Three things I hate, besides Monday

A lot of people say there’s too much hate in the world today. I say it’s just directed at the wrong things. Instead of hating other races, other countries and other religions, we should focus on the particular entities that have done us wrong.

Here are a few that I vehemently oppose.

I hate watermelon

Maybe it’s a contempt for the familiar, considering I grew up in a melon-inundated south Florida. Maybe it’s the fact that few other fruits are as physically imposing, so dangerous if dropped that they can break your foot. Maybe it’s the rugged rind, the sticky juice or all those seeds.

Or maybe it’s that it tastes like a cucumber soaked overnight in a cocktail of artificial sweetener, Red Bull and urine.

I ate enough watermelon as a kid to know that I hate it as an adult. It’s supposed to be healthy, containing as much as 92% water, but so does the Gulf of Mexico and you don’t see people drinking that in. It has many hidden vitamins in its rind, which most people avoid eating due to its unappealing flavor (the rind is reputedly even worse than the flesh). It stimulates the body’s production of nitric oxide, thought to relax the blood vessels, much like Viagra does. Still, I’d rather be dehydrated, undernourished and flaccid than eat watermelon.

A suburban legend of my youth was that a kid once got a watermelon seed stuck in his nose, and it took root in the nutrient-rich “soil” of his nostrils. Because the melon can grow so fast, he woke up the next morning with a huge swelling in the center of his face. Doctors at first thought it was a brain tumor, then were even more horrified to learn it was a watermelon, growing right there in his sinuses. They conducted emergency surgery on the poor boy, then had a picnic right there in the operating room, literally enjoying the fruit of their labor.

On my first trip to India, I endured a 36-hour plane ride, off-the-chart jet lag, and the culture shock that comes from encountering unimaginable poverty, intense heat, overcrowding, card-carrying lepers, and the smell of a sewage river next door. But that was nothing compared to what I came upon at my first breakfast. I asked for my usual OJ, and was told that all they had was watermelon juice. There would be no mystical experience of the subcontinent for me. Hundreds of millions of people living in third world squalor is one thing; drinking a liquefied melon first thing in the morning is quite another.

Fun facts about the massive green orb — that it was declared the official state vegetable by a confused Oklahoma state senate, that it is hollowed out and used as a football helmet by fans of football’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, that it can now be grown in square and pyramid shapes — do little to mitigate its status on my list of the most loathsome things in the world.

Ever see David Letterman pitch a truckload of watermelons off the seventh floor of his New York studio? I’m with Dave.

I hate Black Oak Arkansas

I arrived back at the office after lunch Friday, and was honored to have my position as the King of Music Trivia once again confirmed. A debate had arisen in my absence about who recorded the seventies hit “Jim Dandy,” also known as “Jim Dandy to the Rescue.”

“I bet Davis will know,” said Donna and, regrettably, I did. It was the Southern rock band known as Black Oak Arkansas.

I then proceeded to internally hum the timeless chorus — Jim Dandy to the rescue/Jim Dandy to the rescue/Jim Dandy to the rescue/Go Jim Dandy, go — for the rest of the afternoon.

If you’ve never heard this band’s distinctive growling, whining, falsetto style, it may be simply enough to know a little about the group. They formed in 1965 in Black Oak, Ark., and promptly stole their first amplifier system from the local high school. Convicted of grand larceny and sentenced in absentia to 26 years in prison, they fled to the hills to “refine” their musical style, doubtless influenced by the baying hounds that continued searching for them.

By 1969, they had moved on to Memphis, Tenn., and signed a deal with Stax Records. Their debut album, which fortunately is almost impossible to find, is described as representative of their interests in psychedelia, Eastern spiritualism and the Southern Baptist church. They eventually ended up in Los Angeles and toured extensively, gaining a reputation as an impressive live act despite questionable grooming habits.

The year 1973 was a rough one for this country. The last American troops staggered out of Vietnam. The Watergate scandal began to unfold. Lon Cheney, Lyndon Johnson and “Dagwood and Blondie” creator Chic Young died. And a song so upbeat you’d think the singer was meth-addled reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Jim Dandy” had arrived, and he was urgently in need of someone to rescue.

Fortunately, less-than-stellar subsequent releases combined with the nation’s return to relative sobriety to rob “BOA” of its momentum. They faded into obscurity for the next ten years. For their obligatory eighties revival, they were kind enough to record a song called “I Want a Woman with Big Titties,” which quickly sent them back to their deserved place in the shadows.

I hate the immigration officials at Colombo airport in Sri Lanka

In 2007, I made my first visit to the beautiful nation of Sri Lanka (nickname: “India Lite”). I was to spend three weeks training employees of an outsourcing firm my company had hired. Except for a pesky civil war that required armed soldiers to be stationed everywhere except inside my hotel bathroom, it was a wonderful visit.

I should mention that the civil war was in the country, not at the outsourcing company. The workers there were wonderful people, at least the ones who weren’t out sick with Dengue Fever.

Anyway, I found out just before leaving the U.S. that I should’ve had a “working visa” if I intended to do business there. Instead, I had something cryptically called a “landing visa,” which meant they’d let you on the ground at the airport, but only long enough to determine if you were a tourist, who required no further documentation. If you were found to have come for work, I guess they’d make you spend the rest of your life in a small anteroom behind the luggage carousel, jumping up and down so that you were constantly “landing” on Sri Lankan soil.

After I landed in Colombo, I was directed to immigration and customs for “processing,” something I thought was done only to meat. I found the right line, and waited for what seemed like an eternity to learn my fate. Members of the military stood at the ready to dispatch anyone fooling with the rules including, I assumed, the law described on several signs warning that drug trafficking carried an automatic death penalty. I thought about the Ambien I had been prescribed for jet lag, and got even more nervous.

I sidled up to the pasty, shorts-wearing Germans in front of me on the chance I’d be mistaken for one of their group. I thought about my extremely limited German vocabulary, hoping someone would either sneeze (“Gezunheidt”) or invade the Netherlands (“blitzkrieg”) so I could prove myself.

When I got to the official who was to review my passport, he spoke not at all, choosing instead to quietly scroll through his ancient computer screen. He summoned an associate to show him something, and they chatted briefly in Tamil, either about how cool a YouTube video was, or that I might be an enemy insurgent or drug smuggler. More humorless glances in my direction eventually gave way to about a dozen stomps from his official stamper, and I appeared to survive admission to the island nation. But not after a suspenseful interlude that made me more scared than I’d ever been in my life.

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One Response to “Three things I hate, besides Monday”

  1. Paul Dixon Says:

    …”it tastes like a cucumber soaked overnight in a cocktail of artificial sweetener, Red Bull and urine.” Wow…I never thought so. But thinking objectively-I think you missed a good opportunity to further diss this humble fruit by leaving out how it’s long been a feature of many racist jokes.

    Black Oak Arkansas-what else can we say about a band named after a state that can’t even pronounce its own name? (Should be ‘Arkansass’ instead of ‘Arkansaw’.)

    Working visa: Well, at least you fared better than a concert artist friend of mine who landed at Heathrow last year to play 8 concerts. When the Brits (the BRITS!) discovered he lacked the requisite working visa, they briefly handcuffed him, put him in detention for 6 hours, took his laptop, and finally 2 beefy Irish lugs put him on a plane back to Chicago. And these are our FRIENDS!

    Great blog today, by the way!!!

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