Post-SUTS group tonight we trekked down the hill to Village Inn, an eatery famed for a nourishment-to-MSG ratio akin to playing “Where’s Waldo?” and Waldo is a Chinese dude and you have to find him in China. Being fair, Village Inn does sport many colors of food-shaped MSG, unlike Cracker Barrel which only features foods in every color of beige. So, Village Inn has that going for it.
It’s not the parametaquasi-tasty pseudo-food that draws us to Village Inn each Friday. It’s not even that adorable server whose name I can’t always recall because I’m distracted by her smile that’s like a crack in the clouds revealing blue skies. What gets us in the door and pushing the tables together is a chance to get to know folks with whom we’ve been open, vulnerable, and compassionate for the last two hours in a new habitat where we talk about crap other than being crazy. For example, who would have foreseen 40% of the peers at Village Inn tonight went to BYU? Spooky.
Let’s chat about gluttony for a short while. Village Inn – and let’s be right up front and acknowledge the place is nothing more than Denny’s with delusions of grandeur – does not scrimp on portions. When the menu shows a satellite TV dish brimming with breaded stuff, yellow egg stuff, massacred potato stuff, and a lovely arrangement of pancakes on its own delicate plate (the same diameter of the pancakes), this is exactly what lands on the table in front of you. When you dine at Village Inn you run a significant risk of passing out in a gluttonous haze while twitching on the floor drooling pancake syrup and sweating MSG. It’s a lot of food is what I’m sharing.
There’s a reason I’m poking at the nature of gluttony framed in the qualitative metric of how much fooking food Village Inn shovels onto your plate. Remember me saying we go down to Village Inn to talk about stuff other than being crazy? I’ll appreciate if you don’t. It’s buried in all the indulgent exposition in one of the preceding paragraphs. Scroll up, refresh your recollection. I’ll be here. No hurry.
The reason Village Inn gluttony is on my mind is because I want to deconstruct how my new friend Bradgelina (ha!) and I began talking about not being able to finish our plates of pancakes and found our way to discussing the cultural and ethical ramifications of eating other people. And no judgmental snickering about “That sure sounds like you’re still talking about being crazy to me.” I have no time for you. You get sixteen syllables and that’s it.
And there we have an excellent transition for telling the yarn yet to be told, the raison d’être for this article, a tale so fearsome and pointless as to render the futility of a corporeal existence reborn as a glorious Disneyland of spiritu……
Where was I?
Mentioned already is how massive the food portions are at Village Inn. It’s horrible food for sure but they don’t pull the “Got Papas?” potato assault like at Weck’s. The Village Inn plate has a lot of egg-colored food and what is best described as “meat.” It’s “meat” a vegan could enjoy, like a tofu burger only not listed as a tofu burger on the menu. The tofu burger, when you love the shape of a hamburger but hate the delicious flavor.
What I ordered was the 1/2 pound chicken fried steak breakfast. I was tempted to go with the chicken fried steak skillet because it looked exactly the same as the breakfast at a dollar less. Luckily, we had a Village Inn connoisseur with us to translate the menu. I was told the skillets are chopped up pieces of different foods that are equidimensional (length-width-height-volume but not density) served in a skillet-shaped plate. I was told the skillet is much less food than the breakfast. Bonus. I was feeling that strongest of emotion of “really hungry” that is only overshadowed by the even strongerest of emotion “really horny.” Of course for one dollar more am I going to score more food.
Huge mistake. After receiving my meal and powering through the chicken fried something meatish, yellow something eggish, and hash browns (there’s no need to question potatoes seeing how cheap they are, thus the reason Weck’s overcompensates with a mountain of spuds with every menu item including lemonade … this makes the lemonade kind of murky and thick), I was left with a lovely stack of three pancakes perfectly matching the diameter of its own delicate plate. My GI tubing was already choked with stuff from bunghole to piehole … where was I going to fit three delicious pancakes in my body? My nostrils? My ears? Between my toes that will be licked clean to my satisfaction?
My new pal Bradgelina was facing the same dilemma and this was mildly to moderately validating. Our shared woe got me thinking that there’s this Jack London story about a dude who was stranded in some way and when he’s picked up by a ship he squirrels away food in his bed, a product of subsisting on baby birds he chomped and swallowed, features, bones, and all. I thought it might be the same story as the dude who goes out into a snowstorm and he has three Bacon McMuffins tucked in his parka that he never gets to eat because he freezes to death. I found him. I ate his Bacon McMuffins. I considered eating him, but that’s for later.
In any case, Bradgelina was able to tell me that the story of the guy squirreling away food was “Call of the Wild.” That’s it! It’s a story about a dude starving to death and because his psyche changed so drastically from wandering the wilds without food he immediately starts packing away scraps of food in the bed of his resucers’ ship. It’s a powerful image and a tormented character arc. Tormented or not, at least the protagonist has a unique and memorable character arc. Have you seen any of the Transformers movies? The character arc for any Michael Bay protagonist is in service to getting to that Bay-Trope with kids dolled up like a Norman Rockwell bed-lice brigade running in slow motion at a Dutch angle with an American flag unfurling in slow motion behind the kids, the set up for a squadron of period-appropriate military fighter planes to fly overhead and evoke confused and contrived patriotism in the audience. I kid you not. I first saw it in “Pearl Harbor” and then started seeing it in all of his other movies, like every Transformers flick. So, if I find such unimpressed weariness with Michael Bay movies, why do I bother seeing them? Because of lines like this:
. . .
“My face is my warrant.”
I almost got booted from the cheap theater I was laughing so robustly without any indication I would stop. Two thumbs up, definitely a good $20 spent for me and my entire family. They’re magical, Michael Bay films. Although, he does tend to kill his stuntmen a lot which is worrisome because my kid is a stuntman. Stay away from Michael Bay, Scotto!
I never liked the title “Call of the Wild.” It evokes the images of a bad Kevin Costner film … geesh, did Kevin ever have any good movies? I can’t remember a single one. “Dances With Wolves” is the one I’m thinking of. That’s his Native American name because the first time they see him he’s playing with a wolf he tamed. That’s a metaphor for something. Maybe it’s a strong emotion like “really horny.” A euphemism, perhaps. I’m going to start using “Dance With Wolves” to describe what I feel like when randy.
Can you imagine what the Native Americans would have named Kevin if the first time they saw him he was copulating with the wolf? I’ll leave this one for you to suss out.
So “Call of the Wild” was the story I was thinking of, and the reason why is because I was thinking I should take the pancakes home and squirrel them away in my bed. Or maybe I should tuck them into my parka with my Bacon McMuffins. It might be that I’ve been feeling overwhelming guilt for my behavior and treatment of Bex and now that guilt was bleeding over into every second and every instance of my life. Perhaps what triggered this guilt was seeing that my new pal Bradgelina was also having difficulty finishing her pancakes. Generalized guilt triggered by unfinished pancakes. Although, I was the only one feeling guilty. Why drag a new friend into my soothing misery?
Wait a moment because I have a short aside that requires attention. Remember how I said the plate the pancakes are served on at Village Inn are exactly the diameter size of the pancakes? Pancakes are topped with syrup. Syrup needs a splash zone or it’ll spill onto the table by design. Village Inn must know this. There is a Village Inn corporate board room filled with Schadenfreudeists who adore the idea of servers cleaning rings of syrup from the table and adore even more the idea of the next customer’s arms sticking to the table. Kudos. I’ve never heard of anyone pulling off something so Machiavellian with only discs of flat dough and sticky corn derivative.
Bradgelina was eyeing her pancakes, I was thinking “They’re only wafer-thin”, and to segueway from my “can’t finish my pancakes guilt” to something unrelated and distracting, I mentioned that the Donner Party would probably appreciate our uneaten pancakes. Bradgelina agreed, and then asked, “Would you eat a person in that situation?” I informed her that I am one-quarter Polynesian and it’s in my genetic-predisposition to eat people. My cousin Hiro and I often posed for photos on a sacrificial alter/butcher board by the sea in Tahiti so we could be one with our cannibal ancestors.
Hold on. There’s a missing step here. It wasn’t such a smooth transition to the Donner Party. What initiated the change in topic so drastically? Oh! I remember! “She Drives Me Crazy” by the Fine Young Cannibals was playing in the restaurant! I just got done talking about how my buddy Dave (from the band The English Beat) has his iconic pearldrop guitar in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and it’s on display between Jimi Hendrix’s guitar and Kurt Cobain’s guitar. Dean had asked if I was going to jam out some Hendrix on my uke … and it just so happens that David Steele and Andy Cox who are two-thirds of Fine Young Cannibals were once in The English Beat with Dave. Jack London and pancakes were merely the conversational primer and lubricant!
Bam! That’s how Bradgelina and I got to cannibalism from not being able to finish our pancakes. Non-non-non-non-non-non-non-heinous!
The conversation boasted more color and content than just this. The demise of Captain James Cook was in there (beaten to death with stone clubs and eaten by Polynesians), that the Donner party travelled part of the Mormon Trail to California (Bradgelnia is LDS and made the comment “The Mormons weren’t in the Donner Party, they just cleaned up afterwards,” which struck me as a weird thing to say because if you’re going to eat your family over a winter in a stranded shack on the side of the Sierra Nevada, the last thing I’d be thinking of is getting back my security deposit … even if the Mormons offered to clean up the messy, sticky cabin for me), and how Donner Pass is part of the Jefferson Highway (which seguewayed into Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and had a bunch of kids with his slaves, and that Jefferson’s Bible is on display at Monticello and there are lots of scribble marks where Jefferson selectively adhered to the scriptures).
The point I’m driving at is the reason we go to Village Inn after our Stand Up To Stigma peer support group on Friday is we get to know each other better by talking about things other than being crazy. And I think this is the point I made at the start of this regurgitated nonsense. Ah, now there’s room for more pancakes. Anyway, I wouldn’t miss it for all the delicious Village Inn pancakes drenched in Donner-syrup in the entire universe in the entire history of ever.
Dedicated to my new friends Bradgelina, Jake, and Dan, and of course my good friend Dean.