The problem was, Vimes reasoned, that when you started thinking about everything in terms of rosemary olive oil bagels, no one could tell what flavor cream cheese you were supposed to smear for, say, a high school graduation. And if everything is a bagel, then who is left to consume the perpetual parade of baked goods piling up throughout reality? For that matter, who bakes them? What does that knowledge tell us about the nature of God?
Starting tomorrow, I’ll be writing 100-word fanfiction stories. Expect to see Preacher, Sandman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Poldark, Star Trek, Firefly, and so many more.
But today, it’s the final day of #NaNoBlogMo. It was late when I finished last night’s post, and I hadn’t eaten yet. Neither @snarke nor I felt like cooking at that hour, so we decided to visit Arby’s. As I reached for my keys, I’d wondered aloud what my final blog topic would be. “Arby’s!”, @jillwebb called out from the living room. “They offer roast beef in a world of burgers,” @snarke added. “Representation!”
And so, friends, let us speak of the place where the Curly Fry lives–and sizzles in oil.
Arby’s gets a bad rap, perhaps most famously from Jon Stewart, who good-naturedly mocked the brand mercilessly for years. I always had the sense that they were frenemies of some fashion, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Stewart sometimes feels a strange burst of affection when he drives by this local franchise. In the final days of his Daily Show tenure, the company offered him a job, bought a tribute ad, and even created a 30-second ad featuring a Stewart-inspired sandwich.
About a year ago, writer and radio personality John Moe instituted the “Arby’s rule,” which has now extended beyond cookie fortunes into…well, just about any statement of advisement.
Yes, it’s suffered its share of detractors, but there’s a lot to love about the chain, Internets. Consider this:
Representation. As @snarke pointed out, Arby’s doesn’t make the same burgers and chicken sandwiches that 395 other fast food restaurants in your town offer.** You can order roast beef, brisket, a Reuben, beef and cheddar, a steak sandwich, a turkey club, a gyro, a French dip with swiss…it’s refreshing to see diversity on the menu. Sometimes you want something different in your grease-splotched sack-o-foodstuffs, and Arby’s ensures you have that choice. They also don’t limit their side selections to mere fries and onion rings. No, Arby’s is aware that when the hankering for mozz sticks, curly fries, Jalapeno poppers, and potato cakes arises, it is not easily quelled.
**except maybe Subway, but then you’d have to eat at Subway.
The sauces. Under the Drive-Thru Accords of 1592, Arby’s is required to dispense sauce packets upon request, but it is not satisfied with just handing out ketchup. One can stock up on Honey Mustard, “Horsey Sauce” (mayo-based horseradish), Marinara, Spicy Three Pepper, and others depending on location. Marinara is, as everyone knows, the modern-day nectar and pairs well*** with everything.
***I said to @snarke and @jillwebb last night that writers usually drop “pairs well” when discussing wine, but I’m using it here to talk about fast food because that’s the kind of classy guy I am.
Since we ordered our food To Go last night and our local branch didn’t have sealable containers, @snarke asked for a few packets at the counter. This is what we received:
I used three packets. My dresser is currently stacked with Arby’s sauce, and I’m planning my meals for the next few days around using up my supply. I suppose I could simply throw out the remaining packets, but this would surely constitute a serious lack of decorum, a slight in the face of such generosity! It’s like when Jesus took those loaves and fishes and then fed 4,000 people.****
****It’s not really like that. The Parable of the Tribbles seems more probable.
James Earl Jones.
It’s a small joy to listen to James Earl Jones talk about anything, but I am being entirely sincere when I say that I would patronize an Arby’s establishment solely based on this commercial.
The fandom tweets. And this, dear Reader, is where my love of Arby’s blossoms into…well, some form of lifelong commitment. Whoever runs the company’s Twitter account is a bloody *genius*.
And so, dear Reader, we close #NaNoBlogMo with a cookie atop a paper turtle, the manner in which all things in life must inevitably end. I hope this post has brought you peace, a little introspection, and maybe–just maybe–a yearning to follow the Arby’s Twitter account. You’ll thank me.
This week, I’ve been meandering through Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman’s second short story collection. My bookmark is currently lodged behind the tale of a man who purchases supernatural assassinations in bulk. I’m approximately sixty percent of the way home, my imagination having blazed swathes through strange fields: trolls, malevolent toys, the Holy Grail, werewolves, feline deities, and other wondrous happenings. As with most anthological roads, the mileage varies: some of the stories have left me bewildered, certain I’ve missed something of critical importance nestled within the preceding pages. Others kindle raised eyebrows and satisfaction. Most have elicited steady head-nodding and subdued grinning, repercussions of consummate storytelling and typical of Gaiman’s work—at least for me.
But my favorite story thus far is a less shadowy gala than fits Gaiman’s customary horror-fantasy métier. The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories—actually a single story—centers on an obscure writer’s introduction to Hollywood culture and the mechanics of film adaptation in a town where everything is as disposable as a goldfish’s permanently-amnesic memory. Gaiman has admitted that the story is quasi-autobiographical, and it’s generally thought to be based on his experiences unsuccessfully adapting Good Omens, the stellar comedic fantasy novel he wrote with Sir Terry Pratchett. Plans for the film have festered in development hell for at least two decades.
In The Goldfish Pool, the narrator, on an afternoon break from script treatment, initiates a conversation with Pious Dundas, an ancient hotel groundskeeper with whom he forms the sole authentic connection established in the entire narrative. Pious mentions that his grandson is an ichthyologist, which prompts our narrator to remark:
“I read once that carp don’t have set life spans. They don’t age like we do. They die if they’re killed by people or predators or disease, but they don’t just get old and die. Theoretically they could live forever”
From my armchair, I continued reading the rest of the page, but my eyes periodically flickered back to those lines.
When the last word had turned off the lights and closed down the story’s set, I decided that before traveling on, I needed to know if the ponds and streams near my house are being governed by immortal fish.
As I was disappointed to learn, they are not. Also, carp are not native to North America anyway, but that’s a secondary point when one is researching eternal life.
With an average lifespan of forty seven years, however, the common carp has more than sufficient time to write its carp-poetry, take up knitting, volunteer for school trustee, and build a coralhouse for its carpettes. As with any system, there are outliers—many koi (Japanese for “carp”) are centenarians, and one, Hanako, lived to be 226 years old.
I leaned back in my tattered jet-black office chair, pivoted towards the window, and gazed into the darkness. What is it about contemplation and nightfall? Silence, shade, and musing fused, and I held the echoes of a creature that could live nine generations. Laughter, hopes, struggles, dreams—in all of our time, we’ve not been able to sufficiently draw the signposts of a single life, while Hanako remained, through births and marriages, triumphs and setbacks, tears and joy. She witnessed the world’s transformation exponentially longer than any human who has ever lived.
Maybe that’s not immortality. But it’s surely close.