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


Piccolo - Portland, ME

 



In the low lit, cozy dining space of Piccolo on Middle Street, I approached the Almighty Creator of Life. We were meeting for dinner. He sat in heavenly splendor, surrounded by swirling immaculate robes of gossamer thread. As I sat, some of His robes flew in my face and I had to politely bat them away. The One True Power stifled a grin.

            “God,” I said.

            “I prefer Yahweh…” He said, crossing His arms.

            “My humblest apologies,” I said. “Yahweh I—“

            “I prefer Allah,” He said, chuckling. The Ambrosial Creator of the Universe reached across the small wooden table and squeezed my hand. He patted it twice more for good measure before picking up a menu and ignoring me entirely.

            “I can’t thank you enough for joining me here,” I said, lacing my hands in supplication. “I just had one question and you’re the only person… uhhh… the only being who I trust to give me true clarity.”

            He was still looking at the menu. I paused, uncomfortably aware of the scraping of knives and forks of the two tables next to us. With extreme languor the Supreme Being lowered his menu so that his cosmically radiant eyes could be seen over the top. His wizened all-knowing lids hung over irises of infinite depth — two swirling convex glimmers of unlimited creation and a kinda dick-ish glower.

            “Everybody has a question,” said the Creator. “And don’t pray like that. It’s embarrassing.” He tossed his menu on the wooden table and scooted his chair — causing it to honk loudly against the floor — and crossed his legs.

            “Everybody just has one question and it’s never the one they should be asking. ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ That’s for you to decide. ‘How much time do I have left?’ Five years, now what? ‘What happens after death?’ Yadda yadda yadda…”

            The King of Kings waved his radiant hand and inadvertently hit a gnat into his water.

            “I damn it,” he said, fishing the gnat out with his pinky.

            “Is it still OK if I ask one?” I said. The One True Authority raised his eyebrows and blew out a sigh.

            “Yeah,” He said. “Yeah… sure. And FYI, I’ve chosen not to read your intentions. Even I need a surprise every once in a while.”

            I nodded. I’d been thinking about my question for a while. And you could say I was more than surprised when the Highest Power and Omnipotent Consciousness actually answered my texts asking Him to grab a bite. I’d assumed He’d be harder to pin down.

            “Is the most important aspect of human life,” I said. “Is it actually death?”

            God flicked the gnat from His finger and turned to look at me. Subtle surprise painted His divine countenance, like I’d slipped a curveball by Him — I have to admit I was proud about that. It’s probably pretty hard to surprise the Alpha and the Omega.

            “What do you…” the Creator said. “What do you mean? Death?”

            “Yeah,” I said. “I mean when you think about it, death—“

            “You guys… uh… know what you’d like?” The chipper server said. Of course she’d come right when I was talking about death and so she wore that awkward look of trying not to acknowledge she’d just heard what we were talking about.

            “Haha,” said the Source of All Holy Light, aiming His speech at the server. “Our conversation was getting a little heavy there.” He lightly squeezed her elbow and eased the mood considerably. The server, violently red hair in a pony tail behind a face that was maybe thirty percent teeth and twenty percent eyes, nodded and smiled, shifting the ratio to sixty ten.

            “So… who wants to go first?”

            “I’ll have a Grolsch and the quinoa salad and he’ll have the…” the Transmundane Emperor glanced over at me for a second. “He’ll have the pork chop.”

            I was actually going to have the lamb neck ragu, but I got the feeling that the Divine Consciousness was not in a great mood.

            Pertly nodding, the server left us. I couldn’t help but glance at her jean-hugged butt; it was nice.

            “But anyway,” I said.

            “Go on,” interrupted the Celestial Divinity. His brow had definitely lowered a bit. He loudly slurped His water as I began.

            “OK,” I said. “Well, to explain. Every day, for me, has more poignancy because I know that some day I will not be able to do what I’m doing because I will be no more. Everything I do. Brushing my teeth, sitting in traffic, even taking a morning sh… stop in the bathroom. All those things will eventually disappear when I die. So they’re all special — holy even — just by virtue of me being able to do them.”

            An egret — from out of nowhere — lit on Father Creation’s outstretched arm. He stroked its long, shapely neck. He motioned me to continue.

            “What I mean to say is, my life has more meaning because it actually ends. If I knew I was going to live forever, then, sure, at first that would be nice, I think. But then you can do anything forever. Nothing has meaning anymore. I could practice yo-yo or karate or even have sex for as many years as it takes me to be completely and utterly sick of them, and I'll still have just as much time as ever. With limitless time everything becomes, essentially, boring.

            “Like, even if the universe didn’t end when all the stars burn out — being stuck alive and alone in a pitch black dead universe for all eternity sounds like unimaginable torture — even if we found some loophole or parallel universe so that we lived with other people on a vibrant planet. Nothing could keep its luster for eternity. Even love, I think, would become stale. Being with the same person for seventy years is long. But being together with that person for 10,000? 10,000,000,000? Those numbers are drops in eternity’s ocean.

            “It’s the lack of time that makes things important. Even creating living beings, creating planets, creating infinite universes would become drudgery if we—”

            The Holy Trinity slammed His enigmatic fist upon the table, rattling the water cups. The egret flew up into the rafters.

            “You know not of what you speak!” He thundered.

            His form expanded from within and without, growing a thousand fold in seconds. His inconceivable chest puffed out like a mating bullfrog. Clutching me by my very soul, the Corporeal Manifestation of the Infinite pulled me high above.



            Out and out we soared, the earth fleeing from us like a blue softball, lustily hurled. The stars, limitless spangles of nuclear light, spread before us, engulfing vision before condensing again into brilliant galaxies. Further we sped, beyond the pale wisps of dying star clusters and rushing vortices of colliding nebulae, until, at last, I beheld, in my puny insignificance, the sweeping gestalt of creation.

            “You call that boring?” the Creator asked. He shook my shoulders and slapped my face. “Huh?!”

            I seemed to have hit a nerve.

            “N-no,” I said. “I mean… It looks pretty cool.”

            “It is SUPER FUCKING COOL,” said the One and Only. “Check this out,” He said, sweeping us back inward. He showed me civilizations and existences unseen by mortal man. We sped over a lush sylvan playground of a world where fur-covered bears serenely hovered over beings slumbering in everlasting peace. Another planet contained millions of rolling heads named Thaddeus, spinning and bumping into each other, all apologizing at once. Another world just had a ton of trombones stacked in a dusty pile and like eight vintage Playboys; the immortal consciousness quickly zoomed on from that one. World after world: advanced civilizations of harmonizing machines, argon breathing, sentient clouds, insectoid men living inside insectoid women. He showed me countless worlds, each unique in their splendor. And then we stopped.

            “So,” said the Only Power. “You… you get it?”

            “I get it,” I said. “But I still think it would get boring after… well, eternity.”

            His shoulders slumped and we were back at the table. The egret had its long beak down the neck of the Almighty’s Grolsch.

            “Yeah…” He said.

            There was another extended, uncomfortable pause in which the Ineffable Frontispiece on the Almanac of Creation pouted and watched traffic out the window.

            “Why don’t you just become mortal?” I asked. “Or maybe just impose a time limit on yourself? Un-create yourself?”

            The All-Knowing-One gave me a smirk.

            “Yeah,” He said, rolling His eyes. “Yeah sure… The oldest and most enduring consciousness in the cosmos should commit suicide. Sweet idea.”

            “No…” I said. But of course He was right.

            Without notice, He rose, taking a second to free His voluminous robe from a snag in the wooden chair. “You got any more questions? No? Good. Enjoy your meal. I know you will.”

            I watched Him go. He looked pretty put out. I thought about saying something to comfort Him, but nothing really seemed appropriate. Plus, He probably knew what I would have tried to say anyway.

            At the door, the Apex of All Consciousness turned and caught my eye.

            “Thanks,” He said. “Thanks for the reminder! Ass.” The door rattled as He slammed it.

            “Would you two like…” said the server, rounding the corner. She stood at a loss.

            “No I think we’re good,” I said. My pork chop was still steaming and juicy. The Almighty's salad hadn't been touched. “This looks delicious,” I said. She nodded and turned to leave.

            “Actually,” I said. “What are you doing this weekend?”

            “Um,” she said, making the abrupt switch between professional and personal mode. “Well I’m working both days. So I don’t have a ton of time.”

            I smiled at her and she smiled back: an enormous smile. It was so genuine. I liked it.

            “Perfect,” I said.

           

 

FOOD:

4.2

Beautiful, carefully portioned, delicious dishes await. I started with a salumi plate featuring traditionally, deliciously smoked Italian meats. Tasty indeed. As an entrée I had a lamb neck ragu over, what I think was, papardelle (they change the menu often — which is a fantastic thing — and I forgot to write down what exactly the name of my dish was…). Nomenclature notwithstanding, the meat was robust and tender and the noodles were obviously homemade — meaning more flavor and satisfying texture. Follow that up with a dessert of what appeared to be a gourmet elephant ear — like the kind you’d find at the circus or a street fair — filled with hints of orange zest and other spices, all topped with confectioners sugar. Cup of coffee to finish. Good GRACIOUS.

PRICE:

Mamma Mia

$$$, but every single dollar sign is worth it. This is not “value portioned” food. This is food where you can have an appetizer, entrée and dessert and not feel like Kuato’s Brother in Total Recall. For a date or special occasion, it is worth every lira.




AMBIENCE:


Un Piccolo Posto

 

Its size might be one of my favorite aspects. The name, Piccolo, means “small” in Italian and the space itself delivers on that promise. While not feeling cramped in the least, it feels cozy in all the best ways. With space for probably ~25 people, maybe less, you’ll feel like you’re being served in someone’s nicely decorated living room. Really a treat.

SERVICE:

Molto Bene

Professional. My water glass was never empty. This is the sign of a legit spot, for me, because I cannot help but drink water that’s in front of me. Seriously, I down it faster than teenagers at an EDM concert. This makes me the bane of all servers because my water glass is almost constantly on empty. However, this unintentional test often separates the pros from the dilettantes. And the service staff at Piccolo kept my water tip topped. Let that also tell you everything you need to know about the pace of our meal and the availability of our server whenever we were looking for her.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

To keep it brief, Piccolo prepares fantastic, authentic Italian cuisine — that means more than just pasta. Go there for a special meal.

 

PICCOLO
111 Middle Street
Portland, Maine
info@piccolomaine.com 
207 747-5307

Bonfire Country Bar - Portland, ME


Flexing his rippling thighs, the Bro Ranger peered out the foggy window of his upscale apartment. Below, bundled forms humped their puffy, stumbling bodies across the snow swept ground of the Portland Peninsula. The Bro Ranger pulled amply on his Black and Mild and blew a smoke ring shaped like a dick.

            Behind him, Totino burst through the door. Swart, stump-like and always smiling, Totino ran up the to Bro Ranger and slapped his bro behind.

            “Ranger,” Totino said, winding up for another ass slap. “There’s a nerd posse afoot. They’re on the hunt for women.”

            The Bro Ranger nodded gravely and put his Black and Mild out on the heel of his boot. With practiced finesse, the bro ranger produced a mask from his pocket and slipped it over his product-soaked hair.

            “Then we best get moving,” said the Bro Ranger. Totino slapped the Bro Ranger’s ass again. The Bro Ranger slapped Totino’s in response; a crisp, stinging crack of heterosexual fondness. And then they rode.

 

The bar was packed full of hot bodies, eager to rub crotch. The floor was slick with spilled drinks and unconscionably loud country music punished the air. It was heaven.

            Nestled betwixt a heaving thicket of cleavage and neatly buttoned oxford shirts, the nerd group stood out unmistakably.

            “Obviously,” said the lead nerd, a tall drink of water sporting a pocket protector holding not one but two Texas Instruments Calculators. “A dichotomy of variegated forms is essential to homeostasis.” The lady he held hostage with his nerd-speak had the rapt gaze of hypnosis. Meanwhile, her diving cleavage was being viciously ogled by the nerd’s whole posse: a greasy, neck-bearded cohort who constantly rubbed their sweaty hands on their cargo pants and stank of pencil shavings and Mountain Dew.

            “Naturally,” said a new nerd, slipping obsequiously into the group. This new nerd was humongous. His chest swelled against the confines of his Yu-Gi-Oh t-shirt. Pens and pencils bristled from the pockets of his pleated, pressed khakis.

            “But have you considered,” said the new nerd, strongly shoving his taped glasses up his chiseled nose, “the ineluctable modality of the visible?”

            The lead nerd of the nerd posse sputtered, unsure of how to counter such a dense verbal salvo.

            “Indubitably,” said the lead nerd, limply proffering his feeble hand. “I’m Marvin Gervin. And you are?” The new nerd, eyes alight with grim joy, gripped Marvin’s outstretched hand.

            “My name,” said the new nerd, grinning a dogtooth grin. “Is the Bro Ranger.” With a flourish the Bro Ranger ripped off his disguise, masterfully replacing the broken glasses with his signature black mask. His t-shirt clove down the middle, revealing a half-buttoned Henley, the Bro Ranger’s chest protruding from the top like two baby’s heads bent in mutual contemplation.

            The nerd group recoiled, hissing. Young, recently graduated women turned and swooned; the humidity in the bar rose considerably.

            “Ma’am,” said the Bro Ranger, reaching out a hand to the oppressed lady. “Run back to your friends, I’ll take care of these nerds.”

            Before she could act, Marvin made his move. Using his lubricating palm sweat to his advantage, he slipped from the Bro Ranger’s grasp and clamped onto the damsel. Cackling, he tugged her toward the door.

            “Not so fast,” said Totino, barring Marvin Gervin’s path.

            “Ha!” said Marvin, smiling at Totino’s dwarfish bod. “You reckon me ensnared?!” Marvin pulled a calculator from his pocket and chucked it at the floor. Smashing upon the beer-soaked linoleum, it exploded in a ghastly cloud of skin flakes and dandruff, now liberated from its keyboard. The Bro Ranger and Totino coughed, covering their eyes against the putrid necrotic cloud.

            “Adieu, Bro Ranger!” shrieked Marvin from somewhere in the mist. The nerd group, stationary until now, scattered, evading the Bro Ranger and Totino’s clutching hands.




Once the skin cloud had cleared enough to see, the Bro Ranger’s eyes met Totino’s.

            “That bastard has to pay,” the Bro Ranger gagged.

            “You got that right kemosabe,” said Totino. With toned aplomb, the Bro Ranger shrugged on his cutoff jean jacket and stormed for the door; Totino followed in his wake.

            “No,” said the Bro Ranger, turning to Totino. “I’ll handle this one alone.”

            “But—“ began Totino.

            “No buts,” cooed the Bro Ranger to his unflappable comrade. “This nerd is mine.”

            And so the Bro Ranger strode out to track the nerd posse solo, leaving Totino in the bar to drink and score some ‘tang.

 

            The street was barren except for a dusting of snow, piled in nooks and corners. The Bro Ranger walked boldly through the frost. His eyes scanned the cobblestone street for signs of nerdliness.

            In the snow that hugged the ground, footprints of all shapes and sizes formed an enigmatic collage. Of course, the Bro Ranger was no amateur at tracking. In the chaotic mosaic of footprints, he began to discern a pattern. Wending from the door of the bar down the street was a limping gait, the tread of a no-doubt orthotic shoe accompanied by a shuffling high heel. No way two treads like that should be linked. Puffing away at his newly lit Black and Mild, the Bro Ranger stalked his prey.

            The steps wended throughout the Old Port, unsure of where to stop. Marvin was nervous, he wanted this encounter to end favorably and had been unsure where to take a lady. The Bro Ranger laughed, discerning Marvin’s weak-ass game in his tottering steps.

            The trail ended at a small, wooden door, one the Bro Ranger had never noticed before. There was no name or number on the outside of the building. No matter, thought the Bro Ranger. He brushed the snow from his cutoff jean jacket, hiked up his pants and stepped inside.


            As his eyes adjusted to the low, old-timey light of the bar, the Bro Ranger’s grin slipped from his chiseled face.

            Alpha nerds. Everywhere.

            The Bro Ranger gazed out over a bespoke speakeasy-style cocktail bar: poindexter Valhalla. It was a sea of whimsically square spectacles, ethically sourced wool sweaters, and flowing beards. Slowly, carefully, the Bro Ranger inched to the bar. He had to act carefully.

            “Welcome,” said the Bartender, a paunch-bellied, rosy-cheeked, over-enthusiastic eunuch. “Here’s a menu, buddy.”

            The Bro Ranger took the menu — parchment paper clipped to a slab of bark — with distaste.

            “I’ll take whatever you think is best…” said the Bro Ranger, casually.

            “Okey Dokey!” said the Bartender, capering away to a tap lined with homosexual microbrews. The Bro Ranger turned his attention to more pressing matters: rescuing the damsel. He scanned the bar to no avail: it was a veritable sea of nerds! Hipsters, geeks, and urkels nerded out in hushed voices, respectfully praising the various potions upon which they sipped.


            A tap on the back caused the Bro Ranger to jump. Turning, the Bro Ranger beheld Marvin’s ovoid, sweating face. Over Marvin’s shoulder, a young man sporting a waxed mustache and selvedge jeans manacled the damsel in conversation.

            “You let her go,” the Bro Ranger snarled.

            “Let her go?” said Marvin, eyes glinting with poindextrous glee. “She’s just being… enlightened.”

            The Bro Ranger stood up, knocking the mid-century modern stool upon which he sat back into the bar. The resulting thwack turned all heads to the, now fully erect, Bro Ranger, staring down at Marvin’s quivering, emaciated frame.

            “Now, just wait a second,” puled Marvin, snot dripping from his rat nose. “You can’t just strike me. Not now!” Marvin nodded toward the recently engaged throng of righteously indignant nerd ladies and nerd boys, surrounding the Bro Ranger completely. The Bro Ranger had derailed their curated trains of thought — they fumed with milquetoast smarty rage.

            “Oh can’t I…” said the Bro Ranger, cocking his mallet of a fist.

            “But what about your drink?” Marvin asked.

            “My drink?” said the Bro Ranger.

            “Here you are,” said the Bartender, a hyena’s cackle in his voice. The Bro Ranger looked back and recoiled.  The drink was foamy and pink, presented in a dainty fluted glass. Clutching his hairless pecs, the Bro Ranger felt an embarrassed paralysis creep over him.

            “You like it?” chuckled Marvin. “I had him make it especially for you.”

            Marvin’s laughter spread like a prairie fire in July. Nerdmen, Geekwomen, young children — nerdkins sporting bow-ties and loafers, sipping homemade soda — all of them laughed at the Bro Ranger. No bro could withstand this level of embarrassment. The Bro Ranger’s testicles sucked deep into his abdomen. Tears of humiliation watered the torn denim of his lapels. Truly this was his end. The Bro Ranger felt the testosterone jettison from his body. His skin turned cold and he braced himself for the death of his social life as he knew it.



But hark! A wooping yip interrupted the Bro Ranger’s demise. Bursting through the doorway, Totino came to the rescue.

            “Aiaiaiaiaia,” Totino shrieked, delivering the crude justice of a kick to Marvin’s impotent, math-loving groin.

            “Come on, Bro Ranger!” said Totino. “That drink isn’t for you! It’s for pussies!”

            Upon hearing his wing man’s spell-breaking incantation, the Bro Ranger’s paralysis broke. He staggered to his feet as nerds pounced at Totino from all sides, screeching with bookish indignance. Totino’s foot met with hilarious amounts of nerd junk as he kicked his way through a flowing torrent of would-be Big Bang Theory cast members with 0% fighting experience.

            Immobility overcome, did the Bro Ranger dash immediately for the door? No! He was far more masculine than that!

            Barreling through a wall of wailing nerds, the Bro Ranger hooked an alpha fist around the damsel’s arm.

            “Let’s get out of here,” he said. The Damsel looked from the mustachioed nerd to the Bro Ranger’s face, indecision clear on her brow. This nerd’s mind-witchcraft was strong. Luckily, the Bro Ranger knew how to break his nerd spell.

            “This dick’s mustache is fucked,” explained the Bro Ranger. Understanding crept into her eyes. Little by little, the burgeoning knowledge of the Bro Ranger’s ineffable sweetness lit her brow.

            Without warning, she bared her teeth in anger. Her eyes slit and the Bro Ranger stepped back, letting go of her arm. The mark of the bitch glowed powerfully on her face. She had been unalterably brainwashed by this nerdish mob.

            “Eww,” she said, looking the Bro Ranger up and down. “You’re an asshole.”

            “Whatever ho,” said the Bro Ranger. “You’re busted anyway.” With this last judgment dutifully passed, the Bro Ranger swiftly departed.

            Not far behind Totino — middle fingers proffered to the roiling queef-sniffing masses — backed out of the shitty stupid joint. As the door shut behind him, only the lamentations of nut-hurt pencil-necks could be heard. And like that, the Bro Ranger and Totino were gone.

 

            Back inside, the Bartender rose from his hiding spot behind the counter. “Who was that dick?” he asked to nobody in particular.

            Marvin, doubled over on a hand-planed mahogany coffee table, mustered breath enough to respond. “That,” he wheezed. “Was the Bro Ranger.”

           

            Somewhere in the Old Port, a ghost-white pickup truck roared to life. In it sat the Bro Ranger and Totino, Black and Milds crankin’ hot in their grinning mouths. Rolling down the window, the Bro Ranger bayed lugubriously to the breeze, “Hi-yo Silverado! Away!” And with that, they disappeared into the New England night leaving only a belch of thick diesel exhaust in their wake.          



 

FOOD:

2.5 Stars

I came for dinner during the “Bacon Happy Hour.” This is a time when bacon is brought to you as a bar appetizer, free of charge. This wasn’t terrible, since the quality of the bacon was pretty solid. I then ordered Jalpeno (sic) Poppers — also solid: they were halved jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon. Yes, I ate a lot of bacon. The burger, however, was uninspired at best. Under-seasoned, cooked medium with lettuce, tomato, onions and lettuce. What it lacked in taste it overcompensated for in size: two meat patties between an oversized bun branded on the top with the signature bonfire B. Yes, they’d burned a B into the top of the burger bun. That’s dedication to branding. Add two beers to that meal and I ended up with the next part of my review.

PRICE:

Everything is Bigger in Texas

$$1/2. My meal capped out at $35 with a nice tip. That’s a little steep considering. This is no gourmet burger. Also, the poppers, while tasty, were not restaurant tasty. They were “your cousin makes food that’s pretty solid and you pretend it’s the most amazing thing ever” good. It was a $20 meal at most.

AMBIENCE:

Ring of Fire

Actual saddles for seats. Exposed wood that smells of spilled beer. A bartending staff whose looks are homogenous in a very superficial way. Flat screen TVs on every vertical surface. Country music underpinning every single thought. A literal serve-your-own-beer wall: a gimmick, beer is still measured by how much you pour, so you’re basically just absolving the bartender of any involvement in your DUI. I will concede, someone spent a lot of time on the details of this bar. Heck, they serve every beer with a camouflage, Bonfire-branded koozie that you’re supposed to take home. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the amount of thought that went into outfitting Bonfire; it’s simply that I don’t like the content of the actual thoughts.

SERVICE:

Wrapped Up

Very nice service. The waitress was attentive and kind. In fact, all the waitresses/bartenders at Bonfire seemed quite adept at their job of humoring any heterosexual male with enthusiastic conversation. It’s nice in the way that perfunctory kindness can only be. Well done. Good job.

EAT OR SKIP:

Skip

Overall I had two different experiences in my two times at Bonfire. Time One, as we shall now refer to it, was an awful introduction. It was 11:30 PM on a Saturday evening. The place was packed with recently graduated skirt chasers and plenty of newly graduated skirts willing to oblige. I had to jockey for a place to stand. The country music being played that night was so loud it can still be heard somewhere in space. It sucked. Time Two involved me enjoying a casual burger at 6:00 PM on a Tuesday while watching fifty-year-old men hit on bartenders their daughter’s age. Country music still permeated the air — hell, country music videos shined on nearly ¾ of the TVs in there — but the atmosphere was palpably less bro. The food was not nearly as much an afterthought as I expected it to be. That being said, it was still not good enough for me to ever really want to come back. There are just too many fantastic bar grub joints in Portland with much less cloying atmospheres. Eat there if you love yourself some country-themed, gimmick-stuffed ambience. Don’t eat there if you’re pretty much anyone else.

 

Bonfire Country Bar

37 Wharf Street, Portland, ME, United States

Phone:     +1.877.653.7678

E-mail: Bonfire@OldPortNightlife.com




OOO

I deeply regret to relate that this week’s Drunch is postponed. I, foolishly, thought that I was capable of both being on vacation — drinking beers and skiing — and working hard to complete this week’s Drunch. I was grossly mistaken.

 

However, from beyond the veil of my beer-soaked haze I offer this sneak peek at next week’s review of Bonfire. Behold.

 

 

Drunch will be back next week with its regularly scheduled skullduggery. Thanks for your patience, understanding and beautiful bodies.

 

-Brett


Boo Facebook. Hooray E-mail.




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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