September 6th, 2005


Self-contained and fairly explanatory

After a lovely evening at the ballpark with soon-to-be Chicagoans janehex and brianchurch, I headed up to the Twin Cities to spend some time with my always-amazing girlfriend ninafarina and her Li’l’ Duce. Among other things, we went to the Minnesota State Fair. Some highlights:

- Lemonade. Man, there’s nothin’ like cold, fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot day. I actually got two, because they were so good and also because Li’l’ Duce drank about ¾ of my first one and then dropped chili dog fragments into the rest of it. Perhaps I was being unfair; perhaps the chili dog fragments would have actually enhanced the taste. I really didn’t give it a decent chance. But my point is, mmmmm, lemonade.

- Some people, and I do not necessarily exclude myself from this group, will pretty much eat anything if you put it on a stick. Examples of stick-based foods available at the Minnesota State Fair (which is, by the way, also called “The Great Minnesota Get-Together” – no, really!): hot dog on a stick, corn dog on a stick, pickle on a stick, egg roll on a stick, Belgian waffle on a stick, alligator on a stick, pork chop on a stick, coffee on a stick, corn on the cob on a stick (winner of the coveted Most Prepositions in a Foodstuff award for 2005), cheese on a stick, crab on a stick, and, I am guessing, cinnamon sticks on a stick. The Star-Tribune’s guide to the fair is called “fun on a stick”. I think this mania for stick-mounted concessions should be applied to various other commercial endeavors, because apparently anything is more enjoyable when skewered with a wooden kebab. Thus I am seeking venture capital from investors pursuant to my two new businesses, DVD Rental on a Stick and One-Stop Financial Services on a Stick.

- Likewise, fried foods that are not normally thought of as being fried are in abundance at the Great Minnesota Get-Together. The whole scene resembled a Scottish pub with better dental care and different, though equally thick, accents. Aside from innumerable fried meats and cheeses (circumstance prevented me from obeying my girlfriend’s demand that I try deep-fried cheese curds, but I did pick some curds up in Wisconsin and will try and replicate the experience at home), there were also such life-ending favorites as deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried candy bars, and deep-fried Twinkies. (The guy selling the latter item had an amusing rap to push his product, which culminated with “Get your Twink on, Minnesota!”). It’s actually probably for the best that I didn’t get the curds; by the time we left the fair, just walking around in the open air, swimming as it was with billions of vaporized dough and oil molecules, made my entire body feel like a teenager’s face.

- Speaking of teenager’s faces, they are normally sullen, bitchy and bored-looking as well as festooned with body oil and acne. But you have never seen sullen, bitchy, bored-looking teenagers until you have seen the sullen, bitchy, bored-looking teenagers who have to sit around the livestock pavilions all day during the state fair. Farm kids all, having driven for hours to spend one weekend out of the whole year in the only big city for hundreds of miles, clearly want to be making out on city buses, drinking fortified wine, and spending their college funds at the Mall of America, and what are they doing? Sitting in a huge barn watching cows fart.

- The livestock pavilions are extremely interesting to me, though, since I’m not a sullen, bitchy, bored-looking teenager. I grew up in the suburbs where you never saw life bigger or wilder than a dog whose owner left him out overnight, so I’m still absurdly fascinated by farm animals. Li’l’ Duce likewise seemed to enjoy the animals – well, most of them: the poultry fascinated Shauna and I, but Annie just seemed as bewildered as the chickens themselves. And the cattle was, well, let’s just say it was a tad too natural for all of us. Not being required, as were all the farm kids, to watch cows urinate for hours on end, we decided not to do so. The goats were fun, the sheep were Annie’s favorite, and the pigs – what few of them remained after a big show and competition and the ever-increasing need for bratwurst on a stick – were tons of fun. Or, actually, half a ton of fun – the champeen “Biggest Goddamn Pig in the Whole Fucking State” award went to a gargantuan hog with calico markings and a stupefying 1,050 pounds on the hoof. It didn’t do anything but lie there and try to sleep in about the same fashion a man weighing 1,050 pounds might sleep. If Wu had this pig, the entire camp of Deadwood would have been history by 1875.

- Annie is very enamored of balloons. In fact, we are already planning her commitment ceremony to the balloon we got her at the fair. Two groups were handing them out: the Democratic Party (“UNION PROUD” balloons) and the Republican Party (elephant-logo balloons). Being the good pinkos that we are, Shauna and I went out of our way, backtracking halfway across the fairgrounds, to make sure we got her a UNION PROUD balloon. Someday she will appreciate the sacrifice we made for her. By then, of course, unions will be extinct and we will all work for Halliburton in exchange for six cents a day and a handful of stale Spanish peanuts. On a stick.

- I got a big earful of Minnesota Nice while we were looking for a parking spot. The State Fair parking is in peoples’ yards, lawns, and driveways, in the neighborhood where my girl grew up, and we drove around for a little while trying to get a good deal not too far from the entrance; when we would ask someone how much they were charging and turn them down, they would respond with a chatty “Oh, that’s okay! Have fun at the fair!” and like as not direct us to another house that was charging less money. This is in marked contrast to my home base of Chicago, where, if you turned down someone’s parking offer as too exorbitant, you would get a response along the lines of “Yeah, well, fuck you. I hope the fair catches on fire and your whole family dies.” Or just a bag of shit thrown at you.

To recap: fairs are fun and I’m glad I live in a country where, for some reason, you can see the likeness of a Dairy Princess runner-up carved out of a 90-pound chunk of butter.
stella stella can't you hear me yella

Consumer retorts

Dear America,

What, are you kidding with these Left Behind books? Seriously. Are you just buying these things because they represent the form of Christianity with which you choose to associate yourselves, or are you actually reading these things? Because even leaving aside the hamfisted morality, the utterly implausible storytelling and the zero-dimensional characterization, this is some of the worst prose I have ever encountered, and this is coming from a man who has read two Mary Higgins Clark novels. If you just want to express your solidarity for the whole notion of premillennialist rapturfication, buy a t-shirt or something. But are you guys really reading these things? I mean, really? Honestly?

Yours in Christ,


Dear T.G.I. Fridays,

It is food industry standard practice to feature on product labels any benefits or features unique to the product. For example, you might say “now with more flavor!” or “contains cancer-fighting wet leaves and gravy!” or “new and improved non-fatal almond oil!”. In your case, I would like to suggest for your line of snacks the feature-blurb “capable of evacuating an entire digestive system in under five seconds!”. Today’s smart consumer might want to know that, some minutes after eating your Sour Cream & Onion Potato Skins chips, they will notice immediate weight loss through the medium of their pants. Additionally, you may wish to consider a name change from “Thank God It’s Friday’s” to “Thank God It Causes Immediate Weltering Bowel Extrusions”.

Yours in crust,


Dear Tropicana,

I am confused at the label on your “homestyle lemonade” product. While it pleasingly does not cause debilitating explosive diarrhea, it does read, beneath the Tropicana Pure Premium logo, “Made With Not From Concentrate”. There seems to be an object missing in that sentence. Also, what exactly is “not from concentrate”? You can’t make something using not-something-else, and a thing is not a not-thing (“not made from concentrate” would be a more elegant phrasing), but even if you could, the wording is awfully vague. What could not-from-concentrate possibly be? The list of items that are not concentrate is nearly endless: your lemonade could be made from nails, Clorox or shaved flesh of the elderly, none of which are concentrate. Please be more terse.

Yours increased,
nah I'm just fuckin with you

You are a bad person and I am not

I was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where ‘not driving’ is as tenable a state as ‘not breathing’. I moved to Chicago, home of the worst drivers in the continental United States. And I spend a good deal of time traveling back and forth to the Twin Cities, along a major freeway populated by porn shops, cheese emporia, and lots of vacationing butterbeans. I have developed a system to help me catalog and explicate the bad driving of others*; herewith I explain it for the benefit of all.

First of all, let’s define our terms. What is bad driving? Briefly, it is defined as “anything Leonard does not do, would not do, or will not admit to doing”. If you engage in any bad-driving behaviors, especially in my vicinity, you are a bad person and should be executed by a federally funded firing squad. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: speeding more than what I consider a reasonable amount of speeding; driving slower than what I consider a reasonable degree of slow driving; failure to signal a turn; failing to signal a lane change; failure to respect lane indicators; attempting to make a lane where there is no lane; and going around me so you get ahead of me and then driving slower than me. Once again, if you do any of these things, you are worse than Hitler, and all of your friends, family, and co-workers should be killed by a neutron bomb.

Now let’s focus on who drives badly and why they do it. I have identified five types of bad drivers; if you pay close attention, you will notice that every time you see someone driving badly, they fall into one of these seven categories. Please save this guide for reference; it will also attempt to explain their psychological reasons for committing these traffic atrocities, so we can recognize the early warning signs in adolescents and have them anesthetized before they get their drivers’ licenses.

What is their favorite bad driving behavior? Drifting from lane to lane and failing to observe traffic signals. The cell-phone driver no more pays attention to lane markers or stoplights than would a potato.
Why do they do it? The cell phone driver has more important things to do than drive. They must call their spouses and alert them to the fact that they are driving in a car, or that they have succeeded in purchasing groceries at the grocery store, or that they are horrible assholes. Having never heard the adage that one should not whistle while one is pissing, they attempt to do two things at once despite their inefficacy at multitasking and like as not, they fail at the more important of the two jobs (not causing a fatal accident) rather than the less important (asking their wife what “Rocky” DVD they should rent).
What should be done about them? Unfortunately, cell phone ownership is now as common as erectile dysfunction. Legislation such as the recent Chicago law banning hand-held cell phone use while driving faces an increasingly untenable enforcement problem. I therefore suggest that all drivers be given a hands-free set and that Donald Trump should have to pay for them all because he is a doughy jerk.

What is their favorite bad driving behavior? Attempting to make a lane where no lane exists. SUV drivers are the equivalent of the fat kid who always muscles his way to the front of the cafeteria line to get a double gorilla cheeseburger.
Why do they do it? People who own SUVs are extremely susceptible to advertising, which is why they buy such a fuel-inefficient, unnecessary vehicle. The reason they drive badly is either because they are having pelvic spasms to a radio commercial for debt consolidation or because they are in a big hurry to get home and turn on the TV so they can be told what brand of electrical tape they should buy.
What should be done about them? The SUV, alas, is now as common as the cell phone, creating another enforcement problem. My suggestion is that everyone who buys an SUV should be beaten repeatedly by a prison yard boss prior to signing the registration papers and then kept in a room without advertising until they regain control of their bodily functions.

What is their favorite bad driving behavior? All of them. People with vanity plates are the worst drivers on earth. The worst of the worst are ones who have vanity plates that boast about their expensive cars, like “MYTOY” or “SWEET16” or “IWINYOUIMPOVERISHEDBASTARDS”.
Why do they do it? People who have vanity plates are vain – indeed, solipsistic. They have a rare brain disorder that makes them incapable of recognizing the existence of any other human beings. Since they think there are no other cars on the road, they drive as if there are no possible consequences to their actions.
What should be done about them? They should be given lobotomies. They will no longer be able to drive, but they can keep their vanity plates or new ones that read “ICEPICK” or “BRAINSTAB” or “OMYLOBE27”.

What is their favorite bad driving behavior? Driving at 146 miles per hour so they can get to the next red light ahead of you; speeding relentlessly until they are in front of you on the freeway, then slowing to 42mph and reading stock quotes on their Palm Pilot.
Why do they do it? Owners of red convertible sports cars are all short, balding, wealthy men who have erectile dysfunction and are always on the prowl to bag teenage girls, who are the only people in America who are impressed by red convertible sports cars that go 150 miles per hour. Their focus is on their malfunctioning dicks, and not on the road.
What should be done about them? They should be castrated, either chemically or with a rusty soup can lid.

What is their favorite bad driving behavior? For some reason, drivers of Audis, Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs are particularly prone to failing to use their signals.
Why do they do it? Because they are Nazis.
What should be done about them? They should be annihilated in a huge war.

*: Needless to say, I am a great driver and I never do any of these things. Any questions regarding possible exceptions to my perfect behavior while piloting my vehicle will be deleted.