Cliff Bell's - Detroit, MI


Cassius played jazz but nobody would pay him to play. In all the world he possessed only a nearly broken white piano jammed into a rat hole apartment on Tuxedo St. and 3rd Ave with a creaky bed and a weak stove that only held one pot.

            One day a bent, sagging man came knocking on Cassius’ door and said Cassius needed to pay or he wouldn’t have heat and Cassius said he didn’t have enough money for rent and heat both so the man slumped away and Cassius didn’t have any more heat.

            On a particularly cold morning Cassius’ Ma-Ma came by as she always did and Cassius said, “Brrrr! It’s cold! This is no good! This is so bad!”

            And his Ma-Ma said, “Cassius, you might be right.”

            Cassius had to get warm somehow so he banged away on his nearly broken white piano to keep his body moving. In fact, Cassius played so much that he got better than anybody had ever seen. He started getting booked on all the main stages of Detroit and he got all sorts of famous and made all sorts of money then spent all his money on a big fine house and left his nearly broken white piano behind.

            So Cassius’ Ma-Ma came by the new house as she always did and Cassius said, “Look at this house! This is grand! This is so great”

            And his Ma-Ma said, “Cassius, you might be right.”

            Not a month later when Cassius was away on tour — crossing the country playing howling shows from Miami to L.A. — some mean folks broke into Cassius’ big fine house and stole everything he had.

Cassius’ Ma-Ma came by as she always did and found Cassius’ sitting amongst the emptiness of his living room and Cassius said, “everything is gone! This is no good. This is so bad.”

            And his Ma-Ma said, “Cassius, you might be right.”

            The next day, the insurance lady showed up to confirm the damages and she was sharp and beautiful and kind — not like any of the groupies Cassius had met on tour — and he knew that she was the one. So, with a little flirty talk and some dinners filled with passionate conversation and laughter they found out that they really were meant for each other and she became Cassius’ girlfriend then his wife and after not too long they had two little boys scampering around their house.

            So Cassius’ Ma-Ma came by as she always did and Cassius said, “What a lovely family I’ve got. This is grand! This is so great”

            And his Ma-Ma said, “Cassius, you might be right.”

            As it goes, one evening Cassius woke up in his basement recording studio to choking plumes of smoke. He sprinted upstairs to a living room filled with a roaring veil of fire and tried to get upstairs to where his family was sleeping but he passed out on the way. Cassius woke up in a howling ambulance where people with gray faces told him it had been an electrical fire and his family was gone. Cassius spent the next week in the hospital trying not to cry and failing.

            So Cassius’ Ma-Ma sat by his hospital bed as she always did and Cassius said, “I’m lost. What a tragedy. This is no good. This is so bad.”

            And his Ma-Ma said, “Cassius, you might be right.”

            After a respectful mourning period Cassius tried to get back to playing concerts but it was never the same and the people stopped listening and the money dried up. Ten years later, in all the world Cassius possessed only a nearly-broken white piano jammed into a rat hole apartment on Tuxedo St. and 3rd Ave with a creaky bed and a weak stove that only held one pot. It was amidst a frosted November dusk with his breath puffing over the keys that Cassius finally allowed himself to truly let go of his departed family. The thoughts were so brittle and crushing and sweet that something shocked back into him, a part of his soul he didn't even know he'd lost. As sobs shook his sides the heartbreaking melody sprung into his mind and the words tore out of him with all the hurt dripping off and he wrote the most beautiful song in the world. The next morning Cassius took his one song to an old recording friend still in the business and that man said it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard and it turned out everyone else in the whole world thought so too.

            So Cassius went by the home where his Ma-Ma lived as he always did and his Ma-Ma said, “Cassius, I heard that song of yours on the radio. It’s the most beautiful music that’s ever been written. This is grand! This is so good!”

            And Cassius said, “Ma-Ma, you might be right.”

 

 

FOOD: 

3.7 Stars

With solid takes on New American cuisine, this is a heck of a nightspot. And though the food is tasty, it’s certainly not the main attraction.

PRICE: 

Music to Your Wallet’s Ears

While the décor and drinks are classy, the prices are reasonable as heck. Hit it up at happy hour? You’re looking at $3 drafts, $.50 (yes, fifty cent) PBRs, and half-off cocktails. Dinner gets a little more real, moving up into the ~$20-plus range, but the food fits the bill.

AMBIENCE:

Swank Jazzy 1930s Perfection

You will feel transported to a Detroit that was in its prime. When Jazz was on the radio and cars were leaving the factories in droves. This is the real reason to visit Cliff Bell’s. The music acts, accompanied by the impeccable décor, make you feel like a metropolitan boss. Plus, the monthly Moth night is so packed they don’t even sell tickets any more, you just have to find a seat. Fantastic.

SERVICE:

Respectable

White shirts. Vests. Doin’ it.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

Cliff Bell’s is what everyone wishes downtown Detroit still was. Sure, there are a lot of other notable places downtown, but this is most likely one of the coolest. If you’re in Detroit and want a feel of something essentially “Detroit” this is your spot.

 

Paciarino - Portland, ME


1)

Finding yourself enwrapped in a thick blanket with warming hands around a steaming cup of coffee as immaculate snow drifts onto the window sill on a Saturday morning.

 

2)

As a child, crawling into your parents’ bed after a bad dream and feeling the vital body heat of two adults sap all fear from you as you drift abruptly to a peaceful sleep.

 

3)

Peeling off ski boots after a full day on the mountain and sliding your foot into sneakers that feel like soft slippers by comparison.

 

4)

After an overlong time apart, feeling the arms of a significant other cinch around you and their body press into familiar grooves and their unique scent — the one that manages to trace the fullness of your relationship — cloud your joyful mind.

 

5)

Laughing with old friends around a crackling campfire while above you stars, like countless impossible candles suspended, encompass the sky.

 

6)

Losing yourself in an engrossing book on a softsanded beach before aquamarine waters hearing, but not hearing, the carefree yelps of children as they scamper through the whispering surf.

 

7)

Nakedly embracing a lover after an effortlessly intense and satisfying sexual romp, feeling the exquisite juxtaposition of their slick warm skin and your own cool sweat prickling your bare chest and thighs.

 

8)

Just stepping into a steam-billowing shower after spending an entire day on the ocean, the driving water melting the damp freeze out of your bones.

 

9)

Drifting awake to the sizzling pops of breakfast being prepared and the smell of waffles mingling with coffee on the first sun-dappled weekend of autumn.

 

10)

Breathing in deep and holding it as you stretch your legs and arms after arriving home earlier than expected from a long car ride.

 

11)

Putting numb hands into your father’s dry, worn, warm gloves as a nine-year-old while picking out a Christmas tree on a sun-strewn, crisp November day.

 

12)

Lying on the couch with your significant other prone on top of you listening to music and feeling the rise and fall of your chest and theirs as, out the window, you watch the neon sun slip beneath a rose-splashed horizon.

 

 

FOOD: 

4.6 Stars

Paciarino is near the pinnacle of (Italian) comfort food. Seriously, this is pasta done to the utmost. It’s homemade. It’s lovingly prepared. It’s absolutely tear-jerkingly delicious.

PRICE: 

Mi Piacci

For what you receive the price is more than fair. Plus, their carafes of house wine are a steal. While not a cheap meal, this is only a minor splurge — nothing like a Fore Street or Hugo’s that’ll test the limits of the layman’s bank account.

AMBIENCE: 

Italian Bed and Breakfast

The seating is a mite snug, but nothing that should deter any but the mortally agoraphobic.

SERVICE: 

Everybody want-a eat-a the pasta.

The only difficulty I’ve had has been occasionally in getting a table on time. Most tables, because of the leisurely, convivial atmosphere of the place, end up going a little longer than the average dinner. This is not exactly a problem unless your reservations are for late on a busy night, in which case you might find yourself waiting for a bit despite making reservations. Otherwise the service has been molto bene.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat!

Oh yes. On top of the list of “Things You Must Try” is the goat cheese ravioli. Sweet mother, those things are divine. I will say that I’ve only had one pasta dish that I wouldn’t recommend (unless to someone who liked spicy-hot foods) it was called the Spaghetti Aglio Olio e Peperoncino. It was tasty but DAMN was it hot. Anyway, Paciarino is an established Portland institution and a top contender for my personal favorite Italian restaurant ever. If you want comfort food straight from the boot of Italy — especially as the winter descends — head to the big P.

 

Slab - Portland, ME



Oh Slab, your Sicilian-style “Hand Slab” is formidable. For this beautiful and delectable addition to the pantheon of things-we-Portlanders-want-to-eat we must thank Stephen Lanzalotta and his pizza-ing skills.

 

No, we cannot simply thank chef Stephen. We must also thank the robust cooks of Sicily, through whose rugged individualism this fusion of Italian and Arabic flavors was born.

 

But that is not enough. Let’s go back to around 997 AD and thank the first chef — contested though his/her identity may be — to put tomato and cheese on bread and call their creation a “pizza.”

 

But then, why not just thank the first person, nearly 28,000 years back, to mix ground cereal grain with water and forget it on a particularly hot boulder, inadvertently creating the world’s first flat bread? Without the knowledge that grain could be eaten, and preserved, in such a portable, tasty way, there’s little chance the farming revolution could have ever taken root (as it were).

 

Actually, it might make more sense to go forward a bit and thank the Sumerian farmers of Mesopotamia back around 3100 B.C. who discovered that diverting streams to rain-starved portions of land tempered the soil, creating irrigation as we know it. We raise our pizzas in thanks to these early hydroscientists for irrigating modern civilization to more reliable and bountiful crop yields. Thus making grain and tomato and basil — the essential building blocks of pizza — available to everyone.

 

And if we’re thanking irrigation we should probably also thank the nameless Egyptian handy-man brilliant enough to create the Ard: early civilization’s proto-plough. Without that first beast-drawn wedge, we couldn’t till rocky soil nor make seed drills in any significant number or consistency. Thanks, Ard, for blowing the doors off farming by creating an easy and tremendously effective system to replace what had previously been the uncoordinated labors of malnourished, hob-footed, stick-wielding peasants.

 

Well, that actually leads us to thanking the first hominins, 30,000 years ago for thinking up the idea of using durable tools at all. Their manufacture of stone implements, like knives and hammers — rather than just disposable sticks and rocks and bones — ushered us into the modern age.

 

That being the case, we must also give a nod and wink to the first chimpanzee ever to pick up a twig and think, “hmm, I can use this to ‘fish’ for termites!” That little simian’s ingenuity was a watershed moment in mammal tool-use for certain.

 

In reality we should just thank primitive autonomization of the first carpometacarpal joint — otherwise known as the development of the thumb — which existed 70 million years ago in early primates. Without that thumb, we’ve got no tool-use. So thanks thumbs. Good on you.

 

Rather, let’s not thank thumbs. Let’s thank the first amniotes to crawl onto land and lay their eggs. Without their ingenious breeding tactics — namely, being the first mammal with the ability to lay eggs on dry land rather than in water — they staked our mammalian claim to dry land itself, allowing for all the glorious rest to unfold.

 

Yet, while we’re thanking amniotes we might as well salute prokaryotes, the single-celled grand pappy/mammy to every consciousness walking, squawking, swimming, hopping, digging, slithering or straight photosynthesizing on earth. If our prokaryotic parents hadn’t survived (and flourished) during the shelling of earth by asteroids 3.6 billion years ago, there’s no way we’d be sippin’ ‘Gansetts in the shade of Slab’s outdoor seating area.

 

In actuality we probably should thank the early atmosphere, consisting of mainly nitrogen, carbon dioxide and inert gases (and some hydrogen left over from the solar nebula which was pretty much just a bunch of dust left over from the sun’s formation) that created the necessary conditions for life to form, by giving us water almost 3.8 billion years ago.

 

Really, though, we have to thank the sacrifice of early stars that went supernova, exploding and expelling vast clouds of gas, dust and radiation at up to 30,000 K/per second. It was this star material — molecules heavier than iron — that mixed with elements from the Big Bang itself — like hydrogen, helium and traces of lithium — that managed to find its way into the gravitational thrall of our precious yellow dwarf star we call The Sun, and, with the power of gravity, swirl itself into a nearly perfect sphere upon which every single living being — that we have ever known — has lived their life; a small rock that found itself the optimal distance from a source of heat in its randomly generated orbit whose gyrations still allow for hospitable growth and love and livelihoods and existence as we know it, this lovely, confusing, hallowed, fragile, crowded, lonely, miraculous place we call Earth.

 

Thanks stars. Thanks for giving us the Hand Slab.

 

 

 

FOOD: 

4.0 Stars

There are quite a few menu items that delight, but the Hand Slab (spiritual and physical successor to Micucci’s Sicilian Pizza) is a delicious, and nearly unrivaled, piece of pizza.

PRICE: 

Hit and Miss

The Hand Slab is wonderfully priced. You certainly get bang for your buck in that delicious, puffy, fall-apart brick of pie. The rest of the menu is solid, taste-wise, but I’ve seen a couple dishes that are more expensive (by double in some cases) that serve up less actual food than the Handel’s Mcslabberson. It’s up to you what you’re in the mood for, but don’t let a higher price convince you that you’ll be getting a massively larger helping of food.

AMBIENCE: 

Outdoor Sweeting

The indoor area has a cool vibe with poured concrete and a two-tiered layout. However, the outdoor area, smothered in orange, authentic German Bier Hall style tables is the place to be. As the weather turns to winter, outdoors won’t be an option. But during the summer and what little is left of our fall, there are few places more pleasant to crush a slab.

SERVICE: 

Hard Knocks

The servers are generally nice and prompt. Indeed I’ve had some great experiences. But twice of my five times to Slab, I’ve had underwhelming outcomes. Once, when I was alone, it took me about fifteen solid minutes to get visited by a server. After that initial wait it was a generally well-paced service experience. The second occasion was with some buds and one of our cohort had no U.S. identification, just his “I’m from Somewhere in Europe” I.D. card. He was not allowed to buy beer. Now, there was no question he was over 21, in fact he looks about double that age. And I (we) understand that Slab has regulations on which cards they can take or not take. Ultimately it’s a judgment call on staying completely safe (from a regulation standpoint, in case an inspector were somehow present), or keeping your previously-happy customers happy. By choosing the former, Slab earned the dubious company of Binga’s Stadium as the only other place in Portland to not accept that “I’m from Somewhere in Europe” I.D. card. With that last experience, Slab, unfortunately, lost a couple customers.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

That unfortunate event withstanding, I will still eat at Slab. The Hand Slab is just that tasty. And I know Slab doesn’t necessarily need my patronage, nor that of my friends, since business looks to be in business. However, what was once an immaculately excellent place to go now has a blemish, which, unfortunately, will not soon fade.

 

 

 

 

Downtown Lounge (Revisited) - Portland, ME



Perfect, another stupid line. John yearned for a damn beer and here he was lurking in the entrance to Downtown Lounge, waiting for — what could be up to — twenty minutes to get a spot at the bar. Only then would he be granted the privilege of paying his hard earned money for a beer.

            It had been a ponderously crap day. During the morning commute, rain had brought traffic to a crawl — of course some idiot had crashed and ruined the morning for everyone else. To make matters worse, the ensuing eight hours had been one long fire drill; meeting after rushed meeting had filled up what John had hoped would be a low key Friday.

            For lunch? That was a wonderful trip to the DMV. After waiting for a deadly, bookless (he’d forgotten it at work) hour and a half — for the duration of which two obese men yawped behind him — the lady at the counter informed him he didn’t even have the right documents and would have to come back and no she couldn’t even get him ahead of the line when he came back, he’d just have to wait again. He’d wolfed his crappy turkey sandwich driving back to work.

            Yeah, he’d been waiting for this beer all day. He had needed this beer since about seven o’ clock AM on Monday and here it finally would have been if it wasn’t for all these slack-jawed idiots sitting at the bar ahead of him. Who got out of work before 5:30 anyway? Did they even have jobs?

            Nothing was going John’s way, as per usual. Oh look, a seat just opened up. They’ll probably give it to someone else. Typical.

 

 

            It was nice and air conditioned inside Downtown Lounge. The sun snuck out from behind the clouds as John read his book and waited for a seat. He was in no particular rush, it was Friday after all.

            There had been traffic in the morning — during which John had leisurely listened to the new Alt-J album in its entirety. John had gotten into work expecting a slow day and been surprised by a slew of activity. The day had just flown by.

            Well, almost flown by. The wait at the DMV had felt a bit longer because he’d forgotten his book at work, but John had actually relished a break in the day to sit, reflect, and listen to the hilarious conversations going on around him. Funny enough, John hadn’t even brought the right documents along with him. Now he had another opportunity to break up a busy day in the future. Not bad.

            The drive back to the office had been just enough time for John to enjoy his homemade turkey sandwich.

            Now he was almost at his glorious beer. He’d been savoring the anticipation all day. Life, after all, is almost purely anticipation, and John had been mindful of trying to treasure it.

            There were a surprising amount of people at DTL for 5:30, but John was glad to see that one of his favorite bars was doing so well.

            And all these people! Amazing to think about the statistical improbability, almost impossibility, of all these exact people — John included — existing in DTL at this particular time.

            Every one of them had come from parents who’d randomly met, and been begat from grandparents who had also randomly met and on and on back from humans to apes to swimming mammals all the way to protoplasmic monads in the primordial goop — one long unbroken string of impossible chances leading to this — and only this — conglomeration of people. But you really only have to go back a single generation to be amazed. John thought about the sliver of chance that led from each of their parents to them, meaning, in all the millions of sperm that could have created a person — some person like them, but not them at all — they were the single, one-in-a-million being who’d been given the privilege of existing. Now, after all those millennia of chance upon chance, piling up to the most infinitesimal possibility that everything would turn out exactly this way, here they all were hanging out and enjoying the beginning of a beautiful weekend. Truly, it was a vast gift to be alive.

            And look at that, a seat had opened up for John. It was a good day.

 

 

FOOD: 

3.9 Stars

The Downtownest of Lounges is a delight. Seriously I put this food only one hair behind Shay’s. Again, this is no gourmet restaurant so don’t expect to find anything fancy. However, what is prepared here (burgers, BLTs, Chicken Sandwiches, Wings, &c, &c) is prepared by the hands of an angel. The martinis are on point, generously portioned mixed beverages abound and the beer selection delivers on what one wants — Portland has enough “Maine Craft Brew” bars as it is. Not that they don’t carry those here, their selection is simply a bit less exhaustive.

PRICE: 

Aw right den, bud

A burg (or any other sandwich/salad) and a couple brews will have you at sub $20. Drink High Lives and it will be even less (but substantially more excellent given your taste in beers).

AMBIENCE:

Pluterperfect

These booths are made for scuttlebutt. Seriously, sit down for a drink with some buds and you won’t want to leave. The ambience is cozy, convivial and just damn excellent.

SERVICE: 

Greased Lightning

Good gentlemen work the bar. They notice when the drinks are near empty and suggest a refill at all the right times. Never had a bad service experience. Powerful.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

So why did I revisit Downtown Lounge? Has Downtown Lounge changed? Not drastically. Has my experience in Portland changed the way I look at DTL? Completely. I had been looking a gift Downtown in the mouth. Now that I’ve had the full run of Portland, there really are very few places like it. It is without question one of the best dives in Portland and it’s not even really a dive. The food is great. The seating is some of the most conducive to conversation and straight chilling. The beers bring my stomach much pleasure (and liver much chagrin). DTL is truly a fantastic spot to meet up with friends old and new for great conversation and better times. In short, Downtown has unexpectedly suffused itself throughout the whole of my heart. DTL. The man.

 

 

 

Salvage BBQ - Portland, ME



We strolled down to the harbor where the waves met the scrubby shore. My sister had her gun. I had my sword.

           The rising sun had not yet breached the horizon — across the bay the burnt outline of Tisbury shown black against the sky’s cold violet glow. My sword clacked in its sheath against my off-white shirt. Once, it had been black.

           “Smoke?” she asked me. I declined.

           We waited.

           Seagulls scuffled beside us on the slipshod arena of a sunken roof. They extended their wings and opened their beaks, plunging in, puffing up. One with a hurt leg slid on the outskirts of the fight, clucking its impotent wrath. My sister casually puffed her hand-rolled cigarette. We had both been here so many times before.

            One dies or both die. It’s the only rule that cannot be broken. The only rule keeps order. One of two truths I believe.

            We were family now in these final moments. Brother and sister in death. She looked over to me and opened her mouth to ask a question, but was cut short by an electric crackle, the speakers coming to life.

            Alert now, our sun-tightened skin prickling. Sirens cried out, caroming off the sea and wave-wrecked shacks that lined the harbor. We rose and drew our lines in the soaked sand.

            I didn’t need to know her story to know it as dearly as the blade in my hand. All our stories were the same. We all killed to survive.

            “Nice sword,” she said from her spot twenty yards down the beach. “Just like the Duellist.”

            But for a tight hint of a grin, I didn’t respond. She let her sun-bleached dreadlocks fall over her face before whipping them back up and over her head and knotting them with a shoelace. She had on loose-fitting cargo pants, threadbare, ripped and stained and a soiled green tank top. Her sun-brown skin was run through with minute wrinkles. She couldn’t have been more than thirty; a killer since childhood.

            “Never paired on the beach,” she said, marveling at the beauty surrounding us. It was foolish talk. Advantages were scarce enough. Everyone left had survived so many pairings.

            A wall of sunlight crept down the treetops. The sixth beep rang out. At ten, our fight would commence.

“The silent man in black.” She said. “No scars on his body. The most duels won. No equal. You will know him by his red blade. He is called the Duellist.” She laughed and shook her head, gun at the ready. “You’re him, right?”

            This was the second truth. I am the Duelist.

            She dug her feet laterally in the sand, testing for purchase, smiling. “You know he’s just a myth,” she said. I said nothing.

            She was wrong.

            My legend had grown so long that many tried to pretend they were me. They wore their black jackets or shirts or shawls. They carried their katanas easily and said not a word. They concealed their scars with makeup. This was why my sister was not afraid.

            “Alright, Duelist,” she said. “Why not put your skills to ending this brutality: these pairings. Let’s stop this madness.”

            Her fighting strategy was pitifully formulaic. Distract your opponent with talk. Score the early kill. I nestled my fingers into the grooves of my Katana’s grip. The tenth beep’s echo faded. Silence struck. The pairing began.

            We circled each other, she felt out the ground. My footsteps fell into their comfortable rhythm.  It was like listening to a song for the ten thousandth time. Every beat in its place. Every note falling as it should.

            “You know,” she said, concern in her voice. “You know this whole thing is bullshit… This whole situation. Making us fight. I think—”

            Her first shot sent the gulls scattering. I bobbed a-rhythmically and the bullet nestled into the sand far behind me. Having failed in her first ambit, she would launch into how she was part of a group. How her people had the arms and will to confront the power that had mandated this new way of life.

            “I’m part of a group that can change this,” said my sister. “It’s a small group, but we have big ideas… Why don’t you talk?” she said. Her body quivered now with fear’s adrenaline. She had begun to understand. “Why don’t you talk?”

            Why don’t I talk? There are no answers in talk. The only answers that matter are those that you yourself create. The rules you hold yourself to. Everything outside of that relies on proof. Proof of this, proof of that. Even the proof itself requires further proof on and on down. There are no absolutes other than those whose source you know. Your truth.

            My truths are two: I am the Duelist who never loses and one of us must die.

            I continued to sway and bob as heat crept into the sand and into our clothes. Sweat twinkled on the fringes of my sister’s forehead.

            I pulled my sword free of its scabbard and raised it vertically above my head. Its red blade dripped with sunlight. Her hands fell to her sides, fear blossoming on her face.

            This was the chorus before the final refrain. One after the other they would talk or plead or stay silent. When they saw my blade, when they understood its hue. When the rhymes that haunt the dreams of all but me creep into their head, unbidden:

 

The Duellist in black,

No scars to track,

His blade is red,

All words unsaid.

 

            She would fight now. She would put in everything available to her. The song would continue, nothing could be rushed, nothing could be hurried.

            “Say something, brother,” she said. The sweet smell of wildflowers sprung from the gorse beside the beach’s edge. I could see her frantic heart in the ropy veins of her neck. She stumbled on a rock and opened fire. The sand around me exploded in angry burrs of rock and shell. She was screaming, my sister. Most do.

            I slid toward her, eyes closed. Bullets hummed past and around me as lazy as bumblebees. She had seven, six, five left. Now four. Now three. At two she would wait. She would let me get close and fire at the last minute. My song was nearing its beautiful coda. When my blade would prove my truths: I am the Duelist, one has to die.

            Gulls cried from the jetty and the ocean calmly lapped at the shrinking shore. I swayed through the sand, closing the gap between my sister and her end. Another year, my purpose again fulfilled.

            When I was close enough to smell her — that faint, burnt stink we all carry — she fired her last two bullets. I ducked as they neatly whispered past. I opened my eyes. She was smiling. She should not have been smiling.

            In a blur I could hardly see, she reloaded. The first bullet knocked my sword from my hand. The second slammed into my thigh. I sat down and gasped. How?

            My sister hit my face with the butt of her gun. I blacked out.

 

I awoke trussed in sea grass. My sister sat next to me, looking out at the quavering reflection of the opposite shore. Behind us the sun had just begun to set. Her guns lay at her feet.

           “The Duelist doesn’t speak. The Duelist never loses?” I looked up at her. She spoke at the water. “And he never left a man alive?”

            Why was she toying with me? Kill me. One had to die.

            She looked at my manacled hands and legs. “Do you also believe that we have to do this? That someone will come kill us if we don’t?” She shook her head and stood up. “Look around. Look at this place.” I scanned the darkling shore. Shells of burnt homes, soot, grime. People listed to and fro, bent under unseen weight.

           “Who is in charge of this?” my sister asked.

            She dropped her gun in the lazy surf, as casually as you’d toss a broken shell. I needed to die. One must die or both die.

            My sister left me on the beach by way of an overgrown path that led back to town. My blade lay down the beach in the sand.

            It was deep night before I managed to cut loose my bonds. No sirens had accompanied my sister’s escape. No helicopter blades had snapped into view. She had not killed. Two had not died. I was not the Duelist. There is no truth.

  

FOOD: 

4.0 Stars

I walked into Salvage thinking yeah sure cool another BBQ joint in Portland. I walked out of Salvage thinking mother of god.

PRICE: 

is Right

The meal itself will probably run you in the ~$20 range if you’re getting BBQ, Sides and some drinks. The price, however, matches the fare to a T. This is well-respected meat.

AMBIENCE: 

Summer Camp Grub Hall

Spacious but not cavernous. There are quite a few seats, both at tables and at the bar. Feels appropriate to stuff your face within these environs.

SERVICE: 

Nearly Superfluous

Order BBQ. Order beer. Get beer. Sit down. Get BBQ. VOUS MANGEZ.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

Before visiting, I had certain notions of what I thought Salvage was going to be. I envisioned dry-ish barbecue smothered in so-so sauce and ho-hum sides. I don’t know why that was in my mind, but it was. Those notions were wrong. Salvage is legitimate BBQ. Smoked to perfection. Every meat-made item is succulent, fall-apart BBQ goodness. Cap that with quality sauces and sides. If you find yourself in Portland, in need of a smoked meat fix, get on down then they-a to Salvage.

 

 

 

 

Burger King - Allston, MA


Thanks for the inquiry, Ashleigh. An ask like this hasn’t appeared on the docket before and we’re diving deep to source some answers. We think there’s a real growth opportunity here.

 

Now, this request is information-rich, so let’s unpack it and try to dig down to a best case solve. Correct us if we’re wrong, but you’re saying ”You don’t want to date anymore?”

 

To begin, let us reassure you that we at Chris Corp. aren’t just going to throw in the towel. We believe there’s an opportunity here to plant and deliver something robust. See, this organization started in an old town. One with traditional values like trust, compassion, and progress. Values that really matter. And we’ve built that into our brand ethos so that consumers, like you, know what they’re going to receive: quality. Now, Ashleigh, it sounds like your experience so far has been different.

 

We here at Chris Corp. couldn’t be more disheartened by your disappointment in our boyfriend services. We’ve been a recognized leader in market excellence for eight quarters running, so this really comes as a shock. We want to make good, Ashleigh. We really do.

 

First, this claim that we “cheated on you.” That just can’t be correct. Let’s look at the numbers. We’ve been running a 5% surplus in free time. Now compare that to our direct competition: Bryan Corp: 8% surplus, Nate Corp: 14% surplus, and Ned Corp, he’s been running at 28% surplus in free time for the past seventeen quarters. So what you’re saying is that somehow, despite this vast discrepancy of averages, year over year, despite the fact that we have been below almost every other industry leader in free-time accumulation, we cheated. We think the numbers tell a convincing story here Ashleigh.

 

We here at Chris Corp. are dedicated to leveraging truly brand-winning solutions. So, you can’t just run the meter with back-burner concepts like cheating. Time, in this industry, Ashleigh, is not just money, it’s also time.

 

And these onerous regulations: text you once in a while, explain that butt dial in which you heard sexual moaning, this ongoing inquiry into “who is Halley?” These are just really stifling innovation. They’re limiting the potential of this corporation. The last thing we need are more barriers to growth. The market works, Ashleigh. Trust us.

 

We’ll let you in on a little secret, we’ve been accelerating a new program that’s going to be a world-class play in capturing new resources. By Q4 2014, Chris Corp. is expected to be a cashier at Home Depot. If that pans out, by 2016, Chris Corp. will be a paint section supervisor, and by 2018, as a potential floor manager, we’ll be able to an ensure a near tripling of our net asset value per share. In short, Chris Corp. is a company on the move.

 

In addition, if you’re concerned about your short-term options, we’ve initiated a groundbreaking new architecture and framework called the “Ikea Expedit TV Stand” operation that we think you’ll be really pleased with. This is a market offering that we had not looked at before but now appears that the opportunity to deliver positive ROI has gotten a lot stronger. And after both qualitative and quantitative testing in partnership with Chris’ Mom Corp, we think this TV stand is very viable and has a chance to go viral from day one. We need to double-check you’re on board, Ashleigh. We don’t want a non-starter of a partnership leading to an unexpected dip below projected sexual intercourse for the whole of 2015. That would really upset the board.

 

Let’s step back and look at the supply chain. There’s Chris Corp. and there’s you: that’s about it. That’s not as many vendors as most young men in the marketplace usually interface with. Meaning, we’ve been taking the hit here, Ashleigh.

 

When you also look at the stats: Chris Corp. has been offering competitive advantages, despite kinks and hiccups in payment — let’s not even bring up the quarter-long renege on our “BJ’s and HJ’s Agreement” — yet we still have: Monday, dinner at Chili’s, Tuesday, a movie, Thursday, dinner again at Chili’s. All at the expense of Chris corp. See, Ashleigh, this is providing best of class content through market penetration and value despite underperformance from certain sectors.


 

As to your comment on the unsuitable physical layout of Chris Corp.’s structure, let us reassure you that we have already been leveraging both light jogs and measured trips to Planet Fitness to rectify this disparity. That’s just not something most organizations do. See, we’re committed to making change here at Chris Corp. Real change.

 

In response to the remaining sundry concerns you’ve expressed, we think we can sum these up succinctly. What we here at Chris Corp. think is vital to good business is deploying capital to weak sectors, as needed, on a case by case basis. We have to make hard calls and some investments just aren’t tenable in today’s shaky market. Things like: getting a dog, buying jewelry, expensive wine. What we need are solid investments to boost capital: things like a bigger TV for Chris Corp.’s apartment. We’ve been running lean for a long time and our executives deserve rewards for keeping this corporation viable. That’s a solid investment that we believe in strongly.

 

This relationship is an asset, Ashleigh, we believe its growth potential is huge. What we don’t want to do is turn it into a liability. If we break up now, we might see each other around town, you might tell other potential investors about certain particularities of our company such as the halitosis we’re dealing with, or our inability to stomach any ethnic food. This could be a huge blow to Chris Corp’s bottom line. And that’s the last thing we both want.

 

Well what can we do to retain you? OK, how about this. Right now you’re locked into the boyfriend package plus benefits with the option, upon reaching certain goals and milestones, to becoming a fiancé. What would you say if we erased those milestones? What would you say if we upgraded your package, completely gratis, to fiancé with a 79.5% chance of marriage. This is the best option available. You can look at Dave Corp., Bobby Corp., even Ken Corp. They can’t come close.

 

No?

 

How about this? What it seems we need is to deep dive into some blue ocean innovation in this relationship. There is no box anymore Ashleigh. What we have here is pure market-lifting, head-turning, benchmark-making, rising-sea-lifting-all-ships potential that requires forward-looking, lateral thinking and you just walked out and slammed the door.

 

We’re going to need to re-allocate investments to scentless moisturizer, stat.

 

 

FOOD: 

3.2 When you start. 1.5 when you’re finished.

If one were to compliment Burger King truthfully, one could only say “a chain-broiled burger never tasted so consistent.” You want food fast? You got fast food. Happy day. Hand someone with more than one job your money. Don’t worry, you’re only supporting them indirectly, you’re actually supporting, at most, the franchisee and at moster an enclave of men and women who care deeply about the Grammys.

PRICE: 

Your Way

A breakfast/lunch/dinner that will slowly undo you for around $8.00. I know, a lot of other meals contain the same amount of fat and calories, but there is no way to get food this consistent without preservatives and other shenanigans. I’m going to hand fast food, as we know it, about 85 years before we look at it the same way we look at how renaissance peasants would sniff mint to ward off sickness and then drink water that dead people had been floating in.

AMBIENCE: 

Burger King™

Have you been in a Burger King? This one also looked like a Burger King. Haven’t ever been to a Burger King? Go to a Burger King.

SERVICE:

Minimum Happiness

Not saying that the people themselves are sad. Service is normally about as invigorating as it can get when your order is a number and a size. Simply, pertaining to happiness, one of the least fulfilling jobs I can imagine is taking money from people who you are literally hastening to their untimely death.

EAT OR SKIP:

Marvel

So, here’s the thing. Burger King is a fast food chain that actually makes money serving people “full meals” for $8.00-ish dollars. That is a true feat of economics that surely can’t last. Certainly, the food needs to satisfy you in order for you to buy it but this is simply a trick of laboratory work and limitless blind taste tests. I've eaten at Burger King. I’m sure you have too. In the short run, if you have a burger or chicken sandwich there now and again — when you’re on the road most likely — you can’t help that. It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s Burger King. However, with the way current trends are going, there’s no way this sort of food-mercenary business can last. With the large shift toward "organic" and "sustainable," the honest truth is that the Burger King we know is not long for this world. Food is (for us First Worlders) getting better, and simply hitting all the right flavor benchmarks is probably not going to cut it in 2079 when we know the name of the cow whose milk was used to make this particular slice of Kraft American Cheese. The point of all this being, Burger King, as it lives and optimizes today, will not be around for the long haul. So get your sanitized, homogenized, advertised, standardized protein, sugar, carbohydrate and saturated fat fix while the getting’s good. Either that or this is exactly the way all food is going, in which case, don’t look for me, I’ll be with my lovebot on Mars.

 

Boda - Portland, ME


As Philip, my brother, spoke I sipped a beer. I’d agreed to meet him for a drink over lunch.

            “You think about your body,” he was saying. “It’s like this huge cruise ship. And every organ is like a different mate on the ship, each with their own specific purpose, or role.”

            I nodded at him and slugged back the rest of my Singha. I was really getting into it. It felt solid.

            “And in those jobs your organs are, like, perfect little sailors.” He shuffled his short arms forward and back in a pantomime of swabbing a deck. I nodded.

            The beer had that affect on me; made me more amenable to agreement. Plus, nodding was fun. Not like I’m normally too strong-willed, but these beers had me bobbing like one of those dashboard turtles.

            “Each job is really difficult and specific, like the fact that my intestines break down food sequentially and completely and how your liver over there diligently filters beer through complex, automatic processes so that you can just sit there and nod at me.”

            I nodded.

            “So you imagine all these myriad singing, swabbing, synched up, HMS Pinafore-style organs just keeping this cruise ship running in immaculate shape, but at the helm is the brain: you.”

            I put two fingers up at the server to just bring two more out. She had straight, white bangs and gave me a look that said I will do this but this seems to be rapidly going south and I hope I don’t soon regret complying with your abnormal drinking pace.

            Philip’s mouth became a thin line while I ordered. “Go on,” I said. The beers had started to sink into my muscles, creep into my brain. Philip had put on a nice shirt to meet me, an off-white short-sleeved button down with faint paisley relief. He’d gained a little more weight though. Poor guy.

            “You think of the crazy shit this captain makes this perfect machine do. This insanely priceless ship, the almost uncountable number of mates, organs, even microbes and bacteria(!) all doing their job but this nutty-ass captain in control of it all: your brain!”

            The waitress brought my drinks over and raised an eyebrow at Philip as she did. I handed her my empty couple of bottles and flashed a winning smile, which made me drool a little bit on myself. I don’t know if she noticed.

            “So, like, you and your brain choose to do some wild-ass thing like, for example, like eat two bags of All-Dressed Humpy Dumpty chips. Your mind is like “Let’s do it boys!” and all the organ mates — all those hundreds of perfect sailors just trying to do their jobs — are like “Not again! This goddamn crazy-ass captain!”

            I nodded at him. I wasn’t so much agreeing any more than just watching his mouth form words. The Zohydro I’d dropped before I got here was kicking in majorly. The wooden seat felt like it was heated and pretty much form fit to my back and ass. Super comfortable. I just kept nodding and Philip kept going.

            “Like, every time you or I walk into a bar, the captain in your head is like ‘Woo hoo! Let the good times roll!’ But inside your body the entire crew is just like ‘Noooooooo! Turn around Captain! Turn around!’”

            The beers were gone again and we hadn’t even gotten our entrees. Philip was the one paying so it was all good about the beer prices. And it was my day off so I was allowed a little fun. Plus I’d chosen to drink Singha, which is the cheapest on the menu at least. I’m not that much of a jerk.

            “But in so many more ways than one is your brain just messing with the rest of you. Your muscles want to work but your brain is like, eh this couch is pretty sweet. Your body wants to feel good and get a variety of food, like greens and things, and your brain is like, ‘It’s BBQ time!’ Just some sociopathic captain up there making the most destructive decisions.”

            I was becoming rapidly messed up and could only muster the occasional head bob. I just hoped my eyes weren’t drooping too far down but then again kinda just thinking “fuck it” if they were. This was where I’d wanted to be all day, just riding out the moment in a giant, warm pillow of messed-up-ness.

            Even through my haze I could see Philip didn’t want to meet me just to talk about captains and organs. “But the reason I wanted to grab food,” Philip said, getting around to it. “The reason I kinda came out here was to talk about what me and Mom and Dad are really seeing as a problem. We’re worried about…” Philip tapped the side of his forehead with the knuckle of his forefinger. I was really starting to zone in on the details. The way he knocked right there, just two little raps so that I could hear the bones of his finger and skull make a muffled clock clock despite the cushion of both the skin and muscle covering his little, crooked piggy of a finger and ovular, red-speckled forehead. So weird that that noise is literally him knocking his bones against each other. And clapping? Hitting our skin against our skin to make a slapping noise of approval? What a messed up concept.

            Philip gets on his phone and diddles around. I’m just floating on an umbilical cloud, feeling my body heavy and still and weightless around me. The waitress put our food down and I just kinda stared at it.

But then, out comes my Mom from the doorway. And Dad. And even my wife, Caroline, comes in holding our little baby Brandon, who is asleep in his turquoise bassinet. They all pull up chairs around the table. I want to just be like “peace out” and get up, but my body is so heavy that I just tectonically rove my eyes without even moving my neck.

I try to get the waitress’ attention with my eyes to order a couple more beers but that’s not really going to happen since my whole family is blocking my eye-line to her. They all wear the same mask of pleading concern.

I try to pre-empt all their bullshit and say I’m fine, but end up kind of awping my mouth open like a fish and making an inaudible vowel.  At about that point the Quaaludes — I’d gotten them from some angular guy who called them Mandrakes — I’d taken when I was in the bathroom earlier were kicking in and soldering my ass to the chair. It sucks when drugs kick in right as your parents show up. So, in the end I tried to listen to my dad as he talked and my family looked from him to me, and me to him and him to me etc.

The part that was too bad about it all was that they thought this might work. That this mutual love and familial caring could have any bit of an effect on what my body wanted to do. They thought they could stop me? I couldn’t stop me.

As they talked and choked up I tried to listen but ended up zoning back to what Philip had been saying about my crazy captain brain. At this point I don’t think my captain brain was actually in control. I think the ship was in full mutiny — had been for a while now — every one of my organs now actively driving me to do what I was doing. Like they were tired of this whole ill-fated pleasure cruise and had decided that they would become the agents of its swiftest destruction. My stomach saying, “more beer please.” My lungs saying “more smoke please.” My appendix, a stranger, chiming in, “Hey, how about another ‘lude?” My brain a captive to the visceral command of my organs, trying hard to wrestle back control without success, like running in a dream.

When I zoned back in Philip and my Dad were talking to each other and my Mom was holding Caroline’s head in her lap and Caroline’s auburn hair had fallen down over my Mom’s knees in a silken, shimmering waterfall that made we want to just about die.

 

 

FOOD: 

3.7

Certainly the classiest Thai food available in Portland. Intriguing preparations and some killer dishes — pad thai swaddled in an omelette, addictive house-fried peanuts, and multiple tapas options. It’s tasty for certain.

PRICE:

Spicy

It can get a little expensive a little quickly. Think, in the $30 range for one person with app, entrée and a drank. HOWEVER, if you hit up their late night menu, which is short but very well-curated, the value skyrockets (late night menu starts at 10:00 and goes to 12:45)

AMBIENCE:

Maybe Thai?

With lots of varnished wood and a fun bar to sit at, it’s nice in Boda. I couldn’t really tell you what they were going for beyond, um, a “dark, woody cove.” It works.

SERVICE:

Consistent-ish

The outward-facing service staff is always nice, but — for whatever reason — the food can take a little bit. Your water may go unfilled from time to time, but overall it’s good stuff.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

If you've got a mean Thai-hanker, get over there. If you want a good late night Pad Thai, there is no better. But if you’re just looking for a little night out dinner, nothing fancy, it’ll end up costing slightly more than some other options that will most likely lend you a significant modicum more satisfaction.

Becky's Diner - Portland, ME


What grand bravery to follow a dream. What eclipsing courage to plunge into the personal unknown — facing ruin and failure — in pursuit of self-actuated glory.

 

The elegant denial of rationalism required to truly believe in yourself: the person with whose weaknesses you know, the person whose fear is yours, the person with whose every failure you are most intimate.

 

How can you trust that person with your fragile dream?

 

Because you must.

 

Failure, in the face of your impossible pursuit, is almost assured.  But how much sweeter the life that strives and falls short than one that never dares; how uncomfortable the final rest of one who feared to try.

 

Life itself is struggle; it is inescapably true. We must embrace the struggle, exalt the struggle, place the struggle upon a pedestal higher than man and woman and beast, for it is the unifying code and very subatomic structure of life. Without struggle there is no victory, no relief, no poignancy.

 

We want the end of our desire: one final act that satiates us permanently. And that is precisely what we will never have. We are our desire until we die. And so to love desire itself, that is the meaning. That is this life’s purpose.

 

Everything, especially us, must eventually disappear. What more pure is there then, than a transient dream and the brief, lively struggle for its achievement? To live only for the achievement of a goal is to live in brief flashes. To live in the singular moment of effort is to live constantly.

 

Nothing we own will stay ours forever, except our action.

 

As always this sentiment — the dream, the goal — can be perverted to the accomplishment of wicked ends. We cannot know if our goals are good or bad. Each of us is a saint to one person and a monster to another. The points of view are too many. People will dream what they dream and do what they will do. We can only hope that we do no evil. The evil rarely think they are.

 

We must cast this doubt from our minds and struggle all the same.

 

And what to one is simply getting out of bed is to another a triumph of the highest order. The ease with which the first man rises should in no way diminish the power of the accomplishment for the other. A single victory to one man is as valuable as remaining undefeated to another. The very laws of the universe mandate that everything is relative, thus, so are our accomplishments. So are we.

 

The dream does not need to be tangible; happiness is also a dream. Working toward happiness in the face of a difficult job and troubles with money and envy of neighbors is a goal on the same plane of kings and Gods. Every life’s struggle is worthy of being etched into stone and displayed for all posterity.

 

And what if we achieve our dream? Nothing short of a miracle.

 

But the satisfaction cannot last. For who has not succeeded, only to think, I want to succeed again? The hunger for more success, for the next victory, the next dream, is almost inescapable. Victory is temporal. The hunger lasts forever.

 

Becky Rand’s ambition was to create a diner where people could go early and late, for homemade food of the best ingredients for a fair price. Her dream was Becky’s Diner and her dream is a reality. Her effort has borne impossible fruit. And she has found purpose, found life, in the struggle to keep her dream a reality on Hobson Warf — to save it from slipping prematurely into the past.

 

Her success is irrefutable. Perfect. That is what we can applaud. The realization of her dream and the effort to keep it thus, are all we can truly judge. To compare her diner, her dream, to another — the thing I do so readily — is, in this context, profane. Becky’s — and every other restaurant and diner and establishment like it — is a monument to triumph over the totality of human strife.

 

To Becky’s we can turn for hope, for joy, for sun-dappled dreams. Let it stand as a temporal testament to the beauty of sweat, the staggering profundity of effort, the unmitigated joy of hope. Let Becky’s stand for all our dreams.

 

Good for Becky. Good for us.

 

 

FOOD:

3.0 Stars

This review was inspired by the fact that, while Becky’s may not be my favorite diner, it is a staggering accomplishment for someone to even start a diner, let alone keep it successfully running. So, if you’re looking for diner food, diner food is what you’ll get. Good, solid stuff.

PRICE:

Old Timey

Seriously, the price is the jam. $8 omelets, $5 eggs, you know the drill. Big portions, little prices all made with ingredients you’d keep in your own kitchen.

AMBIENCE: 

Quintessential

Maps of Maine on the walls, booths on the outside, counter on the inside surrounded by stainless steel stools with red pleather tops. Feels as though, statistically, at least one family is having their “Annual Becky’s Meal” at all times.

SERVICE:

Respect

Becky’s servers get up early, as in, the time I go to bed early. And they serve with a smile. Great people and good service.

EAT OR SKIP: 

Eat

If you want a diner diner, Becky’s is it. Artisanal crepes and cappuccinos this is not. It is, however, skilled at what it does for a price that puts a smile on your face.

 

Bayside Bowl - Portland, ME

THE UNOFFICIAL ABRIDGED GLOSSARY OF BOWLING TERMS


 


Anchor (N) – The member of a bowling team most likely to bowl the highest score and take bowling so seriously that any jokes about them in this definition will probably earn the writer a verbal or physical altercation.

 

Approach (N) – The period of time between addressing the pins and releasing the ball when one has absolutely no control over their legs.

 

Beer Frame (N) – On a team of four bowlers, if three out of the four bowlers hit a strike in one frame, the bowler who did not get a strike must buy a pitcher of beer for the rest of the team i.e. blinding genius.

 

Bowl a 300 (N) – Bowling a strike every single frame (including three strikes in the last frame); an event which, like the wendigo, is rumored to exist but few, if any, have ever been seen.

 

Bowling (N) – A sport that every young man wishes impressed women more than it does.

 

Bowling Ball (N) – A polyurethane sphere with three, finger-sized holes capable of humiliating a person with great athletic talent and making a hero of someone with none.

 

Bumpers (N) – Ball-deflecting objects on the lane adjacent that mean tiny kids will be constantly dicking around in your peripheral vision, totally ruining any chance you had of bowling a good game.

 

Celebrate (V) – (to celebrate) to act elated, either earnestly after a good bowl or, most often, ironically, after you throw the ball in the gutter for like the eighth time.

 

Field Goal (N) – When, on the second bowl, you roll the ball perfectly between two pins, like an idiot, hitting none; witnesses are required to raise their arms in mock “it’s good” fashion.

 

Frame (N) – The smallest unit of time necessary to prove you suck/are amazing at bowling.

 

Friendly Competition (N) – In the context of bowling, this word is meaningless. See: Cutthroat Competition, Silent Car Ride Home, Relationship Counseling

 

Gutter (N) – twin vortexes lurking just beyond both edges of the lane; rumored to make a thin, siren-like wail that can only be heard during an important approach.

 

High Five (N) – A slapping motion of two or more hands made after every single shot for like the first four frames and then everybody stops unless you’re just crushing strikes and then everyone wants some hot five-age.

 

High-Pressure Situation (N) – A period of time in which you actually care about chucking a ball at ten pregnant-lady-shaped painted logs while the earth itself is nothing but a subatomic dot stranded in the vast reaches of an endless, undying universe.

 

Just One More (N) – (an idiom, regularly used in reference to an alcoholic beverage) a thousand more.


 

Lane (N) – An oblong rectangle of parallel, oiled boards that, if stepped on, will cause you to perform at least ¾ of a split and humiliate yourself no matter how you try to play it off.

 

Lane Etiquette (N) – the act of checking left and right — to make sure nobody is already in their approach on a lane adjacent — before bowling your ball; the best way to avoid a fight with an anchor.

 

Nice Shot (N) – An idiom used as a combination of solace/encouragement when one almost hits a crazy-difficult split. Like, seriously, almost nails it.

 

Pins (N) – Ten painted pieces of wood, arranged in a triangle at the end of the bowling lane, imbued with the malevolence of Satan.

 

Spare (N) – The act of knocking down all the remaining pins on the second bowl of a frame, usually accompanied by the phrase, “It should have been a strike.”

 

Spare Ball (N) – A secondary ball used specifically for bowling spares owned by a bowler by whom you will be so badly beaten that your enjoyment of bowling will be permanently diminished.

 

Split (N) – A situation in which, after the first bowl of a frame, at least two remaining non-adjacent pins can go fuck themselves.

 

Slip (V) – (to slip) An awkward, unexpected motion of the foot; the scapegoat for every single bad shot ever bowled.

 

Strike (N) – An act after which one is permitted to either A: jump, scream, howl, and dance or B: shrug, act angry, and mutter, “Jesus… finally…”

 

The Zone (N) –  Roughly three beers deep.

 

Tots (N) – A delicious, crispy, potato-y lane-side treat and specialty of the Bayside Bowl kitchen.

 

Turkey (N) – A situation — heralded by bowling three strikes in a row — in which it is somehow acceptable to shove your hands into your armpits and flap your truncated, wing-like elbows while gobbling. Alternately, a hand on top of the head in rough mimic of a cock’s comb is also acceptable. Teammates are required to celebrate this decision, no matter how oafish the gyrations appear.

 

 


FOOD:

3.8

Bowling alley fare this is not. Bayside knows their way around a lane and a kitchen. The standouts are the burgers and tater tots, with a solid burrito and many more options. And if you don’t think tots go well with bowling then you, my friend, are mistaken.

PRICE:

7-10 Split

Average prices for above average quality. Burgs/Sandwiches/Wraps run around $10. Also, Moosehead beer is so cheap it’s almost like they don’t add it to your bill, either that or I’m drunk.

AMBIENCE:

No Country for Bowled Men

Nice, modern design makes for a rad, comfortable atmosphere that doesn’t get in the way of the main aim: bowling.

SERVICE: 

Five (star) Bagger

Seriously, the fine servers at Bayside are just excellent. Lane-side service, + they remember your tab + they are pleasant to be around. A++.

EAT OR SKIP:

Bowl

It’s a fine alley with great crowds and mighty grub. The real strikin’ deal.

 

Blue Rooster Food Co - Portland, ME



Looking through the verdant swaying foliage from the panoramic window in my bedroom, I almost convinced myself I didn’t have any animal hybrids at all — as if it were just solitary me in the midst of wild ocean on a tropical haven of solitude.

            Peering from under the sheets of my egg-shaped water bed, I realized that the previous night was one of the first good sleeps I’d had since the whole electrified wolfverine escape. I felt good. It’s interesting, when you forget what it feels like to just feel good, to not feel put-upon and heavy with problems that you can’t directly solve. This island, BloodSpew Cove — my island — is kind of a handful.

            The electrified wolfverine mishap was basically just a miscalculation on my part. Who knew they would be strong enough to gnaw through their steel enclosure’s bars? After devouring Ken Klatch, a really nice lackey, they absconded to the wilds where they’re now vigorously procreating. Looking on the bright side though, having giant, vicious, electrified quadrupeds isn’t the worst form of security against would-be snoopers.

            Unfortunately, I can’t spin the Tasmanian Marlin Man imbroglio. The three maimed interns aren’t going to dole out very good reviews after that one.

            To make matters worse Gloria Languardo, my unflappable assistant, was worried by this week’s gen-mod forum presentation in which I unveiled the SARS AIDS Cheetah.

            “What, exactly,” she said, “is the benefit of the fastest land-mammal imbued with both SARS and AIDS?” Well, she stumped me with that one. I was just thinking, check out this badass cheetah, y’know? Needless to say I tabled that project along with the invisible sentient Alzheimer’s cloud.

            I’m not all blunders thought. I mean, yeah, my Dad, Dr. Inferno, gave me this island. I named it BloodSpew Cove. The whole idea of filling it with heinous genetic mutant abominations was purely my initiative. I realize that the idea wasn’t anything particularly new — yeah yeah Dr. Moreau got there first — but I still brought it all to life.

            The actual problem — besides all these little mishaps — is that the third annual board meeting was coming up and all the investors would be here in a week. That means Professor Knife, Bill Hates, Señor Deathface, The Gay Phantom and the head of the board, my father, Dr. Inferno.

            This is the problem with our capitalist shackles; it allows no room for blue sky innovation! True progress — not to mention the entire structure of scientific inquiry — requires you to chuck a couple concepts against the wall and see what sticks! But nooooo, you have to be saleable, scalable, profitable and marketable from day one. No grace period, no try it out period! No, hey maybe in retrospect that radioactive crow-bear wasn’t the best idea. Just bam! Profit, profit, profit.

            BloodSpew Cove actually started off swimmingly; my fireproof mice were basically the hottest seller in 2011. They helped as an early-warning for stuff like carbon monoxide or actual flames. Only problem, of course, was that they were also bullet-proof, ageless and humped like mad, which any idiot who read the fine print would have known. Luckily, those lawsuits are still pending.

            In better news, Horatio, my chickenrhino wrangler, sang the praises of my new herding dog: the taser hound. Keeps the chickenrhino’s charge-pecking to a minimum, which means food bills go down. Great stuff.

            It’s hard enough to run an island in the middle of the pacific. Try adding vicious, crafty, ungodly critters to that mix. And then try to make it profitable. This is no banana stand operation.

            Supply-wise this island is a money suck. We used to ship everything out on my forty thousand cubic foot nuclear submarine, the Arc Too. But that’s been out of commission since 2010. I’m convinced that the more money a vehicle costs, the faster it breaks. Currently, we get all our supplies from Amazon.

            Six days out from the meeting, my father came for a preliminary inspection. His goatee, as always, was waxed to a full point.

            “So, you want to give me the run down?” he said. I hemmed and hawed that I was still in early stages of the presentation and wouldn’t want to divulge an unfinished draft.

            “You haven’t started yet,” he said, taking off his signature square, bright red sunglasses and rubbing his eyes. “Listen, Nate. This island is an opportunity. I realize that the economy hasn’t been kind to it lately, but the board is starting to get a little worried. You need to show them that next year we’ll be in the red, and not the kind of red we’ve been seeing recently.”

            I kicked some dirt under a lab table.

            “These escapes,” said my Dad. “This island is a death trap. Three maimed interns, Ken Klatch eaten two months ago, three lackeys who now have both SARS and AIDS. The escaped electrified wolfverines roaming the forest making it so Amazon has to deliver to my island for safety purposes? I mean Nate…”

            He stopped when he noticed a tear trace my cheek. He put a hand on my shoulder.

            “It’s OK. Just take care of those electrified wolfverines. Everything else should be fine.”

            His helicopter hadn’t even taken off before the alarms started going again. Another escape. Two decapitated lackeys later, we managed to goad the lobstergent back into his sand hut.

            It took forty eight hours in bed for me to break out of that bout of depression.

            I mean, in the beginning, I’d set out in hopes of conquering the planet with my heinous affronts to God’s plan. Right now? I’d seriously just settle for amusement park status. Y’know, ship in kids by the ferry load, tire the suckers out and then hit their parents' wallets with a gift shop at the exit. Man, that would be the life.



            Three days out from the meeting and things were actually looking up! We had to clean out the Snale tank — a whale-sized aquatic snake — and it went off without a hitch: no deaths. Surprisingly, lackeys are pretty hard to come by these days. They’ve got to be hardy, strapping and bereft of a single individual thought. Also, it helps if they’re of various nationalities; you don’t want to get slapped with the old “Arian Domination” label.

            It’s a great island though. My Dad bought it — along with several other remote, ominously-shaped islands (skull, bomb, middle finger, &c &c) — back in the nineties when it looked like property value would never stop soaring. Then when he got nailed by the market he sold all of them but his island and mine.  

            Two days to the meeting and still no progress on the wolfverine situation, but I had a brilliant thought. If I needed help, why not help myself?

            So, I cloned myself.

            I’m no idiot about cloning, I didn’t make some evil twin or anything. In fact, I added some ant genes to his makeup so he’d not only be more diligent but would take commands from me, his queen. Plus, I tattooed a big 2 on his face so I wouldn’t have to worry about any of those silly gunfight double binds with both of us yelling that we’re the real original at some indecisive lackey holding a quivering pistol.

            Needless to say my clone was a huge help. I gave him one tour of the island, showed him around the different boring jobs I had to do and boom, instant second in command. It’s amazing I didn’t think of it earlier.

            Last day before the big meeting and everything actually came together! Surprising to see. My clone pulled his weight in a major way. He even managed to herd all the electrified wolfverines back into their pit. That ant gene really put some diligent pep in his step.

            I felt good. I was getting things done and that really boosted my spirits. I beamed at the thought of the board getting to see my island then.

            Then the board meeting happened. In short, it did not go as originally planned.

            About an hour before the meeting, I was lounging on the picturesque vista by the praying manatee lagoon and my clone dropped by to give me an update. At least that’s what I was expecting. Instead, this clone had a huge five on his face and started to strangle me. So there I am about an hour before the meeting, beating my clone to death with a pina-colada-filled coconut to the chittering snorts of the praying manatees below. Quite a scene!

            Welp, turns out I put Queen ant genes into my clone instead of just worker ant so that was a faux pas on my part. Basically, my clone was clandestinely pumping out ancillary clones and cleaning up to keep me distracted. By the time the Gay Phantom arrived — he’s always the most punctual — in his invisible submarine, the place was pretty much bedlam.

            Clone 2 was trying to destroy every other creature on the island to make room for his brood of copies — I saw a clone numbered 59 suplex a security guard. I had to text Miss Languardo to get on the intercom and let all staff know that they needed to basically flee or be mercilessly destroyed.

            We ended up having the board meeting in Professor Knife’s Hover-Scythe.

            “It appears our investment,” I said, not even bothering to open the PowerPoint presentation I’d prepared, “will need a longer-term view.”

            My father and the board eventually agreed to a small downsize. Total, eschaton-level melt-down of an evil island was actually covered in our insurance package, so that was great foresight.

            I’m currently looking into office space around the Silicon Valley area. I figure we can have a cool office with like a Ping-Pong table, video games and maybe something edgy like a beer vending machine. That sort of stuff boosts morale. I want to make sure my staff and abominations don’t feel like they’re getting the short end in this deal. They’re the ones who really matter, after all.


 

FOOD:

3.5

Inventive dogs. Scrumptious tots. A great spot for a quick lunch.

PRICE: 

Cock-a-Doodle Deal

Wow that is a breathtakingly bad pun (if that can even be considered a pun). You’ll not pay much though.

AMBIENCE:

Cooped

Sitting inside consists of solely counter space around the outside of the room. Probably accommodates 15 comfortably. Fits the style of food perfectly though, plus the rooster décor is awesome.

SERVICE:

Struttin’ Their Stuff

Order from the cashier. Get food from the cashier.

EAT OR SKIP:

Eat

If you’re in the mood for a killer dog, solid sandy or some hot tots (hot in the “popular” sense, not spicy-hot), Blue Rooster will have you crowing. There is now a special nook in hell for me thanks to all these rooster puns.