Thursday, July 31, 2008


If you happen to be a vegan or are easily disturbed by the thought of your food having parents, please navigate back and enjoy one of my other entries.

As I sat on the beach with my family - watching and waiting for large waves to knock select kids off their feet - we gorged ourselves on a fabulous spread. All manner of farm beast sacrificed its life, likely while hoping that we, the world's flesh-chewing citizenry, might one day die of ruptured colons.

Lodged in an undersized folding chair, I soaked up heavenly ultraviolet radiation and watched 11-year-olds choke on salt water while I munched on mustard-soaked Bratwurst. Like a wise, old instant coffee commercial for horny moms once should celebrate these moments in your life. If it weren't for an overabundance of giggling children and typical beach distractions, the experience might have been pretty close to nirvana.

[...A mother cackles as her two, naked little boys run around wagging their naughty bits at everyone. A seagull relieves itself over a Nimitz-class middle-aged guy covered in fur (and by some miracle scores a near-miss). Seals incessantly bark in chorus...]

I tore into a half-bloody piece of Tri-tip steak; wistfully watching the water surrounding a floating platform covered in sunbathing seals. "C'mon shark, c'mon...Well, where the fuck are you?"

Meanwhile, my sister and parents had noticed that a nearby teen - no doubt motivated by a deep-seeded desire to see children break their necks - had dug a sand pit no less than five feet deep. I don't know how, but somewhere along the way, the picnic conversation deviated from...

"Ooo, ooo, please pass me a piece of, no, that one."


"Yeah, that pit reminds me of when we would have to clean the chitlins and squeeze out all that boo."

Any outside shot I had at achieving oneness with that beach instantly vanished.

For those of you unfamiliar with the horror that is a pot of chitlins, I'll explain. If you are to believe my parents and relatives back in South Carolina, chitlins (correctly and more frighteningly spelled chitterlings), are apparently something you put in your mouth and swallow. They're essentially a throwback value meal from times when having a better tan than your average Dixie cup could possibly arouse lynch mob suspicion.

Back in those days, the most delectable, tender portions of poo-covered Wilbur were reserved for folks of both greater means and lesser pigmentation. Enter chitlins.

Unwanted by the then-overclass and therefore affordable, chitlins have somehow stuck around into the 21st century. But then again, so have "tripas" and "makchang gui" and other global variations of disgusting intestinal snack-age. That doesn't mean I've got to allow others to form their own opinions on them though.

I can hear a few of my vegetarian acquaintances cutting me off at this moment. "Umm. What about hot dogs and sausages? You've still got mustard on your shirt from a meal that consisted primarily of hog lips, teeth and assholes... And they're sometimes encased in intestines."

To which I respond. "Well, do hotdogs look like lips, teeth, assholes or intestines? The grossest organ they even remotely resemble is nowhere near the intestines."

Ignorance, faked or otherwise, really is bliss.

You need a healthy imagination to mentally assemble a chicken out of a fried drumstick. But there's do denying, particularly when the kitchen smells like a truck stop restroom, that a pot of chitlins is hot-boiled-poo-pipe.

My parents, quickly snapping to the realization that the North won, cutely attempted to disown their own backwoods histories...

"That was your father's family that ate that stuff."

"Nooo, no, I didn't eat that."

"You know you did."

"So did you."

"Nah-uh...Well, I remember coming to your house for the first time, and I saw fish heads looking up at me from a pot of boiling water."

[laughing] "We didn't throw anything away."

[ laughing] "Well, that's for certain!"

Here's a bit of background on dear mum n' pa: My dad's family is centered in an area around all-too-appropriately-named, Lynchburg, South Carolina. My mother hails from somewhat-less desolate Conway, South Carolina. (If you're reading this mom, don't start dancing a victory jig. My fondest memory of dear Conway involves a HUGE black snake crawling up to the the sliding glass door and watching us during an evening meal at Grandma's house.)

Don't get me wrong, everyone out there are your average American citizens beyond the accents and an honest-to-God pleasantness in disposition. Their personalities really seem to fall in line with the notion of "southern sweetness." But, as much as I love my family, if any relative of mine offered me a hot bowl of shit-ter-lings, I would tell them I recently had my stomach removed and no longer eat. I simply can't deal with the thought of the wringing of fecal frosting from a pig's digestive tract being an integral part of meal preparation.

I adore sushi. I've eaten and enjoyed cow tongue tacos. I believe that animals, for the most part, are delicious. But... I will not eat it, Sam I Am.

As explained by mom, the story goes that my Uncle Buddy, initially shared my disdain for the stinky stew. After having dinner with a military friend (who probably still keeps a sharp lookout for Confederate soldiers), he eventually realized he enjoyed the stuff. He lovingly began referring to the putrid dish as "wrinklesteaks."



I swear whean I heard "wrinklesteak", I almost spit up chunks of spicy sausage on one of my sister's stepkids. It instantly gorilla'd its way into the VIP section of my vocabulary; flanked on the left by "shenanigans" and "dingleberry" on the right.

So, on that sunny day, I happily learned that even my parents find the idea of stinky pig intestines coursing through human entrails somewhat revolting. Well, at least in public. I also learned that for the love of God, if somebody asks you if you if you like scream "NO!"

Nothing good can come of saying anything besides that.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Under the Boardwalk

Urgh, Monday...

I promised myself I wouldn't subject anyone masochistic enough to enjoy pushing through my Monday posts to yet more "I feel like crap today" exposition.

But I lie to myself all the time...and I feel like crap.

So there. That information is the key to the fulfillment of all your hopes and dreams, I'm certain.

This weekend featured little in the way of party-boy antics for yours truly, as I was engaged in the initial re-visitation of an activity that will likely become an annual family tradition...

That would be the summer beach picnic, out in Santa Cruz. Home to legions of surfers, skaters, hippies and at least one blogger, Santa Cruz is one of the most awesomely strange places in California. Combination burrito stand/head shops...a massive full-pipe for junior to play on...rabid seals (OK, I'm lying about the seals being rabid, but their never-ending barking might drive you crazy)...Santa Cruz is loaded with stuff absolutely worthy of "lookee here."

Anyhow, my immediate/extended family and friends caravaned down to the Boardwalk from San Jose Saturday morning. I swear I crack a dopey, ear-to-ear grin every time I go to Santa Cruz. It seems like the type of place where children receive school-issued jars of glow in the dark silly putty on the first day of class. As we drove toward parking near the Boardwalk Casino Arcade, I marveled at how different everything felt.

I mean, up is still up and down is down in Santa Cruz, but it has this tangible, almost-alien vibe. It feels almost like the town has a secret side only known to the locals. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find out that if you stay past midnight, everyone turns into donkeys that bray at the moon - all still sporting shorts and bikini tops. Or maybe the town is full of gay-looking vampires that prowl the Boardwalk looking for beach keggers. I have an overactive imagination as it is. Combining Santa Cruz with that imagination is comparable to allowing a 10-year-old to wash down No Doze with Mountain Dew.

I must note that being the genius I am, I forgot to bring my camera. As to not take credit for pictures I didn't actually take, I'm letting you know I "Googled" these pics. They are accurate representations of what I saw though. Next time I'll be more prepared, I promise. These are things I saw and heard at the Boardwalk that are probably only interesting to me...

  • Kiddie Rides: a Boardwalk staple

These are miniature versions of rides that typically cater to boys between the ages of 16 and 16-and-a-half. All of them primarily involve spinning you around at high speeds until you either blow chunks all over the person behind you, or you're so dizzy you couldn't walk down the Golden Gate Bridge without falling over the side. Take all that fun, then work the same magic that gave the world bite-sized Snickers, and you get "Rock & Roll." Obviously, it's a music-themed ride. If you have a Peeping-Tom's eyes or a magnifying glass handy, you can see the awesome music-themed mural at the top. It features several of the hottest musical artists adored by children everywhere. That's 'tween favorite Elvis Presley rockin' out on a mean guitar on the left. To the right of Mr. Presley is the "Private Dancer" making every little boy swoon, Tina Turner. And further right are the king and queen of the kiddie Jazz and Latin pop scenes, Louis Armstrong and Gloria Estefan. Kids will no doubt know this is the ride for them. My sister's stepkids will testify.

  • Giant donuts aren't popular in Santa Cruz

I saw, about two dozen of the biggest, baddest donuts God ever allowed to grace this green Earth. I really should kick my own ass for not having a camera on-hand to document those warlocks. They were at least as big as the wheels on your average Toyota. I wondered aloud to my sister, "Why aren't people buying these bad boys? They only cost, like a nickle apiece." Then I got my answer when a saw a mosquito...imprisoned in the gooey glaze of one of the display donuts. "At least he died happy," I said. Then I spotted the ice cream stand.

  • Grandmas are apparently magic

Remember this guy? A young version of Tom Hanks makes a wish on this machine in the movie "Big" and presto...instant hairline issues. Anyhow, the Boardwalk folks, intent on one-upping Zoltar in terms of pay-for-play wisdom and mystical potency, have their own spin on this at the Casino Arcade named "Grandma Says." It featured an animatronic crone that looks like the type of old woman that would take all of the money she tricked out of everyone dumb enough to give her any, and go hit the nickle slots in Vegas. Since when do grandmas grant wishes? I mean, if you wish for fruitcake or cookies, their powers might prove quite formidable. It's when you're trying to wish away foreclosure on your home that things get tricky. Since I'm apparently a dumbass, I wished to be a kid again and waited and waited, but nothing happened. After playing video games and eating ice cream for over an hour, I gave up waiting and ran back to the beach to make a sand castle.

This is just a mere taste of last weekend's nuttiness. To be continued...