An Odyssey of Meat

I know what you’re thinking. “An Odyssey of Meat”: Great gay-porn title. Sadly, no, that’s not what this is about.

It’s not easy for me to leave the kids, even for a couple of days, but sometimes an assignment pops up that I simply can’t refuse. Like this one: Find the best burger in the state of North Carolina. Sounds like a dream, right? But here’s the catch. Because of familial obligations (somebody has to feed the kids and make sure the TV is on for them all day) I only have 72 hours to do the sampling. My list of burgers to try has reached 25 and continues to grow. I’m not good at math, but that’s like an average of seven burgers a day. I know. I’ve got uptown problems.

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. And lunch. And breakfast. And snacks.

I’m in day two of this Meat Odyssey. Let me describe how it’s gone so far. Wake early, hit the treadmill, drive two hours to a diner in the middle of nowhere, eat a burger with cheese, chili, slaw, get back in the car to drive two hours to an uber-hip gourmet burger place where they put things I can’t even spell on top of their burgers, then run across the street to an old school bar that’s been doing burgers a certain way for 20 years, then back in the car for a two hour drive…

Today, I’ve had five burgers in as many hours. Or is it seven? I don’t know. I’m meat drunk. Dizzy and sluggish and confused. My fingertips are humming and my ears are hot. Is that the sign of a stroke? Am I having a meat stroke?

Much like Odysseus in The Odyssey, I too am learning some things about myself and the world during my journey through North Carolina’s finest cows.

Thing 1) The Black Keys offer the best soundtrack for eating burgers. Burgers are dirty (in a good way). The Black Keys are dirty (in a good way).

Thing 2) I sleep really well in hotel rooms. It could be the fact that I don’t have two three-year-olds waking me up at 2:30 in the a.m. because they want to watch Yogi Bear. But I’m going to say it’s the pillows.

Thing 3) Eating roughly 16 pounds of beef in 72 hours is just as difficult as it sounds. Here’s a metaphor for you: The burger odyssey is a lot like sex. If it goes on for too long, it starts to hurt.

Thing 4) While dining solo is calm and peaceful, sampling seven burgers a day in some of the state’s most unique restaurants and bars isn’t nearly as much fun without my wife and two kids, who would be emptying the salt shaker down their pants at each establishment. The kids do that, not my wife. In other words, I miss my family.

The real question throughout this journey is this: Was Socrates right? Is the key to happiness really moderation? Even eating burgers? I know that burgers are good, therefore a lot of burgers should be a lot of good. But I’m nervous. My belly has this hard, knotty consistency to it and I’ve been slightly nauseous since Burger #2. Will this journey have long-term health implications? Am I entering the Spirit World?

Oh, and my apologies to any Hindu readers of this blog. I’d suggest skipping this week’s entry, which you’ll find incredibly insensitive. My bad

Thank You, Socially-Inept Grocery Bagger Person

A note of thanks to the 16-year-old grocery bagger at the Ingles check out line who felt the need to tell me how “twisted” he got on paint thinner the night before…in front of my children. Thank you for being a cautionary tale that I can hold up to my kids and say, “see kids, you shouldn’t huff household products.”

And to the other grocery-bagger person, the young lady who, on a separate occasion, took several minutes to explain in excruciating detail how she only drinks bottled water, not that crap from the tap. And how she’d like to buy a Brita filter for her sink, but then everyone in the family would use it, even to wash the dishes, which is just stupid, and expensive, and she can’t afford that, to buy filtered water for washing the dishes, so she’ll just keep drinking the bottled water. The carbonated stuff, not that crap spring water. Thank you. Thank you for being a brief distraction from the normal check out line chaos, where my children systematically lick every single pack of gum, magazine, and knock-off Match-Box car in the “impulse buy zone.” Thank you.

Most people would simply mumble, “great, and you?” when I ask, “how are you doing?” But not you, Socially Inept Grocery Bagger Person(s). Not you. You seize the opportunity to really connect with me, a stranger who will be out of your life as soon as you finish double bagging every single item in the cart. And thank you for that, too, the compulsive double bagging of absolutely everything. Not just the heavy items, like milk, but the light ones too. Even the four-roll of toilet paper, which weighs maybe 10 ounces and has no sharp edges. As an amateur who occasionally dabbles in bagging, I’d put the toilet paper in a single plastic bag, but not you. You’re a professional, so you double bag it, going that extra step, using up an entire dinosaur in the process. Thank you. You’re awesome. Never change.

Thumbs Up, Mother Fu—-S!

Disturbing fact about myself: I give the “thumbs up” gesture a lot. It’s like I’m running for office. A single “thumbs up”  to the guy at the deli for slicing my turkey just right. A protruding thumb out the window to the lady who let me pull out in front of her in traffic. A Clinton thumb to the barista at the coffee shop just for handing me my coffee. It’s gratuitous, and borderline compulsive. I never did it before I had kids, but now I hang out with two toddlers all day, and according to the magazine articles I’ve skimmed, parenting at this stage is all about positive reinforcement.

So, my life right now is a bunch of thumbs ups, high fives, and really expressive “good jobs.” Any little thing gets a gold star. If they go all day without cutting off a finger with their Play-doh scissors, I practically give them a puppy. It’s a cheery optimism that’s necessary for toddler development, but it’s bleeding into my adult life, and it’s not always appropriate. Like say, at Lowes when some guy helps me find the t-nuts–a hug might not be the most appropriate response on my part.

Some other annoying parenting habits that I’ve picked up:

Pointing out really trivial details. It’s great to engage my young ones with observations of the world around us, but it’s not necessary on dude’s night out.  “Guys, did you see how shiny that car was? It was so shiny!”

Referring to myself in the third person. I don’t know why parents call themselves mommy and daddy when talking to their kids, but we all do it. “Daddy likes his chicken.” “Don’t pee on the doggy, that makes daddy sad.” It’s so annoying. I hate myself for it, but I can’t stop.

Assuming the world revolves around me, just because I have little kids. I’m literally shocked when the grocery store isn’t open at 2am when I need milk. What the fuck is up with that? I’m pissed when people invite my family to do something on a Saturday in the middle of nap-time. (When my kids don’t sleep, daddy drinks). And to all you old people, handicap people, and mothers-to-be taking up the good parking spaces at Dillards–can’t you see I have two toddlers here and trying to get them across the parking lot is like playing a game of Frogger? Try being a little more considerate next time.

Not giving a shit what I wear in public. I always wondered why my dad wore sandals with socks and cheesy ties that played music (often, he’d pair the sandals with the musical ties). Now I know: Because he didn’t give a shit. I am now in that same boat, and it’s actually kind of liberating. I wore my slippers to the grocery store the other night. I’ll wear white socks with brown shoes and neon yellow jackets. I don’t care what the world thinks of me. Why? Because I helped create two awesome kids (with my penis!) and my wife is super hot. Suck it, world–I’ve got nothing left to prove.


Booby Traps

We had one of those beautiful days where the kids were super cute. Cooper called Baby Jesus on my iPhone and Addie ran from her shadow at the park. They said “thank you” when I handed them juice and they built a block tower together without coming to blows. Perfect little angels. Of course, they were just setting a booby trap. They were lulling me into a false sense of security and would at some point during the day launch an all out assault of toddler chaos. Think Nazi Germany wooing Russia before invading them.

Yes, I just compared my children’s subterfuge to that of Nazi Germany. Hang out with two three-year-olds long enough, and you’ll find it’s not that much of a stretch.

There was no way to tell when the kids would turn on me, only that they would as soon as I let my guard down. Perhaps while I tried to sneak in a quick shower, they’d pull the blender out of the cabinet and make a “peanut butter and daddy’s wallet” smoothie.

In the meantime, the sneaky munchkins kept being cute, smelling our rosemary bush and saying it smelled like spaghetti. Holding hands and saying, “it’s a beautiful day.” Trying to hula-hoop together in the same hoop. Adorable! Real melt your heart kind of shit.

Honestly, it was a maddening day waiting for the bomb to go off. It was like being stuck in the first hour of a Hitchcock movie–all anticipation and foreshadowing and no violence.

And then, the violence came.

It happened at nap time. Well, it was supposed to be nap time. I turned my back on them for 12 seconds and they used their milk to grease their crib railings to facilitate a quicker escape. Without a proper nap, they were free to fulfill their true toddler nature, which began with a sizable tantrum because I would not let them finger paint on the couch and ended with both of my kids peeing off the top of the slide at the playground. No shit. The night ended with me wondering how much trouble I would get into if I duct-taped them to their beds.

I’m still not sure about the legality of that parenting technique, but I’m sure if I explained myself to Social Services, maybe showed them a few videos, they’d understand.