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December 5, 2016


Clearly Leader-Elect Trump enjoys a good food fight.

As America wipes the spaghetti sauce off its ears, we begin to deal with the winner of the edible carnage, and I realize that a Gastronomic Fight Club has a base appeal within me – independent of the outcome. In fact I think the spontaneous thrill found in chaos choreography is also within each of us.

In this last national food fight there were only 2 rules for one fighter: the fight began at a date of his choosing and it ended in one final explosion of fats, carbohydrates and ruffage  – Election Day.  Like it or not,”No Rules” beyond the limits of the steel cage is part of who we are as a country. Mixed Martial Arts fighting makes football look like Swan Lake and yet no one is “shocked, shocked” at its ruffian sensibilities enough to ban organized beat downs.

Our embrace of chaos may be due to the fact that America was initiated as a European Home Invasion by groups of Puritanical humans who wanted the oxymoron of the freedom to have Extreme Rules. If you think it was all pumpkin pie and cider in 17th century New England just read the rules of these zealots. There is the same spirit of Devine Authority that makes ISIS the MMA of diplomacy.

Every MMA fighter needs an opponent. Absent Israel and America ISIS might just be a weird compound of lunatics somewhere in Iraq – kinda like the Puritans in what became Massachusetts. Extremity in the pursuit of Heaven seems a natural dance for a few of us.

The 2016 election food fight embodied the desire by about 46% of voters to be free from the shackles of civility, logic or proper procedure. I actually get that attitude. I get this because I caused and won such an edible debacle. It was 1977. At that time I was in loco parent for about 240 Cornell kids here:


It was the “Gay Dorm” by reputation: it was in fact a place that was dedicated to the creative and performing arts. I love the arts, but I applied to live there (it was selective) because it was 50/50 male/female, and if the rumors were fact, that meant for this 19 year old virginal heterosexual that there would be a certain positive asymmetry of dating opportunities.  If a number of the XY chromosomal options preferred each other (versus the equal number of XX’s) I had a better chance to find expression for the flood of testosterone that dulled most any other cognitive process – (remember in 1977 not even Billy Jean King had yet revealed to we troglodytes that XX’s might like XX’s in similar numbers).

The place came to be the first full-on family experience in my near adult life. Mid-century issues of alcohol and screaming made where I had lived for my first 18 years more threat than harbor until I found this large order family by choice.

I came to be part of this place’s “leadership”-  a Resident Adviser – that counseled all those top 10 students in their high school class who were rejected by Harvard, Princeton and/or Yale to end up stranded in upstate New York. It was a time where sex was often simply a sign of friendship – or the hope of it, drugs were everywhere, the drinking age was 18, and thus there were infinite opportunities for real “issues” that had made Cornell have a high rate of suicide attempts – and sadly successes (I interceded in 2 in my 2 years as an RA).

It may be instructive that this sort of tableau was not uncommon at our enclave (I am lower right):


The tension was often thick, despite the afterglow of unfettered intercourse and the distraction of drugs and alcohol. So when I went to dinner one Friday, after a classic two day architecture school design charrette without sleep, then having professors pontificate about my work product – I was both spent and surly in this space:


I grabbed my gruel, sat down and started shoveling it into my gaping maw. Two tables away, at the “Disco Table” – where New York City Centric glitterati actually wore makeup (both XX & XY) and insane shoes and had hair “styled” were in high celebration. It was centered around a 5ft 4in tall Cuban, Miguel, who was holding court. He was hilarious and high or drunk or both: and would sometimes wander the late night halls buck naked lamenting or bragging about any given night’s exploits.

This night he was clothed but regaling his table at high decibel, even given the 150 others around us in high celebration. I could not tolerate it, and bellowed, above the din:

SHUT UP MIGUEL“. Silence fell in the room

Miguel, enjoying theater, screaming at high pitch and volume: “EAT ME!

The momentary hush that followed was broken by my recitation of the Burger King motto:


An explosion of mass laughter saw Miguel grab a plate of food walk over to me, pull up a chair, stand upon it, looking down upon me,  plate set upon his raised arm:- I was in lay back lounge posture, looking up at him. Knowing that there were no Rules, I instantly reached my arms out wide to both neighboring plates, grabbed the red-sauced spaghetti on both and in one motion flipped two handfuls directly onto Miguel’s face, blinding him.

His plate, thrown, missed its mark, and I leapt up and unloaded the rest of my table’s food upon him, as others rose and joined it, at us, at each other, at Cornell in 1977. Upon that eruption I immediately ran out of the room – the classic sign of Food Fight Victory.

Just like Leader-Elect Trump.

When you write the rules you can declare Victory any way you wish. There is a certain joy in that: the 180 degree reality in distinction to the Puritanical joy found in a surety of “appropriate” means, methods and outcomes. In our post-election deflation millions are nearly bereft, often spontaneously consumed in fear and sadness at a rule breaker’s triumph over normal, realistic and proper expectations.

Unlike those who are so deeply wounded I feel a little like Miguel did 39 years ago: defeated by an onslaught he did not anticipate, by Rules of Engagement that were not objectively fair but practically available to his opponent (me). But Miguel also knew, with his eye sockets caked in marinara sauce, that we were friends, that good theater has a final act, and there would be an after party.

I knew Miguel was a work-study student and would be cleaning up after our mess in his job as one of the student kitchen cleaning staff. So at closing time I went back to the dining hall, and he and I scrubbed away all the flung food. Laughing hysterically.

We may have “faught”, but we were part of a place based in love.  He was an out and proud gay man in 1977. I was a survivor of a Mad Men family. We had both found a respite from a surrounding world that had not always been kind to us. To many there it was just a place to live for a year or two. But to others, like Miguel and me, it was safe harbor.

America has been safe harbor for Puritans and atheists simply because it was based on a larger truth than religious or political beliefs: America is based on the simple reality that fools and saints are humans too – just humans, no more, no less. So when a bizarre human like Leader-Elect Trump creates a food fight and wins, it’s still in the space the Constitution created for all of us: and like the dining hall of my food fight, it exists for us beyond the theater of the moment.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. barbneibart permalink
    December 5, 2016 12:55 pm

    Great post. I remember that food fight (and a few more)! Wondered whatever happened to Miguel.

  2. karen kumor permalink
    December 17, 2016 10:34 am

    Hi Duo, Im catching up on my reading. Love the Miguel story. Hilarious. Can I use it in a script sometime? I may have a place for it in my next script.

    Love to you both.
    Karen Kumor


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