Pub date March 2, 2010
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap Eats


Dear Earl Butter,

As you go through life, never underestimate the importance of somewhere to sit. In fact, stand up right now and kiss your chair. Kiss one for me, too — the comfy cat-hair chair that I like — and use your tongue please, Earl. For me. I dream of that chair, and hope to be sitting in it two weeks from today.

Let’s not ever, ever again take furniture for granted, OK? Everyone talks about a roof over your head, clean water, something to eat, honest work, etc. Those things are important, sure, but my message is this: so are chairs.

Probably you are wondering about the process of soul-searching and/or method of meditation that led me to such a discovery. Well, welcome to the less sisterly aspect of my loopy family. I know you know what I’m talking about.

This time: As a favor to and from our brother and your friend Phenomenon, Jean-Gene the Frenchman and me occupy two multimillion dollar houses on North Caicos, which is an undeveloped island in the Caribbean. It’s not only not Ohio, it is also the furthest thing from Germany I could ever imagine — if not geographically, at least in tone. Think: 80 degrees, fluffy white clouds, a continuous breeze, palm trees, the sound of surf, powdery beaches, and swimmably soft blue water. For free!

Can I complain? Well, since I am drawn to impossible challenges, let me try: There’s nowhere to sit. Our spectacular beachfront houses, which Phenomenon helped build and lost more than his shirt on, are of course unsellable, and, for our purposes, unfurnitured. We eat lunch on the beach, which is nice, but breakfast is a stand-up affair, and for dinner we sit on coolers and eat off of luggage.

My brothers are, like me, undiluted (and therefore deluded) optimists. As such, we are susceptible to posers, and prayer. We are here to work. Well, anyway, Jean-Gene is always hammering, sawing, landscaping, and just generally trying to nicen up for the banks that will likely soon own these doomed homes. I’m washing windows, sweeping, mopping, and pruning. But let’s face it, most of the meaningful work I’ve been doing is on my tan. Not only because I hope to attract some emergency rebound loving upon my untriumphant return to San Fran. It also happens that the only place I can breathe is the beach.

A couple miles out there, where the reefer is, where the waves break, where the water gets deep and darker blue, is a very visible and highly metaphorish, to me, shipwreck. At night we sing Belafonte songs to it. I brought my steel drum.

By day, I can’t stop looking. I dream. I think I probably might be pretty beautiful. I know my steel drum is. The front half of the ship juts proudly out of the water, and then, after a gap, there’s the back half, cracked and tilted, a complete mess.

Like a crosswired siren, drawn fatally to shipwrecks, I am tempted to swim it. But Jean-Gene, always the peach, has an inflatable kayak. I’ve never been in a kayak, canoe, or raft that didn’t spill, but I can swim forever. I can float. I’m strong, right?

Same time, I know that I’m also in many respects myself a shipwreck. For example: this longing to be explored.

Dear Lady,

That is great. Me and Joel, we went to the NYBuffalo Wings, in which Joel got the BBQ steak sandwich ($6.49) and Earl got himself the chili cheese hot link ($4.98). Joel said, “This is hitting the spot” and later described the sandwich as very tasty. And with lettuce that really helped it along, Joel did say, crispy, and very fresh. Earl will say that when you get a chili dog, it’s one thing, but when it’s a chili hot link dog, and there’s cheese (sauce, I think), it is not out of line to expect a lot of flavor.

But Earl was left out in the bland cold a little bit. If your chili and your link don’t cut it, you can hit up a meal like this in all sorts of ways, condiments for example, like raw onions, relishes, jalapeños … there are literally a million of them, but none were offered. Also, Joel paid because Earl is broke.


Mon-Thurs., 10 a.m.–11:30 p.m.;

Fri-Sat., 10:00 a.m.–2:30 a.m.;

Sun., 10 a.m.– 11:30 p.m.

665 Valencia, SF

(415) 863-7755


No alcohol

L.E. Leone’s new book is Big Bend (Sparkle Street Books), a collection of short fiction.