I live in New York, and I have been stewing for a while over my dear colleague Solomon’s scathing attack on the culinary savvy of New Yorkers. While I recognize that California has better cuisine than New York (this is indisputable), there are still some good eats to be had in town (mostly in Queens), and New Yorkers don’t all eat damn ramen burgers. We do have some taste. I wanted to demonstrate this in a socially conscious way by going to an eatery that served like, Palestinian food or something, but I just got back from a conference, and I’m still waiting for my loan money to be disbursed, so it doesn’t feel comfortable to throw money around for eating out. What could I find that would demonstrate the culinary genius that sets New York apart, that also fits into my budget with ease?
One dollar is not so much that I’ll really feel it between now and when my loan is disbursed, so why the hell not. I gathered exactly four quarters and headed in to try the burger. But in spite of the government being shut down, not only are our murder-marines still occupying other people’s countries, but they’re still charging sales tax, which came to nine cents. I don’t think it should be legal for sales tax to be more than 1% of what hourly minimum wage is, but in New York City, it is. I picked up the pennies on the floor of the restaurant, but I could only find eight. The guy behind the counter (Paul) let me have my burger anyway, because he has class consciousness.
So while I waited, I checked the normal Value Menu and noticed that there was a similar item on the menu for the same price that wasn’t for a “limited time only”: The BK Bacon Burger. Now I’m not part of the internet bacon cult, but it’s widely known that meat costs more than potatoes, and other than replacing that bacon with a few measly french fries, the two items were basically the same. So in effect the advertisement to customers ought to read: “Pay us for less than we would otherwise give you, FOR A LIMITED TIME!” But that’s capitalism for you I guess. But I do really love junk food, and I was genuinely excited when they called my number. I’m not gonna lie: I got a half-chub as I opened up the wrapping paper around the burger.
It tasted pretty much how you would expect it to taste: Like the sad pleasures of the working class in the brutal capitalist system that dominates America. As I took the first bite, my half-chub became a full-chub. It’s a good thing I was sitting down at a table, because I was wearing track pants and that wouldn’t have been easy to conceal. The potatoes didn’t have a very strong taste contribution, it just basically tasted like every bite of a burger tastes when you’re eating fries in between the bites of the burger, except without the added pleasure of actually being able to eat some fries dipped in the sauce of your choice. My experience may have varied slightly from the average one as it was the first thing I had had to eat that day, and the taste of Four Loko was still on my breath.
As I sat there, alone, eating this tiny-ass burger in the Burger King outside of my school, I thought about my research, and I thought about my writings for Be Young & Shut Up. I thought about how I have been reduced to raising your awareness about the latest stupid ideas that corporate pigs who get paid more than I could ever dream to make to come up with really terrible ideas for minor variations in fast food menus and try to come up with a sociological message out of them. I finished my burger in silence, and I felt the absence of that burger. It was a fleeting joy, eating the fat and the grease, and it could never assuage the profound emptiness that this callous capitalist nightmare society has created within all of our lives. I could buy still more cheap thrills, but only at the risk of falling to lower depths of depravity later, when the money ran out. I briefly considered ending my life, as after all, it would only mean rushing quicker towards the inevitable. But I stopped myself, knowing I still have work to do in this life, and maybe there is some chance that I will be able to reach a new plateau, and maybe truly contribute to tangible social change, and a future where poor people’s lives can contain more meaning than what the consumption of low-quality food products sold to them by the exploitative classes can provide. So all in all, I would rate the experience 3 french fries out of 5.