An excerpt from "Have Penguin, Will Travel", a mid-'90s 3-day Novel, in which the cyberspatial locus of AHOM is re-imagined as a restaurant existing in physical space:
It was with immense gratification that he stopped in front of a garishly
It was quite garishly painted. It was also a restaurant. It was
quite a garishly painted restaurant, in fact. If it looked like it had been
painted in sections by the individual busboys and waitresses who worked at
it, in the styles and colours of their various temperaments, it was probably
because it had. The architecture could only be described as anarchic, with
various booths and tables accompanied by all manner of chairs and stools.
The building itself had been constructed by a team of students who decided
that they wanted to work in a restaurant to pay their tuition fees but
couldn't get hired anywhere else on account of their wild, shocking, unkempt
and nonconforming appearances. There was a raw, unfinished patio, and above
it hung a great big neon orange sign which said, "Al's House of Meats".
Beneath the sign hung the flags of France, Canada, the United States, one
with a happy face on it, one with a marijuana leaf on it, and the Jolly
Roger. Clark took both the English name and the American flag as
indications that he could be served by an English-speaking waiter inside,
so he rushed in, ready for some meats.
The penguin followed.
Clark sat in a rocking chair, waiting to be seated. Across from him
was a wide array of coin-operated candy machines, palm reading machines,
grip testers, and large stacks of free 'zines and publications were heaped
around the bases of these various pieces of equipment. Clark adjusted his
position so as to allow more light from the ambient lava lamps to pour over
his shoulder and picked up the first paper which he could reach.
It was printed on rough yellow paper, and, not surprisingly, was
advocating the decriminalisation of hemp for construction uses such as this
very paper. After a few paragraphs of listing the god-sent abilities of the
misjudged hemp plant, such as strength, durability, easiness to grow, the
testing which proved that it cured most forms of cancer, and the fact that
wearing clothes made from hemp fabric made you more attractive to women, the
main body of the text degenerated into paranoid ramblings about government
regulating, conspiracies involving the Catholic Church, and "mOOOO says the
cow. moOOO." Clark decided that it would be prudent to put the paper down
and try for some more mundane literature.
Picking up the next closest magazine, printed on glossy paper, he
was most distressed to discover that it featured a young man in bondage gear
on the cover, complete with dog leash, spiked collar, and nipple clamps.
Eager to return the shocking pamphlet to its pile yet morbidly fascinated
with the contents of the underground mag, Clark simply couldn't manage to
put it down. His attention only wavered when, after several minutes, his
reading was disturbed by a waiter, who was here to seat him.
"I love you," said the demure tall young man with short blonde hair
Clark frantically looked up at the speaker and tried to conceal his
literature of choice behind his back, but the garcon would have none of that.
"Fascinating, isn't it?"
The man was looking at Clark expectantly, as if he hoped to hear a
well-thought critique of the realism and clarity of the pornographic photos.
Clark started to mutter denials of having looked at the magazine, that he
was only glancing at it.
"Don't be ashamed... go ahead, keep it. They're free. Now if you'll
just follow me to your table...?" The waiter gestured towards a brightly
illuminated table beneath a wildly polka-dotted ceiling fan.
Clark discreetly left the S&M newsletter on the rocking chair and
followed the tall man, who was wearing a nametag reading "AL." He sat down
as the waiter pushed a kiddie's high chair up to the other side.
"For your penguin," he indicated, as if it was an obvious oversight.
Lifting the penguin up into the seat, he then introduced himself.
"My name is Ivar," he began, paying blatant disregard to the
nametag, "and I will be serving you tonight. Here at Al's House of Meats we
communally wish you to have the most enlightening eating experience possible
under the given circumstances. As such, if anything at all inconveniences
you in the slightest, please feel free to signal to me, or any other
employee here. We believe that we are here to serve you, our customer, and
as such, cater as much as possible to your every need."
"Excuse me... I couldn't help but hear when you came in that you
said that you loved me. Was that... simply an extension of the comforting
atmosphere you are trying to present here?"
Clark's logic lobes were working overtime to make sense of the
wildly varying information he was being presented with, and he was doing his
best to cope with what he believed to be a sincere expression of unrequited
love and admiration.
"Actually, I only do it for the shock value, to see how you'll
react. Most people simply ignore me and pretend that it was never said. Now,
of course, you'll be needing a menu."
At this, "AL" turned around and disappeared for several minutes.
During his absence, it seems that a fight broke out in the kitchen, as there
was much screaming from that direction. One female voice kept stating that
she wasn't going to listen to him, and a bitter male one kept insisting on
his right to be heard. A second male voice soon joined the fray, and the
conflict culminated with the bitter man being led, still wearing the apron
and holding a spoon in his hand, out of the kitchen and out the front door
into the street by a large woman and a short blonde man. As soon as they had
gotten him out of the restaurant, the pair gave each other a high-five, the
man turned a bolt on the door, and they retreated into the kitchen. Clark
noted that they, too, had nametags reading "AL".
The other patrons of the restaurant appeared unperturbed by this
little confrontation with the cooks, and quickly went back to their
discussions about public transit, pot smoking, and alternate forms of
government after witnessing the third cook outside yell a bit in frustration
and lie down in protest in front of the doors.
Ivar returned bearing a menu and a small box. He presented the menu
to Clark with a grand flourish and set the small cardboard box gently upon
the tablecloth. Clark opened the menu and was surprised to see nothing.
"Yes, yes, I know, you're going to complain that I have given you a
blank menu. You will note- "
"No, no, that's not at all what I was going to ask, at least, not
quite yet. Does that sort of thing with the.. er... cooks happen often? They
seem to have had a bit of a... spat. But when you're done with that, the
menu question would make a great follow-up, yes."
The waiter took a deep breath, sorted his thoughts, and continued in
what sounded like a rehearsed voice.
"Al's House of Meats is an experimental restaurant, from the very
construction itself to the methods of food procuration and preparation, all
the way down to how it's run, i.e. where the money goes and who decides
all that. It being run by a commune of students, we have experimented with
various forms of self-government. The communism phase worked well at first,
but then as we ran out of natural resources some members ended up wealthier
than others, and that fell apart. No one wanted to visit us during our
attempt at fascism, as the atmosphere was too oppressive, so we've settled on
a rough anarchy. People settle their problems by themselves and, though not
everyone is happy, they're all given their chance at providing themselves
with joy. Now as for- "
"Just a second here. Haven't you people tried a democracy yet? A
genuine capitalist democracy, like the real world is run?"
Clark found himself incredulous that these kids had gone to all
these extremes in an effort to be hopelessly fair and give every system a
chance. At the mention of the word "capitalist", however, Ivar rolled his
eyes, in the realization that he was dealing with a relative inept in the
worlds of global socio-economic trends.
"I would give you a clear answer stating why a capitalist democracy
cannot work inherently, but it would take longer to explain than it would
for you to eat your meal. Now, as for the menus... we feel that there is no
way we can give you what you want unless you tell us exactly what you want.
As such, you fill out your own menu. And to facilitate the creative
process," and here he opened the cardboard box, "we have provided you with
an assortment of crayons."
"I'm afraid," began Clark, "that I've had a rather unusual week, and
I simply can't deal with this restaurant at this point in time. I pray
you'll excuse me, thank you for your time and the wonderful conversation,
and will quietly leave."
"Don't feel bad," replied Ivar cheerfully, "many people have to
visit the restaurant five or even six times before they can work up the
nerve to order something."
And with that, he patted the penguin on the head affectionately,
escorted them out the side door (as the front had the irate waiter
blockading foot traffic) and, at Clark's request, pointed out the direction
to the nearest McDonald's.