A collectively kept cabinet of wonders; this is a place for discovery and digressions where a carefully selected group of editors from all over the world share memories, anecdotes, thoughts and inspiration.
That is the name of a cookbook I found In a house I moved into in Seattle in the early 90s.
The book was in a kitchen cupboard, left behind. I was intrigued by the cover, first. That slim shape was unusual. I picked it up and put it into a box and put the box into a closet, where I glimpsed it occasionally.
This book followed me for many years, evading discard, valuable as an archeological find of some importance, a tactile memory of my first apartment, a vague gesture at my own heritage, a totem of the grunge years.
The cover was quite nice. It featured some delicate brushwork by an artist named Fumiko Kimura. More on her later.
The author was Kaz Kanda. He sounds like a rock star. He printed 1000 of these books in 1972.
A systems safety and missile guidance engineer for the Boeing corporation, who had once worked under Contract No. AT(45-l)-1830 for the United States Atomic Energy Commission at the infamous Richland reactor, Mr. Kanda specialized in using fault-tree based logic approaches to minimize failure within systems of collective social activity. In the argot specific to his work, failure took the form of what was termed an “Undesired Event,” where that event was nuclear armageddon.
Kanda was well known in his field, and had had the sibiliant honor of presenting his whitepaper, “System Safety Math,” at the System Safety Symposium, Seattle, 1965.
Moved by the clarity and dependability of these logic-based systems to order the chaos of human endeavor, Mr. Kanda sought to apply his fault-tree logic approaches to the preparation of food, and the world of what he called “the housewives,” in order to liberate their approach to cooking. He stated:
“This cookbook was written to show the housewives how they can use a logical step approach to cooking a meal and to understand what ingredients and utencils (sic) to use at the appropriate time.”
Kanda then sought to lay out, in graphical terms, some of the Japanese cuisine’s iconic recipes, using logical symbols to define ingredients, procedures, and interactions via a graphical interface. Kanda acknowledges the system’s idiosyncracies:
“The housewife confronted with logic symbols will at first think that following this logic will be difficult, but after using this technique, it will be found that it is very simple to understand.”
Here is his recipe for boiled rice (click recipes to enlarge):
And here, for the rather more complex Beef Sukiyaki:
Here is one for pickled cabbage:
It is a disorienting cookbook.
What obtains throughout is Kanda’s obsession with component failure: His key mission, here, is not to create delicious food, but to minimize undesired events.
What lacks throughout is any apparent connection to, or experience with, the sensory or tactile act of preparing food: This is a cookbook written by someone who has never cooked a meal in his life.
As such, the book can be read as a cautioinary tale about systems overreach and the limits of the technocratic ideal.
Kanda was a missle systems specialist at the height of the cold war. His job, presumably, was to daily compound the probability of nuclear armageddon, factoring in the inevitability of human error, the possibility of human depravity, and the certainty of interpersonal deceptiveness. The only way to live with that much irrational stress was to build systems to frustrate it out of existence; systems designed to bleach the mysteries of human intuition from any decision making process, that it might be made to yield to the cold glare of reason.
Kanda’s armageddon was at once more fiery and more palpable than the creeping anomie that defines ours. Kanda’s world was one of missiles exploding and a rain of fire cascading down upon Don McLean’s utopia . His solution was to create systems of social endeavor wherein all human activity could be programmed with the precision of a machine.
Kanda clearly viewed his cookbook as one for the ages. He even offered a service: Send him your recipes, and he would convert them into fault-tree logical sequences, hand-painted on letter-sized vellum, for just $2:50 ($5 framed).
As a cookbook, Logic Cooking Japanese is a failure.
However, as an illustration of the limits of ideology, it is a work of art. A myopic moonshot, Logic Cooking Japanese is a perfect embodiment of the famous aphorism:
“An idealist thinks,‘If it’s right, it will work,’ where a realist thinks, ‘If it works, it is right.’”
Fumiko Kimura, the fine illustrator of Logic Cooking Japanese, is alive and well and living in Tacoma.
By now you know I planned to write a poem about all the drugs i have taken.
My Controlled Substances Act.
I. And I had been done
for a time, at least, with most substances.
A clean three months,
Lenten Self-Help 101.
Reborn at my Birthday
and looking forward from then to
nothing more stimulating than perhaps
a little Viagra
(My wife had a subscription)
A glass of wine, and then, later —
much, much later —
different sorts of drugs:
Truly scary drugs,
prescribed by bad people,
no longer recreational.
not taken for fun, but against death.
(and therefore out of the scope of this analysis).
And that’s where I was when someone offered me pot.
II.The poem would now try and quantify what a pothead is.
But, like all pot-headed poetry, it would sound much better in idea than in exposition. or be subject to some kind of labor that is easier to imagine than do.
(Or perhaps we’re all just lazy as fuck.)
Anyway, a pothead is someone who seems to meander about slightly befuddled, curious, flexible, and porous enough, therefore, for large ideas to pass through, sometimes noticed, sometimes not, like neutrinos passing through our bodies or a planet flying through time or a baby, being born.
or a colorblind vegetarian equal parts choice and fate, or a punctual person, stuck two minutes in the past, or a justice system based on need rather than blame, or a poet reciting, chewing gum.
A pothead is one who smokes alot of pot.
And pot is amazing: fun, weird, not scary . . .
(Oh, and! . . . A way better bargain economically! If the unit is “degrees from normal” and the competition is alcohol at $7 a pint, pot is cheap by comparison.)
“By comparison?” “Yea, by comparison: right next to adjacent, on top of Superior — along with contingent,”
See, that’s what we’re talking about. Pot is like steroids for your perspective, and so you make better decisions, and you can also get really sweaty — It’s fine as long as you’re honest about it.
…At which point, the poet admits he’s become a pothead.
(or, as they call it on the islands, “a Herbsman”)
Such an undignified thing! A lattice of scorn, thrown at the stoners; laughter at their relaxation, disgust at their optimism. Their coolness of temper? So fucking lame. Glazed imperfection, masquerading as virtue.
And yet, it out-lasted,and grew, as some kind of plant.
The poet would explain how the habit formed slowly Like learning to ride a bike. At some point in fertile fasting, he found himself smoking this fabulous stuff! He’d smoked it before, of course: a couple dozen times, sure. But now, he was driven to be high all the time. Because it makes decisions easier to make And parenting more rewarding and easy and fun And enduring the pain that life gives, possible and food tasting good. Really good. really really. Good. food
I’m eating deliberately but slowly and without pause. I am slowly but efficiently eating as many of these nachos as my deeply stoned state will allow and because the target is good —nachos — the efficiency is at a premium.
The poet would then make a sketch of cultists, who always had pot, being around at that time hawking frequent opt-in smoking But soon, he realized how irresponsible this was, and started buying his own.
And once he’d embraced it, it embraced him back.
And he realized with joy, what should have been obvious: that they call it High for a reason. He was always high, now floating around, dangerously optimistic Thinking things on the top of his brain Getting more good at being less unhappy listening to things just for how they sound lost in a dream of fog slowly lifting opened eyes wide and slightly smiling. and able to tune vibrations to a wider range of frequencies than with Alcohol, the other life drug.
He knew that being high was different than being drunk. (Not that it’s a difficult thing to know.) Alcohol drove a biological truck While Pot just stood and watched. And if alcohol was, let’s face it, a better dancer, Pot could get more things done. Things like learning to dance, and shingling sheds, And detecting falsehoods, without leaving you fucking wrecked.
(Is it too much to hint that Pot just may restore pagan sensibilities to this horridly post-modern world?)
No wonder they made this illegal.
It’s a better product.
IV.The poet might then wonder, if the abundance of pot, all around, all of a sudden indicated the world around him changing? or himself drifting into a new world?
Drifting is much better, mind you So that’s what he’d choose.
Pot filtered his world by making it great. like looking at things through a prism. It let him see wider, act looser, get higher, and save lives at the same time, through the manufacture of good feelings – Even though ye contemplate the horrors of time.
And so, as life upped the pain, and frowned in the living room Pot helped him slip right out the back door.
V. The poem, now finishing, would strive for some pop.
Evangelical flourish — go out with a bang!
And realizing, envisioning
a way to bebop
with the words, now the poem, would start to refrain
A final Pandora, her box smashed to bits.
The pothead adores ya!
He laughs and he sits
His thoughts now fall to naught but time moves on distracted by all the things now worth the look A vain old memoir that ends here in song forced from non-being in part by crook and hook I have worn feelings felt straight from this human heart But no such address now exists for one true love And drugs, a balm for that which tears apart, and yet allow us spit at the fool gods above And grace of this we seek, now turned to habit While feelings are still fresh and words inspired I recollect the truth, and herewith stab it Staying up at night, all high and tired
I sit, and think of all the drugs I’ve done And write down words, Right Down to This One.
I planned, as you know,
to write a poem. about
the drugs I have taken.
The poem, which had started as chance observation of innocent amusements, had soon devolved into a celebration of the fury of youth
I had promised to speak about love. And I did take a lot of Ecstasy.
Or, as we called it then…
A barely known substance made by the Sophomore class of Reed college. (Or was that MDA?) And what was the extra “M” for anyways? Already it was trippy . . .
the M stands for Make Sure You Have A lot of Money cause it was expensive.
My brother ordered it from Kevin (?) who sent it through the mail. and offered dubious advice:
“He says it’s best if you take three hits at once.”
. . . I have never been more fucked up on a drug.
VII. Keats-like, regarding clouds wisping away and all the sky spinning blue round the center of a world that love loves love loves love loves loves you And feels so good So unbelievably good And it’s so good to feel this good.
especially when the
vvvvvvvvvvvvvvv vibrating eyeballs and thiss amzaing. espezally Naked, when you jump out of this tree
Covered in blood, welts, mud, bugs beating people with poisonous flowers Garden-of-Eden-level intensity; Heironymus Bosch edition.
Getting um so so so it’s amazing I love it Ant Colony New York shy smoke leaf web or steam? acorn steam from this sea of waves coming this way to me to me to me to me!
I can lick my own lips I can touch my own fudge, See? Unhnnnhnbb oooooo left wall good two legs better lick this shit Shit annnh. head pillow push fush crumbs glut of muttony kill the sheep captain fucking like this: HUUHNHHBHH NNNH I think I see a horse
VIII. The poet would now tell a true story: He lived in Concord, Mass during his high-school years when many of these hi-jinx were occurring. He lived not far from the revolutionary monument of the Old North Bridge.
Once, on Ecstasy, on the Fourth of July, an anxious horse wearing a three-cornered hat entered his yard. Cornered by a split-rail fence, the horse began to rage. On the other side of the fence, the poet—naked, bleeding, smoking, high as fuck, and slowly growing aware of a compound, multi-perspective shared hallucination that may, in fact, have become become real—felt his mind blow.
As he stood so transfixed, the Concord All-volunteer Minutemen Reenactment Society now entered the yard, tricornes of their own atop heads, long-muskets at their shoulders. And then, as they—the corrupted old—regarded him—the wasted youth—across a heaving sea of stallion, the poetic power of the Suburban Psychedelic Dystopia reached something of a personal apogee.
Then they tried to cut out his heart.
IX. Now, the poem would have to acknowledge its own structure,
and see that it had reached a limit,
That the visual psychedelic splendour of this particular
Heart of Darkness (starring Alicia Silverstone)
stood as a summit achieved, in the end.
I mean—what drug could possibly outshine that?
… there is one, you know.
A powerful potion, yet so minimal at first, so ubiquitous and supplicating that we didn’t even notice it. There was no explosive anticipation; no terror on the tongue, no legal paranoia, no threat of a breakdown—just a slow, steady, calm rising, like a tide coming in or a river breaking its banks. A bloodless universal liquid, inexorably flooding us all.
X. IT IS ALCOHOL
And Alcohol is IT: Your shy-but-growing-more-confident-all-the-time new friend. Not playing the same silly competitive games as those psychotropics! No, it just wants a chance to get to know you a little better, ‘cause it thinks we could be buddies. Just a drink, and we’ll take it from there . . .
Alcohol is Man’s Best Friend.
No mere intoxicant But a shamanic machine for interpersonal communication. Not electrical and mind-controlling, not inward looking, but magical and fate-making, and outward-pulling Like a baby’s first breath.
Alcohol is universally appreciated because it is universally appreciated. it works at all frequencies on the spectrum. It practices all religions
(Even the ones that lie about it) and speaks every language known to man. (And speaks them better when drunk)
It binds you to a reality so social so impassioned, so pure, that how could you not love it?
Alcohol—despite what they tell you—helps you belong.
It’s mathematics are simple: the more you drink the more it works. The square root of drunk is tipsy. And drunkenness squared is possible-if dangerous
Case in point:
Alcohol is a way of life:
To be drunk (alive) is to be alive (drunk). And as such, Alcohol is a vampire But life sucks, too!
. . . and so it happened
that somewhere in my mid-20s, By its rapid ubiquity and sudden ascendance, this All-About-Eve of stimulants suddenly stood unchallenged in the glow of the consciousness spotlight: a star was born.
XI: Alcohol solves problems as a solvent It ages like an agent.
And tries patients in a pageant
that stumbles from bar to bar.
Magically. Touching me.
The poem might emulate, now, that confluence of feeling— Bravery, sweat, communion, love, perversion, filth, energy, swagger, hilarity, dancing and absolutely no bullshit, That it is to be drunk. That is wasted. That is set adrift on vaporous boasts That kisses with the wet mouth of a dreamer That sings like an angel, and smokes like one too. That knows how to climb these cable-car things That can jump like a ninja, just watch this, Pussy! That eats things made of salt mixed with grease and still manages to get the girl I mean, no one remembers. but it must have been amazing.
And then, It comes clear: The Glory of Dionysus
Laid over adulthood
Like a gentleman’s coat o’er a corner puddle.
For Alcohol is more than a drug, more than a temporary dabbling in an unsustainable state It’s an ingredient for a life lived beyond survival; A celebration of a fraught gift through getting fucked up.
A magic potion that makes sex possible
and creates mysteries out of mundane things.
Alcohol releases the soul to its own recognizance and allows animal instincts to fly free. A consecrated liquid, it turns us all into what we already are: Beasts, lurching through complex arrangements, confused about the possible outcome Tilting at windmills but trying our best
to always keep the spirits alive
And in that light, it is reasonable that Hank pissed on cop cars Dimitri broke his arm Henry drank a whole bottle of hot sauce just to annoy his girlfriend Shane puked every Fourth of July As a goal and celebration Rueben broke into an old folks home
to use their massage chairs Lydia fucked in the walk in and got frostbite on her ass Sonya set her clothes on fire Henry (again) made a street pimp punch him
And F. Scott died so young.
XII: American Alcoholic
XIII. And now, as the stories grow older, the winds would die down
and we’d sail the seas of Alcohol, away from the fertile lands of youth along the currents of domesticity through heaving seas of dying dreams and into the craggy, frigid shoals of Middle Age All on Oceans of Bad Wine
The poem would remind us how now, Alcohol, because it was everywhere began to suffer from that hate-your-best-friend syndrome.
The rich garden that alcohol created now seemed to need constant watering and care. The relationships it fostered through inebriation grew taxing and difficult in light of day. The boldness it fueled seemed partial stupidity, And the effects began to wear Even as drinking engagements proliferated: Brunch-drunk routine Beers before noon Constant micro-dosing Cooking, with wine Do we need another bottle? I won’t say no to that
Wine O’Clock already
And yes, I’d love another. And all in a desperate, pre-emptive bid to both clarify and deny The excess of youth of which we’re so envious as life slips away.
Mid-Life Alcohol now took a new hue as depressant, in part. And pathetic to boot: Liquid persuasion? It just all seems so desperate And now that it’s everywhere, it seems to work less.
Promise inverted: To make us appreciate the real world more? Or to render us numb to the world as it is.
(Alcoholic? By many measures, most of us already are.)
And so, as with many long-term relationships,
there came that moment where Alcohol and I had to get separated. Cause the relationship had become toxic.
I plan to write a poem, titled
“Controlled Substances Act”
1. It would be my drug memoir.
And it would start with some sort of evocation of
the earliest stimulant:
(And let’s be for real: do you remember how high you could get on that shit?) Candy was way stronger then. Halloween was like a Grateful Dead parking lot. I did things on Sugar I would never do straight. The addiction full swing, from the first dose on. frothing, jonesing, withdrawing, freaking 3 years old and fucked up.
You don’t believe me?
Just look at that kid, and try try try not to see a future that requires:
a controlled substances act:
2. Age 5, Diversified.
The poem would show it like this: How a mistake-mouthful of something salty Jolted neurotransmitters and made the tongue burn just a bit. From there, it was easy.
Salt to Bacon, Back to salt. Bacon to Pickles, to Soy Sauce, to Salt on Salami, to Sauerkraut
How that omnipresent dyad of “Salt and Pepper” made me want to try
I got hooked on that stuff.
The burn; the pain. It led to harder shit:
Pickled Peppercorns Pepperocini Hot Sauce Jalapenos Dried Hot Pepper
(on Pizza) Tabasco
Paprika Cayenne Garlic-
(Somehow, interrupt the poem to tell a narrative tale, of how, at age 6, I first discovered the comfort of the K-Hole, locked in my downstairs bathroom with my older brother, getting through a whole jar of Pepperocini in one go. I seem to recall someone pounding on the bathroom door, like in a drug bust, as we consumed in a frenzy)
3. I would use then use poetry to evoke a pattern
(that would be repeated later with Cocaine) of a short dabble into the strange world of a different sort of stimulant:
Whole gallons drunk. to diarrhea stage, age 11! Eating moistened grounds at summer camp with friends just to get fucked up!
And it was the full experience, let me tell you! Narrating sensations, overtopping the dam of restraint, trying to get higher, self-consciousness simultaneously obliterated and made more acute; the whole thing laying the groundwork for trips to come, later.
And clearly leading somewhere, now:
A single-use stimulant, deployed primarily for it’s neurological affect, which is also a botanically derived, granular substance that tastes merely ok.
(Oh, and it’s a partially controlled substance: In Boston, it is illegal to serve a ristretto to a minor)
Oh, and as greater poets before have noted:
. . . Don’t mind if I do.
4. The poem might then shift, and begin a second movement.
In which the poet would aim for bigger themes,
Talk about Man vs. The State,
Remind us that
(In some strange quarters)
And how that rule, that first idea of being unworthy of the whole of adulthood was a declaration of war.
There would be a great line, there. About the stakes.
“Cigarettes were our Franz Ferdinand; a straw man used to open hostilities against Innocence.”
(Or, maybe that’s a little pompous, but you get it…)
…at any rate, Smokes were the first truly controlled substance. And once we’d discovered that— that substances could be controlled that authority commanded stupid laws and that those laws could be broken and that to do so was to be socially engaged we set out to do so.
Fools for trouble, all of us! Let the war on consciousness now begin! Cigarettes, lead the way!
Smoking Pot Smoking Downers Smoking Pine Needles Drinking Mushrooms Drinking dissolved powders Talking hits, adding numbers mild mathematics in service of error and did it pay off?
Tripping not at all
And getting lost. Getting lost in drugs, until my whole life had to come find me there, wherever it was that I was lost.
My friends, my family, my relationships, my own consciousness, dipped in perspective That old saw about how you can’t trust anyone who hasn’t taken acid. Drugs got important…
Drugs were, in fact, a challenge. And a challenge met is a challenge exceeded. And so, we had to push it And do just a little more than was advisable.
And once there, I owed it to the world to impose my addled self thereon. Shopping on Drugs. Groceries. Knitwear. Exposing the madness we live inside. Music on Drugs. Mano-a-Mano with that shit Like talking with spirits Driving on Drugs. Why the fuck not? Sex on Drugs. Holy fuck, lost in someone’s body and it’s not even me. but it is many kinds of feelings and fun as hell.
(And also like a good marriage: Impossible. Ideal.)
Drugs on Drugs. Playing with fire, science experiments, conjuring argot. Losing objects, losing perspective, losing control.
I saw the best minds of my generation…
6. The poem, about drugs,
now comes fast, redoubled recursive representing: his leg was smoke mist a city covered in fog, as a nest of smoke or a spider webs webs, oh no I said it wrong obsessed my mind the poetic term for style mirroring substance Words peeling away from meanings paint patterned psychobabble like da da da da da the Art movement, or the Trio song Leftover colors being poured down canyon walls by Joni Mitchell’s Female Army.
(Remember, that record? Ladies of the Canyon?
That record saved me from a bad trip, once)
Sounds sounding funny when you say them alot: heaping heaping heaping heaping nourish nourish nourish nourish tatter tatters tatters tatters bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb
Tomorrow you’re homeless; tonight is a blast! (Somehow, the negative always gets a day in the sun) …and paranoia: -The fear of that we Don’t Control -The Feeling that It’s All Rigged -The Awareness of All Sorts of Evil -The Guilt at Throwing Away One’s Own Life;
burning like phosphorous
If we see a cop, we go to jail. Life lived, liver, Live! So on… as long as the livre can been Livid Onward! Sow On, Sew, On, Swan, Wards of Merkin and the fucking cops better stay out. assholes Making it political. Making it real. For real. For real, we need to examine these rotten pilings, holding up this society these legs holding up this society maiden Figurehead on a Pirate Ship that is about to crash, all over you just cause You didn’t know that I was thinking what You thought I was, but didn’t know it. These idiots who are afraid These heartless cowards the fascist pigs and all of them LIke piggies
But no, it’s real These people really are here seek inner peace you stupid shits you stupid shits you stupids shits who don’t know what love is.
(Except, I’d leave it up to the poet to figure out the last stanza, which—let’s face it—is the hardest one to get right, and still say in five syllables, which is, like, impossible. Unless you go “meta” or “dada” with something along the lines of … )
who calls our narrator on some regular night—an omnipresent Tuesday, or something—and happens to find him tipsy.
Cute, but perhaps also vulgar. (And who am I kidding: he wasn’t “tipsy.” He was drunk. And High)
The Telemarker had a vacation to give away And the narrator—Who I guess was me—had nothing but time and an insurgent sense of optimism.
And the vacation actually sounded good. Like, cocktails and conga-line good.
(Plus, the telemarketer had a Hindi accent.
And read from the script in this stilted, half-comprehending way that the narrator found enchanting.
and sort of began to pine for,
and soon grew lustful towards,
and allowed finally to release him so that he felt free and unsure and alive.* )
But in the end,the poem would show how all this was not
what I thought it was. It was actually just a telemarketer trying to sell me something. And it would show how it was my need to be loved that was being preyed upon, and how it was her need for whatever she needed—money, most likely—that was also being preyed upon. All by some cruel machine that grinds all these moments into dust.
I thought I was going on vacation But I was just another sap.
Anyways, that’s my plan.
*- Ed. Note: Shades of Eszterhas, here: Raw sexy heat.