The unbearable lightness of being

Pub date December 9, 2009
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink

CHEAP EATS It’s weird for me, of all people, to be having an existential crisis. Yet …

You know, there have been times in the past few weeks when I almost completely didn’t know if I existed or not. It ain’t fun. Not no picnic, no … nonexistence. I’m here to tell you.

And it’s weird because in the past I have taken particular pride in my capacity for existing. That’s why my calypso name was always Lord Exister or Sister Exister or just Exister. And my songs celebrated mostly existential themes, such as butter.

Now I can only write about tofu and spelt flour, and when that happens it’s time to hang up your steel drum. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m taking mine to Germany because it’s quite possible the Germans won’t understand a word of it, no matter which language I choose to use to express my out-of-key self in.

I’m just saying. Or, as the late great Townes Van Zandt put it, "Maybe she just has to sing for the sake of the song."

One of my favorite people to talk to is Mod the Pod, or Mod Pod, as we call her for short. We were driving in her pickup truck on the most beautiful country road in Sonoma County, on one of the most beautiful December evenings in California history. The sun was setting. The moon was rising. And I was sweating the big stuff. You know: death.

Mod Pod is by trade a therapist. "Mmm-hmm," she said. "Mmm-hmm."

I should also mention that we were eating donuts, so it was not completely off-the-wall of me to change the subject from my depressing preoccupation with the abyss to donuts. It might have been a little abrupt, though, come to think of it. Like this:

"I don’t think it’s my self self that I am overly attached to so much as my point of view, or myself as a point-of-view character. That’s what I can’t quite fathom letting go of. My point of view."

"Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm."

"You know what I mean?"

"Mmm-hmm." She was driving, looking straight ahead out the windshield. The road was hilly and winding, and Mod Pod is a pretty good driver.

"Pod," I said, "have you ever had a donut that wasn’t good?"

She glanced at me and then looked straight ahead again. The empty bag was on the seat between us. "Let me think about that," she said. "That’s a really good question."

And she thought about it, and — having nothing but time — so did I.

We decided, in the end, that neither of us, and not even the Attack (who joined our conversation in Oakland and would later pay for dinner) had ever had an exactly bad donut. The closest we could come to "bad" was stale. I think it was the Pod — although it could have been anyone — had once bitten into a too-many-days-old donut. Not good. I think it was jelly, with powdered sugar.

The important thing is that life goes on, with or without you or your point of view. And then there it is, like a bright light and classical music: the hugest plate of food ever, with melted cheese in two different colors oozing into brown beans and white rice, chile rellenos and a fried fish taco, table full of delicious salsas, only some of which came out of Mod Pod’s purse … beer, sangria … and … you have zero appetite.

What the fuck?

Maybe it was the donuts. I tasted everything, and everything was great, but I couldn’t quite exactly dig into it, much less put it away. Well, and Mexican food was my idea. Juan’s was theirs. Excellent family-style atmosphere; in fact, they were putting up the Christmas tree while we were eating. I get the sense that this is a go-to East Bay place, although … nobody was there. And I’d never been.

Oooh, I hate saying sentences like that, even when it’s by accident.


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