Archive for July, 2019

Break Thy Fast

The morning after I arrived in the U.S., my sister arrived for our yearly hang out day. This day involves massages, a heavy intake of beverages with mind altering qualities, and Broadway singalongs. I love it, she loves it, the bartenders love it, her husband tolerates it. We sing loudly in the drunken avatars of Jesus and Judas Iscariot and Aaron (A-A Ron) Burr and Jean Valjean. It. Is. Awesome.

The morning after, not so much.

This year the combination of a 10 hour flight and twenty shots of Jägermeister have rendered me a ball of lightly weeping flesh on the bed in her guestroom. And my sister looks in, sadly, holding her head and holding out two Advil. I groan. She groans. And there’s nothing she can say that’ll budge me. Nothing. I am lying here until I can muster the strength to ooze onto her couch and pry open my right eye to watch a lighthearted comedy that makes me forget the beating I have put my liver through. There’s nothing she can say.  

“Want to go to my diner for breakfast?”

Except that.

We’re in the car for about 4 minutes, which is about 3 minutes longer than either of us can stand. And when we arrive, we are the only people in the diner. It’s 6 am and the waitress seats us with a chipper attitude that might literally kill us.

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The Hill God Does Lisbon

Praça do Comércio on the Tagus River

Our first morning in Lisbon I go out for coffee and the famous Portuguese pastries pastéis de nata, which is a custard tart wet dream. The Rua Augusta, silent when we arrived the night before, is bustling this morning. The broad pedestrian way has several outdoor restaurants where tourists eat and locals serve them. Everyone else sets up shop for the day: pharmacies, souvenir shops, markets, gelaterias, restaurants. Workers wash off their patch of cobbles with hoses and buckets of water. It’s warm in the sun and cool in the shade. A breeze comes from the direction of the Praça do Comércio which is the square a couple of hundred yards off that sits on the Tagus. Perfect.

There are a number of pastry cafes and I dip into one and order two coffees, two pastéis de nata, and a large donut coated in sugar and filled with custard and which I have to eat over a trashcan because of the amount of sugar that drops off with each bite.

Oh fish cakes, where hath ye been all my life?
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Cat Man

Cat Man in Box

Pet owners who go on holiday always pay a collateral price for their trip. A friend of mine has to put all of her shoes in cabinets or her German Shepherd will destroy them for being left alone. Another will come across little secret stockpiles of cat poop in shoes, closets, Tupperware in retribution for his little jaunt. A lot of animals don’t like to be left home alone, and they show it in different ways.

My cat has a pattern when it comes to doling out neglect-inspired revenge. When I return from holiday she meows me into the flat with the gusto and volume of a failed expeditionary general. She then pulls little passive aggressive moves like tripping me up and shouting at me about it, Whoa, dude, watch where you’re going! But when I turn on the bathroom tap for her and rub her head as she drinks, the meows slowly dissipate. She is back in her comfort zone, relief and gratitude take over the anger. While she drinks I pour a packet of top shelf kitty grub in her bowl and lure her to dinner. By the time she eats, her purrs could motor a boat across the English Channel.

It’s the period after this that worries me. See, she seems lovably grateful and happy that Dad has returned, but she will always get me once. With one bite, that is. My cat has the revenge memory, the plotting abilities, and the hand accessories of Freddy Krueger. She lays in wait, bides her time, and then she gets me with one good bite. When this will come, I genuinely don’t know. It could be in a day or a month or as I leave for Christmas holiday. I just have to be on my toes.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that she spends roughly eight hours a day sitting on me. My cat expresses neediness by sitting on me: my neck, my back, my stomach between me and my book, my hip, and by sitting on my feet when I am making coffee. This might be seen as charming by an ignorant observer. After all, she’s fluffy and sleepy-eyed, relaxed and reclined. But I know that at the drop of a hat this sleepy-eyed furball can turn into a lawnmower. And one that’s pissed off to boot. Sometimes there’s a warning, a growl, a mohawked ridge of fur, splayed claws. Sometimes there’s not.

Today there’s not. The cat moseys to the back of the couch on which I am lying and reading a book. My phone buzzes and like a good little mindless follower, I reach out for it. And that’s when it happens. The cat goes from 0 to 100 in a split second, literally pouncing on my arm. She grips my arm and plunges those vampire fangs deep into my wrist. I yelp in the manner of a truly surprised person (like a small child) and wrest the cat off by her scruff.

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Motivational Speech

Why thank you hair brush, I am amazing!

When I travel, I use the excuse to completely detox my body of fruits and vegetables. I revel in fried foods, eat every single piece of bread that I can find, and become one with the candy aisle of any store I walk into. I drink beer and wine and make merry. If I am offered something that looks like it’ll take a month or so off my life – fried, fatty, in oil – I accept it with an eagerness that suggests it’s an antidote to whatever poison I have just had.

It’s holiday, I reason, this is no time to worry about one’s waistline. I do this via a series of burps and angry stomach growls. I might be bummed that my holiday only lasts a week, but my body definitely isn’t.   

And so my week in Portugal is no different. There was not a fried ball of shrimp or cod persuasion that I turned down. Seafood! Nor did I balk at any pork sandwich, glass of port, shot of cherry liqueur, beer, barnacle, olive platter, bread, roll, candy bar, or pastry oozing custard. There is a solid possibility that in the last week I have eaten more sweets that I have in the last three years combined.

It’s been awesome. It’s also why I am persona non grata in our little area of the departure waiting lounge at the Lisbon Airport. It seems that a week of consumption as I have had produces a peculiar constitution within my body’s ecosystem that renders me impossible to be near.

Read: my gas could drop a Kodiak bear in full sprint.

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