Monday, May 23, 2011

Infomercial Time

Hello, pretty IMBO! reader. Just by clicking on I Must be Off! you've upped your pretty factor by 10, whatever that means. If you click on one--or three?--of the links below, your pretty factor will soar with The Eagles (in their glory days when "Take it to the Limit" was my favorite song).

The Number 4 at Pure Slush. An exercise in surrealism, "The Number 4" is about a boy who'd love to be anything but himself. Anything.

Three-handed Bridge at 52l250 A Year of Flash. Loosely based on my own bridge-learning history, although I never felt bullied by my mother (so this particular aspect of the story is not autobiographical . . . Mama). I love bridge, and I can't remember a time when I didn't.

The Readers in Car 103 at TrainWrite right now. Originally published at Mel Bosworth's Flash Fire 500, "The Readers in Car 103" tells the unfortunate story of a wannabe reader and lover.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for stopping by and clicking those links (click those links, click those links, click those links). And, hey, thank you to my new Stumblers. You're pretty. 

I must be off,
Christopher

Thursday, May 19, 2011

From the Ritz to the Pub...Gluten-free

You could do so many things with a London afternoon. I usually spend my time walking through parks and exploring neighbourhoods. Walking and exploring are both naturally gluten-free, but at some point you have to stop all that walking and exploring and wet your whistle. For me it’s usually a glass of wine or a cider. There is, however, afternoon tea if you want quintessential British.

But you’ll have to be organised. Most establishments offering a gluten-free afternoon tea require at least twenty-four hours’ notice, some more. Be sure to check the website or get help from your concierge.

I was surprised to find that afternoon tea in London comes in all classes, from the not-so-many-frills-but-popular pastry shops to the madly expensive hotels. Working on this blog post, I began to realise that the more you pay, the less you actually get. At The Ritz, for instance, apparently you’ll get three pastries. And apparently they aren’t life-changing pastries. And do I get any sandwiches? The menu didn’t say, but the email I received from The Ritz confirmed that they do offer gluten-free sandwiches and scones (despite reports to the contrary).

Through the eyes of The Gluten Free Foodie—bless him for taking his camera along—we can see a world of difference between The Ritz and Claridge’s. I’m sold and I’m making reservations for June . . . at Claridge’s.

If you don’t want to fork out around £50 or more per person for afternoon tea, there are other options (cheapskate). At Orange Pekoe the gluten-free afternoon tea consists of finger sandwiches/ one hot scone with Cornish clotted cream and jam/one slice of cake and a pot of tea of your choice (£16.96 per person, 48-hour advanced booking). High Road Brasserie also comes recommended, but if you’re the type to hang out at a coffee shop in the afternoon, hunched over your laptop and lurking on Facebook, you’ll find a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee or a Cafe Nero on every corner. Problem is, you’ll find the same tired gluten-free brownie in all of them.

There is also the option of spending a rainy afternoon at Vinopolis, London's delicious wine museum. When I was there a few years ago, they offered tastings at a few exhibits. Very interactive and tastefully informative. 

Quintessential British can be the pub, and there’s no better place to be on a sunny London afternoon than stuck in a dark, not-especially-clean pub, right? Actually, though I love dark places, lots of pubs have outdoor seating where you can enjoy the sun, a pint of cider and a plate of chips. You can even eat the Walkers crisps on offer at practically every pub in the UK (although recent news from Walkers indicates that their products are NOT gluten-free!!).
If you’re not used to drinking cider, careful. It sneaks up on you. But, hey, wait. If cider’s not your cup of tea, you can check out The Stag. They have two gluten-free beers on the menu. My experience with gluten-free beer is not the best, but maybe you’ll like it. Go on. Give it a go.

I must be off,
Christopher 

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Christopher Allen writes fiction and creative non-fiction. His absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type, a sideways glance at sitcom culture's influence on gay identity in America,is available from Amazon Anything.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Irony of Nice

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I’ve visited Nice more times than I can count. I don’t say that to brag; I’m just telling you this so that you understand my history with the city. I used to meet a friend there years ago. We had great times. Nice has great music bars and some OK restaurants.

Nice has changed. You might even say that Nice isn’t nice anymore. Of course Nice is as safe as any other city in France during the day—although I was roughed up at around one o’clock in the afternoon. The city, despite its affable name, has one of the highest crime rates in France. So why don’t they call Nice Mean?

Tourists who potter around the old town in Nice for a few hours don’t really see the ugly side of the Côte d’Azur. If you stay out after dark, though, you'll see it's getting uglier and uglier. Actually, it’s getting prettier and prettier if you count the prostitutes that hang around the corners a few feet away from the promenade as dusk sets in. I have nothing against these statuesque ladies personally, but I wonder what kind of life they lead, and what kind of horrors they must endure.

And then there are the drug dealers making odd sounds to get your attention. You’d think that they’d just say, “Hey, you want some hash?” Their freaky little whistling sounds are just as obvious.

And it’s our fault really. The tourists. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly need a six-foot prostitute from Ukraine or a kilo of hash. I just want to enjoy the Côte d’Azur without being reminded that there is a dark undercurrent of crime. I want the police to react to crime, but it is really too much to ask when they are afraid for their lives. Or is it?
 
Nice is a beautiful place, mostly, but it isn’t nice anymore. Canne has been awful for quite a long time: artificial and embarrassing. 

These European cities that are totally dependent on tourism are infuriating in their arrogance. OK, I’m ranting. Watch me rant. The Côte d’Azur would be a better place if the tourists stayed away until these cities and towns ached—ached—for us to come back.
 
I must be off (to France for the weekend),
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Back on the Horse


For the last two weeks, I’ve been having trouble sleeping. The pain in my right leg isn’t going away, so I’ll probably be going to the doctor soon. The irony of this ache is that it’s worst when I’m horizontal.

On Sunday I needed to prove to myself and the “men” who attacked me—it’s very hard to stop thinking about them—that I can carry on with life as though they’d never hurt me. So, limping out of bed, I made coffee and opened the hiking book. If I was going to prove anything to the thugs in my head, I needed a steep, hardcore slog.

We chose a mountain range about an hour away from our home. The article in the hiking book promised a four-hour exhausting slog to the top. The cable car wasn’t operating, so we’d have to walk down the mountain as well, which would be a grueling test for my knees. Perfect.

About an hour into the hike I found myself replaying the attack. Which is nothing new. I replay it many times every day, telling myself a hundred things I should have done differently, blaming myself for the stupid things I did to get myself into that situation. I’m writing about it right now only because I can’t think of anything else to write.

At that moment on the hike, my partner could tell I was thinking about the attack. He turned to me and said, “I can’t think of a more beautiful place.” He was right. It was a sunny day with a light breeze. There were millions of yellow and blue wildflowers everywhere. Birds and butterflies. Cows and mountain cabins. Exhausted hikers—many much more exhausted than I was with my bum leg—and indefatigable dogs. 

“The trick is not thinking of the ugly places,” I said.

Ignoring me as usual, he swept his arms out toward the valley, the green mountains beyond and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. “Just look at this view.”


The view was breathtaking, dizzying; some might even say divine. For as long as I can remember, whenever people are sad or worried or upset, I say, “Have you tried thinking of a meadow?” It’s a joke of course meant to poke fun at the whole positive-thinking trend; but maybe I could benefit from a little meadow meditation?

After all, why am I trying to prove anything to mean “men”? Why am I allowing them so much air time in my head? Hee hee. Yes, I am a bit of an airhead. Ha Ha. Yes, that was funny. Stop it. One reason I’m constantly reminded of the attack is because my leg still hurts. But I did walk four hours up and two hours down (thanks to gravity).

I went to the mountain to prove to myself that my body is healing, but I came away from it with a renewed sense of peace and beauty. And I’m sure I look prettier too.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Little Reading While I'm Gone

Hello, pretty IMBO reader,

I’ve had a troubling week. There’s nothing I can say about it without making the trouble worse. I’ll be back to my laughable self in a few days. Until then, why not stop by these great places and read some of my recently published stories . . .
 

And don't miss this insightful interview with my most horizontal interviewer to date at Quiddity of Delusion.

I must be off (but I’ll be back),
Christopher