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Sunday, Sept. 15, 2002
Chef Ike has been going on about it for months now. My Filipino buddy turned 50 years old yesterday and in the grand tradition of his culture, things like that merit a party. Of course, his dog could have turned 2 and that would have warranted a party or his garden hose might have developed a leak and that would be cause for breaking out the hats and hooters but you get the idea.

Back in June, Ike approached the crew at the Watering Hole and made the general announcement. “Now you know that uhhhhh. . . .On the 14th of September you are all uhhhh. . . .Invited to my birthday party. . . .heh heh heh.” Ike has a way of giving a self-depreciatory chuckle at the end of every sentence. And I won’t even attempt to add the flavor of his thick accent here.

So for the entire summer he has regaled the crew with insights and updates on the coming event. “Oh, there will be so much food. My cousin is bringing a pig, no wait, two pigs. And my brother smuggled in some things from the Philippines on his last trip back, and I have oysters and crabs and . . . “ And on he would go, describing in loving detail each and every aspect of the coming tribal blowout, where hordes would descend at his house for the feast of the century.

Last week he described something about a goat, but he didn’t explain what the purpose of said goat would be. Sometimes Ike gets carried away in his enthusiasm, and lapses into his native tongue, and the rest of us sit there with blank expressions and nod and appear interested but in actuality, have no idea what the hell he is talking about. This frequently happens when Ike has been shooting pool for a coupe of hours and consuming large amounts of adult beverages. “I’m bringing the goat” he would begin, then trail off into some incomprehensible muttering, accompanied by violent slashing gestures and tugging of an invisible rope.

Stu had a theory. “I think it’s some sort of Filipino ritual for the 50th birthday. Maybe they’ve got a thing where they bring in a goat and have a little ceremony. You know, a sacrifice to the gods or something. You never know what Ike’s going to do next.”

Indeed. The last time I was over at Ike’s house he served up slabs of salmon with some sort of green paste which turned out to be wasabi. Japanese horseradish. I don’t think I’ve yet to recover from that one.

In due time we arrived at the luau and proceeded into Ike’s backyard. He had done his best to recreate a true Filipino theme, bamboo grew at the back fence, banana trees, dogs tethered on short leashes. And Ike himself, shirtless and barefoot, hailing us from behind a great cloud of smoke at the grille. A series of tables had been set up and were covered with pans of various foods with the little candle thingies underneath to keep them warm. Ike’s cousin was busy with the remnants of the first pig, or at least the head of it, vigorously sawing away the keepable portions with a foot long knife. And already, there were 50 people crammed into a yard that had no business holding more than 30.

Stu and I scooped up beers at the ice filled tubs and ushered the wives to seats. After a summers worth of stories, we were not going to be denied the opportunity to sample foodstuffs. We snagged plates and forks and got in line.

Sliced pork. Lumpia, the heavenly egg-rolls, sweet and sour chicken, meatballs, stir-fry. Pans full of food with names I can’t pronounce. The spread was incredible, and more kept coming all the time. It was an orgy of food, an attempt to bring in all the food there was to bring and put it all in one place. Guests arrived bearing more food. Three grills were in operation at once, a vat full of oil hissed as Ike dunked a pork shoulder in and slammed the lid on.

“Eat! Everybody eat,” was the war cry. Those without a plate in hand were gently scolded until they joined the buffet line which snaked through the yard. There would be no respite until you sank glassy eyed into a chair and clutched your stomach with a feeble, “No more.”

Which is where I found myself at the point of noticing Stu on the prowl, sniffing around the fringes of the yard, poking his head behind the little garden shed, obviously in search of something. I hauled myself out of the chair and ambled over, picking up a couple of cold ones on the way. “Whatcha doing, sport? Looking for stray pans of food?”

He looked around a little nervously. “Man, I just know it’s here somewhere. Ike said he was gonna have it, I just know he couldn’t have hidden a whole goat. Unless he put it in his bedroom or something. Maybe it’s tied to his bedpost. Reckon they do stuff like that, keep the goat in the house until it’s time for the sacrifice? What say we sneak in and take a look?”

I was just tipsy enough that it made sense to me. Yeah, maybe Ike’s wife had the goat in the bathroom, in the tub, giving it a bath. Then she’d bring it out on a leash at the appropriate time and the elders would don robes and funny hats and a small sword would be produced with a flourish. . . .

We were on our way to peer into the windows of the house when Ike trotted by with a large Tupperware box. “Hey gentlemen, I told you! I told you I would bring it!” He whipped off the lid and displayed a shank of dark meat, beautifully prepared. “I’m on my way to the grille right now,” he cried. “Better hurry, once this is done, it won’t last long with this crowd. And we’re going to party all night!” Heh heh heh.

Whatever ceremony had transpired involving a goat and a funny 50-year-old Filipino man had happened long before we showed up. I was about to ask but thought the better of it, and headed for the end of the buffet line instead. Egg rolls.

Gotta have some more of those egg rolls.

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