Not long ago, a determined cabal of MSPA readers, quite unsolicited, leapt from the shadows and accosted me. Brazen was their skulduggery, waged in plain daylight. These rowdy toughs were not armed with whirling chains or brass knuckles or snug leather vests or sporty kerchiefs or fishnet ANYTHINGS, primarily I guess because they were not male strippers. They WERE however armed with the most daring accoutrement of all: generosity.
They made a donation of $150 dollars American, a gift which came with a pretty firm stipulation. I was to use this money to hire a man to create my celestial soul portrait. In this way, I could have my soul properly beautified as well as immortalized. This would be accomplished by a guy named Erial Ali, who would surely have it on authority from the celestial deities themselves which way would be optimal to set my soul aflame with rainbows and random forehead lasers, and how many shitty space dolphins would be ideal to stick up in my grill.
But there was a catch, and no, that catch amazingly wasn't simply the 150 bucks it apparently requires to drop a few reduced-opacity rainbow gradations, mediocre masking effects and augmented saturation adjustments on a photo that your unemployed neighbor took of you in the back yard. The real catch was that Erial seems to demand to speak with you on the phone before he Photochops your bad high school portrait with resources mined from a Google Image Search of the Hubble Deep Field. I guess maybe to get to know your soul?
Either way, I knew this phone call was going to be intense. I actually got kind of psyched for it, for a while. I practiced a modified form of enthusiasm, the kind that was basically genuine enough to trick his soul-sweeping lasers that scour my aura for traces of irony. I was prepared to throw out a lot of buzz phrases in a really excited way, like I was really eager to see how he would "blitz my chakras". I was going to say "blitz my chakras" a lot. I'm serious about that. It was going to be my go-to line. Like, dude, just go apeshit on those chakras. I'm not paypalling you a Benjie and a half for a bunch of weaksauce chakras. I want a chakra you can hang your hat on, WHILE you fry an egg on it, and makes you HIGH just in the amount of time it takes you to go Google whatever the fuck a chakra IS.
But then I chickened out and just did the damn soul portrait myself.
In the end, it wasn't really about not wanting to have a weird conversation with some strange dude in a robe. Yeah that was a factor. But let's get real here. I can Photoshop that guy under the table. I mean literally, I can literally make it appear as if he is squatting under a table in Photoshop. By doing the soul portrait myself, I am simply delivering a superior product to my devoted followers. I don't know what sort of rubbish Erial would have made. The fact of the matter is it would have been a costly and tedious exercise in disappointment. You're welcome for me not putting you through that, everybody.
The bonus is I get to keep the cash. Well, I just sort of decided this. I didn't really ask. But I have a longstanding tradition of misappropriating funds donated to me by people for some really specific, peculiar purpose.
I refer to such funds as "Olive Garden Money".
I'm going to use all of this money to fund a series of trips to the Olive Garden, and I will document each visit carefully and report my findings to you. I will even let readers decide on my menu selection via polling.
I don't really like the Olive Garden that much, and my grave adherence to this franchise under these exceedingly precise circumstances doesn't make much sense. It's hard to explain. Maybe impossible. I have a chronicled history with the restaurant, or at least a history with TALKING about it, which is what makes this all so maddeningly stupid. But maddeningly stupidly WONDERFUL. And sometimes, just sometimes, truly wonderful things are just downright, ball-numbingly idiotic.
While you were reading that paragraph, awful Italian music started playing in the background.
But the bottom line is, this Olive Garden money was first soul money, so really my soul is financing this enterprise. My soul will be subsidising gargantuan mouthfuls of cheesy shell shaped noodles or some sort of tangy-sauced shellfish entre I wouldn't order in a billion years if left to my own devices, but I might have to if my hand is forced. I'll probably leave a signed copy of my soul portrait along with the tip. My soul is making this happen. When you think about it, where would be without my soul? All of us?
The answer is we'd all be so far up shit creek people would start naming bad smells after us.