In silent, delicious bliss

Reading a music magazine years ago, I came across a stray sentence that set me on an obsessive quest. An article casually mentioned that David Lee Roth had recorded a Spanish-language version of his album, Eat 'Em and Smile.

The name was Sonrisa Salvaje.

I'm not entirely sure what captivated me about this obscure piece of information, but I knew immediately that I had to find this album. Something about the idea of Van Halen's lead singer recording an entire album in Spanish fascinated me. How could it be anything other than brilliant?

My search lasted multiple years. The album was sold for a limited amount of time on LP and cassette and was now, unsurprisingly, out-of-print. I scoured used record stores near and far (it was worth it just for the reactions of the staff when I explained what I was looking for), searched the far corners of the Internet (there were fewer corners then), and perused eBay regularly. I never came close.

One day, I mentioned my unrealized dream to a friend who hung out in Internet neighborhoods I wasn't allowed to frequent. A few weeks passed and then one day, he handed me a flash drive with a huge smile on his face.

To this day, I still can't believe that such a thing exists, that I have a copy, and that it's just so deliriously good; over-the-top guitar matched by over-the-top David Lee Roth, singing songs like ¡Loco Del Calor! with unabashed gusto. The album has since been released on CD and MP3, which means my epic quest can be replicated in the time it takes to say Así Es La Vida.

There's nothing grand about Sonrisa Salvaje, but I have never heard anything like it. I find so much pleasure in its breathtaking absurdity.

The world needs more joy. Sometimes the result of high standards and chasing other people's definitions of quality is missing out on a goofy summer movie, kitschy restaurant, or life-altering story written for a different age group.

Wherever you find joy, however out of favor the source, drink up every last ounce. Enjoy it for what it is. And by all means, share it with the rest of us.

Prompted

Last week's dispatch asked, What was one of your most memorable meals?

Rachel wrote:

One of my most memorable meals was at A Lorcha, a Portuguese restaurant in Macau. We walked from the city center to find it and had to wait for a while for a table. We went in and I ordered a simple dish: a fried steak and french fries. It came out, perfectly seared and redolent of garlic. I took one bite and knew it would be hard for any other steak to compare. I sat there in silent, delicious bliss while I finished. It was hard to give up even a bite to let my boyfriend try it. Whenever I think about steak, or good food or traveling, I think of that meal. Just delightful.

Andy wrote:

On my way back from a few too many nights in Vegas, I had a layover in Phoenix. Usually I dread PHX with what seems likes miles between gates but this time, I found solace in the Stetson Chopped Salad from Cowboy Ciao. It's an absolutely beautiful dish that's full of flavor and a healthy alternative to the burgers I typically eat in airports. From now on, I'll make sure I have enough time to stop for a Stetson between flights. Thanks GateGuru.

Jon wrote:

I had a burrito, she had a fajita, but it had nothing at all to do with the food.

Drew wrote:

Last Saturday, about 6:40 pm, the doorbell rings, the dog barks (she is old but always on guard for strangers) and, distracted from wondering what to make for dinner, I stagger to door dressed in a grungy T-shirt and shorts. On opening the door I see our friends Margie and Ravi on the doorstep, smartly dressed, bottle of wine in hand with expectant smiles on their faces. I smile but in my head I’m screaming, “Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit…” I had forgotten that we had planned for me to cook dinner that night.

Immediately I confess and invite them in so they don’t feel like they have to keep haunting our doorstep. Ravi gracefully suggests, “It’s fine. We’ll go out to eat.” But I insist I’m going to cook for them. So I do. I am my mother’s son and she is the best short order cook I know. Drinks for everyone first and then I manage to pull together a green salad with a homemade white balsamic dressing. I’m off to the races. I marinated and grilled steak, chicken, asparagus, carrots and potatoes. Definitely on a roll. I even managed to pull together dessert from some berries in the fridge, some crème de cassis, and vanilla ice cream with a little cinnamon on top. I stick the landing. From “Oh shit” to table was about an hour.

We had a great night. I’ll never live this down. But Jo, my love, left me with the quote of the evening: “I don’t know how you did it, but you pulled that out of your ass. Well done!”

Joel wrote:

So many. A few:

  • Don Pedro's, Arlington, Texas, family dinner Wednesdays for years growing up, cheese enchilada special, corn tortillas with butter and salsa
  • Trout and scrambled eggs at cabin near Lake Vallecito, CO, early summers of youth
  • Room-service sushi overlooking Hanalei Bay, St. Regis Princeville, on honeymoon
  • All-you-can-eat breakfast insanity, Fairmont Banff Springs
  • Thanksgivings with family, especially when my grandmother was still with us

Brad wrote:

This is such a great question for so many reasons, but even more so because my wife and I were talking about exactly this subject when this dispatch arrived in my inbox. We were enumerating all of the places we've been and the great meals we've eaten, trying to separate the great ones from the truly astounding—the life-changing. For the sake of choosing just one, I'll go with our meal at Commerce in the West Village of Manhattan last year.

We made reservations well in advance and arrived ten minutes early on a drizzly and bitterly cold evening in May. We were ushered past shoulders and elbows of countless well-dressed people to the bar and were assured that our table would be ready "very soon". We ordered wine and oysters at the bar—both of which were unique, intriguing and undeniably excellent—and watched the countless laughing faces celebrate the crowdedness of this tucked-away warm room glowing in the night. After forty minutes, I inquired with the hostess and was again promised a table in the smallest of moments. Another twenty-five minutes rolled by before we were actually seated, but we were promised two free drinks on the house for the inconvenience, which had already been dulled by the delicious bar fare.

The meal, though, is where our adventure departed the ordinary and soared into inexplicable superlatives. My wife ordered a short rib ravioli and I ordered a pasta dish of some kind. My pasta was great, sure, and the free wine was even tastier, nudging us into a pleasant buzz amidst the fading crowd and the sprinkling rain on the sidewalk outside. The ravioli, though: there cannot be words. So significant were the bites we shared that I feel it almost necessary to demarcate my life by their passing: Before Commerce Ravioli and After Commerce Ravioli. Very rarely has the pure elation of palate driven me so far into tunnel vision and sheer ecstasy that entire hours of space-time were warped in my memory to adequately record those few precious seconds. It was a defining moment for me to understand what words like "incredible" and "unbelievable" are meant to express.

There is certainly irony in one of my most memorable meals featuring rain, cold and an absurdly long wait, but not at all surprising that it was in New York, and not that I was there with my favorite person on Earth. Just to drink some wine and eat some delicious food, but sometimes those things are so much more than they otherwise might be. This experience was one of the best.

Uncommon reads

Generation Why?, an essay by Zadie Smith from 2010:

In Lanier’s view, there is no perfect computer analogue for what we call a “person.” In life, we all profess to know this, but when we get online it becomes easy to forget. In Facebook, as it is with other online social networks, life is turned into a database, and this is a degradation.

But here I fear I am becoming nostalgic. I am dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of person who no longer exists. A private person, a person who is a mystery, to the world and—which is more important—to herself.

An interview with David Zweig about the book, "Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion":

I spoke with a number of career recruiters, and they see more and more people who want careers in high-profile fields and fewer and fewer pursuing the careers of craftsmen or people who are behind-the-scenes. The larger culture has a very powerful ethos that attention equals success. In the fabric of social media, the metric for value is attention. The number of “likes” you get on a post, the number of followers you have. These are the metrics by which we’re guiding ourselves.

What I hope my book can be is permission to step off the wheel. I think a lot of us are being wrongly persuaded to spend too much time trying to build up our presence online when we should be spending more time on our work.

Your turn

What is one of your guilty pleasures?