Monday, November 26, 2012

Burmese (Turkey) Days

Hey there, beautiful.  

This past week was our big Thanksgiving fete at TASOK, dear over fed reader, and it was quite the good time.  More than twenty people, six turkeys (and one of those fake ones thrown in to appease those dirty hippies), tons of extra food, wonderful company, lots of drinks and, of course, deserts.  Dear God, the deserts.  It was marvelous, in that artery clogging, meat sweat inducing, chest pain causing sort of way that makes it an unmistakably American holiday.  I know that Canada has one too, but I assume it involves sliding down staircases on flattened cardboard boxes whilst throwing money made from pine needles and wood chips in the air as Strange Brew plays on a black and white television in the garage.

I don't have a picture for that, but it would be sweet if I did.  Help me out, Ontario!  Or, um, uh, Manitoba?

It got me thinking about being a world traveling man of mystery.  Normally it's a great time, wherein I have lots of wacky adventures, grow absurd facial hair, almost die once a year, meet swell people, go to gorgeous new places, and hopefully one day get to bore everyone in the nursing home with stories that have by then become hopelessly confused with pop culture.

And then Sharktopus and I sang "Summer Nights" at the orphanage and . . .

One thing that is sometimes a tough adjustment for expat folk, though, is how holidays can be so different when away from your home cultures.  In many places I have been to no one really celebrates Christmas, which means no awkward Secret Santa talk or decidedly lame mistletoe based pick up lines.  

One would think it goes without saying, but one would be so very, very wrong.

The most interesting holiday for me during my overseas travels has most assuredly been Thanksgiving.  This is because, outside of America, no one cares.  I mean, why would they?  They don't even have a Walmart to go to afterwards.

I lived in Taiwan for two years.  The first Thanksgiving I spent in Bangkok with awesome teacher buddies trolling Patapong,  and the other one getting my eyes ripped open.  

So, not much traditional holiday fare there.

The best part about overseas holidays, though, is when, in an effort to accommodate their guests, other cultures try to bring us a taste of Americana, as they understand it.  This is accomplished usually at the expense of their own cultural norms and, sometimes, the bounds of all common sense.

What follows is one of those stories.

Cast your mind back through the mists of time, dear reader.  So far back, Bush was still president, Cheney hadn't yet been plugged into a wall socket when he slept, Six Feet Under was still on the air, and a young Lippart had begun to make his halting, sexy way into this dreary world.  I had been living in Myanmar about four months when one day my friend Ben came up to us with a small flyer in his hand.  It was from the Mi Casa kitchen (the bar/restaurant connected to the service hotel we were all living in at the time).  To my slightly homesick eyes it presented a great opportunity:  they were promoting a Thanksgiving dinner event, complete with turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, some weird meat things, gooey unidentifiable masses, bread, and free flow of beer and wine!  With a large enough group, this meal could be had for merely $15 each!

We were all aflutter and immediately signed up 10 stalwart friends.  Most were American, but two were Canadian and one was from Denmark.  Because, you know, Thanksgiving is all about cultural inclusion.

By the way, the words "Free Flow" as a translation for "All You Can Drink" remains to this day one of my favorite things about Asia.  It is both cute and white trash at the same time, like Honey Boo Boo from about 350 feet away.

Arrangements made, we waited out the following days breathless with anticipation.  To get ready for the meal I practiced loosening my belt and unbuttoning my pants at random times, making vapid comments on current affairs, and staring off into space while gravy congealed around the edges of my mouth.

After a week, I felt ready.

After another week I felt like a southern Republican.

The day arrived!  We all headed into the dining area (dressed up for the occasion, naturally) at around 5pm, and were told the dinner would be served at 6, and to please "enjoy the free flow wine and beer". 

By the time the waitress said "Enjoy the" we were already knocking back beers and pondering the epic turkey leg fights that would soon arise.

We were all hungry but the great companionship, free flow, and sense of adventure nourished our souls and livers as we waited.

6 came and went with no food.  

6:30 showed up, looked around, and slunk back into the kitchen.

At 7, another waitress came over and said the food would be ready soon, would we like any bread?  We nodded while two of us contemplated how much of their own legs could be eaten without permanent damage.

Thank god for free flow.

At 7:30, bread was served.  At this point my memory is a little hazy.  I may or may not have covered one of the Burmese in butter and tried to eat the back of his head Ugolino style.  

At 7:45 another waitress came over (this place had like twenty people working there) and said the food would be ready soon.  My friend Luc, who had the patience of Job (at least for the next ten minutes), said, very politely,"Is there a problem?"

Her eyes dropped to the floor.  She gathered her thoughts and looked at us, her hands spread wide.  "Oh, no sir.  The turkey is ready.  We are having a problem with the stuffing."

Quick glances around the table.

"Um, what's the problem?"

"We have the walnuts for the stuffing, but we haven't finished the whipped cream."

At this point a pause, as pregnant as a reality show star, fell into the room.

"Wait, whipped cream?"

"Yes, sir."  Her soft voice was the stuff of madness to my hungry brain.  I would have eaten her words if they had been more visual.  "For the turkey.  Whipped cream to . . . to . . . how to say?  To place inside.  The turkey . . . the turkey cavity."  

She gestured with her hands in a way that would have made Lovecraft throw up on his mother.

We looked around each other, terror, fear, and the aftereffects of three hours of free flow swirling on our faces.  Valerie, always a quick thinker, jumped in and likely saved us all.

"You know, it is okay.  We don't need the stuffing.  Thank you very much, just bringing out the turkey would be fine."

The waitress nodded happily, scampered away, and came back a few minutes later with a cart filled with vegetables, bread, strange meat things, a rather unimpressive turkey and, thank the gods, no whipped cream.

The first few minutes were silent as we each gazed, naked and alone, into the culinary abyss.  Thankfully the free flow, walnut free turkey, and friendships won the day, and it turned into one of the best Thanksgivings ever.

I won't get into details, but it involved body slams, naked swimming, and a broken coffee table.

Since that day, dear reader, I have eaten many strange things.  Duck tongues, scorpions, grilled jellyfish, bats, rat meat, (probably) dog, (hopefully) cat, snakes, placenta (and lemme tell you, that was messed up afternoon) and some sort of eyeball. Rest assured that, to this day, I do not regret the fact that we managed to get them to leave off the stuffing.  I might have missed the image of a turkey filled to bursting with whipped cream and walnuts, but I have preserved my will to live.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  To my friends in the USA, I miss your thunder.  To my overseas pals, thank you for sharing your thunder with me these last five years.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Movember to Remember

Happy Movember, hirsute readers.

"Wait", she asks sensually, every letter tumbling forth like a goddess rising from the spray of the sea, "What's Movember?"

Oh, surely you know, dear reader.  By now, everyone must know that one.

I mean, c'mon.

"Oh, no, I really, REALLY don't."  She runs a finger, pale and mysterious as the gloaming, along the inviting curve of her decolletage.  "Can you tell me?"  her eyelashes flutter in time with  the frantic rhythm of my heartbeat.  I look into her eyes, her deep, smoldering eyes.

She arches an eyebrow.

I can feel the tension buzzing through the air, begging for release.  It leaves a metallic taste in my mouth, a reminder of hunger, of loneliness, of tumid thoughts rising, unbidden, to the surface.

"No.  Because I'm lazy as hell.  But hey, here's the link."

I throw some html code in her face as she languidly walks away, looking over her perfect shoulder at every turn.

But seriously, if you don't know, clink here and prepare to be knowledge punched.  In the neck.

I have participated in Movember for three years now, and thus far this year my compatriots and I (Team Thunder- he he he) have raised almost $800 dollars and grown some awesome mustaches.  If you don't believe me, check it out.  I was going for the old Bully Busick look.

If I had another two months, I could be a God.  

So click on the Team Thunder link (I love charity plugs) and give us some money, you bastards.  It goes to a good cause, because who doesn't want a world filled with healthy, virile men?  Other than Woody Allen of course.

If you think that men's health awareness isn't an issue, please consider this:  men are really, really stupid.  Don't believe me?  Would a women ever say, in response to anything, "walk it off"?  No, of course not.  Because they aren't idiots.

How many men do you know who complain about stomach upset, vomiting, chest pains, vision trouble, random fingers cramping up and falling off, loss of teeth, loss of hearing,and wait weeks, sometimes months, to go to the doctor?

Well, at least one anyways:

Don't watch the sequel though.  Terrible.

The point of Movember, charitable reader, is to honor all that makes us men (other than superfluous nipples) while at the same time celebrating not being an idiot about our bodies (always a fine line between the two) so come check it out.

Man, I have done a lot of plugging lately.  Hope I haven't lost you.  Especially those new readers I have picked up in Uzbekistan for whatever eldritch reason.

Well, the plugging is all in the past now, because-

-oh wait, on last thing.  No big deal.  just THE FIRST NEW INEBRIATION RELEASE IN 18 YEARS!!!!  Oh my god- a "greatest hits" album, titled 20 Years of Blood, Sweat, and Beers.  Available as of today via digital download at this link.  Check it out.  I hope, if nothing else, that sexy female polish horde is into it.


We will return next time for our regularly scheduled dose of madness.  Meanwhile, for my American friends, happy Slapsgiving!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vote For Love (and Small Baked Goods).

It has been a historic few days in the Rage Cage, dear reader.  As someone who has been through some completely ridiculous nonsense when large groups of people committed the sin of trying to have a say in their lives (read about the election rage here!) I was relieved to see that, in spite of all the tears, vitriol, and terrible hair from our conservative political analysts so far, no one in america is dropping broken glass covered elbows onto boatloads of small, patchouli scented liberals.  This might not seem all that big of a deal to you guys out there in the land of the sane but I have been in situations where people use grenades as punctuation marks, so our ability to yell at each other and walk away should not be taken for granted.  For those sad, gollum-esque souls who view the election of a president as a harbinger of the end of days, here is a great song with a terrible video.

Okay, enough about all that- now onto me.  Let's get back on track here, you bastards.  In the midst of this frantic caterwauling and political breast pounding (greasy), I have had two firsts of my own.  Both of them involved me bringing the thunder, although one probably tastes better than the other.  This shall be a photo heavy entry, but that's because I am lazy.

And gorgeous.

One of these is true.

The first- big news:  my Myanmar album (adventures in recording the first death metal album in Myanmar ever discussed here!) is finally available for the whopping price of free!  Initially 30 copies were pressed and many were damaged in Cyclone Nargis, with only one left in my possession.  The fact that the one I have is actually autographed, by me, and was once given as a gift to my girlfriend at the time (who totally left it behind my couch when she left Myanmar) adds an awesome back story.  If she had been more supportive of the thunder (but when is thunder ever recognized in our time?  Such is the cost of sexy genius), I probably wouldn't be able to offer this to you today.  Head on over to the Inebriation website on Bandcamp and download forthwith.  The songs have been modified for the digital format, and it comes with sexy new cover art:


The picture symbolizes what day to day existence in the Congo looks like, at least to me.  Cheap plug?  Oh yes indeed.  But hey, it's free, so why not?

 Every down loader receives either a free beer or seven pieces of cinnamon hard candy.

Remember this stuff?  So good.

Secondly (as if that wasn't enough), I had a transcendent experience last week, sexy readers.  For the first time in my 35 years of white trash existence  I cooked something.  Not just any something, mind you, but chocolate cookies (with a sprinkle of rage).  I have attached some pictures so you can see the proof of my new found baking skills.  Enjoy my culinary journey, free of second degree burns and those cute "flour on the nose" spots you see in every romantic comedy ever.

This was called flour.  Apparently you need it for something other than German pornography.

Crack in the Egg was such a great GWAR song.

And there they sit, ready to be reified as awesome scrumptious yummy bits.  Rise, you sexy bastards.  Rise, rise like the numbers of my readers now Googling German flour porn.

It is finished.  I should have tried to swipe the oven mitt from Sarah because using bath towels as pot holders gets pretty old.

Heretofore my entire life involved destruction rather than creation.  As a long time friend of mine once said, "Matt, you don't cook- you heat."  He then proceeded to hand me a beer and we spent ten minutes screaming at each other about gypsies and filming fight scenes in the Comcast parking lot, but that's a tale for another day.

I gave these cookies out for Halloween.  I assume the kiddos liked them because no one threw up on me afterwards.  Good times were had by all, and I learned what flour does.

I wonder how much leather I can safely wear on a cooking show?

If you add leather over mitts it'd be kickass.