Sophisticated Whoppers

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Last month my neighborhood Burger King underwent a cosmopolitan rhytidectomy, in accordance with mandates to transform such troughs into elegant gastronomy. McDonald’s has emerged in recent years from an extended postpsychedelic adolescence to embrace the Library of Alexandria aesthetic, while Jack in the Box, under direct orders from draconian CEO “Jack,” has jettisoned its staple blues and reds for a soothing Humidor Autumn. The desired effect, according to corporate literature, is contemplative chi, as opposed to “Holy God, this Applewood Bacon Cheese Fist is wrapping itself around my heart.”

Having never patronized a chic Burger King, I decided this morning to have it my way. On foot I passed the phantom of its children’s playset — the industry no longer caters to plebes. In its place stood a scale replica of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon complete with tanzanite wall, over which flowed a talkative Chianti stream. Occupying its drive-thru lane were sleek fleets of Google cars activated by smartphone apps. Four impeccably attired valets monitored the parking lot, sending any vehicle older than 2008 to a “VIP lane” seven blocks away.

The building’s exterior could best be described as futuristic neoclassical. Its sanctum, inspired by the parlor in Don and Betty Draper’s Ossining home, wallows resplendent in oaks and comfortable beiges. Posted advertisements no longer boast of “flame-broiled” or “flame-grilled” meats; they’re now “artisan-crowdsourced.” Six overhead flatscreens broadcast “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” with a corner space nearby to discuss the film with the shift manager, a former Harper’s editor-at-large. Wafting through the restaurant: Herb Alpert’s “Fandango,” on 180-gram vinyl.

I immediately recognized my counter garcon’s uniform as Yves St. Laurent. “Yes,” she confirmed. “They outfit us all.” “But what about grease stains?” I asked. “Those,” she said, “are flown in from Vienna.” She then apologized for the store’s wine steward, whose flight was delayed in Milan. “That’s fine,” I replied, and ordered the venison curly fries with a 32-ounce growler to go.

Because of the restaurant’s new decibel regulation, I saw only one other “broseph,” as BK calls us nonemployees: an older gentleman pecking at a laptop while seducing a mimosa. Sans prompt, he told me, “It’s a Dogme-esque novel about a man who’s smarter than everyone else but is too humble to share his rare gift, so he hangs out at Burger King, tormented in self-imposed silence, until a beautiful cashier who recognizes his shyness as intellectual superiority offers him her soul. I liken its tone to a Ferrari 458 speeding recklessly past the intersection of Huxley and Terry Southern, and crashing into an abandoned storefront that once sold steampunk fetish wear.”

Alas, I left before the BK book club convened in the alcove, but I’ll be back for the Appalachian dulcimer jam this evening. If you’re not too busy with the Taco Bell barrel tour, feel free to bro by. Bring your Konghou — and plenty of antacids.

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Other Audiobooks for Samuel L. Jackson to Read

As the motherfucker has proven time and again, Samuel L. Jackson is the finest orator to ever tread the goddamn boards. Drop a monologue in his million-dollar mouth and he’ll ace that shit, smooth that ass with the fires of hell, and make every unforgettable syllable pulverize its intended target.

It’s this quality that made him a natural to read Adam Mansbach’s bonzo-dicked best-seller, Go the F**k to Sleep, now fusing tyke eyes closed and raising curtains on some bad-ass nightmares. You can download that shit for free here, send your own little bitches to slumber-land.

Which begs the question: Why doesn’t Samuel L. Jackson read more audiobooks? According to Audible.com, motherfucker’s tones adorn only Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales and The Bible Experience. Ain’t that some shit? Seems like a money move to bump the sales of flagging titles. Pair him with tomes that flow with his rhythms. Enliven the driest text to transform even the deadliest snooze into an inferno of crackling prose.

Here are but 11 page-turners that need a little goddamn Sam.

Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
EXCERPT: “My blood was now fired to the utmost, and nothing could appear more provoked. I told him, for his fair means and his foul, they were equally condemned by me; that for my going to England, I was resolved to it, come what would; and that as to treating him not like a husband and not showing myself a mother to my children, there might be something more in it than he understood at present; but I thought fit to tell him this much: that he neither was my lawful husband nor they lawful children, and that I had reason to regard neither of them more than I did.”

Iceberg Slim, Airtight Willie & Me
EXCERPT: “‘Look, baby, you could be the most adorable bitch there ever was. You could be so motherfucking sweet you shit Chanel Number Five turds. But, wouldn’t no broad or stud young or old flash two hundred grand in stolen penitentiary bread and tip you to the rest of that private scam on no two month foundation. She could be as uptight as a saint in hell for a pal and she wouldn’t tip to you. You gotta be full of shit!'”

Ty Cobb, My Life in Baseball
EXCERPT: “But a fellow by the name of Hub Leonard would aim bullets at your head, left-handed, to boot. Leonard did it once too often. So I dragged a bunt down the chalkline, which the first baseman was forced to field. Leonard sprinted for first to take the throw, and saw that I was after him. He didn’t stop at the bag. Leonard kept right on going, into the coaching box, which looked like safe territory to him. He wouldn’t have been safe that day if he’d scrambled into the bleachers.”

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves
EXCERPT: “This is why grown men have knock-down fights over the comma in editorial offices: because these two rules of punctuation collide head-on — indeed, where the comma is concerned, they do it all the time. … When Ross and Thurber were threatening each other with ashtrays over the correct way to render the star-spangled banner, they were reflecting a deep dichotomy in punctuation that had been around and niggling people for four hundred years.”

Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
EXCERPT: “What sloochatted then, of course, was that my cellmates woke up and started joining in, tolchocking a bit wild in the near-dark, and the shoom seemed to wake up the whole tier, so that you could slooshy a lot of creeching and banging about with tin mugs on the wall, as though all the plennies in all the cells thought a big break was about to commence, O my brothers.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
EXCERPT: “And long evenings by the fire or, in summertime, on the roof of the little house, when she told him those stories about the Other Place, outside the Reservation: that beautiful, beautiful Other Place, whose memory, as of a heaven, a paradise of goodness and loveliness, he still kept whole and intact, undefiled by contact with the reality of this real London, these actual civilized men and women.”

Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog
EXCERPT: “Was this the way a pimp felt, turning out his first girl and finding out he loved her? It couldn’t be. Pimps are usually pretty calm people, cool but lively, full of laughs and jokes and some are even intellectuals. … To be a pimp, one would have to lose all feelings, all sensitivity, all love. One would have to die! Kill himself! Kill all feelings for others in order to live with himself. … Mingus couldn’t be this … a pimp.”

Author Unknown, 2010 1040 Instructions
EXCERPT: “In most cases, you must report crop insurance proceeds in the year you receive them. Federal crop disaster payments are treated as crop insurance proceeds. However, if 2010 was a year of damage, you can elect to include certain proceeds in income for 2011. To make this election, check this box on line 8c and attach a statement to your return.”

Jean Paul-Sartre, Being and Nothingness
EXCERPT:
“Strictly speaking, no fact of consciousness is this consciousness. Even if like Husserl we should quite artificially endow this consciousness with intra-structural pretentions, these would have in them no way of surpassing the consciousness whose structure they are and hence would pitifully pull back on themselves — like flies bumping their noses on the window without being able to clear the glass.”

Chuck Klosterman, Fargo Rock City
EXCERPT: “For the next two days, I loudly insisted that I wanted to sleep with Lita Ford. And I suppose I did. Why wouldn’t I? Lita was the rock chick I had always heard about in other bands’ songs. The fact that I couldn’t play this cassette didn’t matter; in fact, the music might have made me less interested, because most of Lita turned out to be shit. But at the moment of purchase, I had to assume that every song on the LP was going to be as cool as ‘Kiss Me Deadly.'”

Rachael Ray, 30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to Extremes
EXCERPT: “Honey Mustard Chicken Wings: Unreal! Forget Buffalo wings — not only are these healthier than deep-fried wings and way lower in fat, they simply are the best chicken wings you’ll ever have! They are super, uber-snacks that can be a simple supper, with salad or veggies on the side. The only carbs come from natural juice and honey. … Allow three or four for a full dinner portion per person, though my sweetie and I can eat all twelve if we’re watching a double feature that night!”

I Started Throwin’ Bass

Late lunch: puddles of mall-cured pepperoni flatlined Pepsi smooth. Valiantly, I crack Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World after a lifetime of mental reminders to read the damn thing. Seems important now. I can’t even remember who recommended it to me, but I hope that person’s happy, wherever he or she may be. Holla, won’tcha. I settle into the first paragraph:

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

Restlessness envelops me — or maybe it’s the grease. In any case, the words resolve to sit all dead right on the page and not engage me whatsoever. “Fuggit,” I yawn, scrawling a new mental note to cast Mr. Huxley into my tome oblivion, where it may enjoy the sparkling company of Thurber and Perelman’s collected correspondence. In fact, it might even be happier among its peers, as I, modern me, remain a lost cause. Huxley’s pages now pressed between their Modern Classic covers, I crack loose my hand-held Interwebs, doot doot doot, and bellow, “Hello, world,” zipping through Facebook with my rapier thumbs, slaying ’puter pals with update zingers. I respond to a couple of e-mails from publicists seeking my physical mailing address (somewhere the postals cheer, daubing their eyes with three-cent stamps). A one-word text hums in my palm. I one-word it right back, on account of the economy. Until verbal prosperity emerges from its frosty lair, curt is the new verbose.

Exhausted from my journey, I return to the main page, where the top news story in all the land is, uck, some pixie-stick folderol on the successful cloning of Trackr, the vowel-deficient German Shepherd who famously sniffed through the 9/11 rubble for victims and survivors. Trackr, by all accounts a good boy, ate the great milkbone back in April, but his genes now yelp and woof in the spirits of five puppies borne of his sterling chromosomes. First, I ask myself why I continue to defend journalism if this is the cyber pull-out after a tumultuous weekend of international unrest. Then I wonder if the scientists ever caught that This American Life episode about the cloned bull who mistook its poor loving owner for a pair of heifer Levis. Then my mind naturally wanders to Pet Sematary, because all thought processes eventually end at Fred Gwynne and Denise Crosby. (Dale Midkiff is an unavoidable after-effect. I purposely went south so I didn’t grow up to look like him.) Haven’t the Micmacs taught modern science anything? Sometimes dead is better.

I’m operating on roughly four hours of sleep, off and on. I drifted off last night around 11 p.m., during a Jackass-themed South Park blitz preparing us lucky Comedy Central fans for the world premiere of Jackass Number Two this weekend. A few hours later I was startled awake by screams from the television. I turned over just in time to watch some heavy projectile swing in for a hearty handshake with Bam Margera’s nards. A Jackass marathon. In my muddled squeezebox I imagined some 20-year-old kid watching this across town and remembering how innocent entertainment used to be. Around 3 a.m., another blast, this one more joyous: that Heineken ad with a pack o’ Millennials sealed inside the party cab of all party cabs, zipping through a colorfully dingy metro. Bobs in the backseat, music throbbing through the shell. Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” At the chorus the sexagenarian pilot titty-twists the volume and curdles along in a soggy voice of drowned cottage cheese: “Oh, baby, YOUUUU/you got what I NEED.” I found it somewhat comforting that two generations could find a common bond in a 20-year-old rap classic. Maybe there’s hope in this brave new world, after all. Community, identity, stability. Biz Markie in 2012.