Tommy “Teebs” Pico is author of the books IRL, Nature Poem, Junk, Feed, and myriad keen tweets including “sittin on the cock of gay.” Originally from the Viejas Indian reservation of the Kumeyaay nation, he now splits his time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn. He co-curates the reading series Poets with Attitude, co-hosts the podcast Food 4 Thot, and is a contributing editor at Literary Hub.
Here, he talks about the comfort of arcade pizza, learning to cook at 35, and a final meal of, well, dick. It’s dick.
On his all-time favorite meal:
I’m going to out myself as distinctly not a foodie, which would surprise no one who knows me or knew me, but it would probably be the pizza at one of those late 80s/early 90s teenage arcade pizza parlors with names like “The Wonderland” and “Family Fun Center” for those odd middle school birthday parties. Elementary school too. It wasn’t a taste or a nourishment thing as much as it was a comfort, which probably underlies where my relationship to food took a left turn in my formative years. My parents (and by extension me) helped cook at pretty much every reservation funeral in San Diego county and over into Yuma and sometimes further. And if you come from where I’m from, you know people are dying all the time. The funerals never end. When it came to cooking at home, I think they were too exhausted so take out was the norm. The arcade pizza was a staple. Most of the time I felt pretty powerless, or stuck, or picked on, but in that arcade? I was flawless. I played Street Fighter obsessively, I mastered Chun Li, and in the arcade people would line up to play against me. She was strong and she was badass and she would kick the shit out of any man. I had long hair like most of the other men on the reservation, and the kids would say, “wow, that girl is really good.” To this day when I catch a whiff of that kind of pizza I’m like… you know that’s right.
On what the light looks like during his favorite meal of the day:
It’s a sunset on the beach and the wind is picking up a little and some kind of meat is being grilled. I think there’s maybe also a ceviche. I am not grilling the meat. I may be eating the ceviche on tortilla chips and someone in the distance is piling wood for a bonfire. I am sitting on the sand looking at the water and the clouds are turning pink and there’s a boy next to me who I met at a friend’s housewarming party last week. It turns out we both lived in the same apartment building in South Williamsburg for years, he was 2L and I was 3L, but we never ran into each other not once. It took us moving across the country and having this roundabout connection to a group of former New Yorkers who’ve all newly moved to Los Angeles and basically just get together to complain about the city and Angelinos in general and also fuck driving, am I right? That night last week he put his number in my phone as “Paul ‘Cool Moves’” and told me to text him the pic of the sweet potato I said looked like him as soon as I got home, but I was only busting his chops and now I’m trying to will him to kiss me on the sand in front of the peachy sky with the sizzle of beef in our ears but still every night before I go to bed I delete his number from my phone because I don’t want him to think I’m that into him and besides, being excited about something when you’re 25 is great because the experience and the thrill and the blow jobs but being excited about something when you’re 35 feels like a prelude to the thing being taken away. Knock it off you dumb brain. I lean in. I say something like, “hey, I want to try something.” He smells like coconuts. The sky is a scoop of ice cream. The burgers are done.
On snacking while writing:
Writing fills me with such dread lol that usually it acts as an appetite suppressant. When I’m being bad and procrastinating, I’ll stop writing to pace and eat Chili Cheese Fritos or make a Blue Apron or just like make a pot of rice, let it cool down, and put it in a container in the fridge. I hate my brain sometimes lmao.
On his go-to late-night snack:
Okay, I’m trying to be healthy so I have two sets of answers. One of them is I will indulge myself with something like sliced cucumbers soaked in lemon juice and sprinkled with salt and pepper. My mom used to make that for me on my birthday. Or maybe some grapes or some carrots and hummus. Yeah, that’s good! Look at me being healthy. I mean really I’m trying to lose weight but don’t tell anyone. Mostly I don’t care, but I’ve started having to lay down when I button my pants because I came to Los Angeles and almost immediately gained ten pounds (I had a knee injury that prevented me from running for a while and also, just by virtue of being a New Yorker, you’re walking a minimum of 2 miles a day. In sedentary Los Angeles? Not so much). It’s fine, my body is mine and I love it bc that’s my job, but I don’t love spending money on new clothes (and I HATE shopping it’s maybe one of my least favorite activities, again don’t tell anyone) so in an effort to lower the ambient frustrations in my life I’m trying to eat “better.” Really though, when that late-night hunger hits I am eating tacos and only tacos. You can believe that.
On his food quirks:
My one food quirk as that I’ve started cooking it. That might sound flip, but I didn’t know how to cook really for the first 34 years of my life. In my new apartment with this kitchen that I can actually keep clean and all these accoutrements of cooking all around me and a steady stream of Blue Aprons coming in every week, I’ve actually started dicing, mincing, mixing, baking, broiling, frying, stir-frying, chopping, rendering, burning, crisping, and softening all manner of foods! I feel like a golden god I mean fraud I mean clod I mean rod I mean whatever it’s basic but I didn’t even know how to cook bacon, you know what I mean?
On his final meal:
Honestly, it’s probably dick. I’m going down like a Mary J Blige song. It’s happening on a California king in a house in the hills that overlooks the jeweled belly of the city at night and there’s eucalyptus in the air. He’s also pulling my hair. As for who, listen… let’s just say he’s 6’7 and is a kind person.