The Digressions of dr sanscravat
I'm re-posting this story in remebrance of my father, JV Allen. The "JV" stands for "Jackey Virgle," because -- in Texas -- children are given names so dreadful that they resort to initials as soon as they get a chance. It's about the one-and-only time we cried together.
(e-pistle: 8 July 97)
Something happened a coupla' weeks ago, while my parents were visiting...
We went out to eat at a local place that caters to students. Noticing that they had hot wings on the menu, my father and I decided to split an order as an appetizer. The old man's from Texas, you understand, and is responsible for my chile addiction. Having had many orders of wings over the years, we were not impressed by the usual disclaimers that accompany the hotter versions. Besides, once you've eaten a habanero or two, you know that no chile can actually kill you.
No big deal.
The wings arrived, in pool of almost fluorescent red sauce. A quick sniff confirmed my initial impression: straight CRYSTAL, a nearly generic Tabasco knock-off -- it has a characteristic vinegary odor and mild tang. The stuff is harmless. The old man and I came to approximately the same conclusion and same strategy: mop up as much of the sauce as possible with the wings. This might have been a good plan -- had we been in possession of all the facts.
Sticking the sauce-sodden chicken appendages directly into our mouths, in unison, might likewise have been a good plan -- had we, as I've said, been in possession of all the facts.
As you, being omniscient, realize -- this was not CRYSTAL, or at least not just CRYSTAL. In less time than it takes to say "sweet jesus," that very realization came to my father and me.
Now, there is but one simple prayer among Texans: one asks, not for mercy from the chile's powers of persuasion (for that would eliminate the whole point of the thing), but for the strength to wear the mask until some other poor bastard has taken a mouthful. Since it was unlikely that anyone else at the table was going to try the stuff, we were free to discuss the situation.
Speaking, however, was difficult. In words of one syllable or less (the most that could be expected under the circumstances), it hurt like hell. We're not talking about heat, here. This felt like I was having a one-inch diameter tongue stud installed. With a hammer. There was no perceptible flavor -- this was a pain-only experience.
Machismo, or generations of chromosomes denatured by the Texas sun, made us eat all the wings. The place was air-conditioned, but two of us looked like we had just finished a double shift in a steel mill. We asked the waiter, a bit hoarsely, what was in the sauce. He said he didn't know, but would find out for us.
Yes, it was CRYSTAL, but the chef/inquisitor had added DAVE'S INSANITY to the hottest wings. DAVE'S INSANITY and ENDORPHIN RUSH are essentially the same thing: unmitigated capsaicin oleoresin masquerading as sauce. If there is any flavor at all, it's a slightly tarry paprika-like taste (some folks say they recognize the flavor of burned cat in this sauce -- but they never confess exactly how they know it is the flavor of burned cat). No one uses these sauces for flavor. One time, and one time only, I knowingly ate a teaspoon of ER on a piece of French bread. These are ugly, misanthropic compounds, devoid of any socially redeeming qualities.
Except for one.
The endorphins (natural morphine-like compounds produced by the body in response to pain) released in response to this toxic waste washed over me like the decade between 1967 and 1970. I shuffled into that place a tired, hungry and slightly grumpy (I tend to get cranky when I'm hungry) middle-aged office-worker, but I floated out a blissed-out beatific bodhisattva.
Come to think of it, a few of those wings might be tasty about now...