“Unable to go anywhere, the girls travelled in their imaginations to Siamese temples or passed an old man with a leafbroom tidying a moss-carpeted speck of Japan. We ordered the same catalogues and, flipping through the pages, we hiked through passes with the girls, stopping every now and then to help them with their backpacks, placing our hands on their warm, moist shoulders and gazing offat papaya sunsets. We drank tea with them in a water pavilion. We did whatever we wanted. Cecilia hadn’t died. She was a bride in Calcutta. The only way we could feel close to the girls was through these impossible trips which have scarred us forever, making us happier with dreams than wives. Collecting everything we could of theirs, the Lisbon girls wouldn’t leave our minds. But they were slipping away.”—The Virgin Suicides
"My first glimpse of the flat black streets of Chicago depressed and dismayed me, mocked all my fantasies. Chicago seemed an unreal city whose mythical houses were built of slabs of black coal wreathed in palls of gray smoke, houses whose foundations were sinking slowly into the dank prairie. Flashes of steam showed intermittently on the wide horizon, gleaming translucently in the winter sun. The din of the city entered my consciousness, entered to remain for years to come."
How are your music classes going? I’m the guy who sat in front of you in Music Appreciation last semester; I’ve never been so self-conscience about how the back of my head looked before. But I don’t see you that much anymore. I get to hear you an awful lot though; I have a voice lesson right after yours and I have to wait outside the door, so sometimes I get to listen to you sing and it’s… well, to be honest it’s kind of rough but it’s pretty alright… It’s endearing. That’s the word.
Sometimes though, I like to think that maybe on your way out of your lesson and on my way in, that you might stop to tie your shoe or check your phone. You stay long enough to listen to me warble the fretful show tunes and nervous love songs that I sing every week. Something about having an audience, you as an audience, makes those high notes sound unworried. Instead the notes sound bold and heroic and I feel like Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma. Other times I feel like Bing Crosby singing a love song. Not singing, crooning. Oh yeah, crooning.
That’s when I can close my eyes and just listen to myself, I can hear every note. Each one resounding, each one felt. It’s me at my best. The professor asks “why don’t you sing like that all the time?” And I just shrug my shoulders and laugh. The idea that you might be in earshot of the door turns me from William Hung to Frank Sinatra. So whether or not you’re actually there, thank you.
Que pasa, dude? Again, we sat around each other outside the Nest today. I love almost speaking to you everyday (that sentence works with or without sarcasm). I’ve been pretty adamant about making sure you don’t see me looking at you, cause that’s weird. But there are so many questions I have for you, like, where did you get your bicycle and why don’t you ever roll up your right pant leg like all the other bikers? You have a great “I don’t care what I’m wearing but I look awesome” look, is that on purpose? Why aren’t we facebook friends?
But I guess I already know the answers to all of these questions. Your bike is a special brand that’s usually only found in Richmond and what’s the point of rollin’ up your pant leg if it’s a skinny jean anyway? And of course your look is not on purpose, otherwise it wouldn’t look so effortless. Duh. And we’re not facebook friends because I don’t know your name and I’ve never spoken to you before. You are just Bike Guy. You are just another campus-walk crush.
Never mind the waffles themselves. The American South’s homogeneous, twenty-four-hour homage to breakfast has a place for us all.
My gripe with the American South is not with its alleged peculiarity, but rather its homogeneity — its smug boosterism, its passive-aggressive encoding of “good manners,” its landscapes parched and blasted by Christian surrender to corporate interests. And Waffle House is, on the surface, nothing if not homogeneous. Each restaurant has the same shoe-box shape, the same jukebox selection interlarded with Waffle House tributes and novelties, the same plastic-coated place-mat menus, the same you-can-eat-there-drunk-four-o’clock-Christmas-morning hours, and, more or less, the same layout. There’s a counter that faces a flat grill attended by a short-order cook who keeps a dorky, paper Waffle House hat perched on his crown, takes his orders exclusively by ear, and keeps his back to his audience as resolutely as a priest pre-Vatican II. Flanking the counter are a few scant booths outfitted with molded plastic benches that accommodate no more than four diners; visit a Waffle House with a party of five and you’re screwed. As a matter of fact, the typical Waffle House — and if you’re speaking of one, you’re speaking of them all — begins with a few liabilities for a restaurant in the American South purporting to specialize in the American breakfast. The coffee? As bitter as regret. The maple syrup? As fake as the little plastic-packed side pots of butter, which, in turn, taste a lot better than the ghastly schmear of glistening fuel oil that comes on the prebuttered toast. And the waffles, the holy eponymous waffles? They’re okay, wide and round without being too thick, with a malty taste that mitigates their heaviness, but they’re also the first items on the table to lose heat, and with that, something like their molecular integrity. I mean, they start out as pale as something that lives under a rock, and after a while, they just die, right there in front of you, and you wind up eating around them. To be honest, I don’t know anyone who goes to Waffle House for the waffles, and they don’t serve pancakes any more than the Coca-Cola museum serves Pepsi.
So what makes Waffle Houses so great? Well, like many other Southern institutions, Waffle House overcompensates. Just as your big Southern university overcompensates for the SAT scores of its students by playing some kickass SEC football, Waffle House overcompensates for its bitter brew by serving truly delicious fountain products, including the best made-from-syrup Cherry Cokes extant in these United States, with free refills yet. It overcompensates for serving frozen, grated hash-brown potatoes by a) keeping them on the grill until they form a golden crust, thereby making them a perfect delivery system for the salt grains you can hear bouncing around on their surface when you shake the shaker, and b) serving them a dozen ways. The variations are as follows: You can get them “Scattered,” which means plain; you can get them “Scattered and Smothered,” which means with chopped onions; you can get them “Scattered, Smothered and Covered,” which means with cheese; you can get them “Scattered, Smothered, Covered and Chunked,” which means… well, I don’t know what it means, exactly, because I’ve never gotten that far. All I know is that by the time Waffle House gets through with the variations on its frozen potatoes, it has made frozen potatoes into what Italians have made pasta, i.e., the bedrock of an entire culinary universe. And that’s how Waffle House works, in general. Its menu is narrow the way the selection of notes in “The Goldberg Variations” is narrow. Let diners expand their menus by simple, relentless addition; Waffle House relies on a higher math, so its menu, which seems a forthright declaration of its limitations, is actually a celebration of possibility.
Which is why it’s a lot like the American South: There is multiplicity within the homogeneity; there is eccentricity that keeps forcing its way past the willful blandness. The great gift of Waffle House is not that the food at every single one of its units tastes the same, though, in fact, it does; the great gift is that every single one of its units is different and owes something to the vagaries of its location. I have been to cracker Waffle Houses; I have been to African-American Waffle Houses; I have been to poseur Waffle Houses; I have been to North Carolina Waffle Houses seemingly consecrated to the burning of the tobacco leaf; I have been to Waffle Houses frequented exclusively by truckers; I have been to Waffle Houses that have offered succor when I’ve gotten lost; I have been to Waffle Houses that have made me feel like I was going to get killed in the parking lot. There are a lot of black people who won’t go to a Denny’s because of that chain’s history of discrimination; there are a lot of gay people who won’t go to a Cracker Barrel for the same reason. There isn’t anybody who won’t go to a Waffle House, though, because you can always find a Waffle House that suits you, and every Waffle House waitress greets you the same way, whether she’s a big black woman with gold teeth named after Elvis or a scrawny white woman whose teeth function as a kind of redneck Rubik’s Cube.
What I like: the cheese omelet, which unlike the inflated grotesqueries of other chains is, like Waffle House itself, made to a human scale, on the grill, so what it lacks in size, it gains in density and flavor, with cheese in every bite. And then, of course, the cheese eggs. To be specific: the cheese eggs, with a side of raisin toast, along with a bowl of grits and an order of hash browns “Scattered and Smothered,” a few sausage patties, and a Cherry Coke. Indeed, all the foodies who insist that Jean-Georges Vongerichten has reinvented the scrambled egg by cooking it over low heat and beating it until the curds break up have never eaten at a Waffle House, which achieves the same effect just by adding some Kraft slices. The cheese eggs at Waffle House are like pudding, man, which is almost as high a compliment as saying their comically cheap cuts of meat — their saltine-thin T-bones and pork chops — are like bacon. But it’s true: Waffle House steaks and pork chops are like bacon, which is to say, they’re as nasty as bacon and as good as bacon at the same time. But that’s not just Waffle House; that’s the South, overall. Which is why I’m sort of stuck here, and why this godforsaken place still beckons. Welcome South, brother. It’s as good as bacon. Just about.
“A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures - they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’ He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.’”—Sam Haskins
So I was at work last night (I ref volleyball games) and watching the ladies play got me thinking. I’ve always loved this sport not only because I love to play it but because I learned so much from it. I started playing during that time of your teenage years where you really figure out what kind of person you are. My coach, Coach Blieler, who doubled as my history teacher, not only taught us how to play well (on an competitive international level) but taught us about being a sportsman, a leader, and the little lessons that the sport has.
So while I was watching I wrote down all the things I liked and didn’t like about their playing; notes about serving, spiking, the setter etc. and what those taught me about life. It sounds crazy but I can relate the lessons you could learn in a volleyball game to my ENTIRE life!
So every once in a while I think I’ll blog about a little rule or technique in volleyball and how I feel like it relates to being an awesome person.
Also. I’m in a volleyball class, it’s not so much a class, we just dick around for an hour every Tues/Thurs. Sometimes it’s pretty satisfying, but most of the time I just want to kill myself and my sucky ass teammates. And of course they think that I’m an asshole cause “I’m not having fun”; bitch, I’ll be having fun once you start trying and moving your damn feet.
It’s just one of those things where I feel like I was in such a good place; in Chile I was co-captain of the team and we got to travel to other countries to compete. We’d win too. and now I’m stuck with people who are only there for the grade and just don’t try. I don’t get mad when people try. And like I said, it’s not just a sport to me; my coach was like a father to me and volleyball was our language, and it helped shape me. Volleyball is kinda like a religion to me. So seeing people not care, it’s just seems disrespectful.
“I like an escalator because an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. There would never be an escalator temporarily out of order sign, only an escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience.”—Mitch Hedberg
My favorite brand of yogurt is Yoplait; I can’t think of very many days where I don’t have at least one. But the thing that always crosses my mind about yoplait and yogurt in general is the little bit that’s left when you’re done. Yoplait has that little inward lip on its cups where you have to perform what I like to call “ring scrape”. You know, sometimes I just don’t feel like scraping the ring, it’s a lot of effort for such a small reward. But then I think about what is left over and I do it anyways.
Can you imagine how much yogurt I’d have if I could take all the yogurt I’ve ever left behind in every cup of yogurt from my entire life of yogurt eating? It would be a lot of yogurt! I’m sure it’d be an interesting flavor too. So next time you’re eating yogurt and just don’t feel like scraping for that last extra bit, just think about that.
Another thought: WHY does yoplait have that impractical lip?! I think it’s for the lid but there are other ways of having a lid, Yoplait.
So everyone knows that I like to build things and when I do it’s often under the mentality that “bigger is usually better”. Everyone also knows that I like animals, symbolism in different cultures, and… poles (insert gay joke here). So what better things to build than totem poles? I’ve started sketching stuff and I hope this can be something I can do for real. I want people to be like “wtf why are there totem poles on campus?”.
I’m not quite sure what I’d build them out of but I guess I’ll start in ceramics just to get my ideas out. Sucks that we don’t have a wood shop here. Anyways. Here’s the wiki page if you want to read up on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totem_pole.
What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboard down the street you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird things is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had the time to match up their heartbeats yet. And the finish line at the end of a the New York City Marathon would sound like war.