Check This Out Here

I love the comment spam I get here. For one thing, There’s a strange, enjoyable beat poetry aspect to the auto-generated text that tries so hard to be friendly, everyday real people making friendly conversation; the enthusiastic — always stunningly, inhumanly, enthusiastic — tenor that almost vibrates off the screen with anxious need and awkward, unlikely emphasis in the wrong places. “Oh wow I’m so GLAD I found your site what you guys do is THE BEST” with no punctuation or breath to be found.

The fact that, for the most part, spam comments are so complimentary is a pleasure to me. This site is, as I’ve said before, something I do for myself first and foremost, but I like imagining people who create a site seeking an external validation they’re not getting anywhere else in their life receiving any number of spam comments that say things like, “you guys are the best at what you do,” or some variation, and it actually making them feel better. The very notion of confidence building through automation is appealing, even if it’s an accidental by-product or more cynical ambitions.

Not every spam comment is complementary, of course; some are faux-helpful, telling me that I can reach more readers if only I buy this particular product, or sign up for this special SEO service, or something similar. I feel almost guilty when I receive these ones. It’s not that I recognize them for the phishing schemes that they so clearly are, because, well, I’m not stupid. But I feel bad because I don’t want to reach more readers or grow my audience or increase my search rankings; that kind of thing is the antithesis of what I want from this site, and I feel as if I’ve wasted the auto-generated spam’s time as a result. I’m sure there are others who need to read that untrustworthy offer far more than me, little bot. I’m sorry.

I get a curiously high volume of spam comments here, considering I’m off in the internet back woods, off by myself and typing away quietly, and the spam filter catches them all. But I look through them all anyway, enjoying their nonsense as if they’re genuine correspondents from an alternate reality of bullshit. I’d miss them, if they were to disappear entirely.

I/O and Other Stories

I tend to write these posts first thing in the morning, when the rest of the house is still asleep; there’s something about that space, that stillness, that allows my brain to unravel in the way that it’s easier to share here — I feel less self-conscious about using the time so selfishly, perhaps, knowing that everyone else isn’t even awake yet. (One of the joys of being an early riser, I guess. Go figure.)

More specifically, I tend to write these posts first thing in the morning on the weekend, and schedule them out far in advance. That’s not always the case — I’ve written about my three week buffer of posts in the past, but recent events have meant that I’ve been writing posts day of publishing, in part out of a need to shout into the void, in part because what had originally been scheduled felt especially meaningless and facile in comparison — but, more often than not, it’s a Saturday or Sunday morning where I’ll write what will eventually appear here.

A lot of this is because of the way my brain works. Writing during the main part of the day feels like it needs to have more purpose, like it needs to be for someone or something else: that it’s work, or it’s Wait, What? and not just me writing for my own needs. I can’t explain why that feels true, but it does; let’s just go with it.

But there’s also a thing where, for the most part, I save this writing for the weekend because the weekday mornings are for reading, whether it’s the news or social media (which is, I increasingly feel, still the news, just in a different format), or research for some particular purpose. It’s not reading for pleasure — that’s an evening activity, or, again something I do on weekend mornings — but reading with the intent of learning and searching out new information that I’m going to need in the short term.

None of this scheduling or organized methodology was planned, or even formalized until I started thinking about it recently, but somehow, I’ve ended up with a system where there’s a very clear demarcation between my input and my output, and what kind of both goes when. My subconscious is far more organized than the rest of me.

Eat Up

The very notion of having a “favorite restaurant” is something that I struggle with, I have to be honest; there’s something about it that feels, if not pretentious and filled with privilege, then something approaching that — the idea that I have enough knowledge, that I’ve eaten somewhere enough times to be able to faithfully announce, yes, that’s the place, that’s my favorite restaurant makes me curiously self-conscious in such a way that I’m sure that my 20th century Scottish upbringing is playing mind games with me in ways I can’t fully appreciate. And yet, I very definitively have a favorite restaurant.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time in my life I could say that, and the first time it was true was during that 20th century Scottish upbringing. There was an Italian restaurant in my hometown called L’Arlecchino that little kid me would’ve died for — not, it should be pointed out, because of any Italian dish, but because they made cheeseburgers that, to this day, I remember as being magical and unique. (The restaurant was still open the last time I was in Scotland, but I didn’t get a burger from there, being all too aware of the potential for utter disappointment and disaster.)

Today, it’s a place called Malka that I’m equally passionate about, despite a lack of cheeseburgers on their menu. It’s a restaurant that opened just months ago, albeit one that had been on my radar for years before that, because it was once a food cart that I was a regular at — something that I suspect would’ve been true even if it hadn’t been two blocks away from where I lived at the time. The cart initially lured me in with its name — “Carte Blanche,” a pun! — and it being an airstream that sang of 1950s Atomic Age cool, but it was the food, and the people behind it, that made me come back on a weekly basis.

Carte Blanche then, and Malka now, simply offer the most delicious food I think I’ve ever eaten; I can’t actually describe the flavors in any way other than to say that they feel welcoming, consistently surprising and comforting at the same time, and shockingly tasty. It’s food I’m familiar with — mac and cheese, pulled pork and salad, chicken sandwiches — made with ingredients that don’t make sense thrown in (mushrooms and arugula and tomatoes in mac and cheese?), but the end result can’t be argued with. It’s addictive, and near everyone I’ve introduced it too agrees.

Like the food cart, the restaurant has more or less become a weekly destination even in these COVID times — it’s take-out that makes us impossibly happy, and that I offer too-big tips to, to make sure they stay alive during all this insanity. It’s a place, and a menu, that makes me happy simply by existing. If that’s not reason to be a favorite restaurant, what is…?