Po' Boys & Pickles - Portland, ME

[Click the picture to see it work properly. I can't figure out what sort of hocus pocus is making it look funky]


The band deserved to be back together. It was up to me to make it so.
           
            Big sky Willikers was the first member in need of finding. I knew from experience he’d be somewhere in the gutters of St. Roch. I zig-zagged the streets, quizzing people — sunning fat and happy on their porches — as to the whereabouts of a drunk man in rags. Some pointed some way and others pointed another. Big Sky Willikers was an itinerant imbiber; he rarely got sauced in the same establishment twice in a row.

            “Big Sky, you scoundrel,” I said at last to a heaping lump of black suit cloth in a drain. Big Sky turned his red balloon face to me, his eyes yellow as piss.

            “Grah!” he said, clutching for me. I leapt back. Big Sky had vices for hands.

            “You still have your spoons?” I said. Big Sky Willikers looked beyond the horizon and fumbled two pristine spoons from some deep crevice of his raiment. I smiled and nodded. I hailed a cab and sent him to a nice spot on Bourbon Street. I set him up with some fungo money, too. That way, if he wandered, he wasn’t going far.

            Next, I sniffed out Digbo Skrivens in a live oak tree, peeping on joggers and rubbing his belly. He looked like a decorative gourd in a Hawaiian shirt, his stomach all pooched out, full of crawdads.

            “Digbo,” I said. I poked him with a stick I’d been carrying since a while back.

            “What time is it?” Digbo said. I told him it was band time and that I already had Big Sky Willikers locked. I promised him all the crawdads in New Orleans if he’d join. We shot the breeze for a bit after that, going over the hubbub and the tooraloo.

            “Yeah I’ll jam,” said Digbo, at last. “Just let me ask my maw for the keys.” When it came to the ivories Digbo had hotter hands than satan himself. I happily told him to be at the Apple Barrel at sundown and reiterated about the veritable Everest of hot, spicy crawdad that awaited. I gave him cab fare and left him in the tree and he went back to scratching his protuberance as I departed.

            On my stroll to the abode of the brothers Preux, I ran into the Human Jelly-Bowl Lester Mancud, an insufferable plunker of strings.

            “I heard I heard you’re getting the band together,” said H.J.B.L. Mancud. He bowed his head and dabbed his eyebrows with a ring-heavy hand.

            “A rumor,” I said, strolling on. H.J.B.L. Mancud whirred after me on his Segway. “I just saw Big Sky Willikers knee deep in a blizzard at the Cat’s Meow.” Said H.J.B.L. Mancud. “Now I know he didn’t get there on his own. I suspect he was recruited to The Fangwater Bayou Revival.”

            He had me nailed to the cross. The Fangwater Bayou Revival was the name of my band. I’m Tid. I kept my peace and walked on, trying to poke my stick into the spokes of Mancud’s conveyance. He circled me wider.

            “Oh I’m gonna be there,” said H.J.B.L. Mancud ominously from his distance. “Wherever you is, I’ll find it! Just wait!” He whirred off fast ahead but was stopped at a traffic light until I caught up. He dabbed his eyebrows and sneered at me again. We waited there, ill at ease, for the light. When the walk signal finally turned Mancud zoomed off cackling and almost hit a pigeon.

            The day simmered thanks to the noonday sun’s efforts to suck all colors back to white. I had a good sweat on by the time I rapped on the thick wood door of the Preux house. Unfortunately, the brothers Preux — a twin drumming duo — were off gigging in Nashville for the week. Their mother did offer me a spoonful of gumbo for my troubles and that was indeed fine payment.

           


I took a sit for a spell on a bench beside Big Lake and who should come by but Rashad Dinkins. Rashad and I had — during our long history as beautiful friends — gigged from the west Levy to the east and come across a not insignificant number of Cuba Libres along the way.

            “Klem, you look parched,” said Rashad. And I was parched, that was the truth. I tumbled into his black Legacy and we made a straight shot for the Tremé. There, amongst the young people and music sneaking under every crack of every door we started a few tabs and got to wandering.

            As the day wore on and clouds joined the sun, so too did musicians of all stripe throng about us. It was like some great coniferous tree had been struck by a drunken driver, shaking the spring pollen that was every musician in New Orleans to the streets.  Floyd Scrumpins waved at me with a moonin’ grin as he sailed past my post at the open window of Johnny’ White’s Bar. I tried to tell him about the gig since his hands made thunderous rapture on the upright bass. I think I got it out in a way he understood. No way to be sure though on account of the noise. Also passed: Trevor Juniper, Kipper Goots and even Thrillin’ Jay Bounty.

            The day’s tropical humidity made my hair wild and speech emphatic. I lost track of time.

 


There is something sacred in a lost day, I thought to myself, slumped in the doorway of the Apple Barrel with my trumpet in hand. I didn’t remember retrieving it. I was not shocked, however, that my pockets were bereft of the meager dollars I’d managed to squirrel together for this day’s affairs. My head was liquid-greased on the swivel of my neck, my attitude upbeat as only a flow of Cuba Libres as wide and rapid as the Mississip can render me.

            “Lookee, lookee,” said H.J.B.L. Mancud, picking a fluorescent feather from the lapel of his enormous pin-stripe suit. He smugly waggled his rusty steel guitar at me. By God he was going to steal the show from me like always. But on this day — this impeccable, most rapturous of days — it was no matter at all.

            High above the sky blushed at the thought of another lascivious New Orleans night. As the lights came on Digbo Skrivens boogied up belly first, his keys slung up behind his head with his lanky arms hanging over. He looked high which was fine because he played tight when he was high. Big Sky Willikers hove up carrying a giant cup of something fluorescent. He waved his spoons at me and spilled some of the drink on himself. I patted his ass as he passed. And then luck of all luck the Brothers Preux screeched to a halt in their tiny Volkswagen Rabbit and unloaded all heck of drums. They said the gig had fallen through thanks to cross-booking by some money-grubbing Nashvillains. Even Floyd Scrumpins came by, giant bass strapped to his back like a coffin. I nearly cried from joy.

            I sat where I sat, unable to move for the beauty of it. The streets sprung alive with the cooling air. Young men and women touched each other’s bared skin, laughing and glowing with life’s lustful holiness. The bulbs of Frenchmen Street buzzed with vortices of insects incalculable. Even the palm trees across the way dipped and swayed with the vibrant air of a night yet young.

            I could hear my band in the back plunking and striking their way to a perfect harmony and I thought I should join them. What more holy joining than in music made by hands and breath, I ask you?

            Ah, I was drunk, me. Too drunk to philosophize, but not too drunk to play. I harrumphed up and strolled inside, waving my horn at every single pretty lady in sight. This was going to be a good show. They were all good shows.

 

 

FOOD:

3.9

 

At Po’ Boys and Pickles I ate both po’ boys and pickles and both were equally satisfying. My main course was a Debris Po’ Boy, lovingly filled with slow-cooked roast beef, gravy, lettuce, tomato and horseradish mayo. It was not a traditional Lew-see-ana po’ boy, but it was still as stunning as a bayou sunset. A serious combination of flavors abounded. I am eagerly awaiting my next visit to try either a fried oyster or muffaletta po’ boy (or both). However, I feel like I can vouch for these other fried variations strictly because of the fried pickles. The batter that lovingly surrounded each pickle slice delivered signature southern spice and the dipping sauce (a red pepper mayo, I believe) accompanied the flavor perfectly. The best part, however, were the pickles themselves. Pickled in-house with a signature blend of some very potent vinegar, these pickles were piquant, snappy and satisfying.

PRICE:

Busker’s Tips

$$ — Not cheap cheap, but reasonable cheap. I got out with a small po’ boy, pickles and a beer for about twenty bones, with tip.

AMBIENCE:

Southern Comfort

With not too much room to boast, Po’ Boys and Pickles feels comfy without feeling cramped.

SERVICE:

Intuitive Counter

You order from the fine person at the register and they bring you your food.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

I have been to New Orleans. This feels like a necessary point to mention. I have eaten a legit and hallowed fried oyster po’ boy from the one and only Domilise’s. Was my Po’ Boy — from Po’ Boys and Pickles — up to the creole snuff, then? I’d say yes indeed. The bread was crusty and authentic, the portion ample, the taste robust. They aim to do Louisiana cooking and Louisiana cooking they do. I will be going back and building po’ boys into my monthly cycle of urges and cravings. Po’ Boys and pickles, your name is well earned.


Po' Boys & Pickles

1124 Forest Ave

Portland, ME 04103


Portland Hunt and Alpine Club - Portland, ME




Soot rolled through the gutters and clumped in the branches of oak trees and accumulated on my windowsill like black snow. The castle at the end of town had burned the night before, its silhouette now a black skeleton, looming.

            Strolling into the kitchen I told Janelle, my wife, I was heading out to investigate the castle.

            “Isn’t it a work day?” she said, looking over her shoulder at me from the sink. She had her hair up in a messy ponytail and wore running pants and a baggy shirt under an apron that said “Just eat it.”

            “Yep,” I said and headed out. I waved from the yard and she didn’t look up from the dishes.

            The clouds had marched in under the cover of night and hung low. Surrounding the castle was a blast circle of burnt grass. A halo of smoke flew high over the blistered frame, suspended somehow in the clouds, quavering in and out of sight. Its former grey facade had burned to a pencil sketch of blackened steel; it had been a castle built for R.P. Duboise, a wealthy contractor who had wanted verisimilitude only in the look of the castle, not its construction. Coal-black dust dyed my shoes and the legs of my khakis up to my shins. Each step puffed up a groping cloud that quickly dissipated back into soil.

            The castle’s moat had evaporated. Crocodiles peered from around the roots of the surrounding maples, cursing the water’s departure.

            After ducking under some yellow tape, I strolled through the vast anteroom beneath scalded pilasters and a crumbling, burnt arch. I smelled flowers, faintly beneath the acrid smell of burnt everything. The ceiling was smoked in whirling arcs of soot. Massive, wooden trunks of charcoal leaned against each other in consolation. Debris scattered with each gentle push of breeze.

            Why had I smelled flowers? I ventured deeper.

            I picked my way down what appeared to be back steps to a room knee deep with ash. This must have been where he kept his scrolls. R.P. Dubois fancied himself a descendant of Merlin and had bought up copious scrolls of ephemera, Apocrypha and indecipherable nonsense. His collection had made the local papers four years ago. A gray mélange of burnt edges and yellowed parchment littered the floor like bones in cremains.

            Janelle had told me not to come back but of course that had been a joke. It was a joke we always had, since I’d started jogging. It was funny to us, I think.

            I mounted a long spiral staircase at whose bottom I spied flickering light. Perhaps the fire had yet to go out? Perhaps it had come so low that it was burning a hole into the ground itself, searching deeper to eradicate all notion of this place. My heels scuffed against the time worn rock steps. The deeper I ventured, the more powerful the smell of flowers became. I discerned the type: rhododendrons.

            My only son had gone to war three years ago. He still wrote but his letters are in a different language now. His life has been transformed into a breeze of military jargon, a shifting storm of CPs, engagements, and MREs.



The steps to the castle basement were slick with mold. The fire hadn’t reached this deep? The incline was steep, but I liked it. Water beaded on the stone walls. These walls were actual stone. Old and dank. The danger of exploration had been gone from my life for so long, ever since my son’s toys had taken up the space where my gear had always been. I’d dove into the cenotes of Mexico, breathing in clear, blue oceans below laughing Mexican families. I’d seen nations of bats clinging to the ceiling of a cave in Guatemala like bristling hairs. Now I mostly stare at the pond outside my office window with the pitiful fountain whose clogged left half forces the right side’s water to spray in a violently unnatural mist.

            Each step took me further into the smell of the flowers. I liked it. My khakis stuck to my skin with sweat. The steps continued down and down. As they spiraled the light grew more golden and pure, the dank smell more intense. Light sparkled off the schist embedded in the wall. Carvings appeared, ancient runes. How could they look so old? This castle was only six? I felt a thrill in my heart, spiraling downward.

            I turned the final curve and saw the bottom. A shadow flickered at the base of the steps. The shadow of a bald head, crooked over shoulders in concentration. No movement. I thought of a wizard, bent with a hawk’s feather in his hand, arcane words on his lips, conjuring flame from stone.

            I stepped out into the light and was dazzled. A blistering flash shone out from across the room. A muffled “the hell?!” came from beyond the light.

            The light shut off revealing two men in thick, yellow gear.

            “Who are you?” the man on the left said, removing his filter and goggles. His sweat-reddened cheeks hemmed in a formidable, gray mustache. The bottom edge of the mustache curled down in a scowl. This was R. P. Dubois — I recognized him from the papers. All around us were rhododendrons, of every shade and color. Grow lights blazed from the ceiling.

            “I’m Jean,” I said, strolling in for a handshake. They both shook my hand with quizzical looks on their faces.

            “Are you a surveyor?” said the man on the right. He was slightly taller and was the bald one I’d noticed. His eyes were blue.

            “Nah, just a neighbor pokin’ around,” I said. I rapped the wall closest to me with my knuckles. I don’t know why but it felt like the right thing to do. It made a hollow thunk.

            “You have to leave,” said R.P. Dubois. “I don’t know why you thought it’d be OK to be in here. You’re trespassing right now.”

            “Ah,” I said, rapping on the wall again. “Gotcha.”

            I didn’t leave though. I didn’t want to leave.

            “What happened?” yelled Janelle through the rolled down window of the car. I’d just stepped out of the police station. I folded up the citation the cops had given me, shoved it in my back pocket and shrugged. The clouds had all cleared and the moon’s light was sapped by the harsh, buzzing streetlights as she drove me home in silence. In the driveway I picked at a couple weeds as Janelle slammed the front door. The light in the bedroom turned on and then off. I looked up at the pale moon and let the chirp of what sounded like all the crickets in existence fill my ears. I wish I had flowers.

 

FOOD: 3.9

DRINK: 4.3

Portland Hunt and Alpine Club is a key player in the elevation of the Portland drinking scene. Their cocktails are no dilettante’s creations. The owner/bartenders understand their cocktail lore as well as their ingredients. The food also delights, as they embrace their Scandinavian theme all the way to the “gravlox” (sic) and aquavit on offer. The Skier børd was satisfying, featuring local cheeses and jams. But the star of the show is, and remains, their popcorn. Buttery, parmesan-covered pieces of heaven with a sprinkling of jalapeno heat, this popcorn refuses not to be eaten. Seriously, it just might be the most addictive bar snack I’ve come across.

PRICE:

Club Status

With great drink comes great expensability. The prices fit the fare and the atmosphere: $10 signature drinks, $6-7 draft beers, snacks anywhere from $5-15. If you gorge on food and drink you can incur some bank account carnage. But as a spot to quaff a couple leisurely cocktails before or after dinner, this is the jam.

AMBIENCE:

Ricola!

I am both gladdened and saddened nobody on staff wears lederhosen. The clean, spare mixture of white and natural wood lends the interior just the right amount of Scandinavian class, without going overbørd on the theme. While I sound like the old man I truly am for saying it, “hip” is the most apt descriptor of the space.

SERVICE:

No Hunting

During my visits, the timing has been killer, the servers available and the attitudes upbeat.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat (Drink)

While you may, in your head, just be dropping in for a cocktail, the whole package is available at Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. Admittedly, you won’t be getting stuffed on any of the hors d’oeuvres on offer, but you will easily stave off any hunger you’ve accumulated with carefully considered fare. The drinks, though, are the main attraction and, no matter your liquor of preference, they shine like the polestar when viewed on a clear night from the heights of Kebnekaise.

 

Portland Hunt & Alpine Club
75 Market St
Portland, ME 04101

The Holy Donut - Portland, ME

 

At Davie Trembleau’s stupid eighth Birthday party I snuck into his brother’s room and stole a baseball signed by Mo Vaughn. The following day at school I was certain that Davie’s brother, a stringy tree of muscle named Dirk Trembleau, was going to find me, pick me up by my neck and hold me that way until I expired.

 

I didn’t see Dirk that day, but I did know that he knew what I’d done. Don’t ask how I knew it. I just knew. In fact, I knew it with such a fierce certainty that the next day I faked a fight with an oaf named Philbert Klarson and got my parents to transfer me from Doyle Rider Elementary School to Eisenhower Elementary school twenty minutes away.

 

This did not allay my fear as I’d hoped.

 

I daily contemplated surrendering Dirk’s Mo Vaughn ball. Possibly hurling it onto the Trembleau’s hockey stick-scattered front lawn in the dead of night. But then Dirk would have my prints. Then he would have proof of my thievery and murder would be justified. No, it was impossible. I hid the ball in the deepest recesses of my action figure drawer and prayed for absolution to whatever god would have me.

 

For the remainder of elementary school and junior high I expected Dirk Trembleau’s towering form to materialize for its due revenge. All unopened lockers held murderous Dirk. Half-cracked Janitor’s closets hid Dirk’s glinting, beady eyes. Dirk was omnipresent.

 

Upon graduating junior high I celebrated by burning the ball in raging cathartic flame kindled in my Dad’s rusty fire pit. This expunging the object of my guilt actually granted me moral release. For a time...

 

In high school, making out with Taeesha Wilkins on the embankment behind the Krispy-Kreme, I expected a now-bearded Dirk to slither out of the dumpster behind us and put a Ka-bar to my neck before shushing me into eternal darkness.

 

On the rolling hills of my college campus, delivering my senior thesis on the Ethics of Using Children in Diaper Advertisements, my nerves sung. My worry at that point was that the tenured chair of the Philosophy and Communications department, Dr. Lionel Hargraves, was none other than Dirk Trembleau in a Hollywood-quality skin suit. I was convinced that during my speech the faux Dr. Lionel Hargraves — with my guard finally and fully down — would rip the mask from his face and, shrieking Mo Vaughn’s name, disembowel me before the assembled masses, which included my parents.

 

During a significantly wonderful date with a co-worker, Lana Klee, whom I considered out of my league by about three A’s, I forgot Dirk for a second. I was gazing into her eyes as she gazed into mine. Their shade of green entranced me and for a brief iota I was completely unguarded, enamored and open to Dirk’s nefarious tricks. Luckily, a dish crashed in the kitchen, shocking me out of my reverie. In that moment it dawned on me that this woman was nothing but a sting, a snare, set by scheming Dirk. When she invited me back to her place for coffee after that first date I politely declined. She took this as chivalry and restraint. I knew I had just saved my own life. I never talked to her again.




After exchanging vows with Peggie Brumeinder, a fine, sturdy woman, I died inside when the priest called for the ring bearer. Surely, instead of a gay young child flouncing down the aisle it would be haggard dirk, the shorts of his boy-suit hardly covering his rippling vengeful thighs as he plowed toward me, lifting a long red sock knotted into a noose from its place on the white satin pillow.

 

Scuba diving just off the shore of our honeymoon suite in Cancun, I was alert and waiting for a free-diving Dirk to emerge from behind every reef, spear gun in hand. He would smile, a thin stream of bubbles escaping from his pressure-flattened face as he loosed a red, metal dart into my wretched, pilfering heart.

 

As my son stepped to the plate in his very first game of little league, I nearly jumped onto the field and tackled the ump. Surely, at the first pitch, the umpire would rip his mask from his face revealing bloodshot eyes and a crooked, unhinged smile. Umpire Dirk would grab my son by the shirt yelling, “you’re out! For goooooooood!” After rending my flesh and blood in twain, he’d come after me.

 

Waving from the window of our car as our third and last child tromped away with his new found college friends, I finally admitted to Peggie, my wife, my persistent fear. She, the patient woman that she is, explained to me my phobia’s illogic. I wanted to believe her. It had been a lifetime. What maniac could hold a grudge so long? Especially one as unfounded as this? I mean, who could care about a baseball signed by a B-level Red Sox player for that long? But then again, that’s just what Dirk would want me to think. That’s the way Dirk worked. I smiled and nodded at her and the rest of the drive was spent in casual banter. Home again, I locked myself in my study, pulled a wrinkled, oily picture of Dirk from my wallet and stared at it until sunrise.

 

For my Eightieth birthday Peggie set up a beautiful surprise party for me at our favorite restaurant, Fandangles. Everyone was there: even our eldest brought his family from way out in Sacramento. As our longtime server, Cindy, rolled out the cake, something tore in me. I stopped worrying. Looking around, I finally realized that I was in the comfort of dear people as a well-lived octogenarian. Dirk was probably long gone, lost to lung or liver cancer, his cremains scattered into the mildewed pond of the trailer park he’d called home. The humongous cake — it was very large — was wheeled beside my table and everyone enjoined me to blow out the giant sparkling “80” candle on top. I gripped my cane with a knobby fist and stood to the applause of all assembled. Teetering, I leaned in to blow. The cake really was rather massive. I had to lean far in, my lips stretching to aim air up at that towering candle. My curved back creaked and my neck stretched, pulling my old waddle into taut lines. Just as I began to blow, iron fingers closed around my neck. I looked down to see that the fist now choking me was connected to an arm emerging from the cake! Candle still sparkling atop his head, Dirk burst from inside, frosting and cakemeat clumped in his gray, rat hair. He was old, older than me, his cheeks sucked into his sunken , murderous face. Dirk lifted me, somehow still strong as an ox. The assembled masses looked on with the glow of vengeful justice burning in their eyes. They had been in on it all along! Everything was correct! Dirk, yellow teeth crooked and bared, suffocated the life from me and said not a word. What words needed to be said? I was a thief and he was my Hammurabi. A lifetime of betrayal would finally receive its just reward. The light slowly receded. My legs stopped swinging. I welcomed this blackest release…

 

“Grandpa!” said my son’s youngest daughter, a three year old in pig tails. “Watch!” She twirled her light blue dress. The party was winding down around me. I rubbed the crust of sleep from my eyes. Surely it couldn’t have been… A small piece of marble cake rested on my plate, untouched. “Watch me,” she said again, spinning. I looked around the room, no Dirk. I looked out the window to the parking lot, no Dirk. “Grandpa, watch!” she repeated. I loved her but distraction was just what Dirk wanted. I had to stay vigilant; Dirk always was.

 

 

FOOD:

4.0

Holy, Holy Donut. Such sweet ambrosia rarely have I tasted. Before I get into the praise, it is worth noting that there is a flavor discrepancy between a piping fresh doughnut and one that has been out for a spell. This is not unique to The Holy Donut, it is simply worth noting. Fresh = 4.3, Nearly Fresh = 3.7.  Moral: get them fresh in the morning. The steaming hot Dark Chocolate with Vanilla Glaze I had yesterday morning was a revelation. Crisp outside with a just-sweet-enough doughy, moist center. The Holy Cannoli! also delivered a divine punch. The true offering, though, was the Bacon Cheddar Filled doughnut I had before writing this. While impossible to fit into nearly any regular routine because of its no-doubt astronomical calorie count, the Bacon Cheddar Filled doughnut socked me in the flavor place. Soft, fluffy, semi-sweet dough enwrapped a bounty of gooey cheddar and crisp bacon. Seriously, I crushed it in two minutes and now I feel pregnant.

PRICE:

Not Nuts

Each doughnut runs about $1.50 depending on the flavor (the Bacon Cheddar was $3.50). While this may seem a bit pricy to certain breakfast lovers, I aver that their quality easily surpasses the price. Buying one doughnut can have you feeling like a doughnut baron.

AMBIENCE:

Local Sweetness

In the 194 Park Ave. location (the original), there’s that a-little-too-wide-open feel featured in more than a few Maine-only locations. However, the color palette is unique and the feel of the place is warm and inviting. Plus, doughnut smell galore.

SERVICE:

No Holes

Wait in line. Pick the doughnuts. Get the doughnuts. OK thank you yes.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

The Holy Donut delivers on its promise of Biblical taste. Their potato-infused dough packs moisture, unmatched in the vast doughnut realm. I am not a scholar of Maine-only doughnuts, but in my humble experience, the Holy Donut is the best doughnut in Maine, nay, the North East.


The Holy Donut

7 Exchange St

Portland, ME 04101

AND

194 Park Ave.

Portland, ME 04101

Market Street Eats - Portland, ME


How to Impress Girls

According to An Eleven-Year-Old Boy

 


Do a High Kick:

If you kick really high when a girl is watching, she’ll have to like you.

 

Perform The "Near Fall”:

Or, surprise her with this one:  pretend to fall and then, at the last second, roll out of it and stand up like, “oh you thought I was gonna fall?” Girls love agile guys.

 

Show Her Your Pokémon Trading Cards:

Now that Amy Hoople — I mean she — she’s all weak in the knees because of your crazy reflexes, show her your rare shiny Blastoise Pokémon card and even maybe let her hold it for a second, if she asks. Don’t let her take it out of its protective case. Make her respect you.

 

Jump Off the Swings:

Still not getting the girl? Get on the swings and go really high. Like, super high. Wait until your future wife approaches, then, right as she’s nearing the monkey bars you jump off the swings and, if you can, blow a kiss at her while you’re in the air. By the time you land you’ll basically be dating.

 

Know Stuff:

This one will definitely get her attention. Try saying something you know to your friends — like how wombats are marsupials — but say it loud enough so that Amy hears it and understands that you’re a man.

 

Win at Four Square:

I don’t know why none of these have worked so far? I won at four square all recess and Amy Hoople still says she likes Dwayne Williams. Girls are confusing.

 

Pop A Wheelie:

Why is Amy— I mean, the girl still not talking to you? Probably because she hasn’t seen you pop a sick wheelie. If you hold the wheelie for more than five seconds then she’ll talk about you at lunch where all the girls sit together and talk about stuff and giggle.

 

Throw Something Really Far:

This one has to work. Pick up a stick or a rock or a crabapple and throw it far. If Amy sees you throwing something really far, she’ll be attracted to you immediately. I’m absolutely certain of it.

 

Build a Cool Fort With your Dad in Minecraft:

Build a cool Minecraft fort, show it off to your friends but then be like, “woops, didn’t see you walking by, Amy. Just showing off this HUGE fort that I built with my Dad.”

 

Have Your Parents Drive A Cooler Car:

She probably doesn’t like you because your mom drives a taupe Subaru Outback. If your mom would just buy a Dodge Viper, or at least a Corvette, you might have a chance at making Amy think about holding hands with you as much as you think about holding hands with her.

 

Send A Note:

Pick a girl that’s trying to be friends with the girl you like. But make sure the girl you choose isn’t too popular, like Ellie Mnorczyk. That way you can be sure she’ll deliver the note and won’t show it to anyone else because you wrote stuff that you really mean.

 

Don’t Send A Note Through Ellie Mnorczyk:

Especially if it’s a note to Amy Hoople, because she’ll just share it with everyone at recess and they’ll all laugh at the poem you wrote.

 

Sit at the Front of the Bus:

If you’re really cool, you can sit at the front of the bus and talk to the bus driver. You’re not sitting there because everyone in the back is talking about your love poem and chanting things like “If you’d be my girlfriend, I’d show you the world, friend!” No, you’re just making everyone jealous that an adult is talking to you and treating you like an equal.

 

Don’t Be Afraid of Dogs:

If you’re trying to practice your high kicks over the weekend don’t do them in the park where there are big scary dogs. And especially don’t run away from the dogs and scream as Amy and all her friends just happen to be walking by. Most dogs online look friendly unless they’re barking, but in real life they’re big and they smell. Running away from a barking dog should be OK, but apparently cool kids have to be able to pet barking dogs.

 

Don’t invite Amy to Your Birthday Party:

By starting a rumor that you’re not inviting Amy to your birthday party you’re showing that you’re too cool. This only works if Amy cares.

 

Tell Amy She Smells:

I told Amy she smelled when she was in line at the water fountain and then I ran into the bathroom and hid in a stall.

 

Who Needs Girls Anyway:

I’m gonna go make another fort with my Dad and Amy hates me and everyone still hasn’t stopped talking about the note and its been like four days and I don’t like school.

 

Ignore Amy Hoople:

I’m not even going to look at her anymore.

 

Oh Now Ellie says Amy Likes Me:

I don’t understand girls.

 

 

FOOD:

3.6

Wraps galore are on offer at Market Street Eats. I got the Buddah (sic) Wrap as it was dubbed “An MSE Favorite!” by the menu itself. Featuring a crispy, flour wrap around eggs, Havarti cheese, bacon, avocado, tomato and onion, this karma-infused wrap was well balanced and disappeared hastily. The egg was done in a traditional over medium/hard style and the ingredients were fresh. It was the sort of wrap I could see eating on the way to a ski trip or walk in the woods. It was not necessarily a meal I’d ever sit down and savor, though. This was a tasty meal that easily delivered a food fix.

PRICE:

Marketable

$1/2 — Cheap wraps, anywhere from $4 - $6. You won’t feel cheated, nor will you feel you’ve gotten the deal of the century. Good, sturdy prices.

AMBIENCE:

Burlington, VT

There’s something about the memorabilia on the walls, the whimsical menu item names, and the casual, varnished-wood atmosphere of the place that somehow says, “these owners probably support marijuana legalization.”

SERVICE: '

Street Vendor Style

I ordered from the cook. He cooked the food. He rang me up. He gave me the food. A fine situation and a nice gentleman to boot.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Market Street Eats is one more solid notch on the Portland Food Belt Of Gloating Rights. While it doesn’t necessarily blow the socks clean off the feet, it’s a nice little place that makes a great breakfast wrap (I can’t speak so much for their lunch wraps, there are very very many. Lunch will be handled in a separate post). If I lived closer I would probably drop by on the way to work. Of course, this is no Dutch’s or Ohno situation, which is fine; those two juggernauts are not within the realm of mortal cooks. Market Street Eats does its thing its way and that way is fine with me.

 

 

Market Street Eats

Portland's Old Port

Across from the Regency Hotel

36 Market Street

Portland, ME 04101

207-773-3135

 



Gelato Fiasco VS Gorgeous Gelato - Portland, ME


The burner was ignited beneath the stew of war when, during morning snack time, the boys chewed with their mouths open. The girls expressed their disgust both visually and verbally — making gross-out faces and gagging. The boys’ unmannerly posturing continued until the responsible adult, Miss Pfafferkorn, intervened.

            Though volatile, tensions would have relaxed by recess were it not for the note delivered by Wendy Oilerman — chief female liaison to icky boys through Nick Batte (whose jacket Wendy had kissed once during a game of Red Rover).

 

            Boys, read the note. It continued,

 

            sniff each others (sic) poop.

 

            ~ Girls

 

            Upon comprehending the note’s contents, sweat broke out on Nick’s palms. Despite the missive’s undetermined meaning — was it a command for the boys to smell feces or a statement of irrefutable fact? — the aggressive tone was clear. Surely, thought Nick, such inflammatory language will foment war most gruesome! Nick looked to Wendy, note trembling in hand, and asked if this was indeed the message he was to deliver. Wendy nodded gravely. Such a simple thing, a nod. Yet with it — a dip of the chin, a lowering of the eyes — the entire 5th grade class of room 3E embarked upon the path to battle.

            Dutifully, Nick returned to the throne of Tyler Nilperson, who lounged at the only purple desk, majestically abutting the blocks, picture books and map of Africa. Upon receiving the note, Tyler’s wisp of a blonde mustache twitched. Tyler’s long, straight hair broke in a gossamer wave upon his shoulders as his head rose. Lancing across the room, his eyes struck the obvious mastermind of this nefarious declaration.

            Helena Grouper-Sarkey, heir apparent to “Large” Laird Sarkey’s Lawn Accessories empire, innocently jotted in her “Watch Me Spell” workbook.

            “Helena!” thundered Tyler pre-pubescently. Helena turned, brushing her prim locks aside with a ring-littered hand. After meeting Tyler’s gaze, Helena jutted her narrow, pale chin and sniffed long and lustily. Tyler crumpled the note in his chubby palm.

            Tell of the message spread within minutes of its arrival. The class was on edge, the air crackled with tension. Thus, the remaining interim until recess passed with sickly slowness. Potentially, this would be a trip from which none returned.

 


On the playground, the boys and girls huddled in their respective camps: the boys in the shaded, cool dirt beneath the jungle gym and the girls on the dandelion-dotted copse behind the swings.

            Tyler, the boys crouched around him, began to delineate an involved plan. Despite the shade, the air was warm and the boys quickly grew restless — battle had been promised and it would be battle they had. Phillip Phillerson, a hot young stallion, was the first to break ranks. Taking matters into his own hands, Phillip burst from beneath the rubber-coated steel of the playground, bellowed, and lobbed a knobby chestnut into the girl’s tittering circle. Before the missile could land the girls scattered like mice from a boot, flitting to all corners of the playground. Helena’s plan sprung into motion. In seconds, whooping girls surrounded the boys on all sides, wielding handfuls of sand, clumps of grass, and other sundry ordnance. Tyler yelled for the boys to form a phalanx, each man facing out in an impenetrable circle.

            Under these conditions, the boys weathered an onslaught of debris. The girls’ form was strong, their aim true, yet the boys had the power of comradeship and kept their heads down. Helena, a ruthless tactician, quick understood the futility of this assault and shifted course. With a command, the girls dropped their ammunition and together loosed a blood-curdling call.

            “Tag,” they yelled. “We’re it.”

            Lo how the boys did quake, surrounded as they were, potential cooties hemming them in on all sides. The women began to count down from ten, a generous gift to these imperiled men. Surely, the descending numbers were the countdown to their everlasting departure from this realm. Ravenous girls ranged around them like hyenas around a kill, waiting to tag and touch and cootify.

            “Eight,” said the girls.

            Yet as the winds of war blow, so too do they shift. For Tyler, great Tyler, had a stratagem as yet unused on the field of battle-play. With a shout, Tyler brought the young men huddling in and told them what must be done. The boys were shocked, incredulous.

            “Five,” said the girls.

            “No…” croaked Jaden Ingersoll, fumbling with his fogged glasses. “I… I can’t!”

            “We must,” said Tyler.

            “Two!” said the girls.

            And madness though the plan may have been, battle does not preclude insanity's triumph. If successful, these twenty boys would wrench their souls from the tip of grinning death’s scythe. If unsuccessful, no God nor demigod would find them fit for mercy.

            The boys fanned out, teeth set against the coming hardship.

            “One!” said the girls. “Ready or not here we come!”



The glittering amazons rushed in, fine puffs of dirt rising with their every footfall. Hunger triumphant painted their faces. They did not want to simply tag — ye LORDS no! — they wanted the boys to be IT!

            “Hold!” Tyler cautioned, his arm raised to the burning sky. The cootie onslaught was close enough to be smelled — girly body spray and freshly washed clothes rode the howling wind. “Hold!” said Tyler again, his resolve a thick girder, threatening to bend under the heavy futures of the brave boys that dared call him friend, leader, master. The whites of the young girls' eyes blazed brazen and triumphant, their tiny teeth bared in smiles of victory assured. They were ten feet out. Now seven. Now four. Now two…

            “Now!” roared Tyler. The boys turned as one, their backs replacing their fronts, and pulled their pants beneath white buns that gleamed opalescent.

            The girls screamed and scattered. The mooning defense broke their charge like waves ‘pon a mighty bulwark. Helena threw herself to the soil, shaking her fists at the cruel fates. How could she have overlooked the ultimate power of a full moon? And the boys did not relent; their pale posteriors stayed proudly proffered, some waggling, some immobile as granite, as the girls put a maximum of distance into their retreat.

            And so that day the future men of the world emerged victorious from the skirmish. Though their victory proved short-lived, as once the administration understood the enormity of their war crimes the boys were all punished with the grave sentence of no longer being able to play with Gumby, the class’ communal hamster.

            But for that moment, looking into each other’s grinning faces as they pulled up their pants, the boys knew the ineffable glory that springs to the breast of all men after battle. That radiant splendor when against fate and time and odds incalculable, you stand together unbroken, and wonder in awe if this world had ever been so beautiful and perfect and right. Yes, in that moment, feet nestled into the fragrant cedar chips of the playground, the boys beheld the victorious grace of life most sweet and drank in its potent, undiluted fullness.

 

 

FOOD:

Gelato Fiasco – 3.5


Gorgeous Gelato — 4.2

To Preface, I tried to get the same flavor at both places in order to get as close as possible to an “apples-to-apples” comparison. A perfect comparison would be impossible. This is also a dumb food blog written by a lunatic. Take that as you will.

GF: I sampled a cup of the “Cookie Fix” which, to my mind, was the closest option to a Cookies ‘n’ cream-type situation. While enjoyable, the vanilla-based gelato was a bit more cloyingly sweet than the sort of full-bodied French vanilla I prefer. The crumbled cookies (whether Oreo or some Hydroxy-esque knockoff I cannot say) peppered throughout the ice cream weren’t really crumbly either. I tasted more cream filling than anything else. It was not unpleasant but it wasn’t close-your-eyes-and-press-your-lips-together good.

GG: Here, I sampled a cup of “Oreo” gelato, which, rather than having the cookie crumbles of its Fiasco counterpart, appeared to have whole Oreo-esque cookies blended up in it. The taste was rich, robust and ultimately satisfying; a flavor much closer to the Oreos I know and love. While I didn’t finish the tiny bowl, the amount I ate was surprising given that I’m not a huge sweets person and I was feeling full from the Fiasco bowl I’d already polished off. This was some fine, balanced gelato.

PRICE:

$


Gelato Fiasco gets the nod on economy. The scoop GF portioned out towered over the max capacity of its meager serving bowl. GG’s serving size was a bit less ambitious.

AMBIENCE:

GF: Cold Stone North

GG: Try-Hard Grandma


GF: Professional in a franchised sort of way. The ambience's coziness is diminished somewhat by the imposing arc of gelato tubs that line the eastern wall.

GG: From the chairs to the colors to the tablecloths, Gorgeous Gelato has a scattershot approach to decoration. It all fits together in a quaint homey way that definitely fits the mood of one looking for a bit o’ the sweet. It’s not impressive. It just kinda works.

SERVICE:

Chipper Teens


GF: The ladies behind the counter were peppy and quick to serve. The only other thing to remark is that they talked non-stop nearly the entire time I was enjoying my treat. Girls, girls girls!

GG: The lone counter watcher was a young lady who graciously reminded me that I had to pay before I walked out the door. Seriously, I got my gelato, thanked her and tried to leave. My previous experience at Gelato Fiasco had checked the “paying for gelato” box in my brain. I apologize, young woman. I am not a sweet-toothed, penniless vagrant. I simply forgot to pay. I am still ashamed.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

(at Gorgeous Gelato)


Why did I go get gelato in the middle of this godawfully cold “spring?” I don’t know. Why does anyone do anything? Sex? Money? Power? Take your pick. Regardless, judgment must be passed.

GF: I tried one flavor. Maybe their other flavors are better? The flavor I had was sweeter than a Louisiana huckleberry (is that even a thing?). It was too sweet. Granted, I am a savory man by choice and trade, so sweetness is not necessarily my territory. Anyway, its flavor profile was very one-sided and left me in want of a pretzel or something to balance it out. Frown.

GG: This was what I am now talking about. The GG Oreo gelato had the signature taste of an Oreo’s crumbly cookie-parts (I obviously like Oreos) with taste hints of that glorious whatever-the-hell-it-is frosting disc intermixed. The texture was velvety and the lasting taste was one that sank deep into the taste buds, demanding further tiny bites. In a head-to-head, I'd go to with the Gorgeous.

 

Gelato Fiasco
425 Fore St,
Portland, ME 04101

Gorgeous Gelato
434 Fore St,
Portland, ME 04101


Scratch Baking Co. - South Portland, ME



“Chief,” said Nell, sauntering into my office. “You called for me?” She closed the door and sat without asking, her diamond earrings glinting in the hollow yellow light of my desk lamp.

            “I have a confession,” I said. I lit a thick Cuban cigar with a lighter held in my giant, brown flipper. “I’m a walrus.”

            Nell’s walnut-brown eyes narrowed. That was all the reaction she allowed.

            “You,” said Nell, picking her words carefully. “You’re a… a walrus…”

            “Correct,” I said, blowing smoke between my two-and-a-half-foot-long tusks. “I’m sorry to break it to you like this. I tried to think of a better way, but none appeared. I’m sorry… baby.”

            Her breath probably quickened and I bet the heart underneath her glorious chest might have even skipped a beat, but I’ll be damned if she showed it. She was a hard dame, Nell. That’s why I’d hired her. That’s why I loved her.

            “So, you want me to believe,” said Nell, straightening her back. “That the best goddamn precinct in New York City is run by a four-hundred-pound aquatic mammal?” She shook her head. “Nuh uh… I’m not buying it.”

            She was so beautiful like that — angry, confused — it nearly broke my enormous heart. “Nell I—“ I said. She cut me off with a flat palm in front of her. Her hard façade was cracking. Below us, sirens from the city street wailed up at the closed window. Nell sat up, shaking her head.

            “You’re a walrus,” she said. “You think I’d fall asleep every single night thinking of a walrus? You think I’d write out drafts and drafts of the words I’d use to break it off with my fiancé for a walrus? You think I would have felt my stomach do a somersault when I heard that I was wanted in the office of a walrus?!”

            She got up and stormed for the door, wiping quickly at her eyes. I felt the need to say something, but what could I say, propped as I was with both flippers on my mahogany desk? I thought of something.

            “Nell,” I said.  “Just listen.” She stopped, didn’t turn. Standing there, her black hair framed against the smoked glass of my door, she looked like a silhouette of a dream. God, the professional way she dressed, trying to hide curves that refused to be hidden; I’d have swam through arctic waters just to be with her. “I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’ve gone crazy. But no matter what I am and what you believe: I still want only you...”

            It was pretty good for off the cuff, I must say. Nell turned. Her eyes shimmered red; she wanted to let me keep talking. She wanted us to work out no matter what. I wanted that too.

            “Please, Nell,” I said.

            She started to say something herself but Detective Alvarez burst in the door without knocking. Nell casually hurried to the window.

            Alvarez’ eyes were bloodshot and his red hair askew. The thin, red mustache that lined his upper lip like mascara quivered with sweat. “Chief!” said Alvarez, panting. “Chief we have a triple homicide out in Jersey City and… hello Nell."

            Alvarez was Nell’s fiancé.

            “Hi,” Nell said, turning from the window, the picture of normalcy.

            “If you’re telling me about a homicide in Jersey City,” I said. “That means it’s him again, right?”

            “Party kids. Spring break from Oklahoma,” said Alvarez. “All eighteen years old. Two males and a female. Yeah Chief, we think it’s him.”

            “Goddamn it,” I said, slipping my government-issue suit jacket over wherever a walrus’ shoulders are. “Nell, we’ll finish this conversation later.” Nell nodded, a true professional.

 

 

I flopped out of the squad car onto the frigid pavement. Red and blue lights painted the lone building abutting the lot. Eight motionless officers leaned against their squad cars, sipping at lukewarm coffee in the weed-strewn lot. We were out in the boonies of Jersey City, no place for three revelers to end up. What a shame.

            “Same arrangement,” said Detective Alvarez, getting out of the passenger’s side. I nodded. The kids’ bodies were arranged on the ground, two prone, one bent at the torso. The dead skin of their pale, skinny bodies glowed opalescent in the full moonlight. Their bodies formed a W shape on the ground. Or was it an M? We’d seen this two times before and it was starting to get on my nerves.

            I hunkered down to look at them. These murders were all alike, three young, innocent kids — two males, one female — taken from their natural habitat in the packed jungle of bars that made up the meatpacking district, brought to a foreign place, poison froth leaking from their mouths. Who was this maniac? What was he — or she — trying to prove?

            “Chief!” said Alvarez. “Look.”

            I humped next to Alvarez; he had the girl’s skirt lifted. “He’s taunting us,” he said, pointing to words etched over the faint blue veins of the girl’s pail thigh. This was new. He’d never sent us a message.

            The handwriting was hurried, the blood still not fully congealed. It read, “Monkey see. Monkey do.”

            I was inclined to agree with Alvarez — that this was just another taunt, another piece of the puzzle — but it didn’t sit right. I scanned the scene again, two guys and one girl. Far away from home. I gazed up at the lone abandoned building looming behind us. Its façade was grim, chipped brown concrete framing rows upon rows of windows. So many windows. He’d underlined see. He sees. He could see us.

            “He’s still here,” I said, rearing up on my hind fins. “He’s still here! Form a perimeter!”

            The scene sprung into action. Coffee cups rattled to the ground and service pistols were cocked. Policemen bristled from behind the parked cruisers like some epileptic phalanx. I caught my breath behind my vehicle — walruses aren’t meant to hustle. Alvarez, seated next to me, his pistol up in front of his flushed, red face, gave me a look that said I was either nuts or a genius.

            “What the hell is going on, Chief?” he asked. I twitched my tusks towards the abandoned building. It stood not fifty feet from us, five stories of windows, some broken, some yellowing to opacity, lining its five dilapidated floors.

            “He’s in that building,” I said. “Let’s go catch this maniac.”

 

 

 

 

The front door opened with a grating shriek, as if its hinges hadn’t been moved since the twenties — they probably hadn’t. Behind us, police officers spread out in a perimeter in case our killer tried to make a slick escape. I shuffled in first, a flashlight raised in my flipper; Alvarez followed close behind. I could hear his pistol rattle in his shaking hands.

            Around us oily dust was pushed up in piles next to skeletons of machines. It was just another manufacturing plant, from back when Jersey had jobs for the middle class. My thick brown hide rasped against the aged concrete. Chipping paint and the odd spray of graffiti littered the walls and girders that somehow held this hollow carcass up.

            “Chief,” whispered Alvarez, shaking. He pointed to footsteps in the grime. They were fresh, leading deep into the back. I nodded and we trudged deeper.  

            My flashlight created more darkness than it pierced, shadow darted behind shadow. Crack heads and squatters had taken everything of use; only forgotten debris remained. My thick torso’s scrape echoed against the concrete walls. We followed the footsteps back and back until they came to a door. Painted on its cracking wooden face, in what used to be beautiful hand-written calligraphy, was the word  “Foreman”. I motioned to Alvarez and he raised his pistol, releasing the safety. We got into position beside the door and I started counting. Even my whisper echoed.

            “3… 2… 1…” I threw my girth against the door, splintering it like Styrofoam. I bellowed for the killer not to move. First, there was silence. Then a bang echoed through the darkness and a blunt stick knocked the flashlight and gun out of my flippers. Both went clattering uselessly toward the far wall.

            “Alvarez!” I yelled. “Get your light on!” But there was only silence again. The smell of the place inundated me, engine oil mixed with dirt and mold, a forgotten smell. But there was something else… something acrid to it that I just couldn’t place. Maybe it was my own fear. I tried to slide toward a corner, I had no idea where this maniac might be or what he’d done to Alvarez.

            As I flopped helplessly, I heard a chuckle.

            “Chief,” it said. It was a deep voice, more gravel than I was used to hearing in it. But it was a voice I knew.

            Alvarez flicked a light on his face; it was pinched up, rage or madness or some admixture of both boiled on the surface. He was across the room, sitting with his feet up on a desk. “I know you’re a walrus.”

            What? How could he know? I’d never told him. Alvarez shined the flashlight in my eyes.

            “I’m a what?” I said, squinting against the glare.

            “You think I didn’t notice?” He said, his voice a sickly growl. “All those pounds of whole fish sent to your office? The way you never talk about family, where you came from. Oh I picked up more than you think.”

            Alvarez turned the light’s beam back on his face. “I know about you and Nell. I know the way you two skulk around like your feelings aren’t on your sleeves! But you don’t know Nell like I do. And that’s why you’re here. That’s why I wanted to show you this…”

            Alvarez flicked a switch and electronic buzzing filled the room. Halogen lights jittered on, dazzling my eyes. Slowly, the images coalesced. The walls were covered in pictures. That had been the acrid smell. Pictures, so many, but of whom I couldn’t tell.

            “Look,” said Alvarez, cocking a silenced pistol and leveling it at my brown dome. “Look at them!” I raised my flippers and complied. Sidling to the wall I focused on the one closest to me. It was of Nell, younger than I’d ever seen her, looking happy, eating a banana. The next photo showed Nell prone in a cage, naked, a dart sticking out of her neck. The next she was sitting in a tree, people were watching her through bars. And more and more: people in lab coats teaching Nell sign language, Nell picking mites out of someone's hair. There was something connecting all these, some pattern or reason in all these images… I just couldn’t figure it out.

            “What are you trying to show me?” I asked. Alvarez cackled, his mania growing by the moment. “You know, Chief. I know you know.”

            I didn’t know. Did I? Hadn’t I suspected this since the moment I laid eyes on her? Hadn’t I felt it in the way she walked with her knuckles lightly grazing the floor? Hadn’t I noticed her swinging from the pipes of my apartment when she was happy? A tear rolled down my giant wrinkly cheek. “Nell is a chimpanzee.”

            “Yes!” shrieked Alvarez, spreading his arms wide. “And how does that make you feel?” Alvarez leapt onto the desk, kicking a stack of dusty paper to the floor. I was confused. Nell, is a monkey? It blindsided me, sent me reeling. I slumped into a corner.  “How does it feel to have something hid from you?! Still love her? Can a walrus love an ape?!”

            “Nell is my love,” said Alvarez. “My love. You can’t even begin to know what that means. You love Nell the person. You could never love Nell the stinking simian!”

            I straightened my back, shook my girth. What was I thinking? What did that change? Nothing!

            “Of course I still love her,” I said, puffing my chest out to its full barrel splendor. Alvarez stepped down from the desk and raised his gun. I began to ebb towards him. “Did you kill those girls? What the hell is wrong with you?”

            Alvarez’ gun shook slightly. “You think I could get the chief of New York City’s most honored precinct out to just any old crime? You think I could get such a figure — such a walrus! — to join me into any old dilapidated building? You think I didn’t know that there was only one way I could break you and Nell up and still get away with it?”

            Alvarez shot me, the bullet hit just below the sternum, taking some meat on its way out my back. I groaned, stopped.

            “Do you think they’ll find you?” Alvarez pulled out a remote with a red switch on top. “I mean… five stories of brittle steel and chipped concrete. That’s a lot of shrapnel.”

            I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was focusing on the next breath. It felt like an elephant seal was sitting on my chest.

            Alvarez kicked open a back door, letting in the sound of sawing crickets. The room hovered at the very extremities of focus. I had to get him, but I didn’t know where he was. My body felt heavier than it already was.

            “Well,” Alvarez said from somewhere in the onrushing blackness. “Got to get back to Nell.”

            I heard a click and then the shut of the door. I didn’t even have time to bellow for help before a dull thud rumbled out from deep in the factory. A large pillow of shrieking warmth wrapped itself around me, lifting my body from the ground. Everything seemed to suck inward as the air was filled with the unthinkable wrenching shriek of falling steel.

 

 

 

 

I woke up to blinding light and the soporific beep of a heart monitor. Phosphorescent light stabbed my pupils, so I squinted until it only hurt a lot. I tried to roll over and stopped immediately as pain tore through my chest.

            Next to me on a little tray was a piece of paper, folded in fourths. I gingerly moved a flipper, the same pain growling with every inch. I flipped the note open. It read:

 

            Chief,

 

            I know you know. Alvarez disappeared. I can’t see you, not anymore.

 

            Nell

 

            I lay in the bed listening to machines tell me I was alive. I didn’t believe them. I’d get Alvarez for this, all of it. I’d make Nell understand it didn’t matter what she was. I’d fix everything if I could only move.

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 


 

FOOD:

4.3 Stars

*bows at the foot of a bagel altar*

PRICE:

Light on the Dough

$1/2 — For the quality of the eats, the money is well worth it. Bagels themselves aren’t pricy; the baked goods by the counter can run a bit more — in the $4.00 – 6.00 range. Scratch is filled with fluffy pastries that won’t leave your wallet light.

AMBIENCE:

Goods on Display

Bagels are fresh and copious. A horn-of-plenty’s worth of savory and sweet delights await you by the front counter. Fresh cream cheese awaits in the fridges. It’s a walk-in-and-get-what-you-need sort of place with a nice, homey ambiance for good measure.

SERVICE:

Swift Lines

Chipper, fulfilled-looking people manned the cash register. Working at a place that’s producing a product of very obvious quality certainly pervades the workspace with a feeling of wellbeing.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

If you hadn’t already guessed, Scratch has my number. The quality and care they put into their baked goods is abundantly apparent first in the layout of the shop — baked goods cover nearly every flat surface — and second, upon biting into one of their heavenly bagels. A Scratch bagel’s crisp crust enwraps a matrix of fluffy inner-bagel-flesh that, when lathered with their insanely tasty, made-from-scratch cream cheese, is a piece of gustatory splendor. Seriously, I’ve been back already this week. I will not, however, give Scratch the nod over my all-time favorite bagel spot, Brookside Bagels, but it is a close — and delicious — second. Go there. Eat bagels. Love life.

Scratch Baking Co.

416 Preble St, South Portland, ME 04106



Gone Drunchin'

Welp... ratfarts!

This week's post is taking longer than expected. For the sake of quality, I've postponed it to next week. In the meantime, however, allow this GIF to salve your tender disappointment.

Thanks for your understanding,

Drunch

Brealu Cafe - Portland, ME




One summer’s morn we Good Gentlemen endeavored to erect a den in which to consume copious illegal drugs. It was Tim Tam’s plan — he being the one who procured for us our intoxicants. In compensation for Tim Tam’s underwriting of our risk, the rest of us provided payment for both our future drug den’s raw materials and the various uppers, downers, hallucinogens and barbiturates to be enjoyed therein.

            Out in Buff Brick’s mole-pocked backyard — not that he was the only one in this house, simply it was his name on the lease — we began the build with weed-fueled confidence. F or reasons unknown, Tim Tam had written down the broader strokes of our wooden drug shrine’s plan on his forearm. Though the dimension’s Tim Tam had written out seemed dubious, we attempted to follow them nonetheless, sawing and angling the boards just so. Soon, thanks to the dissipating cloud cover, Tim Tam’s directions became illegibly slick with sweat. We had smoked enough joints by that point to conclude that this was no setback at all: our human ingenuity would fill in the gaps.

            Indeed how hard could erecting a “Children’s Tree House W/ Secret Hatch” be? We were grown men, lords of construction, high on the air in our lungs and the fresh cocaine in our noses. In our mighty hands we gripped the very tools of creation, hammers and screwdrivers we wielded with a creative fervor that put shame even to the prolific architects of Rome. With abandon we unleashed our unfettered creativity upon that pile of lumber! We bayed furious hoots of victory with the stroke of every hammer and the turn of every screw. On that verdant morn we went at it simultaneously, each man his own foreman, attaching this to that and that to this. The smell of the pines mingled with wood dust, nails and the acrid powder at the back of our throats. From us sprang the will of man immemorial.

            Only with Lasko’s shrieking whistle did we stand back to admire our craftsmanship.  In that first creative salvo we had manhandled the sundry boards and connecting pieces into a gnarled thicket, no use for the structure could be discerned; nonetheless, we were proud. We Good Gentlemen knelt shirtless in the presence of our wooden obelisk, the five of us: me, Tim Tam, Lasko, Buff Brick, and Nard. We clapped each other’s sweat-riddled backs and rubbed molly on our gums with vigor.

            As the New England sun reached its apogee, we retreated to the shade of Buff Brick’s veranda to discerningly pick from a buffet of pills, chromatically arranged by Tim Tam’s neurotic wife, Eleanor. The neighborhood was quiet but for the EDM blasting from the tinny computer speakers we’d wedged into the sliding patio door. Gazing at my fellow comrades lounging upon and under a mismatched set of patio furniture, I knew that today would be different. Not like all the other days in which our drug-conjured heaven felt barely reached before it vanished again. I knew — with a certitude I will not to prescribe to the grand armada of chemicals already broadsiding my cortex — that this day would be new. Today, we would not come down off our high and spend the foreseeable future huddled like lizards beneath the soiled futon’s cushions. No. We would stuff our bodies with potions of unknown origin and potent effect. We would imbibe and quaff and snort and pop our way into exaltation. We would flood ourselves with the building blocks of revelation until our bodies burst asunder into pure light and found, in this dissipation, the sweet release of the infinite for which all mortals yearn.

            With a squeal, Tim Tam hurled himself into Buff Brick’s above-ground pool. Soon, we all joined, floating in our various states as sparkling clouds passed stoically on the breeze. My mind wandered through its own catacombs, browsing for thoughts of significance. I cannot say exactly when, or how long my revelation took in coming, though the sun, I will say, seemed to be scudding across the sky. Staring up into the scattered radiation of the heavens, my mouth opened as my perfect idea took form. You see, there comes a moment in each man’s brief stint upright, that his one idea — his mental birthright — takes form. This idea will be perfect in its simplicity and need only be spoken to unleash its magic. Floating, a noodle clutched between my thighs, such a sibylline thought struck me.

            “Our structure,” I said. “It must join us in the pool.”



With warrior’s cries we slopped soaking over the sides and flanked our monstrosity. Cleaving to its form like ants upon fallen bread, we yanked and pulled at it with no organization. This first attempt at hefting its mighty girth saw more than one man’s blood spilled, as many of the nails and screws were either bent, half-embedded or lancing out some or other side of its planks. Our masterpiece would not budge. The mélange of drugs storming through our collective nervous system allowed no failure in the face of such simple hardship. Nard, a rangy boy, volunteered to crawl beneath the structure and lift from below, a suggestion that  was immediately overruled by Buff Brick who deemed himself the only man for such a job. Standing, one foot planted upon the obelisk in a pose of premature victory, Buff Brick delineated his plan: once we five sufficiently hoisted the obelisk, mighty, shirtless he would scamper beneath and bear the brunt of the load upon his capacious back. None of us could gainsay this ambit, nor speak out against the various flaws in its design; Buff Brick, once loaded with amphetamines, brooked no debate healthy or otherwise.

            After dutifully distributing and consuming the tabs of acid, the five of us daintily positioned our bleeding hands in corners and angles un-prickly. Upon Lasko’s count of “Yessah!” mightily did we heave our cumbrous creation from the earth, blowing spit-flecked air like dust-bowl oxen hard beneath the yoke. With our wooden porcupine not three feet off the ground, Buff Brick dove beneath and began to lift with his back and piston legs, laughing in his addled state at the pain of a thousand pricks. Five lumbering, labored steps — more than the mightiest slaves of Babylon — did we complete before I lost my footing on the wet grass and our construction came crashing down upon Buff Brick. Pinned beneath this gravity-driven iron maiden, he screamed for succor. Scrambling, Nard, Lasko and I — Tim Tam wandered back into the pool — tried to free Buff Brick. Our first heave saw the construction rise a single inch before crashing down again onto our comrade’s back. Only his lamentations could be heard above the EDM still pumping from the patio. We stopped a moment to re-orient ourselves, even going so far as to contemplate enlisting Eleanor — off busy counting the number of buttons on the air conditioner’s remote control. We decided against bothering the fairer sex.

            The second rescue lift raised the beast an iota more than the last and Buff Brick managed to turn over before our hands slipped and let the tormentor back down upon him. Buff Brick, pinned and bloodied but now facing skyward, bellowed for us damned jackals to give him the ultimate strength left in our protein-starved muscles.

            We reset ourselves and hoisted in unison. From Mother Gaia herself did I pull my vigor. Tim Tam, Lasko, and I trembled, drugged blood slamming through our veins, as we laboriously delivered our creation to the heavens. From beneath, in a position he knew better than thrusting betwixt the thighs of a female, Buff Brick blasted a mighty bench press into the stinging nettles of nail, splinter and screw. In its straining ecstasy my consciousness flew above my very body and I saw us there, a living representation of humanity’s struggle, stopped in time. For are we all not striving to release our fellow man from burdens of our own creation? Are we not simply joined in the collective endeavor to raise up our works and free ourselves from daily torment in hopes of living out the rest of our lives in leisure, splashing with Tim Tam in the pool?

            Roaring and slicked with sweaty blood Buff Brick, the most fantastically muscled newborn in all of creation, was granted parturition. His massive form panted hairless upon the dying grass. We clapped him on his body and laughed at the comedy of our misadventure. After a hit of opiates each we enfeebled gleaming four left our creation where it hunkered in victory and joined Tim Tam back in the pool. A conciliatory bottle of Jack was passed between us.

            There we stayed until the hallucinations overtook us. We Good Gentlemen, tripping proverbial balls, retired once more to our dens of isolation under a darkening sky, bracing mentally for what harrowing ecstasies awaited. Indeed, today was not different from so many others. We did not reach the nirvana for which we all sought. Ye gods though did we try! And will try just as hard again!

 

 

FOOD:

2.0

Oh Brealu Cafe, would that I could sugarcoat this section but, despite multiple revisions, the crux of my criticism could not be softened: you served me cafeteria food. Even the comically large pancake could not distract my taste buds from the crumbly scrambled eggs, the lukewarm, bland hash browns, and the “Canadian Bacon” that was, generously, warmed ham. I do not know if the staff at Brealu was even aware that the meal they cooked up was unimpressive — I didn’t make a scene or anything. And even if they did know that the meal was sub par, would that be worse? In defense of Brealu, the food was by no means inedible. It was simply food that was not good. I did not enjoy the food. C’mon with your lackluster food.

PRICE:

Equivalent to Other Diners

You will pay similar amounts of money to other standard diners for food that is dissimilar.

AMBIENCE:

Half-Renovated Bookstore

Walking in the door for the first time, Brealu’s interior presents itself as a Schrodinger’s cat-like paradox. One cannot tell whether the layout is discordantly charming or unknowingly formless; it contains the possibility of both at once. Only after you dine do you realize that it is the lesser of those two outcomes. I was genuinely excited upon entering, thinking I’d stumbled upon an eccentric gem of a diner that “didn’t give no crap what I, or anyone, thought.” A diner that deliberately sported near-empty bookcases and a less-than-economical layout simply because it wanted to march to the beat of its own diner drum (kinda like Silly’s, minus the layout economy (Silly’s makes good use of its space)). This was not the case.

SERVICE:

Kindly

I had a nice server who dealt out a leisurely meal. Good timing and oft-warmed coffee. Nicely done in this realm.

EAT OR SKIP:

Skip

How I wish Brealu were a hidden gem worthy of blog orisons as one of the Portland diner pantheon. Alas, for its completely perfunctory fare it is condemned to the stygian darkness of Skipdom, from which it will almost assuredly never return.

 

Brealu Cafe

428 Forest Ave, Portland, ME 04101


158 Pickett St. - South Portland, ME


See that young lady right over there? Why, she’s about your age, son. This must be kismet. It’s just her and us at 7:43 AM grabbing a bagel on a Saturday morning. She’s a hot ticket too… The way the warm morning light hits her freckly cheeks, she’s a looker m’boy.

            You’re going to talk to her and there are no two ways about it. First: make sure your eyebrows are full. Straighten ‘em I’m serious. You gotta make ‘em like a sharpie marker attack. The first thing a woman notices — even if she doesn’t know it and most of ‘em don’t — is a man’s eyebrows. Believe me, if you got no eyebrows you are as good as a damn eunuch to these females. They yearn for robust brow hair like what grows in our family. We’re blessed in that regard.

            Oh! Oh you see that? What she just did… No of course you didn’t. Jeezum crab apples perception must have skipped a generation. No she didn’t just wipe her mouth. That’s rookie talk son. She dabbed at the right corner of her lips using her left hand. That means she’s ovulating. What’s ovulating? It means she’s in rut! In heat! She yearns for jelly, son! Alright, alright I’ll cool it. She is looking, yes. But she can’t hear me, I have precise volume control, down to the foot.

            Put simply son, you have a chance here. Hold your breath, quick. Hold it… Keep holding, what are you looking at me for? Ok… Keep holding, this is important, boy, life or death here. Just one more second annnnnd… exhale.

            Can you feel it? Your manhood is at a rolling boil. You are throwing off more pheromones than a fightin’ chimp.

            Alright, go get her.

            Wait! Sit back down quick. Almost forgot: when you speak to her, speak only in the present tense. No, “I was hoping.” Or, “I would like to.”

            “I am taking you out.” That’s a good, strong, declarative sentence. “You are joining me for a meal tonight.” Why aren’t you holding you breath? Hold your breath again, son. Yes, now!

            And think only winning thoughts here. This is your one shot at keeping this family’s genetic seed from dying in the fallow desert of your loins. What I mean is earth’s very evolutionary line depends on this, son. From its inauspicious beginning, wallowing and fighting in the primordial sludge, life has found a way to hold strong its singular line. From prokaryotes to eukaryotes to fish to crawling marmots, up to the pea-brained Neanderthal life has won the battle against both death and time. Now, right there! in your greasy teenage abdomen that line is in danger of meeting its end! Will you let life as we know it die? Or will you man up and go ask a young woman if she is not opposed to continuing this magical mystery of being? Can you just take time out of your busy morning to do that? Huh?

            I thought so. Alright you can breathe again.   

            Look at that, it’s working already! You see her sip that coffee? Don’t act like you’re at a monkey house, son! Watch better. Watch more carefully or this whole thing is shot. There you go. Like that. Just glance at her sippin’ that coffee. She can feel it, the imminence of the vital tradition of courtship: the necessary hokey-pokey prelude to the flamenco dance of sublime creation.

            What are you doing just sitting here, looking like a damn cactus? Get over there! Get over there and — oh man! Look at that! She’s leaving. No, sit back down, sit back down. Jeezum crow! You had your chance and look what happened. Slipped away. I hope you learned something, son, because I certainly did. I learned quite a bit about you. I’ve had it up to here with all your big talk. Next time you quit yapping and act! Jeezum crow…

 

 

FOOD:

3.4

My inaugural trip to 158 (One Fifty Ate) Pickett St. began with high expectations. My first foray had me sitting down to an “everything” bagel with cheddar, Canadian bacon and eggs. Everything was in place, but the end result just wasn’t really impressive. The bagel was well made, but the eggs, cheese, and C. bacon just didn’t bring much flavor to the table. After resorting to salt and pepper, the bagel went down much more tastily. My second trip furnished me with a a lox special featuring chili garlic cream cheese and the works. The bagel was presented very nicely and they didn’t skimp on anything, but again, the flavor just didn’t deliver what I was hoping for. In short, both bagels felt absent of the necessary seasonings, a bit bland, in honesty. Don’t get me wrong, they were both better-than-average bagels. But after hearing the hush-voiced veneration 158 Pickett receives, I expected something far more exceptional.

PRICE:

Bagel Bite

Most of the bagel specials run around $6-$8. Add a coffee to that and you’re barely into the double digits. Good brekky prices.

AMBIENCE:

Bespoke Hermit Shack

This might be my favorite part of One Fifty Ate. The artsy, hominess of its interior seems the right amount of intentional. I know the space itself is small and gets crowded (and a little smoky), but I went early both times and never had to deal with a line. The wood and art and cozy seating perfectly matches the type of food they’re serving up.

SERVICE:

Counter Culture

They turned out my bagel sandwiches quick and easy both times. Definitely had the speed and quality aspect of the operation wrapped up. I’d imagine with a line their speediness wouldn’t be as impressive, but I’m sure they pump out the orders post haste.

EAT OR SKIP:

Skip

Like most of the skips I’ve ever given, this comes with disclaimers and equivocations. First, I know that my opinion will not stop tons of South Portlanders and USMCC students from frequenting 158. Heck, if I lived in South Portland, One Fifty Ate would most certainly enter into my weekly breakfast schedule. However, if you’re driving around, looking for the best place, so many other breakfast sandwich options (Ohno, Dutch’s, Tandem Bakery, etc.) are superior to what I had at 158. All things considered, I don’t want to make it sound like 158 isn’t a good bagel shop. Their bagels are legit and their ambience and attention to detail are well appreciated. It’s simply that they don’t appear to have a handle on the sort of seasoning that sets apart the good places from the better.

 

158 Pickett St.
158 Benjamin W Pickett St, South Portland, ME 04106

Q Street Diner - South Portland, ME


Laird Gilkes IV had stipulated in his will that his wake would take place inside Q Street Diner. Now, the tables were pushed against the wall by the entrance and the chairs were all arranged in rows facing the window, in front of which Laird’s waxen body sat.

            Laird didn’t want a traditional ceremony in which he was laid out like “a snoozin’ slouch,” as he put it. Laird wanted to be seen in action. So his embalmed form was sitting at a table; his rigid arm raised a black cup filled with steaming coffee and his head was thrown back as if caught at the peak of a raucous joke. I imagine it had cost an extra penny for the morticians to figure out how to rig him up  — fishing wire shot from Laird’s limbs making him appear, if you caught the right light, to be a shrieking man snared in a massive spider’s web.

            I was the first one there, being Laird’s best friend. Laird’s wife had long since passed thanks to a weak heart — she was a large lady — and they’d had no kids beside. The Lesters — a father, son mortician operation — whispered with the wait staff by the door; I think the younger Lester had his eye on the waitress with spectacular hips.

            Sherman and Layla Kinnerman were the first to arrive; this surprised me. Sherm had, understandably, harbored a grudge against Laird. Twenty years ago, or so, Laird took Sherm’s family on a Caribbean vacation while Sherm was in Toronto on business. It had never come out whether or not Layla Kinnerman, a minx even at 70-something, had sealed the deal with Laird over those sunbathed seven days, but rumors still abound in several directions. Thus, my surprise at Sherm’s promptness. Maybe it was just that Sherm couldn’t wait to see Laird dead and wanted to make sure he had front row seats. He nodded to me as he passed, his head frilled in a fur hood, pulled up against the dead chill of winter.

            The wait staff began to circulate with plates of silver dollar pancakes, one of Laird’s favorites.

            Next through the door was Barry Trembleau. His bald, buzzard’s head nearly scraped the ceiling and his oxygen tank wheeled with him like a little an obedient fire hydrant. Barry and Laird had fought side by side in Vietnam. When the nights got late and the Goldschlager — another favorite of Laird’s — got low, they’d always come to the story of the Asian goose they’d used to flush out a Vietcong bunker. The way Barry would tell it, it was the height of tactical stratagems. The way Laird saw it, they were two men higher than an Aroostook spruce, futzing with wildlife.

            The story went: Barry and Laird were stuck in an encampment on the Vietnamese coast and thus were powerfully bored. After ripping down an overstuffed blunt filled with the army’s best wacky tabaccy, Barry, skilled with ropes, decided to snug a poacher’s knot around the leg of a goose that just wouldn’t stop honking around their position. Laird, an inveterate jokester looped a grenade to the other end of the goose’s rope and pulled the pin. Their mirth at this outrageous prank turned instantly to chagrin when the goose flew into their bunker. Hollering, they fled, pursued by the hissing, explosive goose. After running for several agonizing seconds, Barry and Laird looked back to see the goose still in hot, flapping pursuit. So when the explosion came, it surprised the heck out of them that it was from far behind. As luck would have it, Laird was a terrible knotsman and so the grenade had gotten caught in a bush that happened to also be the entrance to a critical Veitcong bunker. Hearing a close explosion the Vietcong had taken themselves as besieged and come one by one, hands up, surrendering to the two giggling G.I.s. Both men had earned some stripes on their uniform for that.

            Now, seated in a thick ribbon of sunlight, Barry shot me a lazy salute.

            Next in were the Juarez twins, both their young families trailing in tow. Laird had become a sort of demigod to the Juarez twins — now in their respective primes at thirty-six. They had emigrated up to Maine from Juarez, thus their unimaginative moniker given by Laird. Their real names were Ronaldinho and Pitá Izquierdo — far more difficult to pronounce than simply saying the Twins Juarez.

            Laird had given them their first job at his repair shop before they spoke a lick of English. Laird himself had made sure they stayed in school long enough to get their bachelors and then as a gift for completion he’d introduced them to the Harrison twins, two long-legged beauties who now carried their respective offspring into the Q Street diner.  

            Heralded by a keening shriek, Shep Blatter burst through the door.

            “It’s not true,” he shouted. “Gilkes was healthy as a bull moose not one week ago!”

            This was an outright falsity. Laird had been laid up in hospice for three months with the spreading cancer that would bring his quietus. Shep, on the other hand, was a drunkard whom Laird occasionally accompanied out for rips. I could smell Shep’s breath from where I sat, the space afore his white-whiskered maw quavered like air over Arizona pavement.

            “See!” said Shep, squinting one bleary eye at where Laird was strung. “There he is, enjoying a steaming cup!” Shep teetered to where Laird sat — Shep’s walk stemmed exclusively from his lower torso, his thighs wide and knees stuck at the thirty-degree angle. “You old hound you had me going,” Shep said, reaching out and patting Laird’s hand. Upon feeling Laird’s cold, mannequin skin, realization burrowed its way through Shep’s bulwark of rye. He fell to pieces right at Laird’s feet. After a tasteful pause, the Lesters hauled Shep to a seat near me in the back where he whimpered and slugged conciliatory snorts from his flask.

            It being about time, people began to filter in more rapidly. There was Chilly Wentzle, an old fishing buddy of Laird’s with whom Laird had won the East Coast Angler’s Award with leviathanic stripers straight from ’77 to ’82; the “Gilkes Chill” those years had been dubbed. There was Candy Humboldt, Laird’s modern jazz dance partner. There was the entire Clan Lugerbank, a laconic pride of feral North Ponders whom Laird had schooled in Greco-Roman wrestling.  They were followed by, among others, Cougar Manx, a local Flamenco guitar wizard, Vidalia Gooch, a transgender gypsy who had exorcised Laird’s 1986 Ford Bronco, and Biff Termagant, the self-titled Boldest Man Walking.





            I recognized nearly every attendant. Most were townies and others were old friends of Laird. Laird and I had been best friends since junior high, so I knew pretty much everyone he did. Closeness notwithstanding, there was one man who shuffled in that I could not place. He wore a dark green cowboy hat pulled way down over his forehead and had a beard that sprung out from over the top of a tightly wound scarf. His limping gait was almost comical. I swiveled in my chair to get a better look but the mysterious fellow scurried and sat at an oblique angle to me, way back in the corner.

            At the head of the room, Ignatius Burton Creed, a one-armed lobster man and licensed Justice of the Peace from Acadia, stood and cleared his throat. Ignatius had sung baritone in Laird’s barbershop quartet. Despite Ignatius’ labored throat clearing, nobody was really quieting down. He began despite the noise

            “Here we gather for a great man,” he said. He-uh we gatha, it came out in the inimitable Maine dialect granted only by a lifetime of exposure to pines, moose, and snow. His words soothed the dining room to silence.

            I became contemplative, as one does at an affair like this. Laird’s death still hadn’t found its way into my heart. I just sat there and thought about the man I knew, rather than the man I was going to miss. And who was that odd man in the back anyway? Who was I for that matter? Would I have an attendance like this, were I to suddenly pass?

            Ignatius spoke on, galvanizing the disparate characters in attendance. I faded in and out of attention. After a pause from Ignatius, Cougar and Candy stood up to perform a flamenco piece with Cougar on the strings and Candy interpreting the somber notes through dance.

            My lack of focus made sure that I wasn’t even the first to notice the mysterious man stand. I reacted to Layla Kinnerman’s gasp.

            “Lies!” croaked the shrouded man from the back of the room. “Lies!” he repeated, kicking the chair in front of him. With everyone’s attention firmly in place, the shrouded man yanked from his jacket a small, oil-black pistol. Gasps and shrieks rippled through the gathering. With a cry of rage this unknown man rushed the head of the room where the still-dancing Candy Humboldt waggled her arms in a trance.

            Cougar, considerably more present than Candy, dropped his guitar and tackled her off to the side. The shrouded figure rose to full height and shot three rounds at the already-deceased form of Laird Gilkes IV. Shrieks rang out even though Laird was already dead as hell. I dove down below my seat like the rest.

            “Nobody move,” said the mysterious man, laughing now. It was an odd laugh in that I’d heard it before. Heard it a million times… By God if it wasn’t the laugh of Laird Gilkes IV!

            I peered over the top of the seat. At first I thought, Not possible. You’re seeing things! But there, taking off his hat and fake beard, laughing like a damn hyena at a hippo feed is Laird Gilkes IV in the flesh. “Because we’re about to have a party!”

            “A haint!” screamed Inger Lugerbank, clutching for her husband. “A wicket spirit, my Lord my lord!”

            “Fear not, Inger,” said Laird Gilkes IV, pistol whipping the head off of what everyone had previously taken to the Laird Gilkes IV. “I had him made out of wax. Pretty neat work huh!”

            “Ha!” said Shep Blatter, who leapt up, wobbled and fell back into his chair. “I knew he wasn’t dead!”

            Sure enough, Laird had gotten us all. At the party that his faux-wake became, Laird let us all in on the intricacies of the ruse. He’d been faking the hospice with the help of hired actors and had lost all the weight voluntarily thanks to what he called “the role of a lifetime.” Everything had gone perfectly. Now, he yelled, clapping me and everyone else within reach on the back, he had all his friends in one place — an accomplishment that he rightfully predicted wouldn’t have happened without his actual death. He’d pulled one last fantastic prank on everyone in attendance. It was beautiful, he’d said. Boy oh boy did we whoop it up that night. Boy oh boy.



FOOD:

2.9 Stars

I deem this some of the more ubiquitous diner food I’ve eaten in Portland. Not that that’s an indictment of Q Street, nay. Far from it. It’s a potent form of comfort to know, before ordering, exactly what you’ll be getting. E.G. Corned beef hash from a can, puffy pillows of pancakes that suck up more syrup than a parched Mountie, and eggs that are eggs indeed.

PRICE:

Two Gum Wrappers and a Moth

$ The price is righteous.

AMBIENCE:

Exhibit at the Diner Museum Circa 2219

Quintessential covers a lot of the bases in describing Q Street Diner. Are the walls adorned with random photos of Golden Era celebrities? Yes. Old LPs nailed to the wall? Why not. Faux wood grain Formica tables, indoor-outdoor carpeting and metal chairs? Sure, yeah, OK. During my visit my dining partners were grandparents, parents or impressionable children. Meaning, no young couples or hipster foodies could be found in the place (other than my flannel-wearin’ ass).

SERVICE:

Hun

My water stayed full and my coffee oft-warmed. The overall experience was fantastic. I felt important without being fawned over.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Q Street Diner contains a local flavor that can be enjoyed no matter where you call home. This is no doubt a place that more than one octogenarian calls my favorite spot. Let it be understood, this food will neither really impress nor disappoint, it will satisfy your diner urges. If you want something a bit more bespoke, there are plenty of other places around Portland and So Po. But if you’re looking for a nice little diner where you can blend in with the locals, Q Street is the ticket.

 

Q Street Diner

9 Q St, South Portland, ME 04106