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

The Dad Knife

I’m not a tough guy. Ask anyone who knows me. I’ve never been in a fight, I’ve never rebuilt an engine, never seduced a woman (unless you count slowly wearing down the same girl over 19 years as a seduction)…I don’t even have one of those cheesy barb wire tattoos. And yet I still can’t shake the Hemingway notion of what a man is. You know the classic archetype I’m thinking of: A man knows how to throw a punch, drinks too much, speaks plainly, kills things in the woods, takes his shirt off in social situations, hates himself a little bit…

It’s a completely archaic notion of manhood that I don’t resemble at all, except for the drinking and self hatred. But I recently received my first “Dad Knife,” a very manly piece of steel that all self-respecting dads have to carry. Certainly, you remember the little knife that your dad kept in his pocket to do everything from filet a fish to open a Christmas package. My dad was always wielding his blade, even if it wasn’t appropriate. You could ask him to help with your math homework, and somehow, the knife would end up on the table, open and gleaming. Now, I have my own phallic weapon to show off, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m sure men of previous generations would label me a “dandy” because I like to do things like read books and cook food (that I didn’t kill myself). I have more than one pair of shoes and I use the internet more for recipes than porn. Sad, I know. But having my first dad knife has reinvigorated my admiration for traditionally manly things like lifting heavy objects and whistling at women I don’t know. So far, the knife has been sitting in my pocket, completely idle, but any day now, my son will come to me with a stick he’s found in the yard and I’ll whittle it into a spear for him. Or a bunny.

So that’s my plan for 2012–whittle many spears. I’m going to try to be more manly. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I’m hoping it’ll translate into me getting to shoot more guns and have more sex. It probably won’t. If I’m lucky, it’ll mean I try to teach my kids how to play poker (or at least War) and eat less vegetables. I’m cool with that.

If you’re curious about what exactly a man looks like (get your mind out of the gutter, pervs), check out The Good Men Project, which is a collective of sorts concerned with the notion of manhood, manliness, dads, dudes…all things penis.

Five Things That Aren’t Awesome About Parenthood

Parenthood is magical, there’s no doubt about that. Sometimes, though, it’s more black magic than “kiss the frog” magic. Luckily, 87 percent of the time, being a dad is awesome. Here are a few things that inform that other 13 percent.

  1. Scraping poop out of big boy underwear…three times a day.
  2. The nasty looks that other parents at Mighty Might Gymnastics give you when your kid coughs on their kid. In my defense: I don’t care if my kid is patient zero with a wicked strain of chipmunk flu. We’re getting out of the house today!
  3. Fishing random objects out of the toilet with chopsticks. (Sidenote: chopsticks make excellent retrievers of floating cars, candy wrappers, credit cards…all the little things that end up in the toilet.)
  4. Suspecting your kid loves iPhone “Paint Sparkles” more than you.
  5. The constant fear that your two-year-old daughter is going to ask the waiter if he has a penis.