a few months before I was supposed to make my first-ever trek to the untamed city, my hummingbird warned me to watch out for the wild animals that therein abided. she buzzed in my ear, flitted in my face, and pleaded with me not to leave the human reservation. i kept many pets besides the purple hummingbird: a fox fluent in Portuguese, a very hungry, albino chipmunk, and a ladybug that only spoke in trochaic trimeter. i was patient and considered their counsel while we ate a meal of nuts, berries, and dandelion greens. after we ate, i enchanted them with the plot of the film Blade Runner and they laughed as only woodland creatures can, their chittering chortles tickling the tree leaves like a twilight breeze. after finishing the tale of problematic personhood, my pets wished me well in the city. i left the reservation without fanfare. the city welcomed me with its parklands situated directly behind the main gate. the residents called the park, “Frog Farm Manor.” inside the park, i followed the locals to observe and learn how they engaged in leisure activity. they strolled amongst the lush grasses that filled in the spaces between the park’s many streams and ponds. i told a local my pets counseled me about the wild animals that roamed the city. the local laughed and said, “you’ll find neither snake nor tick in this city. you won’t even find a frog. but lions, and tigers, and bears? watch out.” during my time in the city, i must confess, i did not once happen upon a lion or a tiger or a bear. i did, however, see a woman walking toward a window during sunrise. she watched the reflection of the sky going white as the sun came up. i watched a woman climb a tree to get atop the roof of a building, across which she scrambled like a spider out of sight. i witnessed a woman move from the visible rays of the noonday sun into the shade provided by a sculpture of a massive thumb that shot forth from the ground like a branchless redwood. the woman never stopped smiling. i sat with the setting sun many times. i climbed many trees and watched the locals from aloft. locals pointed at me often and avoided walking underneath me. i watched a man with a knife walk toward a small child during one day’s indigo gloaming. i counted so many locals as they moved back and forth and forth and back. they sauntered under the sun and under artificial lights that illuminated streets and alleyways. i left the city satisfied and unscathed. my pets asked me about the wild animals. they did not believe my story.
Monday/Tuesday: Nap by the fire. Sleep under a thin sheet. Drink two cups of coffee. Listen to songs from youth. Serve lunch for anyone that wants to eat. Make breakfast before anyone else wakes up. Wash the dishes while NPR plays. Take the trash to the curb. Work from the laptop in different rooms for a change of scenery. Practice the guitar. Walk on the treadmill. Try to write something with impact. Look out the window for 10 minutes. Stare at the phone hoping for something new.
Wednesday: Stare at the fire. Nap by a thin sheet. Sleep under two cups of coffee. Drink songs from youth. Listen to lunch, for anyone that wants to. Serve breakfast before anyone else wakes up. Make the dishes. Wash the trash. Take from the laptop. Work the guitar. Practice the treadmill. Walk something with impact. Try to write out the window for 10 minutes. Look at the phone hoping for something new.
Later: Stare at the thin sheet. Nap by two cups of coffee. Sleep under songs from youth. Drink lunch. Listen to waking up. Serve the dishes. Make the trash. Wash the laptop. Take the guitar. Work the treadmill. Practice something with impact. Walk out the window. Try to write something new. Look at the phone fire.
Later Still: Make for the treadmill. Of different minutes, thin. Else new? The lunch, the nap? Up scenery to under 10. Write, drink, while anyone plays. Make my hoping at the window dishes. Try for phone sheet. Wash for to wakes. Wants guitar. A walk by something before trash. Take cups on out, in. Change rooms. By the curb. Listen, anyone, the two work for a breakfast from NPR. The look of Sleep: stare to that coffee in the fire. Practice youth songs with something. Impact: Eat the laptop.
This story is about the last time your brother went to Pizza Hut. He had a Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza, Cinnamon Sticks, and a Pepsi-Cola 4-Pack.
He lost his appetite (though the pizza tasted just fine). It was simply way too late. Pizza Hut had closed right after he left. The game was over.
He walked down a darkened street, past rows of boarded up warehouses, then finally into the darkness.
In this retelling, we will refer to one of the dark and deserted warehouses as the “Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza House,” one of many restaurants and stores to close in downtown Dayton that year.
According to a story in the Dayton Daily News, the closure of Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza House was blamed on “low inventory and sluggish service.”
I was walking around Downtown Dayton trying to catch a good photo of this particular restaurant. I was just about to start shooting when a customer inside yelled, “Hey, how do you know I have knots on my pizza? Did you have some of my pizza?”
So I told my boyfriend about the knot pictures I had taken, and of course he wanted to know how to get some for himself.
He went on to tell me that he had a friend, and that friend had a friend who could take out the knots from any pizza.
That friend of a friend came to our house. He took a small knot from each corner of the pizza on our wall and lay them out onto a piece of newspaper.
Once I got the pictures developed, I tried to find a photo of the knot-slicer, but there wasn’t a photo of him anywhere.
In a messy kitchen drawer, I found the Knots from Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza House that had I taken from Dayton. Now they hang from your brother’s rearview mirror.
Thanks to everyone for sending in similar pizza knot photos from your knotty pizzas and, as always, happy trails…
This story is about the last time your sister went to the Burger King. She had a Single Pretzel Bacon King, cheesy tots, and a Mello Yello.
Funny enough, it may very well be the final McDonald’s, this Burger King that your sister visited. It’s also, in some folks’ opinions, the home of the ultimate Single Pretzel Bacon King. That is one of those burgers you don’t care if it sticks to your gums or is crispy like a flauta. You can eat it with your fork or you can eat it with a spatula.
You sister is the most famous burger eater in the you ess of eh. She is considered one of the best people for eating a single pretzel bun burger in three bits.
The only other restaurant that I can ever remember in my life that had a pretzel bun burger was the cafeteria at my high school.
What you are seeing here is a screenshot of that place.
I recall that time. It was a Friday and, being from New Jersey, pretty much what I expected for a cafeteria serving McDonald’s-like food. There was probably about 300 people there during a lunch break, as opposed to the 400 that a typical cafeteria serving McDonald’s-like food got on a Friday afternoon.
The menu consisted of hamburgers, fries, vanilla milkshakes and chocolate milkshakes. And chocolate-vanilla milkshakes. I got the Double. They had the McChicken-like Sandwich which, if you don’t know, is a chicken sandwich. A chicken sandwich is a chicken breast on a bun with some lettuce and mayonaise. Mayonaise is oil and egg whipped to a creamy dream.
You know that thing you get at a Wendy’s restaurant: “Big Macs”? Well, those are what your sister calls a “Big Pretzel.” She loves the Single Pretzel Bacon King. It is a one of a kind segwich. It is something I am sure she loves like a puppy or a rainstorm.
There are other single pretzel burgers in my state but the Wendy’s Burger King McDonald’s one is the most special.
At that place, you can get a Big Mac and a milkshake. You can also get chocolate milkshakes but a few of the milkshakes have not a single pretzel within them. They’re just one-sided, no-emotion milkshakes. You’ll never have a milkshake that looks more like one you would get at a Starbucks than this one. It’s a miracle.
The Single Pretzel isn’t even the best burger your sister ever had. She was a fan of the McDonald’s in Hawaii in 2007, you know the one. In Hawaii. In 2007. There, she had a cheeseburger bun blended with a chocolate milkshake. Also, there’s this McDonald’s in Las Vegas. They have a burger made by a guy who worked at the very first McDonald’s. He is always like “Hey guys, are you ready to try my new burger idea yet?”
And, so, I guess for whatever reason, everyone in Vegas always says, “Sure, we’ll try it,” to make the old man happy. It’s Vegas. They like to gamble. They like older humans. They like to eat new kinds of burgers. They like to party.
This story is about the last time your father went to the Taco Bell. He had a double chalupa, a bean burrito, a Carmel Apple Empanada, and a diet cola.
The Taco Bell was secretly called Taco Gigante. The chain’s name is a riddle by its founder, Carl K. Laubach, who was a well-known restaurateur.
The burrito your father ate had cheese, beans, lettuce, and a few drips of queso. It was the perfect wrapped food.
But then it all went disastrously wrong for Taco Gigante.
The Taco Gigante burrito had gone through dozens of iterations since it first appeared in 1981, but one of the most popular variations came about in 1999. Called the Taco Gigante Double Wide No Bean Extra Big Yum Yum Dee-lish Dee-lite, the burrito was monsterously big, the chicken was replaced by pork, and cheese replaced the beans — it sounded too good to be true. The removal of the beans was part of Laubach’s marketing genius.
Taco Gigante’s popularity soared after that. In its heyday, the chain was selling the burrito in every store. When a new franchise was opened in Dallas, Laubach’s people there told him they had to include beans.
Laubach called the restaurant in question, complaining about the situation to the franchise manager. When the manager, a man named Johnny Bonilla, told him that it was beans or bust, Laubach responded, “Then it’s bust for Taco Gigante Dallas.”
Bonilla replied, “I will never forget this. The world will curse you.”
Taco Gigante Dallas was closed, and a different restaurant opened at the same location. There was no word for the new restaurant’s name — only “.?.” (Laubach himself never again mentioned Dallas in polite company .)
Later that same year, your father was told the secret name of Taco Bell: Taco Gigante.
In 2008, a Taco Gigante employee used soap to write “HELP ME,” in bold, red letters on Taco Gigante Des Moines’ front window.
There were a few theories about why Taco Gigante had to close. None had to do with beans or burritos. No one could really explain it, as there had been no explanation given for anything ever in the restaurant’s tangled history. Laubach wrote a memo detailing that the name “Taco Gigante” didn’t exist and that “Taco Gigante” was simply “Taco Bell” and that all employees would never again say the name “Taco Gigante” and that time is bumpy circle.
The Taco Gigante chain, Laubach said, was “just a secret name” used “to throw off the lizard people running the IRS.”
So much for business acumen.
This tale is about the last time your mother went to the Kentucky Fried Chicken. She had chicken and a biscuit.
She grabbed a biscuit out of the biscuit machine, shook it up like a pair of lucky dice, wolfed it down, then got into her car and drove away, as if she had not been there. She left her bucket of chicken on the pickup counter.
Your mom is a total animal.
She didn’t often eat chicken. She mostly liked to eat seeds and berries, but she hated that she had to eat them indoors because the birds overhead would swoop down and eat them when she stepped outside.
She liked to be in traffic, and I recall your mother driving halfway up the street and poking her head out of the car window every few minutes.
She hated the smell of the chicken. I remember her being embarrassed to tell you it was her least favorite thing because she didn’t want you to feel bad for smelling like chicken yourself.
Sometimes she was embarrassed about her love of chicken. Once a month, on second paydays, she would bake chicken for dinner. It was the only time in the month that she could take the time to do so. Otherwise, it was to the KFC.
She would bring her own spoon to the table during meal times and just get down with a spoon at her homemade chicken dinner.
I was born in 1987 and I lived with your mom (not my mom, or the one she was with when I was born).
I was four when your mom took me and my brother to a chicken farm run by a woman named Linda, who later married my friend’s dad (another cousin of yours who I also spent a lot of time with when we were younger).
Your grandmother was the head of her own restaurant. She had all of your aunties, siblings, and cousins in the restaurant serving the food and cooking the food and cleaning the joint. I’m not sure of the name of the restaurant. It was probably “Elle’s Chicken”.
There, your mom learned to love chicken.
My mom didn’t even want to talk to me.
I dreamed of an oscillating fan built to temper and tame near-feral cats. They called the fan The Cat Whisperer. What luck! For I co-habitate with near-feral cats who shit where they please, rob the birds of every song, and carve my furniture to shredded signs of true ownership. I turned on the demo unit and the fan whirred to life. I wanted to believe The Cat Whisperer would work. I wanted to tame that which the wild had first dibs. I wanted to interrupt nature so friggin’ hard.
I am not the kind of man who gives himself over to wanton gushing
regarding the mystical apparatuses of love. Love you, however, I
do. When first I saw you in this blackened mirror, frightened
though I was by your wispy visage and morbid accoutrements, I felt
instantly overcome by an overwhelmingly esteemed and unrelenting
enthrallment. Nevermind my viscera entangled and twisted by such
untoward tumultuous passion; my sole desire herewith is to
patiently await your return. I show you these words tonight and
pray for any type of reciprocation. I pray you won’t leave again.
you ever have one of those days where the world not only threatens to open its gaping maw and masticate you to mush but the world does open its gaping maw and sucks you down, kicking, punching, clawing at the spongy flesh of the world’s ribbed, greasy gullet, desperate to maintain your balance, but no, the world ain’t having that shit and the world gulps real big-like and forces you on your merry way and you come to rest in the world’s first belly, though it doesn’t look like any belly you’ve been in before but like a cardboard box sealed all around with camouflaged duct tape, belly juices a pool of moldy blue jello, other folks the world has swallowed today all around you, mad, lost, ill-prepared, and then that gooey gut shifts and you’re sliding again, getting pushed down a hole in the corner and fllffp! you’re plopped right into the world’s second belly and it’s like a party from 1977 up in there, disco ball strung by ligaments, reflecting rays from bio-luminescent nodules and you feel your skin peeling away, digested by the world, this ol’ hungry world, this grand ol’ hungry world whose second belly is an echo chamber of life’s pulsations, which induce in you gyrations you can’t control and though your ears are sliding from your head the world’s rhythms pound pound pound through you like a jackjackjackhammer and you try to find some respite from what’s beating and you lose your footing, slip and yes, you’re sliding again, sliding to belly number three and the silence there brings tears to your eyes which parade down your skinless face stinging something fierce, prompting you to cuss out loud but your tongue falls out on the white floor in front of you and then the rest of your soft, luscious, tender, fresh, juicy, tight, hot body sloughs off your skeleton and though you’d like to think, “dammit all to hell,” your brain just liquefied so that thought’s spreading all over the floor and you’re a walking model of bony absolution tiptoeing around this vast white belly with the other osteopariahs until you lose all volition and tumble into a perfectly-placed hole, waiting just for you, expressway to belly four, and what are you now but a pile of bones pretending you’re human and that’s all right, that’s ok, that’s all anything is in the fourth belly of the world but all too soon your calcified existence also breaks down because the world needs nutrition, the world needs three square meals a day, and the world doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “one of those days.”
We. We point. We point a finger. We point a finger at one another. We point a finger at one another while backing away. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging, jaws gabbing. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging, jaws gabbing, until we hit a wall. We point a finger at one another while backing away, hands wagging, jaws gabbing, until we hit a wall, at which point we take that knuckly, pointing finger and shove it as far we can up our cavernous, ghastly nostril, dig around real, real good and proper for a while – policy-making is a process, don’tcha know? – finally yanking those fingertips back from the nasally abyss with a grotesque, slimy prize attached to the tip and now we’re pointing again, this time offering such lovely treasures to the other side – ourselves: a hard-fought/wrought/got gooey, green end result of a hard day’s work.