I was eating at a Popeye's Louisiana Chicken establishment when I determined that a plastic spork is about the most worthless thing that has ever been created by mankind, unless you are eating mashed potatoes, in which case, they work just fine.
I came to this conclusion while trying to use a spork to peel off a piece of breast meat. The damn thing broke. I was better off using the broken stem than the product as originally designed. The thing that pushed me to the tipping point was that I suddenly took notice of how many times I said "God damned, piece of shit, motherfucker!" in a sixty second span. It was like a record or something, and all in response to the failure of a cheaply made, relatively innocuous piece of plastic.
I stopped cussing for a while to ponder, and I started thinking about who came up with the idea for the spork. I determined that it could not have been one of the great Eureka moments of history. I would be willing to bet it was more like a couple of backwoods dudes sitting around talking and one of them had a plastic spoon and a pair of wire cutters.
"Lookie here, Jed. Look what I done did."
"Bet you can't do it again."
"Sure as shit can. Throw me that there spoon."
"I ain't done with my gravy yet."
And I would also be more than willing to bet that the first hundred or so sporks ever produced involved an investment in another pair of wire cutters and plastic bag containing a hundred plastic spoons.
But what was really bothering me was that I was trying not get grease on the book that I was reading. People who know me, understand that I can't sit still and eat. My mind is usually more voracious than my belly, and I can put some grub away. When I was a kid, I didn't just read the back of the cereal box at breakfast. I'd read the milk carton, the funnies, the butter wrapper, and my mom's apron.
I was already having serious second thoughts though about the wisdom of bringing the book I was reading into a fried chicken place. It was Martin Amis's collection of essays entitled The Rub of Time. Amis is a well known English author, the son of Kingsley Amis another well known English author. It wouldn't reflect well on me to cover his book in chicken grease.
I have developed a love of studying the style of great essayists like Joan Didion, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley. Martin Amis is a great essayist, one smooth writing, incisive, funny sumofmabitch. I don't agree with a lot of what he writes, but it's not because he doesn't present it well.
He included three essays about the Republican Party of 2011, 2012, and 2016 in this collection. After over a decade of defending conservative values, my guard was ready up to detect the typical liberal assumptions when it comes to writing about conservatives, like pretending that the subject's entire life can be summarized by a single belief, usually one that goes against the author's belief, or acting like an incident that happened over twenty-five years ago cannot be forgiven or forgotten and will forever define a man. It's a good thing that God forgives sin because liberals never do, that is, unless you are another liberal.
Amis has a bad habit of describing human beings as caricatures, making them look one dimensional, but he does a really remarkable job of capturing their worse personal traits while turning them into cartoon images. His writing is tight, witty, acerbic, somewhat elegant and superbly stylistic and even when he is eviscerating someone you somewhat admire, he cuts sharply with a surgeon's precision and causes you to wince.
I felt bad because I loved his style but didn't care much for his politics. Something felt off, I thought that surely a man who writes this well, can not be ignorant of the sins of the current, ill-liberal, liberalism.
I Googled him first thing this morning, and was surprised to find that after a brief period of living in Uruguay, Amis returned to Britain and wrote, "I didn't feel like I was getting more rightwing when I was in Uruguay, but when I got back I felt that I had moved quite a distance to the right while staying in the same place." Which, in my opinion, is the correct way to describe the current state of modern politics.
Amis was also good friends with the noted atheist Christopher Hitchens. So, I felt even better when he described his own agnosticism by saying that the Universe is so large, complex and unknown that there is no way it can be completely understood and that that lack of understanding is far too immense and formidable for it to be definitively argued as not having an intelligent origin. I don't especially like atheists. I know that the universe can seem remarkably cold and heartless, but life gives it meaning not the other way around.
So, I am sitting there in Popeye's Louisiana Chicken, trying my damned well best not to get this book greasy, cursing my decision to eat chicken while I'm reading it, and the damn spork breaks in the middle of the chicken breast, so I start cussing a blue streak.
And it dawns on me that sporks are a lot like atheistic thinking and the lunatic politics of the extreme left. They handle mashed potatoes pretty well, but suck when you really need them.