Gloucester suffers from a secret shameful addiction. No, not heroin. Apparently everyone is on heroin all the time as far as we can tell by reading the Gloucester Daily Times (Paywall for the technologically inept) and by the number of little orange caps all over the train station platform when we get there in the morning. “Do they shoot up before leaving or when coming home?” we often find ourselves wondering.
No, we’re talking about yet another powerful combination of soul-consuming chemicals that blasted out of South Asia during the height of the British Empire and straight into the collective bloodstream of the entire Western world. Once there they induce incredible highs and occasional intense physical pain, followed by the disconsolate rock-bottom lows that come with the desperate cravings for more. Alongside the self-abuse of the user is a long list of social problems that soon coalesces around obtaining, ‘cooking’ and then concealing behaviors, as the addict cascades through a peak and valley pattern of euphoria and lies.
We’re of course (as usual) talking about Indian food.
“Guv’NOR…it ain’t us yer goin’ on abaht, is it?” Yes, we are talking about you, you comically waistcoated and knee britched-up Edwardian stereotypes. British ex-pats are the worst hit by this scourge as they have been riding the Bengali Banshee longest of Europeans. It becomes most acute after a long night downing pints in a place named something like ‘The Stoat and Flagon’ while watching mousse-haired metrosexuals kick soccer balls around on the ‘telly’. After this they get down to the real addiction of their countrymen, piling by the hundreds into curry houses so sketchy the sauces could be used as debarnacling agent for Her Majesty’s fleet. These binges leave them moaning and hellfarting for days afterward, but it’s a short cycle to the next one especially it it’s against Germany. As a centuries old empire you’d think they’d learn a thing or two over time, but like driving on the wrong side of the road and putting carpets everywhere the English are slow to change any familiar habit no matter how self-destructive.
Back here at home we see the helplessness of it every day in the many ex-pats of our neighborhood. Worse are the otherwise innocent souls they’ve snared into a life of chutney dependence in one of their ‘naan houses’ which populate our otherwise placid Prius-laden streets of East Gloucester. You think we don’t notice you sneaking off, cranking Morrisey as you zip toward the shabbier parts of Beverly in the middle of the night with that empty look in your saffron-yellow eyes? How about that “chance” meeting in Central Square near where we work, 40 miles from home and lurking outside the Shalimar lunch buffet because you “had an appointment in town”? Come now, we’re all adults here.
Pull yourself together for a moment, brush off the mustard seeds and take this self- assessment to see where you rate on the Cape Ann Indian food addiction scale from “mild” to “Bhut Jolokia”.
Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
- Do you hide Indian food from the rest of your family by placing the take-out bag far to the rear of the fridge and moving an orange juice container in front of it?
- Do you microwave the pre-packaged curry meals from Trader Joe’s while pretending to be the first Indian astronaut on Mars? [“Mumbai, this is Shiva Base. All systems are go!”]
- Do you make a big show of eating a healthy garden salad for dinner, hustle everyone upstairs after a rushed cleanup and then crank down half a dozen samosas watching Downton Abbey?
- Do you go to bed thinking thinking, “I’ll have that biryani for breakfast with an egg on it”?
- Have you ever sent your spouse or significant other to go get Indian in the snow risking his/her life and your only fear was that they might have to drive slowly because of the conditions?
- Would finding out your friend was sleeping with your spouse enrage you less than discovering they went to Anmol without calling you to see if you wanted anything?
- Have you never even been to the Indian place in Salem because you just can’t make it that far?
- Have you thought about opening a curry place in Gloucester even though your restaurant experience consists only of what you could pick up watching Top Chef?
Answer key: Are you now reading the rest of this on your phone, pacing around waiting for your order of Aloo Ghobi because you couldn’t get to the end of the list? You are? Admit it- you’re sick. You need help.
The Tan Dory Center
The Tan Dory Center of Hopefulness is a proposed solution for Gloucester. Occupying any one of the many, many disused storefronts on Main Street it would be a place where addicts could walk in off the street and be given a suitable maintenance dose in order to eliminate the cravings that lead to destructive and risky behaviors. Also inside they would find the camaraderie of others working to similarly manage their own conditions and hopefully not long after that a beer and wine license and maybe occasionally some light entertainment on weekends during the summer.
We know this is a bold proposal but as the humanitarians we are here at The Clam we can no longer stand to see our fellow human beings suffer this way and are frankly sick of the ravages that this affliction has wrought on our many friends, family and the city we love.
Also we hope to Christ they take Tufts.