The Last Elite Yelp Reviewer Presents…

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When we finally did it, when we finally cooked ourselves to death with our atomic heat, I couldn’t help but think this is it, goodbye consciousness, goodbye rationality, goodbye life. I never expected to wake up in the middle of it all, and I never expected my phone to ring, and I certainly never expected my old boss.

In the days before, when there was civilization, he ran the food and culture portion of the rag I wrote for. That part in “Method Man” actually happened to him one day. The poor guy can only be fed periodically fed via intravenous tubes, and can only evacuate food wastes that don’t go through his intestines, all on account of some malevolent actor who sews people’s anuses shut for kicks. The higher ups at the paper figured if anyone could appreciate columns about food enough to edit them well enough for them, it’d be someone who could only experience food vicariously.

Anyway, turns out only a few people survived the blasts: every single restaurant worker and owner in the major tri-state area, him, and me. Also turns out, my contract’s not up yet. The terms are such that I owe the suits two more books. One of them is going to be a collection of my previous reviews. And the other will be a collection of my ruminations on the hell planet my boss and I are circling the sun upon, and, uh, my yelp reviews. So here I am. The last elite yelp reviewer, yelping to a lonely planet.

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Ah, the good old days. Back when I was eight hundred pounds, probably dying, but nonetheless grounded in a single place with a single solid meal of breakfast lunch and dinner, with all the peace of mind that comes with that.

Folks, lately I’ve been haunted by a ghost. No, I’m not trying to say I deeply regret something I did once and the memory of it won’t leave my conscience alone, I mean I’m being hounded by a vengeful spirit. I think it’s one of those Japanese grudge demons or whatever, it’s got flat-white skin and dingy hair and it crawls around in weird distorted ways on the floor and the ceiling.

My boss, ever suspicious that I’m trying to weasel out of an assignment (which is true, I always am), did not give me a reprieve from my reviewing duties to properly exorcise this vengeful spirit from my life. Instead, he suggested I mix business and pleasure: figure out what type of restaurant this grudge demon hates most of all, then give the rag the skinny on those joints.

I figured a good place to start would be a restaurant that brought me, if not an unpleasant dining experience per se, then down the road to one of many rock-bottom eras of my life:

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It was hard thinking back to those days. It was then that a certain man, who maybe saw something in me not many others did, walked over with a clenched-shut asshole and offered me a beneficiary hand out of the gutter and into the world of reviewing food. I’ll never forgive him for it.

Sadly, though it awoke nightmares in my mind, the avocado joint was not the place to deter the vengeful grudge spirit from me. I could then deduce that this spirit in life used to be a millennial. This was no help to me whatsoever.

I’m not proud of the line of thinking that led me to my next decision. I reasoned that this was a Japanese spirit, and then I racked my brain thinking of what the opposite of Japan could be. I don’t really get it, but Korea and Japan still kind of don’t like each other, so I hit up a Korean barbecue.

It worked. The spirit hovers over the door and scowls at me outside as I roast slices of beef, squid tentacles, and assorted hot peppers over red-hot coals and gather my thoughts.

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The old Vanessa’s Dumplings days, folks… the breezy, freewheeling days of being paper-thin, of living like a leaf in the wind, blowing into whatever restaurants or licensed premises the day would take you, and reviewing them. Getting free entrees or drinks because the servers saw you perfectly flat and felt sorry for you, and getting their numbers sometimes too!

Folks, this might be it. I’m now trapped in a network of Korean BBQ. While it is true that the grudge is forbidden to enter like Dracula at the door when I enter a Korean place, yet nonetheless there’s only so much I can write about Korean meats and vegetables seared over a flame in the middle of your table.

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This was getting to be intolerable. Lord knows I’ve been despondent, I’ve considered ending it all, snuffing it out, eating the part of the fugu I know I’m not supposed to eat. But never in all my days scribbling for this mag did I ever write like this. I’m becoming… basic. Like I was just off the bus and hungry for opportunity. Like I was in love again. Like I wanted to write about what I loved in the city I loved and share it all with the woman I loved. Back when I unquestionably wrote my all-time worst writing in the history of me being alive.

I’m not putting up with this. There must be a way out. There was no way this grudge demon was going to make me ask to speak to a manager. I have to think of something.

And now, while I think of something, this week in Arts and Culture:

I flipped over the table, not caring a whit that there was a lit flame in front of me, then I stomped over to the door and bellowed out to the vengeful spirit. What do you want from me?! What did I ever do to you?! How can I make things better if you won’t tell me?!

I was ready to end it all thanks to these hauntings, so I was no longer afraid of the spirit, which gave me the fortitude to get a closer look at her face. She seemed familiar. It brought me back to my days as an avocado addict. Of course! No wonder I was writing like I was in love. I was being haunted by the very spirit of the girl I loved. I remembered then, it wasn’t that she dumped me, it was right around when the boss sent me abroad…

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You’re always on your phone, she hissed at me, echoing days past. Always working. Why don’t you just experience the moment? Who knows, maybe you might learn something.

So that was it. She wasn’t haunting me because she hated me. She always cared for me. She wanted me to have a better life, full of rich experiences. All she wanted me to do was stop posting.

(And now that it occurs to me, she never did like Korean).

Well baby, sorry to burst your ectoplasm, but I’m under contract. If you want me to stop reviewing, then send your ghostly howls up to my boss and make him jump out a window, or tell whoever tried blowing up the world the first time to try harder this time, cause it’s till death or my two books do us part for this rag.

Since I never actually did stop reviewing, since I can’t, she never did stop haunting me. It’s not so bad, really. All she can really do is howl and contort herself and crawl on the ceiling and stuff, and it doesn’t hurt me or anything. I ignore it and keep up with my assignments. I don’t even go to Korean BBQ joints anymore. Sure, I like the peace and quiet, but I’m also sick of Korean.

Coming up next time, on The Last Yelp Reviewer Presents:

What if your food could talk to you? It would probably be bad.

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