An endless night on the isle, with ABBA

I am ashamed.

I did it. It’s best to confess, get it out, clear the air, start the healing.

I am so weak, and my weaknesses invariably get me into situations from which there is no easy escape with honor. I am my own worst enemy. I have not learned, not in all these years: When I succumb to a moment of weakness, the consequences are never short-lived.

No, when I give in to a careless urge, I pay. Over and over, I pay.

It’s a common theme in my life. It dogs me to this day.

Most recently, it dogged me Dec. 25.

Yep, Christmas.

I got weak; I’m paying the price.

And, no doubt, I better keep the wallet open, because I will pay again. There will be public shame and, worse, there is the problem of living with myself, knowing what I’ve done.

Oh, the weight of conscience. What I need now is catharsis. So, here goes.

I watched a chick flick.

That’s right, a chick flick. In short: a movie in which there are no fist fights and nothing gets blown up. I can refer to a film in this way, without fear of too much PC retaliation. After all, a lot of women use the term, and do so without hesitation.

A chick flick.

I was caught off guard; I didn’t have the time or the wits to prepare and use a clever defense. The situation swept over me like an avalanche.

I lumbered downstairs following dinner and crashed on the couch. I turned on the TV and, since they don’t run a Cops marathon on Christmas, I switched to another of my favorites — Jacked: Auto Theft Taskforce.

I just love it when cops in Newark apprehend bonehead car thieves. Granted, Jacked: Auto Theft Taskforce is not as good as Cops (nothing is more entertaining than a one-fanged guy in a wife-beater T-shirt drooling on himself while he is cuffed and screaming, “Hey, I had one beer, just one!”) but the alternative keeps me occupied and enthralled for an hour or so.

But, not this night, no sir.

Kathy blasts into the room.

“OK, buster, none of this crap tonight. I want to watch TV and I am not going to watch some cop show.”

“This is no ordinary cop show, sweetie. These guys apprehend car thieves in Newark, using top-of-the-line technology, good-old veteran cop savvy and pickup trucks, so as to remain unidentified. This is not your average cop show. Now, check out the nitwit in the baggy pants who just stole the Honda Accord. I mean, for crying out loud, there’s a camera in the car recording everything the moron says and does. Ecce homo.”

“I’ll ecce your homo, sport. We are not watching this.”

“Well, what do you have in mind? I’ve already watched The World’s Fattest Man — three times. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the documentary on the development of strip mining. What else is there?”

“I’ve got a movie.”

Dear lord.

These are words I never want to hear from her. “I’ve got a movie” is a sure sign that trouble looms on the horizon. It means: a Chick Flick.

Most times, when I hear these words, I am quick enough to figure a way out. Usually, it’s some form of “Sorry, but I gotta work.”

But, not this night. This is Christmas night.

I panic, I seize up.

”Oh, no, I …”

“We’re watching a movie together. Tonight is the kind of night we should do something together. If we care about each other, that is.”

“Oh, gee, I …”

“We’re watching a movie — together. It’ll be fun, I got a great one; you’re going to enjoy it.”

Whenever I hear the words, “You’re going to enjoy it,” I realize the potential for (my) despair is at a peak.

And, I am not wrong this night.

“Look,” she says, extending the DVD cover as she puts the disc into the player. “I got ‘Mamma Mia.’ I’ve wanted to see it and I missed it when it was at the theater, basically because you refuse to take me to the movies. But, look, here it is. It’s amazing there was a copy left at the video store.”

Amazing, indeed.

And so I watch “Mamma Mia.”

Guys, let me give you a summary: the film centers on three aging women, once members of a terminally white disco-era knockoff of LaBelle. Meryl Streep plays the terminally white equivalent of Patti LaBelle; two other crones play her sidekicks. There are three aging and sad male leads. The plot revolves around the fact that any of the three men could — gasp! — be the father of Streep’s daughter, whom she raised in a decrepit hotel on a Greek isle and is now handing off to some snazzy-looking boy toy for the purposes of marriage and, we assume, the joy-struck procreative activities enjoyed by young ’uns.

To make matters ultimately awful, the soundtrack is by ABBA. Enough said: the music sounds like it was composed for exercise hour at an SS summer camp.

“I love the music, don’t you?” Kathy is humming along as Meryl Streep sort of sings and is joined by a chorus of women of all ages and sizes who portray the wage slaves at the decrepit hotel on a Greek Isle.

I don’t have any more details; I have forgotten them. The mind can endure only so much pain before it pushes troublesome details beneath the mnemonic carpet

Finally, after what seems an endless parade of pitiful tunes and reams of cliché dialogue, the damned movie ends.

As the credits roll and we are again exposed to ABBA, Kathy leans over, puts her head on my (slumping) shoulder and says, “That was neat, wasn’t it? Aren’t you glad you watched that with me? Huh? Hey, look, there’s a special section on the video with all the songs, and the lyrics — so we can sing along!”

Given as I am to error, I blurt out the wrong thing. “I’ve had enough. This has been fourteen hours of my life I will never get back. I need to listen to Ornette Coleman to cleanse myself.”

Fortunately, Kathy doesn’t hear what I say. She is hustling to the computer to download the soundtrack onto her iPod Shuffle.

Suffice it to say, I do not sleep well. Just knowing those cretins from ABBA are still out there, and can burden the world with more dreck, keeps me tossing and turning. Not to speak of the effect of the images of three wrinkly white actresses attempting to be cute and three wrinkly white guys trying to appear as if they are vital and virile.

The only way I get to sleep is by telling myself the scenery in the film was lovely. Focus on the scenery, Karl. Pretty.

I figure the only way to reverse my downward spiral is to produce something tasty that reflects on the source of my shame, and is so delectable and easy to prepare that it acts as psychic salve.

In short, something quasi-Greek. And something that forces Kathy to bear a bit of a burden. After all, she is responsible for my exposure to ABBA and “Mamma Mia.”

The answer: lamb.

Tasty. I love lamb. Kathy hates it.


And simple lamb, at that — ground lamb. Ground lamb patties. Spiced in a Greeky way, tucked into pita, slathered with a Greeky sauce.

Whip up the sauce first. Take some Greek yogurt (believe it or not, you can get this in Siberia With a View), add chopped cucumber, chopped mint, a bit of fresh lemon juice, pulverized garlic, salt and pepper, then let the mix meld in the fridge for a couple hours.

Mix ground lamb with minced white onion, mushed garlic, salt, pepper, a bit of cumin, some mint if ya got it. Mix carefully: the lamb is more delicate than ground pork or beef. Form into small patties.

Best way to cook these beauties: grill ’em. Grill some onions and green and red peppers while you’re at it, peeling the charred peppers and slicing the peppers and onions when they are cooked. Cut pitas in half and grill them for a mo, until warm and soft.

Tuck patties, onions, peppers, some shredded lettuce and halved grape tomatoes into the pitas. Slather with sauce.

Sit down, chow down, forget your woes, your weaknesses, your mistakes. Listen to some music.

Anything but ABBA.