Monday, June 15, 2009

Sleaze, Unease, And Extra Cheese

For the non-farm crowd, Mr. Cheese USA isn’t exactly a desired moniker. It’s certainly nothing you’d want on file with the post office or, for that matter, in a corporate directory regardless of one’s patriotism or passion for dairy. In fact, excluding Cracker Barrel junkies and deranged Packers fans, the negative connotations wafting from that label – nacho, cheddar, or otherwise – outweigh any eccentric pride.

Scarcely familiar with the man behind the stigma, one might assume he was an oily character, a corny jackass who shakes your hand with a mouse trap under his thumb. He might be a crooning deviant absorbed in an endless lip synch of the Tom Jones catalog, polluting velvety auditoriums and nursing homes for throngs of overweight AARP groupies; the definitive master of chest hair and cheap motel sex. Or perhaps he’s a flatulent repeat offender, bombing toilets with reckless abandon as if the lessons of Hiroshima were lost on his immense ego. Whatever the case, this is not a man you introduce to your friends, unless said friends are sexually depraved soccer moms or those with an anti-hygiene fetish, or prostitutes.

In the spring of 1987, this writer held the designation of Mr. Cheese USA (not proudly, mind you), flaunting a title neither desired nor required, but nonetheless deserved. And while I wasn’t stuffing my crotch with tube socks like an elephantine chastity killer, or attending class with a cheese wheel squirreled in my backpack, my locker’s objectionable scent had saturated the hallway with an intense funk. After all, if you jam enough lunch bags into a barely ventilated cabinet, crush them intermittently with school books, and blend haphazardly for one semester, your curious parfait of loose leaf and lunchmeat won’t play nice in the warm weather. And no, this behavior did not score points with the female contingent, allowing me none of the pubescent luxuries of unclasping training bras while tasting the marvels of Wet N Wild lip gloss. Rather, I was horribly shamed, assuming the slackened posture of a beaten boy-fool; closet full of fromage in lieu of skeletons.

Packed dutifully each morning by mom, the schoolyard staples of juice box, sandwich, and snack were a dietary regiment of which deviation was considered impossible, at least within the two square miles comprising my hometown, and thus, my entire world. That said, while two thirds of that brown bag banquet were digestible enough, the prospect of noshing on unrefrigerated cheese roiled my stomach. As it is, I won’t ingest anything a day past expiration, and maintain a compulsive fear of food left to thaw on countertops, socializing amicably with Listeria and E coli. More often than not, I’m junking perfectly good groceries; essentially parading around some famished third world backwater with an oversized FUCK YOU sign, beating my chest while flipping off every kid with a distended belly. Sally Struthers can plead until she’s blue in the face, but errant habits die hard.

After a winter of mushroom incubation, my flogging commenced on clean-up day. For a certain outspoken teacher, spelunking in my locker played out like the second (equally flawed) unearthing of Al Capone’s vault, assuming good ol' Al valued mold and Trapper Keeper
notebooks. Each individual lunch bag, in various states of fungal distress, was commented upon as I stood in a dead-eyed daze. And while this wasn’t some town square hanging wherein every student had joined a ring around our corner of wayward hell – screaming in unison for my crucifixion – enough of a nearby crowd was pretending not to notice this metaphoric spanking.

It’s awkward enough deflecting rhetorical questions like “Doesn’t your mother work hard to buy these cold cuts?” or “What do you think your parents would say if they knew you were disposing of perfectly good food?”, but fielding inquisitive onslaughts with no viable answers is like entering enemy fire, naked and weaponless. Of course, there were answers, but certainly not ones which I’d ever divulge. Namely, cafeteria aides lived for the extraction of lunchmeat from trash bins. Howling in tremendous constipated pain, their vocal disgust roared forth: “Whose lunch is this? Whose GREAT bologna sandwich was THROWN OUT today after only THREE BITES?” I may have been a pack rat, but I was forced into the business by obsessive-compulsive women doubling as aspirant (or very hungry) garbage pickers. If uneaten lunch equated to verbal thrashing, then hidden lunch equated to gastronomic genius, so long as the weather remained cool.

Post-disinfection, my locker received a green sticker (to denote potential “Superfund” status), while fellow students obtained blue, red, and yellow (the happy colors of the mentally adjusted). As a special bonus, my designation as Mr. Cheese USA – born from the pungent odor of lunches long forgotten – was assigned, readying me for a career in lounge crooning or sexual exploitation or, as a matter of appropriate course, the unctuous underbelly of financial sales and trading; where the client’s interests are always served, albeit with a little extra cheese.


Expat From Hell said...

I think I've missed you far more than the Texas heat. It is great to be back, and your post is reminder of same. You are indeed the Kreativ Blogger, my friend.


MVD said...

Aw shucks, Expat, thanks for the kind words. After a week in the dry heat of Southern California, I can't imagine that your return to steak-sized Texas, with all its trappings of steel toe boots, steers, and string ties, would be easy.

Chrissy said...

Mr. Cheese USA,
Your mocking of third world children is so wrong. And yet, I'm so amused by it.

MVD said...

"Your mocking of third world children is so wrong. And yet, I'm so amused by it."

Good. Perhaps the real irony lies in the fact that so many of these famished people thread plates through their lips. All those dinner dishes and a paucity of food. Truly a shame.

Since I'm already going to Hell for the initial mocking (as are you, Chrissy), I figured I could squeeze that last one out and simply lump them together for my conversation with St. Peter.

bluntdelivery said...

my mom rocked the juice box. however, she had it all figured out.. she'd freeze it, and stick it in the bottom of the bag, then put the sandwich on top so it would stay cold. then by lunchtime the juice was thawed, the sandwich was not diseased, and my bag was soaking wet and all my stuff would fall out in the hallway. but hey, it's a trade-off i was willing to take.

MVD said...

"my mom rocked the juice box. however, she had it all figured out"

Well, Brit, my mother clearly didn't know what the hell she was doing, because by lunchtime the sandwich cheese was sweating. For what it's worth, I still have nightmares of being forced to drink warm milk in kindergarten from a disgusting plastic Mickey Mouse thermos. Do you know how bad warm milk smells, especially if spilled?

Yes, my school diet was a trainwreck. At least sweets were rationed and I didn't turn into the “fat kid.”

Jen said...

"...your curious parfait of loose leaf and lunch meat..." my favorite line. It conjures images of that time in elementary school where, like you, the borderline obese, well past their sell by date, lunch monitors paraded the half eaten sandwiches around flagellating us with limp bits of bologna and plastic looking cheese all the while making us feel guilty and repulsed at the same time. I feel for you, not partaking in the joys of "Wet N Wild lip gloss" with the sixth grade girls. But, alas, you must have enjoyed the smells of Teen Spirit at some point once you moved on to high school and cafeteria lunches. Fumigation in the teenage years would not have been good.

Matt Shea said...

Nice one, Mike. I think the nadir of my lunchbox was when my mother seemingly gave up for a while, letting me open my bag to find a potato crisp sandwich. It took only a couple of weeks of this carb-on-carb love to make me look upon my friend's morning orange with a feverish gaze. Thankfully, my mum noticed this wild-eyed countenance before too long and changed my diet before I turned into a fully-fledged castaway.

Danielle said...

"unless said friends are sexually depraved soccer moms," Um hellooo. That describes me perfectly I must confess. So I guess it is good to know you sir.
What goes through your brain that allows you to create these images in such lenght. You could have just said that you were a slob/pack rat and were dubed Mr. Cheese USA. Ugg you wear me out and I love it.

MVD said...

“lunch monitors paraded the half eaten sandwiches around flagellating us with limp bits of bologna and plastic looking cheese”

The lunchroom monitor was a mutated species, Jen. No full human would comb the trash with an archeologist’s eye in search of sandwich scraps. In fact, I recall one such aide actually finishing a discarded lunch as I stood idly by in a state of horror. Didn't these women eat? Or did they grow stronger by eating our garbage?

MVD said...

"Thankfully, my mum noticed this wild-eyed countenance before too long and changed my diet before I turned into a fully-fledged castaway"

Or perhaps, Matt, your mother changed your diet before you gnawed your friend's arm off in a crazed survivalist search for protein.

Chris said...

Why am I thinking of 80's new wave? "ROCK the juice box, ROCK the juice box . . . " Casbah, my ass.

Flipping off kids with distended bellies . . . you are truly a bastard. But at least you're up front about it, so it's cool with me.

Nice work as always.

MVD said...

"You could have just said that you were a slob/pack rat and were dubbed Mr. Cheese USA"

Actually, Danielle, while my locker was a steaming hellhole, my personal hygiene was quite good, showering and shampooing with regularity.

As for being a “sexually depraved soccer mom,” reread my post on genealogy. The Vermont Country Store’s item #51669 should tide you over, indefinitely if need be.

MVD said...

"Flipping off kids with distended bellies . . . you are truly a bastard."

Mauger, you bird headed dwarf, instilling a subtle yet righteous guilt trip. Hopefully my extensive third world readership will look past that verbal slight.

Suldog said...

Bastard, you showed admirable restraint concerning the "award", which is more than I can say. In other words, you're a gouda man than I am.

MVD said...

“Bastard, you showed admirable restraint concerning the 'award'”

Well, Suldog, I'm a whore for any publicity, and appreciated the mention at your place; even if it meant hyperlinking a light blue tablecloth icon to my sidebar.

Theresa said...

Congrats on the award. You are definitely a Kreativ Blogger...among other things. Not too many people could make me WANT to read about bad lunch meat and old cheese. Kudos!

MVD said...

"Not too many people could make me WANT to read about bad lunch meat and old cheese"

Thanks Theresa. Shakespeare and Joyce had their niches, and clearly, I have mine.

Ron said...

Hey "Stinky Cheese Man"...

This just KILLED me..."unclasping training bras while tasting the marvels of Wet N Wild lip gloss."

OMG...that's hysterical!

But listen, I totally have to agree with you. The thought of unrefrigerated cheese combined with unrefrigerated mayonnaise makes be barf. I used to tell my mother to only use mustard when she made my sandwiches for school. And I'm OCD when it comes to expiration dates. I actually smell the milk in my frig every single time I use it, in fear that somehow it went bad in the middle of the night.

To me, the worst smell is warm Italian salami!

MVD said...

"To me, the worst smell is warm Italian salami!"

Oh Ron, the jokes I could make from your closing sentence. I suppose that's why polyester was abandoned after its brief victory lap in the late 1970's. It doesn't breathe. And poorly ventilated pants rarely yield pleasant smells, especially on Big Vinnie or Fat Tony.

bluntdelivery said...

haha. your cheese was sweating.. sick.

yea, my mom rocked in pretty much every sense of the word. she had a plate of non-sweaty cheese waiting for me every day after school. And no, i will never know how warm milk smells since i refuse to drink milk in any capacity. it's right up there with mayonnaise and neil diamond.

MVD said...

"she had a plate of non-sweaty cheese waiting for me every day after school"

How very healthy, Brit. I usually had a Twinkie or Devil Dog waiting. As I understand, those things could wait about three lifetimes and still taste fine, considering the unnatural ingredients. Even my mother doesn’t understand why she once bought them. But again, sweets were rationed. It wasn't like I had the entire box hidden under my bedsheets.