Classic BLT

I usually eat like a Tibetan prisoner on a hunger strike. I’ve lost sixty pounds and gotten my body fat down to around to ten percent. All six of my abs are visible and I won’t stop until I have the physique of a French underwear model. I’m pretty fucking close.


However, once every month, I binge. I eat anything and everything I want for an entire weekend that I’ve dubbed my “freekend”. It’s retarded, but whatever.  It satisfies all of the urges I’ve denied for a month and it gives me enough guilt to make it through four more near vegan weeks with a grueling exercise schedule.


This freekend, I was walking through Safeway pushing my cart full of saturated fat and looking for indulgence by way of potato when I came to a sudden halt in the chip isle. There weren’t any heavenly rays of light or violins, but there should’ve been. The good people over at Lays had decided to make a BLT flavored potato chip. How is that even possible? The front of the bag advertised an absence of artificial ingredients, but I didn’t believe it. As a kid, I remember asking my father how they made those little gummy rings taste so much like peaches; he smiled and said “better living through chemical engineering”. I don’t know if that was some sort of slogan from the seventies but it was enough explanation for me.


I know foodies usually freak out about French cuisine or foie gras and that they’d never consider a potato chip to be gourmet, but these chips come close. I opened the bag after a few donuts and some aerosol cheese and inhaled a few. Boom. My brain exploded in a wash of sodium. They tasted exactly like a BLT complete with a hint of mayo. Freekend complete.


Did you know that potato chip companies make culture specific flavors? In China, you can buy soft shell crab or seaweed flavored Pringles. Seriously. Here in the states you can find buffalo wing and zesty dill pickle and it’d be pretty interesting to analyze that to figure out what it says about us as a country, but I’m pretty sure we all know how that would end up. And yes, I’m perfectly aware of the fact that this is probably the most vapid food related post you’ve ever read but so be it. I’m off to roast marshmallows over my kitchen stove for some smores. Peace.


I was playing catch with my oldest daughter in the back yard when she missed the ball. It hit her in the upper lip and she started bleeding and crying and doing her best to play it off as if she could take it. The onslaught of emotion caused by that little superficial cut turned her into a zombie; she wondered around the back yard with her tear blurred vision until I convinced her that catch could be played some other time. It was about to rain anyway.


We went inside and she sat on the couch deep in thought. She looked at me and asked one of those great “what ifs” that children seem to spit out like watermelon seeds. What if the baseball could come to life overnight because of the storm? Would it apologize for avoiding her glove? I love the way children tend to animate intimate objects with wonderful and childish sentiment.


Of course I went the macabre route and suggested that after being struck by lightning, the ball would come to life Frankenball style and come after my daughter to finish the job. It’d be easy for the ball to track her down because it had already gotten a taste of her blood. My daughter looked at me like I had no common sense whatsoever and said that if the ball did track her down, it would be to apologize and make friends because now that it was alive, it would be really “loveaball”. It’s cheesy as hell but I smiled.


She sat and considered the possibilities for a while before making me promise to let her keep the ball if it really did come to life (so long as it was a benevolent creature without murderous tendencies). She was serious. Her logic allowed for a very small chance that such a thing might happen and she wanted to make sure all her bases were covered. I’m not sure exactly when it is children stop thinking like this, when the magic dies, but it’ll be a shitty day when it happens.


My daughter went into her room to watch TV with an ice pack and I wrote her the following story to cheer her up. It’s asinine and super short but it worked. I printed it out and signed it and told her it’d be worth millions some day (the same day baseballs come to life).



The baseball spun like a dervish as it flew through the air. Catelynn didn’t catch it. She came close; the ball kissed her leather glove before hitting her in the face. The baseball fell to the gravel followed by a rain of tears and blood. Pure white leather was painted red.


It would rain soon. Catelynn and her father went inside for an ice pack and some love. It was time for TV and careful tooth brushing and eventually bed. The rain started to fall and patter against the roof like a million miniature water balloons. Lightning and thunder punctuated the storm and made everyone inside cuddle a bit closer.


One white bolt, alive and bright against the grey of the storm, struck the baseball with magic. Sparks coursed through the red stitching but it didn’t hurt. It felt good; like the tingle of a nerve.


It’s hard for balls to open doors because they don’t have thumbs but this ball was smart and followed Carrie in after she meowed and meowed to annoy her master into using his thumbs for her. The ball rolled ever so slowly across the carpet. It didn’t want to attract too much attention by rolling quickly. “Humm dee dumm… don’t pay any attention to me. I’m just a little baseball” it whispered.


The baseball rolled into Catelynn’s room and snuggled up against her leg and started purring. Catelynn didn’t notice at first because iCarly was too loud, but when she did, she picked up the baseball with care.


“Oh em gee baseball! Are you alive?” asked Catelynn.


“Yep,” said the baseball “and I’m totally sorry for hitting you in the face.”


“Don’t worry about it.” Catelynn replied. “I can’t be mad at someone who is so darn loveaball.”


My father-in-law hungered for a type of freedom that would scare the shit out of lesser men.  And I’m not talking about the bumper sticker type of freedom that only requires lip service and a bit of flag waving; Lynn Cunningham lived his life aiming for complete autonomy. He was the type of man that would’ve been just fine in any of the romanticized and notoriously rough time periods in our past. The Stone Age would’ve been a cake walk. The dark ages would’ve broken its teeth on his resolve and the Wild West would’ve been his bitch. You get the idea.

His mom was a traveling con artist but her artistic talent as it applies to conning was lacking because she was constantly chased out of town. Lynn got sick of it somewhere in Utah, and when the mob with their pitch forks and torches was coming after her, he decided to stay behind and live in a potato cellar. I’m speaking figuratively about the mob but not about the cellar. It was a mostly subterranean little hut with one door that also served as the window and I have a picture of it right above my computer. I had it enlarged and framed so I could hang it on the wall and use it as my “it could always be worse” reminder. Lynn lived like a hobbit in that single room all through adolescence eating rabbits and farming independence. He graduated high school, had a few adventures, and then moved to Alaska.

It’s almost criminal to skip over his stories via that verbal montage because “had a few adventures” doesn’t cover it. You know those “the most interesting man in the world” commercials with which Dos Equis is having all that success? Lynn was that guy minus the dark complexion and fiction. Lynn lived vicariously through himself; he was the most interesting man in the world. His stories were always epic but we knew they were completely true and exaggeration free because they fit him like a trucker hat. I had always thought that I’d be able to write the man’s biography but I procrastinated. I imagined a time when I could leisurely pull the stories out of him while we sat in a coffee shop or on a beach surrounded by cigar smoke but a stroke killed him. It seems health issues are a side effect of true freedom. I wouldn’t have needed embellishment or artifice to write an incredible novel. I could’ve simply written out his tales verbatim because the simple gravitas of his life would’ve translated into a real page-turner.

Lynn wasn’t religious but he believed in a limited heaven of sorts. He thought that he’d live for a time after death in the memories of his children and those that loved him only to fade into black after his memories were forgotten. I wish I would’ve written that biography because if anyone ever deserved immortality, it was him.

Lynn was a recreational bush pilot in Alaska for a time. It might sound perverse, but it isn’t. The “bush” is to Alaska what the “outback” is to Australia. There’s a strip club back home that capitalized on the double-entendre so don’t feel bad if your thoughts went astray for a second. Lynn would hop into his little red and white plane with some beer and a big gun and fly around the state just to see what he could see. Considering the unreliability of emergency services at the time and the simple stoic and unforgiving nature of the last frontier, these trips were just as dangerous as you’d imagine. That’s some serious freedom, right? Flying over land never tread on by man with a buzz instead of a pilot’s license is the ultimate F-U to convention.

He flew over a bloated walrus carcass on one of his forays. Of course he landed his plane on the beach and chopped the tusks free from the walrus with a hatchet. That’s exactly what the guy from the commercials would do, right? He took them home and drilled a hole in the top of each tusk so he could nail them to the wall right next to an eight foot strip of baleen and an antique beer tap. All three of these items are hanging in different places in my house and I hate the fact that Lynn only told me the story behind the tusks. Did he rip the baleen out of a humpback’s mouth as it was spitting him out? Was the beer tap actually a spout from the fountain of youth he found at the end of a rainbow? Probably, but I can’t fucking prove it because of that damn stroke.

Lynn didn’t pay his taxes; someone who doesn’t take from the government shouldn’t have to pay the government, right? Sure he used the tax funded roadways, but only because they were there. He didn’t need them anymore than Doc did at the end of Back to the Future. And unfortunately, he didn’t go to the doctor either. He didn’t trust them. He didn’t need them. They weren’t necessary in that potato cellar so fuck ‘em. The same mentality that elevated Lynn above all of the bullshit that’d entrench other men eventually brought him down.  I know that there’s an equal and opposite reaction for every action but I was devastated that Christmas when he died and no amount of “I knew it was coming” did a damn thing to console anyone.

I mounted those walrus tusks in cherry wood and hung them in my living room. I suppose that’s a disservice in some small way because the man that hacked them from the bloated odobenidae would’ve preferred that they be nailed to the wall in the same desultory fashion that they had always been displayed. I love those tusks though. They’re brindled with glacial-silt filled cracks and gouges that speak of walrus battles and deep ocean dives to graze on sea urchins. I hate sounding cheesy but I’m going to risk it; those tusks symbolize my father-in-law’s hallowed freedom and a way of life that’s pure. I gently touch them every time I walk by them with a reverent look on my face that makes Lynn’s daughter look at me like I’m daft. I suppose in a way I am, but the daft mourn too.

His daughter, my wife, has a video of him that she likes to watch alone. In it, Lynn is playing an Ovation guitar with a cracked neck he never bothered to fix. In faded denim and a trucker’s hat he’s slowly strumming and singing “The Silver Tongued Devil and I”. Kris Kristofferson would stand up and offer a slow clap if he could see that video. Lynn plays before and after the beat because one two three four doesn’t mean much in that type of performance. He never strays from the lyrics though, because the words matter. “The silver tongued devil’s got nothing to lose, I’ll only live ‘till I die, we take our own chances and pay our own dues, the silver tongued devil and I.”