Day 28: The Color Out of Olive Garden

I’ve been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft and if I were to describe his works in two words it would be: public domain. And I mean that in the best way possible. Because it’s really annoying that so much stuff is under copyright for about eighty years after you lose all interest in reading it. Looking at you Disney and Sonny Bono you moron.

Lovecraft is great at building eerie worlds that you just can’t help but fall into. Kind of like how Olive Garden is with pasta.

Imagine some misty New England morning. You’re walking along some overgrown path through an old wood. The kind of place where half the trees have died of old age and nobody has cut them down out of either respect or fear.

Close enough.

One of Lovecraft’s favorite themes is that there are creatures inhabiting this world that we don’t generally know about or encounter. There are alien beings persisting in ancient, forgotten places in forbidden hills or under the deep seas. But if you are the kind of curious person that is likely to keep after a mystery until it kills you, you might just run into one of these aliens. Say the right (or wrong) words and you just conjured up Cthulhu and congratulations you’re dead.

All this has been in my head lately so of course when I’m eating in the most alien place I know–The Olive Garden–naturally I find parallels.

We sat in a new booth this time (is anything here really new anymore, in any sense?) and I photographed the photographic image duct-taped to the wall paint. I hesitate to call it art.

In this image, we see a market in a city. Probably supposed to be a bunch of Italians doing Italian shopping for Italian things. Everybody is enraptured by the deal on these gross-looking veggies. Except that one guy in the bottom left.

Everybody is focused on what they want or need. The woman standing in the right foreground is sort of looking at the camera, but we’ll chalk that up to bad photography.

But that guy in the bottom left is staring, frozen, freaked out of his mind, at something in the bottom right of the shot. There’s nothing visible in the photograph except the road next to the vegetables. I doubt there was a car or bicycle accident occurring at the moment this photograph was taken because the photographer would likely have been bowled over by it, or at least the others would be running or shielding their children from the crash.

No, I believe the man is looking at the flash of my camera. This is his “color out of space,” his Lovecraftian moment. For he lives in a world of black and white and nobody else seems to notice except him that the flash of my own camera left a golden glare in the corner of the image.

But he saw it. He sees color he’s never seen before. He sees a flash from beyond he never imagined.

He wants to beg his companions, demand that they say they saw what he saw. They didn’t see it, though, you can tell that their faces register no such alien encounter.

At once this man realizes he has seen something more than he should have ever seen, and he sees his loneliness in that eternal moment. He can never share that knowledge–no one would ever understand.

To chase spirits and aliens, to see beyond what the eye may ken, is to make a hermit of oneself. To walk through a door is to realize you may never go back.

That’s what they call:

The Call of Unlimited Breadsticks

Item 1: linguini, mushroom Alfredo, battered shrimp

Breadsticks: 3

Weight: 166

Sight: beyond

Day 27: Meat Sweats

Today I was feeling crazy so I got a bowl of pasta with meat sauce AND sausage. It was pretty heavy. The meat was already sweating with grease and I wasn’t far behind.

Nothing against meat, but I know it’s bad for you and carcinogenic and basically poison and raising livestock is destroying the earth and creating a dystopian future where desperate meat-seekers will be limited to the grasshoppers they can catch in their yards and the rest of us just say, wow, I’m just going to go with the veggie platter, I think.

Do I feel bad when I eat meat? Physically, yes, but psychologically, less so. That shows you an inherent defect in my character, though, because raising animals to eat–even in the best of circumstances–is ethically kind of questionable. If animals were my only source of subsistence, I wouldn’t bat an eye (I might eye a bat, though). But, because of where I live and what’s available to me, there’s nothing compelling me to eat meat. Yes, I know, but you can get B12 from supplements.

When I was studying ethics back in college (good thing I gave that pastime up, by the way), I learned something that stuck with me. When you start thinking about right and wrong, it’s easy to assume that things are right or wrong based on the effect they have on another. If I help somebody, they get something good out of that and thus it wasn’t a terrible thing to do. Conversely, if you hurt somebody else, you’re making their life miserable and that’s wrong.

But it works the other way, too. If we are some kind of freakishly-literal Kantians, we might say that we can’t possibly DO evil to animals (like needlessly killing them and turning them into hot dogs) because you can’t do evil to a thing without consciousness/sentience/whatever. Like if you stepped on an ant, you’re not doing wrong because that ant is infinitely replaceable and it’s not self-aware, doesn’t have the same life experience, etc.

However, the problem is that even if the other is not something we can “wrong” or “hurt,” we can still be hurting ourselves, which is wrong. If I torture a pig and eat it, even if we disallow that the pig is self-aware/unique/conscious/whatever, I’m still doing wrong or harm because torturing harms me. Even if I’m not physically hurt by my actions, I’m psychologically damaged by working cruelty onto another creature. A pig is certainly capable of suffering, and by inflicting suffering needlessly (again, hunting for subsistence is different, I’m pretty sure), I’mĀ tormenting my own self.

I’m not going to say everybody who eats meat should have to go raise it and slaughter it before eating it, but I have a feeling that would change a lot of people’s minds about eating meat. If I’m not the one inflicting the harm directly (it’s hard to harm a sandwich), it’s easy for my conscience to ignore everything that leads up to that point.

You could make the same argument about war: I don’t mind fighting battles and hosting casualties as long as I personally have nothing to do with it. Meanwhile, those actually doing the fighting, or civilians caught in the middle, suffer all the trauma associated with modern warfare.

So if eating meat is physically harmful (of that point I’m convinced), and it’s potentially psychologically harmful (possibly to me, probably to others), then that seems like a pretty good reason to give it up. And it’s pretty bad for the only planet we currently occupy, so there’s that, too.

What would it take to get me to stop eating meat? It’s not really about replacement meat, for me. If I go vegetarian, I’m not interested in choking down an entire box of frozen gluten patties shaped like hamberders.

What’s difficult is that every now and then I crave meat. Beef, specifically. And chicken and turkey and all that are so convenient, when you want to feel full quickly, easily, cheaply (thanks, meat subsidies!). And when you’re hungry already, your willpower is basically dead.

But if I think about these sorts of food choices as a series of compounding harms, rather than just a pointless choice, I might start taking seriously the idea of staying meatless.

After an autumn of the Olive Garden meats, that’s starting to feelĀ easier and easier…

Item 1: linguini, sausage, meat sauce

Item 2: linguini, veggies, marinara

Breadstick: 1

Weight: unknown

Conscience: uneasy

Day 26: Weird Monday

It was weird because it was the first day of the term and the crows were restless.


It was weird because it was the championship and the Alabama football club played like garbage.


It was weird because James realized he could eat pizza crust as well as eating the pizza tip. And he also found that dipping the crusts in marinara was not terrifically unlike dipping breadsticks in the same.


It was weird because when we got home I realized I’d bashed the side of my taillight in, without breaking any lights.


Weird Monday. Also I scraped my scalp while writing this, so weird Monday never ends.

Item 1: linguini, marinara, vegetables

Breadsticks: 2

Weight: 164

Intact taillight covers: 3


Day 25: Uncle Ted

“Come on, what are you talking about. Drink your wine.”

“I knew you wouldn’t do it.”

“That’s right,” Uncle Ted leaned back in his chair and stared through black sunglasses. “I wouldn’t. Absolutely not. Not happening, Anthony.”

“You’d look good. Better, Uncle. Come on. Ladies like that.”

“Eggs? They like big fat eggs stacked up on fatter eggs?” Ted guffawed. “Don’t bust my chops, little Anthony.”

“You seen The Rock, right? He’s like an egg on an egg.”

“That’s a veiny, muscular egg.” Uncle Ted whacked his paunch. “Nothing muscular about this.” He twanged his suspenders. “Come on, have your wine. It’ll sober you, crazy boy.”

“Just cut it off, Uncle. What are you gonna lose? You think you got dignity now, looking like that? No, you look like you’re playing a backup saxophone for Springsteen in the 80s or something. Women hate that kind of look. Clean it up a little. Don’t cut it all off if you don’t want. I don’t care. I’m trying to help you.”

“Help. Wow, thanks, there, little man. Thanks a lot for all the help. I think I can help myself a little when it comes to chicks, all right? You think you know anything about women and I guarantee you I’ve got seventy-five times that much experience before you were even born. Don’t tell me nothing about women.”

“I’m trying to–”

“I know what you’re trying to do and I’m telling you I am not interested. Never was, never going to be. Holy God gives me hair I don’t remove it. Simple as that. You ever read about Samson? Maybe try reading your Bible, nephew. Read about Samson.”

“I’ve read Samson.”

“Well, read it again until you get the message. Freaking don’t cut your freaking hair. That’s the message, Anthony.”

“Your hair is the site of your great strength.”

“Yes. Come on. Yes. I’m telling you, yes. Don’t ask me to explain it–you wouldn’t listen anyway. Take my word for it. Ain’t going to disrespect God like that.”

“And the mustache?”

“What’s the matter with that?”

“Really, Uncle?”

“I like the mustache. That one’s just for me. I like it, okay. Sue me.”

“You want to stay single forever?”

“I want to stay mustachioed. Drink your freaking wine.”

Entree 1: linguini, mushroom Alfredo, meatballs

Entree 2: linguini, breaded chicken

Breadstick: 1

Weight: (see Christmas)

Hairs on head: finite