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The Essay
Show #301
Elmer Diney's Adobe Hat
David Gunn

There is a hole in the life of Beano Bengaze. It is not so neat and precise a hole as those that trepanologists drill in heads to "restore the full pulsation which was lost when the skull sealed." Rather, it is a bit variable and unsteady, like the trajectory of a blancmange flung from a third story window onto a trampoline during a typhoon. It is a hole of 44 years -- at least it was as it passed a Hudson Wingback that clung with some trepidation to the side of the building at the second floor level -- and it extends from the time Beano last played the calliope in the guise of Zenon A. Bagbee to the time that he began to dabble in musical shamanism. This void was self-imposed, for it was a period in his life that he preferred not to advertise. As reported three weeks ago, Bagbee rearranged the letters in his name to Bengaze, hooked up with Otto Lummer's bi-nosal warrior ancestor, and moved to the New Hampshire desert. While superficially accurate, the report was perhaps flawed in its omission of the 44-year hole, but I merely wanted to spare Beano the potential peril of reliving that particular era. Mr. Bengaze's shamanic teachings, however, necessitate that his life be an open book, at least open to the table of contents, so we therefore present "Elmer Diney's Adobe Hat," or "The Middle Beano Years."

During the 1910s, '20s, and '40s, Beano, of course, was still a proto-Beano, for, while he had jettisoned his Bagbee persona, he was not yet ready to take up the shamanic gauntlet. Instead, he took up seafood administration. Bagbee had acquired a taste for mollusks after steering his airborne calliope into Boston Harbor in February of 1901. While struggling to extricate himself from the partially submerged craft, he got into a tussle with an inquisitive squid. Apprehension at his wet plight caused the calliopist to overreact and, instead of greeting this aquatic life form with a friendly pat on the integument, Bagbee ate it. Notwithstanding its peculiar uncooked piquancy, Bagbee really savored its marine flavor, and even got a kick out of making underwater Rorschach tests with the ink sac fluid. When he clambered out of the harbor, he emerged Benzine Agoba, future marine restaurateur. The future didn't take long at all, as Benzine seemed naturally inclined toward appetizing food preparation. His readying for table the likes of clams, mussels, oysters, scallops, snails and banana slugs was excellent, however his pièce de résistance remained his introduction to the molluscous food chain: squid. Seemingly out of thin air (though really with the assistance of an incorporeal bi-nosal warrior ancestor) he created elegant calamarinades, savory squidwiches and opulent octopies. He soon made a name for himself -- aside from the other two he'd already concocted plus the Beano still to come -- as the Commissar of Calamari. It was, unfortunately, a name already appropriated by another seafood chef three-quarters of the way around the world.

Elmer Diney was a restaurateur in Minsk, Belarus. His father and his father's father and all of his father's father's ancestors back to Stone Age Belize had been in the restaurant business. And, except for one anomalous 12th century vegetarian, they had invariably excelled. Each generation gravitated toward a cuisine that seemed as unlike the previous food group as was politely possible. Elmer's grandfather perfected Russian tamales; his father was a master of wheat germ 'n whale meat; and Elmer, from a very early age, showed great promise as a calamaricist. By the time he was 18, he had opened the Adobe Hat, the first successful squid-themed restaurant in Minsk. So popular was it that, within a year, Elmer had to expand the business twice, and then franchise it. Commissar of Calamari Cafes became the watering holes of choice for Russians who were weary of borscht, cabbage casserole, or even Grampa Diney’s tamales.

Forty-four years -- not all of them full 12-month sessions, but still technically annual spans of Middle Beano time -- passed before Elmer Diney learned of Benzine’s culinary skills and his all-too-familiar sobriquet. By now, Diney had acquired great wealth and powerful friends. So when he declared that there was room for only one Commissar of Calamari in the restaurant world -- namely, his -- he had the wherewithal to make it happen. The wherewithal took the form of two burly men who visited Benzine Agoba at his Boston eatery one cold, February afternoon in Saturday. Using easy-to-understand Boolean if-then reasoning -- if you drop the Commissar of Calamari name and exit the restaurant business posthaste, then we don't rough you up to such a degree that sucking through a straw is the only way you’ll ever taste mollusk again -- they helped speed his evolution from Benzine to Beano, the consequences of which Weasel Slayer, for one, is colossally grateful.

Interestingly, the Boolean "if-then" proposition that resulted in a perceived equal exchange soon found its way into the popular culture lexicon. It was known as squid pro quo.

No squids today, but we have plenty of tunes, some of which even show promise as new food groups, on this 301st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, so prepare yourself for a sonically gastronomic onslaught, naturally preceded first by Kalvos.