Greg on cranberry sauce:
“It’s totally awesome, either homemade or canned. It’s awesomesauce.” Continue reading
Greg on cranberry sauce:
I should’ve called out.
I could be puking up blood and bile all over the bedroom. Or maybe I came down with a nasty case of crippling, violent diarrhea. Perhaps my parents died overnight in a tragic auto accident. Maybe the local authorities are still busy separating blood and bone from glass and steel along the highway.
Any of these excuses would get me a day’s freedom from the office; where grown adults are herded into tiny cubicles and chained to computers like a bunch of sick veal calves.
I could’ve lied — but this is better.
The other riders on the Red Line are watching me with dumb faces and stares. We’re somewhere between the Harvard and Central stops. I’m not sure, as I’m halfway through a six-pack of Harpoon IPA.
Beer tastes so much better on a Monday morning.
Parts of me want to chickenshit and call it off. I could do my civic duty as an American, giving the rest of my beer to the spittle-faced homeless man sitting across from me. I’d grab a cup of black coffee and sober up, strolling into work all shit-eating smiles and pockets full of corporate kiss-ass. Business as usual.
But that’s a coward’s way. True bravery requires a certain level of stupidity, and I aim to be very, very, brave today.
Soon we’re crossing the Longfellow Bridge into Boston. I’m swimming four beers deep by then. I get off the train and walk south along Charles Street and its uneven, brick-lined sidewalks.
I pass by a small, grey, GQ-worthy poodle leashed to a tree outside a storefront. The urge to piss all over the smug little bastard is unbearable – but I wait.
I have no desire to work today; even less desire to work tomorrow. Man wasn’t meant to build spreadsheets from atop a plastic swivel chair. Every day spent soaking in the soul-sucking glow of florescent office lighting, is one day closer to a slow burn, cancer death.
The lucky ones will have hypertension heart attacks first. I envy them.
I finish the fifth beer as I cross Beacon Street, throwing the empty bottles into a steel garbage can just inside the Public Garden. A horde of children is busy climbing on the bronze Make Way for Ducklings statues. Their eager parents snap photos with digital cameras, taking up a solid ninety-six percent of the sidewalk in the process.
I walk around through the grass and open the last beer.
Others are trudging through the Garden to their day jobs. Some are well-dressed: suit, tie, shoes, briefcase, fountain pen, Ray-Bans, haircut. They look important. That or they’re really good at acting the part. I can’t tell. Yet somehow I suspect they all drive black BMWs or silver Audis.
I stop under a willow tree and chug the last of the brew. I gently fling the empty bottle at an obese squirrel lounging on the grass. He’s still too quick for me, but I’ll get him later. By the time I get to Boylston Street, my guts bloat. Another pint of beer and I’d be leaking from all ends.
Just a few more minutes.
I dig down and find the last bit of focus I can muster, as I ascend the entrance stairs to the office building. My eyes feel tight in their sockets. My legs are watery oatmeal.
An elevator takes me several floors up and tries to pull my stomach out my asshole, but the doors open again before it can finish the job. As I stagger through the labyrinth of cubicles, other eyes begin to follow me. Need to be quick.
Standing outside his office, I take note of the small, blue, recycle bin near the door frame, half-full of papers.
I look at him and piss in it.
He starts screaming from his executive chair. Pictures of his wife and kids stare at me from their office wall photo frames. I say nothing, shake off, zip up, and swagger back to my cube. I sit down in my chair and boot up my computer.
This is the most creative thing I’ve ever done in this office.
I smile – and wait.
The train to Auschwitz was late—but it was totally fine with me. I was stoned off my ass. Our senior class trip to visit the Nazi death camps was well into its second week and it wasn’t going well, even by the relatively low standards of Nazi death camp tourism. The only thing that kept me going were the chocolate chip cookies—mercifully laced with weed—courtesy of my pal Micky. That, and the opportunity, the unfounded hope really, of harpooning the heart of Yael, she of the big eyes and floppy auburn bangs. Or, if not quite harpoon her heart, then maybe just get her attention for a split second, to inform her that, yes, I’d been born and now actually exist as a living person.
The trip was led by one of our teachers, hapless and melancholic Rabbi Jencks, an obese widower whose leaky fountain pen had systematically stained every shirt he owned. Jencks bore more than a passing resemblance to what Shakespeare would have looked like if Shakespeare had had a busted-out, late career Vegas period. He’d recently recovered from cancer of the balls. He was joined by a guest trip leader, a dapper, pint-sized elderly gent from our community named Feigenbaum. Feigenbaum’s qualification for leading this particular trip was simple: he was a Holocaust survivor. Lost his whole family, narrowly escaped when they were forced to dig their own graves. You know, the works.
But here’s the thing about that. Feigenbaum was no Elie Weisel. Not even close. The guy lacked the moral authority to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He was completely irresponsible, and just basically a total dick. The school had asked him to join the trip to help “make it feel real” for us spoiled 21st century kids. As it turned out, he was the spoiled kid. He acted like we were ruining his vacation. Instead of pointing out sites and telling poignant stories, or anything, he spent most of the bus rides putting his arm around girl’s shoulders and whispering in their ears, or else complaining loudly that the trip was boring, that we didn’t do enough shopping, that the ride was taking too long. Some nights he would disappear and only show up again, hungover and disheveled, in the late morning. Feigenbaum was, hands-down, the worst Holocaust survivor ever.
At the moment, he was getting annoyed with the delayed train that was supposed to take us to Auschwitz. After much pacing and agitation, he finally piped up.
“Ok, ok, here’s a story for you,” I heard him saying, as he slipped an arm around Jess Kranzler. He was projecting his voice so that the whole group could hear. “Hitler!” he shouted. “You’ve heard of him, maybe? Yes, the Hitler. Adolf. Hitler.” Strangers nearby were starting to give us looks. “This Hitler,” said Feigenbaum, pointing to himself with a triumphant smile, “he came to my town.”
“And believe me,” he continued. “You never seen such an event in your life. Hitler! The famous man, like Alexander the Great, in my little village. Hitler, on my street! You never seen such flowers and flags and music and dancing. And the cakes! Oy, the cakes! It was heaven.”
The senior class stood dumbfounded. Rabbi Jencks looked ill.
“Best part?” said Feigenbaum.
“This hand,” he said, holding up his left hand like a precious jewel, “this very hand touched Hitler. Yes! This hand pulled, a little bit, on his sleeve. This hand touched Hitler’s fingers.”
“Who here wants to touch this hand?”
Nobody dared take a breath.
Feigenbaum seemed genuinely surprised and more than a little bit hurt. Just as he was about to speak again, a little voice was heard.
“I’ll do it,” it said.
Everybody looked back. It was Yael—my Yael.
She walked through the crowd, to the edge of the railway platform where Feigenbaum was standing. He held his left hand aloft, palm up, as though balancing the moon. For an intensely long moment, the two of them just stood there like that: Feigenbaum with his hand floating in the air, suspended by magic, and Yael gazing wide-eyed—like all of us—at this hand. Finally, she swept her bangs to one side, closed her eyes gently and placed her smooth hand on his wrinkly one, palm to palm. Watching this, I became so painfully hard that I had to close my eyes and walk away to avoid embarrassment.
As I sat on the train, fifteen minutes out of Auschwitz, I watched the passing countryside. But for the rhythm of the train, all was silence. I stared out, trying to hold that image of her hand on his. I imagined myself arriving in her village, the honored guest, welcomed with flowers and dancing and cakes.
All I want, all I want—I thought—is to be her Hitler.
I could see her looking up at me adoringly, could feel her hand pulling on my uniform trenchcoat, grazing my fingers. I kept my gaze fixed and tense on the glass of the train window. I knew that if I relaxed, the picture would fade.
I have thought of it, categorized it, obsessed over it really. The masculine: a long fall from some shiny office building, an after-hours drag race into the side of the local brick bank. The self-centered: a leap in front of the 6pm commuter train, charging a cop armed with a black cap gun. The traditional: an idling car in the garage, one final pint of rye whiskey and sleeping pills. These are all just fantasies of course – given my predicament.
You see, my entire existence has been spent imprisoned in a 4-liter borosilicate bowl serving as the Wakes family’s pet goldfish. Happily my sentence – deceivingly cruel and unusual – ends tonight.
Over the years, the thrill of my presence has diminished for my family of three. I have become little more than an afterthought to them – a labor. It has now been six days since my water was last changed and I need no more proof of that then the eight, nine – 10 distinct shits of my own construction floating around me like translucent Victorian–era ghosts, silently warning me to change my wicked ways.
I have come long ago to the conclusion that the only real control I have over my life is the ability to end it. Countless times I have imagined the idea of what would happen after I leap out of this crystalline penitentiary, viewed it in my mind over and over like a treasured family movie.
As the atmosphere robs me of moisture and oxygen, I see my convulsing body happening its way across the Brazilian hardwood floor and falling into the decorative heating grate. After my slow death, I project further into the future – the warm air and fine dust mummifying my corpse with time. I trick myself that this end is a noble destiny, sharing the same final fate as an ancient Egyptian prince. In reality, no indentured scribe will carve my achievements into legend, nor will any leggy archeologist dig for my treasures. I am to be forgotten. I expect no less.
My detention is made worse, mocked really, by the comings and goings of the Wakes clan. Lucky they are to know a world beyond this kitchen; blessedly ignorant to the fact the flakes they feed me (or forget to feed me) taste as bad as they smell. In fact, their lives seem beyond glamorous – suitable for shiny spreads in magazines intended to educate others on gracious living. You would never know how poisoned I am by the envy they generate, never detect it on my face. As a fish we always look the same – exhibiting the same visual cues swimming freely in the Atlantic as when a commercial fisherman’s harpoon enters our chest.
Due to my relative confinement, I have become an expert on their lives, a gilled Jane Goodall if I am to be generous. Seemly alone, they let their guard down, unaware that Professor Snorkel, perched on the kitchen Island, has studied their every move for years.
I know that the athletic 15-year-old Wakes boy likes older men. That late at night, he phones married 40-something’s who have sufficiently enticed him with homemade pornography. He drinks in their words on the telephone, the conversation growing increasingly lewd and ending abruptly after he spends himself into unlaundered boxer shorts.
I see that Ms. Wakes is quite skilled at hiding her need to drink. To achieve a reliable buzz, she has convinced her family that wine at dinner and well into the evening is her innocent attempt to bring French bohemian living into their sleepy home. They remain blissfully unaware that the old flour bag in the back of the spice cabinet is full of nips for secret nightcaps or that under the sink, behind the oil soap, resides her emergency reserve of Kettle One. On the rare occasion where she is the last one out of the house, a shot of Kailua in her morning coffee is not unheard of.
But I have grown weary of it all. Even Mr. Wakes’ occasional violent outbursts, a trait he inherited from his father, no longer stir me as they once did.
Finding myself denied even the basic dignity to pen a final note, I ask what ever, whom ever can hear fish’s thoughts: Shiva, Allah, a bar full of sexy craft beer fans for all I know – to raise their glass to my final proclamation before I go:
Life, my dear friends, can go fuck itself.