23 November 2011
Back where I come from in The Old Country (a.k.a. the US), when you order a pizza, it is delivered to you all nicely cut into individual slices for your convenience. It is all ready for you to eat as quickly as possible. You don't even need plates, you certainly don't need silverware, and as long as you've got a few extra T-shirts handy, the scant paper napkins that get delivered with it are good enough as well. You could actually live your entire life, if you were so inclined, without any dishes or cooking utensils at all, as long as you didn't mind pizza every day at every meal.
Not so in Belgium. In Belgium, even the most dedicated delivery order enthusiast must have at least one item in their kitchen: A pizza cutter. Because pizza delivery places in Belgium don't cut the pizza into slices for you.
"What? What?!" I can hear Americans screaming, "What kind of twisted Medieval fiends are these?"
It's totally insane, but it's true. If you live in Belgium and you don't have your own pizza cutter, you are forced to eat pizza either by tearing pieces of it off with your hands like a Neanderthal, or with a knife and a fork like a freak.
"But why can't they -- wouldn't it be easier if -- why don't they just --?" - Again, I know, I know, I know.
The best I can figure is that the Pizza Cutter industry has Europe by the throat. After all, how are they going to sell more of their sinister little circular knives? By selling them to pizza delivery places, or by selling them to the customers of pizza delivery places? ...Capiche?
There's a Pizza Cutter Mafia, and no one's talking about it.
The few times that I've asked the guy on the phone if they could please cut the pizza into slices, I could have sworn I heard fear in his voice and someone in the background saying, "Don't let Luigi find out about this".
But you didn't hear this here.
21 November 2011
I have noticed an increase in the number of creepy people lately. At first, I thought I might be imagining it - I have been known to let my imagination run away with me when I've been watching too many conspiracy videos on YouTube and imagine armies of Zombies/Space Aliens/Terrorists/The Ruling Elite around every corner - but now it's just been happening too often to blame on the paranoia of an obsessive insomniac.
It's important to note that being a stand up comedian, I keep the same hours as Creepy People; and being a stand up comedian who often drives home late at night from gigs in nearby countries, I tend to end up at their hang-out spots: namely those open all night roadside gas station/convenience stores.
These places, as best as I can tell, are social clubs for the shockingly weird and the potentially criminally insane. Sometimes when I pull into these places at 2:00 in the morning and see these freaks, I wonder where they hang out during daylight hours, or indeed if they even exist in daylight hours. I swear I never see such lumpy, perspiring just-crawled-out-of-the-grave looking weirdness in the middle of the afternoon.
In the past they always seemed to keep to themselves, accepting (I assumed), that being Weird they shouldn't attempt to mingle with the Un-Weird. But lately I've noticed more of them. And I've noticed them focusing on me a lot. I've been followed into the ladies room by the female ones who loiter by the sinks as if in a quandary as to whether they should mug me or not - like the Zombies and Wraiths in horror films, they are dealt with easily enough by staring them down with Devil Eyes, or shocking them with a loud hiss (thank you, house cats)- but it is still disturbing that they are aware of me at all. I used to swear they lived in a misty parallel world where I could see them, but they couldn't see me.
So, being me, this has lead me to some uneasy self-examination. Is there some vibe I'm giving off that makes them think they can mess with me? Are there just more of them and they're taking over the world and messing with everyone? Or - worse yet - do they think I'm one of them??!!
Oh Dear God, could it be that?
Lately I've dyed my hair jet black, and when I come into contact with them, I am several hours post-gig, usually dressed in dark colors and with eye-makeup that is ghoulishly heading south. I am - if I'm being honest - pretty scary looking myself. Could they think that I'm the sort of healthier un crack damaged version of them whom they must threaten in order to establish their territory? Perhaps they think I am their Queen?
Or is it possible that I, too, am creepy? No, no, no. Surely I would know, wouldn't I? Surely if I were truly One Of Them I would skip the gigs altogether and follow an instinctual urge to stand in shadows in those places, looking at my feet with my hands in my pockets?
I mean they know, right? They know they're creepy. At some point it must have occurred to them - even if just on a subconscious level - that they weren't quite like the rest of humanity and that they belonged (if anywhere) at these late night truck stops? And I would know (Right? Right?) if I were one of them?
Oh for crying out loud.
Just to establish boundaries, the next time I'm in one of those places I'm going to shout at the top of my lungs, "I'm only here because I have the bladder of a sparrow, so back off!"
Oh, that'll show 'em.
03 November 2011
So I was awakened at the crack of dawn today with that same incomprehensible fervor I remember from camping trips as a child: "Hurry! It's almost daylight! We've got to GO!"; only this time I wasn't being jostled into the back of a car and being wedged between a cooler and a 4-man tent, this time I was being forced out of slumber by one of the most frightening phenomenons of nature: A Belgian on the quest for a rare Trappist beer.
Because, as it was explained to me while we sped through traffic on our journey to one of the chosen outlets, this beer, Westvleteren XII, is extremely rare. It's brewed by monks only in this one particular abbey in West Flanders, where they make it according to centuries long tradition solely for their own use. The monks have a secret process by which they make it, which I'm guessing involves trampling it with their tiny monk feet in huge oaken vats decorated with Masonic symbols, while the elder monks alternately whip them and chant encouragement.
The very small excess amount the monks make each year is sold only on a certain day and you have to know someone connected with the abbey, be able to perform a secret handshake, recite a magic password, and be able to hold your hand over an open flame without flinching to be allowed to purchase it. And of course, in addition to being near impossible to get, it has also been rated several times as THE BEST BEER IN THE WORLD.
So now these monks need to do repairs on their abbey, and to raise the money needed they've brewed exactly the amount of beer they'll need to sell to complete the task, had it packaged (through donations) in 6-packs that look like abbey bricks (cute, huh?), and set up a one-day-only deal with a newspaper and a chain of shops. First you had to clip a special coupon from the paper, then you had to show up at one of these shops (Colruyt) today, with your coupon, and then you were only allowed to purchase one 6-pack per person...so you see why, of course, I had to be present as well. Had I been conjoined twins I would have been even more useful.
Our local Colruyt opened at 8:30, and when we got there at 8:34 it was already a mob scene. Parking was impossible to find, so I was sent running into the shop, clutching our coupons. I had to dodge under, over and around a sea of shopping carts and finally got to the first palette of beers just as the stack was depleted. There were already people standing in line waiting to pay for their beers. 8:34. 4 minutes after the store had opened. Incredible.
By the time Mr. Jovanka was able to find parking and get inside, he was trapped behind the barricade of shopping carts, and I could see panic in his eyes. But as they brought out the second palette, I was on the case. Using my newly toned yoga arms I was able to get not just one, but both cases and carry them back to the safety of our shopping cart. It's possible some old people may have been trampled in the process, but I wasn't looking back. We'd won.
Within minutes, the precious beers were purchased and safely nestled in our car.
Each 6 pack was nicely arranged with two official Westvleteren XII glasses, because as everyone knows, Belgians can only drink beer out of a glass that says the name of that beer on it. Including 2 glasses was a kindness on the part of the monks. Had they been stingy and provided only 1 glass, it would have meant that Belgians would have had to take turns drinking their beer: one Belgian sipping while the other looked on in envy.
By the way, the "XII" stands for 12% alcohol. Because Belgian monks don't mess around, baby.