“What kind of restaurant is this?” “Massage.”

Our Goodwill Guide in Osaka was walking us down “the longest street in Japan” on the one cold and rainy day of our trip when we passed a pachinko parlor and my consort, Mr. Curious, asked if we could check it out. We stepped inside and my world was instantly rocked. After more than a week of living largely in real life, seeing and experiencing rather than compulsively clicking and reacting, I had just been transported into IRL Twitter. It was loud, a steady, rhythmic din of slot machines, like the firehose feel when everyone is responding to something either newsworthy or stupid (or, these days: both). It was too bright and too young and too neon-y but somehow still dark. It was smoky, very smoky, and even that felt right despite the fact that Japan has pretty much ostracized old-style nicotine addicts — assholes can always get through. It had everything but my keyboard and the instant notifications/gratification. I was almost vibrating.

Then I saw the writing on the wall:

This space overflows with dreams, hopes, stimulation and excitement

Dramatic developments await you

Please be released from everyday life and enjoy yourself free.

May the fortunate goddess smile at you.

@Jack could not have put it more insidiously better.

I was still scribbling that down when Bob reacted the way he did at Churchill Downs back in the early days of the consortium when I once won a few bucks on a horse. The same guy who insisted I get on Twitter (“if you do the cat book, you can drum up interest in it”) grabbed me by the arm and said: “We’re getting out of here.”

And here I sit, with the sound off.

Salt, fat, chocolate milk and Butz, too

Just to get the politics-is-policy stuff out of the way: The so-called prez wants to cut SNAP benefits when I have been ranting for years that food stamps should be rebranded supermarket subsidies, which you would think the “party of business” would be all for. I also keep getting sucked into a bizarre debate over whether a fruit-and-vegetable shortage or a disruption for automakers would be a worse consequence of closing the border. It makes me even more amazed that congestion pricing went through, because car dependency is apparently a hell of a drug. Fords over fruit? Mexico is not just sending avocados and tomatoes — at least half the produce section comes from there and Central America. What good are wheels if the produce aisles are empty when you get to the Piggly Wiggly?

White and Gold and cheese-chopped all over

Inneresting to see the whole Molto Ego scandale being treated as “one bad orange.” Everything’s fine now; nothing to see. Meet the new fud world, same as the old fud world. Also, too: Once an egoist, always an egoist. So the carrot color thing didn’t work out so well. The gadflying for Holy Foods kinda backfired. Why not swipe not just a name but a logo? The only amazement these days is that the Butter Guzzler is not back out on the national stage, letting her Confederate flag fly.

“It’s the nyeture of where we live”

I keep justifying overindulging in sauvblanc, as the server in an Indian restaurant in Sydney shorthanded it, as a way of supporting New Zealand and the world’s most inspiring leader (#putawomanincharge). But I also have to acknowledge that liquid support comes at a cost. We took a winery tour of Marlborough Sound last summer and were almost sobered by the grown-and-raised-there bus driver who lamented, as we looked out on vineyards stretching for miles in every direction: “We used to have apple orchards. Now, it’s all grapes. We lost our birds.” At least that takes some pressure off Northern California. Wineries there can buy the stuff by the tanker load, bottle it in the USofA and charge as if it’s Cloudy Bay. 

Watermelon 101

One not-so-recent Saturday I opened my Sunday paper and found the latest “we need ads and we can’t get ’em” color supplement. After a quick flip through the extravaganza my skepticism was so validated I envisioned hundreds of copies laid flat alongside induction cooktops all across the gullible country as readers followed along. Taking away measurement lists and technique steps but spelling out how to make one dish yields . . . a recipe. It’s not liberation. It’s a change of format. FFS, that’s what Elizabeth David was doing decades ago, and so well.

Squitters, all

Because we invite only the family we have chosen rather than those we were saddled with, our Thanksgivings are always liquid and raucous and fun, with a mix of old and new “strangers.” So much so that I didn’t get a chance to recount my favorite memory from the 23 feasts over the last 26 years in this dining room:  The time friends looked up mid-turkey to spot a woman in the apartment building across the street vacuuming her bedroom walls. Naked. But at least that was not as unsavory as my recollection of the November when I was living in L’ville and took the bus up to Dayton to meet a friend who escorted me to a cafeteria for our turkey&trimmings. I will leave to the imagination what it was like to ride hours home on a winding highway while lurching back to the bathroom to upchuck on the regular. So maybe that’s why those “real ‘mericans” are so enamored of the trash in the WH. He, too, ate like an Ohioan on the all-American feast day, walking the buffet line for his iceberg salad and pie, glorifying his plastic-gloved main dish as coming from the “carving station.” Allah help all the imported maids who had to clean up the literal shitstorm afterward. 

Flea baths all around

I also suppose it’s no wonder we got Mango Mussolini given that Molto Ego was once considered the most famous chef in America. Orange worship is weird. And I’m guessing there are more than a few women chefs who regret that blurb on their cookbooks. . .

Steak and email

Between the insanity of Horseface and the horror of Bonesaw, good old everyday incompetence tends to get lost. But the mess the “deal” guy is making with tariffs on food is quite something. All this is behind the Murdoch Crier’s paywall, unfortunately, so I have to summarize rather than link: Pork producers are screwed because China is slapping 70 percent tariffs on the meat they export and going shopping in Spain and other countries for the cheap staff of life. Farmers are of course complaining the gubmint handouts cannot be big enough to compensate for those lost sales (and no one’s talking about how the U.S. will be borrowing from China to cover the dole to Heartlanders). But an unintended consequence is that food banks are about to be inundated with surplus pork, apples and cheese that good ol’ Washington is buying up to help farmers as well. Sounds good, given that the richest country on earth has so many hungry people. But dealing with all those donations, especially the perishable ones, takes money, for storing, managing and distributing. As one executive said: “Even free food has a cost,” up to $500,000 a year, another said. All those voters who really thought they were putting a businessman in the Oval Office? I have a bankrupt casino (or two) to sell ‘em. With a vodka-and-bottled water chaser.

Jam and bagels

No one talks about the real problem with having white supremacists in the White House: They’re doing their damnedest to keep refugees and other immigrants out when the melting pot needs regular re-seasoning. America can’t live on burgers alone. Didn’t Jesus say “no guacamole for immigrant haters”?