I should start this by saying that no, Jonathan Gold did not personally inflame my bowels or derange my immune system, causing it to constantly attack my intestines. I am, however, sort of sureish that my bout of Crohn’s was brought on by his infernal list, the 99 Essential LA Restaurants Guide. Let me explain.
Crohn's is an autoimmune disease that effects your digestive system. Where it comes from, how you get it, and how to get rid of it are still open questions. Some theorize that Crohn's disease is a disease of privilege, which makes sense to me. I live and eat in Los Angeles, and have been employed on a TV show for five years. In occasional bouts of baseless self-pity—oh noooo, I have a schedule, I can't take naps in a trailer in Romania while filming a historical epic, etc.—I have been known to punish myself and those nearest me with fun and terrifyingly gluttonous meals. Not appetizer/entree/dessert/I'm full type meals, I'm talking Henry-the-VIII-with-a-ringworm-infestation-I-will-eat-a-serf-if-you-put-one-in-front-of-me meals. Regularly. And last November, I picked up the LA Weekly containing Gold's list, on a whim. The list, if you’ve never seen it, is like a scavenger hunt for people with eating disorders like mine. I told my friends and family about my quest—I would eat at every restaurant on the list in one year.
Los Angeles is an enormous, voided city. Using Gold's list as a benchmark, it seems you really can get anything you want here, if you're willing to drive to Reseda to eat a deep fried hot dog. I didn’t discriminate. I ate fancy shit, as well as tacos that were almost atomic. Gold's Pulitzer shined in the back of my head, glowing behind a shroud of wok smoke and pasta dust. I had enormous conversations and almost fell asleep at the table—sure I was about to enter my first diabetic coma—on multiple occasions. I also had a lot of meals that were OK. Good, filling, and pleasurable enough.
But one night stands out. Two friends and I grabbed my LA Weekly and scanned past the blue check marks (I had 27 of 99) and found something: Night + Market. Thai food, hidden, a restaurant inside a restaurant. Now, I see the obvious metaphor for my bowels. We arrived around eight and walked through the bar and past a curtain into a high white room. Distant ceiling, art gallery walls. Dotted with a few tables and fewer patrons. We sat on wooden benches. The group next to us looked also plucked from the art world: egg-shaped glasses and an honest turtleneck and lots of money, too much—I wished somebody would rob them. Maybe it was this nascent spite I felt forming, but I ordered eight dishes.
Now it's like a lucid dream machine, those little rotoscopes. A certain hell inscribed each plate. Pig fat fried. A hoof. Balls of lumped meat. Rice, maggot-like. I reordered hurriedly, doubling down on the appetizers. Grease began to creep out under skewered fiber. During a particularly zoned-out phase of the meal, I could’ve sworn I saw a seventh hand over the table, gingerly picking up and shoving more food into each mouth, forming a sigil in my guts with its going fingers.
A month later I was hospitalized with an abscess on my psoas muscle that was fit to burst and recurring, violent intestinal pain. It was severe Crohn's disease. To drain the abscess, they performed a CT guided drainage, in which I was glided in and out of a CT scanner while two doctors whisper-fought over how best to unstick the stuck black chord that needed to be pulled out of my abdomen in order to bore a larger hole in my muscle to reinsert the wire, and then the catheter. I had been told this wasn't a painful procedure. Halfway through, I began gnashing my teeth and flop sweating like some wan Linda Blair. I also had fun with with Go Lightly, a jug of laxative that I drank the night before my colonoscopy. I drank and drank it, but it didn't seem to work. I remember feeling very calm while I tweeted, "I feel a huge spirit in me." Ten minutes later, I was vomiting through my nose. Overall, I spent 14 days in the hospital, interrupted in the middle with a sad attempt to recover at home. Steroids, catheters, farting air through a hole in my abs—Crohn's is elegant, glamorous even. Finally, I had small bowel resection performed. They removed my entire terminal ileum—I hope nothing else anatomical is already labeled terminal—and a bit of my colon. I saw the picture. Two gray little spreads of stuff, like cancerous lung, skewered in the middle with a thin silver rod. My surgeon was really nice. He turned the screen towards me and smiled.
Now, I've retired Gold's list. It's under some paperwork. My scar is healing up, and I can walk again without green button bumps of Dilaudid. I'm shooting myself up with Cimzia once a month, a liquid that regulates my immune system to stop it from trying to kill itself locally. I find myself craving those meals of old, pre discretionary income. Simple, filling, good enough. And I'm happy, because I can still get that. I'm going to invite Jonathan Gold out to eat. Maybe we can take a minute together and stare at our food, happy that it can move safely through us.