French fries at the O.K. Corral: or, Telling Monkey-brain to go f*ck itself

french fries Back in September of 1987, I met my friend, Karen Engler, for dinner in Lincoln Park. I asked her what was new and she entertained me with amusing anecdotes of her crazy job du jour.

She then asked me what was new; I said, "I quit smoking."

"Really!?! When??!"

I checked my watch. "6:30," I said.

She laughed and shrugged it off. I'd been smoking since before I met her, way back in my freshman year of high school, when I was just 14 years old. A nincompoop semi-authority figure furnished the contraband, Benson & Hedges Menthol 100s, which I smoked until I got hip to menthol's ghetto/pussy status, finally ending up where most hard-core smokers do: sucking down 2+ packs of Marlboros (both leaded and "light" flavors) per day, bought by the carton. Which was good, believe it or not, that was down from close to 4 packs/day.

There was no getting around it: everything about me identified with "smoker." My entire non-childhood persona, not to mention routine, was built around it.

But as I got ready to light that smoke at 6:25 pm, something flashed through me, or, more accurately, snapped. Partly, it was the very real projection of another seasonal bout of bronchitis. Partly, it was weariness, maintaining any habit so assiduously is exhausting. And just like that, I knew I was done. I don't know why or how exactly, only that me and cigarettes, we were over. I stepped on the trash can pedal, let go of the pack and that, my friends, was that.

Not that quitting was easy; to the contrary, every minute of every hour, every hour of every day, for the first three weeks was excruciating. I'd never experienced anything like it and hope I never will. (That goes for the flatulence, too, folks. No one ever talks about the extreme gastrointestinal upset that accompanies quitting when you're a heavy smoker. All I can say is keep matches handy. Lots and lots of matches.) And the first three months was pretty rough. And the next three years? No picnic, to be sure. But while quitting wasn't easy, it was simple, and it was clear.

Fast forward 19 years. Still a non-smoker, now a diet-cheater.

Here's me, shoving an entire slice of pizza down my gullet between Ocean and Lincoln. Here's me, burning through a roll of Rolos, a box of Smarties, a bag of Raisinets one by one (I'm a piece candy woman, not a bar candy one) like a chocoholic chipmunk getting herself squared away for winter. This is not the Me who used Will o' Iron to leave her hometown, her marriage, her career, her misery for Parts Unknown; this is crap. I hate crap.

What exactly is going on here!?!

It struck me in a flash: I hadn't a clue. It was time to get one. So I busted out a fresh notebook and made myself a list and a deal: write down the desired infraction and exactly what is going on in that brain of yours when you want to make it, then wait 15 minutes; if you still want it, knock yourself out.

I wrote the first retroactively, from memory, which was still pretty fresh. And I'd outlined the rationalization in detail for my pal, heathervescent, at breakfast that morning, anyway:

  • "Toast @ breakfast"
  • "I deserve it."
  • "It's all I'm going to have 'bad' today."

Next, the current desire, fresh and fierce:

  • want to order pizza
  • "nothing in house" (...except stew)
  • stressed!!! (jobs, underbid)
  • I deserve it

Finally, I sat it out. 15 minutes, that was the deal. Only an odd thing happened as the minutes ticked away. Monkey-brain continued to want pizza; Big Colleen brain breathed a sigh of relief to find out it was only Monkey-brain, got up and started preparing some semi-convenience food she remembered Monkey-brain had bought at the store (Tasty Bites Eggplant whatever, along with homemade red lentil dal and cucumber raita.)

At this point, you are, if you're like me, wondering a few things. Since you are not me, and I had time to both ask the questions and answer them, I'll close the loop for you.

QUESTION #1: Wow. She had all that shit in the house?

Answer: Yes, I had all that shit in the house. Apparently, Monkey-brain only registered sad frozen reminder of bad stew experiment.

Lesson: in its relentless pursuit of food crack, Monkey-brain is nothing if not fierce.

QUESTION #2: Wow. She considers making homemade red lentil dal and cucumber raita convenient?

ANSWER: Yes. After two hard-core years of cooking every single thing but cheese from scratch, yes, I do.

Lesson: change takes a long time, until it happens all at once.

QUESTION #3: Wow. She thinks this one-off incident is somehow worthy of her longest and most weirdly formatted post in months?

ANSWER: Yes. Abso-fucking-lutely, for reasons which will soon become apparent.

Lesson: The Communicatrix knows more than you, and don't you forget it.

I'm laying it on the line, in black and white, or slightly gray and white, or whatever my CSS is dictating and your end-user device is capturing as you read this: the "snap" happened. I'm off the illegals*.

I suspected it two days ago but knew it for sure last night, when the lovely server at the Marriott Marina del Rey served me my breadless club sandwich with fully a half-plate of the most beautifully golden, sinfully fragrant, mouth-burning-hot-from-the-fryer specimens of thin-cut fries I've seen ever, EVER, and they sat, untouched, until our club treasurer showed up a half-hour later and (mercifully) polished off the pile in five minutes flat.

Me + a plate of hot, untouched fries = dunzo.

Next up, total global domination...

xxx c

Image by keso via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

*Note to any SCD-prospectives out there: this does not mean I'm on SCD. I'm not yet ready to give up my beloved Americano, a rather liberal interpretation of weak coffee which Elaine Gottschall would likely have taken issue with, and I'm not, for the time being, going to worry about rogue illegals, the 2% floaters that creep into virtually every food served in American restaurants, even the so-called "legal" foods. If you are just starting, do not follow my example, do SCD full-out, 100%, like it says in the book. No f*cking around, kids, especially if you're doing any of that lovely bleeding out of your rectum or spending time around doctors anxious to sketch out the new one they're going to build you. I'm well, I'm almost fat, I'm on meds and I've been stable for a long time.