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The Indefinite Article.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Watermelon Pickle, Back o'th' Yards, and Meatloaf

so i've been digging
rifling, picking, excavating, digging
into the mudpile of my mind
and found this

the school i grew up in
i never knew anything about it and with my upcoming trip to see my family, my curiosity has been piqued
Who was Philip Danforth Armour and what did he do?
It seems he was a successful meatpacker who ran a new cutting and packing technique which partly inspired Upton Sinclair's the Jungle, which I remember reading for the first time when I moved to Austin to live with Killy

I also remember seeing his portrait in the hallway of my school - never knowing who or what he was - never having enough curiosity at that time to ask

I grew up on the northern border of the Back of the Yards and don't know anything about it
except for this little gem
I told Killy about Moo & Oink, but he never believes me

it was nice to see that the school is still open - i thought it would have shut down long ago - but it's nice to think that i could go back and take a look at the place that has made such a large impact on my life
particularly, school lunches
the memory of school meatloaf with a creepy crawling cockroach on it still makes me want to retch
especially since the creepy crawly was the exact shade of meatloaf gravy and just as shiny
which is why i'm so nutty about making adolfo his lunch every day as opposed to buying it

so my newest endeavour is bento boxes
can't wait to make 'em
should be fun!

another memory was the schoolwide oratory contest - that sucker got me a gig as an Audio Jam Kid
no information on this that i have been able to find
but i'm still looking

i won for three years for memorizing then reciting poems such as

The Big Rock Candy Mountain (the version i memorized is nowhere to be found. this version did not allude to any bums or cops or anything like that at all, a very innocent candy version indeed)

Warning by Jenny Joseph

I can not go to school today by Shel Silverstein

but i lost when i recited this one...

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
(Hollowed out
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer--
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Watermelons ruled.

Thick imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds,
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;

And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly,
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias


  • Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle"...awsome book...but I didn't eat hot dogs for a few months after reading it.

    By Blogger Bianca, at 5:00 PM  

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