Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Pita

I was whooshing along with the flow of the faithful flushing towards sin city when I washed up in St George UT. St George has been transformed by real-estate money flowing into it from Mormon retirees escaping California who discovered that their modest homes were worth enough to fiance a lavish retirement in zion; though things have slowed since the housing bubble burst. Millions of dollars of that money has flowed back to CA in order to finance proposition 8, but what has been left over has caused impressive changes.

There are some areas of I-15 that now sport 80MPH speed limits. By the time I hit them the rain had become sunshine, and they made a sunny spring day all the more wonderful.

The little blue highway sign listing places to eat off of exit 10 also listed something new: “The Mad Pita”. There is a Greek food joint called “The Mad Greek” off the same I-15 in Baker CA where I've often stopped when coming or going to Death Valley or the Mojave Scenic area. I've got fond memories of eating there so I decided this mad restaurant would get some of my patronage.

I've had bad experiences when eating in St. George. The southwest is famous for various varieties of ethnic inspired food. The main culinary inspiration for food in St. George appears to be mayonnaise. At one “Mexican” restaurant in St George I was served a burrito that oozed a mixture of mayo-mushroom soup mix and rice when I stabbed it with a fork. My dining companions agreed with me when I described the seepage as having the consistency of maggot-riddled pus. It is difficult to balance images of surgery with ideas of lunch food.

If I had known that “The Mad Pita” was started by a local anesthesiologist (Josh Larson) I may have reconsidered my decision.

The food was not bad, but it was not inspired. AOD ordered a baklava which was microwaved until the crust was leathery, and the walnut filling was almost molten. In light of my other St George eating experiences I can say this may be the best restaurant in town!

However, the eating experience was not what I was interested in writing about.

Like many quickly-conceived eateries the staph wore T-shirts as a uniform. “The Mad Pita”s staph wore T-shirts with pithy sayings, and you could buy one for yourself if you wanted. My favorite uniform saying was: “Too Bad Ignorance Isn't Painful”.

Of course...finding out what some people believe is ignorant can be a little painful.

By the door, at eye level, was a rather large laminated chart labeled “The World History Chart”. I like history so I put on my reading glasses and squinted in to see what kind of events they thought worthy of including. There is so much in the rich history of people on this planet that what you include, and how you say it, can paint wildly differing pictures of our culture. For instance the words “some cave paintings” takes up about as much room as the name “William Shakespeare”.

I did not find the name “William Shakespeare” on this chart, but I did find some surprising things.

First off the whole chart began at 4000BC. One has to start a chart someplace. I've got history wall-charts that begin at 4.5 billion BC, and they don't have the name “William Shakespeare” on them either. One has to prioritize with limited space, and the farther out you go the less space you have. “The World History Chart” was assembled with separate rows for each major geographic area. The USA and Mexico had a row, so did Japan, So did parts of the middle east, so did China.

It was interesting how little the writers of the WHC had to say about China or Japan back close to 4000BC. It was like the parts of a map where nothing interesting can be found. In the middle ages mapmakers would fill these areas with drawings of fanciful beasts or at least the words “here be monsters”. Just empty space on this chart.

Since the WHC starts so late in the development of human civilization it misses one of my favorite times. Interestingly that favorite time also takes place in china where there is ample space to write stuff on the WHC. It is the neolithic period of Chinese history. One reason I like this period so much is the way its existence has been preserved in intricately carved jade artifacts. The other is how the ornamentation of these artifacts shames the artistic sensibilities of Renaissance Europe. Holding up a picture of a jade carving from 8,000bc next to a two dimensional formulaic painting of a medieval Madonna makes the oppressive boot-heal of religious ignorance palpable.

Ignorance can be painful. It can feel like swollen buboes and cholera. It can take on the appearance of pus swimming with maggots. I would not think a shirt reminding people of ignorance would be an effective uniform for food handlers. I am reminded of famous figures in microbiology. People like typhoid Mary.

The WHC also featured vertical colored lines and arrows. These were the events that crossed geographic boundaries. I looked for the great plagues, and found, at about 2350bc, “the flood”.

Standing back a pace and squinting at the WHC gave a clearer picture of what the WHC authors were getting at. In order to make this more clear I went over a picture I took of it with a little color. I've shaded in the areas with text to make them stand out. I've circled the large empty areas where there was apparently no important history. I've also drawn a red line where I remember “the Flood” line occurring.

Perhaps the juxtaposition of the ignorance saying with the WHC is intended irony. It is certainly subtle enough to be a joke easily missed by those who might be offended by it. If it is not intended irony it is obviously a joke missed by the very people who assembled it.

Either way it was nice to have a little laugh with my falafel before hitting the road again.

Perhaps they should make T-shirts that say:

“If Ignorance Is Not Bliss Then I Don't Know What Is”

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