MY BACK / NO ALLEGORY / ONE FROM THE VAULTS / ASPARAGUS SEASON / JACKIE ROBINSON / DON'T MATCH / TRANSFORM THE HUMBLE CHAMBER / LINKS
Uggggggh I hurt my back trying to lift an enourmous mirror.... Don't worry though guys, I decided not to develop this into an allegory. I've just been in bed for three days slowly uncoiling my tendons or whatever, watching music documentaries, and enjoying the way light changes throughout the day. It's not so bad but it's keeping me from prolonged time at my writing desk. I know that in theory I could write from my bed but in practice, I'm sorry, but it's a wash. Over the years I've trained my mind and body to accept without question or pause that my bed is a place for rest first and foremost. And that kind of programming is too valuable to try and re-write. So here's one from the vaults circa 2017, relevant to our current time period (asparagus season).
originally posted on theoutline.com
Late April is traditionally the start of Asparagus Season in North America, but you may know it as Local Asparagus Now Available Season, or at the very least, Asparagus Is Less Expensive And Tastes Better Season.
Asparagus is one of those great foods that you should never get at a restaurant, because the best way to cook it is to boil it briefly, then put butter on it, and that's it. In a restaurant they'll do all this other stuff to it that will seem enticing in a description on a chalkboard, but won't be as good as from your own kitchen (assuming you have access to water, heat, and butter). My dad makes it with blueberry sauce, that's about as fancy as I allow the dish to get. And even then the sauce is just blueberries and some water, which you cook until sauce-like.
Asparagus cooks so fast and effortlessly that "as quick as cooking asparagus" was coined by Roman emperor Augustus as a temporary 1,900-year stopgap until the more delicate turn of phrase "faster than you can say 'Jackie Robinson'" could be invented in the 1950s. Asparagus is available globally in a weird array of colors including white, yellow, purple, and green, but the best is that which has all these colors overlapping, but is mostly green.
If you're planning an outfit to match asparagus, all I can say is think again — colors that are delicate and subtle on a vegetable can make an animal look garish at best, and at worst, bruised. It would be more advantageous to think in terms of counterpoint, or quite simply to base your outfit on some other factor, unrelated to food.
The most common comment regarding asparagus, which I would be remiss if I failed to mention, is that it makes your pee stinky. To that particular effect, I bid welcome. Sometimes (like on most holidays) it can be nice to eat so much that merely digesting it all becomes an event. In the same way, stinky asparagus pee can be a nice signal that it's once again asparagus season on your part of Earth, and you partook. Not necessarily pleasant, but a marker of recent satisfaction.
Marcel Proust spoke well on the subject, which is no surprise, as he frequently spoke well on a wide variety of subjects. From the public domain translation of Rememberance Of Things Past by C.K. Scott Moncrieff:
...asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare's "Dream") at transforming my humble chamber into a bower of aromatic perfume.
"Transform the humble chamber" is a pretty gracious euphemism for stinking up the bathroom, but Proust wasn't some hack, he was the real deal. So we gotta give it to him. If you've never read his magnum opus Rememberance of Things Past (also translated as "In Search of Lost Time" but stuck in my mind as "Rememberance..."), it's very enjoyable. If you started it a long time ago but haven't finished the whole thing yet, Hi, me too. If you've never cooked asparagus before, I recommend snapping off the bottom inch or so, boiling the shoots until tender, and serving them with butter and blueberries.
The docs I watched were 20 Feet From Stardom (2012), about back-up singers (I cried); Tina (2021), about Tina Turner (I cried), and The Go-Gos (2020) about the Go-go's (I didn't cry but I did enjoy it). I was a little upset that the Tina doc breezed past her involvement with Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, so later I watched a Thunderdome making-of on YouTube, that was also good, though lacking the gravitas of the doc. Later I watched Alien vs Predator (2004) which I remembered being "kind of good" but I was wrong. Maybe I only liked it because it had been awhile since an Alien or Predator movie? There's no emotional content at all, just a bunch of people shining flashlights at you. I wonder if the people who made the later Alien or Predator movies got mad watching this oddly dull and frankly artless snoozer, and that inspired them to make their perverse operatic tornados? "We can't go out like this". See also Exorcist 2 ⟶ Exorcist 3.
The Montcrieff translation of Rememberance is in the public domain, here's the first in the series, Swann's Way, in html, epub, kindle, plaintext, etc., via the indispensible Project Gutenberg: [gutenberg]. Every couple years I pick up my copy of this and read the first 150 pages or so, it's extremely enjoyable. But then something happens and I'm pulled away. To be honest I'm probably going to keep repeating this pattern. Proust is the unholy emperor of writing from bed, about bed.
I think I linked to this last week but anyway I collected links to all my columns from The Outline, if you want to read those, they're here: [link]. This was a fun gig but it only lasted so long, that's life baby. I don't know if this is the reason why but they let me go after I wrote one about not looking at your phone in the bathroom, and I realized later that people on their phones in the bathroom, that's the website's major demographic. I wasn't thinking about this consciously but yeah, I guess I pissed the leash. Well, that last one is here: [link]. Next time I get a gig like this I'll try to, you know, not piss the leash.
If you didn't do the Fujichia Questionnaire yet I would still love to hear from you. It's really fun to read people's responses! I'm going to start collating them together soon so maybe this is like, the last week to do it. [link]