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Creek Running North

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April 08, 2004

Ichthus

When Matthew and I were in the Mojave Desert last month, we stopped at a chain diner one night for supper before finding a campsite. The diner was in the town of Mojave, which is slowly dwindling away after being bypassed by the highway engineers.

There were three other parties being served in the diner, though the place had a capacity of probably 200. The food was unremarkable and the waitress, though pleasant, had a demeanor somewhat resembling a trout that had just been hauled in and clubbed between the eyes. Her reactions, exceedingly slow, were nonetheless terminally anxious on arrival.

The menu included the usual burgers and fries and chicken-fried steak and navy bean soup and pie. But down on the inside right page, a little way up from the bottom of the inside right page, was an item that grabbed my attention and held on.

"Matthew, check down at the bottom of page two."

Matthew started chuckling. I decided I needed to order this thing. The waitress returned.

"Yes, I think I'm ready, but I have a question about this item here: What part of the cod does a 'cod loin' come from?"

Dazed eyes shimmered only slightly. Neither amused crinkle nor world-weary sigh manifested anywere on her visage. "It's a big filet, breaded and fried."

I was determined to push my tired joke anyway. "That sounds good. I'll take that. Um, I didn't know cods even had loins."

A slow furrow crossed her brow, and then relaxed, and she laughed, almost. The fish, on arrival, was nowhere near the worst I ate on that trip, and a few hours later we drifted off to sleep serenaded by owls, the ground softened with a few strategically consumed beers.

A week ago, walking along Baxter Creek to my parked truck, I remembered the diner and felt a pang of guilt. My joke wasn't exactly at the waitress' expense, but I derived a small, private, uncharitable amusement from her slowness to catch on. She probably didn't remember the incident an hour later, I told myself. I was just one more smartass customer that night, in a night of catering to horny truckers and families with squalling babies. We tipped well, and were otherwise polite.

And the words came unbidden to my lips, and I was nearly to the pickup when I realized I'd been chanting them quietly to myself for a quarter mile. It was a piscine variation on a ritual from my long-discarded religious training, the Agnus Dei portion of the Roman Catholic Mass.

"Loin of Cod, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Loin of Cod, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Loin of Cod, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace."

Posted by Chris Clarke at April 8, 2004 03:58 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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Comments

Oh great, another thing to NOT think about in church. Thanks.

Posted by: Paul Tomblin at April 8, 2004 06:18 PM
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Your "prayer" is one of the funniest things I've read in ages - even having just returned from singing the "original" at a Maundy Thursday service! I wonder how I'm going to get through it next time.

Posted by: beth at April 8, 2004 07:23 PM
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That was a great read!

Suppress your guilt; maybe the waitress thought about it later and laughed and it made her night.

I think it's just possible that Loin of Cod really could take away the sins of the world.

Have mercy on me.

Posted by: UncleBob at April 8, 2004 09:21 PM
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Loin of Cod, you steak away the skins of the squirrels, have merlot with us. Loin of Cod, you slake satay with gin over worms, serve mutton on nuts. Loin of Cod, you bake fillet of fins of the perch, grilled rice and peas.

Posted by: butuki at April 9, 2004 01:39 AM
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Butuki's comment is the perfect way to begin the day!!

Posted by: Dottie at April 9, 2004 07:27 AM
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Butuki: we're calligraphing that.

Posted by: Pica at April 9, 2004 07:37 AM
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Merlot, Butuki? What manner of heathen Zinfandel are you?

Posted by: Chris Clarke at April 9, 2004 07:52 AM
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Long ago I used to lunch at a little place on College Avenue in Oakland run by a man named Danny. Every few months Danny would reopen his restaurant, it would start to succeed, and he'd get busier and busier. The busier he got, the more he drank. When his drinking started to dominate his life, he'd close the restaurant and go to sea. He'd be the cook on some tanker or freighter for a few months. When he had sobered up, he'd come back and open the restaurant again and the cycle would repeat.

Anyway, one of his best dishes was "Braised Breast of Oxtail".

Never figured out how to pray to it, though.


Posted by: Phil at April 9, 2004 09:50 AM
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A real Sauvignon of the worst sort, my dear Bourdeaux, a flaming Canernet case, but I Chianti Chardonnay that. I do tend to get on the Neuf du Pape. It's my humble Pinot Noir, Syrah, that is such a Champagne.

By the way, I just love the meaningless gestures of the animation character on this site: Wines of France.

Posted by: butuki at April 9, 2004 10:30 AM
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Nooo... not wine puns!

:)

At least the loin of cod sounds good. I endured "battered fish" and "Sheharazad casserole" (my translation of this actual name: leftovers that return in various forms for 1001 nights) as an undergrad. Never again, thank Cod!

Posted by: Rana at April 9, 2004 01:22 PM
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Nooo... not wine puns!

Aw, c'mon, Rana: it's not like we're seeing a gewurz case scenario play out here.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at April 9, 2004 01:31 PM
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Wickedly, delightfully funny. Thank you !

Posted by: Lorianne at April 10, 2004 12:05 AM
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I read (actually, sang) Butuki's delightful wordplay to my daughter Laura. Her response? "Sacrelicious!"

Posted by: Vicki at April 10, 2004 09:33 AM
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Shiraz shooting, there'll be more.

;)

Posted by: Rana at April 10, 2004 12:28 PM
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Too bad you missed the Latin immersion by a few years, or you'd have "Liver on a stormy day" to contemplate. I chanted it many times, in the Litany of the Saints.

BTW, the trade jargon for the pieces of fish that get deboned and passed down the line at a tuna cannery is "loins."

Posted by: Ron at April 11, 2004 09:13 PM
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