Saturday, October 23, 2010
Satan Is A Nerd
El Paso, Texas
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Yesterday at about noon, on the way to the Carlsbad Caverns, we stopped to get something to eat in the city of Carlsbad. There we found a memorable restaurant called Calloway's. It's a plain and rather shabby-looking place probably known best to the locals, which doesn't reach out to the passer by with any fancy neon signs. Inside, the walls are decorated with miner's hats and empty potash sacks. (Potash mining is big around here.) Seedy-looking locals, old and young, hunker over brown wooden tables, the men thinking no more seriously of removing their hats than they would of taking off their pants.
On the whole I wouldn't recommend the food, which appears to be mostly the ordinary diner fare--meatloaf and mashed potatoes, fried chicken, burgers, french fries, and the obligatory Mexican items. The usual. Our coffee was hot but tasteless, served by a teenage girl wearing a t-shirt that said "satan is a nerd." But what caught my eye was someone next to us being served a short stack of pancakes that were about a foot in diameter--overlapping a large dinner plate--and an inch thick, topped with a fist-sized chunk of butter. We'd already ordered lunch by then, but immediately I wished we'd gotten breakfast instead.
Turns out we were in luck. About five minutes later another waitress came by. This woman looked more like a waitress at Calloway's should have looked than did the girl wearing the Satan put-down message, in that she wore her ratted bleached blonde hair piled up on top of her head, had spots of rouge on her cheeks that made me think immediately of Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and was missing a few teeth, just like the jack-o-lantern on her vivid orange holiday t-shirt. With profuse twangy apologies she asked us to tell her again what we had ordered, because they'd lost our ticket. Laurine and I looked at each other and said that was okay, and as long as they hadn't started our order we'd like to get breakfast instead of lunch. On the breakfast menu I noticed the pancakes came in two dimensions, regular and "miner's" size. I opted for two regular sized pancakes, figuring the ones we'd seen were the miner's version. Imagine my surprise when the waitress brought out a plate filled to the edges with the same huge pancakes the people behind us had been served. I asked if these were regular size, and was assured that they were, and that the miner's pancakes had to be served in pizza boxes. Beside the pancakes were slices of bacon so thick they almost qualified as pork cutlets.
Then, as if fortune had not shined brightly enough, the waitress announced that since they'd lost our first ticket there would be no charge for our meal. For that she earned from us what might have been her best tip of the day. My only regret was that I didn't get to see one of those miner's pancakes the size of a pizza box.
After that experience I expected the Carlsbad Caverns to be kind of disappointing, but they weren't. A cave is, after all is said and done, a big hole in the ground, and this one was no exception to that immutable rule. But it was a pretty nifty hole. Lots of stalactites and stalagmites and other drippy limestone formations, built up over jillions of years. During the long walk to the bottom of the cave we listened, on the self-guided tour recorders, to various facts and statistics about the caverns, none of which come to mind now. The one thing I do remember is that the rangers, or whoever they were on the recordings, kept talking about how in spite of the fact that there are boulders and loose rocks everywhere, there was absolutely no danger of any rocks falling on us. Which, in the scheme of things, made very little sense. And they maintained a harangue about how harmful people could be to the cavern, and that if any rocks did fall on anybody, it would probably be the fault of some human intervention. Pleading in the alternative there, as they say in the law. It was an absurd assertion, because it didn't take into consideration the previous millennia during which rocks have been falling for any number of other reasons, and also because the whole goddamned point of the national park, from beginning to end, is to entertain the humans who want to see the cave. Why insult the intelligence of the species you're catering to? It made me want to take a piss against the rocks to see if anything happened. By the way, those friendly aliens I'm posing with are wooden statues in front of the souvenir store at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and are apparently a vague reference to Roswell, a hundred miles or so to the north. To the best of my knowledge no one claims there's an alien connection to the caves, although you'd think someone would have asserted that by now. Could that nerd Satan have had anything to do with it?
Coming back through the city of Carlsbad (20 miles or so to the east of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park) this afternoon on the way to El Paso, we stopped to take advantage of another remarkable natural phenomenon. In the middle of the city, like an oasis, is a string of filling stations selling gas for around $2.30 a gallon, while pretty much everywhere else in the state the price is in the neighborhood of $2.80. We stopped at one of these stations to fill up, and I asked the cashier why their gas was so cheap, but he didn't know. He only knew they were selling it at below cost, and that the owner was upset because the station down the street was selling it a penny a gallon cheaper. I marveled at this little city, where the gas is so cheap and the pancakes are so large.
I was curious about the black t-shirt that said "satan is a nerd," just like that, in lower case white letters, so I googled it. This turns out to be a bit of brainwashed young teenage Christian hipness. In fact, there's a Christian rock group with a song by the same name, all about how Satan is a greasy-haired nerd/dweeb/loser sitting in the cafeteria all alone. And how the singer isn't afraid to insult Satan because he has Jesus on his side. Believe it or not (and why the hell wouldn't you believe it at this point?) there's a blog posting from a guy who's upset about the slogan because it's an insult to nerds, who he says aren't evil people. When I first saw the t-shirt the girl had her hair hanging down over the words and I couldn't make them out and I thought it said "stan is a nerd," like it was some inside joke about somebody she knew at school named Stan. Then again, maybe there's someone in her school named Satan. There are probably several guys named Jesus, so why not?