Cooking is a unique form of alchemy. A lot of things go into stew you would not want to eat a handful of. I used to say I learned to cook out of necessity. I was always producing food, growing vegetables, milking goats, collecting eggs and processing chickens. A few recipes would always rise up from the fray and answer the question what the hell am I going to do with all this. First off, I got really good at breakfast. And not just mornings, lunch breakfast, dinner breakfast, breaking fasts with snacks like livermush and eggs chopped up on a bed of grits. Or hard-boiled lunches that come in their own containers. Good, free-range, half wild chicken eggs need no salt or pepper. The worms and crickets in their diets give them that flavor, and a color so orange it yellows the sun. Little burgundy dot in the center says the rooster had his part in it too. Then the vegetables start coming, and they want to drown you in yellow and powder green and shimmering reds beside Cherokee purples. This unlocks a door into worlds of casseroles and canning and really really happy friends. I accomplish my favorite recipe for putting produce to use just setting it out in the break-room at work, watching it walk through the door brimming plastic grocery bags. My all time favorite meal. And chicken, whole chickens, cut into quarters, curing in the fridge three days before rising again with a crown of ice, throned in the freezer. Gallon bags full with stomachs and necks and hearts and fat. My favorite recipe with this resource was found making homemade dog food. Chicken organ oatmeal, I call it. And yes, it is just as disgusting as it sounds. Dogs obsess over it. I also learned a great method of making incredibly way too much chicken noodle soup for one. Now I know you can freeze the stock, and with a hen who has laid eggs for around three years, you get a lot. Aged hens used to be a prairie delicacy, along with fertilized eggs. Now it’s a disclaimer. Best just to cook it off the bone, wrap it in aluminum and give it to a fire until it turns it into barbecue. Started off as a chick chirping in a box at the post office, calling me at five in the morning to let me know I have a package and it’s making noise. Started off as exposed worms while I turned over gardens, so many ants and eaten beetles and butterflies right out of the air. Started off as an egg. The seed of a chicken. With a world overlapped and boiling from the fiery recipe of life. And it is important to remember, a lot of things go into a stew that you do not ever want to eat a handful of.
Can I be funny after all that? Like seriously, how do farts make us laugh so much? What a disgusting little reminder that your body is basically a rent-controlled apartment building for all the bacterial bums of earth. Bums of earth. Yeah that’s not funny. But seriously, me sitting here, trying at typing this out, I’m just daydreaming some grandma walking farts step by step past my door on her way out. My grandma used to do that. Papaw was the farmer, that didn’t stop mamaw crop dusting all of us like we were moldy lettuce. Maybe its timing. Lack of expectation. Focused in on some other direction. And then a sound that immediately reminds you of butts and makes you cover your nose and forces you into refreshed awareness of the most hidden, shame-ridden, closed off, locked up, unmentionable region of our clumsy bodies. You might even hear and jump in your chair and let out a little butt air all of your own. Disgusting little hairy mouths all singing out at the same time like a church choir, raising spirits and lifting robes and punishing anybody nearby who has a nose. Farts. That’s how I start. Wow. I guess you could say it figures. There’s just something about a fart, and the unavoidable laugh a fart triggers. Drum roll farts on gym floors, the little taps that indicate more, the splatter that makes people ask what’s the matter, that little tuft puff fluff of air, the stifled fart you held inside that rolls around and makes your stomach growl. Also how nobody wants to claim one at all until there’s one dude who super wants to claim it. Always one or the other. You never see someone hesitant about claiming a fart. You’re either cupping it up to someone else’s nose, or you are literally taking it with you into the grave. Farts are good like that. They really show you a lot about a person’s priorities in life. And oh yeah, I almost forgot. Beans.
I’m trying to think of an analogy that really demonstrates the difference between how we scrutinize strangers, as opposed to the people sharing our immediate space. All I can think of is road rage. Seeing someone while there is a perceived barrier separating you from them. Little humans rolling around burning gas in far superior mechanisms, feeling ownership over something they did not make, and the underlying inspiration to protect it. We really don’t even consider how everyone else is doing the same. How the body-map image they had of themselves had to change to sit down and absorb a vehicle. Be it political, be it familial, be it work-related or racial or economic. Whichever distinction you are riding behind, looking through, steering with gripped hands and feet pushing pressure. They cut you off, they risk the twenty grand you sank into this explosive contraption, they threaten the family you’re carting, they essentially attack the entire high speed direction down which you’ve hurdled almost your entire being, careening toward a destination those people can’t even imagine. We do not have the time rolling down Eighty-Five at eighty-five to consider they may have destinations of their own in mind. Defensive reactions, life and death responsibilities, check engine light turned on.
Face to face, walking down the street, you might smile at her daughter. He might hold out his hand. Foreheads may nod toward each other like they were magnetized, drawn to share some central space between two brains.
But not inside that car payment, the monthly invoiced reminder that this pace of life is so dangerous you’re already paying for accidents that have yet to happen.
In your recliner like a car seat, stared through computer screens like they were windshields, gripping steering wheels that turn tires across so many jammed lanes of so many social media highways. Hating anyone and anything that impedes or seeks to supersede the imaginary trajectory you’ve imposed onto your imaginary journey. Kids making noise in the back because they’re not driving yet. Gritting your teeth leaned forward because just who the hell do these people think they are.
But if you could climb out of your politics the way you climb out of your car, never, never in a million years would you hate these people debating carpool lanes and traffic stops and where highways end and where all they could begin and guardrails and cutting grass and limitations of speed and limitations of engines and limitations of human sight and ability. They’re people. Sitting in their American-made political machines, engines running louder and stronger than any vehicle you or I will ever operate. People all the same. If you passed either one on the sidewalk, you’d smile and nod without thinking, you might even push out a hand. Both of them have been brave, and put their credibility and careers on the line in a highly tumultuous, unpredictable time. That takes a lot. Try stopping the car and walking. You might just get a better view of the two people talking.
If Donald Trump were actually a legitimate candidate, criticizing his character, scrutinizing his policies and career, even labeling him racist, or bigot, or just generally aloof when it comes to the who what when and where of his own ideas, makes complete sense. But, if he is not a legitimate candidate in the eyes of his supporters, but more of comeuppance, a source of revenge against the liberal trend that elected a black man named Barack Obama, twice, the insults are nothing but complete and apparent validation. I recognize the rhetoric liberal voices are hurling at Trump’s symbolic campaign, I heard them mirrored in the conservative voices that have been defaming and blaming Obama just as passionately for the past eight years. By hating him, you swell his support. You are digging trenches for entrenched people. Donald Trump is just a man. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the presidency chews up men and spits out curve-backed bureaucrats. We’ve had worse, and what’s worse, the worst were never called bigot. At the very least, Trump pulled the mask off the Republican party when he went to put it on himself. At the very least, with him, we already know what to expect. But he makes much more sense as Obama-revenge than a legitimate candidate. This election is not about the two individuals running. Americans have been asked to vote for either fear or revenge to become the next leader of the United States. Same as it ever was.
I could draw you a diagram or present a plea, but rest assured, have little fear, there will never be an election for me. I do the electing in my life. This one puny vote is the entirety of what matters. I elect picking up a pen and turning it into words, clutching paper and farming tools, perched spinning in a desk chair or high upon a thin stool. I elect small humble tasks and they elect me right back. I declare no interest or desire, no chart, no graph, no promise or intent. When the meek start casting votes, the result will never read Jeremiah Trent.
We all use words. Laws are written with them, and to-do lists, final testaments, Facebook statuses. We have had governments promise freedom and yet give us no functional expectation for living in the reality of such a word. I’ve never been handed a universal definition for the word freedom, or even the word fear I keep being told is supposed to shut me up asking about freedom. We all use words. But I want to know what all they entail before I’m used by them.
Let’s say, for the sake of conjecture, fear and freedom don’t have fixed meanings, but are more like compass bearings. By definition, just directions.
We were taught freedom like it was a destination, like we would arrive there someday and plant a flag. But in my experience, freedom is vague, changing, real enough to pursue and yet removed enough to never be discovered. Like a compass-bearing. And you may walk south to get west, and east to go north. Freedom does not give an indication of the mountains that lie between here and freedom. Experienced only in the ability to make progress. Freedom seems to be more directional, like east or west. We may only ever really see it in the face of a compass.