Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Crunch of Serendipity

My nonfiction roots are all a-tingle with today's essay by Lee Wilson. Lee is a writer and journalist living in New York and has a degree in creative writing from NYU. He once conducted a "posthumous interview" with William Wordsworth and he has a pet cat named T.S. Eliot. The tentative title for his essay, which discusses the inner conflicts one feels when eating at Taco Bell, is "The Crunch of Serendipity." I personally think that's a great title, so I'm making him keep it for the purposes of Glass Cases. Enjoy!

The Crunch of Serendipity
By Lee Wilson

I’ve just discovered that I am a traitor to the progressive-liberal cause. It was a Saturday afternoon and I had felt like relaxing. This meant an hour or so of television, followed by an hour or so of video games, capped off with an hour or so of television. I decided that it was time to do something with the day; I was also hungry. The only possible solution was a trip to Taco Bell.

Taco Bell is disgusting food, but as far as disgusting food goes, it is damn good. In my opinion, if you can’t enjoy the fatty, greasy, grossness of food than you will never completely enjoy life. Besides, the taco supreme has tomatoes. Those are good for you. So I cross the border and return, sit in front of my computer, ready to eat and read.

A few years ago Taco Bell commercials featured Dick Vitale, the former coach of the University of Detroit, and later the Detroit Pistons, now a college basketball announcer for ESPN. He was promoting some new menu item, which I’m sure was merely a hybrid of several other items, in a move that only Taco Bell could pull off. The gist of these ads was that a family was driving, lost. Vitale would appear with the new Franken-Taco and deliver the tagline, “It’s serendipity baby!” (Vitale is known for saying “Baby!”)
I like the idea of serendipitous events. Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend of mine and we somehow got on the subject of smells. She told me that she is very interested in smells. She wants to write about them. Feeling for a moment like a creative writing professor I recommended she read Patrick Suskind’s "Perfume."
“But I don’ like perfume” she objected.
She is a very eager girl, though I did manage to explain something of the book, which seemed to placate her. She is also moving back to Tokyo tomorrow.
At home I have two bookcases. One contains books that I have read, the other contains books that I have not. I felt it was dishonest to anyone who might be perusing my shelves to have them intermingled. Thanks to a recent discarded book sale by my local library the “Unread” shelf has recently surpassed the “Read” shelf. For this reason I put myself on a strict book buying hiatus. No more new books, no matter how interesting one may appear, until the ratio of read to unread is measurably better.
I reminded myself of this when approaching the used book sellers who set up along West Fourth Street. I stopped to look anyway – an exercise in restraint, or a form of torture. And right there, the very first book face up on the table was an absolutely pristine copy of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, for only $5. Now maybe this book had been there for weeks and I only noticed today because the book had been brought up previously and there was now some context. But maybe it was a new arrival, so to speak.

Occurrences like this are the closest thing to Karma that I believe in, so I take them somewhat seriously. What I mean is that I was now required to buy this book by the gods of serendipity, here manifested as Dick Vitale, and deliver it to my soon departing companion. I could not do this exactly as she was not home, but I left it in an envelope on her stoop.

But as I browse various websites I come to one describing the plight of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of laborers who pick tomatoes which are sold to Yum! Brands, the corporate parent of Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut, among others. I am asked to sign a petition, and participate, or enforce, a boycott basically of all things Yummy. Refusing to do so basically means that I am supporting the heartless conglomerate over the oppressed proletariat. I am unsure how to handle this. 

I tear open a pack of “fire” hot sauce, and ooze it onto my taco. I take a bite and feel the crunch of tortilla shell, the softness of the sour cream slightly warmed by the meat. Lettuce hangs from my upper lip, and a red and clear emulsion of grease runs down my chin. Even revolutionaries have their limits, and mine stops just short of the border.


  1. Wow! Love the moment of serendipity--finding that book--how fabulous. Of course, you have to write about that find. Really liked the author's wry wit--the tangent veering off into the unread and read books, for example. The title is doing heavy lifting for you, babeee! I like your style, Mr. Wilson, and would like to read more of your work.

  2. This is just the right essay, at just the right time for me, as I was trying to decide what I wanted for lunch.

  3. Glad you liked it. Gale, I agree with you about his tone. I thought the humor was spot on. I also couldn't help but read certain parts in the voice of Dick Vitale, which might have made it funnier for me!

    Lee, I hope you submit more in the future :)