out at the Rotch architectural library at MIT. They have these long wooden tables where you can work, in this washed out white room that overlooks Mass Ave. Quick PSA before I move forward actually. Umm, girl eating nacho chips sitting at the table across from me, I don't know how they call it where you come from, but could you "cut the shit?" Maybe you didn't see the name of this place on the door outside or on Google Maps or whatever, but this is a "library." I came here to escape precisely the type of thing you're doing in this room right now. Could you make like Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible I, as he was being belayed into the Langley Center's high-security NOC list chamber, real quick, and monitor the level of decibels you're outputting to the room right now? Wow, fam. What kind of loner is hanging out at a library at five o'clock on a Saturday anyway? lol
While I'm at it actually, I don't like nachos. In or out of libraries. The listing of nachos on restaurant menus should be regulated by the state government. I don't mean to sound like Erin Brockovich over here, but someone please tell me what propaganda machine inculcated all parties of four or more to default to nachos as their appetizer of choice? When did "Are you guys cool with nachos?" become a rhetorical question? Because I've been sitting at the back of the nacho bus for what feels like my whole life now and I think it's time for me to stand up and say something.
No, I'm not fucking cool with nachos. Let's get the fucking sliders.
Why don't I like nachos? Do you have 45 minutes?
Let's talk about how sharp and jagged they are. Because that's how homo sapiens' mouths evolved—to consume equilateral triangles.
"Hi, waitress? [flags waitress down] Do you have anything on the menu tonight that closely resembles broken glass?"
"Oh nachos? Awesome. We actually have no culinary imagination either so that's perfect."
The nachos arrive at the table. You now have 90 seconds before the cheese plummets in temperature and spot welds the chips to one another, making all subsequent bites somehow even more disappointing than they were already projected to be. Meanwhile your close friends, coworkers, and partner of three years have all just entered an unspoken turf war for the always-limited toppings—the only reason why the table ordered nachos, which themselves are merely a flavorless cipher for delivering said toppings. Do you keep tabs on how many gobs of guacamole and pinto beans everyone else takes? Because I do. I've got the whole f*@&ing game of Civilization going on in my head. Who took what, how much they'd already taken, how much was left when they took it. I count how many watermelon cubes you take at the fruit salad, too. Watch out. What kind of wedding gift you get next year isn't up to me, bro. I'm just keeping score.
There's always that particularly massive clot of toppings that everyone wants but refrains from taking in an effort to appear equitable amongst their peers. It winds up being the last bite on the plate. Then Mike from sales takes it without hesitation or apology and, in doing so, I immediately understand his family history, how close he is with his father, and the strong interpersonal skill set his parents imbued in him since he was a young boy. For that, I begin to hate Mike. His taking of the bite and my jealousy for his requisite assertiveness are cached in the silo of resentment I started for him back in May, when he held onto my iPhone charger for an afternoon longer than he said he would.
The process of eating the nachos is an obstacle course all in itself. You've visually scanned for and elected a chip, one with enough toppings to satiate but not exceed your personal topping allowance. Now you have to pick-up-stick-extract it from the compost pile that is your dinner, and safely dock it into your mouth, with the toppings—again, the only part we're all in this for—still on it. Wow, I came here to whet my appetite, not play Jenga. They say 30% of vegetables spoil during their trip between the farm and the grocery store. The tragedy doesn't stop there—90% of nacho toppings fall on my cock on their way to my mouth.
"Hi waitress? [flags waitress down] I'm looking for the quickest way to look like a third grader without having to leave the table, and I left my Nintendo DS at the skatepark. Anything you could recommend?"
"Oh no way, you have nachos? Perfect. Could you bring chopsticks, too? Just want to make sure we get all of it on the floor and not just some."
I'm not convinced nachos are an authentic Mexican dish by the way. Someone from the ACLU please conduct a meta-analysis on the ethnographic heritage of nachos, their migration to the United States etc. etc. and report back to me with your findings first thing Monday morning. Where do they come from, who brought them here, how did they get on these menus in the first place? I want answers. My spidey sense tells me that nachos are a close cousin to General Tsao's chicken, counterfeit cuisine with no real ties back to their claimed matriarch, perpetrated on us by the Big Corn intelligentsia. Even the word. "Nachos." Ever given it a good look? Take away the first letter. Now move the "a." Do you see it? Yeah, "chaos."
nachos = chaos + n
I know, take a second, it's a lot to process. Scramble your IP address before it's too late. I don't mean to sound like a whistleblower here but it's time I let this information out for people to see with their own eyes. Stick around a little longer and I'll tell you how the towers really fell.
Back to this MIT library though. It's pretty nice. The magazine rack is cool. Lot of architectural digests with large Helvetica typeface. The entrance is on the second floor of a neighboring building, so it's a little bit off the beaten path, which I like. Helps me continue to shelter myself from less enterprising people. And I work easy, knowing that, were some raucous to break out or nuclear emergency to arise, I am exclusively among talented self-navigators, capable of making their way in and out of complex halls and mezzanines. You never know when trouble will surface, but it's always good to be prepared.