January 01, 2009

My New Year Plans and Dreams

I've had a cold for about a week. Nothing serious, but seriously annoying. Sore throat, hacking cough, occasional fever, heavy congestion. I thought I had it licked two days ago when the sore throat and congestion went away, leaving me with that disruptive cough. Along came the idea of a New Year's Eve party. Silly me to plan a party while I have a cold, but I was going to make the most of it. My downstairs neighbors are out of town and it's one of the few opportunities I'll have the entire building to myself and I can be as loud as I want to be. A day in advance, I begin preparing a seafood stew with cod, king crab, clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, octopus, tomatoes, peppers, corn and a cup of wine.

I don't remember dealing with whole octopus before, but I'm determined to make it work. After watching the simple preparation on Spain: On The Road Again, I decided to chance it. The thing was pretty big, about 2.5 feet from head to tiny tentacular ends.

Yes, I know an octopus has arms and not tentacles. Stop distracting me. Anyway, I washed it thoroughly, flipped the head inside-out, tossed it in a big pot of water, brought it to a boil, turned off the heat, and let it sit for an hour while I prepped and cooked the rest of the stew in an even bigger pot. Layer upon layer of expensive and perfect ingredients and a bumbling cook that's eaten dozens of seafood stews but only made three or four, and a pot that is quickly reaching its limit. Everything else ready, I pulled the now curled-up and firm octopus from the water and put it on my cutting board. Arm by arm, I cut bite-sized pieces and put them into the super-pot. Soon all I was left with was the body and head. I put my fingers into the head hole (the customary way of carrying an octopus) and think to myself "man o man, this feels like some tight pussy!" and giggle while verifying the sensation with my fingers. Imagining scenes of crazy Japanese porn and a laugh later, I'm cutting the head into ring-shaped pieces and place it all into the pot, cover it and put into the oven for a couple of hours.

The aroma is intense. The whole house smells like seafood, but only in the absolutely best way possible. I pull the dish out of the oven, uncover it and it looks like a cookbook photo. I tasted the hot broth, and it was perfect. I skeptically try a piece of octopus, and it is absolutely tender and delicious except for the rings that I cut from the head. They were like chewy rubber bands, so I tossed them out. The subtle aroma specific to octopus fills me with images of seaside dining in August. My sampling continues with a shrimp, a mussel, a scallop, some fish, a bit of crab, perfection! I let it rest and clean up the kitchen before I put the cooled pot into the refrigerator. I grab a glass of chianti, sit down for a bit of boob tube, and I hear noises from downstairs. In shocked disbelief, it sounds like my neighbors are home. I spoke to their housekeeper a week before and was told they would be out until "new year". This is not good. I told the guests to start arriving around 9-10pm. We were planning on food, music, games, drinking, drugs, the usual shenanigans. Calling downstairs, I hear their phone through the floor. An answer. Not what I was hoping for. "What are you doing here?" I asked her jokingly. "You planned a party didn't you," she responded. A little back and forth, and we decided to both "think about it" and get back to each other.

I stay up for a while then sleep until noon figuring I might need the strength for the coming night of mayhem. 2pm comes by and still no call from my neighbor. I assume she doesn't want to call me to tell me that she really would prefer that we tone it down come midnight due to her little kids, but at the same time doesn't want to be the party pooper, so I decided to cancel the party. A $400 pot of seafood stew and I'm just glad I didn't go pick up the three 3-pound lobsters I had on hold at the fish market for that morning. I call and disappoint various friends and start making alternative plans. One friend asks for me to come by and to bring some indian food. Another asks that I bring some stew. Another asks for wine. The last asks me to bring myself.

I call in the order for indian, get dressed, stop by the wine shop, they don't have what I wanted but they offer a substitute. I ask for a sample, they balk. I say I want a case but want to sample first. They agree. It's good, sweet but not too sweet, and tasty. Perfect for NYE instead of a complicated distracting grape. Go to the Indian, they greet me by name even though I've only been there twice in the last week. Small problems and delay, no big deal. Head to the first stop to drop off stew and a bottle of wine. Next stop, drop off a few bottles of wine. Third stop, drop off Indian, eat, and hang out for a couple of hours. Last stop and a pop, clink, drink, photos, well wishes, calls, texts, and of to home to get some more rest to fix this cold for good.

Expecting more middle of the night texts and calls, I mute the phone. Expecting drunk idiots making noise on the street, I take a benzodozer. Easy restful sleep until I wake up at 10 am, throat is sore again. I roll over and sleep some more, only to have a bizarre dream.

Wanting a quick-strep test, I walk into a clinic. As soon as I walk in, an Indian doctor greets me by name. I've never seen this person before. She offers me a seat, brings down an optometrists lens owl, flips through a bunch of lenses, says I need a new prescription. I ask if I've been overprescribed in the past, she acts like I don't know what I'm talking about, I ask again, she says yes. I get up and walk around the place, and another Indian stops me, tells me to open up and swabs my throat. The first Indian tells me to take a seat in an exam chair, she tells me I have strep throat, and that it's time for them to install a new valve and that I should spread my legs. I ask her what she's talking about. She says it's a very common procedure. I think about it for a second, and ask her "you mean you want to put in a rubber band anus?" She nods, I get up, call her crazy, point out that I'm only in my mid-30s, and walk out. I can't help but think about how many people got scammed and are walking around with artificial rubber band anuses.

Let's be thankful for Indians, octopuses and intoxicants, for they make life more interesting.

Posted by gav at January 1, 2009 01:28 PM
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