Monday, February 07, 2005

Dipping

I went to college in Fresno, the raisin capitol of the world. Fresno rises up from the flat, agricultural badlands of Central California in a miasma of eyeglass-fogging cow shit, throat-searing Pabst Blue Ribbon burps and anus-torching welfare cheese farts. The city is enveloped by the pungent aroma of fresh animal dung steaming under the San Joaquin Valley sun, fostering a dire, depressed environment where the Klan still somehow feels welcome to prance around town in their long white dresses and dunce caps, denouncing Jews and African-Americans and homosexuals and Asian-Americans as second-class citizens. (Trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen grown, ignorant men hopped up on crystal meth, walking down the street dressed as ghosts, claiming to be the leaders of God’s chosen race. If God were an unemployed forklift driver who sat around the trailer drinking generic-label tequila, watching NASCAR on pirated cable TV and wearing a snot-stained undershirt, these people might be right about that chosen people bullshit.)

Living in Fresno is an exercise in amateur anesthesiology. To pass the time until graduation, my buddies and I imbibed quite an array of foreign substances to make ourselves forget where we were. We ate pork rinds. We smoked clove cigarettes and, occasionally, pot. We chose from a selection of beers that the liquor store across Shaw Avenue from the dorms sold for $4.99-a-12-pack --- Natural Light, Meister Brau, Old Milwaukee and the inimitable Pabst. After your fifth or sixth can, you no longer cared that the stuff tasted like monkey piss.

Put the one indulgence I remember most fondly from my college days was chewing tobacco. Every Wednesday night was “Family Night” in Graves Hall, a mid-week celebration whereupon we drank beer, ate Domino’s pizza, watched porn and chomped on what we called the Graves Hall Combo: a big fistful of Beech Nut chewing tobacco wrapped around a wad of Big League Chew bubble gum. The first time I tried it, I nearly puked. The second time, I copped a healthy buzz. And from there, it was smooth sailing. I enjoyed it immensely, but I never had the courage to bring the tradition home with me to Southern California. Civilized people don’t do things like that and, as the saying goes, what happens in Fresno stays in Fresno.

I left Fresno 12 years ago this spring and have never been back. During that span, chewing tobacco has never touched my gums again. But yesterday, while watching the Super Bowl with my neighbors, Jeff The Yankee Fan pulled a tin of cherry flavored Skoal from his pocket and put a huge pinch in the left side of his mouth. Jeff is a Little League baseball coach. He has a big, bush goatee and ends each sentence with the word “brother,” a la Hulk Hogan, the wrestler.

“Hey, Jeff,” I said.

“Yeah, brother?”

“Lemme see that Skoal.”

“Right on, brother.”

He hands me the tin. I open it and take a big whiff. It doesn’t smell good at all --- imagine a combination of cherry flavored cough medicine and a pile of wet leaves --- but I’m curious. I take a small pinch and tuck it into the front of my mouth, between my cheek and my teeth.

The first thing I remember is the spit. When we used to “dip” in Fresno, we’d spit into an empty Diet Coke can (because if you swallow the saliva chewing tobacco produces, you’ll puke your guts out). Once, my dorm buddy, Bill, who used to brag to the girls that he shaved his pubes, mistook his spit can for a half-full can of soda and drank it. I’ve never laughed that hard again.

Jeff The Yankee Fan and I stood outside our neighbor’s garage, talking, spitting, watching the game, spitting, throwing a football, spitting. It was paradise.

In the second half of the game, Hot Wife walked over to where we were watching the game to say hello. We were talking and for some reason I simply cannot explain, I peeled back my bottom lip to reveal the moist, black blob of Cherry Skoal to her. The looked that washed over her face was a mixture of shock, horror, disgust and disappointment. She winced. Her mouth dropped open. And she said, “Is that chewing tobacco? Guh-ross!”

Jeff The Yankee Fan saw her expression and said, “Ohhp! You’re in trouble now, brother.”

And there ended my trip down memory lane.

5 Comments:

At 1:20 PM, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

I was in the Navy stationed at Lemoore, renting a place in Hanford. We used to go to Fresno for the hot life. Shows how exciting Hanford was.

And just how did Hot Wife reward your dipping that night?

 
At 2:03 PM, Blogger Colleen said...

I went to school in Bumblefuck, PA. We actually tipped cows for fun. I am certainly not proud of this.
Thank you for letting me openly confess.

 
At 2:23 PM, Blogger deb in sf said...

I'm giving you the hairy eyeball. No further comment.

 
At 8:38 PM, Blogger Closet Metro said...

I knew this post was gonna be a good one, when you let "anus-torching welfare cheese farts" fly in the second sentence.

 
At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

EWWWWW! Chewing tobacco!!!!

And I *totally* agree with you on Fresno, the zit at the butt of California. Every time I drive even near it (taking I-5 up to Sacramento), I feel the Klan stench mixed with the unhappy mega-cattle-farm vibes.

Terrible area. Really, truly terrible.

 

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