Tag Archives: burritos

The Battle of the Gull

The Saga of Spring Break: Part 2

As you may recall, last week found our heroes trapped by their own desires in a mansion of phallic proportions. They may have set out for nothing more than unabashed revelry, but in its place, they encountered a most difficult challenge. This week, in the exciting conclusion to our two-part saga, the unsuspecting crew of the cliff-side palace will face a trial the likes of which they have never before seen. Instead of coming to terms with a giant pecker, they’ll have to survive an onslaught of little ones.

Friday.

We’re sitting in six deck chairs, wedged expertly between the pool and the glass guard rail, enjoying both the beautiful ocean view and some delicious hangover burritos, when suddenly it sounds like something fun is happening inside. Maybe the girls are having that pillow fight I’d been daydreaming about. Or maybe it’s just Drive By playing on loop again or people throwing up everywhere—who knows?

The decision to go investigate was not an easy one. After all, these are San Diego burritos we’re talking about. Whether it’s juicy, lardy carnitas smothered in fresh guacamole, or greasy, melted cheese dripping over carne asada and french fries, you know that while your heart and stomach may hate you, your tongue will be enraptured.  Every time I journey home, I eat an average of two burritos per day, and no matter how sick from them I get, I never get sick of them. Still, the potential for fun eventually outweighs our hunger, and we set down our food to go join in.

A foolish mistake!

Nanoseconds after the food is abandoned, the seagulls that had been hovering above our palace seize their opportunity and swoop in with calculated Machiavellianism! I could hardly blame them—San Diego burritos—but neither could I allow the slight to go unpunished. As the first person to notice the impending horror of total burrito loss, I sprint outside, flapping my arms wildly and yelling in the manner I instinctively sense will be most intimidating to seagulls.

Apparently my instincts are too good, because the birds scatter like feathers in a sorority-girl pillow fight. That is, all save one, an adolescent male (I like to imagine) who has found himself pinned between a semi-circle of chairs and every birds’ ultimate bane: a panel of glass. The see-through fence that had kept us from plummeting to our deaths all week is now preventing this poor creature from reverse plummeting to freedom. And yet, sure that nothing more than empty air lies in front of him, the seagull takes off, ramming his head full-force into the glass wall. He is knocked backward with a resounding DONG, but that deters him not at all. Again, he rams it. And again! Again! Again!

Whereas once I had been enraged by the seagull’s insolence, I now find myself pitying the dimwitted creature. There it was, entrapped by a cage it could neither see nor damage. I could almost sense its thoughts: if I can just ram it hard enough, the magic maintaining this accursed force field will be broken! Or more likely: Caw. Caw! Caw caw! Its wings flap wildly, and with every smack, it becomes visibly more shaken and disoriented.

I know I have to help this bird. After all, I am a nature god. But how?!

At this point, my cousin Evan joins me outside and is witness to the self-inflicted destruction of this bird’s skull. The two of us start frantically pulling chairs out of the way to give the gull room to take off, but the pool is right behind us and without tossing the chairs into it, our minor adjustments prove ineffective. Plus, no matter how much room we give the thing, it remains utterly certain that with just one more try, it will be able to defeat the accumulated human knowledge of polymer construction. Sure, the magic barrier has stopped it the last 27 times it tried to take off, but no force is more powerful than that of obstinance, and no substance is thicker than a seagull’s skull.

I realize that there’s only one way this bird is escaping: if I can hoist it over the fence. Eschewing any real forethought, I reach in to grab the thing, but that just scares the shit out of it.

Literally. As soon as I touch its wing, it sprays poop all over the place, the splash damage just barely missing my foot. Now freed from the burden of its bowels, it proceeds to expertly smack its head into a fence some more.

I take a step back and perform a few monkey-level calculations. A tool! That’s what I need! And then I see it: the pool scooper. Just because it’s meant to scoop pools doesn’t mean it can’t also scoop gulls. I’m going to have to wield it with expert jabsmenship to pull off this delicate operation, but unfortunately, my tool, while not lacking in the long steel rod department, has a slightly-smaller-than-gull sized net. Also, I don’t have a lot of practice at scooping demented birds.

I brandish my new implement of animal-targeted kindness, waiting for the gull to perform another leap-smack (every time it tries to take off, it clears the ground by about two inches, so I simply have to slide the scooper underneath its feet during that brief window. Easy.) Leap, smack! Damn, I miss it. Another smack!

Boom! I’ve got the scooper under the bird. It’s working! I’m lifting this frantic, gyrating mass of a creature into the air as effortlessly as everyone who wasn’t Arthur lifted that sword out of the stone. It’s writhing and struggling and leaping and cawing and flapping and generally making my task pretty much impossible. I take a moment to dwell on how ungrateful this adolescent avian is, but then I realize that I was probably the same way at that age and return to my task with renewed vigor. Still, I’m unsuccessful. You wouldn’t expect a four-pound bird to be able to throw me off balance, so you clearly don’t have a lot of practice scooping demented birds either.

All the flailing proves too much for even my expert gull-balancing skills, and the bird flops off. Now reduced to a wobbling feather-clump of sheer terror by his over-exciting ride on the demon stick, this bird takes a break from the head-ramming to puke out its guts, which mostly contained this one half-digested fish. It was really rather pretty, the way its scales shimmered in the sunlight and its body ended in a bloody, undigested cluster of muscle instead of a head.

But I wasn’t about to let a little regurgitated fish remnants faze me. I go back to scooper-thrust round two, but before I can pull it off, I notice a cacophonous chorus of cawing. There! In the sky! Dozens of circling gulls, enraged that we’ve captured their companion. Hopes that they were all swarming to devour the free half-fish on the deck are quickly quashed as they swoop narrowly above our heads in an effort to scare us away from our presumed prey. Don’t they understand that I just want to help?

They don’t.

And their primary offensive weapon is the tried-and-true method of consta-shitting.

That special bird mixture of urine and feces rains from the sky all around me; the seagull rams his head into the wall; Evan cries out in fear and delight; the heavens ring with the chatter of enraged beasts; the waves crash against the cliffs beneath me; it’s all aligning just like that fortune teller said, and I know that if I do not solve this seagull situation now, things may turn out very badly.

For a moment, I’m on the verge of giving up, but Evan delivers a rousing speech and the two of us sprint through the ever-falling barrage of bird poop and get back in position. With one final thrust, I manage to snake the scooper underneath the gull, and, sensing victory, I hoist him into the air as fast as I can. We’re going to make it!

But with a furious flop, the gull slides sideways. I try to maintain my hold, but alas, I cannot. The bird topples to his left, rolling among the chairs, shit splatters next to me, splashing the fish remnants—but wait, he’s somersaulted beyond the last chair!

There are no more obstacles! With a wobbly step, the gull rights himself, looks to the sky, and takes off!

I brandish my scooper at the remaining seagull strike force and shoo them away, every inch looking like a half-mad hippie lashing out against unseen sky demons when his true enemy is the quantity of hallucinogens in his bloodstream. Yes, it is another victory for the nature god.

And the whole thing was witnessed by our 85-year-old neighbor, this tiny old lady who was talking on the phone until her jaw dropped in wonder at the sight of our struggle. Once the seagull was safely away, she asked in the scratchy, pitchy, lilting voice of an old person, “How did you get them to do that?”

“We left food out here,” we responded stoically, as if that could explain the experience we had just had. But Evan and I knew better. We knew we had narrowly avoided the fortune teller’s curse, but it would be back.

It would be back.

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Food of Dubious Origins

Food is my one true love, and I am accepting of all its forms, whether it be moldy, partially consumed by a stranger, or, as the title suggests, of dubious origins. My friends have referred to me as ‘the garbage disposal’; ‘trash compactor’; and ‘a relentless, insatiable, gaping maw that demands constant sacrifice’. When I go out to dinner in a group, I don’t order anything; instead, I salivate as my friends scarf their foodstuffs in hurried discomfort. But they are weak and their portions large, and they always end up leaving their delicious (and completely free) scraps as offerings for my all-controlling stomach of steel.

Heavier than a falling anvil! More elastic than a drawstring laundry bag!

Nothing fazes my mithril-lined esophagus. I rip the mold off cheese with my teeth, then swallow it; I put brown bananas into my smoothies, then drink them; and if meat smells rotten, I just wash it off until the offending odor is masked, and if that’s not enough, I simply stop inhaling through my nose.

I inherited these traits from my father, whose circus-strength stomach allows him to digest anything soluble in stomach acid, no matter how expired. As a bargain hunter, nothing brings him more joy than the reduced-for-quick-sale section at the supermarket. The fewer hours of shelf life a store item has left, the cheaper it is, so he treks to the grocery store minutes before closing time, scoring discolored meat and wilted spinach for a fraction of the original price.

As his offspring, I was constantly subjected to these expired triumphs, and rarely experienced a dinner untouched by the twin seasonings of freezer burn and decomposition. I think my father was trying to forge my stomach into a food chamber as impervious as his, and for the most part, it worked.

Even if I do sometimes come down with a case of excruciating stomach pain, my mind remains steadfast, addicted to the rush that comes with avoiding waste, no matter the consequences. Nothing parallels the taste of environmentalism that comes with every bite you take to save an abandoned morsel from the dumpster.

At restaurants, I am so disgusted at the wanton squandering of perfectly good food that I sometimes sneak scraps off the tables of strangers before the waiter can throw away that last bite of steak or half-glass of wine. I revel in my delicious, planet-saving ways, always to the horror of my dates, who, for a reason I can’t quite put my finger on, never return my calls.


While this example is of course eminently reasonable, sometimes my attempts to save food go just a little bit too far. I know, I know, you’d think there’s no such thing as too far when it comes to this, but believe me when I say it’s happened.

Like last summer, when half a burrito appeared in our fridge following a week of drunken revelry. Thanks to the haze of our collective memory, no one could pinpoint where it had come from, and despite our Holmesian powers of deduction, further inspection gave us little insight. We were unable to determine even the ingredients, for they’d all faded to a uniform shade of grey. Naturally, the only option left was for me to use the tried and true Taste Test. I heated up the sucker and took a bite—

SON OF AN UNDEAD SKUNK it was terrible! I’d never tasted such disgusting meat, if it could still be called ‘meat’.

But I’m a glutton for attention as well as food, so I announced my findings loudly to the group, complaining with what I considered entertaining zeal…and then took another bite—HOLY MOTHER OF MOLD it was just as bad as I remembered. And yet I took another bite…and another, loudly lamenting my fate the entire time, until finally the whole thing was gone.

I was had just enough time to lift my arms into a celebratory first pump before my stomach contracted in violent spasms. That night was spent mostly moaning and rolling around on the floor.

——–

Better was that time I woke up and walked into the backyard to observe the glory of the morning, where much to my surprise I happened upon a giant vat of chili sitting on the porch. That was the most glorious morning of all. There was no telling how long it had been sitting there beneath the beating sun, and the manner of its arrival was similarly mysterious. Was it perhaps left by an assassin who was aware of my inability to resist unexplained food?

And how long had it been baking in the heat, turning from delicious bean-meat to disgusting heat-rot?

These were the thoughts that didn’t once cross my mind as I began to devour it with abandon. It was as delicious as any unexplained porch chili I’d ever tasted. Whatever poisons the recipe had called for obviously didn’t affect the flavor or consistency.

——–

Probably my family’s crowning achievement in the world of questionable food preservation was our pilfering of what became known to all our friends as the “trash burgers.” You see, at the end of my high school baseball season, one of my rich teammates’ families threw a party. It was an extravagant affair, riddled with a lavish assortment of buns, condiments, and chips, and they spared no expense on the mostly-beef hot dogs and the Costco burger patties. They grilled literally hundreds of burgers, an unmanageable number by anyone’s standards. The 14 of us and our assorted family members did what we could to dent the meatacopia, but we were no match for the half-cow of beef that lay before us.

As the party drew to a close, it became clear that at least 70 burgers would go uneaten, but before clan Nickel could react, the party-thrower dumped them all in the trash in an act of pure apathy! By god, man! What were you thinking?! There will be starving children at the Nickel household in oh, 8 or 10 hours!

Seeing those perfectly good patties tumble with finality into that unforgiving germ canister was one of the worst moments of my life, or was at least slightly disheartening.

I was younger then, and less resolute, so I merely mourned the loss, trading hope for less effective tears. But my dad, he’s a man of action. He called me to his side, and together we analyzed the physics of the trash can. It quickly became clear that with such a quantity of burgers, it was impossible for all of them to touch actual trash. We rejoiced, seeing to our delight that a good 40% of the burgers were protected on all sides by a buffer layer of more burgers!

Not caring who judged us, we proceeded to pluck every unsoiled patty from its doom and stack them onto a series of plates. We feasted on those burgers for weeks and weeks, tasting joy in every rescued bite.

We’re humanitarians of the highest degree—that’s what I say.

Man, all this talk of food is making me hungry. If only I had something to eat. Wait a second! I’m pretty sure I have some sushi leftover from last week! Excuse me, would you?

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