To quote from “Withnail and I,” one of my all time favorite films: “Are you a stone or a sponge?”
“Do you like to experience all facets of life, or do you shut yourself off from new experiences?”
In this scene, a large gay man is propositioning a very frightened skinny hetero man late at night.
The quote came to mind recently when I was driving down the I-5 between Oakland and L.A., and was thinking about where to stop for food.
I found myself thinking about Pea Soup Andersen’s, thinking about the Harris Ranch Inn, thinking about the Apricot Tree Inn, and thinking about that Indian place near Bakersfield which has about a dozen billboards hyping it up from 100 miles out, but in the end, where did I stop for my food?
Yup, Jack In The Box and Taco Bell. Trip before that it was Carl’s Junior’s and Starbuck’s. Arby’s is branching out to me.
Guess I’m more stone than sponge.
An old friend of mine, Jeff, who just got back from a trip to Guangzhou, China, to visit his wife’s family, told me of the three and four story tall restaurants they have over there. At one point, after breakfast, he wandered into the lobby where a market sold crocodile, snakes, chicken testicles, silk worms, water roaches and hornet larvae.
Jeff stopped in front of the larvae display, fascinated.
A saleswoman swallowed one of the larvae, showing him there was nothing to be afraid of. Jeff thought about eating one – he told me he wasn’t afraid of eating hornet larvae, but he worried that if he immediately vomited, it might offend the saleswoman, so he demurred.
I accused him of being, like me, a food stone. He countered that he didn’t think of himself as a full fledged stone. He thought of himself as a little more porous: “I won’t jump off the cliff, but I sure as hell love to look over the edge!” he said.
He pointed out that he ate pig lung soup, not once, but twice, on the trip, and enjoyed every bite.
I countered with a story of my own: I once went on a tapas crawl in Sevilla with Spanish relatives, and at one bar, I sampled the house specialty, calf testicles. Had to. They were my dear aunt’s favorite – she ordered them special for me. And the way she stared so expectantly at me – I couldn’t bear the thought of disappointing her.
So I guess I do have a little porosity in me, too, but I definitely tilt more stone than sponge:
Experimental gay sex in college? Nope.
Piercings or tattoos? Nope.
Buying – or even renting – a frivolous sports car? Nope.
The calf testicles were a little rubbery, basically flavorless to my unrefined palate. But I have to say, even though I didn’t gag or vomit, I have no burning desire to try them again.
Good lord, either I know myself really, really well, and am comfortable with who I am, or I’m scared to death of jumping off the cliff.