A contagious confluence, metaphorical hydraulics in chronofluidity, multiple rippling effects.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

Monday, August 30, 2004

Goats, Yaks, and the Cyclops Blues

Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, lived within hiking distance of the Scapegoat Eatery before he finally was apprehended. No one recalled if he’d ever stopped in for a yakburger or a healing cookie (probably not for the latter, given the phobic cosmos that seemed to throb around him), but at least one Web site thought the proximity of the Goat no coincidence. Kaczynski clearly had been a fall guy.

Originally, Jason had been content to harvest his Golden Fleece of yak fibers and watch life flow around him. But he hadn’t anticipated the fecundity of his herd. As the yak population began to overgraze his modest acreage, he contemplated other yak uses. He knew yak meat brought up to ten dollars a pound and was in demand in some circles as a flavorful, almost fat-free alternative to beef.

It all came together when he was driving through Montana and stopped for lunch at the Scapegoat Eatery. The house specialty was, of course, goat—the Billy Burger, Nanny and Noodles, the Capricorn Barbecue Platter—and several varieties of goat cheese. Old photos of Dr. Brinkley lined the walls, as well as reproductions of handbills touting the health benefits of Dr. B’s goat gland surgical implant. Jason sat down at the lunch counter, ordered a Billy Burger, and complimented the owner on the creativity of his cuisine and decor. The conversation turned to Jason’s occupation and quickly the two were brainstorming yak-informed menu items. The burger could be the Big Yak. Meals would come with yeasty rolls and yak butter. Yak Stroganoff sounded good. How about Yakkity-Yak Snak Strips for the kids’ menu? By the time he’d finished his Billy Burger, Jason and the owner had struck a deal. “What a great coincidence,” Jason thought, as he climbed into his pickup, turned on his satellite radio, and resumed his long drive home.

As far as Jason was concerned, satellite radio was as essential as an emergency gas can and a couple gallons of drinking water when driving through Western Spaces. Of late, he’d become enchanted with KBMR, Blind Music Radio, a satellite station that played only music of blind artists. Sure, there was plenty of the expected Ray Charles, Jose Feliciano and Stevie Wonder, and it was amazing how many musicians named themselves after their infirmity: Blind Lemon Jefferson, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, Blind John Davis. But there were also Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Doc Watson, Diane Schuur, Rev. Gary Davis, Amadou and Mariam, and Moondog. Although the play list tipped towards blues—why would that be surprising?—Jason was captivated by the eclectic musical coincidence occasioned by a common lack of sight. The music of the blind seemed particularly insightful during long drives on the open highway. He wondered what blues blinded Polyphemus had sung as Odysseus set out on the wine dark sea.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Cookies and the Fear Flux

Janice was the Cookie Healer. Only in Santa Fe could such a career be launched and sustained. Everyone liked cookies, but too many shunned the comfort of the cookie for fear of butter, sugar, and the other perceived harms in the miracle morsel. It wasn’t enough that any food item was tasty or satisfying. It had to be therapeutic to justify consumption by a certain clientele in Santa Fe. And when it was held to be therapeutic, the price of comestibles ascended like smoking incense into the Empyrean.

The premise of Cookie Therapy, or CT, was that most if not all human suffering, be it physical, mental, even (or especially) spiritual, emanates from radiating waves of fear. Janice had been reading a book called The Man Who Ate Everything, in which the author described foodphobes, people who will deny themselves the pleasure of foie gras or mashed potatoes or chocolate for fear of karmic repercussions. Gentle but firm intervention was the answer, Janice thought. People need help in facing their fear, and what better way than with a warm, soft sugar cookie with an apricot-half lovingly but firmly pressed into its middle?

The Healer could see the waves of fear as she walked through the plaza. Where people came close together, the waves would collide and create new, distorted fear vectors. In a crowd, the psychic turbulence inspired in her the same awe that she once experienced watching a thunderstorm move across the Kansas prairie in August. She called it confluenza, a phobic contagion that spread as the waves came together and then rippled back out carrying unease and doubt. People were so immersed in fear that they didn’t even notice the turmoil around them, but on some level they felt it. Heart walls thinned by fractions of millimeters, breaths shortened by small but continuous increments, and the indices of blood pressure, oxygen, alpha waves, and triglycerides imperceptibly compressed their bell curves.

By contrast, the warm radiance of the oven and the racks and racks of cooling cookies spoke of a transcendence, a permanence that suffering humans had only to avail themselves of. The Healer baked the best cookies in Santa Fe, possibly in all of New Mexico. Besides the sugar cookies with apricots, she produced gingersnaps, coconut balls, peanut butter squares with fresh mint, and of course chile-chocolate chip cookies. Each kind of cookie was good for a specific constellation of maladies, although the chile-chocolate was very close to panacea. The Healer’s oven was lit eighteen hours a day, and she was considering putting another oven in the garage.

But healing required more than bakery arts, as prodigious as Janice’s were. The personal touch was everything. She made house calls, interviewed the afflicted, gave the domicile a fear-scan, diagnosed the condition and then, and only then, prescribed the appropriate cookie or combination of cookies. Then she would follow up by phone or email at least once a week to monitor the client’s condition and deliver fresh cookies as needed. The cookies were free, as they should be; her bill was for the personal attention, the diagnosis, and her attunement to the fear flux.

She began developing her Web site,, after she received her first out-of-town order, twelve dozen assorted cookies to be overnighted to the Scapegoat Eatery in Lincoln, Montana. The owner of the Scapegoat, or the Goat as it was known locally, had heard about her cookies from one of his suppliers, a yak herder in northern New Mexico who had undergone CT while in Santa Fe one summer. She hadn’t planned to become a retailer originally, but the extra cash flow could help support expansion of her healing work locally. And she could always visit Lincoln or other locations where her cookies were available, spend a few days, meet new people, and conduct fear scans and offer advice. The Web site would be instrumental in this expansion. She couldn’t wait till the first visitor landed on her home page and got the message: “Please set your browser to accept cookies.”