Monday, January 23, 2006

Lo me gusta

Irony of ironies, after blogging yesterday about McDonald's food as crowd pleasing banality in the food department where did I end up eating myself but McDonald's. My wife was returning from Paris (no, you're not seeing double, she did in fact just get back from Paris about two months ago--she goes there twice a year on business. It's a dirty job but somebody's got to do it) and I was picking her up at the Columbus Airport, Olivia in tow.

Now among the things I mentioned in yesterday's blog, or at least tried to mention in the sense that it was somewhere in my thoughts even though I probably never got around to putting it in writing in the actual blog, is the way that some people are too proud to admit that they enjoy things like reading a good Mitford novel now and then, or eating at McDonald's. I myself characterized these activities as "guilty pleasures." So I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find that McDonald's itself is starting to act as though eating at McDonald's is too low-brow. When I went into the Columbus McDonald's--which, believe me, I have frequented about as much as any other McDonald's on the planet--I was surprised to find that they had completely remodelled the inside of the joint. Guess what it looks like now? Starbuck's. You know: lots of blonde wood, track lighting, fancy prints on the walls, which are now done in wood and tile rather than, well, whatever that stuff is they use to plaster the walls at other McDonald's. There were big, comfy, modern looking chairs, and even the tables were like the tables at a Starbuck's--the same blonde wood, with pleasing shapes and textures. The only thing missing was a fireplace.

Oh, and coffee that doesn't taste like bacon grease. There was a "cappuccino" machine, but it was one that makes "cappuccino" from a powder, so I didn't try it. I'm willing to admit that I read the Mitford novels, but I'm not willing to drink anything like that. I did, however, enjoy a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Value Meal (not supersized, as I'm not ready yet for the half marathon; I think I'm already in pretty good shape, having been left alone with the kids for six days). Try as they might, however, McDonald's will never be a really classy joint until they start giving you free refills on the triple thick shakes. I ordered a shake with my value meal before noticing that there was a bank of soft drink machines available for those who ordered soft drinks, but I was too much of a wimp to change my order once the lady disappeared into the belly of the McDonald's Machine.

So Olivia and I found a little table together and drank our shakes (she always orders a shake, even when there are free refills on soft drinks available, but usually I get her milk instead; I caved in this time because she hadn't seen her mother in six days, and that's a long time to be trapped in hell with psycho-dad). As we ate I noticed that my cup was covered with slogans in foreign langauges, perhaps another attempt to show how hip, multicultural, and classy McDonald's is. The English version of the slogan was "I'm lovin' it," which probably doesn't do much to promote the project just described, and for some reason I doubt that "Ich liebe es" is a very idiomatic rendering of that phrase into German. I was reminded of the year that Lisa and I hosted a young French high school student for a few weeks. He was in love with American culture generally, but the Harley Davidson in particular. There was a HD store in Durham (we were living in Chapel Hill at the time) so we drove him over there to "shop". He was obviously in seventh heaven--he wandered around the store gaping at all the stuff, especially stuff that had the mystical totem (HD logo) proudly emblazoned. On the drive over, he and I were discussing American colloquialisms. I got it into my head that he might enjoy saying things like "how's it goin'" and "I'm chillin'"--don't ask me why. At any rate, he seemed to like knowing some slang. As he was walking around the HD store, a biker chic happened to say to him "How's it goin'" and you should have seen the look of satisfaction on his face as he said in his most anally-retentive English accent "I am chilling". Just like that--not "I'm chillin'", but "I am chilling." The lady smiled and went back to filing her teeth.

Olivia was oblivious to just about all of this (yes, yes, I know--but I just really wanted to write "olivia" and "oblivious" in a sentence, OK? I've got to work on that sort of thing if I want to write my own Mitfordian novel some day). She was mostly excited about the fact that there were two, count 'em, two toys in her Happy Meal. I've noticed, in fact, that there have been two toys in just about every Happy Meal I've bought in the last year--maybe they're trying to get rid of some junk from their warehouses or something, but we now have an entire kitchen drawer dedicated the cornucopia of crap that we've built up. (OK, OK, no more alliteration, I promise.)

To make a long, boring story shorter but no less boring, it was good to have Lisa home and to hear that Paris still can delight even when you go there twice a year. We got home in record time thanks to a new bypass around Lancaster, but of course the trade-off was that we couldn't stop for junk food in the town that was the birthplace of General William Tecumseh Sherman.

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