My Whole World is about (to) Change.

More than when I got High.

More than when I got AIDS.

More than when I got Clean.

More than when I got Dumped.

More than when I asked for help, or embraced the consequences or looked up through that flushed dawn sky or the tasted the last dried tear.

Letting GO I am taking Charge.

The me I have known, he’s flaking off, scratched away, new flesh raw to the bite of the wind.

This is a me walking alone.

This is a me saying Yes.

This is a me who supports myself.

Already I have become aware of each next step with quivering breathe, with the throb in my bones.  I have relaxed the old neural pathways.  I have learned to take myself gently by the hand.

I hear the jet fuel training across the sky, lives launched toward new destinations.

I am mourning my own passing.                                          I am crowing for my resurgence.

I wake these mornings, shrug off the drifting dazzling dank. I sit here with black coffee and white pages. The squirrels outside leap from leaf to branch, deposit their savings in my flower pots. Salvation squirreled away.

I breathe

I cry

let it all seep in.

This day begins.

————————

(i who have died am alive again today and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

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the syringe is half full

October 28, 2018

I’m laying on the recliner in a drafty basement in the West Village. My stomach is knotted. Breathing is short. I want it all to go away, no more pressures, no more pain, just to disappear. I fucking hate needles but this is the only way, the only real way to get the most out if it. The two other guys in the room are so chill, like nothing unusual is happening, “Another day at the office, girl”. In some ways it is. We need it. Every. Day.

The clacking of Jackie’s boots coming down the spiral staircase, the Barbie Staircase as she calls it, cuts through my anxiety. Jackie will make the needle feel like a feather under my nose, like I won’t notice the metal slipping into my veins. She can make me laugh when I want to cry, distract me from what’s coming, but me at ease before she slides the spike in.

The office is my doctor’s, nestled away off the Avenue behind a gate, down an alley lined with ancient townhouses and ends at a  period lamppost before a painted brick wall.  In December the residents hoist a Christmas tree. It’s simply ringed with colored lights, the old kind that glow warm, not the frigid technicolor LEDs of today. When the lamp light washes over the tree, and snowflakes flit by like faeries, I dare you to not post it on Instagram hit with a wave of nostalgia for a childhood you have never known.

I come here everyday now for over a week and will continue for at least 3 more. I still don’t know why I can’t walk. While I don’t have a clear diagnosis, we have, by process of elimination, isolated a few lucky winners. It seems to be an amalgam of the following with a dash of psoriasis and pinch of HIV complications thrown in for good measure.

First up is “Reactive Arthritis”.  This rare inflammatory disease (fewer than 20000 cases a year) used to go by another sobriquet however we tend not to name things after Nazis anymore.  The inflammation stems from an infection and while it mostly affects the lower extremities, has been know to attack the spine and the eyes as well.

Next we have “Trauma”.  For the life of me I had no recollection of any fall, drop, bust or break. I hadn’t had a blackout in years. Order up and MRI! The problem with this kind of imaging is its not like carbon dating- there is no way to see When things happened, just What happened.  It’s very Dr. Manhattanthat way, all of history happening at once.  At some point there was a stress fracture, more plantar fasciitis, and 30 years of wear and tear on bad feet from a guy who stubbornly carried too much weight all his life.

Finally there is good ole Gout, the “disease of kings”.  In most restaurants the manager can order almost anything off the menu, a modest perk to offset the hundred of dollars more per shift a server walks with at the end of the night. S/he then retires to the office to commence their paperwork, count the safe and stare at the footage of the inmates running the asylum. What I thought was the smallest of consolations at the steakhouse was my manager meal. I could have a hanger steak or a filet mignon or the fish or the chicken, but no additions, substitutions or modifications or Juggernaut in the chef jacket would curse me out. Sure it’s great to have a steak every now and then, not five times a week.  And really, who orders chicken  at a steakhouse? Or the fish…? You do that ands you get what you deserve. I’d ask for the appetizer of seared scallops, plain if Chef wasn’t expediting, otherwise I’d scrape off the thick glops of uncooked creamed corn beneath the four white discs. Who knew an order of scallops a day would be my undoing?

On Monday I lay in the podiatrist’s chair white-knuckled, panting. He needed to aspirate the swelling in my foot, “and while we are in there I’ll be injecting a serious of steroid shots into both sides of the…” “Yup. Got it. Thank you,” I sputtered. Why is it anesthesia has to be administered by injection?  He’d been through all this on Friday when I had a full-blown panic attack. We rescheduled, giving me a Xanax to take before arriving. It was too low a dose. My friend Akiko managed not to lose her fingers in my death grip. Ever the mother, she championed from the sidelines, reminding me what a trooper I was, tears streaking across my face. When Edward Scissorhands finished remaking my right foot, he turned to me with a frown. “It seems the liquid is just to thick to remove. I mean, I was already deep in the joint. I got a few drops but I don’t think that’ll be enough for testing.”  Frustrated and exhausted I hobbled out into the midday sun. No longer having to be brave Akiko gulped, “those were really big needles”.

Now I’m just spent. Jackie has her calm voice on, “Sweetie, breathe in…good”. The icy stab of the freezing fluid flowing though me is too much. I tug my gloves on. Pull my hat over my head. I can’t read. I try but I’m afraid if I turn the page too roughly the needle will poke itself further in, that the antibiotics will wash into a wave, that my arm will swell to match my foot. How would I hold the cane? The office is busy today. The other men down here sit causally flipping though Grindr and gossiping “the boys wouldn’t let me take out the camera. I was so pissed. It was just like that last weekend in the Pines though, for like 2 whole days”. I hate meth heads.

I’m a meth head. Well, I was. Those days are long since passed. You’d think after 13 years off crack I’d have learned my lesson. Ha! Smoking was my thing. It had ritual but it was transportable. I was comfortable with it. Eventually if you are in the scene long enough, guys almost shame you into shooting. They are all jumping off the ledge, you should too. I remember watching someone slam for the first time.  The vacant pull into euphoria wiped away into voracious lasciviousness. I wanted some of that. But there was no way I could ever hold a syringe much less carefully check for air, veins, the ratio of crystal to liquid, swab, concentrate… No. I wanted to be high and I wanted to fuck. The fact that I was so desperate to disappear that I’d willingly thrust out my arm to a stranger who was usually tweaking already themselves in unfathomable to me.  I have known Jackie for over a decade and I still squirm when she gives me a B12 shot.

That time is over. I’ve healed, done the work, grown up. I forgave myself. Now I try to accept that these treatments are the only way I can get better, that the infections will subside. Trudging to the West 4th Street station daily has given me back a routine, a map for my day that was lost with the job. I take it slow. I write. Every Day. I need it. I look up to the IV bag. Can’t it be optimistic to think that the drip is half empty?

crawling back from the edge

October 17, 2018

 

I should have noticed it then, when I woke this morning, an hour ago, maybe more. I had gotten up to pee even earlier, spied the dawn nudging at the smudgey darkness out my window and grasped for the eye mask. I burrowed back below the down comforter never quite getting back to black. Once I surfaced staring out at the crystalline blueness, knowing I was in fact awake I began the examination.

For the past three months I have been unable to walk. I should clarify. “On the morning of August 16th your honor, the subject in question tried to climb out of bed. Instead he crumpled to the floor in sobs, screams – that sort of thing. Pain in the right foot.” Pain? It felt like such an insufficient adjective. Overnight my right foot had ballooned to the size of an dodgeball, shinny as an eggplant, hotter than the sun.  My own breathe across it dwarfed hurricanes, the pressure of it’s skin the stretched across this appendage weighed more than the Chrysler Building.

In my inimitable style my main concern was ‘How could I get to work?’. I was a manager at steakhouse of dubious quality and had just returned to work after three weeks of being laid out with a herniated disc. The (in)Human(e) Resources department for the restaurant  had notified me that if I didn’t return to work immediately, I would be terminated.

Every night I wandered the floors trying not to feel completely useless, giving away thousands of dollars in meals to spoiled hedge fund bros and whiny botoxed bottled blondes from Long Island who huffed that their meals were under/over cooked, their wine glass weren’t filled high enough or that they’d received cold food but only after the check was dropped. I ran food to and from a dingy dungeon of a basement kitchen to chefs who didn’t care what was wrong with a meal. “Tell the bitch to fuck off”, they’d scream, tearing a refire ticket off the printer and tossing to the floor. I tried not breathe too deeply as the 40yr old building has distinct scent from the sewage that routinely seeps up from the bowels, masked by the packets of Febreeze oils the general manager has taken to tearing open and pouring into all the air vents. Quixotically I’d press the servers to check in on their tables, to get off their cellphones, to stop drinking the bottles of vodka they poured into their ‘water bottles’ to crush out their cigarettes and to stop ordering food to be delivered though the back alley. But useless and empty was exactly how I felt at the end of ever shift, watching the bartenders pocket extra cash and the runners complain about the $400 they’d made while I nursed a scotch or a glass of champagne before locking the doors behind me.

However soul-crushing my job was, it’d paid ok. I was able to take on the lease for my two bedroom apartment i’d been sharing for the past 7 years. I could afford to register and insure the beat up Toyota my sister had bought used later gifting it to our mother who in turn passed it on to me. I had business cards that weren’t from Vistaprint. I could eat free meals at the other restaurants in the corporation. I had actual savings in my saving account.  I even had a week of vacation coming to me. I was miserable. I was depressed. But I was employed.

However I was terrified that this shitty job would be ripped away from me. How would I stumble through the day? If I couldn’t stand how would I get to the restaurant, left alone move up and down three floors all night long?  My colleagues had made it clear just how awful it was without me for those three weeks. No, not because they missed me, had hoped  I was recovering, were in any fashion concerned for my health. They resented the fact I was not at work while they had to work extra hours in my stead.  What retribution lay in store for me when I returned? These were my fears.

When a body is in crisis, there isn’t an APB so it’s disparate parts all suddenly pull together to make it through as a whole. This was becoming increasingly clear as my bladder was panting to be emptied and my brain was thumping for its caffeine fix. But the foot was having none of this interruption, it was the be all end all of existence and it was going nowhere. The tears from the pain, now that I was fully awake and the tears from frustration that I couldn’t move crested with sobs of terror into a crushing tsunami of salty panic. I dragged myself back onto the bed. White hot lightening exploded from the end of my leg into my cerebral cortex. I don’t recall the screaming, only that my throat was beginning to feel sore from it. I couldn’t lean left or move to the right. I had to piss a river. If only it could seep out of my eyes I thought fleetingly, before urine began to leak from the tap.

Somehow I made it though that morning.                                                                                   No, not somehow. I made it because my friends came together, networked with one another and sent help. David and Wing called Rosendo, who drove me to the Emergency Room, carrying me inside. Johnny and Amanda kept checking in to see how I was doing as did Giovanni and Ace and Yarrow and so many others. Friends from Greenpoint to Japan sent White Light and Good Juju.   Danielle brought me home from my first MRI. Shami bought groceries, did laundry, scrubbed the bathroom. Jill planted a garden on my fire escape, the only refuge from my bed or the yoga mat on the living room floor,  cascading with sweet potato vines, bursting with impatiens and geraniums and gerbera daisies .

And my family, the love and light from each and every one of them is and was beyond measure. I can never repay nor display the gratitude I feel for their support.

There were MRIs and sonograms and neurologists and orthopedists. My own doctor, dear Jose, my friend, who suffered the loss of his husband of 20 years in the middle of all this mayhem struggles even now to find a diagnosis. That remains unresolved. Due to my  psoriasis, my HIV medications, my unique physiology and a limitless array of other variables  it appears to be a case of reactive arthritis, serve gout attacks and more. I have been on various sensitive diets. I have flooded myself in gallons of water. There have been more salts (Epsom) in my tub than the Dead Sea. I have received daily IV treatments of antibiotics as well as more ingested orally. I have been given Vicodin for  pain, something I administer wearily, sparingly because of my past addictions. There are anti-inflammatories by the dozen and gods bless ’em, more homeopathic remedies sent by loved ones than I know what to do with right now.

But as lay in bed, dragging my limbs out from under the covers I noticed something strange. Something wonderful. The latest set of drugs have reduced the swelling to the point where what extends from my right legs might well pass for a foot. I begin the exercises I’ve learn from my twice-a-week physical therapy visits.                                   Back and Forth.                                                                                                                                   Up and Down. The tears fly out as I sputter and sigh, gasping at this newfound range of motion . It is the Side to Side that does me in, a movement I have been unable to manage for twelve weeks…to this very day. As if my moving I will break the spell I freeze up. If I try to make it out of bed, if I can’t do that the weeks of rage and frustration and fear will all come crashing back. I am too afraid to try. I am too hopeful to stay put. And then I remember the trip to the bathroom. Yes, I’d help onto the wall, steadied myself along the couch inching my way in the dark, but had I needed to? Was it a finite amount of mobility like an hourglass or gas tank? If I made it to the kitchen will I make it out the door? It has been a few hours now. I have made coffee, showered, roasted off more plain chicken breasts, more tilapia, more carrots and broccoli. I played the lottery, won rush tickets to a matinee. I am about to walk out into the world. I still feel the crystals in my joints, still seize with stiffness, my gait altered for weeks now. It will take time to heal. I know I am not healed. But today I can walk. Today I can breathe again.

Something’s Brewing

February 1, 2013

This morning I was faced with a bit of a dilemma with grind coffee beans to brew a pot of espresso.  For the past few days I’ve been cooking and been quite pleased with the results. From the multi-grain oatmeal with poached pears and greek yogurt to the chu-che curried lentils and the gyoza and mushroom & barley soup my kitchen has seen more action than a Golden Girls’s bedroom.

So what’s the problem, you might query? Well, I am out of quart containers and freezer space for one thing but the other is I took little-to-no photo’s documenting this outpouring of culinary productivity. While the media has been covering the foodie-photo-op and it’s pervasive/permissiveness (and please, tweet me you feelings on food pics at @TheHungryTiger #foodphoto) I realize some folks are bored by reading pure text online.

If you are reading this you know that my tweeting and tumblring happens far more often than updating this blog. But is it better for me to post what I have been cooking and creating without images or not to post at all? I’m sure the answer is the more I post the easier it will be to remember to add content moving forward and perhaps I can slip in some pics retro actively when I make the dishes again further down the line.

So then here is my Hearty Morning Oatmeal recipe. I catered a dinner a few weeks back where the final course was Cabernet-Poached Pears with  Cardamom-Ginger Gelato and I still had a few left over. What better way to elevate breakfast while clearing out s little extra space in the fridge!

 

HEARTY MORNING OATMEAL

3/4 cup steel cut oats

1/3 cup quinoa

1/3 cup raw sliced almonds

2 Tbl amaranth 

2 Tbl flax seeds

3 Tbl raw coconut oil

1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)

1 tsp vanilla extract 

1/4 cup chopped candied ginger

3 cups water

1 cup 100% cranberry juice

Yields 4 cups

 

In a 4qt saucepan heat the oil and flax, amaranth and toast briefly. Add the oats and stir slowly getting a nice coating of oil and heat on everything. This gives a richer depth of flavor  and nuttiness to the oatmeal; the grains should start popping slightly.  Add turmeric and water followed by juice and vanilla.  Bring it all to a boil and simmer stirring occasionally 20 minutes. Add ginger and cook 10 minutes more.  Garnish with Greek yogurt and serve!

I will often make this at the top of a busy week and batch it out to have ready to go before running out the door to work, plenty of healthy heart energy to last all morning.

You can tweak this recipe all you want- swap out the turmeric for a combo of cinnamon and nutmeg for a more “traditional” oatmeal or cardamom and dried peaches instead of the candied ginger.

 

 

 

Perhaps the World Ends Here

BY JOY HARJO

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

 

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

 

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

 

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

 

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

 

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

 

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

 

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

 

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

 

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

 

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

 

The Superman Musical

June 2, 2012

The Superman Musical

listen, i know it’s not food for the belly but wow- feast your eyes & ears on this hot potato!

As I write this (thanks to the wonders of modern technology,in a cab on my telephone) I am speeding towards the airport about to embark on an exciting gig. It’s been awhile since I’ve been cooking privately as Web Crawls and Diners and catering has filled my days of late but I’m so eager to rough-up my calluses again and to do so in a country that I’ve always dreamed of visiting yet have never before had an opportunity to set foot in- Mexico!
Keep you eyes peeled for a peek inside my trip, with pictures recipes and more!

What a wonderful time was had by this year’s first group of Grub Crawlers!

The Spring has Sprung (2011 edition) was a success not in the least bit due to the wonders of Mother Nature and to the voracious appetites of those intrepid folk who followed me yesterday into the sunlit streets of NYC. As I was putting the final touches on yesterday’s event it dawned on me that it was the first time I’d embarked on a Sunday Crawl.  Wow- so many people in the world that are off on a Sunday, lol!

Fortunately all the vendors welcomed us with open arms and while we were met with a few  more lines than usual the rewards were there in the belly; roasted pork, stewed pork, glazed pork belly and lest we forget creamy tofu, rare cheeses, mouth- watering chocolates and rich single-origin coffee.

Thank you to one and all for making yesterday such a success!

Coming Soon…

February 7, 2011

news, updates and general tasty good stuff!

On Monday December 20 I’ll be taking folks on the last tour of 2010

“it’s beginning to look a lot like GRUB CRAWL” will feature many of the greatest “hits” of earlier tours with more than a few new surprises.

Click the link above to purchase tickets and to join me  for a Tasting Menu on the streets of New York City.

for inquiries about tailoring  private Crawls for you and your friends please write GRUBCRAWLNYC@gmail.com