CHEAP EATS Some people wanted closure, so we went around the circle and each said what we got out of our 10 days of writerly camaraderie, intense productivity, and snorkeling. OK, chicken farmer, here’s where you thank the people who brought you here and lick the asses of all the new, important writerly friends you’ve made, I thought. Which should have been easy, because I did love my new friends and got a shitload of good work done in Mexico; but exhaustion and head problems got the better of me, and by the time my turn came the circle was already aslosh with gratitude, spinning its wheels in good vibes and wonderfulness. I was suffocating. I was drowning. I was dizzy. And it was my turn to say what I got out of it.
“An ear infection!” I said.
If I’d have stopped there it would have been funny, but I’d been out of my stomach for four days and couldn’t stop bitching and whining: My head felt like it was going to explode every time I nodded, the smell of toast made me want to puke, and if I bent down to scratch a mosquito bite I would pass out, I was so dizzy. How the hell was I supposed to get in the van that was taking us all to the airport next morning, let alone fly in an airplane at 39,000 feet with entirely clogged ears? Did anyone have any decongestants?
Heads shook in sympathy. People promised to check their pill collections before going to bed.
“The food was really really good,” I added.
Then it wasn’t my turn to speak anymore, and the circle continued to gush toward closure. Hard to say how many enemies I’d made, but -- since everything else in the world is hard to say too --hey, who’s counting?
At the airport, I wasn’t the only one having a nervous breakdown. Irene was scheduled to land in New York at the same time some of us were. The East Coast was closed. Flights to other places were full.
And, worse, the Starbucks where we awaited our fates was playing squirrely jazz.
I set up a little Ativan dispensary at our table. See, here’s where being a complete spaz comes in handy: I’d been tracking the hurricane for half a week, and had already changed my return trip from JFK to Pittsburgh. So alls I had to worry about was my head exploding before reaching cruising altitude.
Hedgehog was waiting for me at the bottom of the escalator by baggage claim, big smile. She’d left her
stupid movie one day early, drove to Pittsburgh, and got us a nice hotel room near the airport and even nearer to one of the satellite Primanti Bros. To which she immediately whisked me for a pastrami and French fry sandwich and a romaine salad, also with French fries. As if I weren’t loopy enough already.
“Not as good as Giordano’s,” I declared, “but better than the original Primanti.”
The fizzy water did not have French fries in it.
Hedgehog set a half-full bottle of West Indies Creole habanero sauce on the table between us. “I didn’t know what you’re supposed to take with you in an evacuation,” she said, “but I grabbed this.”
“I like your style,” I said, putting it mildly while pouring my favorite hot sauce all over everything.
“You did the right thing.”
She liked my ativanitude, she said.
And we went to our hotel room, made category 4 love,
and in the morning drove back to New York where we had dinner plans and US Open tickets. After this we head back west, finally, stopping only for nephewish weddings, state fairs and I guess gas and shit.
We might go to a Steelers game.
Meanwhile, in time for football season, Giordano's has opened a restaurant in the Mission, without me.
It's where Ti Couz used to be, on 16th Street at Valencia, and rumor has it they have pieroghis.
So my question to you, Mr. Earl Butter, is why the hell are you still eating at Valencia Pizza & Pasta?