We walked through parts of the city that were kicked down, and sometimes marginally repaired with bits of plywood. Everywhere, plywood. We walked across the cracked and twisted sidewalks between buildings that slumped into each other, roots from trees destroying the symmetry of the walkways, and brushing into your eyes and mouth as you moved past. Sidewalks where groups of people set up chairs, cooked things on small barbecues close to the ground, and didn’t bother to shift when you needed to walk by. People who were happy, and who didn’t like you, and would watch you walk away.

Through sections of town where you heard nothing but the sound of rushing cars and loud Jamaican accents, into a little eatery that made its money by selling a wall of mysterious beers I’d never heard of to the local college students. White letters pressed into brown grooves above the counter spelled out, without punctuation or a breath, the food that they could make for you. I ordered a burger and fries, because it seemed safe, and she bought a beer that I’d never heard of and something without any meat in it. We sat at a table in the back, thick with grease and filth, while a partially obscured television played something in the kitchen, and the old locals debated, and the teenagers outside the window climbed up onto stone planters and groped each other and let their bikes fall on the ground.

They forgot my fries, and decided to charge me again when they finally delivered them ten minutes later. I didn’t argue. The atmosphere was angry, like I didn’t belong there because I had never been there before. The burger couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, and it was a challenge to get packets of ketchup to try to disguise it as something edible. Why couldn’t I just buy beer and get out like the rest of the white kids?

We took a trolley across the city on her birthday to go to a fancy restaurant called ‘The Saloon’. I’d called everywhere I thought we could get to in order to find her the perfect eggplant parmesan, and we finally settled on this, after some debate. There was always debate, and it was unpredictable. It could be about a pause, or a word, or the absence of a word, or some personality quirk or failing that had been imperceptible until now. We wore nice clothes. She was beautiful and I watched her perfect, jet black hair cascade down her back as we walked, and I couldn’t wait to get her back to the apartment. We sat in wooden chairs and we felt like kids playing as adults. Our waitress was pretty and bright, and things felt right, for a few minutes. The food was delicious, and the meal came to $100 or so, and I paid, and we left, and I was glad that I could give her something special to remember. This was going to be her new life. She cheated on me a few months later.

I don’t think that the night went well. Sleeping arrangements required that I stay on a bloated inflatable mattress in the middle of the floor with a small fan directed somewhere between us, because her small mattress wasn’t large enough for two, and she had very precise sleeping needs. Mathematical pillow positioning, exact temperatures, no light touching, a specific blanket in a specific place. You could not shift without disrupting the entire order of things and the ritual had to start anew, so I slept elsewhere. It was simpler.

We walked around the corner from her apartment, past the Blockbuster and the colorful fruit truck that was always there, give or take a few feet. We ordered ‘sour cream and onion’ fries, and a sandwich. They advertised ‘flavor fries’, and as a fan of french friend in general, I felt an obligation to sample their wares. A young black kid was painting a giant pizza on the wall and getting it terribly wrong, but talking about going to art school. His plastic box of paints and brushes took up a table, and he offered to move them for us to sit down. Some arcade game squatted in the corner, and the cashier would disinterestedly wander out every so often to plug in a quarter, and walk away again when the phone rang. An obese, grey, unfriendly couple took over the other booth.

The fries arrived in a round foil container, wet, in a pale, off-white gnarl of sour cream and onion dip. We ate them anyway, and threw most of the mess away when we were sure they weren’t looking.

My favorite dining in Philadelphia was eating sandwiches out of paper bags or Chinese food with plastic forks, on her filthy couch, watching really great or really awful movies on TV, dozing off with a full stomach and feeling her fleshy stomach under the side of my face, trying to ignore the piles of garbage and dirty dishes that her and her roommates let infest the breadth of the apartment. I was inclined to never walk barefoot there, but the food, safe in paper bags from someplace outside of the apartment, was great.


I wrote this back in September of 2004, but it’s one of my all time favorite articles that I did on All Nerd Review. It’s got funny stuff, it’s got music, and it’s generally pretty satisfying, as it’s one of the few articles that involved doing things that existed out in the real world, even in some small way. Please enjoy.


It wasn’t too long ago that I found a can of squid in my closet.

I do not clearly remember BUYING this can of squid.

Maybe I purchased the can in some kind of misplaced creative impulse. I’ve bought odder things under the pretense of creativity, though having a luminescent Jesus nightlight and 50 spools of thread have not yet proven useful in ANY way. I was, in fact, using dead octopodia for art and comedy at one point. Half of this comedic performance entailed pulling a dead baby octopus out of my pocket and cleverly proclaiming ‘POCKTOPUS!’ and waving it in the faces of attractive young women in The GAP, one of which actually ended up becoming my girlfriend for 2 years. It all ended when we realized that the foundation of the relationship – the proud display of a dead octopus and a lot of hot lovin’ – was actually pretty flimsy and she ran away. The other half of the comedy went something like this.


That phase in my creative career lasted about as long as an unrefridgerated octopus could. I disposed of them, but I still don’t explicity recall attempting to fill that particular void in my life with canned squid.

I don’t find the idea of canned squid specifically unappealing, as I eat all manner of seafood both cooked and uncooked, though I do have a personal policy of not eating things which include¬† instructions like, ‘pull head from body sac’. ‘Discard viscera’ isn’t too appealing either. It’s not that I wouldn’t eat these, I just that don’t trust myself to successfully pull something’s head from its body sac in one yank. It usually takes a bunch of small tugs and then some vigorous rotating, and by that point, I’d probably be either too excited to eat or at least leaving some squid brains behind in the body sac. This violates my second most important personal gastronomic policy, ‘don’t eat the parts of the animal that have possibly thought about you before’.


One of my earliest contacts with squid was probably this statue of Mario vs. the blooper. Something like this doesn’t really give a kid a good impression of squid. Mario is obviously unprepared for this guerrilla rectal exam, and even invincibility, granted to him by the golden star, will not ease the discomfort of the squid’s attack. In fact, this unprompted squid suppository has even shocked the invincible star itself, who, as we all know, directs snuff films and is very difficult to phase.

None of this brought me any closer to figuring out where this came from. SOMEONE paid $1.99 for this, but I was given no indication as to who the financial recipient of this transaction was, since the price label only said ‘GROCERY’. As for an expiration date, ‘MO NB M21B’ seems to be some kind of alpha-trinary code for ‘C’mon… Live Dangerously’ or ‘No, There’s Nothing Else To Eat’. These letters and numbers are embossed into the can lid, and can also be read by the squid inside, if they have the tiny flashlights or miner’s helmets that I imagine them to have. These letters and numbers are probably some kind of squid code so that THEY don’t forget when they go bad. I’ll open up the can, they’ll say, ‘Too late, buddy’, and we’ll both go on with our lives.

Along with the directions on how to eviscerate the little bastards, there are serving suggestions and nutritional information, and according to this label, squid actually have a negative nutritional value. For every serving of squid that you joyfully partake of, you can subtract about 15 minutes from your life. Caveat : these 15 minutes will probably come somewhere in the middle, and not in the already truncated final moments, when they’re pounding on your heart to bring it back to all of its clogged, pulsating fury. A mere 2 ounces of squid contain 90% of your RDA of cholesterol. From this information, top scientists have discovered that squid are actually composed of 90% pure butter and 10% assorted viscera, which are composed of margarine. They’ve also discovered that it’s safer to insert the squid directly into your heart than to consume them orally.

“Wel-Pac California Squid is already cooked. Once cleaned, cut squid into bite-sized pieces; season to taste with soy sauce and lemon juice. Serve chilled as an appetizer or main dish salad. Or, add bite-sized pieces of squid to salads, or soups, such as tomato and vegetable, for a light but full meal. For a quick main dish, add cleaned Wel-Pac California Squid to your favorite spaghetti sauce and serve over cooked spaghetti or rice. For additional recipes, write to : Wel-Pac Squid Recipes, P O Box 7251, San Francisco CA, 94120.”

Sounds like a plan. I was going to write them a letter. I’d avoid writing anything accusatory, criticizing their guerilla marketing techniques of placing their product in the back of my closet, and simply ask them for more recipes. I drafted a letter on July 22, and waited.


Meanwhile, I did some research.


I found out a few things. “4000 embryos”, and “Gary has no luck”. What does this mean towards uncovering the mystery of the squid? Well… it meant that I had to write a song about it. A sad, folkish song. Because that’s just what squid are into. Which you can download.

The infectious presence of the squid on my desk had infiltrated my brain, so with guitar and MusioMate, and a bit of remastering from my friends over at Headhat, I had a horribly mediocre song. Meanwhile, Wel-Pac/JFC International had responded to me! The responded with an array of recipes that I would, in all likelihood, never ever ever try, since my baked potatoes generally have cryogenically frozen cores, and bacon? Thousands have died from the undercooked wrath of my bacon. I somehow manage to reverse the aging process in cheese and actually turn it back through its delicate milky phases and into grass once again. I don’t know how this happens. Within the realm of the pamphlets, ‘Oriental Classic Recipes’ like ‘walnut spice biscotti’ never looked so right, surrounded by neon green clipart of Thanksgiving turkeys. My culinary expertise would remain firm in the country of chicken nuggets and Spaghetti-Os.

Am I going to eat the squid? Well, they’ve become something of a desk mascot. They’ve inspired a bevy of visitors to state things like, “Hey… he’s got a can of squid on his desk!”, or “Look! A can of squid! I don’t get it,”, which is perhaps the greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid, because I’m a horrifically undesirable human being. My can of squid is truly my most attractive attribute. So, until the can begins to bloat and rust, I have no choice but to keep them as pets. They’re low maintenance, requiring but a light dusting every so often, and my gentle, soothing words.

Plus, they’re probably older than me. At least I have a quick way out if things get too bad. I can imagine the coroner’s report, and their desperate attempt to turn ‘squid’ into a verb. The answer, of course, will be locked behind my cold, dead lips.