Belly Versus Brain

Every once in a while, I spoil myself with terrible food. That’s not to say the food tastes awful—though sometimes that’s true. I mean terrible from the standpoint of what my brain thinks about what my belly wants. It’s a war that usually ends in a stalemate; my belly feels the pang, but my brain won’t condone the notion.

Here’s a recent example.

Belly: It’s been a long time since you ate garbage. You’ve been so healthy lately. Your figure is remarkably lean (and handsome)!

Brain: Why thank you.

Belly: My pleasure. Are you seeing anyone?

Brain: Shockingly, no.

Belly: You’re kidding!

Brain: I wish I was.

Belly: For shame. Go buy yourself a hamburger, you beefy man.

Brain: Wait a minute…

Belly: A minute’s all you need at the drive-thru window.

Brain: Ah-hah! I knew it. You’re just trying to butter me up.

Belly: Did you know they butter their buns at Wendy’s?

Brain: This conversation is over.

A whopping Whopper in a wrapper.

When my belly rumbles for a charbroiled beef patty with fresh lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mayonnaise and ketchup topped with a sesame seed bun (not toasted on both sides), I am torn.

But then I remind myself that what I’ve just described is precisely what I won’t find at a fast-food restaurant.

Calling McDonald’s or Burger King a “restaurant” seems like a stretch. A restroom is more appropriate. But, when you’re hungry and lazy (as is so often the case) and you haven’t eaten garbage in a while, your standards take a hit.

Mine do, at least.

Belly: Hey listen, we’ve eaten there before.

Brain: True.

Belly: And we both liked the warm, happy feeling those first few bites brought, right?

Brain: That’s debatable. A moment of bliss followed by a day of detox? Not a great trade-off.

Belly: I don’t remember that. Probably because it’s been so-o-o lo-o-ong. They’ve probably improved a lot since then. Hey! They revamped their fries, remember? And you haven’t tried them yet. You can make a blog out of it!

Brain: Well…

Belly: Your camera’s in your backpack. Instant blog, right there! If it’s tasty, great, if it’s awful, double-great! I get food, you get a blog post. It’s a win-win situation.

Brain: When you put it that way…

Belly: Atta-boy, Brain! Get in there and grab some grub!

Brain: Yeah… that’s a good idea. Great thinking, belly!

Belly: It’s not who I am that defines me—it’s what I do.

You want homicide with that?

On my way home from work, I always pass Burger King. This particular purveyor of sodium-saturated slop has a reputation—not the franchise per se, the but the actual physical building. It’s not easily accessible from both directions, the parking lot is often wafting with discarded wrappers, and I’ve had awful service in the past.

On a more sensational note, someone may have been shot there. Or their car went through the window. Whichever one it was, the event resulted in yellow caution tape and a month-long closure.

So, there’s an element of allure. Maybe allure is the wrong word, but when you compound it with my need to write a new blog (and eat), my sensibilities take a back seat. Intellectual appetites and digital gluttony abound.

Trying to eat while thinking about writing produces some weird results. For one, I tend to misplace things. As I stood near the counter awaiting my order, I sipped a medium Barq’s root beer. Like all sodas from fast food foundries, mine was watered down. Mixed with ice and sucked through a straw, it tasted a lot like corn syrup-infused bubble water.

At some point, I sat my drink down and forgot about it. After snapping the photos I’ve included with this post, I suddenly became very thirsty. Where was my drink? I stood up and glanced across the room at the soda fountain, just in time to see one of the employees toss a medium Barq’s root beer in the trash. How did I know it was mine? I caught the tail end of the woman’s conversation with another patron.

“Is this yours?”

“Nope.”

“OK.”

Dump.

Adrian Monk would count every seed.

So yes, sometimes I pretend I’m a detective. In particular, I’m a rabid follower of the USA Network show “Monk.” For years I had heard about it, seen DVD cases at Fry’s Electronics, and caught a few teasers for upcoming episodes on TV.

Then, last year, my parents started watching season one on Netflix. I joined them out of curiosity and that was that. Now I’m reading novel number six on my Barnes & Noble Nook.

While not as fastidious as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, nor as brilliant as Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, I emulate Monk by taking inventory of all the little things that eventually add up to bigger things. Like Monk’s living quarters, my room is tidy and organized. Hand washing is mandatory before all meals. Socks must match (on my feet, at least—yours don’t bother me).

Erm… where was I going with this?

Detective skills. Right. Well, I made a thorough investigation of my Double Whopper Value Meal before putting the camera aside and having at it with my whole face. Fundamentally, it tasted exactly like I remembered (the Whopper, not my face). The “new” fries were essentially the same, but I noticed they were thicker and salted less. The ketchup—who judges ketchup? I do. There were no baby buckets (what are those things called that you put the ketchup in?) near the dispenser, so I improvised and used a medium soda lid.

Many tomatoes died to bring us this ketchup.

Such are the sort of fascinating details I recorded for posterity while bowing to my burger binge. I confess, it was a moment of weakness predicated by weeks of, nay, months of pent-up frustration due to driving past Burger King and lusting after lukewarm late-night lunch. How’s that for alliteration? Worst of all, I wasn’t even hungry.

I rationalized: “Fast-food versus traditional home-cooked meals. There’s an angle I can write about. What makes home-cooked meals special? Home. And what is home? Perfect. I have a segue into the deeper topic of hunting for a place to live.”

Now though, that seems like a tenuous tie-in at best. But a tie’s a tie, except when it’s a draw. No, not very clever. I’ll stop.

Nearly five months have passed since I started my new job. Looking at my past posts, I’m not sure how much of my old job affected my writings (or lack thereof). Since 2005, I’ve worked for Costco Wholesale in Tukwila, WA. That should add up to seven years unless your number-cruncher has recently been crunched. Truth be told, I only worked there for about five and a half years. It could have been decades.

Don’t get me wrong. Costco was a literal God-send. Hot off the heels of two terrible years at Albertson’s Food & Drug, I had nowhere to go but on a family vacation (which had given me the gumption needed to quit in the first place—long story).

Anyhow, I was digging a posthole by the roadside when my sister came out and announced the good news: she’d set up an interview for me at Costco.

Drool at tasty picture or read boring blog?

Yup. My sister got me the Costco gig, but God guided her to do it. She had worked there a couple of years before and maintained contact with her manager. My interview occured the following day, but they practically hired me sight unseen (I imagine shock and horror followed quickly thereafter).

In the course of a few months, I learned more about contact lenses and eyewear vendors than I’ll ever care to share. But the starting wage was higher than what I’d worked toward in my two years at Albertson’s, and almost everyone at the distribution center was very kind.

My managers were flexible with my schedule, allowing me to work and go to school. It seemed like a great period in my life, but any period written in graphite can easily become a smudge (grammar humor, sorry). Before long, I was the go-to guy for any and all questions about shipping, computer maintenance, and/or printer repairs. Menial though my tasks were, I did my best and sought to encourage others to do the same. I bought into the Costco dream.

Lest this turn into a requiem for my last job, allow me to conclude. Costco marked an important chapter or two in my life story, but God finished them as masterfully as he started them. Post-college, I spent nine months unsuccessfully hunting for work as a writer, graphic designer, or whatever else I could land—which turned out to be nothing. Then, near December of 2011, I had an interview with my current employers.

Fast-forward to February. Still working at Costco (albeit in another building with new coworkers, bosses, supervisors, and tasks—the old regime had fragmented, fallen, and fled to California, taking with it all of my erstwhile effervescence). No word about my last interview except that my interviewers were too busy to write a formal response. Less than encouraging.

But then, in the midst of a snow-storm and a multi-day electrical blackout, I got a phone call. A real, honest-to-goodness phone call! Few people ever reach me at my number, but due to the storm, I had my phone handy and nothing better to do. That proved fortuitous—no, providential. I was contracted for three months on a trial basis as a graphic artist. Within the first month and a half, I gave God everything and dedicated each day of work to him.

Is half a Double Whopper just a regular Whopper?

He answered in a big way. Not only did he provide a job that utilizes my creativity, but he also gave me a new extended family. Two of my present co-workers are good friends from my old church, and all of us are confessing Christians.

The atmosphere is cooperative, the projects are challenging, and the level of responsibility I’ve been given drives me to my knees in prayer and thanksgiving.

One small caveat: I do spend close to three hours in traffic each day. Work is so far North that I feel like a de-powered Superman trekking on foot from Metropolis to his Arctic Fortress of Solitude. That’s a gross exaggeration, but the traffic does take a considerable toll on my mind, energy, and attitude. All of this rambling leads me to say—the Burger King misdirection included—that I absolutely must move out.

I’ve been too old for too long to live at home, but the timing has never worked until before now. And now, well… I’m actually not sure it will, only that it must. The company is growing, which means we’ll be moving as a whole, but where exactly yours truly will move is up in the air (along with the how, when, and with whom).

What I do know are these two things: 1) eventually, I’ll be on my own for food, and 2) a “Value Meal” should never cost $8.30. Seriously. What was I thinking? Oh, right.

Belly: 1, Brain: 0.

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