Monday, May 08, 2006

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Sometimes it’s at the strangest moments when a tranquil moment hits.

Saturday evening, Francine and I went out on a date to celebrate my birthday. It was a fun evening. We started off browsing through Chapters, standing together yet lost in separate dreams of buying practically every book we both looked at, all the while knowing full well that there were already more than enough unread books on our shelves at home to keep us busy reading for well over a year, even if we were to read at some remarkable breakneck speed. But that’s just one of the afflictions we both have in common, and one of the things I truly love about my wife.

The only book we bought was a Baby Einstein book for Alexander. It was “The World Around Me: Oceans” -- because he loved the sister book in the same series “The Sky” so much. Then we walked over to Kelsey’s.

We don’t go out for dinner very often. But when we do, we like to return to a place where we know we’re going to enjoy the food, the prices are good and the staff are friendly. For us, the Kelsey’s in Ancaster has all that. (And they have Molson Export on tap as well -- so, even if they didn’t have all that, I’d still be drawn to it). We discovered a long time ago that even though this Kelsey’s is extremely busy and there’s a long wait for a table (the Silver City movie theatres are next door), there’s a wonderful small section at the bar with about 9 tables where you can just walk in. Whether we bellied right up to the bar or sat at one of the bar area tables, we’ve never had to wait and have always had a great time.

Sean, our favourite bartender, was on duty that night (I don’t think we’ve ever not seen him there - he's a friendly and likeable guy, and though we hadn't been back there in at least 6 months he remembered us), and we ordered a couple of beers and our standard appetizer: Four cheese spinach dip. Because we couldn’t decide on what to get, we ended up just ordering wings. Fran had the honey garlic and I went with suicide. I was a little fearful of how the wings might come when I told our waitress to let the kitchen staff knock themselves out and make them as hot as they could.*

- - - - - -

* Three or four years ago we’d come to Kelsey’s for my birthday and I’d ordered a buffalo chicken sandwich with my standard challenge to see if the chef could make it so hot that it hurt me, made me run to the washroom and thrust my head in the toilet or just run screaming around the bar yelling that my head was on fire. In all the years of doing this, one of the only times any chef had succeeded was that one night.
When they brought our meal, you could smell the sweet, tangy hot sauce from a good ten feet away. The waitress put the plate down and said, “If this is too hot, let me know, and I’ll bring you another one.”

What I heard, though, was: “Here you go mister big tough man. Nobody thinks you can handle this, so why don’t you just admit defeat and order the kiddie meal?”

“No way,” I said, choking back the tears from the fumes off my chicken sandwich. “I’ll be fine.” Francine piped in that I could handle it. Of course, again I didn’t hear those words, instead I heard: “My man is tough and virile and has a penis larger than most porn stars, and when he holds me in his rock solid arms and makes love to me, he lasts all night, and I burn with a never ending passion.”

My eyes had indeed started to water the moment I picked that sandwich up, and on my first bite I had the hiccoughs, my nose started to run and my brow was sweating profusely. After about ten minutes passed and I’d only taken a couple of bites, the waitress came back and again offered to replace the sandwich for me.

Again, I refused. The sandwich was hot -- too hot, in fact. The most painful hot food experience I’d ever had, thank you very much, and I’d tried plenty of painfully hot foods over the years. But I wasn’t going to give up on this. Besides, again I didn’t hear the kind offer, what I heard was: “Let’s be honest here pencil dick. You’re not the same young and strong man your wife married. You’re getting old and weak. We all know it. Let’s just face the facts here, bud. You're no
Ron Jeremy. And you don’t have it in you any longer.”

I stood up and said. “I’m going to eat this sandwich, and when I get home I’m going to sweep my wife off her feet and bring her to new heights of ecstacy. And for your information, Ron Jeremy is jealous of my tremendous proportions.” The waitress gave me a strange startled look and backed off carefully without once taking her eyes off me. Kind of the way you saw people back away from

It took me nearly forty minutes and several beers before I finished the sandwich. But I did. I think it was the first time since Francine knew me that I’d EVER taken longer than her to finish a meal. (Usually, when making breakfast, for example, I can completely cook her breakfast, set it in front of her, then start to make my own and still be finished my own eggs and toast before she’s half-way through hers).

During this time, the chef had slipped out of the kitchen, and with the gleeful anticipation of a child wanting to see the cherry bomb he’d just set go off and blow the cap off a fence post, he was looking around. He stopped the waitress and asked her a question, and she hooked a thumb in the direction of our table. I’d been doing my silly hot food ritual long enough to know the words being exchanged. Chef: “Where’s the dumb fuck who ordered the ‘hurt me’ sandwich?” Waitress: “He’s over there. But be careful. I think the heat and spice has made him delusional. He’s spouting random bits of madness.”

He looked over and we made eye contact. He froze. Caught like a deer in the headlights. I gestured him over. He slowly shook his head. Uh Uh. “C’mon” I said. He carefully took one step, then another, and stepped up to our table.

“In all the years I’ve asked for killer hot wings or suicide buffalo chicken,” I said. “This is truly the first time that anyone has succeeded in really making me hurt.” He took a step back, still a bit fearful. “Excellent job!” I said, putting out my hand. “Thank you.”

Without another word he scurried back to the kitchen. I looked at Francine, wondering if I’d said something to insult him. She shrugged her shoulders. (What I saw, of course, wasn’t that, but her winking at me, licking her lips and whispering, “Just wait until we get home, big boy.”)

The chef returned with an empty bottle of a hot sauce that I’d seen only once before and held it up proudly. It was called “
Da Bomb: Beyond Insanity” -- it was the type of potent sauce that even experienced hot sauce fans are likely to enjoy in small pin prick droplets. He grinned a huge shit-eating grin and proceeded to tell me that he used half a bottle of that sauce on my sandwich, convinced that nobody would be able to eat it. (Just to show you how potent this sauce is, my buddy Shupe bought a bottle for me after hearing me recant this tale one drunken evening at one of our hot luck parties -- it has lasted several years even though I've used it in a lot of recipes in that time)

My mouth and lips and tongue burned madly for the rest of the evening as we ordered more beer then dessert and coffee. It was during dessert that I ran to the washroom to relive myself of the many beers I’d consumed while eating the hot sandwich.

Now, the usual ritual of going to the washroom is do your business and THEN wash your hands.
What I should have done is washed my hands both before AND after. Because, while I didn’t feel anything immediately, by the time I got back to our table, a bizarre burning sensation started down below. As I shifted in my seat and my eyes started to water again, Francine asked me what was wrong.
"It burns," I cried out, then started slamming my forehead on the table, hoping to divert some of the pain. "Oh, it burns, it burns, it burns."
"What burns?" she asked. I widened my eyes at her, saying nothing more then she understood. "Oh."
"This pain is like ten times worse than my hernia." I started ripping out my hair in small chunks of scalpy flesh. But even that diversion couldn't keep my mind off the burning I could feel at the heart of my being. The I began sobbing like the big baby that I was. "Make it stop, make it stop, pleeeeeeease."
We abandoned our dessert and coffee and Fran drove home while I sat in the passenger seat, alternating from sticking my burning mouth and burning private parts out the window, the rush of cold night air acting like a soothing balm.
- - - - - -
I had nothing to fear, this time, of course. Fran loved her honey garlic wings, and my suicide wings were perfect. Hot and spicy and painful enough to bring sweat to my brow and make my nose run a little. But not hot like the buffalo chicken sandwich had been several years earlier.
We enjoyed our beers and some fun conversation, had a great dessert, and headed back home. When we returned we found that Alexander had slept the whole evening, didn't wake up once, and my mother in law had enjoyed a quiet relaxing time.
After dropping my mother in law off, I was driving back on McElroy, a side street and listening to the mixed CD I had made for Francine's birthday a few months earlier. It was just about 11:45 PM. Listening to one of Fran's favourite songs, I was reflecting on how wonderful the day had been. For the first time in several weekends, I didn't work at all for the entire day (okay, I did about an hour's work in the early morning, but it was mostly administrative junk), I got to spend some fun quality time with Alexander and Francine, then had a very relaxing and fun date with my wife.
That's when I spotted the rabbit. He was hopping along in the grass between a chain link fence and the sidewalk, bounding high off the grass in giant, perfect leaps. There was no other traffic on the side street, so I stopped the car, rolled down the window to watch him. The rabbit stopped directly beside me. With his ears straight up and his head thrust up high (almost in a form of telescoping that Mister Bunny used to do), he was parallel to my car and looking straight at me.
We sat there for at least 10 or 15 seconds, just looking at each other. The peaceful, easy feeling which I had borrowed from an Eagles song and which had started to come over me as I was reflecting on my day was finally completed in that moment.
I smiled at the bunny, thanked him and then drove on.


lime said...

oh mark, forgive for laughing hysterically at the story of the death sammich. that was absolutely hilarious. you and mr. lime could trade stories. he didn't believe me when i told him to cut a certain type of pepper with gloves. in the middle of the night he scratched his eye, then his nose, then his...erm...nether regions. then he sat bolt upright and streaked down the hallway to the bathroom sceaming about the pain.

lime said...

btw, glad it was a wonderful birthday celebration!

WestDoor said...

Reminds me of the time that I was Assistant Division Manager of the dorm and we had a suicide wings contest. The local restaurants supported our cause by giving us their posters and banners and lots of wings and their hottest sauces. We ended up with the final 3 and we just literally stuffed the wings with chilli powder, marinated it in some "NUKE" sauce, then had the wing inside a Jalepeno while in an oven for 5 minutes to kinda get the outside of the wings encapsulated with the Jalepeno seeds and stuff. Anyhow, ended up one couldn't feel his lips, the other two had to run to the little clown's room.

Anonymous said...

That was a great post!

My friend had a similar experience with not washing his hands after cutting peppers or something ridiculous like that. Apparently milk really works wonders on soothing the pain!

Glad to hear you had a good birthday and you finally got to relax.

Phain said...

This was too funny...I actually snorted!

Sandy Hatcher-Wallace said...

That was a really great post and very funny too...Glad you got to spend some quality time with your wife and family.

My husband had a similar experience while slicing hot peppers, though he did wash his hands first. What happend was when he went to take out his contacts he got hot burning eyes...So now when he handles hot peppers, he uses rubber gloves.
Chances are even if you had washed your hands first, you still would have suffered the same consequences. You are such a hilarious writer.

Anonymous said...

Happy Belated Birthday Mark!! Sounds like you had exactly the kind of day you wanted.

Melissa said...


I know of Da Bomb.. thats incredible heat being packed in that bottle for sure!

My neighbour makes a mean Habanero pepper sauce and I love it!
I spread it on my eggs, roast beef, even sometimes just crackers and cream cheese for a snack with a bang.

Your story made me laugh because I can totally picture it! Great writing as always and glad you had a good birthday.