Pastries, panhandlers, and beef head

By the disappointing standards of post-wife life, I'm a fairly happy guy.

There's no higher state of humanity than doing something nice for someone you love, and knowing she'd soon do something nice for me. Life is loveless without her, but I do try to be kind to strangers.

It was terrific having someone to come home to. Now there's a cat.

Having Steph with me, to talk with and share everything, was a decades-long safe haven from the horrors of modern life. Now everything stinks, there's no respite, and I still talk to her, but she doesn't answer.

Sucky as it is, this is as good as life's going to get. We had 21 years — 21 more than I ever deserved or expected — and then she died, and now my far lesser life goes on until it's over.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I was inside Aliberto Junior's, waiting for a burrito, and watching the ever-changing videos on the restaurant's several giant electronic menu-boards. My favorite is the looping film that shows how they prepare everything by hand, chopping vegetables and whittling giant cuts of pork and lamb and beef, with all the work sped up to double-normal speed, like Superman is chopping onions.

On a different giant electronic screen, the imagery rotates through most of the menu, trying to make your mouth water over every offering.

Four of Aliberto's options for dinner are beef head, beef stomach, beef tongue, and beef tripe. To me, tripe is a synonym for garbage, but an on-line dictionary tells me it can also mean "the first or second stomach of a cow or other ruminant used as food." Weird that they offer both beef stomach and beef tripe.

It seems proper and green, though, that if we're going to have animals slaughtered for food, we ought to eat as much of the animal as possible. And I'm nothing if not a man of adventure, so one fine morning I walked into Aliberto's, and at the counter told the pretty cashier, "I'd like head, please."

Cabeza (beef head) is meaty, moist, and fatty, but not the kind of fatty where you're picking gristle out of your teeth. It's good-fatty. By my inspection, it included no eyeballs, ears, or nostrils. It looked and tasted like beef, that's all, only moister and perhaps more flavorful than most cuts. Doug says yes, try the beef head.

On my next trip, I ordered lengua (beef tongue), which isn't gross like you'd expect, and isn't even visually recognizable as tongue. It's diced, and tastes like beef, very tender. Doug says yes, try the beef tongue.

On my next visit, I ordered tripe (beef stomach), and Doug says no, don't try the tripe. It's weirdly chewy — some bites were chewy like a rubber band, while other bites were less chewy, like Wrigley's Beef. It tasted life beef, but the texture was the opposite of appetizing. And after swallowing, the beef belly sat strange in my belly.

All these options are served at Aliberto's as a plated meal, with rice and beans on the side, and chopped onions and bell peppers mixed in with the meat. 

Since I didn't care for the tripe, I never tried the estómago de res (stomach), and don't intend to. And I still don't understand how or why stomach is a separate menu item from tripe.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

You know what I miss about working at Vector? Nothing, nothing at all — that job was nine nerve-wracking hours every day. But after work, on my walk to the bus bound for home, a fabulous and affordable bakery often lured me in, and I'd order two of whatever looked good, and it always was good, and surprisingly affordable.

That's what I miss. Missed it so much that yesterday I bused downtown and walked to the International District, and came home with twenty bucks worth of cream puffs, egg pastry, and strawberry Napoleons from the Yummy House Bakery. Tell 'em the fat white guy sent you.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I am still giving $5, when I have it handy, to any panhandler who asks for help. Even while I'm unemployed, five bucks isn't much to me, and it might be a real boost for someone who needs it. Plus it makes me feel like a nice guy, which I'm honestly not but sometimes wish I was, and sometimes try to be.

So before leaving the bakery yesterday afternoon, I paused in their lobby specifically to put five bucks in my jacket pocket. See, it's rude and possibly dangerous to fumble with your wallet to give a bum five bucks, so my habit is to carry a loose fivespot in a pocket.

Then I embarked on the five-block walk to my bus stop, pretty certain someone would panhandle me along the way.

As I approached the interaction, a gray dude was leaning on a lamppost asking passers-by, "Spare change? Spare change?" Everyone got the ask from him, including me, so he got five bucks.

He didn't say thank you, but that's OK. It's appreciated when I hear it, but it isn't required.

What he said instead was, "Is there anything more you can do for me?" And he said it instantly, like a spring-loaded reply he'd say to anyone who gave him anything. It morphed my mood from charitable to something else again.

"Fuck off, dude," was my reply. A deal is a deal so I didn't snatch the fiver back from his hand, and he didn't say anything else to me, so that's the end of the story.

It's led to a rule change, though. That guy was broadcasting his panhandling — asking for money from everyone who walked past, and it was 4PM on a weekday downtown, so that's a lot of people.

More commonly, panhandling is a personal request. Maybe a bum has a sign, but he/she is loitering quietly, and then asks one person for charity — not the entire population of the block.

My new rule is, I am giving only to one-on-one panhandlers, not to panhandlers panhandling everyone.



  1. Five bucks, well you're nicer than me, i fold dollars into triangles and throw them at them...Eel (glad you got head)

    1. Well, it's not like dealing cards. Even when I was working downtown, I was only panhandled maybe three times a week, and I usually don't give until I'm panhandled. It's within the budget.


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