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Seven in One Stroke

Kenny Shopsin
***

by Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

Shopsin's restaurant was a landmark in New York's West Village. The menu had over a thousand items on it. The New Yorker dubbed Kenny Shopsin "the Irascible Chef-King of Lower Manhattan". A documentary about Kenny is titled, I Like Killing Flies. Kenny was nothing if not provocative.

Flies are dirty creatures. Fouling whatever they land on with filth from both ends of their tiny bodies makes them a particular problem in kitchens. So we can excuse Kenny's murderous passion. But still, as Bob Dylan wondered on Highway 61, we need to ask, "Where you want this killing done?"

New Haven, the home of the thin crust, is the undisputed pizza capital of the US: Barstool Pizza Review - Sally's Apizza. My own pizzeria was forty minutes north of that culinary epicenter, just outside Hartford. My chef, Jeffrey, as people do from across the country, apprenticed in New Haven at Sally's. Jeffrey, who kept a very clean ship, derided those bug zappers, that draw flies in with ultraviolet light and then electrocute them, audibly. Those high-tech fly-catchers, he pointed out, most unhygienically scatter the fly's post-zap, now-exploded, dirty little carcass widely across the kitchen.

Last night I went to bed early, hitting the sack before 11:00. Early to bed, early to rise..., right, I get it. But 4:20 is a bit too early to rise. Sometimes I spend the night bobbing between dreams and the surface of consciousness. At those in between moments, when I am not fully conscious, I hold onto the dream world. Liminal is the word for it: "relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process; occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold."

"In anthropology, liminality is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of a rite of passage, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete."
    - Wikipedia

By remembering my last dream, I calm my thinking brain, and am able to get back to sleep... usually. The problem happens when my last dream was not calming. Such was the case here in these dark hours before dawn.

(English, with far more words, is generally more precise than Spanish. But now and then, Spanish provides a technical term that English lacks. This second part of the night, beginning at midnight and ending with the dawn, is not "last night," because it is not last, and not "this morning," because it is not morning, not yet day. The Spanish call this liminal time, as I sit here writing, la madrugada.)

In my dream, I was walking down the road with a toolbox. It wasn't heavy, but it was large, and its length made carrying it awkward. Just then, a truck with three coarse-looking men in its cab was pulling out onto the road. I hailed and asked them to give me a lift the half a mile or so down the road to where my car was broken down. They assented. I put the toolbox up onto the bed of the truck and climbed up myself. It was a pickup when I boarded it. But, as soon as I was up, it changed into a flatbed, a very long flatbed, loaded, leaving me nowhere to sit. Precariously standing there, holding onto the load as best I could, while the truck, gathering speed, roared down the country highway, buffeted by the wind, I soon realized that we had already past my destination. I was so far back that the men couldn't hear me. I had some sort of missile, a "bullet" of communication, but I doubted that I could aim it effectively. I wondered if I could hold on, and what condition my hands would be in if I could.

Then, there was a second dream. In it there was a cooking class, where we were making something with dough, something cooked in a popup toaster. Someone (me?) had forgotten to bring their dough, and the question arose if they could still participate. The answer was yes.

The truck dream was no lullaby. After 20 minutes of lying awake, I admitted failure. Getting up in the blackness, I pulled on last night's shirt, navigated to the bathroom and washed up in the dark. Then, with a few steps more (everything in my little place is a few steps away from everything else) I arrived in my kitchen, turned on the low wattage bulb over the stove, put a pot on to boil and extracted a few small plums from the fridge. Then, while I was washing up last night's dishes, waiting to brew my tea, a fly buzzed by my head on its way to the light shining over the stove.

I particularly despise these overnight guests, because a certain species of them, reanimated by the new day's light, has more than once ruined my sleeping in by repeatedly landing on my nose. So I have developed my own killing machine. During the day one swats them down on the window screen, as they gaze longingly out into the garden, so near and yet so far. At night, the technique demands more subtlety.

Turning off all lights but one, the little bugger draws close, madly buzzing in the general vicinity of the bulb, stubbornly refusing to come to rest on any surface where I might exercise the swatter that I hold aloft expectantly. But on turning off that last light, there in the darkness, after a few seconds, the loathsome buzzing stops. Then, turning the light back on, there is a delay before, the fly takes flight once more and that maddening sound again starts up. There in that still hiatus, if the hairy creature has landed on some exposed place, it's a quick whack, and mission accomplished.

But earlier in my kitchen, in this madrugada, even in my still liminal consciousness, I remembered my pizza cook's admonition and stayed my hand, resisting the urge to execute the fly right above my stove. What at the moment seems like a quick solution often make matters worse. With a series of lights on and off, I quickly lured the winged intruder through my bedroom into the bathroom, where I shut the door, preventing his escape. (After a failed swat, or especially two, they will instinctually flee.)

Assuring myself that he was close by, off goes the naked bulb above the toilet. In the darkness, off goes the buzzing. On reilluminating the scene the noxious vermin was revealed, my victim and my oppressor, boldly and quietly displayed, black upon the white wall. Swatter, already poised for action, I struck and deposited the corpse in the trash. It wasn't exactly "Seven in One Stroke," but I was proud of the efficiency of my slaughter. I went back into the kitchen, lit the light, washed my hands and made my tea.

Here, now, writing this, the sky already growing light, I try to make sense of my dream. Jung said that an uninterpreted dream was like an unopened letter. But one does not have to be Freud to figure out what my dream means. I know what's on my mind, conscious and unconscious.

Imagine that as the pandemic has ruined local economies, Lokkal, my online platform, my obsession, will improve them. Lokkal, like Buy Local, preserves local flavor and promotes community. It is a non-toxic, non-addictive, non-commercial (think Public Television) digital town square (Instagram meets the Yellow Pages) all of whose profits will be invested in the community.

The project, like the car in my dream, still needs a few adjustments... but only a very few. As in the dream, although I have in hand the necessary tool to quickly make those adjustments, I keep expecting, perhaps childishly, someone to help get me there. Just yesterday, a person with the gravity and connections in San Miguel to easily facilitate Lokkal, had to, apologetically, cancel our meeting. The person is very interested, but also very busy.

As I say, it may be childish, but it seems to me that a project this big, this important, shouldn't be resting only on my shoulders. Still, here, with the new day dawning, giving my feelings shape on this page, I understand that this is the essence of adventure; you don't know how it will turn out.

And really, my story is the oldest, the hero's quest. A man, convinced of the righteousness of his cause, spends all his energy, spends his last dime (and I have already spent a lot of hours and dimes) bringing a world-changing technology to life.

It's scary. I'm facing my fears. I may be Don Quixote or I may be the Digital Messiah, but I've got to go for it, to see this project to its end, or to its glorious beginning.

PS:

The second dream, about the cooking class and missing dough, is really the same as the first. Can I continue without the dough, without outside money, on my own without patronage and support? As in the dream, the answer is yes.

PPS:

I fixed the screen with bits of wire,
for at a distance I admire,
those furry acrobats on wing,
whose marvels transcend anything
that human wit will 'ere devise.
I really don't like killing flies.

**************

Dr David invites you to visit Lokkal San Miguel's digital town square, a local social network (Facebook meets the Yellow Pages) where you can see our community online. Join and post your own content.

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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