The Best Thing We’ve Ever Done

My friend Brandon, with whom I work, had an idea.

“We eat out a lot for lunch, right?”

“We do,” I agreed.

“And we eat at many different restaurants on the northwest side of Indianapolis, correct?”

“I feel like that level of detail is more for the readers’ benefit, but sure.”

“So here’s what I’m thinking. I propose…a tournament.”

The tournament, as he described it, would see each of our regular haunts set in battle against each other, only one victor emerging from each conflict, until an ultimate winner emerged. The only question, he said, was whether we could find an even 16 to compete.

Can we find an even 16,” I scoffed. “Gyro Stop, Blaze, Philly Steak and Fries, Ted’s, Charcoal Mike’s, Imperial Palace, Five Guys, Boathouse Grill, Chapati, Culver’s, Gatsby’s, Yats, Le Peep, DiBella’s, Eat Thai, Ruth’s Cafe. That’s 16, and I didn’t even have to think too hard.”

“You forgot Skyline.”

I did forget Skyline. That’s 17.”

“And Firehouse Subs. And Hotbox. And Noodles and Co.”

“Noodles sold me brown tomato soup.”

“So they probably won’t make it to round 2. Any more than Panda Express or Flapjack’s.”

“Hey, maybe we can even visit Vitality Bowls.”

(Vitality Bowls, a weird hipster-looking place sandwiched between Yats and Eat Thai, was a point of frequent derision. We laughed, but added it to the list all the same. Little did we know…)

“…Can we come up with 32?”

We did come up with 32. And then 47.

“Yakisoba,” I said.

“There’s a restaurant called…?”

“No, the 55 cent ramen we eat on rainy days.”

“Well, we do eat ramen more than we eat at most of these restaurants…”

And then we had 48. It wasn’t divisible by 2, but it was close enough. We gave our 16 most-visited restaurants a bye into round 2, while the other 32 restaurants would compete to go against the champs.

We then made the mistake of telling our friends Austin and Josh about this.

“Oh, so you’ve got bbi Cafe on the list, right?”

Brandon and I looked at each other in alarm.

“No…?”

“And Manhattan Pizzeria? The Loft?”

“……………………No?”

And back to Google Maps we went.

“Wing Bar 46268,” I said.

“…I don’t eat at restaurants with more than one number in the title.”

“But we already have Pho 54 on the list. And you just added the confusingly named First Wok II.”

“Okay, you have me there.”

“I think it’s a chicken restaurant from a dystopian future. I want to know what kind of wing sauces are Big Brother approved.”

“Fine. Then I’m adding White Castle. If we’re dying, I want you to suffer first.”

“If you’re adding White Castle, then I’m adding ‘Shrimp Hut’.”

“Shrimp? Hut? Shrimps don’t belong in huts,” said Brandon. “Shrimps have never belonged in huts. Shrimp should never go into a hut. Shrimp should never come out of a hut. I’m not eating shrimp from a hut.”

“You’re gonna go hungry, then.” I stopped. “Oh, dear lord.”

“What?”

“There’s a restaurant called ‘Grilliant Foods’.”

“…Is this the best thing we’ve ever done?”

The Best Thing We've Ever Done

This was our full bracket of 64 restaurants.

Our 16 most-frequented places were already spread out, one to each hemi-demi-semi-final. The remaining 48 were transposed to the bracket by random dice rolls.

We have decided to visit two restaurants a week, judging them on a number of factors before electing a victor. The factors are as follows:

Taste

Value

Environment

Service

Feasibility

(Feasibility relates to how easily we can eat at the restaurant within a one-hour lunch break.)

Each is rated on a ten-point scale and then we compare scores, but the scores are more for talking points than a final determination. Ultimately, when choosing a winner, we’ve got to go with our guts.

I’ll update in a few weeks with the results of our first four weeks of food competition.

Stay hungry!

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Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who Needs Meth When You’ve Got A Library Card?

I went to the doctor and the doctor said
‘No more ideas in that little old head’
So he whipped out a pen and dashed out a prescription
For artistic elixirs to cure my conniptions

‘Take one dose of novels and one dose of music
A sprinkle of TV (but please don’t abuse it)
A film if you’re feeling extremely put out
And we’ll see if we can’t shake this creative drought.’

I went to the library, fearing no harm, you see
Who could be burned by this book-lending pharmacy?
I filled up with stories both low and respected
And promised to take them all just as directed

They worked like a charm; I soon started to write
The infusions from others had altered my plight
And I knew, was so certain, convinced I was cured
But instead I was simply becoming inured

The block soon returned, like a wall made of granite
I scribbled, I scrabbled, I slobbered in panic
My stories weren’t finished, they weren’t even close
It was then that I started to crank up my dose

You can always get Netflix–it’s over-the-counter
And I watched every show, both the uppers and downers
Binged on comics and novels of all shapes and genres
And poorly penned films stuffed with single entendres

These brought peace from pain, but came with enervation
My inkwell dried up from arthritic stagnation
I lost all my metaphors, mythos, and meter
And the urge to create something new sharply petered

They found me near death, my malnourished frame
Almost fatally OD’d on video games
Then they took me away to this place where I live
With the folk in white coats and the care that they give

They tell me the path to recovery is slow
But they’re oh so impressed with the progress I show
I’m sure very soon they will say I can go
And when I get home, what a party I’ll throw
With musical albums and books by Thoreau
And long, arcing dramas shown on HBO
And podcasts I pump through my car stereo
And indie-devved platformers on Nintendo
And conceptual videos by OKGO
And award-winning movies with Willem Dafoe

This poem will prove just how well I’ve adjusted
You doctors all see now that I can be trusted
I know that I needed this short-term reprieve
But when can I
when can I
when can I leave?

 

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Clean Up The Sides, And A Little Off The Top

“No fear of that.”

I’m still thinking of the words, how they felt and tasted as I spoke them
Like water, like air, like nothing at all
A flavor grown undetectable from its prolific presence in my environment
I think of the words as I buy a bucket of protein powder the size of my head
To see if I’m the kind of person who drinks protein powder

I think of them as I cruise down US 31
Listening to the radio because my phone is dead
Some new song by Ed Sheeran playing on a soft rock channel
A tickle at my eyes as I wonder if someone is falling in love to this song tonight
And try to remember the last time I fell in love with someone who had a name

The words jingle with the bells above the door of the $4 cupcake store
I order a $4 cupcake, because the universe will one day constrict to the size of an proton
And I want to know what a $4 cupcake tastes like before that happens
I hope the salted caramel frosting costs $3, because it’s my favorite part

I eat it in my car, because I don’t think my apartment can handle fancy cupcakes
Watching an employee in the restaurant across from me doing the two-step
Returning to professional as a manager comes back around the bend
And I think about the words
And the spaces around them

I went in for my regular haircut
If regular can describe something that happens three times a year
The stylist and I chat as the dead parts of me fall to the ground
About generation gaps, the right to refuse service, and male pattern baldness
The trait skips generations, she tells me
So if my dad had it, it’ll skip me, but affect my kids, and I say

“No fear of that.”

I don’t think about the words or what they mean
But the way they came out, unconscious, instinctual
Something I’ve grown accustomed to saying
A thought I don’t think about any more

Ed Sheeran finishes his song
And makes room on the radio for someone who sounds like Ed Sheeran
But with occasional screaming
I throw the cupcake box into a public trash bin
I respect my apartment enough to pretend that I’m not having affairs with $4 cupcakes
And drive home
Wondering what other things I’ve been saying that I no longer think about.

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If Music Be The Food Of Love, I Have A Severe Dietary Imbalance

I’m the worst kind of romantic
In love with the idea of love
Obsessed with infatuation
A dreamer who dreams only of dreaming

I write odes to ideas
Sonnets to silhouettes of people I have never met
I’m besotted by my imagination
Masturbating to myth and mystery

My mind rejects reality in pursuit of perfection
But what perfection can an imperfect mind create?
Idealization turns to self-love
Turning in turn to self-loathing

I have yet to admit I have a problem
Even now I’m tempted to change the wording above
Make these failings of mine seem noble
Paint my selfishness with a coat of altruism

Maybe I’ll rewrite this as a bit of free verse
A performance, not a cry for help
A twinge of self-awareness reinterpreted as Punch-and-Judy
Mental illness always plays better that way

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Thoughts From the CD Rack

Sometimes I notice something in my apartment out of the corner of my eye and rediscover something I’ve had in plain sight for so long that I’ve forgotten about it. Today my eyes fell across my CD tower, and now I’m looking through all these albums and thinking about the different version of me who collected them.

It’s mostly 90s/00s Christian pop. That was most of my music exposure through high school, and even after that, the music I felt most okay about spending money on.

There’s a small collection of Mark Schultz albums. His self-titled album was the first CD I ever owned. A friend gave it to me on my 13th birthday. More than half my life ago, now. That friend and I had anti-birthdays, exactly six months apart. I don’t remember if I got him anything.

I actually still like his stuff somewhat. Most of these songs are basically short stories, many of them filled with dying children, failing marriages, and a sense of loss and sadness that is usually missing from the relentless cheerfulness of most contemporary Christian music. I used to listen to these albums over and over again, addicted to the catharsis I could squeeze out of them.

On the other end of that spectrum are a couple albums by FFH…as close to a full embodiment of that cheerful Christian pop as I can find on my shelf. In my defense, this had something to do with a girl I liked in high school, though for the life of me, I can’t remember why. For one reason or another, a synapse formed between thoughts of that girl and thoughts of that album, and led to me liking it for far longer than was good for me.

There’s a Bill Cosby comedy album. A bit awkward to be holding on to now, I suppose. I’m not sure what the consensus is on what to do with the works of public figures when their personal misconduct overshadows their creative careers. It’s the one with a half-hour-long story about staying up late and goofing around with his brother. I remember my dad introducing me to this album. It felt like a rite of passage, like being admitted to a secret club of comedy-listeners. It’s one of the better memories I have of my dad.

On the shelf below that is an eclectic collection of musical and movie soundtracks: Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera, and Kill Bill Vol. 1. Then there’s a U2 album I’ve never listened to, a Thousand Foot Krutch CD I’ve listened to but never taken out of the plastic wrap, and two copies of Brave Saint Saturn’s second album, in case I ever need a backup.

I have a pretty complete collection of Five Iron Frenzy albums. They were one of my favorite bands for a long time–a predilection I vampired from someone at college, as I did with most of the things I liked. Panic! at the Disco came from my freshman-year roommate, Sara Bareilles from my sophomore-year girlfriend, and I don’t know where all these Anberlin albums came from, but it’s a safe bet that I didn’t find them on my own.

The first thing I remember liking on my own was The Beatles…and I realize how bullshit that sounds. But somehow I made it to senior year of college without ever hearing their music. I knew they existed, but I’d been in a Beatles vacuum for 20 years, with the exception of an spoken-word rendition of She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah) that my dad got stuck in his ‘singing’ repertoire.

But I found a CD of Sgt. Pepper for $1 and decided to give it a try. Fell in love pretty much overnight. When I moved out of my college dorm, my last roommate (I had four in four years) and I carried furniture and boxes of books down three flights of stairs singing a manic, abbreviated three-fourths-remembered version of this album in our best (read: worst) impressions of Lennon and McCartney.

That’s what these all ultimately come down to, the reason I’m still holding onto them. Not for the music…with Youtube and Spotify, there are easier ways to listen to the ones I still like. I’m keeping them for the memories.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Self-Titled Albumen

My thoughts are an egg
Cook for just the right time
And out pops an omelet of meter and rhyme

My thoughts are an egg
Cook for one second less
And then the yolk is all runny, and you cut into it and it gets, you know, it gets all over the plate, and now you’ve got egg yolk soaking into the pancake at the bottom of the stack, and now it’s seeping into the hash browns too, not just a little bit, but like all the way through the hash browns, and it’s just, just, just a godawful mess.

Posted in Humor, Poetry | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

La Femme Must be Free

La femme must be free
You cannot lock her in a tower
Tie a string about her ankle
Or forswear her from conversing with or knowing other hommes

How can you cherish what is chained?
How can you treasure what is trapped?
How can you love what you cannot lose?

La femme must be free
To love or to leave
Because leave she will
Either the leaving of the free
Out the front door, whole and vibrant
Or the leaving of the caged
A leaving of inches, death by daily death of self
‘Til nothing remains but bones of a soul

An embrace is no embrace that cannot be escaped
A kiss is no kiss that cannot be refused
A serenade is no serenade that cannot be ignored
A hope is no hope that cannot be disappointed

La femme must be free
You must never be sure of her
Safe in her, secure in her
Every day must bear the terror of her parting
And the joy of her staying
Sharpened by its transience

So love her, garçon
Give her your all while she remains
And grudge her none of it when she is gone

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