Boo Facebook. Hooray E-mail.




This week, I’m attempting to rid Drunch of its social media dependency.

How? Simple. If you like Drunch and want to see more, just click the link to the left that says “Subscribe by E-mail." After clicking, enter your e-mail, click "subscribe" and you're all set!

By entering your e-mail, updates will come straight to your sweet little inbox and I won’t have to try to harangue you via Facebook — a social media giant whose tumble from the beanstalk imminent.


Rest assured, I will never abuse this divine right you've given me. You'll receive once-weekly updates, telling you when new posts are up, and incredibly rare missives of exciting Drunch news. That is all.

Thanks in advance for signing up! And if you’re already an e-mail subscriber, good on you!

Drunch will be back in force next week with the review of Bonfire, a country-music-blasting, red-solo-cup-serving, bro bar that I hate. Yeehaw!


-Brett

Bao Bao Dumpling House - Portland, ME



This is how it happened.           

            CHAP CHAP CHAP! A giant rotopoopter sound just like that wakes me up. I kick my door open, peashooter in hand, to russle what hooligans is on my property. ‘Stead of some gumbubble hard-bodies they’s just six green men, naked as little rhino babies, scuffin’ through the leaf piles in my front yard.

            I yell, “a-hya!” And they stop their doo-dinkin’ and turn — swear to God Jesus their peepers is lit up. Look like I just flashed a possum family with a Maglite. Then they make this vibratin’ yawp so I panic and kick a chuck o' dirt at the one closest me. Well, he poots, turns into a little old washtub and walks into the woods.

            You can probably guess by now that I’m spooked. I never seen a fartin’ green fella transmogrify into a washtub and stroll off into no thicket. So I go back inside, lock the door and turn on Wheel to calm my nerves.

            Soon as Sajak goes to commercial I happen to look up and gall-dang-it if those little green goons ain’t at the door, possum eyes glitterin’. Little search lights they send out scannin’ my trinkets. Oh lord I won’t have peace now, I think and rattle a dirty fork against a plate I had by my sittin’ chair. Course they take that as a “come in” and seep through the keyhole. And so there they is, five of ‘em — ‘cept the washtub one he's long gone — standin’ in my parlor.

            Now I don’t live with no one near no one — Buck Pepper’s a good six miles by trail — so hollerin’ wouldn’t-a done any good. All I can think of is to wave at the closest goon. He’s about four foot two, bug-skinny with fangs popping out where his nipples shoulda been. I say, “Fred!” I called him Fred, I think he liked it. “Fred,” I say. “This ain’t how it’s gonna go.”

            But Fred, he smiles and swoops his hands in a figure eight — only had two fingers and they’s changing sizes like inflatin’ balloons — and next thing I know I’m sittin’ in my sittin’ chair in, what I assumed to be, their copter-doo.

            Turns out it is their copter-doo.

            Well now I’m expectin’ them to stick all kinds-a nuisance up my bunghole. Turns out they’re not that type. Instead, me and these five goons bump around the galaxy a while. They learn my tongue quick enough but I never learn theirs. When they want to say things behind my back they vibrate so’s you can feel it way down in your apricots. You know, “VVVVVVVVVVVV.” Not unpleasant to tell you God’s honest.

            I try to ask 'em all the time what this here's about, but they won't tell me. Mum little suckers on that point.

            By and by we skedoo to what they tell me is their home planet: a nice little triangle-shaped red doodad hung up in the four-sunned sky. The Freds — I called ‘em all Fred at that point — call the planet “Dishmaster.” Said it was the closest word in the human language to the original name. Odd fellas.

            I trust by now you don’t believe a word comin’ outta my chuckhole. Heck I wouldn’t either. Soon as I heard some swingin’ dick goin’ on about fang-nipple men drippin’ through keyholes and oglin’ trinkets I’d book them a pillow-room. It happened to me though so I can’t shrug it so easy.

            Anyway their planet smells like a nursing home and the grass is red. All sorts of little fang-nipple dudes hustlin’ around, don’t appear to be no ladies so far as I gather. The four suns in the sky are actually kinda pleasant, each beamin’ down a different hue. And all these Freds got little buildings look to be made outta takeout fork plastic stacked up like beehives. Instead of going into one of those bustle-boxes the Freds take me to a double-wide just like mine ‘cept it’s hoverin’ like a hoverjet, five feet off the ground. ‘Bout this high. High as my arm is now. That high.

            Anyway, inside there’s a big old chair like mine and guess who’s in it but the gall dang washtub! I say, "hey Fred sorry about chunkin' dirt atcha," and the little guy vibrates hard. I get to thinkin' he's gonna zap me, but instead he turns into Darryl Crenshaw. You know Darryl, pool shootin’ dude with the lazy eye?

            Yeah, that Darryl.

            “Hey-uh,” this washtub Darryl says to me.

            “Hey-uh,” I say back. Then curiosity gets the better of me so I ask him what the heck this is all about. And you know what Darryl says? He says to me, “hey I got a favor to ask I need about eighteen bucks. I’m good for it though.”

            That really threw me. Now, by this point I’ve come to find out that I can handle crossin’ the galaxy, talkin’ to vibratin’ hook-nippled Freds, endin' up on a foreign planet and I can even handle seein’ a washtub turn into Darryl Crenshaw. But what I cannot handle is just givin’ a man my hard earned own. And eighteen skittles ain’t buckshot. So I gave him a good firm lookabout. Real firm.

            Washtub Darryl says, "please, brother."

            And that gets me. I'm a sucker for a polite man. So I fish the money out and hand it over. Soon as the green hits Darryl's palm BAMMO! I’m back in my double wide, right here on planet mother earth. Just like that. A-course I scrammed straight to the bar to get a drink — contemplate my journey and such. Then a-course I ran into you.

            But anyway, that’s why I ain’t got your money. I mean, you can go rustle down Darryl for it, but I don’t think that’ll do no good. I’ll get it to you soon though. Sorry about that, but you know how things are.

 

 

FOOD:

3.6 Stars

I am a dumpling mega-fan. I will say that I appreciate the dumplings (and rest of the menu) at BaoBao. I appreciate them. Appreciate.

PRICE:

Scrumpling

$$

AMBIENCE:

Dragon Wall

Imagine your textbook Chinese/Japanese/Thai restaurant. You know, table made of thermal fused melamine laminate with a matte black finish, metal chair with a padded seat. Now imagine the “premium” version of that. Then throw a big old dragon on the wall. The lighting could be cozier, too. Not to pick BaoBao’s ambience apart too much, but it just does the job, full stop.

SERVICE:

Wrapped Up

Great, helpful servers. I had questions and asked for suggestions and they were most helpful. Top notch stuff.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

I give this eat a bit grudgingly. I really like what BaoBao stands for, but I’m not sure I love what it actually is. In a couple trips I’ve had the traditional pork cabbage dumplings, lamb dumplings, kung pao chicken dumplings, even vegetarian dumplings. And despite all that, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re hankering dumplings, I can’t say these actually trump (taste-wise) what you could get at some random Chinese restaurant. I know that sounds like sacrilege, akin to claiming that a “nice” burger doesn’t taste as good as a Whopper, but it’s actually different. Bottom line, they’re just not as tasty as I wish they were. It’s a fun place to go for some drinks and a different menu than your average eastern joint. It is not, however, the last stop for your every dumpling need. Gracious, how I wish it were. They have a great beer selection though. So, they’ve got that going for them. Which is nice.

 

 Bao Bao Dumpling House

113 Spring St.
Portland, ME

(207) 772-8400

 

Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co. - Brooklyn, NY



The Ballad of Captain Grey

 

From upon the quay one could say they see no ship at all,

The angry ocean boils and foams, a raving heaving squall,

But in that gnashing maelstrom there is one surviving boat,

And at its helm my hero Captain Grey keeps us afloat,

 

What little of his coarse black hair not plastered to his head,

Stands in a rigid cock’s comb: an affront to doom and dread,

His trunk-like chest it ripples as he wrestles with the wheel,

Those steadfast squinting onyx eyes glinting with gutsy zeal,

 

I gaze to Grey from where I cling gasping at the railing,

Of all the men I’ve ever met, Grey he has no failing,

And in our crew there remain but two, not counting me and Grey

Simple Shippy and Quiet Phil cleave with us through this fray

 

Now Shippy is an oafish lad, not one for deeper thought,

Through hell and worse by our side Shippy, like a hound, has trot,

And Quiet Phil is, simply put, emotive as a stump,

A man could swear that he was dead if not for his heart’s thump.

 

With Captain Grey we first set sail that sun-swept blue sweet day,

So long ago it now appears we flew from Casco Bay,

For fame and fish our crew of twenty lustily set sail,

With Captain Grey firm at the wheel I knew we couldn’t fail,

 

As his first mate it was my job to keep the crew in check,

So day and night I sang the Captain’s praises from the deck,

“Stately Grey’s an enigmatic one,” crowed my praising voice,

“But were I to pick from a million men, Grey’d be my choice!”

 

As I foretold the Captain quick upheld his reputation,

With daring deeds of seamanship that need no lame inflation,

Grey he possessed the perfect plan for all situations,

Homer and Thucydides can’t match his machinations

 

First Grey posed ever valiantly his eyes cast to the lord,

As in rough seas our un-lashed gear was bucked straight overboard,

Next, he daringly hunkered down inside his locked bunk,

As pirates swung onto the ship and looted every trunk,

 

Then came the morn he courageously ran our ship aground,

Only a man as bold as he would sail where reefs abound,

And though we fished and trawled and strove our hardest to the mate,

The captain he had bravely bought us useless rotten bait,

 

Our first port of call saw nearly all mates swim for the land,

Sure we came in eight months late, but such weakness I can’t stand,

I know the hardship of our trip sounds irrefutable,

But Grey’s great plan was so profound it is inscrutable,

 

We fabled four embarked once more: Shippy, Cap, Phil and me,

Our billowed sails left those yellow doubting culls in the lee,

And despite two more long years at sea we have naught to show,

But given the chance to choose again, with Captain Grey I’d go.

 

Now the wind howls murder, ice water spits into our eyes,

Black rain falls both up and down and the seas merge with the skies,

We totter in a mast-less tub, on a wet precipice,

But if there’s a man it’s Grey that can get us out of this,

 

Suddenly strikes a black rogue wave wise Grey no doubt foresaw,

Smashing down it gnashes the ship like a great salty buzzsaw,

Both Shippy dear and Quiet Phil vanish into the brine,

Their loss no doubt necessity to Grey’s cunning design,

 

As Grey preordained, I now cling with him to a split plank,

I tried to yell a compliment but only sea I drank,

Then in the haze I catch Grey’s gaze and see it straight and true,

Dauntless Grey, my guiding light, knows exactly what to do,

 

He looses a knife from his boot and raises it on high,

The plank we grip can’t hold two manly men like he and I,

It is his ship, I fast concede, though ‘tis only a slat,

As his blade sinks down ‘tween my ribs that, my good friend, is that,

 

Oh Captain Grey though my lungs fill with water briny dark,

Your perfect plan is still in motion, though I disembark,

Yes in the end you’ve robbed me of my very life and love,

Yet you I still venerate as I sink to what’s above.

 

 

FOOD:

4.6 Stars

Full disclosure: I’ve known about Greenpoint Fish and Lobster before there ever was a Greenpoint Fish and Lobster (I’m buds with one of the owners). However, I will say that there is no bias in this rating. What Adam and Vinny and their professional-as-hell staff have managed to pull off food-wise is a triumph. Not only are the sea creatures fresh, their preparation is fresh as hell.

PRICE:

Greenbacks

Leave the record deal in Williamsburg. It’s not cheap, but you can get satiated without pulling any bank heists. $$

AMBIENCE:

Well-Appointed Galley

Clean, white tiles are the order of the day. Paired with wooden stools, tables, seats, a decadent white marble counter and a smattering of nautical touches, GFL’s seaworthy ambience is palpable.

SERVICE:

Ship Shape

The place was bumpin’ on the Saturday night I visited, but that didn’t stop the beer from flowing and the dishes from coming out right on schedule.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Yes, my good friend is one of the owners of Greenpoint Fish and Lobster. Yes, when the fish sandwich landed in front of me, I prayed to Poseidon that it would actually be OK, so I wouldn’t have to fake orgasmic enjoyment as I forced it down. To my delight the sandwich, and everything else I then ordered, was legitimately scrumptious. No bullshit. No exceptions. I would recommend GFL to any lover of sea-based protein and even those who don’t yet believe a sea robin can be succulent. High ten. The hype is well deserved. Can’t wait to go back.


Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co.

114 Nassau Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Corner of Eckford Street (Nassau G)
(718) 349-0400

Fish Market:
Mon-Sun: 11 AM - 9 PM

Raw Bar/Kitchen:
Sun-Thurs: 12 PM - 10 PM
Fri & Sat: 12 PM - 11 PM

For Catering/Wholesale/Inquiries:
info@greenpointfishandlobster.com

 

Sonny's - Portland, ME



I wonder how many chances I’ve missed? How many potential significant others I’ve failed to engage as they stood, fidgeting, behind me in line at CVS? How many mentors I’ve neglected to strike up a conversation with at the bar before a show because I chose instead to sit in my apartment, watching the same movies I’ve always watched? How many vital friends I’ve not made because of the way they looked so confident among their own group of friends way over there on the other side of the room?

            I suck in cold air that prickles my nose and mouth. Opposite me the sun falls, singeing the clouds and breaking the sky into fathomless neon blue. Buildings are shadows. My breath veils my view, dissipating as fast as it comes.

            What paths have I missed? What friend that I never made would have kindled in me a love of the tactile beauty of throwing clay upon a pottery wheel? Which enthusiastic young woman — perhaps one I’d passed after making brief eye contact in the aisles of the grocery store — brimming with enthusiasm and passion, would have broken my self-consciousness for good and all, ushering me into a lifelong love of flamenco or modern dance? What lonely old man, whose porch I happened to be caught on in the dead of night looking for a trash can in which to hide the evidence of underage drinking, did I run away from, and in so doing failed to uncover the tranquil majesty of car repair? All these people and paths I missed, why did I miss them? When did I miss them? And who led me to this path now?

            Cars flow by as I walk. They pass, one after another, a stream of stillborn relationships, lost soul mates, phantom enemies, dead friends. Surely what I have missed engulfs at least a hundred thousands times anything I will see or do.

            I think of the highway, scores of strangers traveling in the same direction with the same goal at the same time — all anonymous — and am humbled.

            The day still turns.

            I lower my head against the blinding sunlight. I don’t try to make eye contact with any coalescing outlines in my path. By the time I recognize features these people are past me. A father and mother, their children stomping the brittle sidewalk ice like Lilliput giants. A young woman clicking along, professional, her bag clutched with white knuckles. A young man like me, head down. My ever-growing past engulfs them.

            Why not take a chance? Catch an eye. Hold a smile. Simply a glance requires all of my effort and all of my heart and each time is like ramming my head through glass, steeling myself for the pain as I smash the palm of my forehead against the pane of my personal box’s window to emerge clear-eyed, ready to connect. And how fast the wounds heal with each fresh smile. And how quickly they re-open at the inevitable unspoken goodbye. The skin never toughens; it is virginal each and every time, always feeling the pricks and slices of every shard.

            What else have I missed? Would I want to see the list? I think not. It must be overwhelming, depressing. And what of everything I am destined to miss in the future? Would I want to see that list as well? Try to shorten it somehow? Would my paralysis break? Would I become something more? I don’t think so.

            Two young women approach — I can hear them — laughing carelessly. The left one’s sunlit waterfall of brown hair bounces luminescent upon the shining shoulders of her purple coat. Of her features I see a mouth first: porcelain smile inlaid with teeth like pearl trim. Then the pencil-traced drops of her eyes, curling up in mirth; I am part of the scenery. Her friend tosses her golden hair and I can smell it on the wind, floral and clean. Another foreign universe, already past, gone.  

            The sun dips its toe out of sight, reddening. An earth tone panorama reveals itself to me as if sprung from the earth’s crust of its own accord.

            Every day it goes and it goes. I ignore future friends. I gaze mute at unremembered lovers. I avert my eyes from my lost enemy who would eventually become my closest confidant. I forever lithely skirt the chance to change.

            But all those people must be missed — I convince myself. Everything is at the expense of everything else with time the taskmaster shoving me along. If I stopped to meet every person then I’d do nothing else. Spouting hi and hi and hi to all the hurrying bodies flowing by. I’d meet new people, but would it be enough to offset the value of the time that I could use to cherish those I already know?

            I don’t know.

            All of humanity is summed up in each person, yet each person is just a facet of humanity.

            I walk on in my time.

            I choose not to dwell any longer on these thoughts. I choose to enjoy the people I’ve met, if only because they are the only people I will ever know. I choose not to stay with the people who only value me as a mirror through which they can see themselves in a new way. I choose not to stay with the people who look to me to provide their whole personality. I choose not to stay with the people who use me as a springboard for their own ends.

             I choose to stay with the people who are full and share themselves with abandon.

            The sky is ablaze as I rap the thick door once only. Its hinges creak as scents and laughter bubble around its open corners. Inside the apartment the windows are fogged. Friends and family — they are not discrete to me — shout my entrance. I sit and laugh with the best people I can ever know. Kin by blood and choice, the ones who make me feel awake and alive whether it’s with love, frustration, joy, sadness, anger, envy or a combination of those and so many more. I no longer care for what I’ve missed; its vast abundance is immaterial. This company is both the future I’ve chosen and the future that has been chosen for me. These people — in their specific, unrepeatable yet familiar splendor — alone are the raw materials for this untold story of existence that will at last be forged in the smithy of my soul.

 


FOOD:

4.1

Gastropub to the nth degree. The food at Sonny’s is reminiscent of what you’d scrounge up at grub-slinging bars in the same way that a gecko is reminiscent of a Dreadnoughtus. Cubans, burgers and fried chicken sammitches abound, as does a confit chicken quarter and a formidable hanger steak. Good beer selection, fine craft cocktails as well. I’ve heard the brunch is a fine thing, but have not partaken just yet (I’d trust it to be quite good).

PRICE:

Let Dad Pay

The quality comes with a price, but not one that’s too steep for the taste. $$$-ish

AMBIENCE:

Classy New England Living Room

With a panoramic bar window that gazes over Post Office Plaza and a wood-jammed interior — converted from the former old Portland savings bank — to match the coziest of Maine nooks, Sonny’s deserves an enthusiastically avuncular pat on the behind.

SERVICE:

You Done Good… Son

Even being a pain (I switched from a table to the bar halfway through my meal), they accommodated like champs. Yes they can serve.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Absolutely a tip-top place to go. The ambience, food, booze array and service combine to form a Voltron-esque dining force. Put Sonny’s on the “sure bet for a fine time” list if you have a squidge extra cash in the pocket.


Sonny's Restaurant

85 Exchange St.

Portland, ME

207-772-7774


Duckfat - Portland, ME



Still stressing over what to get for your child that spends literally every waking moment on the internet? You can has Kris KringLOL!

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            Oh what fun!
 
            Kris KringLOL can also capture your holiday gathering with his built-in webcam. All video is uploaded automatically to  the official KringVlog where it's commentated on by the one and only PewDiePie. Follow the KringVlog today to see KringFAILS like: Grandma Washing iPad, Icy Driveway FAIL Compilation, Ham Dinner Fart Disaster, Xmas Tree Cat Fire and more!

            Any budding festive flyer will have no trouble getting KringLOL from under the tree! With his quadcopter tech, KringLOL soars through any decked hall spreading holiday LULZ from the high-and-mightiest L33t H4xx0r to the deepest troll hole.

            Worried KringLOL won't EX-TERM-IN-ATE your kid's holiday boredom? Our jolly elf has a lot more than a camera up his wibbly wobbly very merry sleeve. With patented KringTech Effusive Praise™ capabilities, Kris KringLOL can hold a fanboy-sized conversation on any of the following topics: Dr. Who, My Little Pony, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Star Wars, Star Trek, Homestuck, XKCD, Cyanide and Happiness, Adventure Time, The Marvel Universe, Trailer Park Boys, Arrested Development, Edgar Wright films, Bob’s Burgers, Gravity Falls, Reno 911, Family Guy, The Batman Trilogy, The Big Bang Theory, SpongeBob, The Leftovers, Serial, Modern Family, The Big Lebowski, The Hobbit Trilogy, /b/, Pokémon, Digimon, Samurai Jack, Avatar, Archer, /r/Showerthoughts, Stephen Colbert/John Oliver/John Stewart, Smash Brothers, Candy Crush, Skull Girls, Minecraft, Bleach, Samurai Champloo, Attack on Titan, Cowboy Bebop, Fallout New Vegas, Borderlands, Skyrim, GTA5, Civilization V, Metalocalypse, Battlestar Galactica, Russian DashCams, Homeland, House of Cards, True Detective, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, ElfQuest, Sherlock, Skins, Orphan Black and many more!

            Kris KringLOL also functions as a TOR-encrypted wi-fi gateway to the deep web. Need some top secret Xmas info like government leaks or redacted CIA memos? Want to trade some bitcoin for heroin? Or just want to torrent The Interview in a festive “F*ck You,” to Kim Jong Un? KringLOL says “I’ll ho-ho-hook you in faster than you can say government watch list!”

            Glomp this Xmas extra hard with additional apps from the KringLOL app store. Vine while you dine! Snapchat your cat! Say WhatsApp with a tip of KringLOL’s merry cap. Any app you desire, KringLOL’s got it in his bottomless i-sack.

            Parents: chuck that elf off the shelf, because KringLOL knows exactly who’s been naughty and nice. With over 1 Terabyte of solid state memory for browser history and keystroke recognition storage, KringLOL can tell you who’s getting coal in their stocking and who’s getting an FBI warrant for the search and seizure of their secret external hard drive.

            And for older Kringlers who still want to get in on the Xmas action, there’s Kris KringLOL Gold. KringLOL Gold comes with everything you know and love in the original KringLOL, with additional stylish, erudite sensibilities for the modern renaissance man. He’ll comment on how to perfectly sculpt your neckbeard.  He’ll make sure that your trilby is positioned at an optimally rakish angle. He’ll interject atheist barbs during any innocuous conversation. And he’s a staunch Bayes-ian acolyte with a full archive of both Less Wrong and Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Best of all, Kris KringLOL Gold is a vocal feminist; so don’t go trying to perpetuate antiquated gender norms in his jovial presence!

            Order now and get this one-size-fits-all Rudolph kigurumi, for an epic Xmas win! Buy Kris KringLOL today! He’s the merry Internets elf!

 

FOOD:

3.8 Stars

I want to like Duckfat vastly more than I like Duckfat, but I still like Duckfat.

PRICE:

Plump Wallet

Not expensive, but not inexpensive. Duckfat deftly straddles the line between gourmet and grub. Expect to spend around ~$30 if you get a couple beers, fries and a panini.

AMBIENCE:

Nest-worthy

The perfect place to stomp into on a cold winter’s night. Be forewarned, the space is not large, so a wait is always possible, especially for larger groups. The winter waits are rarely extensive (except on bigger weekends). During tourist season? Bring a book.

SERVICE:

On Quack (in a good way)

Always attentive, in my experience, Duckfat’s service is some of the finer in Portland. Huzzah.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Duckfat is what Nosh wishes it were. Offering hearty paninis like the Homemade Meatloaf, the Overnight Roasted Duck Confit and the Roast Pork Belly and an intense poutine made with fries fried in duck fat, this is some flavor-forward fare. That being said, Duckfat still manages to ruffle some of my feathers (I’m so sorry). This could be due to a flaw in my very fabric — I note that the name of the place is Duckfat, so a certain heaviness of fare is to be expected — but I always leave feeling slightly unpleasantly overfed. Should I eat less? Probably. Is this my fault or the food’s? A bit of both I think. The food is rich; it’s supposed to be rich. But it is RICH. Which, taken another way, means the food is tasty as all get-out. I guess just beware of your own limitations when your eyes are ordering for your stomach.

 

DuckFat

http://duckfat.com/

11am - 10pm // 7 days a week

43 Middle Street
Portland, Maine
207.774.8080*

*Duckfat does not take reservations




The Dutch - New York City, NY



Oyster Sliders from The Dutch

One sky-less morning wandering down endless city streets, camera in hand, I pause. A benighted alley looms beside me. Eyes like pinpricks aflame sway suspended in the dark. Somewhere deep inside a fence rattles in the stale wind, a baby howls, muffled, a crone coughs. Trashcan fires spurt light hooded by gouts of smoke, illuminating bulbous shifting tatters. My neck hair prickles. This is a forgotten place, I think. Unchanged for ages.

            My city is vast, thriving and expanding for as long as human history goes back. In its corners and nooks nestle cultures once familiar, made foreign by time and isolation.

            From the near-black cove jolts hollow laughter, a vacant howl. Feet shuffle to a tunelessly twanged cigar-box guitar. This is their homeland, these alley people. The squalor is unimaginable. The cloying smell of human decay hangs heavy, even here, at the alley’s entrance.

            I linger in silence, wondering whether to venture in, hurry on or stay. My camera hangs impotent by my side. Can I help them? No. My knowledge of everything outside, everything they do not and cannot have, would only damage. Any gifts I gave them would be temporary.

            They’ve survived in this alley for decades, millennia, ages. They are alley people born of alley people born of alley people and on. They are none else and know nothing else. None leave and fewer still enter. They must be wretched, unhappy.

            But then again...

            I shift. My senses recast their information.

            Their minds are not mine. Their world is theirs. With different knowledge in our brains, how can I judge their space? What else is there but for them to laugh and growl and harrumph in their privation? The alley’s dim contours are all they know in total entire. The harsh notes of another cackle reach my ear. Yes. They are alive in their spot: rich.

            They eat what the city affords them in vermin and bugs, trapped and cooked with — to their minds — unimpeachable skill. They lap at the water that leaks down the mildewed walls as if it were Elysian mead. The errant comfort of the modern world — a snapped umbrella, a half-eaten bagel — are as manna to them from the great unknown. When they turn in on their moldy newspapers, thinly covering the damp unforgiving concrete, they are as kings resting their weight on beds of down.

            When one knows not what rich means, then one can never be poor. They know only the alley, have known only the alley. This is their world to relish. They are happier than I, who wants for little yet yearns for more.

            These spit-slipping, scum-scraping, odiferous, cackling, clammy, sunken, forgotten lot are gods of an inverse Olympus.

            I look at my polished shoes, frown and move on.

 

 

FOOD:

4.2 Stars

Sophisticated, curated, celebrated. Hey, what can you expect? This is a hot NYC spot. They make highbrow food for a highbrow crowd.

PRICE:

Bring the Card

Food in NYC at a nice spot will never be cheap, and this doesn’t vary much from that formula. Brunch entrees run ~$20, “Supper” Entrees in the $30s and $40s. Apps and other vittles will only raise the bill. Though the fare is quite worth the price (in a New York sense).

AMBIENCE:

Well-Designed, Hip, Cool, Traditional-With-A-Modern-Twist, Foodie Pleaser

The ambiance feels effortless and comfy. You can tell it was designed by professionals earning top dollar. Space is ample, yet you’ll still need a reservation for certain.

SERVICE:

New York’s Finest

Whether it’s the struggling actors trying to make a good impression, the higher-than-average tips or the general competition, New York’s service is second to none. The fine men and women of The Dutch keep the high bar on its proper rung.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

The Dutch is great. It’s tasty, you get ample food, you leave full and happy. Still, something feels missing. I think it’s this: there’s a lack of personal passion about the place, which is by no means a reason not to go. It’s simply to say that if you never go to the Dutch, your life will not be over. You will not immolate immediately in a flame of regret. Maybe I’m holding the Dutch to too high a standard. But then again, this isn’t Old York. Put another way, it feels like The Dutch is a calculated step, one made from experience, expertise and a keen eye on customer turnover and portion cost. That may be an artsy fartsy critique (it is), but still, I know of many other restaurants inside New York and out that seem like a chef’s dream come true, rather than another notch on a celebrated chef’s belt. Granted, it’s a nice notch, but it’s a notch nonetheless. Check the Dutch if you want a tasty, curated meal. However, if you want to feel like you’re experiencing the passionate outpouring of someone’s chef-ly heart, there are plenty of fish in the restaurant sea.  

 

 













Little City Pizza - Simsbury, CT




March 14th, 2015 was an odd day because at 9:26 AM everything humanity had ever made started using itself.

            I was thirteen. My bed bucked me onto a floor that wobbled under my feet. The steps downstairs tripped me onto a carpet that shuffled me, naked, out the front door to a morning-dewed lawn. Outside, clippers were sculpting the hedges, hoses were watering the plants and lawnmowers were cutting perfect, parallel lines in every yard. My Dad, also wearing nothing — all the clothes were wearing themselves, walking around in front of mirrors polished and reflecting perfectly — was wrestling with a pair of sheers that bridled in his hands. He cursed them as they went scrambling off under a Corvette that had taken itself out for a cruise.

            “Crap,” my Dad said, trying in vain to open our firmly locked front door. Sun beamed through the sparkling, newly washed windows and our vacuum cleaner could be heard hoving ceaselessly across the floor. All down the street people, like newborn hamsters, naked and shouting, were being expelled from their homes.

            “What’s happening?” I asked.

            “The stuff!” my Dad yelled, fish white body darkling with black hair in the bare sun. “It’s all just doing it.”

            Though poorly articulated, he had a point. Everything was simply doing what it was intended for, nothing more. Our house's clapboards and formerly sinking roof had all straightened themselves. The couch inside had plumped itself. And my Dad’s den was spotless, for once, his computer tip-tapping productively away. The house looked nicer than it ever had. But we were no longer welcome.

            In the living room a newly dusted TV was watching the news on itself. My Dad and I peeked through the bay windows from the backyard. The camera equipment over in New York was doing a fine job, with the microphone sounding crisp and clear and the camera framing the shots just right. The show was really entertaining, a perfect mix of humor, professionalism and introspection about the morning’s surprising events. In totality, it was better than any group of people had ever put on.

            We learned that all the guns had shot themselves. All missiles, grenades, mortars and even nuclear bombs met up in the middle of the pacific and blew each other up. The markets were soaring as money shrewdly invested itself or spent itself on mostly assets with a few, fun casual liabilities mixed in. New technologies were inventing themselves while commercials wrote and directed themselves so that new products could buy and use themselves.

            Simply put, all us people had nothing to do.

            Through the kitchen window we watched our food cook itself to perfection, plate and dispose of itself.

            “We’re going to the woods,” my father concluded. And to the woods we went.

            On our way out of town we saw pens scribbling heartfelt, perfect stories under their own volition. The materials for concrete climbed from the earth around us, mixed themselves and with the help of steamrollers and backhoes rolled out perfect new streets. The formerly low buildings of downtown Simsbury were already demolishing themselves and building themselves anew at random. It was clockwork the world over.

            Most people we met looked shocked, some terrified. Everybody wondered aloud why it had happened. Why everything we’d ever endeavored to create had suddenly found no use for its own creators. We didn’t talk much about how nicely they were all performing, though. Why add insult to injury?

            From up on the promontory next to our house where the Hublein Tower sits we could see people streaming from town, eddies of beige and brown. The cities of the world were probably in chaos. Of course, there was a lot of strife among humanity, everyone being forced from civilization and all, but it didn’t take too long for the majority to die away. It was only days before we began to spot people’s remains, behind bushes or by the road, burying themselves in the dirt.

            “Look,” my Dad said. “I made a weapon.” He held up a sharpened stick that promptly bent, broke and stabbed itself into unusable splinters. Luckily, fires made themselves in the woods and though animals turned out to be too hard to catch without tools, we made due with tubers, fungi, rainwater and roots — my Dad had been a mountain guide in his twenties.

            Now, it’s been two years of foraging in the woods and huddling for warmth. The air is already clearer, though the sunsets are less brilliant. My Dad and I don’t do much but sit in our filthy mountain cave, watching our former world expand and perfect itself. Rockets of unimaginable size light the sky morning and night, searching out new worlds. Buildings stretch across the horizon, lavish architecture of stunning materials. We wish we could be a part of it. Everybody left does. But we also have come to a kind of peace, knowing that us people will at least be remembered in history books that will no doubt write themselves, unbiased and pure accounts of humanity’s brief existence and the dreams it strove for but could never achieve.

 

 

FOOD:

3.9 Stars

As good as New York (but not New York’s best).

PRICE:

Little Town

My brother and I went and both guessed a full cheese pie would be around $18. It was $12. And it fed a virile family of four. Very pleasing.

AMBIENCE:

Traditional Italian Pizza Place Attacked With Comic Book Grenade

Really, this place has vintage Marvel and DC comic memorabilia everywhere. Pages laminated into the tables, comic book art on the walls. It’s cool. I like it.

SERVICE:

Simsbury’s Finest

It’s solid service. Takeout is quite fast. Dining in has always been a breeze.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Little City proves that Connecticut’s pizza can stand toe-to-toe with New York City’s classic thin-crust icon. However, with New York’s recent proliferation of bespoke, artisanal, gourmet pizza shops in the past decade or so, I can’t say it is the best slice of pizza I have ever put past my lips (then again that slice cost me twice as much and I got -2 times the pizza). However again, if you’re looking for a classic NYC-style pie Little City is the only city you’ll need to visit.


LITTLE CITY'S INFO:

Simsbury Town Shops Shopping Center

926 Hopmeadow St.

Simsbury, CT 06070

PH: (860) 658-4001


 LANDSCAPE IMAGE C/O FLICKR USER Muffinman71xx









Palace Diner - Biddeford, ME




The PERFECT Sunny Side Up Egg

Heat pan over maximum heat until nearly red-hot. Remove eggs from freezer (preferably chilled over night). The ideal consistency is softer than a ball of lead but harder than burnished bronze.

Toss a bowl of olive oil at the pan from about five feet away or as close as you can manage. If the oven/oven area catches on fire, that’s ok. Simply wait the fire out, do not throw water on the grease fire. Grease fires love water.

Once the fire is manageable, take two eggs directly from the freezer and throw them at the ground. If thrown properly, they should shatter. Sweep up as much shattered egg as possible before it thaws.

NOTE: Egg shells, floor-crumbs, dust and hair are all A-OK. This lends a flavor to your eggs that the French refer to as l’essence du sol.

Dump semi-frozen egg/crumb/hair mix into pan. Leave for five hours or until kitchen is filled with a smoke similar in color to the ashes of a permanent nuclear winter.

Bury the pan in the backyard and erect a tasteful headstone.

 

Serves 2.

 

 

Fall-Apart Cinnamon Bun Surprise

Pre-heat oven to 82°. Sift flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl. With a tight fist, punch a hole in the wall. Gently, pour flour mixture through the hole. In another mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, oil and cinnamon. Once combined, dump into wall-hole.

Grease an 8x8 baking pan with non-stick spray or or butter (we prefer butter).  With boiling envy, crush three (3) eggs onto the carpet while looking at Facebook posts from friends who don’t have kids and travel often. Kick hole in wall directly below fist hole. Mixture should now be accessible.

Scoop whatever you can from the wall and pour directly into oven. Hurl greased baking pan at computer screen.

Allow buns to cook until 7 AM or PM, whichever is further away.

Scoop out of oven with automotive ice scraper while scowling.

Remember that, again, you’ve forgotten the frosting for the buns. Fail to work out a way to tell the kids that there will be no frosting for the buns. Fall into a black depression.

Serve cold.

 

Serves 6

 

 

 

Authentic Belgian Waffles

Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and sugar in an empty aboveground swimming pool. Whisk in butter/egg/vanilla mixture with a barnacled oar. 

NOTE: Barnacled oar can be substituted with a rusty Victorian chandelier, two (2) foam “We’re #1” hands or one confused, flailing anchorite, preferably nude.

When the Pole star is at its height, fill the swimming pool with ten healthy drams of adder blood.

Let the mixture rest until the starling’s first cry of spring.

Add Strawberries and confectioner’s sugar.

Serve room temperature.

 

Serves 4

 

 

 

 

Scrumpy Scrambled Eggs

Warm pan to medium heat. Brand your outstretched forearm with the pan to enter the proper state of mind.

Slip one pat of butter into the pan, rolling as necessary to cover the entire surface. Be careful not to brown the butter with too hot a pan, butter will ideally be bubbling. Add dash of olive oil and crack in three un-scrambled eggs. Don bear-pelt jerkin.

While blowing a shofar (See: “Ceremonial Ram Horn” p.384), drop kick the handle of the pan. The eggs should spill within a 3-foot radius.  

To scramble, do a jackhammer (See: “Breakdancing Moves” pg. 58) in the spilled egg.

NOTE: If space is tight in your kitchen, top rock can be substituted for jackhammer. But be careful, top rock must be mad tight.

In a lime-green Subaru Baha, catcall approximately five (5) overweight, middle-aged men.

By the time you’ve returned, the egg will have hardened. Add dashes of salt and pepper as desired. Cover hardened eggs with a hounds tooth throw rug. Vacate the premises.

Break in five years later in the dark of night with the spare key you hid in your grandmother’s hatbox. If the egg has been cleaned up, mix up the magnets on the refrigerator in an ominous way. If the egg has not yet been cleaned, clasp hands and mutter inscrutable incantations until the heat of the morning sun alights upon your troubled brow.

 

Serves you right.

 

 

 

Sizzling Sweet and Salty Bacon Strips

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Cover a large baking pan in tin foil and lay down eight (8) slices of thick-cut bacon. With an authentic 15th century halberd, carve the name of your one true love into the ceiling.

Sprinkle the bacon strips with brown sugar and set timer for eighteen (18) minutes. With your book of spells, summon a portal to Ik’tho’nar, land of the hate lizards.  Put pan with bacon into oven. Step into the portal.

Once in Ik’tho’nar, enter the competition whose name roughly translates to The Bonemulch. With your 15th century halberd, fight off the hoards of weaponless — though razor-fanged — lizard men who hunger for succulent manflesh. This should take about eight (8) moons.

Upon emerging victorious you will be given the privilege of slaying and subsequently feasting upon the hate lizard’s brood queen. DO NOT feast upon the brood queen. Using what lizard tongue you’ve gleaned in your fighting, hiss “behold!” and lower your halberd, thus teaching the hate lizards the peaceful ways of civilized man. Return, through the portal, to your kitchen.

Bacon should be crisp but not burnt. Poke each strip with your halberd to check consistency.

Look at the name you carved into the ceiling; realize it is the name of the hate lizard brood queen.

 

Serves 4

 

 

 

FOOD:

4.1 Stars

A (recently re-opened) new “Top 5” brunch has re-arrived. Palace functions on two principles: simplicity and mastery. From the menu to the décor to the coffee to the hash browns (oh sweet child those hash browns) to the ambient music it’s all done right.

PRICE:

Fair Trade

A price that’s in the range of most other high quality breakfast nooks. A solid meal will put you at about $13-$15 per person. Both items that I sampled (the omelet of the day and the corned beef hash) were worth their weight in scrumptious gold.

AMBIENCE:

Gourmet Boxcar

With about fifteen (or so, I didn’t count) stools sitting beneath a bar, this is a spot-on throwback to the origins of dinercraft. You’ll feel at one with your sitting-mates, in that you’re all at the same counter, all waiting for the same fantastic fare. Sure, this seating arrangement creates some difficulties when trying to seat large groups at peak hours. However, I’m guessing the owners never intended it to be a “large group” type of place. It’s cozy and intimate and exactly what it’s supposed to be.

SERVICE:

Spectacular

At least two people service a bustling bar. At no time was my coffee not hot, my order not promptly taken and my every brunchin’ need not satiated. No rushing, just right.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

I am a vocal and unabashed fan of Palace. It’s probably because their philosophy (as evidenced through pretty much everything they do) is so apparent. They do brunch. They do the staples. And they do those staples to an absolute tee.

 

(I know they also do dinner, but that’s only once a week. I’m very much looking forward to giving that a try too.)

 

 


Elevation Burger - Portland, ME




Awake, Being of Supreme Evil, to find thy second coming. You have been reborn — after a life of diabolical and malicious pleasure — into the form of a decrepit 40-something man with low T.

            This, demon, is the bosom of an entirely foreign torment. Can you conceive of its depravity? No! The author of your dolor laughs at the horrors in store.

            Yes! Awake! Rise to a wife who is giving you the silent treatment for not putting out the trash last night. Do you not understand that it’s Wednesday and now you will have to wait a week?

            You alone — who was slain by Pietr III, Battle-Saint of Ygg — will know what your demonic ways have meted out. Open your sickening eyes, demon, to true pain. 

            Limp to the office, evildoer, in a POS Camry whose passenger-side lock will no longer rise to the remote’s command. Find a note at your memo-strewn desk, auguring demotion. Listen, demon! Listen as your be-goiter’d, sweating boss eats a cruller while lamenting your “consistent lack of initiative.”

            You, demon, who had every morning drank a hog-carcass of Elysium’s own mead, cannot even grab an after-hours drink with co-workers because you will be late in picking up your daughter from fencing practice.

            I bellow with laughter at thy torment! 

            You, who converted armies into strewn corpses — your battle-grin the most feared in the Yondersphere — just crossed a street so as to not walk by a particularly ragged bum. And what of the nubile maidens who lusted day and night after your blood-soaked loins, going so far as to make fellating motions using the hilt of your fabled war hammer Painlode? They bring cruel juxtaposition to these two girls wearing matching State hoodies that just walked by and paid you as much attention as they would a fallen leaf.

            Oh, how you wish, demon, that your son did not have dyslexia and a low-level form of autism known as Asperger’s. Would it be too much to ask for him to make a friend or two? Of course! All he talks about are the rare birds that he has been cataloguing meticulously despite the fact that — thanks to his dyslexia — he often spells the birds names wrong, invalidating the very data he is hoping to capture. Is this not your just reward?

            Look across the dinner table, demon, at a wife you feel only mild dislike for. Compare it, demon! Juxtapose it with the smoldering kiln of passion you felt for Ilrex Urmstum in the tent made from her slain husband’s skin on the eve of the Reddening. 

            Gaze upon your daughter’s genetically inherited ineptitude at fencing, demon. Her opponent, Jayden Springfield, is even now trying to help your daughter land a wobbling thrust out of pity, so as not to shut her out. And Jayden’s father, the be’goitered boss who recently demoted you, has not even said hi despite the fact that he inadvertently sat only two people-lengths away from you in the same row of bleachers. 

            When near-death at the fiery gates of Skuulnendorge you laughed! Even as Pietr III swung his lava-mace of holy wrath at your manacled frame. Yet now you’ve spent weeks in trepidation leading up to your first colonoscopy!

            Oh Demon, thy weakness is legendary.

            The Olive Garden endless breadbasket is a mockery of your past life’s heinous feasts. Sigh at the wilting flowers perched on the table and the acne-ridden waiter who can’t remember your order because he’s probably high. It is no coincidence they seem as wicked mummers to the lavishly grotesque celebrations of your past life. Whole kingdoms converted into dining halls. The lamentations of the newly acquired slaves as they were taken upon the tabletops — grisly writhing centerpieces. The bodies of slain royalty feasted upon by you, demon, not even rising to relieve yourself, simply making the lord’s former throne yours in every sense.

            And back in the office, genesis of misfortune, your workspace has been moved next to the noisy printer.

            Hear! Yes, truly hear the pain in thy mother’s voice as she mistakes you for your long-dead father and laments about how disappointed she is in her only son. Know that a new world of agony unfurls for you with her accumulating dementia that has, until now, only caused her to mistake the stuffed dog you got her last Christmas for a real one.

            Ah demon, can you even understand the lameness of the gifts your children offer you for father’s day? Compare this pinecone, haphazardly glittered — a gift from your twelve-year-old daughter — to the boon you received from Caanute: a seven tiered hot spring of pure platinum soaking a league of hand-picked pleasure-maids from the carnal gardens of Lady Laboris, their bodies covered in jewelry that could buy a hundred kingdoms or destroy them. And your son, he lost his gift running after a Boat-tailed Grackle in the nature reserve.           

            Yes, Demon, you heard correctly! Your wife has decided separate beds would be best!

            You could take your life, demon. You dwell upon it. I know this. Most often when you’re stuck in traffic on I-91 going west and the sun is right in your eyes. Yet still you know you could never end this life with the same grandeur as Lord Soalbandian, howling and aflame, setting light to what little was left of his kingdom with his own flaming hands. Indeed, demon, were you to slam the accelerator and plow into the silver Ford F-150 with the hunting stickers ahead of you, only three cars max would be involved in your suicidal blitz.

            Do you understand, demon? Can you feel the grinding knowledge that it can, and will, only get worse from here? Your last life, the millennia in which you took your eternal rule of darkness as a natural gift, do you see that metempsychosis has meted its just reward? 

            Weep, demon, for none can save you. None!

 

 

FOOD:

3.3 Stars

Ersatz Five Guys.

PRICE:

Sea level

Nothing cray. The whole lunch with fries and burger and soda will enter the low teens.

AMBIENCE:

Socially Responsible Meat Eating Venue

I don’t know why I got a sort of corporate vibe from Elevation Burger, but the design just felt a little too clean for a burger joint. I know they’re all about “elevated” meats that make you feel good when you eat them, but the ambience was trying so hard to tie into the whole ethos that it felt like it lost its personality in the quest for minimalist cleanliness.

SERVICE:

Registered

Ordered at the register, a fine young man brought me my food. Nice and prompt. Very fine.

EAT OR SKIP:

Skip

You’ll note I don’t hand out too many skips. This is because I have great respect for the passion and energy that goes into turning a restaurant from idea to reality. However, Elevation really doesn’t seem to have much vision beyond a “mindful” tweak to Five Guys’ formula. Not that that’s bad in and of itself, it’s just that the notion of “burger” and “healthy” don’t mix for me. If I’m going to have a burger, I have already resigned myself to the future hypertension I am inviting. Elevation Burger’s burgers were indeed less greasy than many of their competitors, but they were also less satisfying. If it were between Elevation and McDonalds, sure I’d go Elevation. But if it were between Elevation and Five Guys/In-N-Out/Shake Shack, there is no question I’d be heading in the other direction. Elevation Burger is the Diet Pepsi of craft/chain burger joints. Take that as you will.


Elevation Burger
Address: 205 Commercial St. Portland, ME 04101
























Street and Company - Portland, ME




I

Jerry Dresden, Hake Diver Elite, scooted up Lexington Avenue on a brilliant, late-fall Sunday. His SCABA equipment was working swimmingly. Against all odds he would, were his mission successful, be the first hake to successfully accomplish two of the most impressive feats the Phylum Chordata had ever attempted: to not only navigate New York City, but to fly.

            His grandfather, Budge Dresden, the pioneer of hake exploration, had chosen New York City to explore in 1990. On a rainy summer day Budge had flopped onto land in his rudimentary Walking Bell, only built to last for two hours above water. Budge’s series of yanks on the water supply-line — a one, two, two, one combination that signaled, “Haul me in” —came after an even ten hours. Despite his excessive, fresh air exposure, he insisted, to the protestations of his underwater research team, on going back ashore the very next day. He was up for a full eighteen hours before his team felt tugging at the line. When they reeled him in, only the dorsal fin-shaped fabric to which the hose was connected remained.

            Budge’s journey, though unsuccessful, had yielded enough data to spark the hake public imagination and other expeditions were undertaken. Bilton Peabody, a closeted alcoholic and wife-beater, made deep and fruitful forays onto the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore from 1993-96. Renaldo Nestle, brother of famed conservative hake politician Dill Nestle, traveled up the Seine in 2001 and made four  tours of Paris that were later adapted into the blockbuster hake film, “Paris by Land and Love.” Recently, though, there had been only quotidian trips: beach buzzes, dock flop-bys, coastal sneaks, but nothing groundbreaking thanks a tightening of the THE — Terrestrial Hake Expeditions — budget and a contracting public imagination.

            An impressive mission was needed to reignite the public imagination. And so, instead of piddling the rest of THE’s meager budget into more flop-bys, the hake powers that be had decided to bet it all on one last-ditch act of bravado. That was why they’d chosen Jerry. He was the grandson of a hake hero, the best in the THE class of 2014 and, likely, the best ever. He’d been proven stalwart, unflappable and generally a nice young fish, genial to a fault.

            The stakes were immense. If his mission failed, it would most likely denote the end of above ground hake exploration indefinitely. Success, though, promised an expeditionary resurgence and possible rallying cry for all hake-kind.

           

II

Jerry’s SCABA whirred across the street at 21st and Lexington in search of Madison Square Park. Looking up at the buildings he felt a pang. Something about the way the buildings hemmed the streets and tipped…

            Jerry stopped where his mind was going by focusing on the humans.

            With no known predators but themselves, homo sapiens sapiens seemed oddly nonplussed at Jerry’s SCABA suit. The suit’s fuselage was built to resemble a Cairn Terrier — the only archival footage available to THE researchers in constructing this newest suit had been, oddly enough, the Wizard of Oz — though, hair being a sticky wicket for hake craftsmanship, the suit looked less like a dog and more like a slimy badger.

            But none of that mattered. His grandfather’s first expedition had delivered the invaluable discovery that no humans really cared about hake explorers. With no known predators but themselves, humans had seemingly regressed to a state of permanent un-vigilance. Certainly some were curious enough to glance at the SCABA suit— usually these inquiries came from adolescent humans, older ones tended to simply go about their business — but most lost interest quickly.

            It couldn’t be ignored. The restriction of movement aboveground affected Jerry more than he’d imagined. He had the urge, as any fish would, to explore all the surroundings: up, down, left and right. Being stuck to one surface was altogether disorienting… Everything felt too close. Jerry’s extensive training had never prepared him for this intense a feeling of immobility.

            Jerry pushed it out of his mind again. He had not been chosen for nothing.

            After gathering up a NY Daily News, a gum wrapper, seven cigarette butts and a paper plate he activated “Service Dog” mode and artfully snuck aboard a bus bound for JFK.

            While snappers were hailed as being the most technologically advanced and bluefin were known for their nearly religious investment in terrestrial research, no fish in the sea could beat the ingenuity of a hake. It was why hake-kind had always gone farther and seen more: they could get places. And Jerry was doing just that.

            Human flight had long been a fascination of the hake researchers. Attempting to glide through air as fish so effortlessly danced through the water seemed the ultimate act of hubris. Impossible even. Yet, they had accomplished it and the fish were determined to understand its implications firsthand.

            In the terminal Jerry slipped effortlessly past the nitrile rubber gloves of security.

            Feeling the hubris of success, Jerry fished in a trashcan for exploratory samples of a pumpkin spice latté, one of many boons desired by the THE.

Though he was closer to the plane, Jerry’s mind remained an un-ruffled slate. His movements precise and his manner perfected. I’ve got this, Jerry thought. Easy.

            Yet in stepping aboard the plane, he thought have planes always been this… tight?

 

III

What sort of tube had he crept into? Surveying the plane’s less-than-crowded interior Jerry secreted himself under a seat about midway-back in the plane. The flight attendants announced that the cabin door had been closed. And like a stiff, wooden frame, gnawed and gnawed by tiny termites, Jerry began to feel his poise crumble.

            Through his suit he could smell the noxious recycled air inside the cabin — acrid propane smog. There were bangs, the sounds of grunting drills. Surely the humans knew what they were doing, Jerry thought. But then again, thought Jerry, perhaps they didn’t. Gill-tightening claustrophobia seized him. The clinical walls of the fuselage crept inward. Jerry felt the water rushing through his gills. Panic caromed through his head. His SCABA suit felt as if it were constricting. He had to get out. Had to get out!

            Jerry ejected from his SCABA suit and leapt onto the carpet. Blind with panic, no plan of escape, Jerry’s mouth gawped helplessly on the mid-century modern rug of the plan. He was flopping and his gills burned and he felt the life draining… seeping out of him…

            “You gonna stick this one out, Jerry?” said the voice of Budge Dresden, hake explorer.

            Is this what happens when you die? Jerry thought as his last watery breaths escaped him. Hearing the voice of your hero before an ignominious death?  

            “Hey,” said Budge. “I’m talking to you.”

            Jerry turned and forgot everything he’d been thinking. Sitting in a fine tweed suit, cane at his side, bowler hat resting upon his lapless lap was Budge Dresden himself. Alive, 5-feet long from unchecked growth and breathing recycled air as if it were crystalline Bermuda reefwater.

            “You don’t need that muskrat suit,” said Budge. “Come up here.”

            Jerry remained limp.

            “Stop holding it in,” said Budge. “Let yourself breathe.”

            Jerry did. The cabin air had cleared of its dreadful stench and passed cool and crisp through his gills. He lay, breathing, for a little while, feeling the walls decompress, his mind return to its familiar, calm state.

            “Now get up here,” Budge patted the seat beside him with a flipper. Jerry, using the terrestrial movement techniques he’d practiced, flopped up.

“How—“ Jerry said.

“Not right now,” said Budge, flapping a fin at the window. The plane was taxying itself into position. “Don’t want to miss the fun part.”

            The engines cascaded to life, their hurricane gyrations rumbling the fuselage of the ship. No longer was Jerry worried; he was confused, in awe. Jerry looked over at Budge, the same Budge Dresden captured in a coral statue outside the hake Memorial Museum of Exploration: impressive jaw jutting outward, un-shuttable eyes looking patricianly upon him.

            “How are you still alive?” asked Jerry.

            “Don’t you know?” asked Budge.

            “Know what?” asked Jerry,

            Budge nodded at the words they were made of. The bedraggled manchild at his computer, blearily typing at six in the morning on a damn Tuesday trying to finish a story that was already beyond the pale of implausibility.

            “This is a story,” said Budge. “None of it made sense so far. Why should it start now?”

            Jerry gaped. “Story?”

            “A story,” said Budge. “A modality of speech with the intention of evoking emotion or understanding in the reader.”

             Jerry, or at least the words of which Jerry was made, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What does that mean for the mission?”

            “Well,” said Budge, rolling the bowler onto his sloped brow with a deft flick of his flipper in a movement that could never in real life be physically accomplished. “That depends.”

            “OK,” said Jerry.

            They sat in silence for a spell, feeling the plane gently rumble up into the crystalline sky.

            “Depends on what?” Jerry asked.

            Budge, or the brain of budge that was really the writer’s brain, thought about it for a second.

            “Considering,” Budge said.  “That you’re just an analogy meant to represent realistic human emotion and hopes, I have two options. One, I could disappoint the reader by actually remaining real, thus returning with you to the hake kingdom as the true hero: the one who learned how to live on land. That would, of course, make you a less than stellar side note in history and leave the question of how the heck we’re both breathing up here in a plane in the sky that the writer still hasn’t fully figured out how he wants to handle. That’s not what the readers want, though.

            “My second option is to remain what the readers most likely think I am right now: a figment of your imagination — a deus ex machina of an image meant to calm your crippling claustrophobia long enough for you to get back into your SCABA suit and complete this daring mission, sending you back to the hake kingdom to the fanfare and veneration you truly deserve.”

            Jerry nodded. He kind of understood. It was all getting a bit heavy.

            “Which do you think it’ll be?” asked Jerry.

            “Well,” said Budge, turning to look Jerry full on. “The writer is looking for an easy way out and there is none simpler than old deus ex machina. Plus, I’ve had my glory, I think it’s time you had yours too. You’ve earned it.”

            Jerry nodded as his mouth pulled into a slimy, involuntary grin. Beneath them the fang of Manhattan slid into haze. The two hakes gazed out the window — silent together in mutual admiration and contemplation — while the sapphire sky and sea melded into one endless horizon.

           

 

 

 

FOOD:

4.6

I’ve been saving this review for quite some time. Before Central Provisions slapped the Portland culinary waters with its formidable flukes, I would have said that Street & Co. was the best meal to be had in Portland (yes, even over Fore St.). I know that probably galls many of the Fore St. fan  club (it’s the better Street restaurant damn it!), but it’s purely from my experience living here for the past two-ish years. Street & Co. with its fisherman’s stew, its sole francaise and, last but not least, one biblically moist swordfish steak has proven itself to be a sumptuous pescitarian feast waiting to happen.

PRICE:

Thar she blows

It’s not cheap by any means, but it’s not going to bust you wide open like a Hugo’s, per se. It’s a restaurant made for “occasions.” Take a date. Take your parents. Take yourself. Unless you summer on an island, you probably won’t be able to afford to make it a daily excursion.

AMBIENCE:

Foxy Fo’c’sle

Not that this place actually feels like the below decks living quarters of a working ship, but it’s got a comfortable and intimate feel that lends itself perfectly to their fish-focused menu.

SERVICE:

At the Ready

Most often, when the prices rise, so does the service quality. S&C is no exception.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

I said it before and I’ll say it again, this is a Portland staple. Street and Co. has yet to serve me a meal that was less than belly-pattin’ fine. Even Ahab would (perhaps) crack a smile.