Sunday, June 26, 2011

The 509th Condiment Group

We were up in Madison on Friday, demonstrating to Lauren that being the younger sister who is left home when the older sister is off on a weekend trip with her friend is not necessarily the end of the world.

We had a grand time with this – a visit to the zoo, a Chinese dinner, and a bit of retail therapy at the nearby Weird Stuff Emporium, followed by Saturday’s deployment of our free water park passes, a stop at a friend’s son’s high school graduation party, and an evening back in Our Little Town at the annual Great Evangelical Fireworks Show (because artillery is what Jesus was all about, as everyone knows). It’s been busy.

While we were at the zoo we stopped in at the gift shop, because no trip to the zoo is complete without it. It’s a form of donation, and we get neat stuff in the bargain. Lauren came home with a stuffed red panda that she named Rennie and who has not left her sight since.

For my part, I bought a bottle of hot sauce.

Now, I like hot sauce. I’m one of those people who puts hot sauce on pretty much everything, which is what makes me such a joy to eat with. I even made my own a couple of years ago and plan to do it again this summer. But this bottle I bought as a prop, because it is “Atomic Pepper Sauce.”

Every time I teach the atomic bomb class I reserve some time on the last day of the semester to discuss the many and varied ways in which the bomb has become part of the general culture. I have a couple of bottles of “Atomic Apple Juice” and several bars of “Nuclear Chocolate.” I pass out Atomic Fireballs – the old hot cinnamon jawbreakers that I am always somewhat surprised to see still being sold. I tell them the story of Colonel Johnson’s Thermonuclear Ribs, which I detailed in this space last summer. I bring in a box full of after-the-bomb novels and several CDs with songs on the theme. I even hold up a copy of a lad mag that I forced myself to purchase because it had a cover headline promising the reader “Atomic Sex!” I am not sure why that would be desirable, but apparently there is a segment of the magazine-buying public that finds it so and the class seems to get a kick out of it.

But the laughter is always a bit nervous, because after you’ve spent a week reading about Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and 90 minutes debating whether those bombings were justified or not – the apple juice and lad mags seem curiously out of place.

And that’s the point of that exercise.

It’s odd how we domesticate the unthinkable – how we turn catastrophes into manageably tame experiences. I suppose there’s not really much else to do with them, if you want to live your life in any fashion beyond curled up in a fetal position and marinated in cheap gin, but it’s an interesting process when you actually take the time to examine it.

I’m sure that the Atomic Pepper Sauce is a perfectly find product, and at some point I probably will open it up and try it.


Nathan said...

I hope you won't think I'm obnoxious for putting a link here, but your post inspired this set of memories.

David said...

Hi Nathan -

I'm flattered! It was an interesting post to read and I'm glad you linked to it here.