The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling

Today my thoughts turn fondly to my late Uncle Glen, one of the great Bad Food Deniers in all of recorded history. His continued denials of the negative properties of every conceivable food item led him to eventually balloon to a weight of 470 pounds and develop the impressive quilt of ailments which would eventually take his life, but oh, the things I learned from that man! I remember the morning he woke up my brothers and I on our first-ever visit to his home and made us an early breakfast of Kraft macaroni and cheese with hot dogs. “The creaminess of the cheese,” he explained to us, “coats the bits of hot dog and doesn’t allow the bad stuff in them to enter your system, and because your body has never taken in powdered cheese before 8 am, it works extra hard to interpret the new information, increasing your metabolism rate and actually causing you to lose calories.” Oh, what absurd tangles of dangerous self-delusion our uncle could weave! Often he would sit quietly on Saturday afternoons watching indoor soccer and lunching on chocolate ice cream and sheet cake, downing it all with copious amounts of beer and absinthe. He would tip us a wink and say confidently, “Basically, ice cream is just a high dose of dairy, and then the alcohol in the beer and absinthe follows it and burns the fat molecules away and cleans me out. As for the sugar and butter, you have to realize that you eat extremely little of it up until age two, so every one of us starts off with what is essentially a two year sugar and butter deficit, which has to be slowly balanced throughout the rest of your life.” And what of the roast beef sandwiches and fried onion rings which he devoured each night of his life as he listened to college lacrosse on the radio? “Red meat,” he would claim, rubbing his chin thoughtfully, “is what scientists call a ‘mimic food’, in that your body can’t tell the difference between a nice piece of roast beef and your body itself, since both are animals, so it doesn’t compute it as anything other than more healthy cells. And obviously, onion rings---aside from being made from onions, which couldn’t be more nutritious---become even better for you when heated in oil, which literally shocks the vitamins out onto the surface of the vegetable for easier and swifter digestion.” With that, he would take a swallow from his beloved stainless steel flask of maple syrup and wipe his mouth with a serene grin. And what did my uncle have to say of the giant bowls of gray chicken fat he was seen to devour in later years? “Eating the spongy accumulation of gray fat left over from boiling chicken feet,” he would muse strangely, “is like eating ten apples, ten oranges, and ten bananas in one sitting.”

Toward the end, our dear uncle took to creating disturbing stews made from the brains of goats, Almond Joys marinated in spicy mustard, and four kinds of soy sauce. “Biologists agree,” he would whisper softly, staring dazedly into space, “that the healthiest thing you can do for your body is pollute it again and again, so the antibodies are always on alert and working overtime to filter out harmful materials.” I will never forget the sight of that brackish brine dribbling down his chin day after day as he dabbed it up with sticky handfuls of caramel popcorn. When he moved beyond food and began to eat household items like pencils and cassette tapes, he wrote me a six page letter defending the practice, a letter which contained a crude sketch of something called ‘Glen’s Periodic Table of Manmade Vitamins and Their Inherent Cleansing Properties’, the central thesis of which seemed to be that the body’s desperate attempts to rid itself of solid blocky objects suddenly forced into it began a swift, wondrous process which somehow ended in the spontaneous creation of anti-oxidants and indestructible stem cells. When we buried Uncle Glen in 2003, we placed a raw ham in his folded hands. It seemed right somehow.

I’m pretty sure it was Uncle Glen we buried. Crap, that’s just one of those things you can’t convince yourself you’re absolutely sure of, like when you leave your apartment and have no real proof you turned the toaster oven off. Ah well. Nothing we can do about it now.