Wisconsin’s continuing obsession with culinary suicide

From the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, sprouted this 22-inch monstrosity:

Each serving comes with its own AED, charged and ready to respark a lipid-destroyed heart.

More about the “Horse Collar” at NFL.com. And how’s your Sunday going? Are you ready for some football? Does this actually look good to anyone?

We here at Paragraph Line will continue to follow this story until every Wisconsinite grabs his or her chest and collapses in a heap.

Killing Michael J. Fox by Fiona Helmsley

michaelstarIn 1996, my mother was engaged to be married. As an ingratiating gesture, her fiancé offered to pay for me to go into drug treatment. The facility wasn’t a rehab in the traditional, 30- day medical setting sense; it was a historical retreat within the AA community, the type of place program aficionados might go to recharge their spiritual batteries. It was expensive, but was less costly than a thousands of dollars a month traditional facility. There was no detox there, so my family doctor wrote me a prescription for clonidine and a benzo, and the pills were dispensed to me my first week there by a nurse on staff. The place was quaint, out in the woods and rustic; there was a little chapel on the grounds and a garden where the patients could tend to plants and flowers. I was not interested in either spiritual matters or botanical ones, and as was the case with all my rehab experiences up to this point, I was the youngest person there. It was awkward being a drug addict in treatment at ages 17, 18, 19—I was still a kid, but was always placed with the adults, which just added to my sense of alienation. It was like being in treatment with your parents.

I became friendly with a woman named Marci. She often treated me with a snobby sense of superiority, but because my outward appearance drew attention, and she liked attention, she decided to be my friend so we could share in the attention together. Instead of competing with me for it, we would divide and conquer. She was in her forties and wore cocktails dresses all the time, even when we went for walks in the woods, then she would swap her heels for sneakers. She had three children, and would dictate her letters to them to me and I would write them out for her. She would then take the letter to the administrative facility and photocopy it; ergo, each kid got the same letter.

On a regular, casual basis, I used to wear ripped fishnet stockings with shorts and skirts. One day, I wore the fishnets to morning mediation and they caused a considerable stir amongst the patients and staff. I wasn’t told not to wear them, but it was obvious it was a matter that we would be revisiting later. After the group, Marci begged me to take them off the stockings, and let her wear them, which I did, just to stop her pleading. Later that afternoon, we were both taken aside by the staff and told to retire the fishnets. Marci relished claiming that she was the reason the stockings had been banned, and recapping the incident for new patients. She seemed to think it implied something about her dangerous sexiness, as the stockings hadn’t been banned until she put them on.

There was a large lodge on the grounds were they would hold AA meetings that were open to the public. Since the facility was storied in AA lore, people would come from far and wide and these meeting would be filled with hundreds of people. It was an exciting event for the patients. It was also the only time during the week we got to drink caffeinated coffee.

I grew up watching “Family Ties” and adored Michael J. Fox, whose real middle initial is the prescient “A”, making his real name Michael A. Fox. “Back to the Future,” “Teen Wolf,”— the precociously conservative Alex P. Keaton is still one of my favorite television characters. Fox has been candid in interviews about his struggles with alcoholism, and donates money to many different causes connected with helping people get sober, so I don’t feel I am “outing” him by writing this. I was outside the meeting lodge smoking a cigarette when he walked past me; I had to do a double take. I couldn’t believe it. I was in the same immediate airspace as Marty fucking McFly. As awed as I was by this, I knew an A.A meeting was not the place to approach him; after all, the second A in AA stands for Anonymous, and that dictate applies to celebrities, too. Marci appeared besides me dressed to the nines. I was literally so excited to see Michael J. Fox, I thought I might throw up.

“Michael J. Fox is here!” I whispered to her.

“What was he in again?” Marci asked. His name was familiar to her, but she couldn’t recall any of his acting work; nonetheless she was clearly intrigued that there was a celebrity in our midst.

“We have to sit near him,” she said, reading my mind. I figured this was ok, we could sit near him. What could be wrong with that? I wouldn’t point, stare, or ogle him, but I would be close enough to note what kind of sneakers he had on, and this seemed like an important thing for me to know.

We settled into our seats a few rows behind him. I was content to just stare at the back of his head.

Marci suddenly jumped up.

“I’m going to say something to him,” she said.

“No, don’t!” I said, grabbing at the back of her dress, but it was too late. She went up to his chair in the next row and tapped him on his shoulder. He turned around to face her and she pointed in my direction.

“Will you say something to this girl?” she said confidently. “She’s obsessed with you.”

I wanted to die. I literally wanted to crawl under my chair and have the earth open and suck me inside of it. I could feel my face turning bright red, and when I saw the look on his face, I felt that I deserved to meet a painful end, too.

I spoke over Marci.

“No, no, it’s ok! It’s ok! I’m so sorry!”

Michael J. Fox glanced over in my direction. Then he gave Marci a look of pure poison, and turned back around. He never said a word, because he is a great actor, he didn’t need to. With his face and body language, he had communicated exactly how he felt about us.

Since Michael J. Fox did not try to flirt with her and she couldn’t engage him, all that was left for Marci to do was come back to her seat and sit down. “I tried!” she said loudly, as if to reinforce that I’d put her up to it.

A few minutes later, the meeting began. At the start of the discussion part, Michael J. Fox got up and left. I felt horrible. I felt like the biggest, tackiest, doucheiest loser in the world. Later, when I got back to my room and told my roommate what had happened she just made me feel worse: What if Michael J. Fox had been thinking about drinking, she said, and because we had made him feel so uncomfortable that he’d left the meeting, he went on a bender on his way back home?

In essence she was saying to me, what if you just killed Michael J. Fox?

I hated Marci for what she had done. I never wanted to talk to her ever again.

Thankfully, the next week, a man named Tyler checked himself into the program and rescued me from her clutches. He had a lazy eye and wore Hootie and The Blowfish t-shirts. It took about a week and a half, but I fell in rehab love.

Love.

Try as they might, it’s the one drug no rehab can keep off their grounds.

 

 

Yo, fatty! When you gonna finish them books?

His Majesty, Lord Puddin’ Pop

Fantasy gasbag George R.R. Martin complains about being famous and the high demand for his next book at the Guardian. His fans actually have the gall to want to take selfies with him! Oh, tsk, tsk, swords and dragons people!

…he recently snarled “fuck you!” at a questioner who queried whether, as a 65-year-old with a high body mass index, he was sure he could complete the last two books.

Don’t they know how very taxing it is to write 100,000 words about people in chain mail riding from one town to another all while having conversations in tortured English? That stuff doesn’t just write itself, kids.

I recommend that all of his fans gather outside his estate in New Mexico and protest him instead of immigration. (Sample Sign: Spit out that cookie, and finish the book!) If he emerges, don’t forget to whip out your iPhones and take a picture with him. Then hand him a bottle of Glucerna.

And Now a Word From Our Sponsor by David S. Atkinson

I walked back to the dry goods storage shelves in the back of the kitchen and started counting the boxes of napkins again. The restaurant was slow and Lance wanted me checking dry goods inventory when we were slow. He was sure someone was swiping. No one did. No one stole crap from employers since the Shrinkage Act of 2009 made it punishable by death.

Stupid recession. Stupid shit job.

Still, it could have been worse. Could have been no job. Or, I could have been checking patties in the walk in freezer like Fred. At least I wasn’t frost bit.

Lance took the place so damn seriously since they made him shift manager. As if that meant he didn’t work at a Burger King like the rest of us. We all pretended to be gung ho; Lance was gullible enough to fall for it. And he was in charge, even if that was in charge of nothing.

The napkins were all there, except the ones we’d actually used. One napkin per purchase. Rationing. No free lunch; no free napkins. I would have to count again later.

I did see something weird as I was counting, though. It wasn’t the actual wall behind the dry goods shelf; it was a back tacked on to the metal rails that just made it look like the wall. I’d never noticed that before. Why would someone do that? The boxes couldn’t fall out through the wall. No need to brace them. What was behind it?

I pulled the shelf out a little ways and some dude sprung out from some hole carved in masonry back there like a trapdoor spider. One of the big ones. I almost screamed, but the guy grabbed me and put a sharpened spork to my throat before I could.

“Any sound and I end you,” he whispered angrily, spitting a little.

He was a little guy, but fast. Ragged, old looking. He had on a dirty, faded grey suit. The pant bottoms were flooded and he had on white athletic socks with scuffed black dress shoes. His head was shaved bald, nicked here and there like he’d been cutting it himself with the spork, and thick-rimmed glasses with big assed fish eye lenses covered most of his face. He was a nerd gone native.

Who was this guy?

Mind you, I was thinking all that and I wasn’t I’d about pissed myself when he jumped out and I wasn’t doing much better after that with the sharpened spork at my throat.

“Think you found me, dead man?” The freak kept talking. “They all want to find me. They all want the five grand and entry into the drawing for a million just for being in the restaurant when I’m found. Never had a burger here? Man…what do you think I’ve been eating back here all these years?”

What the hell was the guy babbling about? The spork point made it kind of hard to think straight.

“You didn’t find me; I found you. Nobody finds me. I kill them first. I’ll kill them all with my bare hands.”

That’s when it hit me. How could I have missed it? Dorky outfit? Five grand for finding him in the restaurant? Never at a Burger King burger? Drawing for a million if you’re there when he’s found? I knew this dude. Everyone did…or at least they used to.

“Herb?” I asked, trying not to move my neck enough to get stabbed. “That you?”

“You know it’s me,” he growled. “There’s probably a cardboard cutout of me standing in the lobby right now. You know my face.”

I couldn’t believe it. The guy really didn’t know. He’d crawled in that hole thirty some odd years ago and didn’t know the war was over. Never surrendered, never taken, never compromised. Dude was a hero, the last soldier still fighting.

“Herb,” I said gentler, respectfully, “that’s all gone now. It’s been gone for a long time. The Burger Wars are finished.”

He paused. I could feel him thinking, panicking. I didn’t move, not sure if he’d even listen. Maybe he’d gone crazy in there. I wouldn’t want to get a hero like him hurt over a misunderstanding. I didn’t want him to hurt me either, which seemed more likely.

Eventually, he let me go. He pushed me away quick, spinning me around so I faced him. The sharpened spork still brandished in my direction. Wary. His eyes darted paranoid around him and all around behind the kitchen, trying to take everything in at once.

“You feeding me a line? What’s the game here?”

“It’s over, Herb,” I reassured him. “You can relax.”

He blinked. He gritted his teeth and his grip on the spork tightened. “Who won?”

I shrugged. “Nobody, Herb. It turned into sort of a cold war. The two superpowers slammed away at each other, but nothing was going anywhere. No lasting victories. All the while, barbarians trickled in and chipped away at both of them.”

His eyes widened. Fear.

“Not literally! Deli sandwiches. Chicken. Chinese food. Burritos. Neither of the powers were strong enough to end the other and fighting left them open to the little guys. It was hopeless. President George Foreman finally got them to sit down and call truce, in the interests of the cheeseburger. It was better for everyone.”

He sagged, but it seemed like a mix of disappointment and relief. Maybe more relief than anything else. His grip on the sharpened spork lessened.

“Really? It’s done? I can come out from back there? No one is hunting me anymore?” His head tilted a little to the left. He looked that happy kind of stunned.

“Really, man. They declared amnesty for all soldiers. You’re safe now. There’s nothing more to worry about.”

It jazzed me to be the one to give him the good news, to see that smile start to creep across his face as the weight of thirty years lifted form his shoulders. War over or not, the dude was a bad ass. It was cool I could be the one to do that for him.

“Wow,” he muttered. “Wow.”

“Hard to process all at once?” I smiled.

“Yeah. I mean, I’ve been in there alone for…what? Years? Way too long. Then it’s all just done and the world is all sunshine and rainbows. How does a man even shift like that?”

“Just take things one moment at a time, man,” I replied. “Just take it as it comes. Think–what was the first thing you wanted to do when the war was over? What’s the first thing you’re going to do in the post war world?”

He grinned. Big. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to get me a Pepsi, would you? I’ve been dreaming about one all the time I’ve been stuck back in this kitchen. All I can think about is finally having one now.”

I, literally, felt my jaw clench as that son of a bit dared to say that. My throat burned with stomach acid boiling up my esophagus and I swear my vision actually went red. The fucker. He actually had the fucking gall to say that.

I snapped my wrist up and pressed the crown on my ‘polar bears drinking soda’ watch. I heard a TING! as the glass capsule inside shattered. Then a small compressed gas jet shot the prussic acid powder into that smug bastard’s face.

Herb gasped, sucking the powder right into his lungs. Stupid bastard. He gagged, his pale face going bluish. He clutched at his throat vainly. It wouldn’t do him any good. Neither would that damn spork. He fell.

“The cola wars are over too, Herb,” I told his corpse. Prussic acid worked fast. I spat on his body. “Maybe you should have thought to ask about that. It’s over and we make sure what we say is respectful toward the great master Coca-Cola. Asshole.”

A literary triumph from ‘the next great American writer’

I subscribe to things. That’s what I do. When I was promised free books by Netgalley, I subscribed. I had no idea that I was about to be blessed with an email offer to read “a literary triumph from ‘the next great American writer.’” Oh… my… God.

Not only is Benjamin Whitmer “‘the next great American writer’” but, in the lede of the email, we’re told that he’s written his “literary triumph” “in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown.”

At first, I thought it was some hack publicist at Simon & Schuster hanging this albatross around the dude’s neck:
“Hey, he writes about rednecks… let’s compare him to Larry Brown and Cormac McCarthy! Hell, let’s say he’s better than Faulkner!”
“Faulkner?”
“Ah, forget it. Let’s just stick with Brown and McCarthy.”

But visit his website, and behold! He’s wallowing in his hubris there. Why, he’s up for all sorts of Frenchie awards: Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, Prix des Balais d’or 2013, and Le Festival International du Film Policier de Beaune. Fancy!

My novel, Shake Loose the Dust From Thy Shoes and Trod Off On a Vast Country Road in Search of Whiskey and Meaning: An Allegory, is better. My protagonist, Toad, has syphilis AND a meth addiction. Toad keeps his girlfriend, Rose, locked up in the bedroom during the day. She doesn’t mind. Toad and Rose beltwhip each other for fun before heading off to the Pentecostal church to speak in tongues. Then she heads over to the truckstop to do some light whoring before Toad clubs her customers with an ax handle. The bodies of dead truckers are stacked like cordwood beneath the floorboards of their shotgun shack. The sheriff comes by on occasion to scratch his head at Toad’s collection of big rigs, parked higgledy-piggledy on his weed-choked lawn next to his collection of lawn jockeys and rat-infested living room furniture. The couple finally gets caught in the act, and Toad and Rose end up being electrocuted together (she sits in his lap, just like in that Bruce Springsteen song!).

My novel won the Prix de Pain au Beurre et du Vin from the Ligue Française des Intellectuels at their annual conference in the Gare du Nord rail station in Paris. I wear the medal around my neck while I write. It’s as big as a dinner plate. The reflection off it once brought down a small aircraft, setting its wing on fire.

I AM MELVILLE! Who are you, Whitmer? Larry Brown? Cormac McCarthy? I am HAWTHORNE, fucker! And TWAIN! With a smattering of Thomas Wolfe, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren and Tennessee Williams! But mainly MELVILLE! Fall on your knees before my GODLIKE PROSE! Tremble!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must enjoy my favorite beverage–a mixture of Jim Beam, Southern Comfort and Rose’s Lime Juice served in a one-quart Mason jar, best served cold with a half-dozen hand-rolled, shag-tobacco smokes while singing the Carter Family’s “Worried Man Blues.”

 

The History Of A Dog. Written By Himself, And Published By A Gentleman Of His Acquaintance. Translated From The French.

100 Actual Novel Titles from Real Eighteenth-Century Novels as Presented by the Good Fellows at The Toast, being a Blog Presented Through the Complex of Websites Known as The Internet as Translated by Google, a Company That Doth Claim to do No Evil.

And good day, sir! I said, “Good day”!

Wisconsin’s obsession with culinary suicide

The latest food atrocity out of Wisconsin–home of the Italian Sausage Lollipop, Chocolate Covered Bacon-on-a-Stick, deep-fried cheese curds–is the Chicken Fried Bloody Beast, a Bloody Mary featuring an entire fried chicken as a garnish, among other things (yes, those are bacon-wrapped jalapeño cheese balls).

Place the “drink” on the table, and slowly step away from it. The HAZMAT team will be here shortly.

Enjoy your massive coronaries, Wisconsin fatties! More at UPI.

Speaking of “…on a stick…” that’s how most Wisconsinites wash themselves.

The Things They Carried

“What is the spirit of the battle axe?” To kill!

The Telegraph has a wonderful slideshow of soldiers’ kits from British history, what the U.S. Army used to call (unhelpfully) “TA-50.” It’s my understanding that these kits always ended up weighing about 70 pounds, whether you were a hoplite from ancient Greece or a paratrooper in Desert Storm. More at the Telegraph.

…Afghanistan…

Notes on Gravity

I hate space!

1. Gravity is a movie starring Sandra Bullock as an astronaut. George Clooney is also an astronaut. They don’t have sex. Their spacecraft blows up. So does the International Space Station. And the Hubble Space Telescope. Clooney dies off camera. Etc. More about this humdinger on the official page here.

2. I was never worried that Sandra Bullock wouldn’t make it–Hollywood.

3. I don’t think the experience was meant for my 17-inch TV.

4. I’m not a scientist… but I found some of the space physics to be off.

5. Sandra Bullock owes the United States, Russia and China each one spacecraft. I’m sure SpaceX can cut her a deal.

6. I wanted Sandra Bullock to be confronted by the ghost of Gus Grissom (played by Fred Ward) at the end, who tells her that she’s actually dead. “You ever read ‘Occurrence at Owk Creek Bridge‘?” Grissom asks her. “Good story. This lie you told yourself? Not so much.” He points up. “Hey, there you are burning up on reentry!” A little white streak crosses the sky. 

You’ve got it all wrong, the issue here ain’t pussy. The issue here is monkey.