The eight inches of soil covering my buddy L’s septic tank were, surprisingly, unfrozen. Here I had come all this way with pick and wrecking bar, expecting to be of at least some use, and it turned out that the only tools we needed were ordinary shovels. In less than fifteen minutes we were able to clear all the dirt off the aluminum panel that had been placed over the decaying hatch last time the tank was pumped. I insisted we make sure it was removable, so L. got a crowbar and we levered it up.

“Yep, that’s a full septic tank, all right. Damn.” Flump goes the cover back in place. “Mission accomplished,” L. says.

We had known it might not be too big a deal, but L. had decided to take pity on me. This was my first extended time off the mountain and my first real social interaction in over two weeks. And if there were ever a safe time to shirk my caretaker responsibilities, the afternoon and evening of Super Bowl Sunday would be it.

So we talked, looked at books, talked some more, did a minor wiring job, rustled up some supper, and talked. But ’round about 6:15 we found ourselves gravitating toward the back room – the one with the television in it. Hey, why not see what we’re missing? L. is a bit of a pop culture maven.

It was all there, everything I detest about America: the kitsch, the glitz, the adulation of celebrity, the extreme sexual dimorphism, the militaristic triumphalism, the graceless display of brute force. Look, the Tuskegee airmen! A bunch of mentally handicapped people doing a heartwarming rendition of “America the Beautiful”! Bill Clinton and George Herbert Walker Bush marching shoulder to shoulder! Live video feeds of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, watching us watching them and standing, for some reason, at attention! Everyone fixed his or her gaze on the giant video screen when instructed. Everyone held up his or her little laser light and swayed in unison when instructed. Everyone loved Sir Paul McCartney when instructed. It was like a dumbed-down version of the Triumph of the Will.

And then there were the ads. My, my, my. Every time I watch television anymore, I am dumbstruck by how painfully skinny all the supposedly hot babes are. I guess it’s human nature to worship what we are not. You want self-fulfillment? Drive a convertible. Drink Bud Light. Have some more tostitos.

Toward the end of the halftime, L. suddenly said, “You know what? I don’t think I have a chip in the house!”

“Let’s go make some, then,” I said. I do love potato chips.

A little later: “Have you ever done this before?”

“Nope. You?”


It’s not like we needed more food. My belly was still comfortably full from supper – Indian dal soup and several slices of L.’s outstanding sourdough bread, followed by Irish coffee and some imported chocolate. It just felt good to get up and do something.

And the chips came out surprisingly well. Keeping the temperature of the oil as close to 375 degrees as possible turned out to be the single most critical factor in getting a good, crunchy chip. Since I was unable to make each slice precisely 1/16th of an inch thick, there was some variation in crispness, but that was O.K. Lack of uniformity is always a good thing in my book.

We never did get back to the game. At some point this morning I guess I’ll click on Yahoo News and find out which patriotically named team carried the day, and which Eastern seaboard city erupted in jubilation. But first, I gotta go take a dump.

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