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Monday, December 19, 2005


Options are limited for my family when we have short days (8hrs 51mins of daylight), cold weather (18 degrees right now), and a very active 1.5 year old. So what do we do when he's bounced on every wall in the house? The answer is Playland: more specifically McDonald's Playland (I guess it's actually called Playplace, but since every place is a playplace for a little guy, we call it the land of play, because it is of a different world).

I remember visiting some strange family in "upcountry" South Carolina during my first Easter break from college and ordering cheese on a hamburger bun after being dragged to McDonald's. Having read Fast Food Nation, watched Super Size Me, and being a fan of AdBusters, I would have never seen myself going to McDonald's by choice for my own needs - let alone bring my child there. But parenthood and family is all about compromises. I like like to think it makes me a good father.

But I've found it to be not so dreadful a place. Wearing socks and running through stories of bright plastic tunnels and romper rooms is really fun, especially when my little bundle is having a blast. The reason I'm posting about this isn’t because I think Mickey Dee’s is cool, but because of the conversations I've had/have overheard.

The first time we were there I overheard a woman explain to a man that the reason she like Tennessee (where he was from) so dang much was because "you can sit in a diner and smoke in peace while you eat your eggs." Her nine year old son then went around the restaurant telling all of his friends (it was a birthday party) "you know what? In Tennessee you can smoke while you eat eggs in a diner" and the friends responding "COOL!" The golden arches lived up to the stereotype beyond my expectations.

But then something different happened. Later that evening I started talking to a man whose son was playing with my boy. We talked about his daughter who was starting Peace Corps in Bangladesh and how the world she is experiencing is vastly different. He goes on to tell me that "Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 25% of the world's resources." [Sure I found it a bit ironic that we were talking about over consumptive Americans in a McDonald's, but I decided not to go into that].

This evening I started talking to a fella of the same age with the same first name about God. After a few pleasantries I thought he asked me if I liked fishing, and I responded "no." A few moments later I realized we weren't on the same page and said, "Did you say fishing?" He responded, "No, I said God." Waaah? As is my nature, I decided to jump in and found myself in a conversation covering Martin Luther, his "non-denominational family focused church" that follows "a very literal translation of the Bible," snowshoeing, organic food (again ironic), chiropractic work, tattoos, and a host of other subjects. My son and I sat with him and his family of three children and his (young) wife. They were all in plain full body covered clothing including a head covering for the mother of the group.

Right when I left, after I'd given him my phone number (!!!???), I realized how (at least this) Vermont McDonald’s is the nexus of all that is the Green Mountains. Like high school for those with kids, it's the place where every road leads, no matter if you think eggs and cigarettes are cool, are saddened by the American lifestyle, or believe that Jesus is God in human flesh. And you know what, I really appreciate that mix. Now if I can just keep the kid from those insanely addictive fries.


  • At 12:25 AM, Blogger Flatlander said…

    You are hilarious. I can't believe you gave the guy your phone number. You're a damn nice and trusting person.

    As for McDonald's and all fast food, our feeling is everything in moderation. I think it's better to let them experience but also learn that it isn't something that you eat regularly.

  • At 9:07 AM, Anonymous nico said…

    Those lung pictures were frightening. I don't smoke (never have) but I wonder how much second hand smoke I've gotten going to shows over the years while going to shows.

    I once had an internationally renowned French pianist tell me he liked visiting the American South because, like Europe, you could still smoke in a lot of places (how very European of him!)

    I don't think I've run into a single religious proselytizer in Florida in the 18 months I've been here. In Alabama, I ran into them all the time, and of every stripe: Mormons, Hari Krishnas, Baptists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, etc.

  • At 8:53 PM, Blogger Dewey said…

    As for Luther, my most interesting reading of late was in William Manchester's book: "A World Lit Only by Fire" in which he tells of Luther driving away the devil by throwing his own feces at him. (Later this was cleaned up and called ink in Sunday School). This reminded me that in Costa Rica they call Mcdonald's "MacMierda's"


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