from Who Sleeps with Katz (2003) by Todd McEwen A short take on the restaurant Farmfood - I visited the 49th Street branch once (and once only) in the 70s.
Look what happens to the idea of food when, years ago, you are allowed to run your fingers over the prominent contours of the vulva—nothing more—of this girl from Hunter College for three or four hours on a rainy afternoon—in the shower you could still see the dull mark on your wrist the elastic of her underwear incised there. Your poor hand in the exact same position for three hours. You withdrew it from her jeans, blood-gorged numb and purple—if only it had been another extremity—and suggested dinner, which she took as calmly as she had the mauly diddling since three o’clock. --I’m a vegetarian, she breathed, doing up the many buttons. In the old neighborhood, vegetarian meant either a muenster cheese sandwich or that Chinese food which had been most boiled in the world—it was losing its molecular integrity. In a state ricocheting between guilt and largesse you took this two-bump beauty (thinking all evening of the pronounced quality of her labia, bump-bump, bump-bump under your fingers) to “THE FARMYARD — NEW YORK’S OLD-ESTABLISHED VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT”, here, in the West Forties. Bump bump, the taxi on sleeping policemen outside a garage—rain had come on while you lay on your bed, she staring at the ceiling and you wondering what the hell was happening with your life—nothing. The driver pointed out a modest door and a dingy lighted stair—the taxi went off in a series of puddles and bangs and you took the bored woman’s arm out of rocketing chivalry of all sorts. Thunder, suddenly, musically, insistently; lightning across the front of the building, which took on a sinister look thanks to the crenellations of a hamburger joint on the corner. At the same moment this restaurant’s venerable sign faltered and—bzzzt—“THE FARMYARD”—went out. Bump-Bump went up the stairs, you following, observing with vexation nautical lacing at the back of her jeans—your recent prison; the scene which greeted you in the dining room robbed you of air and drew you together—at last she grabbed you, in horror movie uncertainty. The low brow of the shabby peanut-oiled maitre d’ indicated a SEA beyond of the truly distressed and decrepit, the lame, the halt dining as best they could. Here a man with a growth on his cheek twice the size of the growth on the ham and salad tub man at Mary Jo’s Deli—hell, twice the size of what he was having for dinner; there a family of hunch backs in their seventies or eighties having their food cut up for them by a waiter with a glass eye. No one a recognizable morphic type, shape, or color, and—you know—that’s saying something in this our town. But Bump-Bump rushed to sit down—you lost interest in her body entirely at this point except for beginning to SCOUR HER COUNTENANCE for incipient pallor, growths, twistings—to affirm your moral insertion of her into this menagerie. The food was classical Vegetarian (stultifyingly capital V)—everything vegetal fungal and udderal chopped up and molded at ferocious industrial temperature and pressure to resemble meat—only despite these extreme processes the semblance was but slim; each dish with a sickly dairy taste—cold moussaka run over by the dog-catcher. Bump-Bump ordered diffidently and seemed determined to notice nothing. When the limping waiter snatched the cover from the platter you stared in fury at your cool parsnipwursts—a shocking reiteration of the late afternoon and its rain—the girl’s vulva that of a public monument—and you could barely resist fingering the depression between the two—. Lump lump, going down. Nothing to be said, apparently, the stuff did require a lot of chewing—it was dawning on you that far from coming to “THE FARMYARD” to improve their lot, these wretches, whom you were more likely to have encountered in a fun-house—had in this place, from this food—GOT that way. No proper ending—New York never lets anything die off completely between two people—but a sequel—several months later in Mary Jo’s, Bump-Bump, with bigger eyes and smile, faced you off near the potato chips. Accosted you just as you were staggering and feeling ill at the sight of the growth on the ham and salad tub man’s face, wondering if he dined at “THE FARMYARD”. And she incredulously says, You’re buying baloney!? Above his ranged fluorescent furrows of browning caking salads, bump bump bump, the ham and salad tub man salivates at her.
Mimi was pretty suspicious of my profession. We battled it out one day over yankee bean soup and borscht at B & H Dairy on 2nd Avenue (even if you’re in love, you still need soup!). I was admiring her lips, and said they were beautiful. ‘They’re just my lips. Don’t separate ’em off and compare them to other lips. You’re not at work now, buddy.’ ‘Well, shut up and kiss me then!’ When she asked me why I’d chosen to be a plastic surgeon, I said (truthfully) I hadn’t. ‘I started out treating burns cases, and doing reconstructive surgery, and then got diverted into all this vanity and insanity work. I blame my partners. We just stopped getting the kind of patients I really wanted to handle.’ ‘Hmmm.’ ‘Honey, it’s just a job.’ ‘Hmmm.’ Those ‘hmmms’ of hers. ‘Look, Mimi. Imagine nature is the tailor, as a teacher of mine put it, and we’re the invisible menders when the suit gets a bit worn out.’ ‘Hmmm.’ ‘Some people really need help, Mimi, or their lives would be ruined! I had a woman once who grew a horn on her forehead! Just an excess of keratin that was easily removed. But in the Middle Ages she would have been dragged around from town to town as the emblem of cuckoldry!’ ‘Or burnt as a witch,’ said Mimi, taking a big bite of challah bread. ‘But most people coming to you for a nose job just want to be more gorgeous. They’re not doing it because their lives are in danger.’ ‘All I know is, a lot of middle-aged women come to me complaining that they feel invisible.’ ‘But being invisible’s great!’ Mimi said. ‘You can do whatever you want without anybody noticing… Who decides what’s beautiful anyway? It’s all a matter of opinion.’’ ‘Well, according to my partner Henry, beauty was decided for us by evolution. Hairiness in men, for instance, hairlessness in women. Sexual characteristics got exaggerated over time, by evolution, because the people most universally recognized as desirable were the most likely to find mates. Youthfulness is another widely accepted beauty trait. Evolution did it, evolution was the “tailor”, and we just help it along.’ ‘That’s bullshit,’ declared Mimi. And she knuckled down to eat her soup. ‘I have this sudden twitch in my neck,’ I complained. ‘That’s cause you’re talking through your hat!’ I changed the subject to Haydn. ‘You know how Haydn was taught to play the drum? When he was three years old, they hung a drum on a hunchback’s back, so that Haydn could walk behind him, tapping away. Later, he got the full drum kit with high hat and cymbal, which required six hunchbacks and a midget who played the kazoo.’ Mimi almost spat her borscht everywhere, something it’s important not to do in such a small space. You try to avoid any sudden movements in B & H, so as not to upset lethal quantities of hot soup. My mention of midgets led to a confession of my midget-maniac problem in childhood. Mimi had had similar mix-ups: she’d thought cirrus clouds were serious, and, to her mother’s shame, called beef bouillon ‘Beef William’ one day, in front of guests. But this was nothing compared to the shame caused when, as a teenager, Mimi decorated a cake with ejaculating penises, depicting the semen with wavy projectiles of tiny silver sugar balls. ‘Did you know they’ve just invented a way of manufacturing sperm artificially?’ I asked her now. ‘Isn’t there enough of it around already?’ ‘Yeah, the thing would be to de-invent it.’ One of the things I loved about Mimi was that we agreed on procreation, its unnecessariness. Mimi on parenthood: ‘You share your genetic defects with somebody, and then they get your crappy furniture when you die? Some deal. Not to mention all the yelling and screaming along the way.’ ‘But nobody seems to worry about over-population,’ I said to her now. ‘Aw, they worry. That’s why we’ve got all these end-of-the-world fantasies.’ There was nothing Mimi hated more than apocalypse talk, which she considered obscene. But did she know what a turn-on it was when she went all philosophical on me? The wider the scope of her tirade, the sexier she got. ‘Hollywood can’t get enough of the end of the world,’ she continued. ‘Meteor strikes, alien invasions, nuclear war, tsunamis… They love to tell us we’re doomed. Did you see that one about a suicide mission to the earth’s core?’ I ate more yankee bean soup. ‘Pandemics too,’ I added. ‘Yeah. As long as they get shots of people looting all over the world, they’re happy.’ Mimi on Cormac McCarthy: ‘He writes about cowboys and the apocalypse. Enough said.’ Mimi on Branwell Brontë: ‘Who cares?’ Mimi on guys on the subway who spread their legs and their newspapers far and wide: ‘We all paid the price of a ticket. And I like opening my legs too!’ This she demonstrated in the most beguiling way, under the table. She got mad about a million different things! But she could be easily charmed too. Mimi on generosity: ‘Some people are so generous it breaks your heart. Pavarotti’s generous. And that guy who had to land his plane in the Hudson. When they were all standing in the cold out on the wings, and he gave his shirt to one of the freezing passengers. The shirt off his back! You’re generous too. You’re generous with your cock.’ Forget the soup, cancel my appointments! Taxi!