Eating McDonald's Fries Until I Puked Helped Me Understand Trump's America

Eating McDonald's Fries Until I Puked Helped Me Understand Trump's America
PHOTO BY MARYNA BURNATNA

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click to enlarge Technology and rigorous scientific method​ meet​​ in the service of​ Real Journalism vis-à-vis ​f​rench fries. - PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Technology and rigorous scientific method​ meet​​ in the service of​ Real Journalism vis-à-vis ​f​rench fries.

Opportunity strikes when she pulls out her cell phone and asks her husband to record the inauguration for her. She has been trying to watch the proceedings with an iPad and a set of headphones, but she's experiencing technical difficulties. I offer to let her watch on my laptop, and she invites me over — best seat in the house, secured. That's how I meet Bonnie.

Bonnie looks to be in her late fifties, with short, sandy-blonde hair, glasses and a jacket pulled up over her shoulders for warmth. She is grateful for the assist, but confused by my kitchen scale. I explain my four-pound mission, which she thinks is pretty funny.

My first batch of fries comes just as the Missouri State University Chorale begins to sing on screen. This order weighs in at just over four ounces, and as the voices of the singers soar to the heavens, I eat my first fry. As delicious as ever, it touches my tongue and immediately sends my tastebuds into an orgasm of salty, greasy delight. This is America. I am winning.

"Did they swear him in yet?" asks a McDonald's employee named Jean.

"Not yet. But Missouri State is singing," Bonnie replies, swelling with hometown pride. "And Roy Blunt was on there earlier. He's kind of the head of the inauguration!"

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is next to take the stage, slyly giving a speech at Trump's inauguration without speaking Trump's name even once. Meanwhile I power through my first order of fries, blissful but still hungry.

My second order weighs less than the first — just over three ounces. I eat it greedily and gleefully while Justice Clarence Thomas swears in Mike Pence as our country's new vice president.

Jean pipes up again, voicing her disapproval at the Democratic congressmen who opted not to attend the inauguration.

"I got so irritated I thought, those 60 or whatever that did not attend — talk about a basket of deplorables!" she says. Bonnie nods in agreement.

Attempting to direct us back to the things that we can agree on as a country rather than the things that divide us, I bring our collective attention back to the good. "I'm just talking about this basket of french fries," I quip. Jean and Bonnie both laugh. Crisis averted.

I finish off my second order, and Bonnie seems skeptical. "Four pounds is a lot of fries," she says. I dismiss her concerns — what could possibly go wrong? French fries are good and wholesome and American, and everyone knows it.

I dive into my third order while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings "America the Beautiful." The coupling of such a patriotic song with the consumption of such a patriotic foodstuff makes my heart weep red, white and blue tears of joy. I'm up over half a pound now, and the sky is the limit.

Chief Justice John Roberts appears next. The big moment has arrived: the swearing-in of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.

But around this time, toward the end of my third round of fries, my system begins to protest. I begin sweating sheer grease from my brow, my blood thickening and slowing. Determined, I press on, but as I start my fourth order, I'm starting to feel nauseous.

As Trump is officially declared President, a loud cheer goes up in Washington, while Bonnie and Jean nod approvingly and smile, clearly pleased that America is now Great Again. Trump takes the podium, red tie blazing, and launches into his inaugural speech.

At this point the mounting potato poisoning begins to affect my perception of reality. I could swear I see rain and umbrellas and ponchos throughout the speech — but as we all know from Trump's later visit to CIA headquarters, the rain stopped immediately and it became "really sunny" when he began to speak. The fries must have deceived me, because the notion that a sitting president would lie about, of all things, the weather is just too fucking insane to even consider.

My condition only worsens as the speech continues. Trump speaks of "carnage," and "blood," and "decay," and "tombstones." I finish my fourth order of fries and start on the fifth — but I'm gagging on their salty greasiness. My stomach knots up in pain.

"Did you get all your potatoes eaten?" Jean asks.

"No not yet," I reply. "And it's starting to get difficult."

"Looks like it's raining," Bonnie says as she watches the screen, apparently afflicted somehow with potato poisoning by proxy.

"Yeah it seems like it started right when he started talking," I reply, by now clearly hallucinating and delirious.

"I don't know if that's a good sign or not," Bonnie says with a laugh. "I think one thing that's good — we don't need any more politicians; we need a businessman for this country. And Trump — he might be good. You don't get that rich by just sitting around in your office eating candy."

At the thought of eating (candy, fries, anything), I can feel my vital organs beginning to shut down, clogged with grease and petroleum byproduct and 10 percent potato. As Trump finishes his speech, I excuse myself to the bathroom, where I proceed to vomit.

The process is like the puke version of a Play-Doh Fun Factory: I haven't been drinking anything, save small sips of water, so the fries return in much the form they originally went down — a mushy, disgusting paste that's more exuded than propelled. It tastes exactly the same coming out as going in. My body hasn't had time enough to break this "food" down yet, so there's not even a hint of bile.

click to enlarge The horror! The horror! - PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
The horror! The horror!

Still, what I witness is the strangest thing, and I return to my table seriously disturbed. Beneath that golden, crispy exterior, are McDonald's fries no more than puked-up potato? I take a single fry and cut it open with a pocket knife, slicing very carefully and surgically to examine the insides. To my shock and abject horror, I find that it is filled with vomit — the exact manner of vomit I'd just flushed from my system and down the toilet.

Or maybe I'm still hallucinating? At that moment, though, I'm convinced that the scales have fallen from my eyes. I finally see the world for what it is.

Scratch the surface, and the grand promise of a brighter future reveals itself to be nothing but more hopelessness, concealed behind a gold-colored facade. Sure, indulging yourself feels good for a while — great, even — but an overdose on the lowest common denominator will inevitably prove toxic. The system simply cannot stand up to such an assault.

All told, I consume 17.7 ounces of fries — well short of the four pounds I'd assumed my body could handle. But I am done.

Shaken, I turn to my new friend and discuss politics. Calen wouldn't approve, but I have to take my mind off the horrors I've just seen. Fries are no longer a spot of common ground; they are the enemy itself.

"I met a guy at a bar last night who thinks there's gonna be a civil war soon," I say.

"You're kidding," Bonnie replies. "That's crazy. I don't think so."

I tell her about Josh's assertion that the South will rise again, and she just rolls her eyes and groans.

"These years coming up will be interesting," Bonnie offers. "If everybody would reunite and not just — not have Democrats that just don't want to do anything, just to make him look bad. It's craziness, because whatever's best for our country needs to be what is done. Not what's, you know, just 'cause they want to act like a bunch of asses."

On the surface, I agree whole- heartedly. But quietly, I fear her candidate just may be filled with the stuff fries are made of.

Disillusioned with the future, the fries, the city of St. Joseph and the state of American politics in general, I drive back to St. Louis with a stomach ache.

It hasn't subsided since.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI

About The Author

Daniel Hill

Daniel Hill is the managing editor for the Riverfront Times and he demands to be taken seriously, despite all evidence to the contrary. Follow him on Twitter at @rftmusic.
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