Hope blows



CHEAP EATS Hope does not spring eternal. It springs for about three years and four months. Just kidding. It springs eternal. For me it does, but I kind of wish it didn't. My friends who have given up seem happy, and I look at them, laughing the dark laugh and drinking heavily, and I think, I want that. Thus the fascination with self-destructive habits like, yes, drinking, but also self-pity, insomnia, and burning the roof of your mouth on hot pizza.

You probably noticed that Cheap Eats has become a kind of a blues tune, featuring repetition and heartache. I'd love to stay right there, believe me, and close my eyes and just ever-so-slightly sway, real sexy, like buildings, while the harmonica, "brings it home" and the ice in everyone's glasses melts.

This sounds nice, doesn't it? Trust me. It does.

However, and this is a terrible attitude, I know: I keep having hope. Which springs eternal, like cockroaches.

But I would like to learn hopelessness, and am thinking about getting a television. That's Earl Butter's advice. "Don't do drugs," he said, over coffee, down at the coffee shop, 'cause I asked. "Do TV."

Yeah! Food Network, I thought. That's something I've heard about. As usual, Earl Butter has his finger on the pulse of — well, on my pulse.

And let's be clear: I say learn hopelessness instead of be hopeless not because I'm a new age hippie chick, but the opposite. A chicken farmer. As chicken farmers know (from shoveling shit, chopping off heads, and watching the hawks circle) we are all, ultimately, hopeless. It springs eternal too! But it gets overlooked, so you have to learn it.

This week's dating disaster blues song is too sad and scary to sing, even for me. So let's cut the one-four-five, shitcan the harmonica player, shoot the piano player, and, pending his mommy's permission, effectively turn Cheap Eats over to an adorable three-year-old boy named Boink, who loves to cook and hates to eat. I'm seeing a kind of an alternative weekly cooking show, wherein Boink, with the help of his washed-up chicken-farming nanny, invents pesto soup and generally tries to poison his little sister, who eats anything and is just the cutest little sweetie-pie ever to hit the alternative weekly world since Matt Gonzalez circa 10 years ago.

Let's call it ... I know: Cheap Eats! The first episode begins right now, with Boink at the counter doing what he does best: raising dust. Dust is his word for clouds of flour he inspires by 1) sticking his hands in the mixing bowl, 2) bringing them to face level and clapping, and 3) repeating steps one and two. His whole face, eyebrows, hair, clothes ... he is coated in "dust."

I am standing nearby, holding Boink's cute little sister Popeye the Sailor Baby, who is spewing puke all over me. I'm soaked. If her brother and I were to hug right now we would make, between us, a most disgusting batter.

In fact, let's make it: puke pancakes! I'm disgusted, not because of the state of my nannywear, but because the day before, I am remembering, standing there dripping sickness, Popeye and me shared fresh figs under their back yard fig tree, alternating bites, while Boink tortured the chickens. I give myself 24 hours before I'm puking all over my nanny.

This feels more like a medical certainty than a prediction, but 24 hours later I feel fine. I feel great. Home, and clean, and hopeful, I call my TV-watching friends the Mountains and invite myself over for dinner. They accept! I e-mail the TV-watching couple I wrote about last time, and invite myself over after dinner for late-night meaningless sex. They accept!

In my car I listen to the debate, and begin to feel it. By the time the ribs and chickens come off the grill, I am on the Mountains' bathroom floor, missing dinner and cell-phoning my couple to cancel them, too.

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