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Peanut Butter and Herring

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington 

Well… once again this year, I have been totally ignored on People Magazine’s list of the Top 50 Most Beautiful People. It’s little injustices like this that make me glad I’m leaving the country.

Olympic speed skater Apollo Ohno made the list. So did Ozzy Osbourne’s wife, Sharon — a woman who recently announced on MTV, “I hate the smell of cooking.”

Reese Witherspoon was also honored. I don’t know who Reece Witherspoon is, or even if he or she is a man or a woman. But the name Reece makes me think of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. Peanut butter is goopy and sticks to the roof of your mouth. It’s not beautiful.

Another reason I am pleased to be leaving America is the new Spiderman movie. Every couple of summers, a movie comes out that gets so obnoxiously hyped before it hits the theaters, it makes me hate the movie without even seeing it.

I remember the last time a superhero movie came out. It was Batman in 1989. I remember walking through Paris on Bastille Day, dodging fire crackers that were being lobbed at anyone who looked like a tourist. I wondered why anybody would throw explosives at visitors to their city when I found my answer: An American family of four — mother, father, sister, brother — all walking down the Champs Elysees wearing matching Batman T-shirts.

Parisians have an unfair reputation for being rude. They’re actually very nice as long as you don’t yell at them for speaking French or put ketchup on your escargots. But American families come to Paris in matching Batman T-shirts, and something inside the Parisians snaps. I’d throw fire crackers too.

One good thing about Spiderman is at least you can’t see the actor’s face through large parts of the film. I hate hyped-up actors more than I hate hyped up movies. Why? Because of the following conversation, which I have every time I try to make movie plans with someone:

Someone: Do you want to go see (insert movie title)?

Me: What’s it about?

Someone: It’s got Reece Witherspoon in it!

This tells me absolutely nothing about the movie. In Denmark, that same conversation goes something like this:

Danish person: Do you want to go see (insert movie title)?

Me: What’s it about?

Danish person: I don’t know, but they sell beer in Danish movie theaters.

Me: Okay.

Note that the Danish version of the above exchange has an extra line in it, in which Dave Fox says to the Danish supporting actor or actress, “Okay.” They go to the theater and drink beer and live happily ever after. Whereas in the American version of the film, the next scene goes like this:

Dave Fox growls, “I did not ASK you if Reece Witherspoon was in it! I ASKED you what it was ABOUT!!!!”

Then Dave Fox summons the Super Dark Forces of Evil to launch a destructive and unpleasant war on the innocent civilians of Planet Reece because they are too dumb to give a straight answer to a simple question.

In the end, the poor stupid people of Planet Reece tell Dave to chill, and they go see the movie with someone else. Dave Fox retreats to his Forces of Evil Cave and sulks. Roll credits.

Yes, I am fully aware that I’m ranting incoherently. I’m under severe stress, caused by the Invasion of the Big Spiders, which happens in my condo every year at this time. I’ve killed three so far. One was as big as Sharon Osborne. It’s time to get out of here.

So tonight, I’m off to Stockholm.

It’s a strange life being a tour guide. The work is stressful but it includes a ridiculous level of certainty. I can tell you, for instance, the exact time within five minutes that I will go to the bathroom on the afternoon of July 19. (2:10 p.m. Central European Time at the Storbælt Bridge rest stop, in case you want to mark your calendar.)

I have also known for months that on June 29, I will eat pickled herring for lunch. It’s stressful having to swallow pickled herring with a smile. I can’t let my tour groups catch on that the “national delecacy” they are eating is as vile as all other national delecacies. But a life so meticulously planned is somehow comforting. My bills are prepaid, there are no dishes to wash, I have only three or four shirts to choose from each morning, and I can make as big of a mess as I want because two days later I get a new hotel room.

For those of you stranded in America amid the Spiderman hype this summer, I offer this advice: Sneak beer into the theater. And if anyone ever figures out what that movie is about, please let me know.

Published on Thursday, May 30, 2002

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