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olt! is a way station and oasis on the ancient road from Bedlam to Bellevue, dedicated to free and open discussion of topics moving heart and spirit.
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I was very much into history back then, researching ancient myths and legends of our walled Old Town. We argued over how much truth there was to one particular story, me and my best buddy, and decided to see what it may have been like. I sneaked out early before sunrise, met him at the bottom of the steps leading to the top of crumbling town fortifications.
Up there we crossed over two weathered figures carved in stone, still guarding the main gate leading into town from the river. They celebrate two boys, bakery helpers, baking bread before sunrise to feed a town known to sleep late. As history has it, they finished early, leaving much time to cause a bit of mischief. They climbed to the top of the walls where the beekeeper kept his hives and sealed all the hive entrance holes just as early sunshine woke the bees eager to get out for the day's harvest.
That's when they heard ominous sounds below, outside the walls. Soldiers from a rival town down river were attacking, hoping to surprise the Old Towners still in bed and settle a dispute over rights to tax river traffic. The boys raised an alarm, waking the town. While waiting for reinforcements they thought of throwing hives down on the invaders, releasing very angry bees which put the raiding party to flight, back to their boats and back down river.
There were no bee hives on top of the wall for us, but some loose boulders we pushed over the edge smashed to pieces down below, giving us an adequate demonstration of what happened hundreds of years ago. There also was at least one early riser in town who alerted my buddy's mother to her son balancing on decaying walls. She came running. I hid in a niche behind the steps but she found the instigator and slapped me until I was burning red all over.
As far as I'm concerned, if you're going to order in, Thursday is the day. You don't want to order in on Mondays because you get the weekend's leftovers, it's is a good day to bake a Cornish Hen, sprinkled with onion soup mix. Tuesdays is my intermittent fasting day, only water, I've gotten used to it for many years now, Wednesdays is up to creative imagination, only desperate people order in, but by the time Thursday rolls around you get a fresh batch.
Last time around the favorite crispy duck I ordered was a bit dry so this time Roomie gets on the phone instead, discusses the menu with the Hunan person on the other end, emphasizing Crispy Duck a bit more juicy, Lo Mein with Ten Ingredients, the Jalapeno Yellow Tail appetizer and one Fantastic Roll (spicy tuna and eel.) No extra rice, no duck sauce, no wontons, no fortune cookies.
Since it's Thursday, Dinner arrives in no time, including wontons, duck sauce and fortune cookies but no extra rice. Plenty of juicy Crispy Duck and Lo Mein for lunch tomorrow. Cat loves the Yellow Tail and begs for more duck.
I'll think about the weekend tomorrow.
There was only one set of Chopsticks in last night's delivery but I found another set in my kitchen drawer from deliveries past.
What's this? They Shrunk The Chopsticks! The one on the left is the new one. I can't see myself eating with baby sticks!
But not so fast .... they turn out to be the same length but the new ones are a bit thinner now. Instead of getting, say, 1000 sticks you now get 1100 sticks from a log. Add the savings from cutting down on the paper wrapping and we're talking real money!
Feels cheaper, but It's just for takeout anyway.
I hitchhiked a number of times after that trip to Asia, courtesy of the US Air Force.
On leave, wanting to visit New York, I check with the dispatcher to see if there is room on some aircraft flying in that direction. I score a ride on a mostly empty Air National Guard training flight. Shortly after takeoff the pilot summons me to the cockpit. 'You know electronics ... this radar isn't coming up, can you take a look?' I don't know nothing about no airplane electronics ... crawl down into the belly where I see a likely power supply, turned on and indicating all's well. I crawl back up through the hatch ... Copilot: 'Never mind. I forgot to throw this switch. We're ok.' Shortly thereafter the cabin fills with smoke, a fellow hitchhiker thought he had thoroughly stubbed out his cigarette before throwing it into a trash can. A fire extinguisher takes care of that.
Most memorable is hitchhiking to Germany on a KC-135, the plane used to refuel jets in midair. A Captain, Military Attaché to some embassy in Europe, has an opening for an armed guard to protect two shrouded palettes. I report as ordered, he hands me a belt with holster, then a Colt 45. Now I did do very well in basic training shooting a rifle but had never been near a sidearm. I had no idea Colt 45s were that heavy. The palettes are loaded on an otherwise empty plane, no fuel tanks on board, with me standing by for any ... I don't know what. This was in Norfolk VA as I recall but I guess they trusted the people on the plane, I didn't have to be armed on board during the flight.
Back in the air after refueling in Nova Scotia the pilot calls us to the cockpit for a treat ... we're flying right into a shimmering curtain, the aurora borealis fills the sky in front of our plane. Awesome. Unforgettable. I spend much of the rest of the flight lying on my stomach down under the aircraft in the bubble where the operator would be steering the refueling boom, drifting in and out of clouds with the ocean way below.
There is heavy fog at Rhein-Main Airbase where the palettes are loaded into a van with black windows, me watching in the drizzle, armed. Just then a package slips out of one of the shrouds and splashes down in front of me, producing a black liquid oozing my way. 'Don't worry.' says the Captain, 'It's just ink.' Seems it wasn't even disappearing ink!
I make out a familiar car idling at a safe distance on the end of the flight apron. Dad has pulled strings again. 'Ummm.' How to say this ... 'Sir ... that's my parents over there?' He's most understanding, collects the Colt 45, belt and holster and I'm off. Home again.
Up on Union Square I watch a crowd form, a circle of people staring at the something in the middle. "Maybe it's one of those games where everyone stares at something to see how many stupid people they can get to look," the guy on the next bench tells his girlfriend, but then gets up to check it out.
He comes back: It's a cat frozen in a block of ice! I go for a closeup. It could indeed be a dead cat with blood at the bottom of the ice. One of guys in the crowd is ranting about cruelty to animals and how it was against the law, warning curious kids not to touch the block because of diseases.
A Park Ranger drops by, shakes his head and gets on his cell. I hear: 'It's the same guy again," then he wanders off. Seems he pulled that stunt before. I like to believe he is using a prop, a stuffed cat and some red dye?
I wander off as well ....
A collector I heard of had his study lined with racks of just Lone Rangers like these, not sure I would want to have those masks staring at me all the time. The one on the left I bought and sold some time back when there was a fad for them. He's in perfect shape, no face lifts from the looks of it, which is pretty good considering his age.
I looked for the better ones, like the dolls below, but these women were too expensive for me at the time, so I handed them over to someone who could afford them ... and Sheeba does look extravagant, doesn't she?
What we're looking at are carnival chalkware prizes, made in the '30s, '40s, and '50s, before plastic and stuffed toys took over ... if you were around then, you should remember. I don't ... t'was before my time ... ahem ... Got any in your attic? There were movie stars, comix characters, ships, dogs, ... some uglier than others. They were mass-produced in molds, then spray painted, and often dusted with glitter. Some show evidence of a tired spray painter doing his 467th snow white of the day and not really caring if her lipstick is in the right place, and certainly not worried about getting it straight.
mmm ... the skull is just for size comparison ...
Where to begin. Well, first, the place hasn't changed in ten, fifteen years since it opened in Chelsea and later here in the East Village and elsewhere in town. It's still the same tex/mex taste from way back, filling, heavy cheesy dishes, refried refried beans, with a hint of inoffensive ethnicity. But there is a table by the window which is a plus.
Mary Ann's is a place for tequila and beer; we order Cabernet, no doubt causing the waiter to drop the unfamiliar carafe while fumbling back in a dark corner of the bar and, as these things happen, he clumsily slits his wrist in the process ... well not actually cutting the artery. There is much noise dealing with broken glass, spilled wine and blood. There is a call for the emergency first aid kit.
After some time, a busboy with limited knowledge of English delivers cooling nachos but no libation. Three tries later with three different waiters gets us a full carafe of a pleasing Cabernet, at a very reasonable price yet. We enjoy East Village traffic passing our window during the rest of the meal, only slightly interrupted by a gawking street person until we realize he is staring at a tv screen up above behind, not at us.
Now the problem is the tip for the waiter. My position is that bad service should receive a sharply curtailed tip while Roomie thinks the poor guy deserves extra for wounds incurred in combat. He did come within a quarter of an inch of hitting the artery. We settle for a normal tip. At the door our waiter offers thanks, proffering his bandaged wrist, as we make our way out the door and waddle home through a darkening East Village.
dang, forgot to put my pudding in the freezer ... got to run ...
New York, New York