State Of My Fat Ass
October 30, 2000
I saw a commercial a few days ago that momentarily froze my brain in confusion. I knew the TV wasn’t tuned to Comedy Central, but my inner sensors instantly told me the ad couldn’t be anything but a joke. It was for McDonald’s, and was trumpeting their “McToberfest” promotion, and -- get this - their new bratwurst sandwiches! For a brief second I thought a Saturday Night Live parody had been injected into the middle of CNN Headline News for some unknown reason. Hence, my momentary meltdown.
Of course, it wasn’t a joke. McDonald’s, at least the northeastern Pennsylvania locations, is serving up fucking bratwurst! Can you imagine anything more disgusting? What’s next, shellfish? Moo Goo Gai Pan? Duck?
I had to have one.
Truthfully, I’ve always been slightly suspicious of any meats sold in “links”. Maybe it’s the casing, which is undoubtedly made from intestines, and sometimes snaps when you bite it. Or it could be the mysterious mixture of stuff that comprises the guts of the things. Who knows if it’s real meat or just ground up scrotums and hog buttholes? For some reason I’ve always been mildly wary that I’d find a human toenail in one someday. I can handle hotdogs, because they’re familiar, but any of their cousins in the link family creep me out a little. I remember going to Cincinnati as a kid and seeing big frightening white sausages of some sort rotating slowly on those stainless steel hotdog machines all over town. I had a hard time even looking at them. And years later when I got up enough nerve to actually eat a kielbasa, I remember the hunks of it seemed to actually grow in my mouth as I chewed. Horrifying! But they taste pretty damn good. That, I must admit.
Disgusting or not, I love the idea of trying out test-marketed foods, that are usually ill-conceived if not completely crackpot in nature. No doubt they'll be gone forever in a month's time, and nobody'll ever believe they ever existed in the future. Like green ketchup for instance. So today I went to McDonald's, before the month ended, and celebrated McToberfest in style. I opted for the meal-deal, which gets you a bratwurst sandwich, medium fries, and a medium drink for $2.99.
Maybe it was my imagination but there seemed to be a strange smell wafting from the kitchen that I’d never noticed before. I was careful to notice if the cashier would give me an “are you sure about that?” look, but she didn’t even flinch when I placed my order. And the workers in the back didn't peer around the corner to see who was foolish enough to actually buy one of those things, or anything like that. It was almost as if people purchased bratwurst at McDonald's all the time. It was no big deal. Amazing.
It looked like a turd, and it was a little larger than I had anticipated. It was on a hotdog bun, and came with mustard and (red) ketchup. And unfortunately, for storytelling's sake, it didn't taste too terrible. In fact, it tasted a lot like their hamburgers. Of course, everything at McDonald's tastes pretty much the same, and their big fat sausage sandwich falls right into line. I have little doubt that it is completely indigestible, and will be lodged in the walls of my gut the day they finally crate me up. But it's been several hours since I ingested it and my bowels don't feel any more stormy than normal. Too bad. I was kind of hoping I'd get back to work and explode in a fountain of diarreah, sending my co-workers shrieking for the exits. But it didn't happen. Maybe it'll have the opposite, less dramatic, effect. If so, I'll tell you all about it.
New drinking game: while watching Dr. Dre Behind the Music everybody in the room must take a belt each time somebody on the screen says, "Know what I'm sayin'?" Try it. It's great fun.
October 24, 2000
Friday night my wife Toney and I drove to Philadelphia to see The Beautiful South. Not too many years ago we went to shows regularly, but neither of us is too interested in that kind of thing anymore. I fought it off as long as I could, but I finally had to admit that it was no longer fun. The thought of standing in a crowded smoky firetrap in the middle of the night in a urine-scented neighborhood full of freaks and predators, and laying down large sums of money for a few cans of get-drunk beer, has somehow lost its allure during my advancing years. It’ll probably seem pathetic to some of you, but I’ve become extremely selective in who I’m willing to leave the house for. And Toney simply won’t go “unless The Clash get back together or The Beautiful South play…or Kurt Cobain rises from the grave.” I could come up with a dozen or so others, but there aren’t many. The list has shortened drastically over the years, believe me.
To be fair, the South Street area of Philly is really cool. It’s one of those faux-bohemian areas you can find in most big cities. But this one is unusually large, and impressively vibrant. Both sides of the narrow one-way street were lined with cars, leaving only a car-wide slot through which to navigate, and the sidewalks were absolutely teeming with people. The doors to the hipster shops, bars, record stores and trendy eateries were flung open and folks were wandering from business to business covered in the full gamut of fashions. The Parade of Nations at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics came to mind. It was an assault on the senses, and I was digging it, but where the hell was I gonna park in this mad house? It was getting late, my ass was knotting up from the 130-mile drive, and it didn’t seem like there was much of a chance of finding a parking space within a five mile radius of this cluster-fuck. And who knew what atrocities awaited us if we ventured down one of the side streets? My old Atlanta fear of being gutted and my skin being turned into a junkie’s smoking jacket stirred inside me. Oh, and I worried about my wife’s welfare too.
After I asked one of the 10,000 or so cops where I could land my Toyota, we found ourselves in front of a parking garage around a corner from the main drag. A large man who resembled Seal suddenly appeared in the windshield, his face drawn back in a frightening rictus, waving maniacally for me to pull into the garage. So I buckled under the pressure and did as I was told. Once inside there were not only no parking spaces, but cars were actually parked in front of the exits. And even though the building obviously had several levels, cars were parked in front of all the ramps as well. What the hell? Whenever we turned a corner we found ourselves in a dark dead-end, which we’d have to back out of. It was nuts. And as we were driving around backwards, like fools, more and more cars continued to pour into the place as Seal literally scared up business outside. I thought Allen Funt was going to jump out from behind one of the pillars and give us a big hug. Finally we were able to escape through the same hole we entered, at a high rate of speed -- both of us saying “fuck” and “goddamn” a lot.
We found a regular open-air parking lot down the block and noted that the fee was a very reasonable four bucks. Cool! Problem solved.
The band was incredible. This was the third time we had seen them, and they always put on a great show. Main-man Paul Heaton moves around the stage like a person caught up in a swarm of bees, and he has a distinctive, smooth voice that never fails to amaze me. Plus, the band always seems to be having as much fun as the audience, which is mightily infectious. They did a nice mix of older tunes and a bunch off their new album, Painting It Red, which comes out 10/31. What always strikes me about these guys is the fact that they don’t get airplay, and sometimes don’t even have an American record label, but their shows are always sold out and the audience knows every word to every song. I alternate between being glad they’re not as hugely popular in the US as they are everywhere else, and disgusted that stupid Americans overlook them. But it’s cool to be able to see them in a small venue like the Theater of the Living Arts. You feel like you’re getting away with something.
As we were preparing to end our pleasant evening out in the big city I thought I understood the parking lot guy to be saying, “fifteen dollars” but knew logically I must be mistaken. “What was that?” I said. “Fifteen dollars,” he repeated. When I started to protest he just calmly held up his hand (he'd been through this bullshit before) and said, “Bottumadasign, bottumadasign.” At the bottom of the sign there was a tiny asterisked note that said something along the lines of ‘$15.00 Flat Rate on Weekends’.
And we made our way home. This time it was only me saying “fuck” and “goddamn” a lot, as well as "fifteen dollars!!" Toney seemed unusually calm.
October 18, 2000
As I was watching the presidential debate last night I couldn't stop thinking about my smelly-man rant from yesterday. As Al Gore stomped around the stage in his usual demented manner I thought to myself, "this guy probably smells like a Circuit City salesman." How could anyone trust this clown? I have no doubt he wouldn't even come close to passing my sniff test for character. And as I sat there and watched him pontificate in condescending tones, and contort his face like a stroke victim, it occurred to me that he has more than one thing in common with Circuit City salesmen; I felt like I was in the presence of a man trying to sell me an extended warranty. He was using the same scare tactics: the forecasts of doom and very expensive repair jobs. But as with an extended warranty, the educated consumer quickly recognizes that what they're selling has very little value -- it only serves to empower the salesman. Maybe the question for November 7 should be, would you buy a DVD player from this man?...Even if he did invent the format?
October 17, 2000
I hate to smell men.
There's a kid in the office where I work that reminds me of this fact almost every day. He's young, barely out of his teens, and is obviously still struggling with some personal odor awareness issues. I picture him sitting in a galvanized washtub with a turkey baster full of cologne, marinating himself every morning before leaving the house. It's grotesque. Some people argue that at least he doesn't stink. I say it depends on your definition. BO, of course, shouldn't happen in the year 2000 -- we have the technology -- but I think the other end of the spectrum should be avoided as well. Either way, when he passes my desk, I smell a man. And it makes my stomach churn.
Perfume, pit-funk, mustiness, dirty clothes, grease, mustard, an aura of Frito-Lay products, etc. all fall into the same category , as far as I'm concerned.
Men should smell like nothing. It's a noble pursuit that every male should embrace. I'm not really joking here. It's an important issue. I may contact Esquire about it. I think it's a matter of character, maturity, and good taste. In fact, if I knew nothing else about them, I think I could choose between Bush and Gore by simply taking a quick whiff.
I think I'm gonna like this. One of the main reasons I was attracted to writing in the first place was because it allows a person the opportunity to pursue a creative project, while being hidden far away from the rest of the world. Generally speaking, I'm attracted to activities that are normally done in solitary, if not in secret. <insert own joke here>
It never occurred to me to dream of being a rock star, or a comedian, or an actor, or anything like that. That would be like wishing for a goiter, or a lazy eye; it would only draw attention. And that's the last thing I wanted.
And that's how it's always been. After I realized I probably couldn't swing the cost for the equipment needed to launch a 50,000-watt pirate radio station from my bedroom (a childhood dream), I considered writing as an alternative.
It too could be done behind closed doors, for considerably less money. And so, I began to fantasize of an underground bunker, or Unibomber shed out in the woods, with all the necessary tools to create brilliance. That, I knew, was the only thing that held me me back. Privacy, and the right equipment. If I ever got those things -- watch out! Now, twenty years later, almost everything's in place.
This site is done literally underground, in a tiny room in the corner of my basement. I've got a bad-ass computer, and a load of cool software. I've got a stereo, and a bookshelf full of reference material. I've even got a little refrigerator in the corner to cool my bottles of St. Louis writing elixir. Yes, I finally have my creativity bunker, and it's equipped with all the right tools. It's time to get down to business. I even realized the other day, with some satisfaction, that websites like this could be considered modern-day pirate radio. But it's not the only thing I've got cooking. Not by a long-shot. I'm also preparing to exorcise the novels, and all those crazy screenplays that have been percolating in my brain for the last couple of decades. These are earth-shattering developments, my friends. The future is upon us.
And I'm gonna start the ball rolling as soon as I get a laser printer. I need a laser printer before I can really get serious. But I'll be ready soon. Very soon. You should prepare yourselves now. I'm about to blow up.
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