Saturday, March 13, 2010

"Hell" by Robert Olen Butler

It's been a very long time since I reviewed a book on this blog, but there are times when something absolutely MUST be said, wrongs MUST be righted, goodness upheld and a flying drop kick MUST land right on some guy's beezer.

We went to a local bookstore. Pulitzer Prize winning author, Robert Olen Butler, was giving a talk on his newest book, "Hell". These sorts of engagements are almost always fun, if not for the anecdotes, then for the fellowship with another writer. One or both of those is enough to get me to buy the book and give it a try.

One of the things we learned about the story was that Mr. Butler's fourth wife had just ran off with Ted Turner. Yes, THAT Ted Turner. That's why Hell is set in Atlanta. Now, I've been to Atlanta a few times, so I can say with some certainty that Butler's version of Hell is a little different than Dante's or John Milton's - although the sex is the same. It would appear that nowhere is one to actually enjoy it, even by yourself.

Another thing we learned about the book is that there are lots of people in Butler's "Hell" that one would expect to see in Hell. Dick Nixon, Anne Boleyn, and Bill Shakespeare to name a few. There are plenty that one wouldn't as well. The most important thing, it seems, isn't who, but why. Answering the question "Why are you in Hell?" is so important that it appears as a regular segment on the evening news in Hell.

We also learned that Mr. Butler had uncovered some very interesting connections that have occurred in History. Allow me to quote, "There is only one degree of coital separation between JFK and Adolph Hitler." The link? Party girl and Nazi sympathizer/spy, Inga Arvad. The source? Al Gore's unfailingly accurate invention, the Internet. THAT bold statement turned some heads!

Well, with information like that between the covers of "Hell", how could I resist? I bought the book. Had it signed by the author, took it back to my hotel room, and mortgaged an evening reading it.

Have you ever heard the expression "Christ on a bike!"? Have you ever meant it? How about "Christ on Rocket ship escaping Hell with Richard Milhaus Nixon!"? Before you think that "Hell" is SciFi or something, it should be said that they don't actually make it. Turns out that they don't make it because this story so bad it has it's own explosive gravity.

The part that really finished the story for me was a consumptive sex scene that was about as far from "bawdy romp" as the Donner's Party in the Sierra Nevadas was from a dinner table. If you're going to use a severed human penis as an after dinner mint, at least say it with a smile.

The flying drop kick thing in the first paragraph above is paraphrased very loosely from an piece Tom Archdeacon wrote about a professional wrestling event way, way back on Feb 20, 1987 for the Miami News. When I compare that newspaper article to Robert Olen Butler's book "Hell", I can see that the format of the material is different, but not it's subject. A more succinct and gripping telling of Mr. Butler's story could only have been made by sticking your tongue between your lips and blowing though them to produce a loud, sloppy-wet, and flatulent blubbering.

Hell? Yes. "Hell"? No.

The Pub

The Pub in Beavercreek, Ohio, may be the popular spot in town. It's THAT hard to get a table anyway. We have tried a couple of nights per week for a month now and finally managed to get a seat.

They try very, very hard to be "Authentic British". That's printed on the walls and even on the tickets you get at the end of the evening. Yes, there's soccer on the televisions, posters of British musical groups on the walls, and the wait staff all wear kilts. British. OK, one final test - is there any German beer on the menu? Hell no! Yep, they're British.

The beer menu is short, sweet and tasty. The food menu is even better.Their signature dishes include two heavy hitters. First, the pot roast.

The other is the Shepherd's Pie.

Yes, it was good, right down to the very last bite. If you can ever get a seat in the place, I recommend it. If you have no patience for lines, look elsewhere ... it's your loss.

The Pub
39 Greene Boulevard,
Dayton, Ohio
(937) 320-1199

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just Say No Potato Gnocchi Con Pesto

Yuck! Gnocchi with pesto is horrible. I've learned a new Italian phrase because of it. Dica appena no gnocchi con pesto. It means "Just Say No Potato Gnocchi Con Pesto." I picked the green coated chicken bits out of this dish and couldn't bear to finish. Yuck!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Existential-ly Noodles

There's something about Pad Thai that is simply magical. Just as Life must be lived through experiences or ‘le vecu’ as Jean Paul Sartre called it, Pad Thai is a dish that must be described through experience. To Sartre, the concept of vécu is based on a mixture (un mélange) that gets integrated into a whole. That, in a nutshell, is the recipe for Pad Thai.

Pad Thai begins with rice in its most passionate form - noodles. Long, slightly sticky, and deliciously chewy, rice noodles. You can find them in the Asian grocery stores bearing the Vietnamese title "ban pho".

Sartre said that "We must act out passion before we can feel it." So let's find someplace quaint, charming and cozy.

Genuine Pad Thai, the real thing, has a fiery temper, a breath of desire, a hint of appreciation, and the missing kiss of a lover that is gone and never coming back. The recipe has the four ingredients expressed as a kind of temporary madness: Tamarind pulp for it's sour flavor), Fish Sauce for its salty bitterness, Palm Sugar for its gentle sweetness, and a red hot Thai chili powder for transcendence.

Fry in some egg, bean sprouts and onion. Add crushed, roasted peanuts to taste.

Serve it with rice.

Pad Thai may teach one to love, but not how to stop. Try, just try, I dare you, to put down the chopsticks or fork and walk away before feeling stuffed. Just be sure to try it at the Siam Pad Thai restaurant. It's THAT good!

Siam Pad Thai
3027 Wilmington Pike
Dayton, OH 45429-4001
(937) 293-9606

Visiting the Cincinnati Premium Outlet Mall

Have you ever visited the Cincinnati Premium Outlet Mall? If so, what's your favorite store. Well, here's a few of mine.

There's nothing like Ralph Lauren. Just love those shirts. OK, and the briefs too.

Who can resist a Bookstore?

Especially when your old writing instructor's books are on the shelves?

Here's the best store of all ... Le Creuset.

One day I'm going to own a whole set of this stuff. Today, I'm adding a sauce pan to my collection.

All this talk of cooking gear has made me hungry. Care for a treat? It's on me!