Prince of Popcorn

"Now serving free samples of my own personal hell."

“Now serving free samples of my own personal hell.”

I’m embarrassed. No, I’m not talking about the time I called my third grade teacher “Mom” in front of the entire class. Or the time I called my college professor “Mom” in front of the entire lecture audience. Or the time I called my Mom “Professor Sandel” in front of a bunch of other Moms. Miraculously, I’m embarrassed for someone other than myself: the angsty cashier with the lip ring working the sample counter at the Popcorn Store. See, Wife and I took a day trip up to Portland, Maine, and, thanks to the glowing endorsement of one of Wife’s friends, we are now inside a store – an actual store with four walls, a ceiling, and a functioning door – that sells nothing but flavored popcorn. If you are currently imagining a whimsical emporium filled with dancing monkeys, a man with a bushy mustache and rosy cheeks playing a calliope, and a gleaming copper kettle overflowing with multicolored popcorn, you are just like me and I want to be your friend. Unfortunately, the particular Popcorn Store in question is just a drafty room with ample shelving holding bags of popcorn. And after my fourth free sample of Ceviche Flavored Popcorn (it really tastes like raw swordfish!), I’m starting to feel sorry, and, yes, a little embarrassed, for Lippy. Not only does Lippy have to use a tiny stainless steel shovel to scoop tiny pieces of popcorn into tiny cups and hand them to tiny children in his tiny apron, but he also has to do this while his suspiciously chipper boss, whom appears to be younger, skips around the store like a schoolgirl in love. She’s even scolding Lippy for sitting down for several seconds while I tuck into this fresh sample of Spicy Blood Sausage. Poor Lippy. Guy probably has nightmares about tiny cups of popcorn flying into his hair. Ooo, I think I’ll try Sauteed Okra next!


Schadenfreude Advisor

"Welcome to the Plaza del Plague."

“Welcome to the Plaza del Plague.”

Clear my schedule. Hold all my calls. Hold all these giant palm fronds too–I have to go to the bathroom and don’t want to get my fronds dirty. Plus, they make you look ridiculous all stacked up in your arms like that, which amuses me. The point is, I have just discovered The Best Thing Ever, and I don’t think I’ll be getting much of anything done for the foreseeable future. No, I’m not talking about drawing mustaches on expensive oil paintings. That’s called Art Crime and it’s a felony. What do you think happened to all those cartoon characters who drew mustaches on expensive oil paintings? They went to federal prison. No, The Best Thing Ever is, in my arrogant opinion, reading reviews of horrible hotels on TripAdvisor. If you haven’t experienced The Best Thing Ever first-hand, allow me to give you a dramatic writing: AVOID THIS HOTEL LIKE THE PLAGUE. Because it is infected with the plague, and if you stay here you will get the plague and no longer be able to use the phrase, “Avoid this ____ like the plague” without a depressing sense of irony. We checked into this glorified rat salon at 1 am, and immediately contracted the plague. After switching rooms three times, because they all contained wild animals with a variety of highly evolved defenses, we were led into an alleyway, and robbed. Granted, we probably should have notified the police at that point, but we were hungry and wanted room service. The manager, whom I believe was also a wild animal, informed us that room service did not service alleyways and besides did not exist. Starving, and a teensy bit tired from the plague, we decided to cut our losses and check into the Hilton across the street. Two-and-a-half stars.

Salt of the Road

"You're ruining the mixed gravel!"

“You’re ruining the mixed gravel!”

I finally understand why they call them seasons. It is because every winter we liberally sprinkle kosher salt the size of golf balls across our roads and highways, thereby prepping them for the spring pre-heat, summer sizzle, and fall cool-down. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we treat our streets as if they are rib roasts. The question I would like answered is, “Who was the first person to salt a thoroughfare?” and the inevitable follow-up, “How long before the locals accused them of Witchcraft?” Seriously, have you ever stopped to think about how bizarre this municipal practice is? I suspect that before those massive salting plows existed cities unleashed an army of workers with tiny salt shakers and headlamps. Of course, I understand that winter salting is a public safety necessity, but could we at least get some pepper out there as well? Think of all the poor woodland critters who have to munch on over-salted highway medium arugula. And you know those plow drivers aren’t seasoning to taste. They just yank a giant red lever in their climate controlled cabs and unleash tidal waves of Morton’s over hill and dale. Central arteries indeed. At this rate, we’re going to send our major roads and highways straight to the ICU with a massive salt attack. If only we could somehow work olive oil into the mix – it might dilute the salt’s potency. Just don’t forget to put those breadstick chains on your tires before you venture out. The driving conditions are absolutely delicious.

The Agony and the Pedicab

Faster please.

Here’s a riddle for you. I want to feel like a sultan, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money. I’m thinking, like, zero to one dollars. Impossible, right? WRONG. Nothing is impossible. We put a robot on Mars, for crying out loud. Granted, it’s really just a glorified vacuum cleaner that sucks up rock samples, but it does have its own Twitter account, so, you know…that’s pretty amazing. Back to discount sultan role play. One of the best things about the city of Boston, besides the inexplicably large inventory of water fowl themed boats, is the fleet of pedicabs that roams the streets. For the uninitiated, a pedicab is a human powered conveyance that looks like a bicycle on steroids. Ironically, you have to be on steroids to drive one, because passenger loads can total upwards of 500 pounds. That translates to about three people, if you are in the theater district, or one person, if you are in the North End (it’s not their fault – you gain ten pounds just by walking on Hanover Street). And the craziest part about hiring a fellow human to haul your lazy butt to the ice cream parlor? You pay what you want. That’s right: pedicab operators may only suggest a fare. It’s up to you whether or not you want to honor it. This means that, theoretically, you could get a ride to Logan Airport for one dollar. And you get free entertainment: watching somebody struggle to pedal 500 pounds up a hill. But that’s only if you’re a jerk. Or [cough] a sultan. Taxi!

Fear of Ferrying

All aboard.

I’m on a boat. Actually, it’s a ferry. Wife and I are visiting her relatives for the holidays, and for some reason that requires us to drive our car onto a ship as if it is an elephant and we are saving it from a flood. Come to think of it, this ferry is basically apocalypse proof. There’s a snack bar, bathrooms, fifty automobiles with enough gasoline to power a MacBook Pro, every single breed of dog ever, and, most importantly, babies. Think about it: if the Mayans are correct, and the world ends in 2012, we’re going to need to repopulate the earth somehow. But how do we make the all important, seemingly arbitrary decision of who does this dirty deed? Simple – just reroute all the ferries to an island in the South Pacific and let nature run its course. “Attention, passengers: we’ve just received reports from the mainland that the world has ended. We are now adjusting our heading to Bora Bora. Please notify Grandma that you won’t be making it for supper. Oh, wait…nevermind!” Naturally, the fact that ferries seem to be perfectly suited for post-apocalyptic survival makes them inherently creepy. This is why I can never truly relax while aboard a ferry. I mean, how do you think the animals on Noah’s Ark felt? “Let’s see, here. There are two of every one of us, some crazy guy with a beard, and a ‘Private Cabin.’ [exchanges looks with monkey, comes to sudden realization] Ewwwwwwww! Let me off! I wanna get off!”

Happy Holidays!