It was 1982. We were young. There was only one urinal.
November 2, 2016 12:02 PM   Subscribe

It is my brother's and my shared belief that a single fast food meal eaten on or about June 6, 1982, ruined the relationship between us in a way that we still don't understand, and from which we have yet to recover. Please bear with me as I set the stage for this incident—an incident which I believe, in its sum, to be as tidy an aperçus as can exist for the essence of siblinghood.
Chris Onstad (yes, that Chris Onstad) on Carl's Jr., and the Thing That Happened There
posted by SansPoint (61 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
They have fried zucchini at Carl's Jr?
posted by Rock Steady at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


As a boy who has a lot of brothers, all I needed in this story was the title to know the whole story. Who has been a boy and not done something like this or had somebody do something like this to them?
posted by mattamatic at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2016


I love Chris Onstad's writing and as soon as I saw the section title INTO THE TRACTOR BEAM OF ACTION I sent it to every Achewood fan I know. Thanks for posting this, SansPoint!
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I tell you these things because they were the gamut of our gustatory landscape in that time. It is a fairly complete survey. Adults had steakhouses where they could, deep in their cups of Brandy Alexanders and muscatel, bluster about cocaine and Roman Polanski, but if we were ever allowed at such affairs, we were simply given coloring books and drinks with grenadine and reminded that Christmas was designed by our silence.

The one shimmering beacon of hope in this blasted hellscape year 2016, is the reemergence of Achewood comics every Friday morning. And now this, the single greatest representation of adulthood-as-seen-by-an-aggrieved-7-year-old ever put to paper.
posted by Mayor West at 12:26 PM on November 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


They have fried zucchini at Carl's Jr?

Yes.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I did not come for the Egghead Software reference, but I certainly stayed for it.
posted by mykescipark at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Brother are hard
posted by igman2001 at 12:28 PM on November 2, 2016


Why didn't he just piss standing up in the toilet cubicle?

Dude your brother is still pissed off at you because you're still lying about why you pissed on him.
posted by howfar at 12:35 PM on November 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


TIL aperçus. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2016


I enjoyed this. Both my brothers were born during the Johnson administration, I was born under Nixon. Perhaps this explains why we're so different.

This is also why I only have one child.

I did not come for the Egghead Software reference, but I certainly stayed for it.

This actually bugged me because I don't think Egghead was around in 1982, but I'll forgive him for it.

McDonald's once proudly showed us, on a Boy Scout field trip, how they threw their food away every fifteen minutes.

This made me laugh out loud. I worked at Burger King and we tossed things every 10 minutes, or at least we were supposed to. I only just now realized how absurd that is.

I could probably write about so many similar incidents between my brothers and I, only taking place at The York Steakhouse or The Red Coach Grill, but it would be too painful. None of us are very close to this day.
posted by bondcliff at 12:42 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Chris's brother is lucky Chris wasn't eating aperçus when this incident happened, am I right
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:44 PM on November 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Poor young Hristo.
posted by mikeh at 12:45 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


TIL aperçus. Thanks.

I sure hope you like asparagus
posted by thelonius at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


After reading that, I understand why the characters in Achewood speak the way they do. (Well, some of them; I'm still not sure about Todd)
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:53 PM on November 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also in lexical discoveries, the difference between "crenulated" and "crenellated." I was going to spray some Muphry's Law all over Mr. Chris, but TIL.

The thing that bugs me is..."floor-length urinal." Either it was a wide, stadium-style trough -- in which case he could have peed next to his brother -- or it was a tall urinal, which I could see there being only one in a fast-food bathroom. I grew up near Danville and, before the one nearer to us opened, went to the Burger King he mentions on special occasions (my father similarly used to request that fast food takeout be ordered "extra hot" so it would still be good by the time it arrived home). I worked at the newer, nearer Burger King a little later than this story occurs, but, long story short, I don't remember whether it had a tall urinal.
posted by rhizome at 12:55 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


He captured that particular time and space in America so well in the beginning of that piece.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:57 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thin pressed-aluminum ashtrays,

How can I suddenly miss something I haven't thought of for years.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:05 PM on November 2, 2016 [33 favorites]


It should be noted that I was a congenitally shy child. Nearly to the present day, I could not perform even the simplest of social operations without succumbing to tears of self-implosion, full well roiling with the knowledge that I was in every way the metaphorical clumsy, dismembered, five-foot articulated elephant penis flopping around on stage at the spelling bee of human existence.
Okay, fine, I'll finally read Achewood.
posted by books for weapons at 1:05 PM on November 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


It's been a while since I laughed so hard that I cried, but that did it.
posted by Dr. Twist at 1:05 PM on November 2, 2016


This actually bugged me because I don't think Egghead was around in 1982, but I'll forgive him for it.

The internet says founded in 1984 in Bellevue, WA.

It still hit the right note of nostalgia though.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:06 PM on November 2, 2016


What bugs you about "floor-length urinal"? It's a urinal that goes all the way down to the floor, just as a floor-length dress goes all the way down to the floor.

My sons are about the same ages as Chris and Hristo in this story, and they have no problem sharing a urinal. I hope this is a sign that will be able to get along well into adulthood.
posted by zsazsa at 1:08 PM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


One of Onstead's great qualities as a writer, besides his ear for how far you can mangle English and the finely observed laser focus on a very specific California gen-x guyness Is his ability to toss off a contempt like being born under a certain president as a star sign that could serve as the structural device for entire other book.
posted by The Whelk at 1:10 PM on November 2, 2016 [14 favorites]


[Couple of comments removed. It's okay to not be a fan of someone there's a post about, but please stop and assess whether you're actually improving the thread by expressing that and if not just shrug it off as something you're not interested in and move on with your day.]
posted by cortex at 1:13 PM on November 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


This was article was basically my childhood. I grew up in a "mixed" family starting at the age of five when my Dad got remarried. I ended up with two brothers, one a year older, one a year younger. I have no idea what my folks were thinking! I remember one time in the house we grew up in there was a linen closet. It was your standard affair with all the shelves basically starting a couple of feet off the floor and more shelves until about a foot from the ceiling. I told my younger brother to get in the bottom space. I then shut the door on him and went outside to play for a while. When I got back inside all you could hear was him yelling for us to let him out. Man, we were mean. I mean hell, another time I had him get into a big canvas sack that I tied up and hoisted up a house post!
posted by KingBoogly at 1:24 PM on November 2, 2016


That's some nice writing. I don't know Achewood but I think I should fix that. Egghead software and pressed aluminum ashtrays make me instantly feel and smell the time he's talking about. The funny thing is I'd find this fairly tiresome and over the top except that nearly every reference was spot on for me.

Parker House rolls and empty fifths of Cutty Sark were no doubt chucked at the closing credits
If he hadn't started by talking about Air Force One I'd assume he was at one of the very many legendary smoke and booze filled parties in my Grandpa's basement in about '82.

the peanut-scented toilet spray on his Air Force One

This shouldn't have made me laugh as hard as it did.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2016


I was a longtime semi-loyal customer of Carl's Jr., thanks to the first of their absurdly long line of 'specialty burgers', the Western Bacon Cheeseburger (which used onion rings instead of raw onions - brilliant!), even through the years of founder Carl Karcher's openly awful politics (although I haven't been back since the current CEO declared his support for Trump - but then, I started to lose my confidence in their food when they added a "Teriyaki Burger" with a slice of grilled pineapple on one side and lettuce and mayo on the other... but I digress). I know my first experience with fried zucchini was at Carl's Jr., but 1982 seems a little early - I thought they added it to the menu around 1990. Never had their "star-shaped chicken nuggets"; being a generation older than Onstad (my Birth President was Eisenhower), I was not the target demographic for that product. Come to think of it, the fried zucchini could've been an older menu item, I was totally enamored with their onion rings and would usually buy an order with the Western Bacon just to put a couple more of them on the burger.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:33 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh. Man. This was a bear at the outset, like lugging a broken-handled suitcase full of bowling balls up a spiral staircase my firehose of condemnation was priming itself with startling alacrity. And then damn if it didn't all turn topsy-turvy and I'm laughing so hard I'm worried my kid will think I'm crying, especially since I am, also, crying.
Hristo. Sonofabitch. There's some kind of something to that. I read that ... that Franzen piece about going to Antartica to watch birds a while back - and of course it necessarily evokes (intentionally or not) the famous and better piece by DFWallace. The problem with that Franzen piece? That perfectly respectable essay about going to Antartica to go bird watching (which, really, you would think ripe for hilarity to the point of the cruise-ship scene in Franzen's own Corrections but so massively isn't, is so gloriously square and just, vanilla (and of course not literal vanilla but metaphorical vanilla, I mean like flavorless paste) that the finer points of the essay are lost in a blur of that particular "New Yorker" font) that piece lacked zest. It had no vim. It was like formica with a silk-screened pattern of bamboo.
Onstead? Onstead should get that Michael Bay contract. He should get a McCarthur. He should write about falling down the stairs, and have it appear in the New Yorker. He's got fucking moxie, and you cannot deny.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Man, trying to explain my relationship with my brother as a difference of Nixon and Carter as birth presidents is really leading me to some uncomfortable truths.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


> This actually bugged me because I don't think Egghead was around in 1982, but I'll forgive him for it.
>The internet says founded in 1984 in Bellevue, WA.


I'm actually wondering if he misremembered the year. Because...

He stood at the lone floor-length urinal, fastidiously undoing the fastenings of his brown corduroy trousers. He pulled the front tails of his shirt up and tucked them carefully under his chin. He spread his feet as far as possible. He was the very poster child for socially responsible urination

At three years old? This level of coordination and focus seems a bit of a stretch.

Note: I'm not questioning him being toilet-trained at that age, nor am I questioning a seven-year-old and three-year-old going to the restroom unaccompanied by a parent. I am just a couple of years older than the author and can vouch that this was normal for the early 80s.
posted by desuetude at 1:46 PM on November 2, 2016


That may explain why me and my cousins don't see each other as much as we used to before the picnic.

1- Be on a picnic with cousins.
2- Decide all cousins need to poop at the same time.
3- Decide to make it fun.
4- Find a secluded spot in the forest.
5- Stand in pairs, facing away from opponent, a foot or so apart.
6- Drop trousers, squat.
7- Lean back slowly until shoulder-blades meet shoulder-blades, mutually supporting each other.
8- Insert hands into opposite sleeve, straight-jacket style, to prevent cheating.
9- Make sure you are the first one to finish and lunge as high and far away as possible as soon as you pinch that last turd.
10- Make sure you are not second to finish. You will have to wear your soccer shorts and mom's extra sweater the rest of the day.
posted by Dr. Curare at 1:46 PM on November 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


(For those interested in trying out Achewood, I've oft heard it said that the best chance for enjoyment lies in starting with the Great Outdoor Fight and then circling back to the start if you dug it.)
posted by tobascodagama at 1:46 PM on November 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: the metaphorical clumsy, dismembered, five-foot articulated elephant penis flopping around on stage at the spelling bee of human existence
posted by Nelson at 1:46 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I am literally crying into my bowl of pho right now.

Thank god both of my boys were born under Obama, as this is exactly the kind of shenanigans they undertake daily.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:47 PM on November 2, 2016


we were simply given coloring books and drinks with grenadine and reminded that Christmas was designed by our silence.

omg what a great sentence.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:50 PM on November 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


I like the presidential zodiac concept; it probably has more validity than the more traditional versions. I was born on the cusp of JFK and LBJ, my sister is solidly LBJ, and my brother is near the LBJ-Nixon cusp. This should lead to some interesting conversations at the next family get-together.
posted by TedW at 2:35 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to like Hardee's, the eastern cousin of Carl's Jr.

Then one day they served me their approximation of a Philly Cheesesteak and it had mayonnaise on it.

Celestial fire failed to consume the restaurant and thus I lost my faith in all divine beings.
posted by delfin at 2:52 PM on November 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is like the much-reviled Sandra Tsing Loh essay except Onstad 1. was a kid when he ruined what should have been a lifelong relationship and 2. is much, much funnier.

Splunge, I almost made the exact same comment as you.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:09 PM on November 2, 2016


So Onstad was Showbiz all along
posted by Countess Elena at 3:20 PM on November 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


straight down the D-hole...

thank god for onstad
posted by joeblough at 3:34 PM on November 2, 2016


seriously - i don't know if any of you guys have been in Kapp's in mountain view, but not only do they have floor length urinals, they are practically walk-in urinals. like a bathtub on it's side. always gave me a fright.
posted by joeblough at 3:36 PM on November 2, 2016


These kinds of stories usually make me incredibly uncomfortable. I was almost always the Hristo figure when they happened in my life comma but when they're written down it's usually from the point of view of the grown up older brother. And they usually still, as an adult, show no empathy for the victims or any sense, no matter how small, that they had done anything even approaching wrong. The fact that this author can see that he wronged Hristo gives me hope for humanity.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:43 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was born under Eisenhower, my brother, Kennedy. We have issues. Yes we do.
posted by Splunge at 3:49 PM on November 2, 2016


Splunge's brother: Avuncular. Can rock a hat.
Splunge: Hatless whelp. Possible womanizer. Nice smile, though.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:57 PM on November 2, 2016


At three years old? This level of coordination and focus seems a bit of a stretch.

At approximately the same age, my youngest nephew was once playing outside when he felt a familiar urge in his bladder. He considered going inside, but that wasn't deemed acceptable. Instead, he waddled over by the mailbox, removed all of his clothing, carefully folded his clothes in a small pile, and piddled on the grass.

A neighbor came up the street halfway through the process. Rather than stop what he was doing, he had the presence of mind that it required only one hand, and waved cheerfully to her with the other.

Now, granted, this is the same nephew who was once caught pooping in a playroom closet, and responded to WHY ARE YOU POOPING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BACK YARD? on another occasion with "Doggie does it."
posted by delfin at 3:58 PM on November 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


Jimmy Carter...Children born under this President typically take it on the ear from those born under preceding and successive Presidents.

Reagan pretended to be a pilot in a movie. Carter actually served as a submariner. During his military career he once had to save a nuclear reactor from meltdown using hand tools.

The sign of Carter indicates humble badassery.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:20 PM on November 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


I would ask if birth presidents transfer to other leaders for those outside the US, but that still means I'm defined by either Reagan or Thatcher so I'd rather not know I think.
posted by eykal at 4:29 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


What is a "land-grab collar"? I can't figure this out for love or money.
posted by BaffledWaffle at 6:51 PM on November 2, 2016


BaffledWaffle What is a "land-grab collar"? I can't figure this out for love or money.
  1. Eponystrical
  2. I figure "land-grab" means it was one of those giant, long collars typical of 70s clothing.
posted by SansPoint at 7:04 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


onstad may be a big brother in dull literal truth but he has the sparkling soul of a little sister. I did not peg my own sibling with a rock to the head, that I recall, but everything I did do I did to see what would happen. this is why we are kindred spirits.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:10 PM on November 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


1. My brother being Johnson and me being Nixon is bullshit.
2. Yes, Carl's Jr. had fried zucchini in those days but did not have star-shaped (or any shaped) chicken nuggets in 1982, unless the East Bay was a test market.
3. I need a Carl's Jr. steak sandwich served on a long sourdough roll with two onion rings right now.
posted by queensissy at 7:37 PM on November 2, 2016


tl;dr: sorry not sorry.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:54 PM on November 2, 2016


I'd be happy with just a double order of onion rings at this point in the evening.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:55 PM on November 2, 2016


...I started to lose my confidence in their food when they added a "Teriyaki Burger" with a slice of grilled pineapple on one side and lettuce and mayo on the other...

Ah. That Teriyaki burger (with bacon, no mayo and half the teriyaki sauce) was one of the few signs of civilized burger construction on the right side of the Pacific. I've had a soft spot for Carl's Jr. since I discovered it.
posted by N-stoff at 8:07 PM on November 2, 2016


i had no idea achewood was back!
posted by andrewcooke at 2:21 AM on November 3, 2016


God, how I loved the sour note of that butane on the fatty acids of that product.

One time I ate at an Italian place that clearly had some sort of problem with their refrigerator, 'cause the tiramisu tasted like tiramisu + some kind of amazing freon-y coolant gas. The fridge-gas flavour had infused into the mascarpone in a serious way.

It was delicious and unearthly and I had no idea if eating it was going to kill me, and I will most likely never experience that incredible taste again.
posted by terretu at 3:03 AM on November 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Huh -- Onstad grew up one town over from me. The Pizza Machine was a fine, fine place with not one but two rolling ball machines. He's a few years younger and maybe wouldn't remember the pre-energy crisis audacity of the place. I speak of it often.

I want to high school down the street from Sushi Bar Hana and always remember the inexplicable handwritten sign in the window and think of it now and again:

SUSHI +-x÷= FUN

Which was like, in later years, yes, but it was not a selling point to high school boys on their way for a quick burger during open campus. (RAW FISH + WEIRD MATH = NOPES).
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:33 PM on November 3, 2016


Onstad's writing reminds me of Wodehouse even more now.
posted by vanar sena at 10:37 AM on November 4, 2016


This is like the much-reviled Sandra Tsing Loh essay except Onstad 1. was a kid when he ruined what should have been a lifelong relationship and 2. is much, much funnier.

Holy hell, this is the thread that introduced me to the hive of scum and villainy that is Metafilter. That beautiful snark was beyond anything I'd yet experienced, and I knew then that I had to lurk for another uh year and a half before paying 5 bucks. More than one trip down memory lane in this post!
posted by Existential Dread at 7:34 PM on November 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


vanar sena: "Onstad's writing reminds me of Wodehouse even more now."

The time Jeeves urinated all over Bertie was indeed memorable.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:16 PM on November 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Nonchalantly piddling on loved ones is probably more an Empress thing.
posted by vanar sena at 2:46 AM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


In my version, they called him Pissie Stink-Bottle because he was always off "draining the newt."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:18 PM on November 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


« Older 50,000-year-old human settlements in Australian...   |   The spiders hiding in the Finnish Museum of... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments