Clandestine – 2

Soundtrack

“You lost, friend?” Comes a loud voice, which sounds oddly familiar. I wipe the sleep from my eyes, put on my glasses, and look out the window. It is the cop from last night. Did he follow me here?

I roll down the window of my car. “What do you mean? I’m sorry if I wasn’t supposed to stay here; I’m leaving now.”

“You best do that. And go back where you came from, remember?”

When he says ‘remember’ his voice changes. It gets lower, sadder, and even louder. Immediately, without trying or even thinking, the image of the boy hanging from the highway sign by snakes comes back to mind. I shutter.

“I’m leaving,” I say in a rush, starting my car.

“Good. Go.”

I leave the lot feeling just as bad as I did last night. The location where I am supposed to drop off the letter is just about ten miles outside of town. I reach the small community by 10 a.m. There is no one in sight. The road is made of dirt, and I see a few houses every now and then on the left and right side of the road.

I wonder what the hell was up with that kid, and with that cop. Was this all some sort of backwoods joke on passers by? I begin to feel sleepy. Almost like I am going to fall asleep at the wheel, just out of no where. I stop to calm down and have a cigarette at a small park I find. There’s not much here, just some rusty swings, some gravel, a chain-link fence missing the gate, dead trees in the middle of summer, and some matching cigarette butts. I glare at the envelope I am to deliver. What could be inside this? I hold the envelope to the light to try and read through it. I think I can see the word “Human” somewhere, but I’m not even entirely sure.

“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS came on my CD player. It’s a good song. I forgot about making this CD, there’s a lot of good songs on it.

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division came on next.

Odd pairing, I thought, but also sort of funny. I started another cigarette.

“Never Tear Us Apart” started again. Followed by “Love Will Tear Us Apart” again. Tired of hearing the same two songs twice, I pulled the key from the ignition. The radio didn’t stop, though. I pressed the power button and it still didn’t stop. I pressed the eject button; the CD didn’t come out, but the music had stopped. Something didn’t feel right; I lit another cigarette.

Just as I did, “Never…” started playing again, at full volume. About thirty seconds in, “Love…” began playing. I ran to the car, and pressed the power button again, to no avail. I looked at the radio.

666

That’s all that was on the radio. The music kept playing and I opened the trunk for a wrench to disconnect the battery. Just as I opened the trunk, the music stopped.

What could I do, really? The car went back to normal. I was a bit freaked out, but I needed to make my delivery. I kept driving on back roads, and the streets seemed to get worse: more potholes, more rocks. The houses also went down drastically in quality. That is, until I got to a golden gate, with a drive-up box to talk to the owners of the house up the hill. The house was the one I was to make the delivery at. I drove to the box and pressed the call button. “Who is it?” responded an elderly-sounding woman’s voice.

“I have a package,” I said.

“And you’re sure it’s for me? For this address?”

I repeated the address to her.

“Well, who are you with?”

“Ma’am, I’m just trying to make a delivery for my landlady. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. I am not with a corporation or anything. Can I please just come drop this off to you?”

She let me in. As I drove up the winded road to her house, I realized it wasn’t much of a house at all — it was a mansion.

“I’m sorry I was so annoying at the gate,” she told me over the tea she eventually made us.

Her mansion seemed to go on forever. We were sitting near a large fireplace, in elegant red couches.

“It’s just,” she continued, “you saw all of those shacks on the way up. They’ve got me beginning to think this was all a bad idea.”

“What was a bad idea?” I asked.

She sighed. “You have something for me?”

I handed her the envelope. All it said on it was For Sasha. “Can you tell me what it’s about? I don’t want to pry, but I drove a long way and my landlady is really making a big deal out of these deliveries…”

“You’re right, you shouldn’t pry. I think maybe you should go now.” Her tone was completely different, like she had snapped.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry if I asked something offensive…”

She didn’t even look at me as I left out the long, stone hallway. Along the way, I saw something move into the room next to the front door along the floor. I peaked my head in before I left, to see a snake slithering through the room.

I found it a bit unsettling when the people who lived in the cheapest housed gave me sad, almost scared faces as I drove passed. They were gone so quickly and out of view, so my mind moved on to other questions faster than it probably should have.

I ended up back in town quicker this time — strange how not having my car radio become possessed during a smoke break will make that happen. I had to get gas at the gas station which was now open. As I went inside and b-lined for the snack isle, I got a message on my phone from an unknown number.

“New delivery boy, huh? I think there’s something you should see,” it read.

I responded with a “who is this,” only to get no response. I paid for my gas and chips and went to start my car. It started, but didn’t sound okay. I pulled over in the still closed “Atlas of Humanity” parking lot since it was still abandoned, and looked at the engine. Everything seemed fine, but when I went to start the car to leave, nothing happened. The engine didn’t turn, the lights didn’t come on, nothing.

I had just made a long, stressful drive out to a place I didn’t really want to go, where I didn’t really feel comfortable, to do something I didn’t really want to do. And now my car had died. To make the best of my situation, I decided to cut my losses and make a day of things. I stopped by the local liquor store, grabbed some more snacks, and went on a hike in the northern Kansas nothingness to take my mind of of things, or at least to organize the thoughts inside my head from the last day.

The day-hike quickly turned into a night hike. I got lost. I don’t know how it happened, exactly, as I followed the map I had previously downloaded onto my phone. The whole time, it said I was only a couple miles away from where I had started at most, but when I turned back to go to my car it took me hours. I am back at my car now, and it still will not start. Something is wrong, though. Someone has done something to my car and is keeping me here. It’s too late to do anything about it now, though. I have no choice but to camp out in my car again, in the same lot I was in before. I hope that cop isn’t watching me.

I eventually fell asleep for a little while. But I woke up to a loud pop.

I looked up at the lot, and at the “Atlas of Humanity” place — it wasn’t empty anymore.

Advertisements

Clandestine – 1

Soundtrack

I moved because there was nothing for me where I came from before. There were more people, and more businesses, and more “friends,” but there just wasn’t what I needed. I need to think. I need a fresh start more than anything, I guess.

I did things where I came from that I am not exactly proud of, and don’t exactly want to relive. I want to get away. I need to think, that’s all. You can’t think when your home in the city is filled with people who have bigger, louder problems than yours. They rant and rave, they stay up late and drain all of their emotions, they eat whatever. And I mean, like garbage on a plate — and it smells, and their conversations drain me, and make me want to go mad.

But here I can breathe. I can think, and I can make for myself what I want.

I found a spot in the middle of nowhere. Here I am thirty miles from the nearest town, and twenty from the nearest grocery store. There is almost nothing to see in every view, but it somehow means everything to me. There is a beauty in being surrounded by nothing, knowing that nothing is your closest “thing.”

When I moved here, I agreed to work out a plan with the Landowner. I will drive (an undetermined amount of miles) every month and deliver “special packages” around the country. “It’s nothing harmful or illegal, I promise,” L tells me. “Your help could really fulfill some important goals, though. I don’t have the energy or the time to make all of these stops on my own.” I say that the deal sounds great to me and move in. The house is a two story, green adobe home. I live above the garage in a studio-style setup. There is a bathroom, a small kitchen, my bed, and a closet. I don’t need much else – I don’t own much else. I can see out of two windows — one to each side of the house, and can sometimes hear L loudly making phone calls. She is out of town this week, and I have my first delivery.

I am to go to a small town on the north side of Kansas. I have an envelope to deliver there. “I don’t trust the post much anymore,” L tells me when she gives me the envelope, “I doubt any USPS truck is going to go here, anyways,” she concludes. She then leaves on another “vacation,” and asks me to finish the delivery by the end of the week. Kansas is fairly close to here, but I have nothing else to do and I set off.

I begin driving through the nearest city and when I reach its outskirts, I start to think. Why is L always going on vacations? There is no way she makes so much money she can really go somewhere almost every week. I ultimately decide she must be some sort of millionaire retiree, though, and journey on.

When I reach the edge of the Kansas border, I see something in the distance. It looks like some sort of fake alien. There is a cartoonishly large head upon a small body. Above that is a billboard. I can’t quite read it out yet, but as I get closer it says “Travelled so far?” The billboards is just black, with plain white font on it. There is no advertising for anything. As I get closer, I realize that what’s under the sign isn’t a fake alien at all. What I see is much worse.

I see a body. I don’t know if it is real or not, but it’s a body. Above that is not some silly alien head — it’s snakes. A ball of snakes is wrapped around this person’s head and is holding them up by the sign, as if they are hanging. “That has to be a mannequin,” I think to myself, not wanting to stop. I pass, and the human and snakes become more clear — it is a boy’s body hanging, and the snakes are red. I almost swerve off the road staring, when I am pulled over by a police officer.

“Sir! Sir!” I exclaim when he walks up besides my car.

“Shut up,” he whispers.

“No, you didn’t see that kid?! You need to send h—”

“Stop. Stop right now,” He says slowly, but with a loud force that gets me to quit. “What you saw was nothing, and I suggest you go home.”

“I won’t have a home if I don’t keep going,” I say, “This is all I’ve got.”

“Look, kid,” he knelt down to my car and looked me deep in the eye. “We are all a part of something, we just don’t know it. We should be glad we don’t know it. Once you start knowing what you shouldn’t know — what there is out there to behold… Just get out of here and pretend tonight never happened.”

He doesn’t say anything else, but with the look in his face, I can tell he is terrified. He slowly walks back to his car and I slowly get back onto the highway. I am shaking from what just happened. If the police aren’t going to even acknowledge that boy, how are they to ever help me here? I felt as though I were totally on my own. It was the middle of the night now, and I knew I was getting close to my first delivery.

I park in an abandoned lot. I am in an extremely small town in northern Kansas. It is flat here and there is only a gas station (which is closed), a grocery store (which is closed), and a mega-complex (which is shut-down) with the old outline of a sign that has been taken down which reads “Atlas Of Humanity.” This is the abandoned lot which I am camping in my car at.

I begin to think of my move, and about what I am doing with my life. I chose to walk away from the city, to face my anxiety and move into the forest. I made a deal with someone who I hardly know, to do god knows what. I can’t help but feel as though I am a part of something now, though. I have to, if not finish, a least find out what I have started. I fall asleep thinking of what the morning will hold in store for me, and what I will find.

I awake to a knock at my car window.

A Note About Amber

The sky is cotton candy colored this evening on my walk home. It makes me think of Amber, who is always impressed with and struck by the sky in ways I can seldom recognize. It is something I envy, and something I deeply admire about her; she has the ability to do this with many things. Always seeming capable of making literal poop seem like something much more elevated and, perhaps, lovely than it is. She is a constant inspiration to me.

As someone who is generally more anxious than Harvey Weinstein walking through a ring of female kick boxers, Amber has — without her conscious knowledge (I think) — shown me several different ways to cope with my mind.

“Woah!” She will often exclaim while we are driving around, myself completely oblivious as to what could possibly be so amusing. When she points to the sky, I will sometimes almost hit another car while driving. At the stop lights, or on a hike, or when she is driving, I can usually see what she means, though. The sky can be an incredible thing to look at. Yet, even when I do not always see beauty in the sky, Amber can.

As someone who writes and makes music, I can recognize that Amber inspires me. She is the main reason I am able to make music and write so much.

Anyways, today is her birthday and it didn’t seem right to let that go unnoticed.

Happy birthday, Amber!

#Dogs4BbySitters!

When the local news predicted that “dogs could be taking retail jobs by 2025,” I only raised half an eyebrow. When my NSU professors told me that “dogs will probably not take retail jobs, but will absolutely take babysitting jobs,” I was even less impressed. When Fox News stated that “the Democrats want the next president to be a dog and will do anything to trick you into voting for one,” I was just angry. But then 2025 came, and we slowly saw what the networks were talking about. Except Fox, they are literally insane garbage.

In 2020, we somewhat developed the technology to sort of figure out what dogs were thinking (this is to say that their thoughts were projected onto a screen, but only as graphs and charts that were 99.9% arbitrary). The technology kept advancing, though, and by 2024 humans could project in vivid detail, the thoughts of a canine companion. The thoughts started off as what one might expect it would be: “Let’s go on a walk,” “I want some more food,” “Get rid of the mail man,” etc. Yet, within a year, the thoughts quickly developed into more serious matters: “Do you know what you’re feeding your children, what is wrong with you?”; “Why is it that you love black labs, but seem cautious around black people?”; “Blowing pot smoke in our faces won’t really get us that high, mostly it’ll just make us quit trusting you,” so on and so forth. This uptick in canine knowledge is what sparked the #dogs4bbysitters movement: one that is based on allowing dogs to make their family extra income by replacing sitters and nannies.

“It’s not like my old nanny was any better than someone who licks their butt, anyways,” one mother and doggy-nanny-hirer declared. Another added that “If my human nanny steals from me, it’s my pearls and earrings; if my doggy nanny steals, it’s my bacon and my herb-crusted polenta.”

Yet, in times like these, when the national driving age has decreased to 14, (because President Nick Cage says, “I sell amazing properties like mad. Literally like that crazy guy I played in that movie… what was it… National Treasure, or something, that’s it(1). So, whatever, let 14-year-olds drive,”) we are forced to look at what our country has become. National Geographic recently published an article entitled “The top 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Your Dog, Nanny,” which displays graphic photos of doggy nannies raiding refrigerators, drinking from babies’ toilets, pooping in baby jumpers, and worst of all, playing the “airplane” game with the baby food, only to selfishly feed themselves instead. This is not to say that the babies went hungry; in fact, almost all doggy nannies are guilty of both themselves and the baby gaining an average of half a pound upon dismissal of sitting duties.

“It’s just like, why would you let a dog do that? I mean, I’ve been at [retail store name omitted] for like, six months now. If that’s not responsibility, then I don’t know what is. Seriously, I’m more responsible than that dog. How much is that dog getting paid, anyways?” Voiced one concerned neighbor, before asking if he made more than the doggy-nanny—several times.

An engineering-based school in Arizona has conducted a study on the new nannies, stating that drug-related babysitter arrests and episodes are at an all time low. “Instead of just following the natural trend of placing a baby in a large cage and giving it an iPad, the dogs seem to actually interact with the children. I really haven’t seen anything like it for several years,” states one of the college’s professors. Overall, the study has shown that dog-sitters spend an average of 70% more time just looking at the child they are watching, compared to human sitters. “That time really adds up,” another student tells me, “Some kids have just ruined their lives, or their parents’ homes by the time you look at them again, but the dogs seem quite a bit more alert.” This may possibly be attributed to the fact that dogs still cannot legally have their own phone plans. “Ever since president Cage has mandated watching at least two of his movies a week, average screen-time for an American has gone up from about 20, to 22 hours a day. This does, of course, not count for any time spent watching TV before bed, as many still like to do. But since dogs cannot legally have their own phone plans, their screen-time is significantly less. Plus, given their greyscale vision and notoriously bad password-making, most dogs become fed up with electronics fairly quickly, even when they do show an interest at first,” the student informed me.

Another professor at the school (who was not involved in this study) voiced her concerns, “It’s just not natural,” she says. “I don’t think any person, or dog, who is so disconnected should really have any responsibilities. What if a child asks for the current head count on the Kardashian family, or if they have not seen the latest video of a cat doing something boorish and lame? Dogs, from what I have gathered on Instagram, do not even seem to like cats. A child watched by a dog will miss out on these things that really matter—the reason that millions of Americans wake up every morning.”

When I shared this interview with leading members of the #dogs4bbysitters movement, they were not surprised. “This is why I take those responsibilities upon myself,” one leader told me, “I think it’s more of an ethical problem, and so of course I spend my nights not just plugging in my baby’s iPad, but also rocking him to sleep, assuring him of how many Kardashians there are, and telling him the dire differences between the Tumblr and Twitter communities daily.”

The group hopes to have dogs replacing at least 40% of sitters by 2027, and is also Kickstarting a small robot that can still keep babies and young children updated on the internet 24/7 via a loudspeaker which will read out the world’s most-viewed Tweets, so that all of a parent’s worries can be covered.

(1) Seriously, look up some of the properties he’s bought and sold. Just Google it.

Seeing Vincent

Amber and I just recently saw the new movie “Loving Vincent,” which is the world’s first completely hand-painted feature film. We didn’t necessarily know what the movie was about, just that we knew we should watch it. We did, if sort of by mistake.

Our bed is broken, by the way. Amber’s side, specifically, and I know why. Every time she gets home from work or school, she will first throw her things onto the ground and then throw herself onto the mattress like an overreacting child in a play pretending to be shot. If you do this enough times, we have found, it will break what can only be Amazon’s cheapest bed frame. Because of Amber’s bad back, I have volunteered to switch her sides of the bed. The situation I was in didn’t really bother me at first, only one of the ten bars on my side that was holding the mattress was missing. One night when I was eager to fall asleep I knocked another bar out—both of which are next to each other and happen to meet right around the small of my back. If I slept on my stomach I would start to feel as though I was doing yoga poses against my will all night. The mattress slowly kept seeping right in the middle towards the ground, and only on my new side. Rather than buy a new frame though, I suggested to Amber we go to Home Depot to find a solution.

I am not a Home Depot guy; Amber is not a Home Depot gal. There are Home Depot people who seem to know every nook and cranny. Need a blade for your power drill? Follow me. Oh, a cactus and a new chandelier? Right this way. Amber and I are not like that and so it took us a good deal of time just to figure out a proper solution. We finally found some metal piping that seemed as though it would work, and were told that the plumbing department could cut it into pieces for us. We then wondered around almost the entire store again, before stumbling on plumbing. We found the pipe cutter, but no one was waiting idly by to man it. Around the corner, Amber and I found an employee next to a ladder. After much time fumbling about “who last had to talk to someone,” etc., we both approached the man, who happened to climb up his ladder the second we turned the corner. Discouraged, we walked back to the cutter, close to fed up with Home Depot’s inability to read our minds.

When the employee finally got off his ladder, we almost ran to him. “Can you cut this? Who do we talk to for something like that? Is it you?” I can never manage to ask things from strangers the way I want to. The man gladly said he could help us.

“You mark it I cut it,” he said, handing me a Sharpie. “Do you need this to look nice? My machine is gonna leave some scratches.”

We said no, and minutes later he handed us four perfectly cut replacement parts for our bed. All we have to do now is crimp down the ends with a vice to make them fit into the old slots at the ends.

We were both hungry as we were leaving, and Amber suggested a Home Depot dog as a joke, which really just excited me to eat some food, and she had me convinced. “Yes,” I replied.

“Really?” She said.

“Yes. That sounds good!” And soon we were in front of the vendors of the Home Depot hot dog stand—an elderly couple: a woman who took our orders, got our dogs and placed them in the bun; and her husband, who mostly just watched football on tv. The couple seemed hesitant about us at first; then the woman gave me the receipt and I employed my usual 20% tip to the total. She then immediately perked up, as if tips were a sort of holy grail for her profession—I was the bearer of some sort of rare, exotic and wonderful news. After mostly not talking, she then asked Amber and I about our day and what we would be up to. She also complimented my shirt. Her husband, still mostly focused on the tv, asked us what we’d like on our hot dogs. Knowing that the station was self serve, however, he soon gave up on helping us in favor of football on tv.

Next on the list before we went home was to look for a music adapter I needed at Best Buy (who no longer sells any music equipment, other than online), and finally to go to an Asian market so that Amber could find some cooking ingredients.

The Best Buy did not seem to yield many results. Amber set off to look for cameras and I headed to where the music equipment used to be. There, I saw two employees. “But R, I don’t really understand how I’m supposed to set up the new display and a customer is asking me about it, do you know?”

“Well I’m sorry,” said R. “I’m off the clock, they’d get mad at me if I helped you. Get mad at us.”

R’s coworker walked away, but when one of his managers came out, he said, “Hey, P, I just got a new TV but can’t get the HDMI to work. Do you know what I should do?”

P answered his question, off the clock. On her way off, R said, “One more thing. A new guy was asking me a question while I was off the clock and I didn’t help him.”

“Good,” P responded, “that’s what you’re supposed to do in that situation. Don’t help them.”

Prior to this, Amber and I had ran into a childhood friend in the entrance of the store. “Hi, E,” I said. “This is my girlfriend, Amber.”

E proceeded to give me a handshake at a ridiculous angle and stare a what I can only assume was a single hair I had sticking up on my head. “How’s it going?” I asked.

“I’m good, how are you?”

“Good!”

He kept staring at the same spot. Just one hair sticking up. He then proceeded to quickly look me up and down, judging everything I had chosen to wear. “Are you sure you’re good?” He responded.

“I think so,” I said. We (the three of us) slowly rounded the cardboard DVD display stand we had been casually looking at to keep things as normal as possible. E was now really staring the DVDs down, though, as if he knew one had a golden ticket to live in L.A. for free or something like that. I watched him move out of the way a portly blonde woman who had also been giving the DVDs a good eying. After a few seconds of looking, E glanced up and seemed almost surprised that I would still be standing there, wondering if this was the end of our interaction or not, and if he had known the portly woman he’d manhandled earlier.

“This is my girlfriend,” he finally said, pointing the the woman he’d been avoiding around the DVDs. Her and I and Amber exchanged our hellos, and I left as soon as possible, knowing I had no regrets towards never talking to them again in my life.

When we left Best Buy I thought I could kill two birds with one stone, so we headed to Glendale, the Russian neighborhood in Denver. Amber and I stopped at a Guitar Center so that I could look again for my part. “I didn’t want to go out,” she said.

“I didn’t know, I’m sorry. You said ‘Asian market’…” I trailed off, realizing that not only had I gone all the way to Denver, but I had gone to the Russian neighborhood to find an Asian market. Amber forgave my stupidity, and driving around, we found the Chez Artiste Theatre. Neither of us had been there, but recognized it as being one of Denver’s only three artsy cinemas. Amber was looking up showtimes as I was looking through things I didn’t need to spend money on. We found a showtime, got snacks at a local Dollar Tree, and went in.

I suppose we did not see “Loving Vincent” on accident, it was very much on purpose. We really didn’t mean to see it on this day, though. Or at this theater. We’d both assumed that, like all people who want to watch an artsy thing, we would be forced to buy it since it would never be popular enough for streaming. I think that maybe it makes a difference that we saw the movie in an actual locally-owned, small theater. Isn’t that the point of things like these? Watching the movie on a small but glamorous screen, I was inspired. For me, it was surely the fact that Van Gough struggled with depression, but also there was a small conspiracy surrounding his death, which is something I pine for upon my passing. I also found solace in knowing that Van Gough is an internationally acclaimed artist, but you can still only find “his” latest masterpiece in small, cramped, local theaters.

Maybe someone will come to see my late works in a small, cramped theater someday. God willing.

Guy Fieri — Man or Myth

For the last month or so, Amber and I will generally close out the nights with some of our last words being “We’re rollin’ out! I’ll catch you next time, on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” shouted out in unison with Guy Fieri, the star of the show. We began watching the show semi-ironically, but now I don’t know that I have ever been so confused (intrigued?) by a human being—at least, not in the way I am confused by Guy. If one has not seen Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, I do not necessarily recommend it. The show involves Guy going around to different restaurants (all in the U.S.) and trying their food. I use the word “trying,” because there is no real reviewing present. In the several seasons of the show I have so far watched, I have never seen Guy give a negative review, or even some constructive criticism. Every location he visits could be considered a diner, drive-in, or dive in some light—though, the restaurants in the beginning were a bit dirtier, since business owners initially didn’t want to associate their investment as a “diner, drive-in, or dive.” The star will enter the restaurant, “interview” some customers about their menu favorites, watch the chef make the food (while seemingly helping them, but mostly just making a mess), and then shove said food into his mouth. Guy has spiked, bleached hair, tattoos, a goatee, and a wardrobe out of a classic rock band’s 1990’s reunion tour. Some of his best catch phrases include: “Welcome to Flavor Town,” “That’s all she wrote,” “Dynamite, brother,” and “Catch it right now, on Triple D.” As Amber and I watched more of the show, I became more curious.

According to a mashed.com article entitled “The Untold Truth of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” by Jake Vigliotti, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is largely the work of a camera crew, who arrive at every location a few days before Mr. Fieri to get shots of customers, the outside of the restaurant, close-ups of the food, etc. Every restaurant usually gets a three day shoot, with Guy appearing on the last day to ask a couple of questions and mostly to eat. He drives a red Camero to almost every episode, which is in fact, not his at all. It belongs to one of the producers. Guy allegedly drives it for short distances, however.

None of this really gets at what makes Guy so interesting, though, which is his lack of connection to any one given stereotype; in other words, he can’t be pinned down. Guy Fieri (fee-et-tee, as he pronounces it) was born in Northern California to two hippie parents. Their meat-free, mostly raw foods diet is actually what drove Guy into cooking. Rumor is that at ten-years-old, he and his father created a pretzel cart. Guy supposedly kept running this pretzel cart to earn money for college [1]. Fieri then chose to spend a year of school in Paris, where he grew to love food more. He then went to Vegas for a degree in hospitality. Him and a friend soon opened Guy’s first restaurant in 1996, Johnny Garlic’s, which is now a small chain that still exists today. His season two winning of Food Network’s Next Food Network Star is what drove Guy into the limelight, in 2006.

Clearly, none if this is particularly strange. It is when you look into the nuances of Guy that one can see his oddities. Having the style of a classic “dad-rocker” is nothing to think twice about, but what about a dad-rocker who was raised by hippies and chose to go to Paris? The Food Network star also has what can only be described as a deep passion and admiration for the military—something which is generally seen as somewhat conservative. It seems just a bit surprising then, that Guy has also officiated some 100-plus gay weddings, including iconic chef Art Smith [2]. None of this is to say that Guy is good, or bad, right, or wrong, just that I simply cannot get a read on what is going on with him. This is not always in a political frame, however. For example, K.S. Wang, in a motortrend.com article nonsensically entitled “Celebrity Drive: Food Network Celebrity Chef and Car Junkie is a True Bow-Tie Guy,” we learn that Guy is a passionate Chevy owner (with the exception of one Lamborghini—which, how could he not have?), with five under his belt. He owns more cars, though they are exclusively and proudly American-made. Yet, Guy is still so happy to tell people that his first car was a 1978 Datsun 280Z (which is a Japanese car). Nevertheless, perhaps the most vexing trait about Mr. Fieri is how he can seem like—in Anthony Bourdain’s words—such a “total douche,” but still manage to have amazing PR and has never seemed to cultivate a legitimate complaint [3]. There are countless stories online—like the dailybeast.com one by Rachel Syme, entitled “The Trailer Park Gourmet”—of everyone from paying spectators of his live cooking shows, to reporters who want to dig up some dirt on the star, who walk away feeling like they have just talked to one of the only genuinely nice celebrities that seem to exist. Guy is known for having a good time with a live crowd, and will give out free drinks and get to know anyone he appears to have time for. With reporters, he is not afraid to laugh at himself, or to try and make light of someone who wants to tear his name to shreds for the sake of publicity. He doesn’t let things get to him, and he tries not to let them get to others, either. He’s the crazy uncle who is going to give you a noogie, making you want to punch him in the face; but he is also the crazy uncle who will get drunk at the family barbecue and make you laugh—genuinely laugh—like you haven’t in a while. I disagree with the New York Times piece by Julia Moskin, entitled “Guy Fieri, Chef-Dude Is [sic] in the House,” in which Julia claims Guy’s appeal can be mostly blamed for his attraction to men (that is, male viewers) and lower-income people. This is illustrated in the interview with a woman who claims that other cooking shows were “too preachy” for her.

This is where I struggle with Guy, I don’t know what to look at him as. Is he a chef? His restaurants regularly get poor reviews (Is it mean for me to say “hilariously” poor?). Gordon Ramsey has referred to him as a sham, as have other famous chefs—not to mention what the aspiring chef-star must think. And here is another struggle with Guy: the lay-people don’t seem to dislike him nearly as much as the popular people. I don’t think this makes him punk, necessarily, but it makes him something the likes of it.

As I grow, I am more and more curious about people like Mr. Fieri [4] and how I can incorporate their ethics into my (hopefully) sometime adult life. Guy is genuinely doing what he wants to do. Sure, a lot of Triple D is scripted, but it’s a script that he wrote himself. And when he isn’t sticking to the script, it’s his own shtick that we get to experience (endure?). He gets to travel all over (the U.S.), he gets to eat (junk) food for free, he runs into (B-list) celebrities all the time [5], and he gets to do (roughly) what he wants.

Though Guy will give a seemingly positive review to an old pb&j served in a shoe, he does have some apparent tell-tale signs as to whether or not he really likes a dish. The “mashed” article mentioned previously tells us that if Guy takes a bite and talks about the visual aesthetics of the place, he doesn’t like the food; just as well, if he stares into the eyes of the chef, the dish is a real winner. These things seem fairly obvious to me. The real question I’ve had on my mind is whether or not Guy has been doing drugs before every episode.

I would love to see Guy as a stand-up guy who travels around with women in the back of his ex-producer’s Camero doing the right thing, but something tells me there’s something fishy going on. Now, I don’t know Guy, I have only watched a fuckload of his shows and read just about every article I can Google about him. This is also coupled with my general pessimism. But really, I mean, he seriously does drive around in his ex-producer’s Camero with cheerleaders in the back. Not always, but it’s the screenshot for his entire show on Hulu right now. And even if you think, like, Well, what if it’s his daughter? (And it’s not, he only has two sons) that is even worse. Why would you willingly subject your daughter to be photographed in a cheerleader’s outfit, when she could just do it herself if she wanted to? And she could do it for someone other than her spiky-haired, backwards-sunglasses father. It’s just that, if this is someone’s first time looking at “Triple D,” and they see some bleached-hair guy in a sports convertible with a bunch of cheerleaders, they may not want to watch it with their family, and it is a family show.

Ethics aside, guy is seriously nice. Though I have always sided with the likes of Jeff Rosenstock’s new song “TV Stars,” it really does matter to be nice—even just seemingly. “TV stars don’t care about who you are” is true, indeed, but lots of people don’t care who you are. In a day-in-age in which I can obsess over what the “Puppy NFL” is up to, it is easy to see how many niches, subcultures, and cliques make it nearly impossible to really fit into a spot in which the average Hollywood celebrity is going to actually care about what the general public has to say or think. This is to say that Guy doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks, but is still a nice guy.

To show that Mr. Fieri doesn’t care about what people think of him, it might help to know that all of his cars are all either yellow or black—even his wife is encouraged to buy only those colors, and has. In every episode, no matter what time of year, Guy is also seen wearing sunglasses—if not on the front of his face, then on the back of his head [6]. He is knowingly and willingly the bulk of so many internet memes. His two major-league acting scenes are in an Evel Knievel documentary (as himself) and in The Interview, with Jonah Hill and James Franco (also as himself in a one-second cameo).

My ultimate views on Guy Fieri come down to what I can only conclude is the issue I take with several other people who are a part of my life [7], which is that I simply disagree with them. My dad is a conservative (he’d say “independent”) republican, some of my friends are overtly liberal, and I hold my own opinions. All of this is fine, though I can say that I don’t seem to align with Mr. Fieri on most things. Like, I also don’t think its ethically a good idea to drag your kid along for a food-eating series around the world with you. At least let him finish high school.

I can go back and forth about how I feel about Guy Fieri, and have. The point is that he is an interesting person who is seriously fun to watch. Love him or hate him, he is a spectacle. If you are a conservative, he has lots on his resumé to make your dreams come true; the same still goes for the liberals. Whether you love the system or hate it, he can be your man. Forgive me for not straying more from political terms, but Guy would be the icon of bipartisanship, if ever there was one. Of course we can have several gay weddings, but let’s do it classy: tacos, tanks, and truckers, you know what I’m sayin’ bro? Sure, if Guy were president there would be legalized coke, but there would also be a military base in every town. Every flavortown! There would be no Muslim ban, only a ban on eating too many righteous yurtas and kumis. Want to smoke a joint? Sure, as long as your city has access to the most authentic Jamaican tacos this side of the hemisphere!

Okay, so things would not be “organized” so much, or even “realistic” if Mr. Fieri were president, but that’s all beside the point; he’s not asking to be president, just mayor of Flavortown. Sure, there are people who’ve spent years mastering what can only be considered the perfect culinary pallet, only to have Guy frat-boy all over it, and I’m sure they have a point. Does Guy have a right to go about America and judge mom-and-pop shops, always giving them an overwhelmingly positive review? I think so, and this brings me to where I disagree with Anthony Bourdain: he is (that is, Anthony) also paid to go around to different places and eat food. Obviously Mr. Bourdain handles this with a bit more class, traveling to places around the globe, trying things many Americans have near heard of, and documenting all of this in a pseudo-Thompson/ Bukowski-esque manner, but the concept is the same. Whether Anthony likes it or not—and he must really hate it—him and Guy share the same job, just with a different fan base. Or in my case, the same fan base. I think both shows are equally entertaining to watch, and have recently taken to pointing out how hilariously similar the two shows are—if just in my own head. Guy will be presented with an otherwise awkward situation, where he’ll have to think of some not-so-clever joke to accompany either a chef who doesn’t want to play by the rules, or a judge who seriously hates a dish that a contestant has to present. Bourdain will (thirty minutes later) be presented with a dish that no living person could enjoy, yet he will chase his terrible food with some local-inhabitant liquor. Here entails the true difference between Fieri and Bourdain: one can drink and the other cannot. On their show, that is [8].

One other problem I take with Guy, however, is that he claims to be such a “car nut,” but has claimed that his longest drive ever was between some Northern California town and some Oregon town, totaling three hours and nineteen minutes, the long way. This is a type of drive that I have taken completely at random at several points in my life; it is hardly a long drive and for a self-proclaimed “car nut,” should be nothing short of a pit stop.

Overall, though, I think there is something to be learned from Guy. Over and over, the whole claim-to-fame is that he is just a regular dude who happened to win a cooking challenge. You can genuinely see that, though. Guy makes jokes that only the only out of touch camp counselors at IDRAHAJE (does that even still exist?) would make. He is fun for the whole family, in the sort of way that half of the family is making fun, and the other half is having fun. He is all too much himself, however off putting that may be. Guy is almost something mysterious and avant-garde—is he really the willing mayor to “Flavortown,” or is he something more [9]? The private details of Mr. Fieri’s life are (understandably) mostly under wraps. All that I can say though, is that Guy is either a mad man or a genius. It is genius to be a food enthusiast who has his own hobbies and goals, and makes money primarily by eating good food in front of TV cameras. It is absolutely insane, however, to believe for one second that I will buy into the lifestyle of eating food to make a living. It is this mystery about Guy that keeps me watching and keeps me guessing—is he a real-life badass, or just another burn-out. The evidence seems to go either way and I think only time will tell; as with anything else. A view on Guy probably just comes down to a difference of opinions. I like to hold on to the one that Guy is somewhat of a pseudo-punk outsider—doing his own thing to make money for his family, but in reality knows better.

But these things can always go either way.

Footnotes:

[1]: Most of this is all general knowledge about Fieri that can be found on any number of Top Ten lists about the chef.

[2]: Art Smith’s wedding took place in 2015 and was part of a multi-wedding celebration to honor the American overturning of the ban on gay marriage.

[3]: I use the word “legitimate” because Bourdain is not the only person to have railed against Guy. Fieri seems to be an almost constant target of battering from reality chefs, to real chefs alike. This sort of makes sense, when a Food Network star has never complained about food outright, I suppose.

[4]: Meaning, famous people who somehow seem to fit, at least loosely, into the “punk” category. There is no one quite like Guy, let’s be honest.

[5]: Ex. Gene Simmons, Kid Rock, and Rosie O’ Donell (though his personal favorites are obviously the retired football players and coaches).

[6]: Come to think of it, I have never seen Guy wear a long-sleeve, either. He constantly visits low-cost cities in their cheapest months, but never seems to be physically cold, somehow. What a champ.

[7]: Yes, if someone is in your bedroom (on TV or otherwise) for several hours a week, they are a part of your life.

[8]: There has been a rumor that Guy’s tour bus is completely stocked with nothing to drink but PBR.

[9]: Let’s keep in mind that Rowan Atkinson—Mr. Bean—is a biochemist.