14. Rebound Beef

Italian-BeefI learned that the pork roast guy lived down the street from me and that his name was Eamon.

We met at Club Foot — it was equidistant from our houses. It also happened to be my favorite bar. It was the quintessential dive bar with a deep, dark history of punk rock. It was glorious with weird toys of yore decorating the walls next to rare concert posters. Any night of the week promised fine tunes and cheap drinks. If ever a watering hole wanted to take possession of my heart and soul, this is the one I would sell it to.

Eamon was sitting at the bar when I walked in. He smiled and gave me a hug. They were playing Broken Bells’ “The High Road.”

“I like this song,” I said.

“Who is this?” Eamon asked.

Broken Bells. It’s a collaboration from James Mercer of The Shins and Danger Mouse. Together, they’re OK. But I’m hopelessly and obsessively devoted to The Shins,” I answered.

“I know I should know The Shins, but I’ve never gotten around to it,” he accommodated.

“I wouldn’t expect you to be into them. I have a teenage girl’s love for indie pop.”

Chutes Too Narrow.PNG
“Chutes Too Narrow” by The Shins Chutes Too Narrow cover – http://www.amazon.com/Chutes-Too-Narrow-Shins/dp/B00009LVXT/ Derived from a scan of the album cover (creator of this digital version is irrelevant as the copyright in all equivalent images is still held by the same party). Copyright held by the record company or the artist. Claimed as fair use regardless.. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

“I love a good toe-tapper, too.” This made me smile.

Still getting reacquainted with booze, I ordered a vodka soda. He had a beer. He was soft spoken and had a slight Irish accent.

“Where are you from, Eamon?” I asked.

“Depending on where I am and who I’m with, I reckon I’m either from Ireland or New York. But I’m working on feeling a little more like a Chicagoan.”

“Where in Ireland? Where in New York? I’m vaguely familiar with both and very familiar with Chicago.”

“I moved around a fair bit between upstate New York near Ithaca and Queens, and I was born in the southwest of Ireland. I lived there a few times, too,” he said. “So you know Chicago very well? Why’s that?”

“I know Chicago well because I’ve lived here for seven years. It feels like a very long time to me. I really wish I could see the city now the way I saw it in 2005. I was totally in love with it back then. Now we’re just chums.”

Whiskey-Soda
Image Source: Thelizabeth via Flickr

I forgot how alcohol opened doors. I was meeting interesting people. Alcohol made me feel like I was interesting. Booze just felt so right going down.

At that moment, Eamon set his gloves down on the bar. They were lobster claws — serious winter biking gloves even though the weather didn’t quite warrant such armor.

“Do you bike?” I asked.

“I do. Why? The gloves?”

He biked and he loved food. I needed nothing more. “Yes! What do you ride?”

“I have a few. A single speed cruiser, a touring bike and a road bike.”

“Are you a commuter?”

“Not really, I dislike almost everything one associates with bike-commuting. The cars, doors, salmon, the whole white-knuckle thing. I wish I could just be, like, a Rivendell model, riding my touring bike on fire roads or my single-speed around town with groceries in the basket forever.”

“You have no idea how hot that is. That’s the most perfect thing anyone has ever said to me. That might be slight exaggeration, but I don’t know many bike people,”  I said. I did think that was hot, but I was forcibly trying to feel a lot so I could get shed that last bit of decay Burton left behind after our brief encounter.

“I’m lucky, lucky indeed. I never thought sensible cycling would incite such passion! Are you really short on bike friends?” he asked.

Bicycle
Image by Jeb Tankersley

“I am. Most of my friends have kids which is not conducive to biking and there are so many biking subcultures that it’s hard to find the right fit. Like the messenger or the commuter, the tourer, the racer, or me, the plain old cyclist who does everything by bike and likes to do the occasional tour or day trip, you know?”

“You’re just the kinda cyclist I like most,” he said smiling and I smiled back.

Eamon got a text and pardoned himself. The black and white TV behind the bar was playing a Monkees reunion movie wired from a VCR. The bar was just weird enough that sitting alone there wasn’t boring.

When Eamon returned he told me that he had to fix something for work and that he could do it from home — he was in IT and everything was done over the internet.

“So, I know this is forward, but would you want to come with me and hang out while I do this work thing?”

“Sure,” vodka was taking over my decision-making. Entering a stranger’s home was not something I ever did. Perhaps in my early twenties living in New York, it might have crossed my mind, but I wouldn’t have gone through with it. I was practical, but mostly scared. Or scarred. The idea of strangers and bars always brought to mind Looking for Mr. Goodbar and an ending I wouldn’t let myself repeat. But this particular night I was feeling fearless.

We paid our tab and left the bar heading west. It was only two blocks.

His apartment was interesting. It was a former storefront so it was very long and narrow, but open and spacious. It was only two rooms: his bedroom and then the rest of the apartment. The living room was sort of separated from the dining area by a long kitchen island under which he kept everything. It was unique.

Other than that, he had lots of vinyl and computers and some guitars. He was definitely my type.

He offered me Irish whiskey and I happily let him pour me a drink.

He told me stories about his family and his appreciation for Ireland.

Irish-Breakfast
Image Source: Jody Halsted via Flickr

“Do you say ‘thanks a million?’” I asked.

“When I’m around Irish people.”

“Do you like Irish food?”

“I like Irish breakfasts.”

“Ha! I think that’s the only Irish food I like. When I was in culinary school one of my instructors told this story about visiting Ireland during an economic boom. He said there was all this amazing food and he went to what was supposed to have the best thai food in town. He ordered some spicy noodle dish. And they served it with a side of boiled potatoes.”

“Hahhahah! Yes. Irish people love their boiled vegetables.”

Irish-WhiskeyWe continued to drink and share. We were having a good time. And then something came over me. I was bold.

“Are you going to kiss me?” I asked. And then he kissed me. Two nights in one week I did things that I would never have done a year ago or even five years ago. I think this was what the British referred to as “pulling.”

We continued making out until I realized it was morning. The light of day was certainly harsh. Eamon was still attractive and the making out was fantastic. But looking around his bedroom was unsettling. I don’t know how long he’d been in his apartment, but it looked as if he hadn’t yet unpacked. It made me kind of anxious.

I got up to use the bathroom. It was still warm enough outside that I could get away without wearing socks so I there was nothing between my feet and the floor. The dirty, dirty floor. He had a dog so I couldn’t decide if it was excusable or not. Then I went into the bathroom. Boy dirty. Why were boys so dirty? Even the boys that were clean were still dirty. Then, as I sat on the toilet, I turned and looked in the shower. There was dog shit on the shower floor. Again, I didn’t know if it was excusable. Living in the city, it was possible that he’d trained his dog to do that in emergencies, but it was still disgusting.

I went back to his bed, feet covered with dirt and resumed making out with Eamon. The making out was almost good enough to forget about the grime.

When 11:00am rolled around, I put on my clothes and left. Despite the filth, I felt pretty good about the night. But I never did give him my recipe for Italian beef.

It was thrilling that someone wanted to use one of my recipes, but it didn’t match the thrill I felt with Burton. If I hadn’t met Burton, my boozy night of making out with Eamon would have been electrifying.

I wanted to go back to being unaffected and confident, but it was too late. I needed to find a charge to get me over this, but I wasn’t sure it was Eamon.

****

Italian BeefItalian-Beef

Dry rub:

  • ¼ cup oregano
  • ¼ cup basil
  • 3 TB granulated garlic
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1 TB pepper
  • 1/4 cup beef base

Combine ingredients and mix well.

  • 5 lbs raw beef bottom round roast
  • red wine vinegar
  • water

Rub down raw beef with dry rub. Place in dutch oven fat side up.

Fill each pan half-way with equal parts vinegar and water.

DO NOT COVER.

Place in 325F oven. Cook until medium rare (internal temperature of 131F) — about 2 hours.

Remove from oven. Save cooking liquid for dipping.

Wrap each piece of beef in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Trim fat from beef. Thinly slice beef (you really need a meat slicer for this). Heat cooking liquid to 165F. Place sliced beef in hot liquid just long enough to warm it. Serve on french rolls. Giardiniera goes very well on the sandwiches, too.

******

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