Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'll Guess I'll Have the Chicken and Rice

Yesterday I had a sudden urge to eat an unusually healthy meal: a whole-wheat pita sandwich with spinach, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. I added a spritzing of Light Caesar Dressing (Newman's Own) and had a lovely, virtuous consumption experience. Until about halfway through. Then I noticed that the spicy burning on my lips that vinegar always gives me wasn't actually going away. My lips were puffing up again! I went to the mirror and confirmed it. Another goddamn allergic reaction.

This makes the fourth time this has happened since my second date story several days back. The good news is that it's not an anaphylactic reaction, which would truly be terrifying. But it definitely seems that my body has stepped up its McCarthylike paranoia about food. On the date, the culprit was (presumably) pine nuts in the gnocchi. A few days later, it came as the result of a salad with vinaigrette. Vinaigrette apparently contains walnuts (why don't they have labels on stuff like that? Warning: contains ingredients!), and I missed two stories at the storytelling show I was attending while I ran across the street to buy some Benadryl. Then, while I was still recovering from that and with my lips returned to normal size, I went to a diner an hour or so later and ordered a chicken club (I was, after all, still hungry, since I hadn't even had half a salad), and damn if I didn't get the reaction again! Not from the chicken, but from the fries. This time the servers thought it might have been because the fries were made in the same frier as the shrimp. Sorry! They should have mentioned that!

Could be. All I know is, I'm jumping at everything now, like a psychic in a ghost town. I'm happy to report that I managed to eat at a restaurant with two friends of mine right before the Jonathan Richman concert. It was a Thai restaurant, and as I went over the list of things that were probably in the meals and that I didn't want to risk (peanuts, soy), I was able to negotiate simple chicken and rice--no sauce!--and it was just fine. It wasn't exciting, but apparently I'm not meant for exciting things.

The list of things that definitely want to kill me with an allergic reaction:

tree nuts
maybe vinegar?

The list of things that, while not sending me to the nearest Benadryl, seem to cause me digestive collywobbles, from worst to most benign:

peanut butter?
maybe wheat?

The good news is that most of this stuff isn't great for you in the first place, so I predict I'll be losing a bit of weight in the best way possible: by eating well. But I'm starting to see my future. I live like a bubble boy, eating everything in carefully prepared meals at home, since the discussions with waiters have been terribly time-consuming and embarrassing for my nearby friends. I foresee never venturing into a restaurant for anything more exotic than a Caesar salad. ("Hold the cheese. Put the dressing on the side. And do the croutons have garlic?") I'm currently eating spelt bread and millet-vegetable pasta (with organic tomato-and-basil sauce that hasn't hurt me yet, but just give my body time) and if they made a documentary out of my life they could call it An Imitation of Food. The only upside to all this is that this is saving me a little money in the long run, which I can safely spend on wine and whiskey ("hold the lemon wedge, please!").

But just wait: if my body decides it's allergic to that, too, I'll be screwed. The only high in my life will come from spinning around till I'm dizzy. Oh, and sex! Thank goodness! At least no one's ever been allergic to orgasms. Please tell me I'm right.



Blogger Chad E Burns said...

I wouldn't call it an allergic reaction, but anacquaintance of my wife used to get (I assume still does) diarrhea after sex due to some sort of psychological aversion to it.(No, she was not abused--that would have been obvious, but not the issue apparently) Apparently, the better it was, the worse the after effects. Now be thankful you just have food al lergies. :)

3/10/2008 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Christian Wulfsberg said...

I've heard of women having an allergic reaction to their partner's semen, but unless you're planning to change your orientation, not an issue for you...

3/10/2008 10:56 AM  
Blogger Bina said...

They put anchovies in caesar salad dressing so if you have a seafood allergy that's definitely one to avoid. If you have it made fresh, make sure to ask them to skip the anchovies.

3/10/2008 12:05 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks for the tip, Bina! I don't think I've ever eaten in a place that didn't just pour the dressing straight from the bottle. But just in case, it's nice to know. (Though I think my problem is just shellfish, since I've eaten tuna recently with nary a problem.)

As for the women being allergic to semen: thanks, Chris! I'd forgotten about that, but it's something I've definitely come across in Dan Savage's writings. Fortunately, I don't actually produce semen during orgasm, but a simple ray of warm light that illuminates the soul of the one I love from within. So I'm personally hypoallergenic, though I should probably warn the epileptics.

3/10/2008 2:13 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Oh, and Chad: obviously, you don't need to have been abused to have an aversion to sex. I knew a woman who hated it just because it was messy and she was OCD. In general, I suspect are more likely to hate sex in exactly the same proportion that they are unwilling to give up control. Ditto with rollercoasters.

3/10/2008 2:15 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Argh! What a shame you can't edit comments here. I just noticed that my response to Chris would have been funnier if I'd said, "I produce a light that warms the soul of my loved one, as well as whoever's running the camera."

3/10/2008 2:19 PM  
Blogger nonk9 said...

When I heard "light Caesar" I thought "aspartame" and went to the super user friendly Newman's site.

But unbelievably, they don't include aspartame on the list of possible toxins. Wow.

Does Newman's Light Caesar contain aspartame?

3/10/2008 2:19 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

No they don't. But aspartame's not a problem for me anyway. I've drunk diet soda for years and never once went to the hospital over it. Good idea, though!

3/10/2008 2:28 PM  
Blogger Chad E Burns said...

LOVED your epilepsy comment, I laughed my ass of--still chuckling.
And then you made the camera joke and I started laughing all over again. :)

After what you said about the OCD/messy thing--I remember my wife telling me that was one of the complainst of her acquaintance--but it would seem to me that diarrhea is messier . . .

And some Ceaser dressings contain pine nuts--I believe Cardini's does--that or with food production the way it is, it could just be trace nuts.

glad you're better

3/10/2008 3:05 PM  
Blogger Chad E Burns said...

I realize I should explain a bit more--or maybe not--the acquaintance got diarrhea like right after orgasm . . . not right after sex--if you understand the timing, I'll say no more.

3/10/2008 3:06 PM  
Blogger HawaiianBrian said...


Next time you have health insurance, it sounds like it's time to go in to see an allergist. Becoming allergic to things later in life is very possible, and tree nuts and shellfish are two of the biggest offenders, in the police line-up right next to peanuts and wheat. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone allergic to vinegar, though...

But as for your second list, much of it doesn't look at all unhealthy to me. Look at what you put on there: corn, apples, soy, citrus, and wheat. None of those are bad for you. If they give you intestinal distress, it's because of the high fiber content, and as long as you maintain a high fiber diet, your body will adjust over time. It doesn't take too long. A diet high in proteins and fats will make the fiber act in peculiar ways, though, since protein and fat block up the intestines and are hard to get out of there.

Okay, soy isn't high in fiber, but it lets you get necessary protein without gummy animal proteins which get stuck in the tiny folds of the intestines for up to seven years -- rotting, I might add, and releasing toxins into your bloodstream which are a leading cause of cancer of several types. Soy proteins are easier for the body to handle. Their only drawback are phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogens, which can be a problem if you overdo soy (but it would take quite a soy-dependent diet to do that).

The best thing in the world for you, I'm convinced, is red beans and brown rice, some spinach, and a banana for dessert, all washed down with plain water. The sugar from the banana will react with the beans to make some gas, but nothing's perfect.

By the way, since you and I were roomies I'm now a vegan, and don't eat milk, eggs, cheese, butter, honey, or a host of other animal-produced things. I feel great.

3/10/2008 7:09 PM  

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