Friday, November 24, 2006

The blandification of our whole situation*

So here it is Black Friday, that glorious day of conspicuous consumption, traffic and stress, all in the name of kicking the holiday season off right. Ess and I spent it at the auto dealer, where we were getting an oil change and a two-months-overdue inspection. Sitting there, in a particularly unlovely part of City by the Sea, I watched two episodes of Family Feud on the giant flat-screen TV that dominates the waiting room. Did you know that the guy who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld is now the host? I can't tell whether his smarminess is real or knowing and campy. Either way, it wears thin after about five minutes.

On the way back, knowing Ess was due for a nap, and that the drive home was just long enough to knock her out, and realizing that my extreme sleep deprivation has made me crave the fattiest and greasiest of foods, I went through the drivethrough at Yellow Humps, which now takes credit cards for your dining convenience. I hadn't been to a Yellow Humps in quite a while -- maybe a year or so? -- but the taste of that "burger" and fries, along with a watery Coke that had just enough caffeine to perk me up, was instantly familiar. Ess fell asleep before we even left their parking lot, and I scarfed down the food as we drove down Lots of Trees Avenue, a misnomer if ever there was one. Auto body shops, franchise stores and gas stations are interrupted by a funky little stretch of locally owned ethnic eateries, then it's back to a drug store here and a donut chain there.

Before I knew it, I was driving by the park and my burger was gone. Did I remember eating it? Not really. The salt from the fries still dimples my lips, though the Coke did nothing to quench my thirst. Ess was soundly asleep, so I drove my usual keep-her-napping route, down to Surfers Beach and back along the coastal route of the road race I've run a few times. I passed tidy little Capes, marshes glinting in the sun, a cottage under construction near the beach and a cove where mist from the waves splashed high in the sky. Ess slept and slept, and so we drove up hills and down, through neighborhoods and the community college, past one locally owned business after the next.

I sipped the remains of that Coke, with the Yellow Humps logo emblazoned on the side, and was grateful once again for the locally grown apples, and locally made butter, in yesterday's apple pie, for the fantastic bakery around the corner from our house, for the luxury of paying a premium for locally grown food, for the once-a-year reminder that mass-marketed, highly processed food may fill the stomach, but it doesn't satisfy the soul.


*Title comes from a lyric in Greg Brown's incredible song/spoken word piece "Eugene," from his new album The Evening Call, which hasn't left my car's CD player for a week now.