box stores and theme restaurants

New entries from the American Handbook™, ultimate lexicon of the American lifestyle!

Box store: A cavernous corporate-owned structure filled with name brand products arranged on shelves and available for purchase. A nice little Saturday in America typically includes a trip to at least one, but preferably six or eight, of these wonders of modern consumerism. Often bundled together into convenient concrete and asphalt abominations called “strip malls,” box stores alleviated the tedious need for easily winded Americans to visit multiple small independent businesses operated by their hard-working fellow citizens. Americans now thrill to the experience of strolling down a box store’s expansive aisles, thoughtfully constructed wide enough to accommodate most American consumers’ considerable girth. Fast food kiosks strategically placed throughout the store offer fried snacks and sugar-laden beverages to counteract the physical exhaustion associated with choosing and purchasing products. The genius inherent in the box store concept is the implicit understanding that what Americans want above all is for everything they desire to be within their pudgy arms’ reach wherever they go. The box store offers consumers much more than a place to buy both toasters and toilet paper. It also nourishes their cravings for high calorie foods, provides their ill-mannered offspring with mindless entertainment, and comforts them with the familiar warm embrace of all their favorite corporate brands.

Theme restaurant: An eating establishment, often corporate-owned, where an overt guiding concept takes precedence over food quality. In these restaurants, the experience of being entertained is what matters, because at a basic level, Americans have a slavish need to be entertained at all times. And let’s face it, restaurants are boring. There’s nothing fun about sitting down at a table with your family and friends and eating weird food brought to you by some dull waiter. But dress that waiter up like a pirate or a clown, and suddenly the air is charged with the electricity of fun. As an extreme example of this, there is an American restaurant chain called Dick’s Last Resort where the wait staff is trained to be purposefully obnoxious and patrons arrive expecting to be verbally abused and placed in awkward situations. There is nothing better than a day of wandering the aisles of your favorite box stores followed by a delicious meal at Dick’s, where the waitress ridicules your bald spot and pours cream of cauliflower soup in your crotch. This right to pay for bad food paired with public humiliation is a cherished feather in the American Freedom Cap™, and that’s why communism was such a disturbing threat.

hiding under my deck from the insect overlords

Channel 6 anchorman Kent Brockman mistakenly reports on a master race of giant space ants.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Ants. I don’t know what goes on here, but I like it. Actually I don’t care for ants. I particularly don’t like when they start that business of traveling in lines. Nor do I like them crawling incessantly around on my kitchen counter or invading the hummingbird feeders (even though there are no hummingbirds this year? where are they? hello?? I created an urban paradise for you and you never showed up?). But enough about that. I enjoy the idea of an Ant Kingdom. Do you remember the Simpsons episode where Homer gets sent into space? He bumps into an experimental ant farm, letting the ants loose into the space shuttle. Footage of the accident, depicting ants looming large in the camera lens, is picked up by Springfield’s Channel 6 News. Anchorman Kent Brockman subsequently reports that the shuttle has been taken over by a “master race of giant space ants.” Brockman goes on to state: “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.  I’d like to remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves.” On the wall behind him, Brockman has hung a homemade “Hail Ants” sign. Now that’s funny. My roommates and I hung an identical sign in our apartment many years ago. But in reality I’m pretty sure I would not enjoy living under insect overlords. They would likely make me march in lines, which I would hate.

Brockman shows off his obsequious nature.

Mondays are so absurd. Lately I’ve been away from work more than I’ve been at work, which makes being at work now seem all the more ridiculous. I’ve got this sticker at home in a box that says “Why do you work?” I hate that sticker. That’s why it stays in the box. It’s so cold at work and it’s so hot at home and this is a source of perpetual confusion for my body and my mind. This morning it was raining so I suited up in rain gear and then the sun came out as I rode to work sweating in my non-breathable rain gear, as was expected according to this fundamental rule of bike commuting. This evening I rode into the alley and the kid whose grandmother always screams at him was walking toward me, banging a long metal pole of some sort against the pavement. And it was like that scene in The Warriors where David Patrick Kelly clinks the beer bottles together, yelling “Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!” except substitute a little kid for David Patrick Kelly, a long metal pole for the beer bottles, and a cold blank look for “Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!” I got off my bike and I was sad.

But I digress. Here are two mostly unedited short pieces I scrawled in my notebook a few months back while riding south on the light rail. I’m not exactly sure where I was going with these at the time. I think I was pondering the 1950s and the beginning of the suburbanization of America. Maybe imagine these as entries in the American Handbook™ that we give to our insect overlords so they’ll understand us better. If we’re lucky maybe they won’t force us all into subterranean caverns and we can keep our decks and our pools and our acres of green green grass.

Deck: A deck is a popular structure attached to a house. When people tire of feeling closed in, they retire to the outdoors, without leaving behind the comfort and security of their home, the deck being an extension of the house and not a separate entity vulnerable to attack. Homeowners enjoy inviting over acquaintances to sit on their decks with them. Often this is accompanied by a meal cooked “en plein air” on a grill that sits proudly on the deck. The man, clad in a masculine-themed apron, always controls the grill. It is his domain. His wife brings him platters heaped with sanitized animal flesh, which he slathers with sauce before neatly placing on the foil-covered surface of the grill. After the meal, the deck people continue drinking themselves into oblivion before finally driving home and/or passing out in their bedrooms.

Pool: A pool is a status symbol popular among the wealthy. In-ground pools are the only ones that anyone cares about. If heated and covered by a screened room to keep out bugs, so much the better. Teenage girls enjoy laying out by the pool as their bratty brothers plot to splash them with water or inflict some other heinous act upon them. Rich mothers bring trays laden with glasses of cold lemonade to poolside. Their daughters sip daintily before applying more tanning oil. Their snotty sons then sneak up and snap the bikini tops of their pretty daughters. When the man of the house arrives home from a tough day at the office, he may, if of a certain disposition, change into his trunks and swim a few laps. But first he tousles his son’s hair in greeting and gazes briefly and uneasily at his daughter before finally kissing his wife on the cheek. He may then pop open an Amstel Light if feeling particularly spent.

Stay tuned for more entries!

Maybe. Depends on if the ants come, I guess.

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