Thursday, February 2, 2012


Tonight before the poker game I was sitting with John, who is very Zen, being deaf and for all I know, mute.
I like him. He is very relaxing to be with, and his hand shakes when he's got great cards.

This happens:

Ancient Bart, beard like a shoe-brush, dressed as always in his flannels, down vest and baseball cap, collars me, pulls a baggy out of his back pocket and says "Wouldya smell that?" while fixing me with his beady eyes.

People there are always trying to sell each other things, most recently golf-club covers, of all things. I saw no immediate harm in it.

Fool. It was something biological.

What was I to do? 
What would you?

Poker is nothing without etiquette -- it's war, it's chaos.
I inched up gingerly to the open bag and inhaled. A wad of something pink and rumpled lay inside, cradled gently against his calloused palm. It smelled vaguely like leather.

"Nice." I managed to nod.

"Have you ever smelled something so good? Heaven, ain't it?"

"Yes, OK, very nice, Bart." Pleasepleaseplease--

"Have some! It's pastrami!" The bag wouldn't move away. He squished it slightly to advance the pale pink meat inside.

God help me I put my hand in that bag and peeled out a piece of unsettlingly warm, pale pink pastrami.

At least it's cured beef, I thought. How bad could that be?

There were large areas of fat. I never saw beef so marbled or so pale. I put it in my mouth and ate it.

I'm a big boy, and have eaten snails, squid, octopus, haggis, raw eggs, sea urchin, and tongue with the buds still on.

This felt like a quarter-inch-thick hand-sized flap of warm latex and tasted like burned insulation.

I did not gag, but nodded as I swallowed it, and avowed it was good. Uncomfortable questions arose.

"Bart, what is that, exactly? You ... made this, didn't you?"

"It's pastrami, like I said. My buddy makes it. You take a big piece of ham, you cure it and squeeze it between a shop vise for about five months. In my buddy's homemade smoker. Gotta keep cinching it up and relighting the fire every couple of days. I cut it real thin myself. Ain't that amazing?"

"Thank you, Bart. I expect that's the most amazing pastrami I've ever had." And it really is.

I can feel it right below my heart, refusing to become less amazing as the evening wears on.

This is as ugly as Google believes ham can get. Google, I'd like you to meet Burt.

So what is the most polite thing you have ever done that you instantly regretted?


  1. Woo. That's arguably worse than eating tepid pocket meat. And the pastrami-smell strikes again.

    You're very kind about my style. I feel very green in this group. I might be an acquired taste.

  2. I love your writing style!

    I did not need to see that picture. Something about pork really disgusts me more than any other meat. It is probably its proximity to human flesh (or so I hear) and its pinkish nature. I used to get grossed out  looking at Jimmy Carter, who I liked, for the same reason.  (I was a toddler)

    I like how you describe his beard and also the pinkish flabby warm  meat... argh!!!

    I do polite things I regret all the time... too many to think of.. For some reason though your post reminds me of about 8 years ago when I was living in Ireland. I had met a traveler who was an artist and lived in Wales. She was very kind to me and a total space cadet but it was okay with me. So I went to Wales and she showed me around the mystical Celtic version of her reality and it was interesting. Except I'm absolutely cripplingly phobic of rodents and she is absolutely flabbergastingly a part of the natural world. There was food all over the floor, left out everywhere. She lived out in the country and there were those THINGS running around in her house everywhere. One of the worst nights of my life, trying to sleep in that house.

    Anyway she popped over to Ireland a few months later and of course I said she could stay with me. Little did I know that she meant like... for a WHILE. I thought she meant a night or two, a handful of nights at most. She meant for a few months. And I'd really only met her two times. And my god she was filthy/messy/artsy. Anyway, for some reason she just had this smell like salty pastrami about her. I could not stand it. It wasn't the mess or the unexpected company or the weird things she said, it was just I couldn't bear night after night to come home to a house that smelled like warm, wet, fatty, pink fleshy pig meat.