Every week I look at American and find five things that make me proud to live there. Because other countries are bowls of piss.
I was maybe five or six years old the first time my family went to Disney World. That would theoretically be the sweet spot ideal age for a kid to be completely stoked for anything and everything at Disney World. Maybe, but all what I remember being most excited (and maybe a little scared) for was Space Mountain.
The name Space Mountain tells you absolutely nothing about the ride except for the fact that it must be awesome. Anything named Space freaking Mountain is going to be awesome. I would eat Space Mountain cereal for breakfast every day. I would without question buy all of Space Mountain’s albums. Space Mountain hemorrhoid cream would outsell Preparation H by something like a gazillion-to-one.
I mean Ric Flair named his penis after it so you know it must be good.
As a child of the 80s I think it’s expected that I yearn for the days when MTV actually played music videos. And nothing but! But the nasty little fact that no one my age likes to admit is that we were too young to have given a crap about it.
I’m going to draw a line in the sand and say that you probably start making conscious decisions about what music you like around the age of 11 or 12. I turned 12 in 1992 and the first episode of The Real World aired maybe a month later. Before that MTV had been showing cartoons, news, comedy, and even game shows.
Look, if you’re under the age of 30 and complain about MTV not showing music videos, please shut up. Also: I need to remember to set my DVR to record The Hills next week.
Imagine if Tom Brady, LeBron James, Tiger Woods, and, like, Brad Pitt were all the same guy. Just all rolled into one. He would be the baddest dude. ESPN would deify him. Women would break into his hotel room at night. Guys probably would too. The amount of love and fascination would be like if Barbaro were a guy. Instead of a horse. He would transcend.
Babe Ruth was that guy. When people use the phrase “larger than life” they’re talking about the Babe. He was eight feet tall and weighed 400 pounds. In a 1923 game at Washington he hit a home run that landed in the Potomac. He drank beer a keg at a time. It took two to get him drunk. He smoked cigars the size of rolled-up newspapers. They call Yankee Stadium “The House that Ruth Built” because he did. He had seven daughters and named them all “Ruth”.
He was the American in a time of American excess. He was the Babe.
In 1941 100 American pilots volunteered to help protect China from the invading Japanese. This group would eventually be known as the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force. You might better know them as the “Flying Tigers”. Or maybe you know them as the dudes who flew the bitchin planes with shark faces painted on them.
The Chinese had been supported by the Soviets, but by 1940 they needed more help. Since we, the U.S. Americans, were officially not at war, we couldn’t just send a bunch of dudes over to China. So we set up a phony corporation to handle the financing and overhead, China purchased a bunch of Curtiss P-40 fighters, and 100 American pilots resigned from their posts in the Army, Navy, and Marines. These pilots — the Flying Tigers in toto but divided into three squadrons known as the “Adam and Eves”, the “Panda Bears”, and the “Hell’s Angels” — were then tasked with defending southern Burma from the Japanese.
These were the rawest guys up in the sky. They were depressingly outnumbered in the air by the Japanese. They fought at least one battle on land. The only way to get supplies to them – and the rest of the Nationalist Chinese forces — was by flying over The Hump, the impossibly dangerous air route over the Himalayas.
All of that is commendable and amazing and truly spectacular and we need to stop and think about guys like that who bled on foreign soil every time we see an American flag or drive past the VFW.
But what we can’t forget – what we need to remember and keep in mind above all else – is that these are the dudes who put shark faces on their airplanes.
As a result I – like a lot of native Southerners – have a very refined palette when it comes to gravy. Not the gravy that you pour on your turkey at thanksgiving, but the gray, thickish stuff with the bits of sausage in it. No, this is the gravy that you make by mixing fresh bacon grease with flour and milk (preferably in a cast iron skillet). You then pour this gravy all over some fresh out of the oven biscuits. Basically you just die right there because it doesn’t get any better than that.
The refined palette thing, though: it’s both awesome and a curse. Awesome because it means I’ve eaten a metric butt tonne of gravy in my life and yet a curse because I live in Utah, where good food goes to die.
It’s comically easy and cheap – practically free – to make true, real, awesome gravy. And yet, outside of the South (and Cracker Barrel) no one can get it right. There’s always something wrong with it. It’s too runny. It’s too thick. It’s cold. It tastes like a can. It tastes like too much like gravy – if that’s possible – which means it came from one of those little packets of powder you get in the seasoning aisle at Safeway.
So, to all the people, restaurants, strip clubs, caterers, casinos, or whatever out there: please, don’t use gravy out of a can. Or a packet or a tube or god-knows-what-else. Just make the gravy and let’s all get on with our lives.
|Aaron B. Murray writes words and makes pictures. He is credited on more than a few high profile video game releases as well as an ever-growing stack of unproduced screenplays. Originally from East Tennessee, he currently lives in Utah with his wife and a ridiculous dachshund. Follow him on Twitter at murray_cod|