Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Humble Origins of a Critic Duo: My Story and Bogart's

Before putting this blog to use for its intended purpose (which is to supplement my and partner Bogart’s musings on buffets, diners, and other various eateries at bogartnbroham.blogspot.com with some solitary expression) I feel that some background is warranted. It seems typical that origin stories are reserved for after the subject has already become famous in order to explain where they came from (see: the recent biography on Warren Buffet, way-after-the-fact documentaries like Man on Wire, Batman Begins) but I feel that full disclosure on how I came to be a budding young-ish food critic is important in order to fully understand my perspective when reading a critique of mine.

The duo of Bogart and myself is built on an unlikely series of coincidences, the first of which was our mutual enrollment at San Diego City College. My time spent at SDCC was ostensibly in order to obtain a degree in English and at some point teach it at a high school level, but studying always took a back seat to my passion at the time; I loved to surf. Even four years separated from the sea, the taste of salt, the feel of salty sea water soaking into my skin and that of it soaking back into the coarse, sandy beach after a full day of surfing, the sound of begging seagulls and laughing couples and whooping releases of adrenaline, the sight of freshly waxed thighs and bikini tops struggling to do their job with their owners barreling down a tube, they all are as easily conjured as if I had experienced them today and not in another life.

I met many people during my eighteen month stint at the college; stoners, intellects, bimbos, future priests from the University of San Diego, potential bums from the Banana Bungalow, but rarely did I come across a fellow surfer sharing my physical form. Contrary to most people who ride the waves free from all but the most essential of clothing, I was rather heavy-set I suppose would be a nice description of my shape, though one that does no justice to my girth. Occasionally I would see another large-bodied surfer, though we never formally met, never conversed, never would have guessed the multiple times our lives would intersect in the future. It may seem odd that I never went out of my way to befriend Bogart, given that we shared a mutual love of food, attended that same college, and had a hobby in common, but let’s just say that we kept different company when away from the beach. While I enjoyed writing (both the occasional freelance critique and fiction for pleasure) and perusing art galleys (and the hot artsy chicks that accompany them) in my free time, the sight of Bogart without smoke coming out of his ears and eyes redder then Beelzebub was as elusive as one of the Bigfoot.

Surfing is an exercise best enjoyed with company, but, as the case with many things (this blog included) I enjoy being on my own on occasion. One morning, I set off for the beach before the morning rush, not so much to surf, but just to float, watch the sun rise, and be. I heard the first screech (and it was a screech, high-pitched as a bobolinks song with none of the beauty) as I began the rather time consuming ritual of removing my t-shirt, which besides being made from enough cotton to buy an extended family of farmers their freedom also had a nasty (no puns to be found here) habit of becoming entrenched between rolls of skin. I looked out, and saw “that other fat guy,” as I had grown to think of him, thrashing around a few hundred feet out in a growing pool of quickly reddening sea water.

Now, while shark attacks and surfing may be closely linked in the public eye, they are not commonplace at all, so as I started to swim out to investigate, I assumed that perhaps this disturbance of a tranquil spring morning was being caused in lament of a spilt bottle of Tapatio or Code Red. As I got closer, I swam a tad faster, as thrashing of this magnitude must signify either an entirely unhealthy love of Pepsi products or a person in the process of drowning. While the first sight of a fin caused my heart to skip but a single beat, that it was able to continue pumping blood through my already clogging arteries and fast enough to support what was rapidly becoming the most demanding physical exercise required of me in memory, recent or otherwise, was as a miracle evidencing just as much the existence of a higher power as the rescue that proceeded.

The shark was easily defeated by a quick kick in the nose. It may be more proper to say that the shark swam stupidly into my extended foot, the movies are correct on accounts on both the proper weak spot and on traumas effect on short-term memory, but I prefer the more heroic of the two accounts. I grabbed onto Bogart’s trunks, and began the swim back to the shore. I was seeing spots by the time we hit beach, and had the shark not turn off several turkey-sized portions of Bogart’s bulk clean off his frame, I have no doubt that my meager musculature would have failed the task of paddling the two of us against the current to safety. Call it a blessing in disguise, in more way then one (instant weight loss without the inability to ever again enjoy a proper meal that comes along with a stomach stapling). A passing jogger had phoned the paramedics upon seeing the struggle, and soon Bogart and I were transported to a nearby hospital. I was permitted to leave after answering some questions as to what had transpired to both local law enforcement and a reporter who had apparently caught a whiff of our ambulance. I’m not sure how long Bogart was hospitalized or how he ended up in the Central Valley, but as I said, just the fact that I was able to carry his weight is testament to the number of pounds the attack relieved him of.

The movies may portray accurately some scenes of life, but the love life of the hero is not one of them. The next day, my girlfriend of nearly a year and a half (we met shortly after I moved to San Diego) broke up with me. I was devastated. I cautiously admit that I was an avid Cure fan at this point of life, if that would help explain why in my depression I cut myself off from everything I loved. I moved to the Central Valley (about as far away from the ocean as I could stomach), got a job at a hardware store, forgot my dream of being a teacher, stopped eating. My life was suddenly extremely boring, but thinking back to more fulfilling days was painful, so I fooled myself into thinking I knew nothing more, attempted to deceive myself that I was content, which is to say that I grew complacent.

Who knows how long this would have gone on had not a very unexpected customer approached me with an inquiry as to where the AC filter were located one day. I instantly recognized Bogart, though seeing me seemingly had no effect on him. I suppose the years apart, the drastic weight loss, and the fact that we really were never even on an acquaintance level of knowing may explain the lack of recollection, but still, I was offended by this display of ingratitude. Nevertheless, we soon began reminiscing about the “good ol’ days.” Talking about my past loves (the inhuman ones, anyway) had a profound effect on me, and I suddenly realized that I was wasting my life, going nowhere, doing nothing. I shared with Bogart my epiphany, and he responded that now that he thought about it, he was in a similar position himself (I leave it to him to tell his tale). We knew we wanted to recapture the fun we had back in San Diego, and suddenly we both knew that wherever life took us from that point on, we might as well stick together, as such coincidences result only as acts of Providence or in scripts of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

So here we find ourselves, dedicating ourselves to our other shared passion; food. The idea to become a duo of food critics came as naturally as it did quickly (along with the whole “stuck in a rut” realization, I also spontaneously realized that I absolutely hated soy, and vowed to immediately switch back to sausage from banana as my phallic breakfast food of choice. Life is to short not to enjoy the fattier things in life) and since we both agreed that most of the buffets we had tried in the area were travesties and that buffets as a whole are a wasted potential among dining establishments, the Bogart and Broham’s Blog for (Be)Rating Buffets was born (our old surfer handles, for those wondering).