It didn’t take long to realize that this butcher didn’t speak English. So, I started pointing to the corresponding parts of my body that I wanted to buy from him. I stuck out my tongue. His face lit up as he led me back to the freezer. He grabbed a massive tongue off a pile of ice, “Baaaah.” Lamb tongue.
I gave him the universal signal for “what else you got?” He grabbed what looked like a pile of mush, presenting it to me. Hmmm. What is this? He sensed my confusion and pointed at his head, “Baaah.” Ah, I get it. Sheep brains.
I guess I didn’t expect a day to come when I would be buying sheep brains and a tongue from an Armenian man, but to be honest, I hadn’t thought much about the possibility up until that point in time.
I especially wouldn’t have thought that I would ever be preparing a stew of tongue and brains in an office kitchen. But there I was, stirring a big pot of things that used to be inside a sheep’s head. The company I work for needed some gross intestinal-like stuff for a shoot. I had one of those, “how did I get here?” moments. I mean, I feel like one doesn’t just end up at a boiling pot of sheep brains by accident.
I knew I was weird by the time I was a teenager. It almost seemed like the world wanted me to approach life a certain way, and everyone else was okay with thinking this way, but I just couldn’t do it. I tried and tried. I wanted to play the game. But it just wasn’t for me.
In high school I spent 50 percent of my time starring at the clock, 25 percent of my time staring through girls’ shirts and 15 percent doodling. The remaining 10 percent was a combination of napping and pissing off teachers. These would often overlap, as a lot of teachers would get pissed off as a result of the napping.
Each day went something like this:
Sit still. No talking. The bell decides when you eat. You piss when I say so. Jesus. Don’t try to have fun. Don’t think for yourself. Jesus. Copy the notes exactly how they’re written on the board. Do what I say. Exactly what I say. And never ask why. Jesus — it was a Catholic school.
I think I set some sort of untouchable record for lateness. I mean, I was the Joe DiMaggio of tardiness. I literally don’t remember ever being on time for school. Most of my homework was completed in whichever class I had before it was due. That’s also how most of my “studying” for exams got done.
Believe it or not, I love learning. I love reading and writing. I’m fascinated by science. I like engaging in persuasion and debate. And don’t tell anyone, but I actually do like math. It was just something about the way the whole thing operated that made me not want to be in class.
We used to talk about our “five-year plan.” You HAD to have a five-year plan. But nothing seemed more awful to me than a five-year plan. I didn’t want one. I was forced to write one down, but just between you and me, I never had one.
A dear friend visited my hometown over the summer. She looked through my high school yearbook. I hadn’t looked at it in years. When we arrived at my page, I realized that I had already done everything I had listed as my future plans. That was a very strange feeling. It said something like “Get a degree, travel a lot and move somewhere near the sea.”
So, I don’t think it is an accident that I ended up boiling a lamb’s tongue at work the other day. I guess I’ve just always been that guy. That’s what I’m beginning to love about LA. It is a city full of sheep-brain-cookers — people who don’t want a five-year plan, people who don’t put a premium on structure or stability, people who don’t care how everyone else wants them to live. People who aren’t in a hurry to grow up.
So many people here want to make movies or be on television. What a stupid plan. In fact, it’s not really much of a plan at all. And that’s music to my ears.
Frank Marasco is a first-year graduate student in Los Angeles. He can be reached at email@example.com.