Adventures With Jonathan Ames
Jonathan Ames is a writer, pugilist, adventure goer, and the creator of HBO’s Bored to Death.
A Thanksgiving Journal.
[Originally published December 8, 2003.]
Tuesday, November 25
I took my girlfriend for a colonic this evening. I see this as the official start to the Thanksgiving holiday. She has really been suffering of late, and so I nobly and generously said that I would treat her to a thorough bowel-cleansing.
Thus, I brought her to the great Ismail Kibirige, colon hygienist nonpareil and director of the Manhattan Hygienic Center, which is located in the fashionable SoHo neighborhood.
Ismail gave me a colonic in 1997 and I’ve never forgotten it. In fact, I wrote about it at the time, in an essay titled, “I Shit My Pants in the South of France.” The title comes from a personal history I unraveled for Ismail while he irrigated my colon. It’s the kind of story you tell while getting a colonic, if you know what I mean.
When my girlfriend and I arrived for her appointment, Ismail came into the waiting room of his office and I reintroduced myself.
“Oh, yes, you!” he said, smiling broadly. An immigrant from Uganda, Ismail is a tiny man but his spirit is absolutely large and joyous. He probably has the cleanest colon in America and it has worked wonders on his soul.
I introduced him to my girlfriend and then I gave him a copy of my book that includes “I Shit My Pants in the South of France” as a chapter. I should have given him the book years ago, but I’ve been remiss. To my credit, though, I have referred numerous people to Ismail over the years. Many constipated readers of my work, as well as constipated friends, seek me out after coming across the essay in question. It’s the most popular thing I’ve ever written and it’s often requested when I give readings. It’s sort of my “Stairway to Heaven.”
Before Ismail whisked my girlfriend away to work his magic on her, I asked him how he had been.
“So busy… so busy. My phone is ringing like this is the White House… everyone wants an appointment for after Thanksgiving. I’m going to be pulling out Turkey legs for days!” Ismail laughed heartily. When it comes to the scatological aspect of life, Ismail, naturally, is on the other side of shame. He has to be to maintain his sanity. He pumps out people’s colons eight hours a day! God knows what he must dream about.
I then left my girlfriend in his capable hands and went to sit in a café and wait, like an expectant father.
Across the street from Ismail’s building is a French restaurant, Raoul’s. I thought of suggesting to Ismail that he leave a stack of his cards there. This way people could happily eat their steak frites and then run across the street to him after their dinner, like modern Romans or something. Could be a profitable relationship.
I returned to Ismail’s office an hour later and my girlfriend looked radiant. I thanked him for taking such good care of her.
Wednesday, November 27
Today, I taught my fiction-writing class at Columbia. Instead of xeroxing a Paul Bowles or Carson McCullers story, as I had done earlier in the semester, I made copies of an editorial I read in the Times about the treatment of turkeys, which wasn’t a very nice thing for me to do to my students right before the holiday—it was bad enough that I hadn’t canceled class—but I felt compelled to warn my young charges, to encourage them to avoid eating turkey if they could.
The article, by Patrick Martins, director of Slow Food USA, didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know—that the animals are treated with horrifying cruelty and that they are pumped full of chemicals—but I suffer from some kind of willed amnesia when it comes to the state of meat in America. I know full well that eating beef or chicken or turkey or pork in America is like getting a prescription for Cipro or tetracycline. In fact, during the whole anthrax scare, I don’t know why people just didn’t rush to the butcher instead of the pharmacy.
But like so many Americans I suffer from denial about our food, and poison myself on a daily basis. Our meat is terrible and our produce isn’t any better—it’s genetically altered, zapped with radiation, and slathered with pesticides. And of late, green onions can give you hepatitis, not to mention bad breath. It’s all so depressing.
So please excuse me while I take a break from writing and get a snack from the refrigerator to kill myself with.
Thursday, November 27—Thanksgiving!
In the morning, my girlfriend and I attended a lovely Christian Science service with her parents. I appreciate religious ceremonies held in English. As a Jew, I was raised attending services held almost entirely in Hebrew, but I never learned the language. I was taught how to read Hebrew—I can make all the sounds—but I don’t know the meaning of the words, which is utterly absurd. I think the same thing happens with Catholics and Latin.
Anyway, the service was quite beautiful, but during the silent meditation I didn’t have very spiritual thoughts. I was wondering if a lot of people confused Christian Science with Scientology. Then I thought about Scientologist Tom Cruise and this annoyed me, especially during a silent meditation. Why must I think of this person? Why must my mind be polluted with thoughts of any celebrities? I’m not on this planet for very long, especially with the toxic food I’m eating, and I don’t want to concern myself with these people. But, nonetheless, they infiltrate my consciousness.
So then I wondered, as I often have, if Cruise is a stage name—I’ve never met a Cruise—and then I wondered, if it is a stage name, whether he regretted choosing it, given the homoerotic allegations perpetually surrounding him. Then I idiotically thought that maybe I should try Scientology, since it has really seemed to help Cruise and John Travolta and Nicole Kidman. But then I thought that maybe the people in charge of Scientology only trot out the success stories and that the rest of the members weren’t doing as well.
Then the silent meditation came to an end.
After the service, my girlfriend and I went out for a nice lunch with her parents. After that, it was on to the train to see my parents in New Jersey for another meal. I had told my mother that I wouldn’t be eating any turkey, which wasn’t a problem, since we went to an Italian restaurant and none of us ordered that poor bird. Rather, we ate other meat-products that are treated equally terribly, but about which I hadn’t recently read any alarming articles, so I was able to maintain my denial, though I do intend to call Ismail soon for my own purging.
During the meal, my father called me “Curly.” He has to make fun of my baldness whenever we get together, but I’ve finally grown immune to this as I rapidly approach my fortieth birthday and have been bald for nearly a decade now. And no matter what, I love him dearly.
My girlfriend and I spent the night in New Jersey; the next day after we left my parents, I wished I had given them extra hugs and kisses good-bye. As I grow older and as they grow older, I find it more difficult to part from them. So I must make an extra effort in the future to give them a second hug and kiss, just as when I go to the ocean, I like to take one more swim before leaving. My parents are too precious not to give them some extra love, which is my way of showing, I guess, my thankfulness.
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