Eating America (Mid-Atlantic Style)


The Expresso Tilt Man of the Year Award

by Mike Walsh

Based on the premise that one must ingest a society's products to comprehend it, a friend and I went on a tour of discovery through the mid-Atlantic corridor. We had no idea, however, of the heavy toll such a journey would exact.

So, while sucking down a Yoo-hoo and munching on a couple of Slim Jims in front of the Washington monument, I turned to my friend and asked, "Do you think Michael Jackson could beat up Prince?"

"Hmmmmm, hard to say, but a wrestling match between the two could raise lots of money for Live AIDS victims in Africa."

I silently nodded and wandered off, dazed, to the nearest snack truck to stock up on Cracker Jacks and Cheez Whiz. Life had lost much of its meaning for me since Mr. T was crushed by a professional wrestler on the 11 o'clock news.

Insight, you understand, is fleeting and must be pursued, so off we went, north on I-95, armed with Pringles, Mars Bars, and a family size box of Froot Loops.

We soon found ourselves on a bench eating Pudding Pops, and soft pretzels with Tabasco Sauce within sight of the Liberty Bell. "Doesn't that Claus von Bulow thing just tear you apart?" I asked my learned acquaintance.

"Man, I was relieved when he got off. He's had a tough life. A living hell."

"Sunny's kids are like vultures. Thank God for Cosima."

"I'd like to jump her bones."

"Imagine being brought back to that house where the Sunny was shootin' up all the time. The dogs recognized him and everything."

"That's some heavy shit, man."

"Tore me apart, from the inside out."

"At least he managed to scam the cover of Vanity Fair."

"Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy."

"Boy, I wish he was my Dad."

"But I wouldn't want Sunny for a Mom."

"Nah, one Mom's enough."


Eventually, like somewhere on the road between Philly and Atlantic City, while pouring down a two-liter bottle of New Coke mixed with Pepsi and inhaling a few bags of Fritos, my totally dumb friend says, "Have you seen the Madonna issues of Playboy and Penthouse?"

I roared with laughter. "Have I seen them? Man, I was there."

"You're shittin' me."

"The chick was crazy for me, man, but one hit single and it went to her head."

"That's chicks for you."

"And then I find out she's showing it off for those art class clowns at NYU."

"No shit!"

"Sean Penn, ha! I could wring his neck with a wet paper bag. Anyway, hair grows on all the wrong places on that chick. And it wouldn't hurt if she lost a chin or two, either."

"What a whore!"

"Hey, watch it, would you," I said. "I mean, I used to have feelings for her, you know?"

On the boardwalk in Atlantic City in front of Trump's or Harrah's or somewhere, we scarfed a box or two of Cap'n Crunch and washed that down with several cups of 7-11 coffee.

"Man, I was bummed when Gary Dotson and his girlfriend, Cathy Webb, wouldn't kiss on TV," I said.

"Bummer, man."

"I was seriously bummed to the max."

"That was one brave chick."

"Yeah, what she did took more guts than twenty Jane Pauleys rolled together."

"Wait a second. Jane Pauley's got great buns."

"But Webb is one hot looking patutee."

"You think she goes to any parties around here?"

By the time we got to New York City we were low on money, glassy-eyed, and dirty. The highway to assimilation is full of potholes, dear friends, but full matriculation was within our grasp. Either truth would establish itself within our beings or off we would slip into the deep darkness of the social fringe.

So in Central Park, after sharing our last bag of fried pork rinds, we split a root beer Slurpee and a half bottle of green Gatorade.

"Hey, man," that crazy friend of mine testified, "don't you think David Crosby's getting a real raw deal from those rednecks in Texas?"

"That's 'cuz he's a hippie and they're still pissed about Vietnam and Woodstock and all that."

"Really! What the hell is this, Easy Rider or what, man?"

"All he did was carry a gun around for his personal protection and a little coke to keep his chauffeur awake."

"The teamsters are speed freaks, and the rednecks carry rifles in window racks. So what's the big deal?"

"Just because he never joined the NRA."

"He's a martyr. A saint."

"If they send him to jail, he'll perish."

"He's so sensitive, the can would kill him."

The time had come for me to step forward and grab life by the throat. I wanted to live life. I opened our last package of Kool-Aid and snorted the entire packet, choked down three blueberry Pop-Tarts, and poured half a can of Hershey's chocolate syrup down my throat.

My associate was lost in the quiet introspection one comes to expect after drinking a two-quart container of generic pina colada mixer. For me, all things suddenly become clear. So I started screaming and dancing. What else?

"Free Fela, free Mandela, Sandinistas, whow, let 'em live. Johannesburg, hey. Yee-hee! Reunite the Beatles! Clear Dotson! Claus hair care. Live AIDS. Madonna designer jeans. Barney was a Rubble." A crowd was gathering. "Let David Crosby live. Let 'im live, let 'im live. Live David, live, with love, love, yes, only love can break your heart--"

Then a familiar voice racked my frame. "Man, he deserves some kind of award or something."

At that precise moment I knew why I had been born. "Yes," I mumbled, "yes, yes, yes! An award or something. I can do it, I can, I can give David Crosby the recognition he deserves."

"An Expresso Tilt award," I shouted while pounding the sidewalk with my fist. "The Expresso Tilt Man of the Year Award to David Crosby."

Several minutes passed before I was able to stop vibrating enough to hear my dear, disgusting friend whimper, "David will be very happy."

I rolled my head, completely spent. "That's all I care about," I replied quietly. "When David's happy, America's happy."

See also Man O' the Year Award letters. Other pieces by Mike Walsh.

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