Apparently there exists a universal expectation that if you have a blog, you’re supposed to update it. So I’m getting poked and prodded by people who clearly need another hobby to write something new here. So it’s been five months since I updated this. I don’t think I even feel bad about that. I may not even feel anything. This website is squarely in the middle of my emotional void. Right there next to leaving golf clubs in the trunk of my car all winter. Like I’m actually going to be on the road in February and encounter an opportunity to tee up with my (not-so-)trusty Callaway. Much like paying the slew of fees to keep this pathetic digital ship afloat.
Although, to be fair, I did say back in January that this was going to be my creative outlet, to fulfill the screaming demands of that little writer in my head. But I also said that I was doing this for myself. Not for you. So I tried to disabuse you of any notions you may have had about this being something worth subscribing to. Hopefully most of you took my advice and moved on to reading endless Twitter feeds and Facebook stalking. But clearly a couple of you are still lingering, twisting your toe in the dust, pretending to text on your phone so you don’t have to engage anyone around you, and your brain silently urging something to happen soon so you can stop feeling so uncomfortable and out of place. Well, I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. I guess I knew you were there, but maybe purely out of spite I felt compelled to make you wait.
No, it was nothing that sinister, I swear. It’s really just being back in school. Taking online classes is like sitting next to that really fat guy on the bus: try as you might, it’s all you can think about. The most necessary skill of any student taking online classes is not discipline, organizational ability, or photographic memory, but rather paranoia. The best way to be successful is to always have a horrific fear that you have at least three assignments due that you never knew about. As long as you are utterly and completely terrified, stressed to the point of stomach bleeding, and unable to sleep most nights, you’ll be all set for online classes. As long as you spend every waking moment reading and re-reading your syllabi and class calendars and never actually get the “day of rest” your professors promise you, you’ll be just fine. So, in addition to all that, I’m also spending a lot of time writing papers, lesson plans, class discussions, and similar dreck. And that is the reason I have neglected and ignored this website just like every NordicTrack purchased in the early 1990s.
But I was suddenly compelled to throw caution to the wind and pull off the piles of laundry that covered this failed New Years resolution. As I began thinking of what I was going to say at this awkward reunion, I started thinking about some of the fond memories. If you have read this website at all since January, you’ve probably read some fairly serious and thoughtful (as I see it anyway, so quit giggling) essays. But it wasn’t always that way. Some of you might remember some of the naive blathering or even some of the humorous pontificating. None of that remains online. In a day and age where every bit of dreck is archived within reach of the tentacles of the mighty googlepus, I actually deleted them from the World Wide Web. Now they only exist in a random sub-folder on my hard drive. After a bit of searching, I actually found them and started reading, hoping to find some inspiration for this occasion.
What I’m about to do now is quite nearly a contradiction to one of my deepest and most strongly-held morals. You see, there’s nothing I find more annoying than an author who publishes a book which is a “collection of essays.” Nothing smacks of higher pretentiousness than re-publishing something you’ve already published and re-profiting from it without doing any work other than writing a three-page forward. Numerous times I’ve been thrilled to see a new book by an author I like, only to find that they’ve decided to cop out and pack all their monthly magazine or newspaper columns into a book and see how many schmucks will give real money in exchange for a copy. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few collections of essays that are legitimate. But unless you’re Thomas Paine or George Orwell, you might want to reconsider and let your publisher cash in after you die.
I’d like to think I’m not being a little hypocritical, but I was really entertained to go back and read things that I had written two or three years ago. The biggest gem in the crown, I think, was the summer of 2007; the summer I gave myself over to a gluttony of root beer. It was the summer that I bought and drank every brand of root beer I could find, sampling different brews to find the best.
Everything in our society has a certain “American-ness” to it. And when new things are introduced to our society, there are certain benchmarks we use to gauge just how American these new things are. For most of us, the benchmarks are baseball and apple pie. […] But there is another pillar of American culture, one which we can use to defend our superiority over Europe. And that pillar is root beer.
But more than just focus on root beer by itself, I had to explore it’s higher calling: the root beer float. “On the American-ness scale, they are even more American than root beer itself, if that’s even possible.”
So, given that the root beer float is such an important part of our American heritage and culture, I decided to do my patriotic duty: I bought and tasted 17 different root beers and made 17 different root beer floats to try and determine the best (and thus most American) root beer for combining with ice cream.
I’ll skip the highly scientific research data and remind you that the top five root beers were Sprecher’s, Virgil’s, IBC, Dr. Brown’s, and Mug. But don’t begin to think that root beer and root beer floats are the only American traditions I ever got worked up about.
Why can’t people leave well enough alone? Brownies are one of life’s pure pleasures. Like rainbows, long walks on the beach, and dove hunting. Nothing can lift one’s spirits, or take away pangs of guilt or hurt, or can bolster your self esteem quite like a whole pan of brownies. But what happens when you get that first fistful of chocolaty goodness into your gaping maw and realize you’ve been lied to and cheated?
I boldly ranted about being offered a “brownie” that, in reality, was just dry chocolate cake. All blame was placed upon the over-indulgent use of flour, which will inevitably lead to the soul-crushing fraud that is the cakey brownie.
It baffles my mind to see how people can flippantly refer to an air-filled baked good as a “brownie.” The other insidious trend is adding chocolate chips. This has come about from the growing acceptance of cakey brownies. Small pieces of chocolate are added to replace some of the chocolate pleasure that has been exhausted by the immoderate use of flour.
Come to think of it, there were a lot of things I got worked up about. Sometimes it was more than just being a loud-mouther purist. Sometimes it was about uncovering the truth and exposing the greatest of lies.
LTO is a myth. I’m breaking it to you now. After months of field research, I have reached the conclusion that the obligatory lettuce-tomato-(red) onion accoutrement for hamburgers is seriously flawed.
Okay, the research data here was definitely a bit more dry and nuanced, but just take my word for it that, when given a wide range of options, diners rarely, if ever, choose raw onion. (Admittedly the other two are quite commonly selected.) Sadly, my extensive and exhaustive research was suppressed by the powers that be in the restaurant industry and the scourge of LTO burgers lives on.
When I go back and read all of that, it’s hard to deny that food is a passion. But maybe leaving the restaurant industry will be good for my blood pressure once all that high-cholesterol food starts to crowd my arteries. On the other hand, seeing as how I still have at least nine months or so left in this business, that might be plenty of time for me to come back here and spew my empirical research on dining trends and food consumption habits. Or maybe I’ll rekindle my feeble historical essays. Like the one I wrote on the Mexican-American War. Or the one I wrote about slavery and the Civil War. Or the one I wrote on the Indian Wars. I’d offer you some quotes here, but those were incredibly long-winded. Maybe I’ll stoop to hypocrisy and republish a couple of those. Not because I’m so proud as to want to share them with you, but because I sincerely enjoy going back and reading them. And I’ll probably be the kind of teacher who will make my students read them.
So, this has clearly gone on long enough and I applaud you for getting this far. And, in reality, this has not even been a real update. It’s just been me talking about updating. That’s almost like an author publishing a book on how to write and publish a book. But either way, we’re both happy here. I got to do a little writing, and you don’t get to complain about me not updating for a while. Win-win.