A Spoon Full of Sugar…
I have to tell you a story about the time Auntie was declared dead thanks to an ocelot and a clumsy baggage handler and was revived by a malicious acupuncturist. Then there’s the business regarding the violent gangs of culinary incorrigibles and their dilettante groupies. But all in good time and fashion as they say.
We had gone to visit a doctor friend who happens to live in Central Park West and operates a thriving acupuncture practice for stress management. Most of his clients are your average businessman or Wall Street execs. Our doctor friend was originally a podiatrist. One day however, while trying to explain the ins and outs of bunions to a particularly irritable old woman and her Pomeranian, he had an epiphany. People in New York City are either too busy to consult a good foot doctor and would rather have the opportunity to complain about something, or too eccentric to try traditional means of therapy to cure their ailments, so he decided to pursue a career in alternative medicine.
Being that most New Yorkers are looking for something novel to validate their existence on a routine basis, he maintains a steady stream of new clientele. After about a year of having people pay him to stab needles into their bodies to affect some sort of relief from everyday life, he decided to install a revolving door at the office so to avoid the constant wear and tear that the average swing door would sustain as a result of the ever changing identity of his client base. (I have a theory that the stress of voluntarily being punctured with a billion tiny needles in order to relieve the stress of living, has a way of making people realize that the stress of living is quite enough stress altogether.) The doc also has a thing for revolving doors. He always said, “I’d like to install a revolving door at the front of my office. What a statement! Anyone who’s anyone in New York has a revolving door don’t you know?” As an aside, some people familiar with the doc suggest that the reason he left a legitimate profession for a practice considered by many with skepticism is that he had long ago left a little place called Reality for a comfortable life in the suburbs. But that’s another story, for another time.
Back to tale at hand. After arriving in New York, auntie tripped and fell off the aerobridge while exiting the plane due a particularly unfortunate incident involving the ground crew and what turned out to be an illegal ocelot being shipped in from Venezuela for an exotic animal collector in the Poconos. Several of the ground crew were killed or maimed and while trying to avoid the kerfuffle below, and the aerobridge operator neglected to secure the brake on his machine causing it to shift and move away from the plane under auntie’s enormous weight. After being taken to Mercy General Hospital not far from the airport, she was officially declared dead. Cause of death, the sudden stop at the end of her 16 foot fall from the aero bridge. When our doctor friend was notified (luckily auntie carried point of contact information where ever she went) he came right down to the hospital, needles in hand exclaiming as he burst through the door to the emergency room, “Stand aside men! I know exactly what this one needs. Pickles and barley! A little prodding should do the trick.” He also didn’t hesitate to point out to the doctors that the emergency room lacked the all too vital status symbol that is a revolving door and was almost lost in a discussion of the cost benefit analysis of such a door before realizing his piercing expertise were desperately needed if auntie was to avoid becoming permanently stiff!
The prodding began to the horror of all in view, as it was actually less of a prodding and more of a violent stabbing motion the doc seemed to be executing. I will openly admit, however that I am not a professional acupuncturist and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect that of the acupuncture establishment. You may decide for yourself. Imagine the doc, with his Einstein tonsure, bushy eyebrows, paper thin skin and spider like fingers, dexterously extract his equipment from the tattered leather folding case in which he stored his therapeutic devices; then proceed to jab the entire handful of sharp metal rods into auntie’s thigh, being careful to avoid any major blood vessels of course.
As absurd as it sounds, this actually worked as was evidenced by the sudden flash of auntie’s eyelids as they opened enough to allow those standing around to see her optic nerve quiver, and the very abrupt and acute introduction to most of those at Mercy Hospital, and in fact most of those within a good square mile, to the capacity of my operatic auntie’s soprano vocals. She had always dreamed of starring in a Broadway version of Thelma and Louise, which she developed, and had been desperately pitching the solo, musical version of the classic film to producers for years; much to their dismay. She had been told many times that she had no talent, and although the very legitimate reputation seemed to precede her at every turn, she held onto that dream as if she were a child setting out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. She had even been told at several sporting events that it was her unique patriotic duty NOT to sing the National Anthem. But still she persisted. And in response to the awkwardness that accompanies many an eccentric exhibiting in public, most people just murmured in their sleeves and wished they were somewhere else.
The real story here begins that afternoon when our doctor friend, as promised, introduced auntie to New York’s Culinary Underground. A world renowned but highly illicit group of daring individuals who trafficked in taste. Here I may need to point out that the era this story takes place is somewhat later than yours and things in the world had gone a little awry in the opinion of many political pundits of your day, subsequent to the great PharmCo revolution. Around the year 2017, as health insurance companies began restricting prescription distribution and approval based on physical standards and political affiliations, there was a great public outcry for the government of the United States to improve the system so that individuals could more easily obtain the necessary medications. In an effort to appease all sides, the government went to the Pharmaceutical industry and asked for help in developing a process whereby unhealthy individuals could meet the standards set by the insurance industry in order that their prescriptions could be approved. The result was house bill HR 1342, passed in the senate and enacted into law by the sitting President, the honorable Alec Baldwin on August 7, 2019. The Prescription Nutrition Mandate, as it was officially known, evolved into an all-out criminalization of any food production, consumption, or preparation in exchange for a system of health evaluations and nutritional requirements used by the PharmCo industry to produce NICEs (Nutritionally Individualized Consumer Eatables). As “nice” as this development may sound, the ultimate result was that as a citizen of the US you had the RIGHT to visit your doctor once a year for an evaluation and assessment from which your own personal once daily tablet would be concocted, complete with all the vitamins, minerals, mood manipulators and caloric intake required for you to maintain or reach the physical standards set by the insurance industry to approve your prescription medications. Ironically, most of the chemical solutions to your health issues were precluded if you were healthy enough to be within the standards. You would think the PharmCo Lobby would be in an uproar about the insurance industry making their bread and butter obsolete, but now that Prozac and Penicillin had seen their hay-day, bread and butter were taking their place, so to speak.
With new regulation always comes new bureaucracy. The ATF became the ATF2 (the division of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Food). The FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services amalgamated into the Department of Citizen Fulfillment and Productivity (otherwise known as the Department of If I tell you you’re happy, you better be happy or else). The “or else” came at the hands of ATF2 SWAT operators (Sanctimoniously Wielding AssaulT rifles – most bureaucrats at this point in our nation’s history were former SNL comedians) who would come to your door and effectively persuade you of your utopian bliss.
And with new rules come new ways to break the rules. Hence, the Culinary Underground was born. Unfortunately with the consolidation of all nutritional, medicinal and several other “als”, an ignorance of one’s own personal health considerations developed. Many experimenting with the Underground (euphemistically referred to as foodies) experienced allergic reactions to certain foods resulting in death due to the a severe shortage of Benedryl because the Pharmco Industry was so taxed in producing NICEs for every individual citizen that some of the now obscure production efforts eventually fell by the wayside. An interesting side note, the Department of Positive Propaganda in collaboration with an organization called MOTHER (Mothers On The Hunt! Eating Ruins Society) had been using the death of these unfortunate culinary criminals for some time in an effort to preach the evils of the taste bud with ads such as these: “Considering the world underground restauranteurs? Consider this: Foodie = Food + Die. Get the picture?” I know, not many of their other ads made much sense either. Most people just nodded because they understood the general idea.
As for the doc, he had developed a fairly credible relationship with several of the leading members of the Delicious Network which was a notorious, top tier gang of old school hash slinging artistes. Their relationship blossomed after the doc unwittingly stabbed a leader of Delicious in a nerve causing the patient’s irreversible impotency. He was told that he would either have to devise a way to import certain necessary ingredients for the Underground’s work or become a part of it. So in order to avoid being skewered, boiled, basted or whatever else the kids were doing these days he began ordering supplies for his practice which he described on the required postal documentation as “peculiar acupuncture essentials” and then delivering them to Delicious by means of Post Office Box. You may be wondering how these items escaped the prying eyes of Post Office Personnel. Well, when the funding for the Department of Agriculture dried up after the PharmCo Revolution, most of the bureaucrats went to work for the Postal Service and didn’t much care to be bothered with the whole “postal inspection process” because they didn’t want to get bogged down in some lengthy investigation with retirement only 20 or 30 years around the corner. There was also an increase in anthrax deaths around this time.
Auntie had known the doc and considered him a close friend for many years. Although it would be to her surprise that he didn’t particularly feel the same. They had met at a pan-occupational gathering in Chicago about 20 years before and he had been looking for a way to get rid of her ever since. Why would he have gone to such great lengths to save her you ask? When he initially received the call from the hospital that auntie was there but had unfortunately passed away due to an accidental fall from an airplane he suspected someone had beat him to the punch and pushed the poor woman out the door to save the world some misery, but he’d be damned if he wasn’t going to get in one last jab. When he looked back on the day’s events, surrounded by diced potatoes, baby carrots and pearl onions floating in a savory beef broth; the smell of rosemary and garlic streaming into his nostrils as he tried to avoid the vegetables bobbing around his head, he was actually surprised that he had been so tragically mistaken about the surety of his plan.