4 Essays

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Disgusting Food

That is a picture of a pot full of sloppy joes. I want to write a poem that is about left overs:

1: I want to eat a bratwurst with sauerkraut and baked beans and drink a wheat beer.

2: But you ate that yesterday.

1: I know, but I want to have it again.

The above conversation supposes that if someone had a meal on the day before, then they should not crave the same meal the very next day. The above conversation supposes that every meal is an argument against the meal that was eaten before, and this is normal.

This morning I ate a banana and some grapes and drank a lime green thermos full of black coffee. This afternoon I microwaved a formerly frozen sausage and pepperoni pizza that I covered in mushrooms last night. Tonight, I plan on eating fajitas with bell peppers, yellow onion, the rest of last night’s mushrooms, and chicken. I follow this rule often.

Everyone has a diet, but not everyone is on a diet—in this case, being on a diet means that A) you are exempt from the practice of craving something different in every individual meal because of newfound,

self-imposed restrictions or restrictions recommended by a medical professional and B) you are doing something that is admirable and that will hopefully improve your quality of life and thus sacrificing something that most people agree is essential—non-patterned, indiscriminate eating and C) that you acknowledge something was wrong with the way that you were eating before went on a diet. Maybe.

A craving is when you long for something with the knowledge that if you have that thing, you will be satisfied. But oftentimes cravings come three, four, twenty at a time and oftentimes they are impossible to satisfy except by compromise. Right now, I have tricked myself into believing that I really want fajitas tonight, because I planned to have them beforehand when I walked to the grocery store last night and I bought chicken because it was on sale and then bought peppers and a small yellow onion and cherry tomatoes. But I don’t know if I actually crave fajitas right now or if I have set within myself an expectation of fajitas, that is, I have been thinking about fajitas because that is what is available to me at the moment, which means if I had planned on making stir fry, I would be craving stir fry, but it does not mean that fajitas are the exact, current object of my desire. If I’m being honest, I really want to eat candy corn—particularly the kind that looks like a pumpkin, so I can bite the green top off and then smoosh it between my teeth in three neat sections and then again, but I know that if I do this I might feel very sick, and very likely feel as though I have sabotaged myself and ruined all of my plans.

Although I do like

sloppy joes,

nothing

makes my

stomach turn

more than a

vat of red meat

bubbling and tumbling

over itself like the backs

of live eyes.

Now, if the sloppy joes were put into buns and then put back into the vat, somehow this is more acceptable. A vat of sloppy joes resembles too much the promise of leftovers. A vat can be covered too easily, put into the fridge, and kept by one person. A series of sandwiches can be sent with one’s guests, but even if they are not doled out, the sandwiches seem more like a ration and every meal feels more manageable and not like an insurmountable promise of meat—day after day.

Now, something about variation: since the world is so vast with foods that we can eat, (especially here in the beautiful and variegated city) it would seem sinfully simple to eat a tedium of sloppy joes.

There are pad thais and game hens and cilantro with lime and crumbled goat cheeses to be had. Somehow it has become my duty to taste them all discriminately—that is, so long as they are never eaten too close to each other chronologically with regards to the taste, presentation, eating method (forks/knives, hands/bread, hands, spoons, chop sticks, etc.) presentation, style, texture, color, and ethnicity of the food. This is so overwhelming sometimes that I don’t know what I’m hungry for. All I know is that I am hungry and that I crave something nonspecifically different.

The philosopher Giordano Bruno wrote, “We see that pleasure consists only in a definite transit, journey, and motion. Just as troublesome and sad is the state of hunger; so, displeasing and grave is the state of satiety; but that which does delight us is the motion from the one state to the other.” What I like here is the “definiteness” of the transit—we have no choice.

Me: I think I’ll have one more sloppy joe.

Voice of definite transit: Actually, no you won’t.

Me: I won’t?

Voice of definite transit: Sir you are very late for your train and you haven’t packed your bags, so we did that for you.

Me: Do I have everything that I need? Where am I going?

Voice of definite transit: It doesn’t matter. All that matters now is that you are leaving. You are getting on a train and leaving sloppy joe station.

Me: You can’t just push people around like this, and this isn’t even my suitcase. Can’t I just sit on a bench for a while and rest and wait for train to arrive, headed for a destination that appeals to me?

Voice of definite transit: Sorry sir, this is just my job. I don’t care where you go; I just can’t have you loitering around the station. Here. Why not this train?

Me: Where is it going?

Voice of definite transit: Steak and potatoes. Enjoy your, ride sir. You’ll feel much better on the train.

Me: But—

Voice of definite transit (to a woman on the platform, trailing off as the train pulls away): M’am I’m going to have to ask you to put down that sandwich.

So, philosophically, I will be enjoying my fajitas tonight.

But what about language, or actually, what about words? Starting my sentences the same way is unsatisfying. Could I really get at the seemingly endless world of ideas with such limits on the construction of said ideas? Should I use new words?

Oh, but I remember the first time I said “fuck.” I was in the eighth grade. It was my friend Andre’s birthday party, so Andre and the rest of the boys from the baseball team went to Andre’s house for a sleepover. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic 2001 played on repeat in the background. Some people played seven minutes in heaven on a bean bag in Andre’s laundry room with some girls from the neighborhood. I spent most of the night eating sour Warheads until the sides of my tongue and the insides of my cheeks bled, and memorized all the words to all the tracks because in my Catholic school powder blue collared polo and navy khaki home there was no Dr. Dre allowed and I wanted to carry all the “fucks” inside me. “You motherfuckers act like you forgot about Dre,”is what I said and I felt it as in, it hurt my mouth to say it because of the open sores on the inside of my mouth from all those sour Warheads.

I asked my little cousin who is in eighth grade, if it is fun to say swear words with his friends. He said, “Yeah,” as if that idea hadn’t ever occurred to him before—that swearing was fun and yet, all the while, he was savoring every, fuck, shit, goddammit, cock, and, the most hallowed of delicious swears for a young Catholic, “Jesus Fucking Christ,” which would stop my grandmother’s heart with the tick of the final “t” if he ever said it in her presence.

I wish I could crave a word. I wish words were destinations to travel to and from by themselves, without rules, just desire. I wish I could remember a little bit of the sinful joy of saying “fuck with me, then” to myself in the mirror as I once did, gelling my eighth grade hair straight up. I wish I could taste fajitas for the first time again.

Because of the content of this essay, there will be no call backs to previous themes, ideas, or notions. I know how pleasurable call backs are when they happen, but this essay is about food and with regards to the theme and the process of digestion, I hope that you will understand.

Love,

RH

(Photo courtesy of ourwholestory.com)

 

Pizza Printer

There is a scientist out there on the wide, continuous surface of earth who is engineering a three dimensional printer that can receive data from an outside location, and using that data can assemble, piece by piece, a pizza pie. Hockey sticks and sporks and chess pieces were fantastic fun to watch being built molecule by molecule, but now, one day we could be orbiting earth and receiving peperoni transmissions of pizza data to top our deep dish crust. Oh! I didn’t know that I have been longing to write that phrase my whole life! And now I have! What a beautiful world!

I had a dream that every surface of the planet was capable of receiving images, processes, and communications from our portable devices. There were children running down Hennepin Avenue, pulling out their phones, taking the data from their screens, throwing them like invisible baseballs at the windows of the Noodles and Company, and leaving them there while people sat outside, eating under umbrellas. The umbrellas—the tops of the umbrellas and the golf shirt of the man eating chicken pad thai and even the chicken pad thai—all covered in naked butts and breasts thrown from the phones of teenagers.

In the dream I went to the movies. I sat in a movie theater before a film—a half dark room and a blank screen with a new image from the crowd every second and all of us thinking that we were all very funny and entertaining company and all of us secretly knowing that when the movie began, we would have to abstain from this activity for the full ninety minutes, unless the movie was found to be unanimously or critically terrible, at which time we all reserved the right to play the audio visual mash-up of Bob Saget making a concerned face and cutting a long fart on Full House during one of DJ’s pubescent monologues1. In the dream, I took a picture of myself winking with a caption scrolling beneath it.

But I couldn’t figure out the technology to throw the image onto the movie screen, so I asked the person sitting next to me how to access the file. He touched my screen with his buttery left hand, tapped it with his hand’s greasy heel and read what I had written. I watched his face in the glow of my phone’s screen, and I realized that I had never seen him before, that he didn’t look like anyone to me—not even a stranger, and he said, “There. Should work now.” Then he licked his fingers one by one, scooped another handful of popcorn, put it into his mouth, and said “But I wouldn’t bother putting that up there.” Then I asked him why not, and he said, “Cause it sucks.”

1 SPOILER: Of course there were teenagers and disaffected ugly people who were ruining the movies for their own enjoyment, and although this was part of the dream, it is worth mentioning: What would happen if someone were to throw a clip of their dog humping the face of a stuffed Homer Simpson onto the screen while Batman is finally flying away from Gotham City with the imminently exploding nuclear warhead in tow at the end of The Dark Knight Rises? At the very least s/he would be publicly shamed. There might also be violence. But at the very least one should expect much spitting of soft drinks and throwing of popcorn.

 

Tina

Tina,

If I had known what I know now about this summer in February, March or May, I would have written you a letter about exactly what my wide window looked like and how the earth was lavender or deep purple most nights well into what most of what the Northern Hemisphere calls Spring. Spring! And it is coming and, my dear, I would have written you a letter about how sad it was to realize that I can’t actually watch a spear of flattened winter grass embolden itself in standing up (it was very sad)back then, if I had known then what I know now. Back then I would have liked to be an aphid instead of a human, watching every picometer of a spear of grass rise from the earth and to be able to liken it (the grass) to a great tree or a skyscraper or the mounting of a monument and to be able to know that downtown Minneapolis might as well be in another galaxy and I would have liked to watch that spear turn into a spear of summer grass.

Today I admire succulents for their tasty leaves like celery and the motion picture soundtrack of Belly and the popping of ears when surfacing from a deep dive and the phrase “this is a thing” for meaning “this is something that is out in the world doing the important work of existing.”

In this moment there is a squirrel on my window sill cooling himself on the brown painted wood and all the way stretched out. We are making eye contact.

 

Essay about reverse engineering an essay

Sometimes an essay starts with a title such as, “My heart bleeds for your heart because your heart bleeds selectively and that seems very cruel and withholding:” Working forward like this often leads to a tiny corner or in this case an aorta where the essay gets stuck and is thereby forced through the blockage or to move in another direction entirely and/or perish. Following this analogy, I would not like this essay to die, so, at this point, the essay has two choices: to stay stuck in its place, deciding that this is where it belongs, or to break free and move into another place outside of the title, heart, aorta, corner, whatever. So memory encroaches on the essay and the memory is of other places the writing could go, and for some reason it is always backwards in the mind of the writer (because no one ever truly anticipates an experience1) and never forward. Therefore, an essay (sadly) is not alive. But we are, and we are lucky to have the future because living with access to the future means that there is at least one more move available (and I guess this verb suggests an underway game of chess) and things never get stuck there unless they die, are dead, or have always been lifeless—in which case they always make one move and that is to stay dead or always lifeless. This is why movies about inanimate objects coming to life are compelling. An entire world has become available to something that never had the opportunity to be among the living. That is why birth is excellent and I’m happy for everyone’s birth. Happy birthday!

1 this is why fiction is not nonfiction telling us what will happen in the future of real things

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