A Tale of Two Presidents

After the riots were finally over and the broken glass was all swept up, Barack Obama and Donald Trump put on their colorful Christmas sweaters, their best khaki pants, and their brand new penny loafers. They pranced down the street, arm in arm, proud to be the new Co Presidents of the United States. They went into Cici’s Pizza and “killed the buffet” together, scarfing down countless slices of spinach Alfredo pizza, pineapple and ham pizza, barbecue chicken pizza, and cheddar cheese scorpion pizza. Once their tummies were full, Trump and Obama returned to the White House. They sat up all night in the Lincoln Bedroom, watching Full House DVDs and writing love letters to John Stamos in purple ink with lots of little hearts.

 

Matthew David Curry 2016

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The Noid

Here’s a pencil drawing I just finished this morning. It’s a picture of the Noid, a character from the Domino’s Pizza commercials back in the 80s. The Noid was a creation of Will Vinton Studios, who also brought us the California Raisins. I was fascinated with the Noid when I was a kid. Still am.

My encounter with Conan O’Brien

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I was in my bathroom the other day, cleaning out the cabinet under the sink. I noticed a little green door in the back of the cabinet, a little door I had never seen before. I opened it and crawled through … and I entered a magical shopping mall filled with frolicking unicorns and dancing leprechauns and Lionel Richie music. In the food court of the magical mall, there was a KFC. I went inside it and (behold!) Conan O’Brien was sitting at a table. I asked if I could sit with him and (behold!) he said I could.

Then, as we were eating, he leaned over and whispered something to me. He said he was a risk-taker and a rule-breaker and a cake-baker and a yard-raker. I was amazed! And then he confided in me further and revealed that he was a smooth-talker and a fast-walker and a Facebook-stalker and a bathtub-caulker! While he was telling me all this, I discreetly reached over and stole a chicken wing from him.

Filled with rage, Conan O’Brien transformed into a pterodactyl and flew away, spraying me with dung as he flapped out of the restaurant. I was sad because I had failed to get his autograph … but I happily scarfed down the rest of his coleslaw and mashed potatoes.

So it goes, so it goes.

The diet dilemma

I recently discovered a new comfort food: scorched English muffins with grape jelly smeared on them. (They’re always scorched because my decrepit little toaster oven has gone haywire and the timer no longer works.) I spent most of my Thanksgiving break lounging on the couch, watching Benson, and eating a charred English muffin from time to time. It was heavenly.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to go on the Atkins Diet, but I ran out of food … and I didn’t have enough money to buy more Atkins-friendly groceries.

So I’m trying to lose weight the “regular” way: power-walking at the park, cutting back on soda, drinking more water, and avoiding food that tastes good.

Still, I wish I could continue with Atkins. I lost 70 pounds that way in 2003.

The Atkins Diet is easy if:

1.) You have an unlimited amount of money.

2.) You’re the only human being on Earth.

I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to stick with the Atkins Diet during social gatherings. If you say you’re on the Atkins Diet (or any diet, for that matter) people immediately start to squirm and twitch. Maybe it’s because they think you’re miserable and they feel sorry for you. Maybe they’re worried about your health and well-being. Perhaps they can’t enjoy their own food while you’re sitting in their presence, “depriving” yourself.

Whatever the reason, if you arrive at a birthday party and tell people you’re on the Atkins Diet, they will inevitably pin you to the floor and cram handfuls of cake and ice cream down your throat. It’s just a law of nature.

It doesn’t matter if you say, “Hey, don’t feel bad for me. I’m fine. My body is in ketosis right now. My appetite is pretty much non-existent. Just go ahead and enjoy your food and don’t worry about me, OK?”

They won’t listen. They will force you to eat what they’re eating.

***

Before my doctor absconded to Mexico without warning, he told me that exercise is the most important part of an effective weight-loss program. While your dietary choices are obviously crucial, your exercise regimen is the real key to getting rid of fat. (Marcia, please correct me if I’m wrong. You know more about these things than I do.) I’ve made it a point to start walking at the track a few times a week. In fact, I need to finish typing this post so I can get up early in the morning and take a good, long walk.

Still, my relationship with food is what got me into this situation to begin with. Especially fast food.

In the back of my mind, there’s a hazy memory of a family road trip. I was about three years old. It was late at night, but I was wide awake. Boredom gnawed at my mind as I sat in the back seat, watching illuminated billboards float by in the darkness. (We were traveling from Central Florida to Northwest Georgia. It was a horrendously long ride, especially for a child.) My heart skipped with delight when my dad veered off the interstate and stopped at McDonald’s. I got a Happy Meal. The hamburger and fries were delicious. There was also a plastic pencil sharpener in the shape of Grimace, one the McDonald’s characters.

The feeling of boredom and restlessness gave way to euphoria as I ate my hamburger and played with my new trinket. In my little toddler mind, there was almost no difference between the Happy Meal and … say, Christmas morning.

That’s where it all started, I think.

I’m a grown man now and I’m responsible for my own actions, including my eating habits. But I’ve always found myself reaching for fast food whenever I feel anxious and uneasy — and I always feel a little bit anxious and uneasy.

***

I’m not going to draw anything else for the rest of the year. I want to spend the whole month of December relaxing, praying, reflecting on 2013, and taking stock of myself. (And eating burnt English muffins. And watching Benson. You know, I drew a picture of Robert Guillaume the other night and sent it to him on Twitter. It actually looked more like O.J. Simpson, but Mr. Guillaume seemed flattered. And that’s all that really matters.)

Anyway, I will write more later. It’s late. I need to sleep.

In the meantime, here are some “healthy” foods that I plan to start eating on a regular basis. If you would like to suggest some more, feel free to post a comment below.

* Broccoli with melted cheese

* Grilled chicken from KFC (by the bucketload)

* Canned corn

* The aforementioned English muffins

* Banana chips

* Baked potato chips

* Raisin bagels

* Tuna

Miller, Spock, and the Colonel



Here are a few pictures I’ve drawn lately in my Moleskine sketchbook. One is a caricature of Donald Miller, an author I like. The second is Spock from Star Trek and the third is Colonel Sanders. (I drew the Colonel from a black and white photo I found on Google. In all the photos I’ve seen, his face looks different from the illustration you see on the KFC signs.)

I just reformatted and re-uploaded Under the Electric Sun and gave it a new cover. I also finished another book recently, a dark comedy set in Alabama. My friend Hannah is proofreading it right now. I’m planning to upload it to Kindle as soon as she’s finished. I designed a cover for it yesterday afternoon.

Anyway, I’m exhausted. My brain needs to rest now. I feel like a hamster running inside a plastic wheel. For the next several days, I’m not going to write or draw anything. I plan to spend my evenings lying on the couch with the window open, letting a nice breeze blow in on me while I read. I keep buying these cheap paperback novels at the Dollar General, but I haven’t gotten around to reading any of them. It’s time to do that now. I’m also going to do some praying. I haven’t done enough of that lately, but I need to. My relationship with Jesus is the only thing that really keeps me sane.

Hope you have a good week. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

(Oh, I almost forgot. You can click here to download a copy of the book.)

Ann Bisky (and Kenny Rogers)

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Here’s a drawing of my friend Ann Bisky. She writes, tweets, and creates amusing YouTube videos.

Last week, someone visited Ann’s blog and posted a link to a self-help book. Ann was annoyed with the person for using her blog as a promotional platform … but she was even more offended because the self-help book was about gambling. Ann felt like the person was insinuating that she had a gambling problem … but Ann doesn’t gamble at all.

When she told me about it, I immediately sent her a video of Kenny Rogers singing The Gambler. We had a nice little laugh about it.

Afterward, I poked around on YouTube and stumbled across more Kenny Rogers videos. I discovered some old commercials for Kenny Rogers Roasters, a food chain that served “home cooked” food and specialized in chicken. I saw those restaurants when I was a kid, but I never ate at them. (Whenever my parents wanted chicken, we headed to KFC. Colonel Sanders was a staple of my childhood. At all the important family gatherings, I remember seeing red and white buckets everywhere, speckled with warm grease.)

I haven’t seen Kenny Rogers Roasters since the early ’90s. I’ve never given it much thought, but I always assumed (in the very back of my mind) that the business sank like a rock and Kenny Rogers was sitting in a dimly lit room somewhere, hurling whiskey bottles at the wall and cursing Colonel Sanders.

However, I did some research on the subject. (In other words, I glanced at Wikipedia for seven seconds.) As it turns out, Kenny’s chicken empire is still alive and well … but not in the United States. According to the Wikipedia article, Kenny Rogers Roasters “continues to flourish in Asia, particularly in Malaysia and the Philippines.”

As I skimmed over the Wikipedia article, I was shocked and amazed. It’s so surreal (to me, anyway) to imagine people in Malaysia and the Philippines eating good ole Southern home cookin’. (Especially at a restaurant with the name “Kenny Rogers” written in blazing red letters above the door.)

For me, it’s perfectly normal to have lunch at a Chinese restaurant … or sit down in a sushi restaurant with my cousin Ellice and struggle to operate a pair of chopsticks … or go to a Mexican restaurant … or go to Outback Steakhouse, a restaurant with Australian signs hanging everywhere. But it blows my mind when I realize that people in other countries eat at American restaurants. (Think of the way Marty McFly reacted in Back to the Future 2 when he stepped into the Café ’80s.)

After I mulled it over for a little while, I realized that I’ve experienced this same feeling before. Many years ago, when I visited Germany, my friend Jochen told me that everybody refers to McDonald’s as “The American Embassy.”

I still laugh about that sometimes.

I didn’t sleep much last night because I was working on Ann’s portrait. I need to rest now. I’ll leave you with these videos…

Spicy Cajun Crawtators

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Thirteen years ago, I worked at a potato chip bag factory in Rome, Georgia. I worked two or three nights a week, for twelve hours a night. Looking back on it, the job wasn’t really that bad — but at the time, I thought I was in Purgatory.

Most of my memories of the job have faded away, but I do remember making bags for a brand called Zapp’s. The bags had a distinctive look about them. I remember the shiny vertical stripes and the funky way the letter “Z” was scrawled. Zapp’s offered a peculiar array of flavors. The two that still stand out in my mind are “Gator Tators” and “Spicy Cajun Crawtators.” I was so intrigued that I went to Kroger and bought a few bags. They were delicious. Back then, kettle-cooked chips were rare.

A couple of years later, in 2003, I dated a girl named Ashleigh. One day, I was telling her about my experience at the potato chip bag factory and I mentioned the Spicy Cajun Crawtators to her. She laughed and rolled her eyes. She thought I was making it up.

I said, “No! I’m being completely serious! There really is a potato chip called a ‘Spicy Cajun Crawtator.’ It’s a crawdad-flavored chip! I’ll prove it to you! I’ll go to the grocery store and get some!”

But I couldn’t find any when I went to Kroger. They had disappeared from the shelves. It was as if the Zapp’s brand had never existed. I looked like a liar.

This afternoon, I was roaming around in Ingle’s. I don’t normally set foot in there, but I wanted to see what it would be like to buy fresh groceries and prepare food at home, rather than living on a steady diet of fast food and vending machine trash. While I was searching for beef chunks (for a stew I planned to make) I suddenly found myself face to face with a ghost from my past: Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtators. There were a few other flavors on the shelf too … but I grabbed the Crawtators.

And now I have proof. I took a photo. Look, Ashleigh. See? See? They’re real. I wasn’t lying to you. I didn’t make it up. Spicy Cajun Crawtators are a reality. After ten years, I’ve finally been vindicated.

 

My e-book, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. It’s a young adult science fiction novel about a boy, an electronic raccoon, and a giant insect from another world. The story takes place in a high-tech underground city beneath the burned-out ruins of Washington, DC. (I don’t recommend it for young children.) Click here to download a copy to your Kindle, computer, or iPhone. You may need to download a Kindle app if you want to read it on your computer.

The Crushed Tomato

When I first washed up in Chattooga County back in the summer of 2001, I wasn’t very fond of this place at all. I thought it was boring, old-fashioned, and too small. I was eager to relocate as quickly as possible and wipe this town from my memory. That was my plan for a few years … and then a few years became a few MORE years. Now I’ve been living here for over a decade — driving past the courthouse with the gold dome every day, mingling with the entire population of the town every time I walk through Walmart, and admiring the wooden Sequoyah figure in Dowdy Park when I pass by it. (I’m assuming it’s Sequoyah, but I could be wrong.)

I’ve grown to love this community and appreciate its little quirks. And I’ve become so accustomed to it that I feel overwhelmed when I travel anywhere else. When I drive to Rome, my hometown, I feel like I’m in New York City.

Over the past twelve years, I’ve learned to be very cautious of the small, locally-owned restaurants that spring up in Chattooga County. As soon as I get used to eating at them, they fold up and go out of business a week later … and I’m left feeling disappointed and betrayed. I don’t even bother patronizing those places anymore. Call me bitter if you want.

For a while now, there’s been a buzz about a pizza place called The Crushed Tomato. I heard a lot of great things about it when it opened, so I made up my mind I would never eat there. I didn’t want to set myself up for another heartbreak.

But the restaurant is still around and it seems to be thriving. So I reluctantly decided to check it out a couple of weeks ago.

I’m glad I did. The pizza, first of all, is delicious. (And reasonably priced.) But the thing I like most is the atmosphere. It’s an old building. The walls are made of brick — with no paint — and there are vintage Coca-Cola signs hanging everywhere, along with some other interesting antiques. There’s something magical about it. The people who work there are very friendly too.

I hope it stays in business for a long, long time.