Scat Mask Replica X

Money: “Show me the money,” Cameron Crowe once wrote in a screenplay to summarize his thoughts on negotiations. Winston Groom’s negotiations to sell the rights of his novel Forrest Gump to Paramount probably didn’t influence Crowe to write the line, but if you’re ever involved in negotiations keep this quote in mind.

For some reason, some of us have philosophical problems with “too much” money. We don’t want to appear too greedy, and we’ve all heard people say things like, “It’s not all about the money for me, money isn’t everything, and money is the root of all evil.” Most people who say such things already have so much money that it’s no longer a concern for them. If you’re ever at a negotiation table, and the other party wants something you have, wipe all of that nonsense about money from your mind. This might be the only chance you have to make real money.

If you hire someone to negotiate for you, and most people should, send them in with the instructions that you want them to bleed every last dime out of the other party. Once your team determines the other team of negotiators is not going to pay another cent, take it, take as much front-end money as possible, and run away as fast and as far as you can. Don’t think about the back end, the asides they offer in lieu of money, the otherwise symbolic, prestigious titles they offer, or anything but the money. The job of the other team’s negotiators is to pay you the least amount of money possible, and they will use several creative measures to accomplish that. Ignore all of that and the voices in your head screaming about the prospect of making money on another end, and remove those cartoon dollar signs from your eyes. As the negotiations between Winston Groom and Paramount suggest, “Show me the money,” should be the first and last things you say in any negotiations.

Winston Groom is a writer, and though he probably experienced some level of negotiations selling Forrest Gump and his other books to book publishers, he probably knew negotiating the rights of his book with a Hollywood production studio was a different league. This was probably the most advantageous position Groom had ever been in in life, and he didn’t know anything about such negotiations. He probably hired a team of lawyers and other specialists to handle the negotiations for him. We can guess that negotiators on Paramount’s side were so eager for the project that they showed their hand at various points. Groom’s negotiators probably knew, at some point, how much Paramount wanted his book. We can guess that numerous advisers probably guesstimated how much money this story could make for both sides, especially if they knew Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis signed onto the project at the time of negotiations, and Groom’s team probably walked away from that table with several proposals from Paramount. Groom ended up selecting the proposal that gave him $350,000 on the front end, and while this is a sizable amount, sources report that it was less than the top proposal of front-end money. Groom chose the proposal with less on the front end because his negotiators worked out a clause that would give Groom 3% percent on the backend, movie’s net profits. Who wouldn’t take less on the front-end if they knew they could make 3% of $661 million on the backend that, by my math, equals over $19 million?  

When Groom informed Paramount that he didn’t receive a single royalty check, Paramount informed him that this fourth highest grossing film of all time (at that time), that grossed $661 million didn’t make a net profit. Their accountants suggested that the movie ended up actually ended up $62 million in the red.

Groom sued Paramount and won, and as one part of the settlement, Paramount agreed to purchase his second novel Gump and Co. We have to imagine that the star and director of Forrest Gump didn’t have to sue to receive their royalty checks, because Paramount didn’t want to upset them. They didn’t extend the same courtesies to Winston Groom, however, because they probably figured they wouldn’t have any future dealings with him. Groom declared that the other parts of his lawsuit against Paramount left him as “happy as a pig in sunshine,” but these deals don’t always end up this way. Thus, if we’re ever lucky enough to be at a negotiations table, and they want something we have, we should walk in saying “show me the money” and leave screaming it.

Crazy: While involved in yet another discussion of crazy people, my friend displayed some acknowledgement that he had some vulnerabilities on the issue. The acknowledgement was a subtle reddening of the skin that suggested he no longer thought everyone was talking about everybody else when they talked about crazy people. He thought everyone was talking about him now. My friend has always been a little off base, but that never stopped him before. He’s always enjoyed conversations about crazy people, and he enjoys them as a spectator might a sporting event. I knew he was off base on many subjects, but I managed to disassociate him from his peculiarities while in the midst of our conversations. Something happened. Someone who meant something to him said something substantial that flipped him.

As a middle-aged man, my friend spent most of his life insulated by what he considered the truth. His belief in this truth was so entrenched that he couldn’t understand how anyone could believe anything different. He viewed his truth as the truth. We don’t know who flipped him, or if it was a number of people. We don’t know if there was an incident, or an accumulation of moments that led to his epiphany, but we have to believe that he had to have it repeated often enough by numerous people he respected that he had his thoughts altered. Whatever it was they said, they said it to a less malleable, middle-aged man. When we’re young and insecure, we’re more adaptable to the idea that we could be wrong, but this middle-aged man seemed to be backtracking on what he considered fundamental principles sacred to his personal constitution one year prior. His reddened skin also suggested his path to recognizing he had some vulnerabilities on the issue were not kind or easy.

Eating: “Eating is one of the only joys I have left in life,” my uncle wrote in a legal document to his caretakers, “and if you that away I will take legal action.” A muscular degenerative disease deprived him of 98% of his motor skills, and he couldn’t manage anything more than a soft whisper in the waning years of his life. Then the institute he loved as much as they loved him stated that his coughing fits proved so troubling that they decided oral feedings were no longer feasible, and they provided a list of alternatives from which my uncle could choose. At this point in his life, my uncle was no longer objective. He wouldn’t view this ordeal from the institute’s perspective, as he said he’d rather die than not eat. When we tried to encourage him to view this matter from objective perspective, however, we forgot to do view the matter from his perspective. The threat of a lawsuit, coupled with my uncle’s legal statement that the institute should have no legal consequences if something should happen, had my uncle eating until the day he died.

New Year’s Resolution: My New Year’s resolution is to put more effort into avoid reading any stories about the personal lives of known figures. I am as susceptible to click bait as anyone else is, and I fell for one. I accidentally clicked on a story about an athlete’s personal life. In my defense, the article contained a deceptive headline that suggested the article might be about his athletic exploits on the field. The minute I read the words wife, cheating, and divorce, I clicked out of it, but the damage was done. I accidentally rewarded the writer of a salacious article by clicking on his entry. My New Year’s resolution is to be more diligent to avoid this in the future.   

Christmas: Christmas is my favorite holiday by a long shot, but some people say that the commercialization of Christmas is ruining the holiday. First, that ship has sailed, and there’s no calling it back now. Second, can’t we walk and chew gum at the same time. I view Christmas as a multi-tiered holiday. It is a symbolic celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and I write symbolic because some suggest he was born in September, and that he was not born on 12/25. I have no problem with that finding, but I also don’t mind an arbitrary, symbolic celebration of His birth. I think we can celebrate His birth, let children enjoy Santa Claus, and spend some time with family. If, however, you feel that commercial enterprises are ruining Christmas for you, I suggest that you do everything you can to avoid their advertisements. Throw the ads away when you receive them in the mail and fast-forward through them on your DVR. I don’t understand why that is complicated. Those of us who don’t want anyone else to ruin Christmas for us don’t let them.   

Subjective Interpretations: Facts are facts and truth is truth, but how many truths are subjective interpretations of an event that boil down to perspective? A friend and I had what he called a wild weekend. He did not inform me how much fun he was having when we were out, but when he returned to work on Monday, he reported this to our co-workers. It was a forgettable weekend for me, bordering on a complete bust that I considered embarrassing. We flirted with some women, we followed them to a bar, we danced, and we followed them to a third bar. En route to the third bar, I knew the women were going to ditch us. All the markers were there. “Should we even go?” I asked my friend. He said, “Yes!” followed by a, “Hell yes!” I reiterated my guess that the women seemed bent on ditching us. “Well, we’ll never know if we don’t find out.” I considered taking a step in that third bar a punctuation mark on their ruse. I pictured them laughing at us. They probably weren’t laughing, but that was my mindset at the time. Even though they ditched us, our friend returned to work on Monday to tell anyone who would listen about our wild weekend chasing chicks. I considered his version of our weekend such an exaggeration that I thought he was lying. In hindsight, he didn’t say one falsehood. It was just a matter of perspective. He left out the part where the women ditched us, but who wouldn’t? He considered that weekend a lot of fun. He enjoyed hanging out with a friend and flirting with some women. That wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to forget about the weekend. I thought it was embarrassing. My friend didn’t care. He had a blast. It was a matter of perspective.

Friendship: Having friends is important. To balance our mental well-being, it’s important to have fun in life. It is also important have someone outside the home, and outside the office, with whom we can confide. We should spend time accruing friends and strengthening the infrastructure of those friendships, and to accomplish the latter it is important to develop a respectful and sympathetic way to say no to them every once in a while. Saying no to a friend can be one the hardest things to do, especially when they plan an outing that doesn’t sound very appealing. We might have substantial conflicts in some instances, but some of the times we just don’t want to do what they plan. Why is it so hard to say no to friends? We don’t want to hurt their feelings, so we sort through various ways of letting them down easy, but they all sound contrived and lacking in sympathy. When we don’t have conflicting plans, or a reasonable answer other than we just don’t want to do what they’re planning, some of us just ghost the friend and hope that the whole situation goes away. We might later apologize, suggest we had a conflict, and hope everything sorts out on that basis. How is that the best, most respectful way to say no to a friend? Shouldn’t we just say no thank you? We’ve probably all ghosted a friend once or twice, but when someone displays a level of friendship and respect that suggests they want to spend time with us, we should feel compelled to return that display of respect with a level of respect greater than or equal to that which they displayed. We all know that saying no thank you can be one of the easiest and hardest things to do, but it’s far more acceptable than ghosting someone.

Portion Control

“Excuse me,” a customer calls out to a server. “I ordered a roast beef sandwich, and I believe my slices are insufficient.” Has this ever happened? Has a customer ever called a server back, with bread pealed back, to inform a restaurant employee that they need more slices? I know it has. I know if I interviewed a number of servers on this topic, they would tell me to sit down before they began their tales, but I’ve never witnessed it firsthand. The more common complaint occurs in whispers long after the server walks away, as most of us avoid confrontation and situations that could draw attention to us. Most of us quietly cede portion control to the restaurants we choose for our dining experiences.

“MORE? You want more?” a Dickensian character might say in a manner that drops a proverbial spotlight on us. When we go to an established franchise we’ve learned to accept their nationally accepted portion control, but do we accept the same norms from an upstart mom and pop’s deli at the end of the block? Anyone who has worked at a restaurant has heard a wide array of complaints from customers, but how many hear that the portion of meat on a sandwich is too small, or that there aren’t enough fries? Would we deem that so bold as to be obnoxious? It might seem like such a violation of sorts of our conditioning that we might view the complainant as gluttonous?

Franchise websites suggest that portion control is vital to establish a level of consistency in a national chain, and they discuss the health benefits of lesser portions for the consumer and the profit potential for franchise owners. “Customers don’t complain about more portions,” they write, “but they will certainly complain about less.” I realize that writers of such columns have franchise owners in mind when they write such things, but I’ve never heard customers openly complain about less.

How many ounces of roast beef should we expect when we purchase a roast beef sandwich? Is there a generally accepted or preferred amount? How much does it vary with each restaurant? We could look this amount up, but the actual number is relatively unimportant when compared to our expectations. It’s a ‘we know it when we see it’ amount that varies, and if the restauranteur violates that principle most of us simply go to a restaurant that meats (sic) that expectation.

If the restaurateur notices our absence and finds a way to ask us why we left, they might say, “Well, why didn’t you say anything? We could’ve provided you a couple more ounces of roast beef to make you happy.” The problem for most restaurateurs is that most of us are members of the silent majority who don’t complain. We don’t fill out suggestion cards or comment cards, then we tell the cashier that everything was fine when they ask how our meal was, and we never go back. We also whisper things to our friends that close restaurants down.

If it benefits all parties concerned to speak up, why don’t we? As with just about every adult predilection, it goes back to high school. We see the hungry patrons in line behind us at the deli, and we remember the groans, fidgeting, and ridicule we heard when we asked one too many questions in our Algebra II Trig class. Even if we still didn’t understand the teacher’s explanations, we learned to shut up and stop asking so many questions. Our peers’ audible fatigue conditioned us to stop asking questions, don’t appear difficult in any way, and avoid complaining. Thus, when we feel the hungry patrons behind us, who just want us to move along so they can get their sandwich, we do. Even though we’re not satisfied, we shut up and move along to avoid causing a scene, and some of us do this so often that we start ceding portion control to the restaurant.  

How many customers prevent a waiter from leaving their table with the complaint, “I only have four broccoli florets on my plate, I’m accustomed to having five?” How many people would say, “I’m accustomed to a half a cup of mashed potatoes. Does that look like a half cup to you?” The more likely complaint would be, “I ordered the eight ounce steak, but this looks like six ounces to me.” I’m sure there are some who complain about this portion control restaurants have on us, but I have to guess that that percentage of the population is so small that it’s hardly representative. The rest of us know that they’re in charge, and we’ve learned to accept this facet of life. 

Most complaints lead to a manager visiting our table, and that manager brings a proverbial spotlight with him. When that manager kneels before our table that we’re being difficult, and we experience the same anxiety we did in Algebra II Trig. “It’s not a big deal,” we say to attempt to soften the blow, “I just thought I should get a couple more slices of beef for my roast beef sandwich.” I’ve witnessed some go bold in the face of a one-on-one with a restaurant manager, but most people shrink from the magnitude. We don’t want to appear difficult. The manager might consult a franchise advisor, as I’m guessing that a person complaining about portions happens so infrequently that they don’t have a standard operating procedure, but my guess is that the manager does whatever he has to do, under the “customer is always right” imprimatur to make us go away.

The inclination most restaurants might have to avoid such stated and unstated complaints is to go “bigee” on the portions. I witnessed this as a deli employee at an upstart, now defunct bagel shop franchise. The national chain decided to allow an owner to open a franchise in our area, and they apparently believed that their key to success was bigger portions. They never said that they wanted to compete with the portions Arby’s provided, but that was my takeaway. They provided over-abundant roast beef portions on a bagel sandwich. I was a dumb kid who didn’t know anything about market testing, or any of the particulars franchises uses to establish themselves in a given area, but when I took my first bite of their roast beef sandwich, all of my fixins fell out the other side. The sandwich was excellent. The roast beef was so tender, and I thought all of the other fixins were fresh and tasty, but their portions were so large, on a comparatively weak bagel, that everything fell out the other side. I told the owner of this particular franchise that I thought it gave the sandwich a sloppy presentation.

The manager lifted an eyebrow on me, but he said nothing further. I thought he totally dismissed my observation, until the franchise advisor walked in the bagel shop, days later, to see how things were going. My manager encouraged me to ask my question. I repeated my question, and I added, “We’re a bagel shop. My motto would be if you want more meat go to Arby’s.” I said that the bagel shop didn’t have to say such things openly, but that it should be our M.O., and I said that I thought bagel shop patrons would understand that, even expect it, before they set foot in our restaurant.

We all enjoy eating out at restaurants, but how much of our enjoyment of the food centers around presentation? How many of us would be turned off by a sloppy sandwich at an otherwise clean bagel shop? I told the franchise adviser that I thought portion control, and the art of presentation were everything. I said that a patron of Arby’s might find a sandwich overflowing with meat more attractive, whereas a bagel shop patron is more likely to prefer a clean presentation that appears more structured, regardless of the portions. To me, it was all about demographics. 

I’m sure that their insider information told the owners of the franchise that if they wanted to open a location in the Midwest market, they had to increase their portions, but my gut instinct told me that if you’re going to increase portions, make a larger, stronger bagel. The bagel they sold did not adhere to the illusory notion of portion control, and when the bagel shop went out of business in our area, I felt vindicated.

Let Me Have Cake

An article I read detailed that eating food to sustain life was something of a miracle. For all the things we take for granted, sustained life has to be the most fundamental. Are you sustaining life as you read this? Have you ever considered the idea that food allows you to continue living?

ask-history-did-marie-antoinette-really-say-let-them-eat-cake_50698204_getty-eAn uncle of mine contracted a muscular degenerative disease at a young age. Throughout the course of his life, this degeneration progressed, until he lost almost all bodily functions. He reached a point, in this degeneration, where he was no longer eating well. He had coughing fits in the course of digestion that caused concern. I saw these coughing fits, hundreds of them, and they were difficult to ignore. The coughing fits caused such concern, to the workers at the care facility where he lived, they determined that my uncle should no longer be fed orally. The determination was that he would be fed through a tube going forward. Uncle John was so crushed by this, he had a lawyer draw up a letter that stated that neither John, nor any of his remaining family members, would hold the care facility liable for anything that happened as a result of oral feeding. But, the letter stated, he wanted to enjoy oral feeding once again. He also threatened to sue the care facility, in that letter, if they did not abide by his wishes. He then said, and this is the heartbreaking part, that “Eating is one of the last joys I have left, and I do not want this taken away from me.”

I had a boring, mindless job at the time. Throughout the course of my time at this job, I rebelled. I talked to whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I did the work, and my scores were admirable, but management could not abide by all the talking. I assumed, at one point, that management was either trying to drive me out, or the job had become so awful that I couldn’t maintain the illusion that it was a decent job. I was miserable. I obsessed over those that had no talent, but were living the life I had always wanted to live.

A majority of my co-workers were obese. The first inclination I had was that these people ate the same as everyone else, but they were in a job that involved ten hours of sitting. My next guess was that eating was the only joy they/we had left. I, too, was gaining weight, and I was reaching a point where I didn’t care. I read an article that listed off the heinous deeds of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. One of the accounts detailed that Dahmer opened a hole in his victim’s head and poured acid in. He wanted to kill his victim’s brain, or that part of them that produced such sedition. The purpose was to allow Dahmer to enjoy having relations with them, without having to listen to their complaints. How different, I wondered, is that from the day to day life in my current job? My inability to prove my worth to anyone, much less myself, had landed me in a job where creativity is not appreciated. “Just be happy you have a job,” was the mantra fellow employees scream at the unhappy. “You’re in the greatest country in the history of the world, at what could be its greatest time, and you’re complaining? Just be happy that you can financially sustain life, and shut up.”

Routine has a way of killing the mind. Fear of the unknown has a way of convincing one that they are happy. Or they learn, over time, to just shut up!

Employers use fear as a motivation. They convince a person that they’re lucky to have a job, and they instill fear as a motivator. How often have I been informed that I’m meeting the required goals? A number of times, but it’s done in a lethargic manner. They would much rather inform their employees that they’re not, so that they’re motivated to do better. The one that achieves the goal is not the focus of concern, so they fade into the background. They allow their minions to focus on you, and destroy you with hyper critical edicts that chip away at your self-worth. Not only are you in a mindless job that eats away at any creativity that a person may use to prosper in some fashion that they cannot find by themselves, as non-self-starters, but they’re not making the grade.

We were not allowed to speak, in a casual manner, to our co-workers. All conversations were required to be work-related. We were not allowed to email friendly messages to our friends, and our Instant Message system was taken away from us. Food was all we had left, and we were all gaining weight. We were being paid to do this mindless job, and we were using this money to feed ourselves food that was killing us.

When a person sits behind a computer for ten hours a day, four days a week, the clock is a cautious bitch that won’t turn right on red. She drives twenty-to-thirty miles an hour under the speed limit, and we can’t help but notice that the other lane contains free flowing cars, speeding up to prevent entrance. We were in this position as a result of lack of talent, lack of drive, and the inability to take a risk. We felt lucky to have a job in a country that provides ample opportunity for ambitious risk-takers with an idea, but with so much available it’s hard to pick one lane to drive in. The grass is always greener on the other side, of course, but I felt I was planted in a field of weeds that inhibited my own growth. The alternative, of course, is stagnancy.

The complaints that I have/had were all sourced from a first world, privileged background, but I saw those around me grow and prosper, and I reached a point of frustration that probably should’ve led to some counseling. I witnessed firsthand, the end result of frustration so great that one doesn’t want to live anymore, but I have never been suicidal. I’ve always considered alternatives, and what greater alternative is there than change? I would explore my mind for anything and everything that could lead me to happiness. My definition of happiness, I calculated, could be attained. I could live free to explore my mind for every thought I had ever had. It was a privileged, first world avenue, but I had the means to do so. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of it?

People have definitions of the way in which one should conduct their lives. If an individual doesn’t fit those parameters, he is cast out. He is condemned for not living life the way they think he should. How should he live? He made a mistake somewhere around the first thirty years of his life. He sustained life. He entered the workforce with few skills. He developed some. He developed a work ethic. He never called in sick, and after a time, he became more serious, and he was never tardy. Once the latter was managed better, he fell into the background, but he was still employed, gainfully? That’s the question. Was he satisfied? No, he went to another place, and another place, and he discovered a cap on his abilities. He never interviewed well, his public speaking abilities were less than admirable, and he tested poorly. Analysis of his being made him so nervous that he developed a comprehensive form of test anxiety.

His role models, in life, were blue collar workers that did their job, went home, drank too much, and complained about the awful responsibility in life. These were people that focused on his shortcomings. “Where did you come up with that?” was a question they asked the aspiring young minds around them. I have gone back and forth on this relatively innocuous question. At the outset, one has to imagine that such a question arises in an adult mind when the child they’ve known for decades comes to them with a particularly ingenious thought. It has to be a surprise to that old mind to see a younger one outdo them, so one can forgive them for what may cause the young mind to question their base, but it defines that young mind in a manner that suggests that they should remember their station in life.

I’ve witnessed what I can only assume is the opposite of this rearing pattern. I witnessed young, ambitious, and adventurous minds believe in themselves. If they had questions about their abilities to accomplish great things in life, their insecurities paled in comparison to mine. They had such belief in their abilities that when I showed them awe, they swatted my awe away saying that their accomplishment was either not as awe-inspiring as I believed, or that it was but a rung on a ladder to an accomplishment I couldn’t even fathom pursuing.

I considered some of these people so different, I wondered if we were even the same species. How can one put themselves on the line in such a fashion without due consideration put into the fear of failure? They don’t mind the prospect of exposing themselves to ridicule. ‘What if it all comes crumbling down around you?’ I wondered to them. Their answer, in roundabout ways, was that they’d try something else. That wasn’t going to happen, however, for they had belief in themselves. Where does this unbinding faith in one’s self come from? Answer, it’s bred into them. They’re not afraid to try, to risk it all on something that would keep me up at night.

At some point after we spent so much time together, getting drunk and what have you, they ventured out and pursued matters that I didn’t have the confidence to pursue. They were self-starters, and they led, and they accomplished, and I look forward to eating something different in a day. The meal of the day became something to look forward to, nothing more and nothing less than my uncle had to threaten to sue to maintain in his life.

“Let them eat cake,” is an old line, purported to be delivered by the bride of King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, that suggested that the unhappiness of the Frenchman in her empire could by quelled by allowing them to eat something delicious. Some have also interpreted it to be an illustration of Marie Antoinette’s detachment from the common man, based on an idea that if they could not afford bread, to sustain life, they should eat cake. Whether or not she actually delivered that line, the import is that we, peasants, derive pleasure from food. Some of us hate our jobs, our family, and our lives, and if we can just find one semi-pleasurable meal, we can find some measure of happiness. If that single meal doesn’t do it for the talent-less minions that neglected to develop an ambitious plan for life, we can look forward to the next day, and thus not only sustain life, through the miracle of food, but achieve some sort of sensorial pleasure through the routine of it.

Eating to sustain life. Eating for pleasure. Too much pleasure? Too much eating? What else do we have?

Food Glorious Food

We all love food, but what’s the difference between someone that loves a great steak, and a foodie and foodist. defines these terms as “a collective of like-minded food worshipers that breathe and sleep in order to eat and drink.” We can all appreciate this classification, to some degree, because we all love food, but at what point in history did those that have an unabashed love of food become so unusual that it was necessary to separate them out with a specific designation?

We could argue that everyone was a foodie, or a foodist, for most of human history, in that they knew that food was so elemental to their survival that they would do anything to get it. Some will say that this obsession with food, such that it can lead to obesity, began when food was so scarce that those of a bygone era gorged themselves to prepare for scarcity cycles. They say that modern man has not evolved past this pattern even though Science and technology have made scarcity a thing of the past for the most part. Some of us might feel guilty about this now, because we no longer need to gorge, but that guilt hasn’t slowed us, it’s just made us feel guilty about talking about it so much. Thus, the birth of the designation foodie, or foodist, to describe those that don’t feel the need to qualify their love of food.

Most foodists and foodies, we should note, don’t necessarily eat more than the average person does, but when they do eat, they’re very selective about what they put in their body. Some have said that foodies are so vocal about their preferences that they come off as snobs that fail to recognize the privileges that modern science and technology have afforded in their chosen lifestyle. Some have said that foodies use their “healthier” lifestyle choices as a hammer of superiority against anyone that doesn’t follow their dietary codes. Some have also suggested that foodies approach you with a “you live your life and I’ll live mine” motto, but that their actions suggest that this is anything but the case with them.

For the rest of the non-foodie population, our love of food is a guilty pleasure that we conceal for fear of having our peers view us as a gluttonous slob. Most people don’t love food so much that they close their eyes when they eat to savor the initial act of digestion as it sends those succulent, savory messages to their brain. Most people won’t take the time to let a piece of food lay on all of the quarters of their mouth for ultimate sensory excitation. Most people won’t inhale and exhale the flavor of their food for just a moment before allowing it into the second stage of digestion. Most people won’t nix the first seven choices of a restaurant, because at a certain age, they know they can only eat one meal a day, and that meal has to be special, different, or at least somewhat memorable. Most consider this mindset odd. Most non-foodies, if you speak with them on this level, will tell you that eating is just an activity one must endure to sustain life.

It makes normal people feel more normal to say they don’t share your love of food. It makes them feel skinny to say that you’re a bit of a freak for loving food so much. It makes them feel rational to say it’s just another bodily function. Whether they believe this or not, we do know that if a fat person dares to mention how much they love food in general, they become a punch line. “That’s obvious,” we say with a laugh. We fear that we might become that punch line if we say that we love a relatively innocuous piece of food on a level that approaches spiritual appreciation, especially if that food is fried and considered generally unhealthy. We know that we would be entering the lion’s den of laughter if we suggest that one great meal is something we can point to in a day when we’ve accomplished little else.

Discussions of food provide us a quandary, as we don’t want to appear too excited when the subject comes up. We run the risk of sounding gluttonous when we become too excited. Yet, food is the event in life that we all share, or that we want to share, and that which we do when we’re bored, and that which gives us comfort when times are bad, and that we would rather die than give up. Life is not as important as food to most of us, and we see that when overeating threatens to damage our quality of life and we can’t stop, or when someone threatens to take our joy of eating away from us.

“By threatening to only feed me intravenously, you are threatening to deprive me of the one joy I have left in life,” my uncle wrote, through a lawyer, in a letter that threatened to sue his health care facility if they went ahead with their plans to begin only feeding him by means of intravenous fluids. I didn’t understand this at first, as I considered the actions of the health care facility to be in my uncle’s best interests. I didn’t understand, because it’s hard to identify with someone threatening to sue another that takes away their oral eating privileges, because most of us have never been in that place in life. Most of us, when told that our life is on the line, will acquiesce to whatever prescriptions our doctors order.

For this reason, and others, it was hard for me to identify with my uncle in this particular situation. My first thought was that I had the food at his health care facility, and it wasn’t worth dying over. This was a joke I made at the time that should’ve procured the response, “But what food is?” It’s just food, they might say, and no food is so good that I’d rather die than not eat it. We might joke that some food is so good, it’s “to die for”, but when push comes to shove, we think we could live without eating orally if it meant our life was on the line. That’s because, my uncle would challenge, no one’s ever threatened to take it away from you … for the rest of your life.

Imagine having a muscular degeneration disease that has deprived you of most of what you enjoy in life. Imagine being a person that is so limited that you just cannot go certain places. A resilient person attempts to wipe such activities from the mind, but people keep bringing those places up. Imagine being the person that works up the courage to go to those places anyway, only to have people stare. “Kids are the worst,” he said. “Kids don’t understand how their naïve, confused stares hurt. They don’t understand that when they ask their parents about you that it hurts to be a product of such curiosity.” Imagine having coughing fits that makes everyone so uncomfortable that they don’t want to be around you when it happens.

These coughing fits made the young, minimum wage workers at his health care facility so uncomfortable that the corporate board of the facility decided to go to the intravenous feedings. The coughing fits also prompted me to ask, “Don’t you see what this is doing to you?” I asked this of my uncle after a particularly grueling coughing fit that resulted from oral feeding. He shrugged. He had obviously weighed the consequences, and he deemed them acceptable in lieu of the alternative. The alternative involved a probable shortening of his life, but it also involved giving up food, “The one joy I have left in life.” It’s hard for a healthy person to identify with that.

It’s easy to think about giving up oral eating, in the short-term, at a health care facility that serves average food at best, but when you add perspective to it, you realize how much my uncle would’ve been giving up if he acquiesced to their wishes. He would be giving up the “event status” of life that is normally associated with food.

“Do you want to go out to eat?” we ask one another on an almost daily basis. “What do you want to eat?” we ask. “What did you eat today, and how was it?”

We not only talk about going out to eat, we talk about what we had to eat, and then we rate it for our friends. “You simply must try the Philly with Cheese at the Sandwich Market, it’s incredible.” We even consider the act of complaining about food an event in life, and food supplements just about every event we attend in life.

Do you cherish the popcorn you eat while watching a movie? Most people don’t. Most people don’t close their eyes and savor the flavor of movie theater popcorn. It’s just something you eat while watching a movie. We don’t put any thought into you. We don’t value it. We just eat it. “I don’t need popcorn to enjoy a movie,” others say. Now try to imagine being deprived of that choice. Imagine being ordered not to eat it…for the rest of your life. That popcorn, you’ve eaten your whole life without really thinking about it, would take on qualities we can’t imagine. We’ve all decided to reject certain frivolities in life, while on a short-term diet, but most of us have never had another force us to abstain from all oral eating for the rest of our lives.

How miserable would it be to attend a baseball game with a friend, when that friend turns and offers to buy us one of those average to poor stadium dogs, and we have to tell him that not only would we prefer not to eat such an average to poor hotdog, but that we can’t eat anything orally based on doctor’s orders. How awful would it then be to tell that concerned friend that the doctor forbids us from ever eating orally again, if we want to live, when he asks, “How long is this doctor saying that you have to be fed intravenously?” In the short-term, it’s easy, as I said. In the short-term, we may get some sympathy for our plight in life, and we may even enjoy that sympathy in the short-term, but after that rubs off we feel like a carnival freak, a plugged in hospital patient, an outsider in the events of life, and our love of life may be a little diminished over time.

We may want that friend to say, “Screw it!” and have that friend buy us that dog and feed it to us anyway. If that happened that average-to-poor stadium dog would likely taste so good that we would suffer the consequences of that one meal with a smile. We might even accidentally cry a little right in front of that macho, manly friend that we’ve never been anything less than macho and manly around. We might want to die that night with that smile on our face as the health care workers lower us onto the pillow, because for at least for one day we felt normal, and we had one normal meal on one normal day in our life.

Eating food orally made my uncle feel a little more human in a manner that only a man stuck in a wheelchair for most of his life can appreciate. It gave him an event in life that was otherwise lacking in event. It gave him something to look forward to, something to appreciate or complain about, and something that made him feel more like a cog in the machine of humanity.

It never dawned on me what a central staple food and eating are, until my uncle went through all that. It never dawned on me how a person, on an enforced diet, could feel left out of humanity, until my uncle directed his lawyer to draw up that document that released his health care facility from any responsibility for anything that resulted from his oral feedings.

How many conversations do we have regarding our overall diet? What’s in certain foods, and what is not in the other, healthier foods that foodies enjoy? How often do we brag that we have the latest and greatest cooking utensils that some other, poor slob has never even heard of? Want to insult a friend that was kind enough to have a cookout, insult his food, or his method of preparation. We can tell him that his conversation topics are relatively boring, that he doesn’t maintain his lawn well, that his kids are obnoxious, or his wife is not as pretty as he said she was, and we might receive defensive replies, but they will pale in comparison to the insults about his food. We might end up in you losing a friend. That was the event he planned, the labor he engaged in, and that which he used to please his guests.

How often do we notice that something like a ham sandwich just tastes better in a park, at a picnic, with friends and family around us, and kids playing in the park, and dogs running around? Is it the smell of the outdoors that enhances the flavor of the meat, or is it the fact that we’re outdoors, involved in the event at which the eating occurs? “Where’d you get this ham?” we naively ask. “At the supermarket,” they reply. We may go home with the realization that we forgot how much we love ham, until we eat it, and we realize it’s just ham. I’ve never seen statistical analysis on our conversations, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that about forty percent of our conversations involve food. We can see this reflected in our TV shows. How many TV shows discuss food preparation, and the warnings of unhealthy food? We used to have a food preparation break in morning news shows once a week. They proved so popular, that the producers of those shows called for daily segments, until those segments became a staple of morning broadcasts. It wasn’t long before we had entire shows devoted exclusively to food preparation, and then entire networks. We’re a nation obsessed with food in ways we won’t admit in polite company, until someone threatens to take it away from us, and we realize that we can’t comprehensively enjoy our lives without being a part of the group that’s eating food.