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Answers: Weather, Nascar, Depression, and Regional Food

May 13th, 2005 · No Comments

Answers, answers, answers…

Kathi Sircy writes: It happens to be “raining cats and dogs” here at the moment. Why is it that this is how we express it? Why not “it’s raining macaroni and cheese” or something else?

Dear Kathy: Because it does rain macaroni and cheese in the Italian alps (no, it does, I knew someone who went there once, that’s why raincoats are yellow, so they don’t show the cheese stains, I swear to fucking God, that’s the truth), so it is actually a description of a weather event, not a metaphor.

The expression “raining cats and dogs” comes from the middle ages, from a time when people would sling their slop buckets and piss pots out the window into the street. Often, a pedestrian walking along in the morning would be in danger of being hit by the jetsam from the apartment dwellers above, and it became custom to carry an umbrella even in the best of weather. When the “chunks” of the effluvia thumped on their umbrella an English gentleman might be heard commenting: “I say, the precipitation seems a bit particular in nature this morning, it must be raining cats and dogs.” To which another passer-by, hit by one of the many dead whores who had died during the night and was flung out the window, might say, “Maybe on that side of the street it is, but it’s hailing fucking rhinoceroses over here.

Fangirl writes: I live in New Jersey and it is rather expensive to live here but I hear that is is even more expensive to live in Hawaii. Is this true?

Dear Fangirl:

Okay, I know why it’s expensive to live in Hawaii, and I know why people pay so much to live here. What’s the story with New Jersey? Is it just the high cost of mob protection? (You realize that the New Jersey state youth anthem, Born to Run, is about leaving the state, right?)

DanSRose writes.

1- Why is Nascar considered a sport and why is it so popular?

Because the audience can relate to it. While most of us will never throw a ninty-five mile an hour fastball, or return a punt for a hundred yard touchdown, there’s a good bet that even with a bag full of cheetos in our lap and a beverage the size of a wastebasket in the cup holder, we can still make a left turn. Remember that stock car racing evolved from moonshine runners who would drive their hooch all over the South in fast, “stock”-looking cars, that were highly modified so they could outrun the local police. So basically, you have a sport that was invented by, and for, criminally drunk people. That’s the appeal.

2- What is your view on using medications for mental illnesses versus traditional “lie on the couch and talk about about mother” therapy?

“Mental illness” encompasses a wide spectrum of conditions. Some, like schizophrenia are never going to respond to therapy, while depression can sometimes be overcome by talk therapy or a simple change of circumstances. For conditions of that sort, medication can help someone become receptive to therapy. While I’ve been “clinically depressed” myself in the past, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to take the drugs if I recognized the need, I think that depression is often a symptom of changes that one actually needs to make, and just taking the drugs may mask something that could be overcome with some analysis and determination. (I didn’t see a doctor of any kind when I went through my “dark period”, but I did end up using A.A. as a kind of therapy, and I also threw myself into my work, which at the time, wasn’t as isolating as my work is as a writer, so I was out there interacting with people all day, every day. )

I think the worst part of drug therapy is that most therapeutic psychotropic drugs can’t really be used recreationally. I mean, take a whole handful of Prozac – no buzz. You might not want to have sex for a year or so, but you feel okay about it. Therefore no matter how many of your friends are on anti-depressants, the only way it benefits you is to save you from those late-night suicide calls where their like, “I can’t go on,” and you’re thinking, “Shit, there is nothing in the fridge.” But you go, “No, that wasn’t a yawn. That was a gasp. Did you already take the painkillers? All of them. What were they? Percoset? Sweet. So there’s none left at all, right?”

That said, I think it’s good therapy to lie on the couch and talk about someone else’s mother. Like:

Doc, you’re momma so ugly that they push her face into dough to make gorilla cookies. But not only that, your momma so nasty that when I called her for phone sex I got an ear infection. In addition, your momma’s glasses so thick, when she look at a map she see people waving back.

Well, I, for one, feel better. Keep the drugs.

An unidentified guest axes:

1. Do vegetarians eat animal crackers? I say yes.

Me too. And they should bite their heads off first and snarl. It will be good for them.

2. Is it proper etiquette to have songs by Air Supply and by Slipknot in the iTunes/iPod playlist, or is this just socially unacceptible?

I think that anything that kind of fucks with people but doesn’t really hurt them, should be considered proper etiquette.

Lauren writes: Once upon a time, I learned never to order New England Clam Chowder outside of New England. You’re pretty well-traveled – can you think of any other “regional dishes” that should never, ever be ordered outside of their region? Or, conversely, is there any place that does a dish better than its origin.

That’s sort a specific question. I know that there are at least a dozen cities in the US who claim to have the best bar-be-que, and I’ve eaten bar-be-que at most of them and you know what? It always tastes like meat cooked over fire. Don’t get me wrong, I like meat cooked over fire, but if you’re really trying, and you fuck that up, you need to get out of the business. News flash: Everyone has good bar-b-que. Also, the beans and coleslaw are the same. (Watch, a dozen people will write and go, Nu-uh, Kansas City, Nu-uh, Austin, Nu-uh Santa Maria. Pinto beans and cabbage are pinto beans and cabbage.

Okay, one thing I have noticed is you probably should eat what they catch, farm, or make in the area that you’re in. Don’t try to carry your own food quirks with you. (Remember John Kerry being accused of being an out-of-touch elitist because he ordered a green tea in Ohio?) I went to Montana with a film director once, scouting locations for a Coyote Blue movie that never got made, and he kept trying to eat like he did in Los Angeles. Every time he’d order something grilled, they would fry it on the grill. And he’d be disappointed. (Not mad. He’s Canadian so he ate it, he was just politely unhappy about it.) Every time he ordered a green salad he was disappointed because it was iceberg lettuce with a carrot grated over it (not arugala pups and romaine fetuses like back home). All the while I’m eating burgers and fries, steak and baked potato, and loving life.(Because they make beef in Montana, and Idaho, where the potato was invented, is right next to Montana.) The only time he was truly happy with a meal was when he ordered buffalo in South Dakota. Those fucking Indians know how to cook a buffalo.

By the same token, when I was in Yap I had dinner with some people who had fresh ahi tuna that had been caught a couple of hours before, and cooked about six ways. They were served a tray the size of a garbage can lid piled high with fresh tuna, while I, being a huge dumbass, and having been in the islands too long, was missing food from home, so I declined the fresh fish and ordered pizza. Until that time, I thought pizza was the one dish that couldn’t be made bad. It was like the incorruptible monk of foods. Even bad pizza was pretty good. I was wrong. The Yapese can mess up some pizza. They probably know thirty ways to cook manta ray, but stay away from things made of wheat, cheese, and tomatoes, none of which are farmed anywhere near Yap. (I’m talking a Frisbee with a slice of velveeta slung over it and a stick of pepperoni dragged across the top on a string.) My point is, you don’t have to go to the best deep dish pizza place in Chicago to get good deep dish pizza, you will get in at any pizza place in Chicago. But if you want good deep dish pizza in New York, you’d better know where to go, because New York pizza is completely different animal, and the standards are different. Sorta like New England Clam chowder, I guess.

None of that means that you should order Iowa wine when in Iowa, or only eat Florida possum when in Florida, it’s just that if an area is known for something, there may be a reason why, and if it’s not, well, there’s a reason for that, too.

Sometimes you don’t want authentic, either. You don’t really want Chinese food, you want Americanized Chinese food. (Remember, in China, everything is a food animal. Everything.) And a New Englander probably shouldn’t eat lobster or clam chowder in Kansas.

A Guest Writes:

Dear Author Guy: What’s with your new avatar. I can see it’s a dog, but….?

Dear guest:

Although this will probably change before most people read it, currently my avatar is a giant doggy head that is floating through space with the Earth in his mouth. I spent over four minutes Photoshopping it. It is wrought with much allegory and subtext, and if I have to tell you what it means then you just don’t get it, man. You just don’t get it. Jeeze.

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