Aaron Voorhies Jentzen
I. Do Not Go Gentle into That
A clanking of frying pans, the hush of the opened
freezer. The kitchen. Jon's at it again, making that meat stink in the
kitchen. Two weeks ago, he bought a package of forty frozen Manor House-brand
hamburger patties at the Safeway supermarket.
The large glossy carton featured blown-up photos
of steaming burgers on a dark background. Flame-broiled. Hearty. Really,
really cheap. I watched him carry it into the apartment, into the kitchen.
The kitchen. It had the heft of a carton originally bound for the Folsom
Prison cafeteria; at some point, somehow, someone diverted it to the
day-glo supermarket. Or abandoned it there. Manor House-more like Jail
House. Since the day they arrived, Jon's animal protein binge has raged
day and night.
Although I leave the apartment for hours at a
time, I know when the patty scarfing has continued in my absence. I
don't even have to give a "Meat? No meat?" sniff in the entryway upon
my return. If it's there it's there. When it's not, things seem
strangely normal-the sinister calm before the storm. If I don't
smell meat, that just means I will in the immediate future.
Things have been said; things have been cooked:
the stench of cooking meat strangulates my apartment. But this is no
ordinary meat-cooking smell. Nor am I some kind of veggie and/or animal
rights type, in fact, I like the smell of fresh-cooked meat (or
at least I once did, as I haven't had the balls to test these waters
of late). This meat smells old, old before it was cooked, old
before it was even born, old when the foundations of the earth were
laid. Meaning, when you fry up a patty, it immediately smells like last
year's hamburger grease, the remnants of which probably still linger
on in the kitchen. The kitchen. The meat gives off no fresh smell, no
clean, honest smell. No cowboy-on-the-open-range-grillin'-over-a-campfahr
smell. Just this ancient...heartiness.
Why does this prison grub smell like something
dug up out of a bog? Are these "pure beef" patties actually pressed
mammoth meat, exhumed from thousands of years of Arctic ice? Is the
meat in fact to blame? Perhaps the fault lies with Jon's culinary techniques?
These questions deprive me of sleep.
In hopes of answering these questions, I spent
the last two weeks observing Jon's preparation methods, which I here
describe: With a twist of a knob, the spiral element on the electric
range glows hellish orange. Next, he drops two tablespoons of lubricant-butter,
margarine, vegetable oil-into the foul-smelling skillet ready on the
stove. Ready from the last time. While the oil splutters and
pops and greases the joints in the air molecules, he reaches into the
freezer for one of the variegated pink columns waiting in the far-back
corner. He chips a frozen disc off the top of a column, then another,
and tosses them into the bubbling oil. The odor fills the air. "This
is how they cook 'em at fast food joints," he explains. Some consolation.
I suspect the ancient
meat stink emanates from something a shade too abrupt in the transfer
of heat, the immersion of frozen muscle fibers in a puddle of boiling
oil. As I see it, the meat immediately rips heat from the oil, searing
its contours as particles of meat sublimate from solid (frozen) to semi-solid
(thawed) to solid again (cooked) instantaneously. The oil in turn rips
heat from the pan, which has to go and flail some more out of the heating
element. Something complicated happens between the stove and the household
circuit, and the smell of ozone blends into the stench. An obscene transubstantiation has taken place. At this
juncture, my scientific hypotheses begin to peter out.
Like fast food joints,
Science never held any great consolation for me, and neither has helped
to elevate my current standards of living to tolerable levels. I am
living in an armed camp. The old meat stink saturates all my possessions,
and I myself am contaminated. I go to get a slice of bread, and the
bread bag is just one more oil slick. The dishes have a film of chuck
wagon extract smearing them. The kitchen is just the start. The kitchen.
My blankets, pillows, clothes, even books carry the dread stench. I
try to preserve my own body inviolate, but I must unwittingly inhale
and thus consume countless particles of Manor House heartiness. Where's
Captain Planet when you need him?
II. Young Men Should Burn
and Rave at Twenty-Five
The problem, of course, is not Jon. It's not the
way he cooks. It's not the intense grease-per-mole composition of the
household air. And it's not even the damned meat. The problem is this
first sour smell of bachelorhood, the smell of single, out-of-college,
twenty-something males. Fortunately it is the first, not the last stale
breath; there is time yet. Jon is only twenty-one. He has, tops, four
years to escape the meat stink. If, by twenty-five, the meat lingers on,
he's done for. I'm twenty-two. But we'll get to my situation later.
Since my late teens, I've held a firm belief
that age twenty-five was...well, you just didn't want to be that guy,
let's put it that way. One of those mysteries of the faith. Let me put
it this way: as suggested in a recent film, the day you graduate from
college, your undergraduate affectations are instantly renamed: vices.
Where once cigarettes were a chic accessory to your wardrobe, now you
find you are an ignoble smoker, etc. The point is, twenty-five is a
similar turning point, where your youthful ways lose all gracefulness,
yet you are unfit for any other pursuits. In short, you're an instant
For years I thought
twenty-five was strictly a numerically unlucky year, but now I'm beginning
to suspect that it is not that literal. Some men are twenty-five for
several years, some never. It has a lot to do with whether you choose
to act your age or to act considerably older.
I didn't discover this phenomenon; in fact,
I realize I'm one of the last to know. Countless other males my age
have already reached these conclusions and orchestrated a counterattack:
they skip right from 20 to age 35. See if these tell-tale indications
ring any bells: The worsted double-breasted suits. The sensible yet
sexy sport compacts. No nonsense haircuts and flossed teeth. Knowledge
of two or more items on the wine list. Gym membership. Enough exotic
tastes to be alluring to certain women, but not to the extent that would
suggest eccentricity (not alluring). Conversation littered with Russian
novels, old jazz (CDs, not platters), stocks, good out-of-the-way
restaurants you should try, the names of certain officials and vague
mention of various unnamable "contacts." And to top it all off, a job
that, while necessarily somewhat menial, at least allows the employee
to cultivate the abovementioned niceties, the trappings of the Big Career
Job that create the illusion that said job exists, the job which, we
are to assume, produced said trappings. Figure that one out.
These faux 35 year-olds are everywhere, but
they are difficult to spot, for they blend right in with the real ones.
Making the jump requires such absolute belief in the 35 year-old identity
that the body itself is often tricked, as attested to by the rapid acceleration
of pattern hair loss and other physical deterioration of a more private
nature in such individuals. Thus, they blend right in with the real
The large number of men opting for this accelerated
path to middle age only demonstrate the plight of more traditional twenty-something
bachelors in higher contrast. There are few; they stick out like sore
thumbs. And, being lonely sorts, they don't band together very well
(except at sports bars) and thus deny themselves the potential of strength-in-numbers.
I confess I am tempted to throw in a few real-life
examples of 25 year-olds in action, to shore up my theories with hard
evidence. Tangibles. Facts. After considerable thought, I decided that
the majority of these stories are simply too painful to relate. Besides,
if history teaches us anything, it is that the humiliations of small
men have scant educational value. Well, perhaps I could tell you about
what happened to the guy with the personal Guinness keg in his closet...or
the guy with the uh, the uh...No, it's really not worth dragging this
whole sordid tale out. That's what shows like Drew Carey are
Without miring ourselves
in the miseries of actual case studies, we can mention a few general
traits: As a traditional twenty-five year-old, the TV reigns supreme.
Taking that big beer shit is your principal agenda item for Saturday.
You're single, or virtually so. Even your socks are single, seldom to
be found in matching pairs. You become a guru on some arcane subject,
such as The Smiths 45's, Star Trek or weed. Again, just a few examples. In some ways, this is merely
the tip of the iceberg; in other ways, it's really all there is.
While we're on the
subject, one obvious danger of the traditional 25 year-old route is
that you dramatically increase your chances of sharing your roof with
a small fry drug racket. Everybody expects you to sell weed anyway (what
else are 25 year-olds good for?) and there are plenty of ways to justify
peddling your little plastic baggies to 10th graders. For
- Think of your little racket as an entrepreneurial venture, a way
to "make ends meet" (i.e., buy more Klingon action figures).
- Consider buying and selling little bits of
green stuff as experience, practice for your real job as a
stockbroker or a banker a good ten, fifteen years down the pike.
- You'll soon have all the friends you can handle,
- You'll also learn all the lingo and techie
jargon pertaining to your trade, which is perhaps the first tentative
step towards Hip.
But the number one reason for a 25 year-old to
operate a miniscule marijuana distribution center?
- Instead of spending those Friday and Saturday
nights watching television alone and smoking a bowl, you can watch
TV with someone who is happy to smoke a bowl of yours, and
you can also putter around with grow lamps and such.
(Ok, so that's two reasons. Ask me if I care.)
But before you sign up for your subscription to High Times, realize
that a bust for selling pot is just the kind of indignity that brands
you 25 FOR LIFE.
Rage, Rage Against the Bachelor Estate
The reek of marijuana, much hamburger grilling,
use of "alternative deodorants," beer burps and chronic masturbation:
all contain elements that contribute to the distinctive bachelor smell.
But the hamburger is the big one. The real kahuna. The heavy. The ball-breaker.
Remember hamburger? If not, turn back a few pages and refresh your memory.
Or pause and take a trip to your own kitchen. The kitchen.
But wait: by linking bachelorhood with disgusting
cooking odors, are we implying that we can solve the stinky meat problem
by finding a woman to assume scullery duties, leaving hubby to bask
in his La-Z-Boy whilst sniffing the aroma of fresh punkin pie? Do men
solve the problem simply by handing it off to another victim? Are relationships
between men and women actually just a matter of food prep? Are we all
going to hell in a hand basket? With the exception of the last question,
the answer to all of the above is No. The simple truth is that until a bachelor has a partner
of some sort (or is trying really hard to get one), his own cooking
can never improve. There's no motivation. Once said partner enters the
picture, he may very well become an accomplished chef. It is also possible
the new partner knows how to cook. If neither can cook, at least the
blame can be shared. But this is mere speculation.
To sum up our findings thus far: It is impossible
to be single, a real twenty-five year-old, and a good cook. One
or more has to go out the window. We've explored the ramifications of
sacrificing the last-witness Jon's stinky meat. Giving up on being twenty-five
and exerting your will to be ten years older is also an option, although
you greatly increase your buffoon factor. The other option is scrapping
the single scene altogether, although this will instantly alienate you
from your single friends (remember the high school stoner kids?)
I've said little in defense of this last option,
so I thought I'd soapbox my personal story. Let me first explain that
my interest in these subjects is mostly academic. Two years ago a remarkable
woman took an unexplained interest in me, and we reached a certain agreement
by which I vowed never to fry the stinky meat if she would pass by the
20/35 year olds and their ways, and so on. We also swore never to talk
about Russian novels. All of which, taken together, give us a considerably
better chance of finding true and lasting happiness than most other
clueless young men and women (i.e., those who ignore such vital pacts).
I've never really understood why she took an
interest in me in the first place-she is reticent to discuss her reasons.
I haven't pressed the point, since she is more or less fabulous, and
she sometimes calls me "punk baby" (what more can you ask?). I suspect,
however, that she foresaw the day I would get my first whiff of that
unholy meat stink and break out in cold sweats. She may have, out of
pity, bailed me out of this charnel house, or she may be avoiding her
own undesirable predicaments-she has mentioned that certain plastic
book shelves of hers are making her uneasy... Truth is, I don't really
care why. Sorry if you expected some kind of words of wisdom or helpful
advice at this point, you know-the conclusion. But you're on your own.
She's given me a ticket off this slaving meat wheel-the rest of you
fucks can fight for the scraps.
 Palmer Avery writes in: "Whilst taking the Spark's
Bastard test a moment ago, I came across an interesting
fact they had stumbled upon. 'FACT: The most bastardly age group so
far is 27 year olds. 27 year olds average 46% bastard.' Thought
that tied in nicely with your Theory of Meat Stink.
Your 37% Bastard friend,