A Porker’s Last Goodbye.

Earlier this week, my boss called me into her office to talk about a story I wrote last week about chicken fried bacon and the fried foods on sale at the San Antonio Rodeo. She told me that she liked my piece, but she wanted to see more perspectives. She wanted a fresh angle on the story. “Tell the story from their angle,” she said.

When she left the pronoun open, I decided to travel to north Texas, to talk to the voices behind that chicken fried bacon. This is that story.

DENTON, Texas — It’s not easy being a pig. But it’s even harder just being Wilbur.

“Well, yes, I know it’s happening soon,” he told me Tuesday. “I’m not an idiot. I saw ‘Food, Inc,’ too. I know it’s coming.”

For patrons at the San Antonio Rodeo & Stock Show, it’s Wilbur that will soon be coming to dinner. On food row, booths can’t keep corn dogs and chicken fried bacon in stock. Vendors are going through hundreds of pounds of pork each day, and with two weeks left in the Rodeo, they’ll need a lot more of Wilbur to keep those soon-to-be-pork-filled bellies happy.

But for an ordinary pig like Wilbur, the end of the road will be as bittersweet as the honey mustard he’ll eventually be served in.

“I always hoped that I’d end up on a Thanksgiving table, maybe as a honey baked ham” he said. “I didn’t think that they might ground me up and use me as the topping on a hot beef sundae.”

Wilbur’s not alone in that sentiment. There are hundreds of porkers here in North Texas, and the majority of these little piggies will not end up at market.

“I don’t have much of a choice,” Wilbur said. “I didn’t think I was going to grow old, to have some farmer wrap me in a blanket. But do I have to be slathered in ranch dressing when I go?”

Still, each new day brings Wilbur one day closer to his deep-fried destiny.

“You can fry me in batter. You can put a stick in me and coat me in cornmeal. You can slap me on a griddle,” Wilbur said. “I guess I can only hope that when I go, I’m delicious.”

A tear starts to crawl across his cheek, falling silently into the mud below Wilbur’s toes.

“That’s all I can ask,” he says.

The Blog Post That May Make Me The Butt of Your Jokes.

For the last 10 days, there has been something wrong with me. I have been slightly more irritable than usual. I’ve been twitchy at work. I’ve gone through long spells when my mind appears to be in a very different place.

Today, I believe I’ve discovered the problem.

I may be bleeding out of my anus.

Now, this is probably not the type of thing you’ve come to this blog to read, and perhaps you’ll be inclined to click away, to read about my mother or my experience with Kosher-approved pornographic advertising. I’ll understand.

I’ll admit that this diagnosis hasn’t been doctor-confirmed. (1) But I’m still confident in it, partially because I can’t imagine many people have spent as much time thinking about their own ass as I have.

Some kids spent their childhoods looking up at the sky and guessing what each cloud resembled. My mother has stories of me, a two-year-old who’d come out of the bathroom describing in great detail what I’d just produced.

In fourth grade, when a family friend was asked what he was thankful for, he replied, “The toilet.” I just nodded in agreement.

At Hannukah, my siblings and I all hoped that mom and dad would gift us the latest edition of “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.” (2) The toilet is where I learned to appreciate Dave Barry’s columns, where I studied the Wall Street Journal’s middle column and where I occasionally penned verse. (3)

You get the idea.

Things get murky (4) about three weeks ago, when I started to feel an odd twinge in my right shoulder. I went to the doctor. His verdict: a pinched nerve in my neck. He told me to take two-a-day of some pill that had more Xs in its name than I cared for.

That night, after popping the first of the pills, I felt something where I didn’t want to. Let’s call it an unwanted tingle.

I blamed it on the chicken fried steak I’d eaten at lunch.

But the tingle was still there on the second day. On the third, I started to feel that something was seriously wrong. I looked, of course, to my stool. (5)

By week’s end, I was really worried. I was twitchy at work. I was tingly when I didn’t want to be — and where I didn’t want to be.

On day seven, I had to drop my laptop off at the store for some repairs — a note that would seem unrelated, except that afterward, I had a sudden urge to check WebMD for advice on my condition. I went to the public library to check my email, read the terms of agreement and decided that Googling anything beginning with the word “anal” might get me banned from all city buildings for the next year.

Finally, I got the laptop back. I checked first to make sure everything was in working order with my Mac — at least everything’s okay on this end, I told myself — and clicked toward my internal diagnostic confirmation.

Gastrointestinal problems? Check. Dermatological discomfort? Check. Special sensations? That might be one way to put it. Never had such an unspeakable tingle sounded more obscurer.

I walked over to the bathroom, where I’d left the bottle of pills on the counter. I felt up my shoulder, and I thought about my other twinge. Suddenly, the pain up top was tolerable.

The symptoms are now starting to subside, but the tingle was still there today. Also worth noting: I haven’t exactly figured out a way to casually mention my temporary condition at the office. It hasn’t been easy keeping my mind off of it, either.

In a chat with my boss this afternoon, I started to drift off. My boss asked if I was listening. I assured her that I was.

“I just can’t tell what you’re thinking about right now,” she said.

I squirmed a little in my seat, and I started to assure her that I had only two things on my mind. (6)

Then I decided that I probably shouldn’t think too much about any number two.

  1. Though, you’ll admit, ‘slight anal leakage’ isn’t exactly a tough one to figure out.
  2. We’ve collected just about every one of his volumes.
  3. Poo-etry, perhaps?
  4. Yes, there’s still time to bail on this blog post yet.
  5. A technique, I learned, of course, via the musical episode of ‘Scrubs.’
  6. I actually meant this new Twitter project and a meeting I had later in the day.

When Voicemail Accidentally Serves as a Time Capsule.

The first thing I heard was a weird scratching on the phone, like aluminum foil was being rubbed against the receiver. Then I heard my mother’s voice, frantic.

“I must have just missed your call,” she said. This was last Thursday.

But I didn’t call, I told her.

That didn’t stop her. “No, Dan,” she said. “I just got your message.”

I didn’t leave a message, I told her, because I hadn’t just called. This seemed to clear things up on my end.

My mother kept talking.

“No, but I just got it. You said you were about to meet Hunter Thompson.”

I paused, the only way a man can pause when your mother calls and insists that you’ve just left a message that you did not leave explaining that you’re about to meet gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who you cannot meet because he died five years ago.

“You’re saying that you just got a message from me, claiming that I’m about to meet a deceased Rolling Stone writer?”

“Yes,” my mother replied, and without hesitation. This seemed like a perfectly normal thing for her to say.

I didn’t know what to say next. Of course, my mother did.

“You said you were sick.”

“I’m not.”

“No, in the message. Are you sick?”

I did not know what to say. To this point in my life, I had never had to deny the unlikely voicemail/I’m sick/meeting dead gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson trifecta. I started considering the possibility that my mother had been taking hallucinogenic drugs.

But thinking out the right way to respond to this line of questioning, something started to click. Back in the fall of 2005, I did get sick, and I did cancel on my friend, Andrew, who I was supposed to go with to meet a Mr. Wright Thompson — then a writer for the Kansas City Star, and now a reporter for ESPN. I asked my mother if the name Wright Thompson sounded familiar.

“Yes, yes, that’s the one. Are you supposed to meet him today?”

I explained that no, I was supposed to meet him in 2005, but I’d canceled because, well… I was sick at the time. Another pause. The timeline began to click into place.

“Do you mean to tell me that today, you just got a voicemail that I left for you five years ago?”

I started laughing, but my mother’s tone didn’t brighten just yet. I could hear her on the other end, still reaching for something motherly to say.

“You sure you’re not sick?” she asked.

And then, finally understanding the absurdity of the whole thing, she started to laugh too.