Friday, October 30, 2009

Dead Animals and Football

This week I visited one of my Farmers Insurance agents. Farmers is generally pro-Safelite. We have a corporate program with them and treat their policy holders like greek gods. I was hired to replace an area sales manager that had been covering his area for just shy of 30 years and was very well-liked. When I met this particular agent's staff, they were quite sad that their old rep wasn't around anymore. After some friendly banter that lessened the tension, the girl at the front said "well as long as you like huntin' fishin' and football, you'll do just fine" in her mild Texas drawl.

Uh oh.

I get the feeling that I'm not dealing with people that can discuss the artistic brilliance of Wade Robson's contemporary piece from Wednesday. Likely no debate as to which traveling cast of Wicked is best. Maybe we can swap intricate theories about the Dharma Initiative and the Shepherds' connection to The Others. No? HELL-tutha-NO.

I'm a sports guy. I dig football. I admit, I've slacked a little on my college football prowess, but that's mostly because I'm so bloody fed up with the lunatic fans in Utah and their retarded Holy War. But I've historically been able to rap with the best about conferences, BCS absurdity, and all other general specifics pertaining to the pigskin. I'm even MORE dangerous in the pro arena. I know my Packers and I have a general grasp of what's going on in the NFL.

But I pale in comparison to these Texans. Everyone in this city (and I assume state), whether man woman or child, knows football. Not just if their team won on Saturday, or even what conference stats were, but they know everything that happened on gameday. They know who won and lost and what implications they had on their beloved Longhorns and the BCS race in general. They know current stats and glorious facts from the days or yore when they were playing in leather helmets. There are Longhorn propa-promo items everywhere. Every other house has a burnt orange flag flying and there are Longhorns logos everywhere. These people LOVE their football. Age and gender mean nothing. Everyone knows it. They live it.

I hate it. I can't do it. It's not so much an ethical issue for me as an issue of complete boredom and lack of respect for the "sport." Please...for the love of the bearded holy One on high, do not tell me that hunting is sport. It is not. Unless you are strapping on a loincloth, fashioning your own recurve and arrows from saplings with a Rambo knife, and stalking your prey in the wild, you are not impressive. You are killing animals with a freaking rocket launcher that is better suited for hunting dragons. Go kill those. If you can ice an elk from 1500 yards across a ravine from the back of your truck, you are not impressive. If you are speaking to ducks in their native tongue through a device you bought for $30 at Gart's, luring it to your masterfully camouflaged "blind" with an exact replica of the duck's likely-dead wife, you are not impressive. Anyone that actually pays to hunt "game" that is stocked or placed on a stamp of land for the sole purpose of being clipped by YOU is beyond unimpressive. Before long you'll be able to luxuriously waste animals from the comfort of your own home, courtesy of XBOX's new "REAL Big Game Hunter." If you want to impress me, wax your animals with a sling. Or a rope. Or your bare hands. Wrestle a bear or a gator. That's manly.

BE HONEST. Call it what it is. You like to kill crap. It's bloodlust. You get a rush by snuffing the life from animals. It is instinctual. The thrill of the kill is still engrained in most humans from thousands of years of surviving in nature. We don't all love it, but you hunters do. I will accept any reasonable explanation for traditional hunting. Like the meat? Fine. Environmentally conscious population control? Cool. Revenge for the tragic goring death of your great grandfather at the horns of a crazed buffalo? Groovy. You can even quote the bible and tell me that God put animals here for the benefit of man and we're just fulfilling our end of the covenant and thanking Hod for His bountiful gifts by capping beasts. Just don't say it's for the sport. It's insulting.

"It's ok to eat fish, 'cause they don't have any feelings." - Kurt Cobain, "Something in the Way."

I've fished, but I've never liked it. There's nothing more disturbing than yanking a swallowed hook from a writhing trout's stomach to find that your power bait has been joined by the fish's liver and spleen. I know, I know...I'm doing it wrong. I should be fly fishing. And a TRUE fisher"man" will hook the fish by the lip where there are no nerve endings AND ultimately releases the fish anyhow harm done.

Ok, let's follow that line of logic. Assuming you are actually qualified to instruct on the anatomy of Salvelinus Fontinalis, and fish indeed cannot feel the barb of the hook, I'm pretty sure the fish doesn't enjoy the sensation of being ripped from its aquatic home. Nemo endures many agonizing long seconds or minutes of fighting against this unseen, PAINLESS, force slowly pulling it from the sanctuary of liquid bliss, to be pulled into suffocating weightlessness and blinding light, handled and measured by a hideous pink beast, then tossed back into the depths. Only for it to happen again and again and again until someone mercifully bashes it over the head with a screwdriver and eats it for breakfast. I know the fishie's brain can't be that big, but I can't bring myself to believe that it just randomly swims around and occasionally gets caught, enjoys the ride, then forgets about it when it's tossed back in. These are Nemos. Not Dorys.

Let me be clear. I don't have issues with people that hunt or fish. Once that animal is dead I'll gut it, cook it, and eat it. I just don't enjoy the process of getting it to that point and I don't agree with 90% of the ideas of people that do.

This limits my ability to connect to these Texas folk. I complimented someone today on their "antlers" that were hung on the wall of the office of a very nice lady in her mid 40s. I was pretty sure I shouldn't call them a "rack" or a "set" given the situation, so I went with antlers. I was immediately exposed as A) a yankee, and B) a non-hunter because they are not antlers. They are HORNS. I refrained from informing her that horns are found in cars and on unicorns.

So I need to become a hunter, fisher, and football fanatic. I'm in sales. Pretending is part of my job.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Homeless Hotel

Austin Texas is notorious for its climate. Wicked hot summers, lovely springs/autumns, and mild winters. Due to the agreeable temperatures, Austin has a relatively high homeless population per capita. Nothing like the problems in Los Angeles and Vegas, but there are still many people here with no place to hang their hats. I proudly count myself among them.

I'm trying to sell my home in Utah, but until I do I am on my own...quite literally. My family can't join me in TX until the house sells in Utah and I can't be in a house here because I still freaking have one there. Before leaving the Beehive State, I jumped on Craigslist to try and find a place to crash for a month or two while everything processed. I quickly learned that it was impossible to button anything up because I was still physically in Utah and no one would commit to hold any available rooms for someone that wouldn't be in Texas for three weeks and STILL could cancel at any time. So I had to get to Austin and hope for the best.

The only available room I could find that didn't require a 3+ month lease, contain multiple evil allergenic "kitties", or have giddy college girls running in and out of it, was in an old nursing home that had been converted into a "commune." $550 per month (all bills paid) gets you a room with a shared bathroom and communal kitchen/living room. I figured, "what the hell...I can sack up and handle anything for a month", so I made the call and scheduled the tour.

I entered the ancient building and was greeted with the mixed scent of ammonia and dying skin cells wafting through the halls. The floor was hard polished tile similar to what you see in old hospitals or elementary school gymnasiums. There were three hallways with four doorways on each side; an old 10-speed rusted bicycle parked outside each door. The "front desk" had several faded 8x10 signs with random rules and one large poster that said "POSSESSORS OF ILLEGAL DRUGS WILL BE EVICTED."

The tour began in the communal "living" room, which more closely resembled a "dying room" where old people would go to slowly extinguish their inner light playing cribbage. There were several folders attached to the wall with everyone's name on a folder. It was explained that this was the "chore wall" and that tenants rotated a different chore each week. Chores ranged from cleaning stove tops to emptying garbage to scraping bong resin from the landlady's 4-foot hookah. On queue, a clearly insane homeless-looking girl walked past carrying a basket full of cleaning supplies, most likely the source of the ammonia potpourri, muttering something about laser beams and llamas. There was a 19" television with "extended cable" on a table and several armchairs that had to have been holdovers from the now-defunct nursing home. They still smelled like tapioca pudding and prunes.

The kitchen was small for a communal facility and the fridge contained two dozen ziplock bags with tenant names scrawled on them in sharpie. This way Moonlight didn't mistake her string cheese with Buck's yogurt. An older gentleman was wiping down the cutting boards and greeted me with a huge grin and a nod. Nice lad. I think he was proud of his tooth.

The general tour ended at that point and I was escorted to my room. I instantly knew which one it was. It was the only door sans 10-speed.

The room was huge. I think it was where they caged and tortured unruly geriatrics in the 60s. The floor was the same glistening tile and the walls were cinder block, shabbily painted a light custard hue. A painted pipe ran the length of the room, right in the center of the ceiling, hanging down 18". I'm sure with time I would get used to the incessant "zzzzzzzzzzzzzz" sound of hot water coursing through the tube. My bathroom-mate was clearly female; cotton balls and toiletries were strewn from hell to breakfast.

There ended the tour. I wanted to take pictures of the entire facility because A) no one would believe my tale, and B) I'm sure the authorities were looking for most of these people. But I didn't dare. I was afraid that Tami (the landlady) would set The Gimp loose and I'd be relying on Butch to rescue me with a Samurai Sword. I thanked her for her time, walked out of the building, sprinted to Zed's chopper, and tore off into the sunset. Homeless. Again.

I found a pretty good deal on a room at an extended stay hotel. I have my own little kitchen and a full-sized fridge for my hot pockets and corn dogs. I have my own bathroom and the luxury of slinging my own sundries all over the place. I quickly made friends with Stephanie at the front desk and the manager, Kenny. He's an Oklahoma fan but a nice guy nonetheless. I have free Wi-Fi access so I can work and blog to my little heart's content.

Remember Rambo II? If you don't you should hang your head in shame all the way to Blockbuster. Essentially John Rambo is pardoned from prison to go to Vietnam and photograph old POW camps that were believed to be vacant. He was chosen because he was once a POW in the camp. When he arrives he learns that the camp is NOT vacant and instead houses a couple dozen ragged and filthy Americans that have been there for decades. He isn't able to rescue them at that point, but returns in all his glistening glory with a compound bow and a vengeful heart.

One day I'll return to the Homeless Hotel and free the victims languishing in squalor inside. I've been there before. And they need a Rambo.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Apocalyptic Burger

I am a Texan.

Last month I accepted a job as an Area Sales Manager for Safelite Auto Austin Texas. After the obligatory double-take and softly-whispered "wow" you will likely nod your head and say, "Gotta go where the work is." I'd be lying if I said that was the entire reason. Fact: The economy right now is a mother bugger. Fact: Jobs in Utah are sparse. Fact: I am psyched, stoked, thrilled, and elated with the adventure and opportunity with Safelite in Texas.

I flew in to San Antonio on Sunday and met my new boss. Erik was a standout offensive lineman at Texas Tech in the mid 90s and played one year of professional ball for Da Bears. A shoulder injury ended his football career and he has been with Safelite ever since. We get along well. We have similar senses of humor, identical tastes in nerd-lit, and we share a passion for good food.

Texas has presented a number of first impressions, which I'll undoubtedly share in detail in subsequent posts, but this particular piece will deal entirely with the Texan obsession with spicy food. These people put hot sauce or peppers on everything. And I mean everything. I swear I saw a little blonde chick eating an ice cream cone smothered with jalapenos.

We ate at a magnificent Mexican joint Monday night called La Fogata. The atmosphere was lovely and the food was incredible. The waiter made guacamole right there at our table and dressed it with a few odd-looking green peppers on top. Erik unceremoniously slapped one on top of his nacho and shoved it in his mouth...

"You ought to try one of those little peppers there Ty. Awesome smokey flavor to it."
"Yeah right boss, I'm not an idiot. If I want smokey flavor I'll go eat a briscuit."
"Seriously, it's not bad. Really good."

After some goading by the ladies at the table I gave in and cut off a piece that was roughly the size of a dime, put it on a chip, and threw it down. I shall attempt to describe the sensation below.

It felt like my entire face had caught fire. It felt like someone had hit me over the head with a scalding hot frying pan full of battery acid. It felt like someone had tried to repair my right molars with a soldering iron. It felt like someone had played Toby Keith music at full volume from a Bose woofer pressed against my head. It hurt.

However, this was my first business dinner with my new colleagues. I couldn't scream like a teenage girl that woke up lying next to Leatherface on a a waterbed filled with pepper spray, which was precisely what I wanted to do. I had to sit there and muster a "man, that's hot." I must have been a bit more transparent than I'd hoped because the waiter quickly brought me a pint of milk and a pitcher of water. It was a Serrano pepper. And it was vile.

There is a burger joint in San Antonio called Chunky's. Its notorious "Four Horsemen Burger" was featured on Man vs. Food and is one of the spiciest things you can eat in all of North America. One can only assume that the four horsemen in the title are referencing the Bible's book of Revelations and the four horsemen of the apocalypse that are commissioned by God to wreak havoc on the world in an apocalyptic vision. The four horsemen are Conquest, War, Famine, and finally Death. Chunky's apocalyptic Four Horsemen burger features jalapenos, serrano peppers, habanero peppers, and the dreaded "ghost chile" which I can only assume mirrors Death from Revelations.

Chiles and hot sauces are measured by something called The Scoville Scale and are rated based on "scoville units." The actual human sensation of "heat" caused from such foods is a result of a chemical compund called capsaicin and the Scoville Scale measures the concentration of that chemical. The following diagram illustrates the comparison of a ghost chile to a jalapeno pepper.

Folks, that shows us that a ghost chile is 400x hotter than a jalapeno. To put that into perspective, a full-strength power line is 44,000 volts which is exactly 400x stronger than a standard wall socket. Anyone that has been hit by 110 volts from a wall socket knows that it sucks. It hurts a little bit and certainly doesn't tickle. It's the exact equivalent to ingesting a jalapeno. It sucks. It hurts a little and doesn't tickle. While a wall socket will shock and hurt you, a power line will instantly disintegrate your entire physical being into undetectable matter. Which is exactly what a ghost chile would do to your freaking mouth.

When it came down to it, Erik wasn't up to the Four Horsemen challenge. He was calculated and noticeably concerned. I mean, Chunky's requires anyone that attempts that burger to eat it with rubber gloves. Rubbing your eyes with a finger that touched that chile would instantly Stevie Wonder your ass. They did, however, have something called "the ghost burger" which was a small step down from the insanity of the four horsemen. It had ghost chiles cooked in and reeked of pure evil. The following is a series of photos showing Erik's journey in conquering the ghost:

Pure Evil

The Attack

Initial Reaction

KABOOM! Bridget decided she'd take a crack at it, throwing down a small bite:

Which ended badly...

So why would anyone attempt something as naturally and inherently RETARDED as The Four Horsemen? If you finish... it's free. And we Texans will do anything for free food.