Wretched Excess

I saw a late-night TV commercial last night for one of those “all you can eat” buffets. Five hundred entrees, bottomless soup and salad bar, eighty different types of dessert, and four cardiac defibrillation stations. Ecstatic children piling chicken tenders on top of their banana splits. Dad eating enough fried shrimp to threaten the Louisiana shrimp industry. Mom was the only one demonstrating any dietary discretion. She was enjoying a deep-fried kale salad to go with her 10-cheese 7 layer lasagna. Fearing that I would soon witness this family of four exploding all over the restaurant like poor Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, I turned the station and lo and behold, I ended up on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”  I guess I was hungry. Next time, I’ll just head to the fridge earlier for my snack instead of living vicariously through the TV.

This food frenzy got me to thinking though. We Americans consume God awful amounts of food. Every fast food chain suggests you “super-size your order. Casual chain restaurants now tout their “never ending appetizers.” Even Starbucks loves you more as a customer when you pass over the former size-champion Venti and go for the new 31 oz Trenta to go along with that cake pop on a stick (or two) you just have to grab for breakfast. Nothing can get you going in the morning like downing a quart of coffee…literally.  Hmmm.  Just how much food do we consume in a year?

I decided to do some research on this. Cause you know, it’s late at night and sleep is for babies. What started as an innocent inquiry into what we eat every year, turned into a dark journey into terror. Believe it or not, in one year you will have likely eaten one ton of food! Yes, the FDA figures it out to be an average of 1,996.3 pounds. But hey, if you’re a perfectionist like me, just buy those extra two Trenta caramel lattes (with whipped cream!) at your corner Starbucks every week and you’ll get to that perfectly rounded 2,000-pound mark, easy peasy.

I mean, really? A ton of food in a year? That’s more weight than a Mitsubishi Mirage. Thank God for efficient digestive systems!  It got even more terrifying when I checked to see how the weight was split up. I don’t know what possessed me to go looking, but go looking I did.

People apparently love their dairy. As a society, we keep the dairy industry afloat. Each of us, on average – because of course some people don’t eat or drink dairy at all, consumes 781.5 pounds of milk, yogurt, and other dairy products a year. Add in another 31.4 pounds if you eat cheese.

We eat 32.7 pounds of eggs.  That works out to 253 eggs apiece for the math impaired (and just so you know, I used a calculator for that…cause you know, technology).

What about meats? Apparently, each person will go through about 62.4 pounds of red meat, 46.5 pounds of pork, 60.4 pounds of chicken, and 23.2 pounds of turkey in their yearly feasting. I bet most of that turkey consumption is on Thanksgiving weekend alone.

I couldn’t find stats on other types of meat and it’s just as well. Just knowing the above made me sick enough.

As for the veggie side of things, we eat 415.4 pounds of vegetables every year to go with that massive portion of meat already on our plates.  Seriously though, we need these veggies to counter the over 85 pounds of butter and oil we eat per year. Ugh.

If you have a three-year-old toddler (if you don’t then, borrow one), pick him or her up.  Pretty hefty, right?  Now put the toddler down and close your eyes. Now open your eyes and pretend that the cute toddler has turned into a pile of delicious French Fries. Okay, don’t roll your eyes at me…this is just a visualization technique. Good grief.  Anyway, do you see that toddler size pile of fries?  Now know this, each year the average American will consume 31.1 pounds of fries…the average weight of a three-year-old.

It gets worse.  Cause we haven’t even discussed snacks. And who doesn’t love snacks? You’re looking at 23 pounds of pizza, 24 pounds of ice cream (which I could do in one week if my wallet and my doctor would let me), 53 gallons of soda (I think I’m above average on this one…not exactly the goal my mother was shooting for when she claimed I had potential), and a terrifying 3 pounds of salt. Three. Pounds. Of. Salt. No wonder blood pressure is on the rise nationwide.

So, yeah. While I am more enlightened and more knowledgeable, which is never a bad thing, my late-night journey into the realm of our society’s consumption levels left me a little worse for wear. I almost couldn’t finish my bag of chips and pint of Ben & Jerry’s Karamel-Sutra.

No Thanks

The biggest nope that ever noped in all of nopeland.  Think I will add this to my reverse bucket list. The thrown-together planks remind me of the small wood bridge over the creek to get to my grandparents’ house in the holler. But at least that was only a 7 foot drop or so into some cool water…not an endless fall into an abyss.

 

Sharing Some Laughs

Several years ago, my kids and I took a bus trip with my parents to see a Christmas play in an adjacent state. A great time was had by all which makes me really want to do another trip soon since it’s been so long since the last one, but what I want to talk about today was the entertainment provided on the return trip. For those of us left awake on the ride home, the tour guide played a video of a comedic motivational speaker named Jeanne Robertson, an older, southern lady with a knack for the hilarious.

Dressed to the nines in her well-fitted suits and speaking in a graceful, languid drawl, her stage presence belies her innate talent as a comedian…which makes her performances all the more hysterical. I love stand-up comedy and I like a variety of comedians for very different reasons, but none have made me laugh out loud as consistently and as freely as Ms. Robertson.

Maybe it’s the southern humor to which I can relate thanks to my extended family and friends, or maybe it’s her natural and unpretentious presentation — but whatever it is, to say I was pleasantly surprised to be so thoroughly entertained by such an unexpected comedian is an understatement. I mean, you simply do not look at this woman and think “comedic genius,” and yet, there she is.

It’s not an in-your-face, obscenity laden type of performance…she is a motivational speaker after all. But perhaps her humor is as enjoyable as it is for just that reason. It harks back to another age, one where story-telling was the height of entertainment – stories that were grounded in the simple everyday life and that could be appreciated by everyone, but were no less funny for all that.

 

 

Meeting Place

When I was growing up, our house was the one where all the kids in the neighborhood would congregate. It was a meeting place, a drop off spot for bikes, a checkpoint for organizing the next set of adventures, and a lounge for just relaxing. If my mother ever had a problem with the steady stream of scraped-kneed kids filing in and out of the front and back doors, she never said anything. Or if she did, it was never loud enough for us to hear at any rate. We just lived in a time and place where you could literally yell out the window for someone to come over and they’d be skipping up to the porch 30 seconds later.

Not quite the case when my kids were growing up. Their friends weren’t always in shouting distance. Sometimes a car was necessary to get them where they needed to go. But they did have a few neighborhood friends in walking distance, and for those few, I kept the same policy as my mother. They were always welcome in the house and could always return there after their daily shenanigans through our unsuspecting neighborhood were done.

It was important to me to let them know their friends were always welcome. I mean, so long as their friends weren’t mini drug-dealers-in-training or something…which they weren’t as far as I know.

I will say that there were ulterior motives to letting my house be a meeting spot. I could eavesdrop on the latest juicy gossip. Not only is gossip just fun to listen to, but it also gave me important insights in to my kids’ lives that they might not be comfortable sharing with me directly. Then, I could use these slivers of information to better my parenting. I could support them in ways where I might otherwise be lacking. There are so many pros here and very few cons. It wasn’t always cost-effective having an extra mouth or two or three to feed, but hey, the local dollar store always had cheap snacks and these were passed around to the crew while they were visiting so that everyone had a little something to keep them from starving.  It’s not like they needed a full buffet or 7-course lunch platter.

Not everyone shares this parenting outlook. I recently found an article written by a mother who is simply tired-tired-tired of having her kid’s friend over every day in the summer. Apparently, she feels taken advantage of for the “free babysitting.” Now I’m assuming this kid is not a toddler, I mean, he shows up at her house on his own in the middle of the day, which means he has to be old enough to navigate the neighborhood on his own – so I’m not really sure how much “drop everything I’m doing and watch the kids like a hawk” kind of babysitting this mom is really forced into doing. Oh sure, the kid may be taking up space in her house, but is he really taking up that much more of her undivided time?

When the doorbell rings, this put-upon mom claims her son looks at her funny because his friend is there yet again. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the deer-in-the-headlights look from her son is because he knows his friend was just there and shouldn’t be there again today – I think it’s because he knows his mother is irritated because it’s likely she doesn’t hide her irritation well.  If you ask me, she’s the one feeding that energy, not the neighbor kid.  Or at least, that’s just my opinion (without knowing any of these people…just a wild guess, mind you).

And as the mother states herself, she wouldn’t even think of sending her kid to his friend’s house. My question is, why the hell not? I mean, flitting around the neighborhood, hitting up friends to see who is home, and hanging out is what summer vacation is all about. Plus, when he’s out of the house she would get a little time for R & R (which she so obviously needs if you ask me). Maybe when the friend comes over, she can say, hey, how about you guys go to YOUR house today? I bet they’d love that (so long as he’s not actually trying to escape his own house for some very real, very sad cause…in which case, all the more reason he should be allowed to hang out).

These kinds of spontaneous friendships are special. Instead of trying to squash them, we should be encouraging them.

 

Netflix and Chaos

Sometimes I feel sorry for Netflix. Well, as sorry as one can feel towards a combination of old style in-home Blockbuster and new-age Artificial Intelligence.

You see, there are three individuals who use Netflix in my house, and we could not be more different. Can you imagine the havoc we must play on the poor program’s algorithms?

First, you have me. I love horror. I’m not ashamed. Love it. “No One Lives” is one of my favorite movies – the name sort of gives away the plot, but hey. Great movie. Classic B movies such as Dead Silence? I am so there, popcorn in hand. BUT. I’m also addicted to British crime and mysteries such as Miss Fisher, Midsomer Murders, and Ripper Street. Throw in period dramas like Pride and Prejudice, Peaky Blinders, The Tudors, Versailles, and The Borgias, along with a smattering of off the wall shows like Psych and Monk, and well…you’ll kind of get a sense of my eclectic taste.

On my chaotic watching alone, Netflix could not be blamed for pulling its hair out when trying to pull together a cohesive list of matching shows.

But then you add in my kids.

There’s the daughter who watches anime along with sitcoms like Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, and Parks and Rec. BUT. She also likes superhero movies and so gets her fix by watching Gotham and Daredevil. Continuing her love for animated movies, she watches those frequently, but only certain ones – namely Megamind, Moana, Emperor’s New Groove, Road to El Dorado, Zootopia and the like – no standard princesses for her. Add in her love for stand-up comedy, especially that of John Mulaney, and movies such as The Way He Looks and Out in the Dark, and you’ve got quite a confusing trend for Netflix to track.

The boy on the other hand, he watches a different kind of anime (I’m told there are MANY varying styles of anime) and Seth Rogen movies (ugh!), and a surprising number of stand-up comedians I’ve never heard of before but that I’m assured are hilarious. BUT. He shares my love of comic book inspired entertainment and watches Iron Fist, among others. So, that’s a good thing.

I can only imagine what Netflix’s algorithms must think about our household. As many of you probably already know, Netflix loves to make recommendations “for your viewing pleasure.” It’s one of the system’s more endearing qualities. Netflix’s complicated programming allows for it to analyze your extensive viewing selections and then based on that analysis, the system generates a list of shows it recommends that should, theoretically, match your past selections.

Well. With the diverse t.v. viewing going on in my household, how on earth can Netflix condense these wide-ranging choices into a coherent recommendations list? One answer. It can’t. And for that, I feel sorry for it. The little man in there must be really scratching his head. Or pulling his hair out. One or the other. I don’t blame the system. I mean, it must truly appear that at times we are simply choosing shows at random. You should see some of the recommendations we get in return. I find it quite amusing myself.

After checking our “top picks for you” list recently, I found that next to Axe Murders of Villisca, is Minions. The Unborn has a place next to That 70s Show. Secret Life of Pets is immediately to the left of Twin Peaks. Chicken Little? It resides beside Doc Martin. Arrested Development was next to Octonauts for god’s sake. Last Airbender is followed by It Follows (a movie about a sexually transmitted curse – I had to check the plot after seeing the name). British comedian Jimmy Carr’s latest stand-up is listed right beside an anime called Mushi-Shi. The odd pairings go on and on.

So yeah, quite the eclectic list of recommendations, I must say. It’s sort of like my bookshelf, I suppose. If anyone wants to come in and go through the list without asking, they get what they deserve.