Sophisticated Whoppers


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.


My Memories of Woodstock

Photo by Vincent la Foret/Stills Press/Retna

Whenever my loinspawn ask about Woodstock, I always think of Trevor. He was my best friend in those days, and he seemed to have the skinny on everything. It was he who first told me about an exotic “music and arts festival” scheduled on the far-off East Coast in August. It sounded a world and a lifetime away as I busied myself stapling homemade zine fliers into a post outside Boccherini’s Coffee and Tea House in our hometown of Albany, Oregon.

“All the bands are gonna be there,” he goshed between hits from his latte bong. Personally, I couldn’t see how anything could possibly top Body Count at Lollapalooza, but there was something in his voice that gave me pause. Besides, he assured me, “Adam Curry says it’s a phenomenon most unprecedented in the annals of music history.”

Intrigued all afternoon, I turned on my TV when I got home. There it was: Woodstock. How about that? My generation had finally wedded art and commerce with rock ‘n’ roll. You’d think someone would have discovered the connection earlier, but the ’80s had been too airless and crass, the ’70s were an oblivious case of the doped-up alley shakes, and the ’60s were utterly hopeless, as a reinvigorated Republican party dominated the decade under the aegis of Jerry Rubin.

A third day was added later.

A third day was added later.

The event was backed by Woodstock Ventures, Inc., a weapons manufacturer that came to prominence in the Reagan era. Captained by 74-year-old CEO Michael Lang, the bloated arms dealer was keen to tap the youth market in 1994. “Generation X? I think they’re amazing,” Lang told Fortune. “They’ve accomplished in smaller numbers what their parents’ generation was too lazy and stupid to even attempt. As for our involvement, we didn’t do much, honestly. A couple promoters in their early twenties came to us, jester hats in hand, and we just threw cash at ’em while brooding in our self-imposed prisons of dark-souled avarice.”

It’s hard to explain to my kids just how different America was 15 years ago. It was a time of great change, an era of personal prosperity and hope. We had an awesome President and a thriving economy, and the only people who weren’t happy were assholes. “But weren’t you bored without cell phones and the Internet?” asks my son, Popquiz Hotshot Frye, 11. “No,” I chuckle. “Back then, girls wore baby-doll dresses.” “That’s how you met mom, right?” adds my daughter, Shannonhoon Beegirl Frye, 13. “That’s right, sweetie,” I reply sweetly. “Nobody drunkenly dropped her purse in a baby-doll quite like your mom.”

But all that was in an unforeseen future. All I could think about then were three fun-filled days in Saugerties, New York. It sounded like a memorable blast. But in the end I couldn’t go because I had to catch up on all the Conans I’d taped. Priorities. Trevor seemed relieved, as he’d begun pulling double shifts at the food-processing plant to pay for the tickets. As it turned out, only his girlfriend Pinta was available for the cross-country trek. Now, there was a storybook romance. They were so into each other that one night they hit the tattoo parlor downtown, where he got Buddy Holly etched into his upper right arm and she got Mary Tyler Moore inked into her left. In close quarters their tattoos kissed and made beautiful Rivers Cuomo music together. Now Trevor was telling me he planned to propose to Pinta right after The Cranberries’ set, when the moment would be just so. “I hope we get to make love in mud,” he sighed.

Radio bands bent under the weight of the impending event. There were the usual interviews with disconsolate ’60s icons. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of it,” ached John Sebastian. “It’s such a no-brainer. Jesus Christ, we dropped the ball.” “That’s what I meant when I said, ‘We blew it,'” explained Peter Fonda, referring to his memorably dismissive epitaph in 1969’s Easy Rider, then celebrating its 25th anniversary. “We were just a bunch of blind, capitalist pricks, and all we cared about was keeping Nixon in the White House.” Crosby, Stills & Nash recorded a jingle for McDonald’s, which played with increasing frequency as the festival drew near. “By the time we got to Woodstock,” their sweet harmonies enthused, “we were half a billion served.”

The promotional machine was in permanent overdrive. Since I couldn’t attend, I had my choice of myriad pay-per-view packages, all of which I purchased, along with four new televisions so I didn’t miss a single Flea bass plunk. I also bought the T-shirts, a couple hats, and the official Woodstock game for my Super Nintendo (the object was to help Henry Rollins beat the shit out of everyone in Candlebox). Trent Reznor went door-to-door to talk about Nine Inch Nails’ performance scheduled for Saturday, August 13, and Perry Farrell recruited his Porno for Pyros bandmates through a cross-promotional tie-in with MTV’s The Real World. So by the time the concerts finally aired, I was totally Woodstocked out, spending most of my days sweet-talking girls at the 7-Eleven down the street. I managed to catch a few performances when I wasn’t schooling company on F-Zero or napping, which was pretty much my entire schedule at the age of 21.

They say if you remember Woodstock, you weren’t actually there. I think that’s true. At least it was for me — and Trevor, funnily enough. The week before the festival he fortified his air-conditioned minivan with girlfriend, Bugles, Mountain Dew, and Pearl Jam bootlegs and got as far as Portland, Oregon, before he realized he was going the wrong way. So he just said, “Fuck it” and stayed. He and Pinta have been there ever since. They have two children of their own now and operate a microbrewery specializing in hemp-based elixirs. They still listen to The Cranberries while making out on the couch.

As for me, I’m fully domesticated. Two kids, loving wife, home mortgaged up the ass, and a St. Bernard named DJ Muggs. We’ve all gone our separate ways, Generation X, but I still have fond memories of that ancient summer, when the music raged and we all shrugged our shoulders as one.