The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Friday, August 05, 2005

LIVER, HOLD THY BUNIONS: No one, of course, will admit to such a thing, at least not publicly or within five miles of a sitting grand jury, but the simple fact of the matter is that someone is eating all the liver and drinking all the cream soda produced in this country. This is basic economics at its most basic, after all; butchers would not sell liver and soft drink manufacturers would not make cream soda unless there was a market for the stuff, and a pretty sizable one at that. And yet, if you put the question of whether or not they liked to eat liver or drink cream soda to any one of a thousand different people randomly selected on any street in the United States not one of them will admit to it. In fact, when asked, the vast majority of these people will grimace deeply, as if someone had asked them to deep fry and eat their children’s pet gerbil with a side order of cole slaw. Clearly then, just on the statistics alone, large numbers of Americans are in the closet when it comes to their proclivity for liver and cream soda, finding the social stigma so great that they must take extraordinary steps to conceal their shocking dietary preferences.

We must first acknowledge that there has always been a liver and cream soda problem in the United States and that in all likelihood there will always be some small portion of the population that will consume liver and cream soda no matter what the potential consequences. For this subset of the population, no warning will ever be enough, no example clear enough, no prohibition or threat of punishment that will dissuade them from their horrid repasts. Whether we like it or not, we will eventually have to write these people off; people who will eat something that looks, smells, and tastes like a Dr. Scholl’s foot pad after a ten mile walk through New York City’s streets on a hot and humid day in July, and is there any other kind of July day in New York City, are clearly capable of any enormity you might imagine, including wearing a blue glass eye with an orange and purple shirt.

To prevent this scourge from destroying yet another generation of Americans, we must begin by educating our young people against the dangers of liver and cream soda, which is where I usually turn off the TV, because despite the billions of dollars poured into the American education system over the past thirty or so years, our young people, the precious next generation, the glorious hope of a bigger and brighter American future, are, on the whole, dumb as stumps. Assuming for a minute that you could somehow pry their attention away for computer games and chat rooms and Internet porn for long enough to tell them of the dangers of liver and cream soda, and that in itself is a huge assumption, right up there with assuming that politicians even remember what’s in their platforms once they get on board the gravy train or that I even know what I am talking about here, not one in a hundred kids will have any idea of what you’re talking about or why. Liver is just so not kewl, you know?!

As for cream soda, it’s the minor villain here, sort of like the dopey little schnook in Bonnie & Clyde whose father sold them out to Uncle Jesse from The Dukes of Hazzard, and as such doesn’t get a whole lot of respect. This is a shame, because in the long run it does more damage than liver does. One respected medical authority points out that the actual vanilla content of modern cream soda is minimal almost to the point of nonexistence, most of it being simple sugar, and that today’s kids would drink cow urine if there was enough sugar in it…all right, it wasn’t a respected medical authority, it was my mother, and she made this point back when I was a little kid in that armpit of decades, the 1960’s, but the point is just as valid today.

Of course, back then all Americans consumed an unhealthy amount of sugar, an average of 4.37 tons for every man, woman, and child in the United States, with the government encouraging the public to consume more and more of the stuff every year, this last being the misbegotten fruit of a vast interlocking conspiracy of powerful sugar interests and the American Dental Association, which publicly decried the runaway sugar consumption and privately whooped it up at the alacrity with which more and more Americans needed more and more expensive dental work as their teeth rotted away more and more quickly. I’m told that young people consume more sugar nowadays, what with corn starch and maltose and fructose and dextrose and the host of other otiose names, proving that which we call sugar by any other name still tastes as sweet. That seems hard to believe, especially for someone my age; I can remember when doctors agreed that a spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down, made the medicine go down, the medicine go down, in a most delightful way, and when many American parents thought nothing of feeding their children butter and sugar sandwiches for lunch, a tasty but somewhat crunchy treat chock full of empty calories and just the sort of thing the impatient youngster yearning for maturity would want to eat in order to develop a quick case of Type 2, or adult onset, diabetes. But the Sixties are gone now, thank God, and I won’t be around for the 2060’s, which may or may not be a good thing, I’ll never know…well, maybe, but it’s not very likely.

But the mystery of cream soda remains, as does the mystery of liverwurst and why otherwise sensible people would eat something that proudly announces itself as the wurst of something. When a foodstuff goes out of its way to announce that it is the wurst of something, something most people, in this case, find especially disgusting in the first place, then I think it behooves the consume to believe the advertising, coming, as it does, against penal interest, and avoid that product entirely. You could make an exception for bratwurst, I think, which you can chomp down with great gusto and with some relish while imagining it to be the throat of that snotty little kid who lives next door to you and who insists on practicing on that damn slide trombone of his at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning when you’re trying to get some sleep after a long week on the graveyard shift.

And so we come to the end of our voyage of discovery, and without once getting into the touchy question of whether outing liver eaters in public office is an acceptable journalistic practice, to the place where we began and know the place for the first time, as T.S. Eliot so eloquently put it in Little Gidding, and wonder how we missed the lousy wallpaper the first time around. There are few things that will put you off the whole concept of homecoming as lousy wallpaper, which you tend to forget about when you’re shooting the rapids in some piranha-filled South American river or annoying the marlin in the Gulf Stream like Hemingway’s old fisherman in The Old Man and the Sea. No, lousy wallpaper is a definite downer, no two ways about it, and it may well be why many Americans try to extend their vacations for another week or so. Why go home and look at the stuff that drove you out of the house in the first place? Even Oscar Wilde commented on the lousy wallpaper in his hotel room as he lay in his deathbed, saying that one or the other of them would have to go. The wallpaper stayed, of course; it was an employee of the hotel, after all; and Wilde left, and so will I, although not as permanently as Wilde did, at least not yet…I hope.


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