Experiments With Food & Napkins

napkin suit jacketHi! I’m having old Chinese food -want some?

My wife, the impossibly delightful, improbably de-lovely Mrs. Kelp, says that I never eat leftovers, so once again I have set out to prove her wrong. Actually, for much of this year I have been experimenting with the idea that many foods keep a lot longer than you’d think, in many cases going well beyond the usual one-week rule. It is also my contention that just because a food is no longer its original color, that’s no reason to abandon it; these changes in hue are natural and beautiful, and we New Englanders who so laud the changing colors of the seasons should learn to better appreciate these cycles of nature (so often referred to as “going south”, or, more commonly, “rotting”) instead of running away at the first hint of toxicity.

Tonight, for instance, I have been feasting on some Chinese carry-out from about ten days ago. Sometimes, it’s better not to scrutinize things too closely -even I drew the line at the boneless spareribs and chicken wings, not so much because of the greenish tinge so much as some rather odd changes in texture (I even went down the hall to get my glasses for more accurate identification.) The rice looked fine, though, and the beef (which was just a little green) and the broccoli (which is green anyway, so who knows?) were in some kind of sauce that I chose to assume must have contained many preservatives.

On closer inspection, I was amused to find that the beef and broccoli seemed to be in the process of trading colors, which I’m hopeful will be OK in the long run, as long as there’s still the same amounts of green and brown overall. I figure as long as I don’t die in my sleep tonight, I can consider the meal a success. If nothing else, there’s more room in the refrigerator.

I must say that I found it a little upsetting when the first words I heard following this sumptuous repast were those of the Napkins’ Eben Portnoy on their new, self-burnt CD, “I’ve Been Wading”, which begins:

“I don’t care who you are – you’ve done something wrong
I don’t care how nice you seem -you’ve done some evil things
I don’t know your motivations – I don’t care how well you kiss
I don’t know who you are – but I believe in justice.”

Man! It’s like he’s seen my kitchen!

Actually, I’ve followed Eben on and off ever since he was in Nauset High and gave me a tape by his band No Siento that still ranks as one of my favorite local tapes ever. At the time, he was playing noisy amplified stuff, veering a bit towards Replacements-style pop; more recently, his stuff is quieter and more acoustic, though equally alternative-sounding (i.e. lots of strumming and bad singing, a la the Mountain Goats or Jonathan Richman.)

On “Wading”, the vocals are right up front, and the lyrics, which were always interesting and a little quirky, are more meticulous; these are both welcome developments. The Napkins’ instrumentation is also a bit more varied, encompassing not only piano and violin but a zombie choir featuring one Meghan Patrick, who is the official girlfriend of my friend and neighbor Denzel O’Sullivan (that’s right, folks, the fix is in.)

The CD has its ups and downs, and perhaps works better as an encouraging sign of things to come than as a fully realized whole; but it’s never terrible, rarely less than interesting, and the good stuff is kind of a blast. “Haunted House Party” employs some fairly eccentric intermittent drumming, both backwards and forwards, in a reflective, personal two-minute rumination on the nature of love. The closer, “Retribution”, is gleefully and quietly screwy, as Eben asks “Will you punish me? Will you be my pilgrim?” over pump organ chords and occasional dissonant guitar noodling. I’ve got to admit, it has been ages since anyone asked me to be their pilgrim.

You can catch the Napkins in action this Friday, November 15th, at the Prodigal Son in Hyannis, along with Jonathan Guardia (who, according to this here press release, “plays the soundtrack for blood running down mountain riverbeds!”); they’ll apparently both be accompanied by the abstract projections (???) of Boston filmmaker Brittany Gravely. What the hell!

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