3 min read

Dark Night of the Sole

Praying and supplication, the way it was never meant to be.
Dark Night of the Sole

In the 16th century, a little monk had a moment of epiphany and wrote a poem. It was cryptic. It was odd. It pissed some people off. In our family, it is a prime directive to piss somebody off, and plenty line up to give a good reason.

This little Spanish monk, that was known as Saint John of the Cross, wrote this truly incredible work about ascending the path of holiness and becoming closer to God. I cannot advise this book enough. Because it is cryptic and odd, and it will piss your family off if you are not Catholic. I read it in seminary, and I'm not Catholic.

Imagine the confusion of my Protestant professors.

There's a lot of praying involved in clerical and monastic endeavors, and if you thought this was going to be about religion, you would be mistaken. We are going to talk about one of my father's favorite subjects, which is fish.

We are at the beginning of winter as I write this, which has nothing to do with St. John, Spain, or crosses in general. The only thing it has to do with fish is the fact that my father served in the US Air Force in the early 1960s in Greenland, working on Delta Daggers and Darts. I have stated before that my father never met a fish fry he didn't like, and this may be in retaliation for the various crimes against humanity charges my father leveled against the Danish cook staff he experienced there.

He claimed that the things the Danes did to fish in the most culinary sense were abnormal, abhorrent, and downright unnatural. I don't know. I've never been there. The closest I come is eating at IKEA, and that's a whole different country. It would be like going to Acapulco for biscuits and gravy.

One fine night in my tender years, Dad decided that he needed seafood and had a special restaurant in mind. There were no Yelp reviews to help back then. He had never been there, and it was word of mouth.

In the 70s, one did not attend a place of fine dining in just any old outfit. No, son, you dressed up in your Sunday best for those ventures. This was a school night, to boot. It was a special event. I have no idea what the special event was, just that they were stuck with me, probably because I had burned every babysitting bridge that they had. I was a general pain in the ass, and in my later years, I endeavor to remain so.

The building was situated near the Atlanta airport, a cinder block palace painted black and decorated with red neon signs in the shapes of fish, crabs, and other creatures that had no desire or business being out of water.

In the interior, the ambiance was like something out of a vampire movie. I don't recall much of the service, but we had cocktail shrimp that maintained the texture of chewed bubblegum that had been held in a cooler. They were served delicately shoved on a tiny pond of cocktail sauce in a martini glass.

I had no idea what in the hell I was eating, so I ordered the breaded shrimp for my meal. That choice may be the reason I am alive.

My parents ordered fish. I can't really tell you more than that because I was very young and not paying a damned bit of attention. They finished roughly half of their meals when my father looked up like a hound that was catching an alien signal from space and announced, "Louise, we gotta go now."

In the Southeastern Native cultures, there was a substance brewed from a form of holly known colloquially as Black Drink. It was a magical little brew used to purge the body before an important event. Maybe a "special event." It allowed those that consumed it to reenact Old Faithful using only the contents of their stomach.

My parents took turns celebrating in the same fashion to a form of prayer and supplication directed at the almighty Porcelain God, whose throne was placed in our baby blue tiled bathroom. This deity was apparently the recipient of all liquids and substances biological in nature.

While I don't know who gave the recommendation, I do know that Dad bestowed a name on them. When I shared this name with my cousins, I was blessed with a spanking via a belt and a mouthful of Zest bar soap.

As for the restaurant, I understand that the Atlanta health department determined the devil lived and cooked there, and since no exorcist was handy, they just shut it down.

I believe with the most certainty it had nothing to do with them, but my father seemed convinced that it was the fault of the Danes.

He seemed scarred for life. I still have no idea what they did to him in those mess halls. He never would say. I suggested a therapist.

Dad suggested Long John Silvers.