Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Requiem For A Pepper
First of all, I changed the font and font-size of my blog title thingy. My monitor makes me run at higher resolutions, so let me know if it's too big on your screen. In the event that it is, I will certainly take it into consideration as I'm telling you to get bent.

Second, I'd like to apologize to all my loyal readers for yesterday's unfortunate post. I'm very sorry if anyone felt slighted or unappreciated by my shameless begging for new readers. I should be more gracious and appreciative, you're absolutely right. In all honesty I'm very very happy with the little group that I find myself amongst. I'm quite happy with the blogosphere as it is and my place in it.

Yes, this means that my ploy failed and I have no upsurge in readership after one day. So we're stuck with each other, OK? Don't misunderstand, when blogger superstardom comes calling I'm going to drop you small-timers like a hot rock. For now, welcome and thanks for your continued support. dot dot...

When I was growing up, the world was a very different place. Maybe it's the fact that I'm older, more aware, still struggling with the aftereffects of that accidental overdose back in '02, but things seem so much more chaotic now, less clear-cut.

Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s when I was a scrawny, spotty, sexless teenager... hang on, it occurs to me that one might read "sexless" as "without gender", which was definitely not the case. My gender reassignment surgery happened just days after my freakishly tragic birth and has thus far been a rousing success. So no smart aleck comments, you.

What I'm trying to say that back then, my deep, deep, deep sexual frustration was just one of many things I was rock-solid sure about at the time. If anyone was to ask me at the time, "Hey [Pops], are you having sex tonight?" I would be able to say without even thinking a very sullen yet high-pitched "Nope." Now when people ask me that (I have nosy friends) I just laugh, which you'll have it admit is far more ambiguous and potentially sad.

Back then I knew who the bad guys were. Despite GW Bush's attempts to paint the immediate geopolitical environment in stark black-and-white, it's a garbled mess and we all know it. But back then, we knew exactly who the enemy was; it was the giant pink blob that stretched across half of every cardboard globe in every public school classroom from 1945-1991. No, not Canada. I'm talking about the Soviet Union. Commies. Russkies. Reds. Ivan. I'm still not sure what they did, but I knew I hated those fur-hat-wearing motherfuckers. Back then we didn't think we were going to die in some kind of nuclear holocaust like we do now with these namby-pamby run-and-hide terrorists; back then we fucking knew we were goners. Those crazy red bastards were going to incinerate us all. It was just a matter of time.

Also, it was so much easier to watch TV back then. Three channels and a couple of cable outlets if you were one of the yuppie freaks who indulged in such obscene decadence. You either watched Golden Girls or you watched Full House and that was it. OK, so "easier" might not be the best word to describe it. It sure took a whole lot less time to get bored with the TV and make the command decision to masturbate, though. See? Simpler.

As the world gets more complicated and slippery in my rapidly advancing years, one thing disturbs me more than anything else. It's possible that this little piece of knowledge, this little bit of bedrock intellectual surety that is/was the cornerstone of so many other things was a regional thing limited to people in the southwest. Let's find out, shall we?

In the late 1980s/early 1990s, it was universally understood that the spiciest thing a human being could consume was the jalapeño pepper. The problem with history is that statements can be made and then backed up with all the documentary primary-source evidence you want, there's still no way to fully recreate the context, the practical daily reality without having lived the experience yourself.

Back in the day, the very mention of the word "jalapeño" would make people break out in a hot sweat. Their tongues would loll out involuntarily and they absently fan their opened mouths with their hands. The jalapeño was king. The jalapeño was more ubiquitous than air or sunshine or happiness.

Everyone knew one person, one crazy motherfucker, who would actually eat jalapeños. That person was a legend. You talked about that person in hushed tones even when they were nowhere around. At the baseball game, you would get your relish and onions for your hot dog from the common condiment bowl with the extra-long plastic spoon. You would eyeball the little untouched bowl of cut-up jalapeño and dare yourself... but your nerve would always fail you, just at the end. And suddenly a giant hairy biker-looking dude with tatoos and dark shades would shoulder his way in and load up on the things. As you walked away you would shake your head: "that fucker is crazy" you'd say. And you'd be right.

People back then would be awed and shamed by stories their one Mexican friend who would regale them with about their old-country grandmothers who would eat jalapeño straight and by the dozen. As amazing as such feats were, in the back of your mind you would know that the old girl was probably driven by the abject desperation of poverty. She probably also ate cactus and lizard when she had to. That would have to be the explanation. No one given any other choice would be out-there enough to eat death-by-spicy jalapeño.

And when a restaurant chain opened with the audacity to call itself Chili's (sic), you didn't have to ask yourself what that pepper in the logo was. It was a jalapeño. There was no other.

But like everything else now, the paradigm has changed in favor of intractable complexity. Like the quaint old custom of wearing your underwear inside your pants, jalapeño dominance and ubiquity has been coarsely cast aside in favor of crass, red-hot, bastard new-think.

Novelty, thy name is chipotle!

Everything is chipotle now. A whole new restaurant took it as its name. Want spicy in a restaurant? You have to order the thing with chipotle in it. Grilled chipotles, diced chipotle, chipotle cream sauce, chipotle mayonnaise, chipotle barbecue sauce. I don't know if it's the redness of the pepper that makes it more desirable than the old standard jalapeño or just the romance of the vaguely Aztec-sounding name, as though we as a nation had resurrected from the ashes Chipotle God of Piquancy in time for all eaters of food to worship.

As much as it breaks my heart to see jalapeño trampled in the dust as the world stampedes en masse toward the altar of Chipotle, my age and experience do me some service. I know that just over the horizon there is always lurking the Next Thing, even for the seemingly unassailable chipotle.

So don't get too comfortable. I have seen the future. All roads lead to habanero.

Where we go from there, I don't know. God help us when we get to that point.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.6


PS- A brand new Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy trailer is available at Amazon. The release date has been moved up to late April now. Mark your calendars.

I can't believe I'm the one to break this to you, but chipotle is nothing more than a jalapeno pepper that has been smoked. Heard it on Food Network one night and have been fascinated by that fact ever since.
YESSSSS! Woo! The world makes sense again! Maybe there really is a God...
Two things:
1) Chipotle (the restaurant) is the greatest corporate culinary endeavor. Ever. Don't knock it 'til you try it.
2) I came across this yesterday and was going to blog about it before I decided you would probably enjoy it more.
Aw Rita, bless you. I noticed the Maya Keyes thing a day or two ago and then totally forgot about it. It kind of underlines what a special kind of a numbskull Alan Keyes is, but to go on and on about it in detail seems kind of like piling on at this point. And I can't think of anything Alan Keyes would enjoy less than strange men piling on him.

And as for the Chipotle restaurant... I don't know. It's not bad, it's just a little... sterile? It actually tastes a little corporate.

Enjoy it though and I'll enjoy the one place out here that makes "Chicago style deep-dish pizza" and we'll call it even.
I don't know what to comment on! The Soviet Union, hot peppers?

I think I'll just use this space to taunt you with the fact that I am only 39 miles away from Uno's, Due's, Lou Malnoti's, and Gino's East Pizza. Ahh decadence, thy name is Chicago style deep dish pizza.
You did gain one new reader yesterday...well for a few days you are up to a baker's dozen.
I've never even eaten at Chipolte.
Well, I was referring more the link to Maya Keyes' Xanga and the content therein. Possibly also the fact that Xanga has actually played a major role in a national news story. And, Alan Keyes. (Though, I might ask, why does this make him a numbskull? He's standing by his principles, though somewhat mercilessly. But that's his private issue.)

In conclusion, you are wrong and Chipotle's chicken fajitas are right.

Also, Brian forgot about Eduardo's and Giordano's. I live 10 miles from all the places he listed, and only a block from the two I mentioned. I am veritably drowning in a deep dish pizza. Drowning tastes pretty good.
Anyone know where I can by a burrito the size of a smoked ham? For around $5?

That reason alone endears Chipotle to me.
If you head down to Baja you'll get a 2 1/4 pound burrito for 5 bucks.

And sure there is nothing hotter and specier than a habanero. People should have called that restaurant Habanero, habanero is a cool name. Damn, I'll name my own child habanero!
I'll go make babies now.
Brian: Uh... we have this place called BJ's. It's a corporate chain restaurant. Probably to deep dish as Chipotle is the Mexican. But I still like it.

Blue944: Sorry everyone else, this is my new favorite commenter. Welcome.

K: Aren't you in Wisconsin? Probably best to steer clear of anything trying to pass for Mexican food up there. Stick to the saugages and cheese and you should be OK.

Rita: Apparently I gave up on the trail of bread-crumbs before I was supposed to. I did check out the Xanga site. Many many jokes wrote themselves. Are they Comment jokes or New Blog Post jokes? The next day or so should tell.

And Alan Keyes is a numbskull because he's a hypocrite who proclaims himself a Christian and then acts in ways directly opposed to the example of Jesus, then fails to notice his own irony.

Plus he says stuff I don't like, therefore: numbskull.

Brent: Yes, but do you know where I can get a 6-lb. hamburger?

Yoli: Don't you try to steal my readers by promising baby-making on your blog. I can't compete with that.
Rita, good job! I forgot those. I envy the closeness you have to what many in my family would call "Heaven."
Catholic, actually. And, I mean, the Catholic Church has done a number of things that Jesus probably would frown upon. Like, elect Popes who then had children, and then elect their children as Popes. But, more to the point, intolerance is what keeps religions alive. Every religion should breed a handful of intolerants and keep them well-fed, lest religion itself cease to exist. And, despite my own jewnosticism, a world without religion is a scary and sad thought.

Brian: Don't be too envious; I also live on the South Side, an entire metropolitan region that reeks permanently of french fry grease. While wherever you live may be farther from the epicenter of the revered deep dish movement, at least you can be fairly sure when you board public transportation that your neighbor will not be carrying out a drug deal before your eyes.
Blue944, if that is your real name, I suggest you abandon Pops and head to a blog he has linked called "Heightened Thoughts". I say this as fan of that blog, not as the proprietor. I write the blog called "Steph's Stuff"
Rita: I certainly wouldn't dream of arguing the point that the Catholic church is and always has been a reliable source of Christ-ness. That's not necessarily a criticism to negate every action the church has ever taken (as some would choose to argue, I know). I actually think the whole entire point of Christianity exists in the gap between human behavior and the (impossible... and I mean that in a good way) example of Jesus.

The problem with people like Keyes and other wacky fundamentalists is that they seem not to understand that a gap exists. Publicly anyway, they present themselves as arbiters of good behavior for everyone including people outside their own organization, assigning for themselves a moral authority that they cannot help but fail.

I would argue that that kind of stridency from a lay Catholic person is actually in many respects a heterodox position even while being doctrinally, technically correct. Homosexuality and abortion are strongly disapproved of, but it is not the practice of the church to cast people out for their transgressions against the dogma. In fact, it's entirely the opposite.

Practically speaking I can't see why a gay person or someone who's had an abortion would want to come to a Catholic service just to hear a priest (again: a priest doing his job, whether anyone agrees with it or not) remind them of their "error", but nobody is turned away or screened out at the door. In fact, there are programs welcoming "sinners" of this type (very patronizing programs with distasteful names, if you ask me), encouraging communion with the church.

So Alan Keyes is a numbskull.
Unbelievably, I have never been to a Chipotle, nor do I have a particular burning desire to. I suppose one of these days I will be compelled to delve into its mystique, but for the time being, it has eluded me. And that was the first time I saw the Hitchiker's trailer--it actually looks good. Helluva lot more excited about it than the next Star Wars movie. Did you notice that the guy playing Arthur Dent was in Love Actually? I know how much you love that movie so I had to bring that up. Ta ta!
Love Actually? Are you kidding? Dude had like two lines in that movie. That's the guy who played Tim in the genius BBC series The Office. If it's not still playing on BBC America, rent it if you haven't seen it.

And Chipotle isn't bad, it's just unremarkable for people in our general region, Steph. It's all clean and non-greasy. Nothing like the Mexican food I was raised on.
Cool blog you have going here, I will check in often! I have a similar site about cub food. It pretty much covers cub food related stuff.
Cool blog you have going here, I will check in often! I have a similar site about korean restaurant. It pretty much covers korean restaurant related stuff.
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