For far too long I’ve read and engaged in criticism. I wondered if I was just a small part of the problem, or was I just another idiot jealous of someone else’s vision. Could I not just live my life without understanding someone’s love of country music or slasher movies? Can’t I just live and let, live, man??!!
But what I missed the most out of criticism in adulthood; (which in this country means having endless conversations about TV, movies, music and fad diets), is the critic’s intent. Simply put: I don’t want to critique or know your critique. I want to know what it did for you. I think I could engage in those types of projects. That is serious work I could share with the world. Not is the piece of art of high quality or will it be a timeless representation or does it stack up historically…but how does it make you feel?
I would much rather hear a tale about how some stoner comedy with Seth Rogen made you laugh so hard it made you weep and pee a little. How the movie, even in its weakest turns, lifted your spirits and reminded you of a high school friend who you never see anymore or your checkered past…or how Seth Rogen has the voice of a forty year old man. I want to know if you LOVE something!
A personal impact is something I would carry around a lot longer than Peter Travers or Roger Ebert praising or shitting all over it. Even if the movie or book or restaurant makes you wish you were never born…its worth a few sentences of honesty to share with the rest of the class. Of course, none of this changes my opinion of a film for better or worse. It only makes whiny bitches on the internet more palatable.
To illustrate my point, here are 544 words about fried chicken.
I love fried chicken. It is my favorite thing in the world to eat. I know this because of a lifetime of research. In fact, if I am at a buffet or a potluck, I hit the chicken before anything. Anything.
My brother and I were about 8 and 6 at a family party. It was in Syracuse, at my grandmother’s house and the family was over in the evening celebrating something. Why don’t I know what it was that was worth celebrating? Because my brother and I pigged out on a giant bowl of fried chicken drummettes for what had to be an hour. I don’t remember any events of that year (death of a grandparent, Mount St. Helens erupted, John Lennon killed) but I remember that glorious orgy of chicken.
Daytona Beach, Florida. There is a Popeye’s Chicken somewhere near the main ramp to access the beach right off of A1A. I hated the beach most of the time, but the possibility of a stop to eat chicken in a sweltering, broken down station wagon with weak AC made all the dead skin on my burned back worth it.
Teen years. Sad, poor, stupid. I had a few dollars from a job that where I made $4.42 an hour. When things started to suck I did what all good Americans do. I medicated those feelings with food. Cajun-fried food. With onion rings. And it was goddamned good.
I have to detail Popeye’s Chicken for just a second. I’ve heard a few dissenters out there, but to me, there is no argument. It is the greatest chicken in the world. The first bite of a warm chicken breast, the broad side where all the meat is, is my favorite bite of anything anywhere. The meat is flash fried so quickly the juices all stay inside the chicken and it never dries out. Now that colonel guy whips up some bucket of stuff that is passable in a pinch; but it’s the difference between a ride down the street in a Toyota or a Ferrari.
I had 4 Popeye’s locations within a ten mile radius of my house in Florida. I had all the convenience I needed. (I had to keep them at bay, because if I lived too close, I’d be dead now.) But I planned to move to Oregon in 2005. I checked to see if they had my favorite junky lunch food in the Pacific Northwest. There were only 4 locations in the ENTIRE state! Crap!
After some internal conflicts we decided to move anyway. There was a six month period where I had nothing. (Safeway chicken? Are you kidding? Really?) My fast broke when I stopped at the only Popeye’s outside of the Portland area; located in a truck stop in Aurora, off of I-5. A truck stop! Sacrilege!
But then, as if the chicken gods knew I had arrived, and they were determined to aid me in my quest for heart disease, they opened a new location three miles away from my then apartment in Beaverton. All was right in the deep fried universe.
Every six or seven weeks, I must pray to that Cajun spiced altar. Mild seasoning only. I’m not an animal.
Now that’s love.