Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dr. Dan's Little Book of Bacon

Dr. Dan’s Little Book of Bacon

(Dr. Dan says, Everything’s better with bacon!)

• A Message from the Bacon Advocacy Council of North America (BACONA).
• A Comprehensive List of Foods and Prepared Dishes that Taste Better with Bacon.
• The Bacon-Sausage Dialectic: Towards a Hermaneutical Solution.
• Bacon-enriched Recipes for the Whole Family!
• Verses on Bacon:
1. BLT
2. That salty Smell my stomach knows
3. O bacon, My bacon!

A Message from the BACONA: Legalize Medicinal Bacon!
The FDA, under pressure from anti-pork organizations and major drug companies, is covering up information from a series of scientific studies that shows bacon is an effective treatment for depression, anxiety, E.D., and the munchies that result from taking medicinal marijuana. In fact, these suppressed studies prove, once and for all, that no person has ever eaten a slice of bacon and then said, “I feel worse.”
The Porkists, those who discriminate against bacon and all tasty cured meats, are part of a larger conglomeration of tyrannical foodinistas whose agenda is to remove all taste and satisfaction from the American dinner table. These people don’t want you to know that bacon is good for you and good for what ails you. The Porkists claim you’ll live longer without Bacon. But what is life without bacon?—a bunch of irritable, skinny, old people watching the globe get warmer.

A Comprehensive List of Foods that Taste Better with Bacon
1. Everything (except cheesecake because cheesecake is disgusting and adding bacon to it would be a colossal waste of food).

The Bacon-Sausage Dialectic: Towards a Hermaneutical Solution
My friend Herman, Herman Eutical, likes bacon and sausage. He is a big fan of the Grand Slam Breakfast at Denny’s, which gives you two slices of bacon and two links of sausage. I support the Herman Eutical solution.

Bacon-enriched Recipes for the Whole Family
1. Make a sandwich. Add bacon.
2. Make a salad. Add bacon.
3. Make a baked potato with all the fixins. Add bacon.

Verses on Bacon
Three crispy slices
Of Bacon

Hide deliciously on the
Sliced tomato and chopped lettuce

Between the two toasted slices
Of sourdough bread.

That salty smell my stomach knows

That salty smell my stomach knows
Is coming from the kitchen below.
Oh Cook! Do you cook for me?
Call me and I’ll break my Fast with Thee!

There’s fat back a-frying—I reckon
I’m a-waiting for you to beckon.
My hunger---don’t frustrate---must I beg?
Please, Sir, say “Come and get it.”

O Bacon, My Bacon!

Lines composed 8:05 AM, 9/18/089
I hear bacon a sizzlin’.
Everything is better with bacon.
And bacon makes everything better.
And everybody loves bacon—even people who don’t eat pork.
A single slice of bacon makes even the pig proud.

I will eat bacon with the teamster, who makes union wages.
I will eat bacon with the man who pretends to be homeless and holds his sign on the street corner.
I will eat bacon with the vegetarian who sneaks pieces of the delicious pork off my plate.
I will eat bacon with George W. in the White House,
And I will eat bacon with a community organized by Barack Obama.

Lines added for 2nd Edition: 9:15 AM, 9/18/08
I eat with the male and the female.
Their bacon is the same to me.
My bacon will be cured, though there is nothing wrong with it.
And I will be cured, and you will be cured… because of the curative powers of cured meats.

Lines added for 3rd Edition: 2:30 PM, 9/18/08
I am the poet of the bratwurst and the chorizo…even Canadian bacon.
My fat back will sustain me,
And I will sustain you.
And you will sustain me.
And bacon will be our breadth and on our breath.
You will taste my hot link, and find it spicy.
I’ll try your sweet andouille, and maybe we’ll share a Hebrew National.

Lines added for midnight snack edition: 11:30 PM, 9/18/08
O bacon, my bacon!
The night is long without my bacon.
My heart beats for bacon.
O nature bid the sun to come, so I may get some breakfast at the diner around the corner.
Bacon is my life and your life, too.
O bacon, our bacon.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lunchtime in America

Two Muslim women, covered in dark clothing,
Only their faces showing,
Pull open the heavy wooden door
And enter the Sizzler.

A young man waits in line
To order McNuggets.
He picks up his little boy,
a toddler,
And kisses him loudly on the cheek.

The cashier, a Latino teen,
Takes his lunch break in the dining room.
Before he unwraps his Whopper,
he closes his eyes and bows his head slightly.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Placism: What's so Miserable about Modesto?

It was announced recently that I live in the fifth-worst city in these United States of Amercia. Actually, let me clarify that: the media didn't announce that I live in the fifth-most miserable city. They announced the worst (apparently) cities, and I just happen to live in the fifth-worst one. I wasn't mentioned at all in the report.

At least I don't live in the worst place to live, Stockton California, which is about 25 miles from my house. I wonder if that's what dragged Modesto down. It could be that proximity to other miserable cities is one of the key criteria that Forbes magazine considers in ranking the cities. From what I understand, when Forbes lists Modesto, they really mean the Stanislaus County metropolitan area. Modesto, which has about 200,000 residents, is surrounded by a number of smaller towns, villages, hamlets, and wide places in the road. So, Turlock, Ceres, Hughson, and even Oakdale--I have a message for you--don't get smug because you're fifth-most miserable, too (Ironically, Oakdale California, about 15 minutes east of Modesto, was recently named one of the 20 best places to live by Cowboy magazine, which is apparently not a Steve Forbes publication.).

Because I am a typical American, I did not read the whole article that reported the miserable-ness rankings, nor did I read the actual article in Forbes. Therefore, I have no idea what the official criteria were for the ranking. But I suspect that the criteria did not include the following:
  • abundant food supply: it's two minutes to McDonald's from my house;
  • convenient shopping: one word--Costco. Okay, for the wife and kids there's also a mall.
  • affordable housing: the three bedroom, two bath home across the street from my house is available for $170,000. The best neighbors in the world lost the home to foreclosure last year, and now it's empty and waiting for anyone who can get the bankrupt (in every way) bank to accept an offer
  • land for landfills: if it is so miserable here, why do higher-ranking cities like San Francisco and Berkeley think we are good enough for their garbage? Every day trucks full of high-class Bay Area trash make the trek over the Altamont Pass to our miserable valley to bestow upon us the leftovers that our green brothers and sisters won't allow in their own backyards.

As good as valley life must sound, we do have our problems, too. Sometimes we're called the meth capital of the country, sometimes the auto theft capital. And we have a large collection of street gangs in the area. But these challenges only serve to remind us of the splendid diversity of "Mo-town" living.

Speaking of diversity, on my block there are Hispanic people, Indian people, Pacific Islander people, Southeast Asian people, African-American people, and white people. I have heard my well-meaning and higher-ranked Bay Area colleagues scoff at the very idea that the valley could be a hotbed of multiculturalism, but none has ever been to my neighborhood. Of course, many Bay Area residents do venture out into the hinterlands, and they stay here. These people are sometimes called BATs: Bay Area Transplants. And every housing boom that brings more residential development to the valley brings new people to the valley from the high-ranking Bay Area. The BATs are typically commuters, like me, who still work somewhere in the Bay Area. For the record, I have commuted for 15 years to Holy Names University in Oakland, but I am a valley native, not a BAT--not that there's anything wrong with that.

Why, the reader might be asking, would anyone choose to live in, or move to, the fifth-worst place in the country? For me it's home. Family, friends, church are here. I can see the Sierras on most days and get good strawberries from roadside stands for a good part of the year. For people who come here and stay here, the easy answer is cheaper real estate than on the coast. I think, though, it's the fact that the real estate usually comes with a front and back yard, maybe even a swimming pool, and room to park your car. Parking is another of our strengths.

I will admit, finally, that there are trade-offs when you choose to live in the fifth-worst place rather than, say, San Francisco. For culture and entertainment, San Francisco has the famed Gay Men's Chorus. But here, Stanislaus County operates two, not one but two, off-highway vehicle recreation parks. No doubt many fine people would prefer the Chorus. We happen to own several all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). So, as a great gay writer often said, "There you are," which might be the only thing to take from mostly meaningless studies and surveys that tell us how good or bad we have it.

I know where I am, and it's okay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Writing in Public

Writing in Public
D.W. Schmidt

I recently wrote a book (as yet unpublished) at McDonald’s—but not in one visit. To be truthful, significant portions were also composed at Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Der Wienerschnitzel, Taco Bell, Jack-in-the-Box, and Wendy’s. It’s just easier and more fun in a post-Super-size Me world to say I wrote it at McDonald’s. Really, though, the particular place isn’t the point. The point is that even if I’m not writing for publication, at least I’m writing in close proximity to my public.

By day, and lots of nights, I teach mostly indifferent college students to write essays and read literature (I’m known on campus for my “Grammar Talks,” which have goofy titles like “Mysteries of the Apostrophe” and “The Wonderful World of Commas.”). My coming of age as an academic coincided with the proliferation of the personal computer. As a graduate student, I made the transition to word processing (what a horrible word, really—as if words and sentences were like Velveeta). And I never went back to paper and pen, until a few years ago when I decided I wanted to be a “creative writer.” Suddenly, the keyboard was no place for composition. I needed a pen in my hand like some toddlers need to eat dirt. Then I took my pen and notebook to McDonald’s.

I think we think of writers writing in quiet, isolated, low-fat environments, so it’s not surprising that friends sometimes ask why I write at the golden arches. I usually say, “Free soda re-fills.” But seriously, besides the obvious health benefits, there are a number of practical reasons why I am a fast-food writer. For one thing, where else could I go? The library? No food or drink allowed. One of the giant bookstores? Too much pressure to purchase something. And how about the coffee houses, especially since there is one on every street corner? Well, I don’t drink coffee; I don’t like coffee houses, and I’m not particularly fond of people who frequent them.

My real problem, though, is that I can’t seem to write at home. Home is certainly where the heart is, but it is also where the laundry is, and the pets, and the dishes—not to mention email, the www, and Fox Soccer Channel. When I am home, these things refuse to be ignored. I do not have the ability or discipline to set aside the chores and distractions long enough to focus on my writing. One might think that writing in public would be subject to exponentially more distractions than writing in my home or office. Somehow, though, it is easier to tune out, say, the four foul-mouthed, teen-aged girls (yes, girls) who are sitting now in the next booth than the things I care about. Unbelievably, the girls are congratulating themselves for beating up a classmate. The public isn’t always pretty.

More often, the public distractions entertain me, even inspire me, and give me future material. I frequently run into the special kids from the special school in our neighborhood. I love to watch the “kids” interact with each other and their teachers, and there are certainly days when I think that the guys who wear bicycle helmets all the time might know something the rest of us don’t. I want to believe that I feel more comradeship with the challenged kids than pity for them. They are funny, and I try to be funny. Their teachers, though, remind me that my humor writing, besides being profit-less, is remarkably self-indulgent.

I was writing at Wendy’s one day when a train of three people entered the restaurant through its series of two doors. The first person, a tall man, opened the front door and held it open for the next person, another man, but shorter and rounder. As soon as his friend had control of the first door, the first man went on to the second door, which he opened part-way. He stood there in the doorway a moment, reading a sign that hung from the ceiling near the entrance. When he finished reading, he turned back to the second man, who was holding the door for the third member of the group, an older woman who walked with a walker. The first man said loudly, ‘See I told ya: it’s called a ‘Mandar-ian Chicken Salad.’”

The next man replied, “What?”

“It’s called a Man-dar-ian Chicken Salad.”

“Oh,” his friend said. By this time, the old woman with the walker had reached the threshold of the first door.

“What’s he sayin’?” she asked.

“He says it’s called a Man-dar-ian Chicken Salad.”

“Well get it if it’s what you want,” she offered.

“I’m just sayin’ that’s what you call it. That’s all,” said the man who started the conversation.

The Mandarin Chicken Crew probably won’t read my book if it is ever published. For now, though, they are my public (frankly, they seem more kin to me than my academic brethren), and I will continue to write for them and the other nuts (oddballs, crazies, retirees, lonelies, etc) who spend their days in the shadows of the golden arches.