Had to write a speech. I never actually write a speech; I just start talking until I get something that sounds like it might work as an opening. You always have to start with something amusing, you know. People want to be reassured. If you don’t, then they wait for the joke, and if you roll it out late they’re a bit sullen: that’s it?

It’s a speech about travel - specifically, how to assemble all your stuff into keepsakes and journals and the like, but that takes about five minutes to discuss, so I’ll have to pad like a pro here. Also, I will have to talk slowly. It’s bad when you look at your timer, and it’s supposed to say 15:00, and it says 8:00.

Well, bad for the audience.

I read today that “pink slime” has become unpopular since people learned that there was such a thing as “pink slime,” so they’re closing the plants that make it. Turns out I’ve been using it for tacos. Everyone loves it, and you’ve surprised how the spices drown out the taste of ammonia. No, they don’t add ammonia, they just expose the stuff to ammonia gas to kill the things that would make your throw up for three days and possibly die. The main reason people don’t want pink slime is because someone called it pink slime.


Does anyone think this is a center cut from some creature that’s completely, uniformly, smooth inside? Is this not obviously some form of abbatoir scrapings blended into a slurry and dosed with a binding agent? Same with hot dogs, which come in two varieties: Regular, and Beef. Uh, what’s in the Regular ones? Oh, think of it as a buffet line. I eat hot dogs now and then, and particularly enjoy a Hebrew Nat: the best.

Interesting how Oscar Meyer bologna caught on, though - why would everyone give up superior grocery story bologna for this stuff? Sure, kids liked it on Wonder Bread with butter, but -- hey, how did Wonder Bread catch on?

Hard for modern sensibilities to understand, accustomed as we are to stern loaves of sawdust covered with grains and packing so much fiber your bowel movements are like small-scale reenactments of the Great Northern laying the first transatlantic cable, but Wonder Bread was just that. It’s not a product of the prefab plastic Fifties. It came out of the 30s, and was so well-known it had a distinctive World’s Fair building designed to look like its trademark wrappers. I’m sorry, it’s iconic wrappers.



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It was scientific bread. The ads proved it. I have a brochure that touts the virtues of this new and improvred bread-like substance:



Your Grandother's Bread looks like a surly eyeless sandworm. Wonder Bread has plus signs and chemicals.



Eight slices a day! Given the current horror towards the carby badness of bread, EIGHT SLICES is like eating, well, Roast Sirloin. But they knew how to live, even if it killed 'em. Finally:




It's been a very long time since bread was advertised for its blood-building properties.

Oh, we scoff now, but think of a boon it must have seemed like: uniform loaves, soft, fresh for days - or at least springy - and full of all the stuff previous bread was woefully incapable of adding. This was the future of food.

And in wartime, it could stand in for meat. Here's a radio spot from 1943. Fret not: wartime bodies thrive on Wonder Bread. It's baked 13 percent longer; do we have to say more?


So how did it go? It went great. I relaxed when I showed up and saw the the entire audience of 150 people consisted of middle-aged women and retirees. Forgot: it’s the AAA Women’s Travel association.

The speaker was describing upcoming trips when I arrived, so I sat in a corner and checked Twitter, nursing a cup of coffee. The meeting broke; they all came out for coffee and / or tea, and a few came over to chat. Met one charming & smart woman in her seventies who could have been my biggest fan, except she believed the honor should go to her mother, who was 92. The woman had a theory that Minneapolis was architecturally cursed by the gods because we tore down the Metropolitan Building.

“Athena scoffed and said ‘well, you’re done,’” she said. We shared a brief and intense moment of hate for some recent key buildings.

I was introduced by a woman with whom I went to Europe in high school, part of the Latin Class trip. She noted that she took Latin and I did not, but was kind enough to say “Perhaps you know some Latin?” while I stood at the edge of the room, waiting for the mike. Shook my head sadly and pathetically. A half an hour later I would be describing the Pompeii trip, how I saw the words CAVE CANEM, and I shouted “That’s Latin! Beware of the dog! Also, Carthìphage Delenda Est!”

Yes, it was the kind of speech where you find yourself shouting “Carthage must be destroyed!” at the person who introduced you.

Had a grand time. They were a wonderful audience, laughed in all the right places. At the end I described all the new technologies that made vacation memories a challenge, advised everyone to rename all their photos - really, has anyone ever said “You showed me a wonderful picture from your last trip, I believe it was IMG-03834. No, DSC-33372” - then said that every trip out of the house was travel, including this, so I had to take a picture. SAY CHEESE:

And they all said cheese.



Well, you can’t beat that. I left, and went to Trader Joe’s, which was a few blocks away. Did some shopping, then realized I’m going to be on my own next week. Wife and child are going to Arizona for spring break, for a girly-sistery thing at a spa, and I’m not. Saving money we can apply to a full-family vacation later. So I just threw frozen entrees in the cart. It’s going to be a lonely week, and bleatless - it’s the week I nail down the revision of the first novel to be rolled out in June. There will still be daily updates, though; that’s the easy part.

Speaking of which! A dozen or so exquisite examples of Disney title art, up here. Have a grand day; see you around.

















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