Last night I was eating at one of my favorite restaurants of all time, and certainly among the top three in Taichung, Salut pizzeria. I ordered the new Four Seasons, which compensates for its sheer bizarreness only by its sheer goodness. It is an otherwise normal pizza divided into four sections by barricades of crust, thus crudely ghettoising the four ingredients: basil, ham, parmesan and tomato. It's like a fresh-baked, flavorful model of post-WWII Berlin. (Hey, I was a German major.) The militarized-zone effect was a little alienating, but it certainly let each ingredient speak for itself in a sort of gustatory roll call.
At any rate, true to form, I was sprinkling crushed red pepper flakes onto Berlin when, I guess, a draft blew one flake straight into my right eye. I had a momentary pause as I sensed... a foreign object on my eyeball. All was well -- I was merely nonplussed -- until the capsaicin kicked in. My face flushed red, my eyelids started squinting frantically, my nose started running, and I staggered as calmly as I could into Salut to wash my face. I lost vision in both eyes for a few moments and fumbled for the doorknob, but quickly made it to the bathroom sink. A couple splashes later and I was fine. Of course, at that point, my eye was little more than a throbbing red marble reticulated with fire, tears, and a sprinkle of embarrassment.
The difference fifteen years make? The same thing happened to me fifteen years ago, when I was playing a board game with my grandmother and brother. I had made some power play when I raised my hands over my head in joy, leaned my head back for a victory shout and felt a small... foreign object on my eyeball. All was well -- I was merely nonplussed -- until the capsaicin kicked in, at which point I bolted up from chair, clawed at my face like it was an ancient mortal foe, and began scrambling blindly around the room looking for comfort (ever see *Kill Bill 2*, the action scene with Daryl Hannah in it? Like that.). Fifteen years older, I'm not prepared to say I'm any tougher; I think maybe I just have less energy.