by Mort Poisson

Goddamn it, I was hungry...and I was eating! Scooping up another bite of semi-runny eggs and tantalizingly golden hash browns at one of those diners-with-no-name where you can expect a great unfussy meal in a part of town where diesel exhaust just edges out oxygen as the inhalant of choice, I made a fateful decision - one that would cement my future, and, whether you believe it or not, dear readers, your own. While enjoying the sheerunpretentious pleasures of a breakfast well made, I casually flipped through the pages of our local worthless daily newspaper and was suddenly subjected to the single most offensive moment of my tenure in this sometimes lovable, but often offensive town. This was spine tinglingly offensive! More offensive than my decidedly unpleasant encounter with local celeb (and reigning den mother of "Ice Queens for Christ") Sue Mroz; more offensive than the interminable dinner I spent trapped sitting across from a certain hyper-evangalizing "born again" alderman (who's name I shant mention for fear the motherfucker will insist on talking to me again); more offensive than my time spent avoiding the exhaled air of the diseased members of the Rockford Institute; even more offensive than my well documented holiday lunch of $20-a-plate Alpo in the company of the repugnant Rockford "Captains of Industry"! To a true gourmand like myself, this was a blight to the eyes on par with the murder of a friend. It seems, dear reader, the dreaded Rockford Register Star has seen fit to inflict another "What Rocks" poll onits witless readers, but this time the poll has sunk to such a new low that I picture Satan himself with plunger in hand try to make the fucking thing flush!

Once again this vigorous argument against vox populi has dumbfounded yours truly, only this time the shocking stupidity of their (your?) choices are of such a "scorched earth" level of rotten that it effectively turns Rockford, Illinois into a black hole, sucking in thousands of years of progress and enlightenment and leaving nothing but a head shaking "What the fuck?" in its wake.

Yes, dear readers, the good people of Rockford (and their enablers at the Register Star) have weighed all options, sampled and pondered and have decided that the best Mexican food in a city chock full of Mexican restaurants can be found at...Taco Bell?

Indeed...Taco Bell...the same corporate pig trough that has most recently been turning patrons' bowels into water bazookas all over America's Eastern seaboard! The same Taco Bell that one Madison, Wisconsin radio personality still blames for a bout of hepatitis. Personally, I don't see how Taco Bell even qualifies as Mexican food. Having suffered through a meal or two in my misspent (and acutely drunken) youth, I can confidently put forth my theory that the only participation of actual Mexicans (at minuscule wages, natch)in the delivery of Taco Bell's product comes at either end of the process: the picking of the produce and slaughtering of the animals or the handing of the bag full of shit to the consumer, with nary a consultation in between.

Now don't start up with the "Poisson...you are such a snob" line of defense for the ignorant selection of this crap as "best Mexican food." Did I not just sing the praises of a humble meal of eggs and spuds at a local diner? Have I not often named the downtown hot dog wagon one of the best eateries in the city? Have I not with some regularity punctured the inflated heads of those claiming to deliver "fine dining" in the Rockford area? Nor do I dismiss the concept of "fast food" out of hand. But when we have so many fine Mexican cooks delivering the real deal in our fair city, why would anyone with even the slightest ambulatory or cognitive function choose a soulless widget factory of alleged edibles as a "best of"?

I read on and find that this choice was merely the most egregious and insulting in a long list of banalities:

Best Pizza = Papa John's (Why not reward more chain restaurant garbage while insulting yet another category of fine local ethnic chefs? There is some very decent pizza in this town, but that fact is evidently lost on the readers of the Register Star)

Favorite Register Star personality on WREX-13 (Could this category be any more self serving? I won't even dignify it with a comment)

Favorite newscaster - Aaron Wilson (Okay, I'll admit it...this one really gets my goat. Having personally witnessed the guy pitching a phone-slamming hissy fit may have something to do with it, but I find something very creepy about this fella...especially when I see him interviewing teenage girls.Creepy. Nicole Kilmer, Eric Wilson...both are competent - a huge plus in Rockford - newscasters. Why choose this...um...how should I describe him...ah...quaint tool of feminine hygiene?)

My appetite now (maybe permanently) lost, I scan the rest of the list and discover the fine meal and coffee I have just consumed is substandard when compared with the offerings at the Stockholm Inn. In fact, every possible aspect of my life can be greatly enhanced by the existance of the Stockholm Inn. Best place to take my parents: Stockholm Inn. Best cheap place to eat: Stockholm Inn. Best coffee, best breakfast, best fish fry....best ribs????

I've always heard that Sweden beat the shit out of Memphis or Kansas City as a rib capital, and now it has been confirmed! (And the lutefisk in Mobile, Alabama is a motherfucker, too!)

I continue...

Best employer: Stockholm Inn (I'll bet they have a kickass retirement program).

Hmmm...could there possibly be a bit of ballot stuffing going on?

Frankly, I've never liked the Stockholm Inn. I don't exactly remember the food, but the air of starched Protestant intractability has always puckered my sphincter, and the place's clientele just drips superiority and...white-ness! I'm suspicious of the place. Why, for instance, does every glad-handing sack of shit politician who hits town end up in a photo op at the Stockholm Inn? I think the obvious stuffing of the "What Rocks" ballot is completely of a piece with my feelings toward the Stockholm Inn.

As I read on, the lunacy continues. Favorite locally made product: Swedish pancakes! (Yes! Yes! Fuck manufacturing! The Swedish pancake industry is going to save Rockford's economy!)


Dear reader, this encounter with "What Rocks" has left your humble champion curiously despondent and disturbed. As the world at large goes to hell in a handbasket, is this local tomfoolery just a relatively benign symptom of the state of things?

The weeks pass and Rockford does little to endear itself to me. A fairly encouraging election takes place, but Rockford bucks the national trend and sticks with the old guard, re-electing the seemingly semi retarded Manzullo and the typically whore-like Syverson, the two geniuses behind plugging carpetbagging opportunist Alan Keyes into the 2004 election. As the Limbaughs, O'Reillys and putrid Coulters of the world take one step closer to their destiny as answers to trivia questions, Rockford lumbers on.

Next I see that the Heartland church completes its destruction of the once charming Colonial Village Mall. Friends, it is well known that Poisson hates shopping malls with a passion, much preferring actual cities to those capitalist ant farms that have displaced real farms and nature, but Colonial Village was different, warm and small, with easy parking and two fine department stores in Bergner's and JC Penney. When I first hit Rockford, it was the only mall wherein I felt comfortable enough to do my shopping.

Now we are left with Cherryvale...the new, unimproved Cherryvale, which renders merely walking through the place as nerve wracking as winding your way through a backstreet market in Tangiers. "Sir! Sir!" the desperate salesmen shout from their stands and bodegas, hawking everything from cell phone contracts to wrist watches to that damned coffin-like water massage thing that I wouldn't crawl into if threatened with anal rape. The only thing missing is the smell of rotting meat and the sound of flies buzzing. Then again, the aroma of the food court does tend to permeate the air, so the verisimilitude is nearly complete.

I'm damned suspicious of this Heartland church anyway. As readers know, I tend towards hostility to religions. All religions (including yours). But I also think that people certainly have the right to their beliefs, and I have no problem with the image of the humble country church, the neighborhood synagogue, etc. It's when the church starts dressing itself like a Las Vegas pimp in order to lure lost ones into its fold that I get riled. The world needs another mega church like it needs another Paris Hilton, and this Heartland seems to be designed with maximum profitability first and foremost in mind. If so many people are attending that they need to take over a shopping mall to accommodate them, then I know something's rotten, and it ain't in Denmark. I reach for my Encyclopedia Britannica and look up "Jonestown."

This column was initially supposed to be about food, but Poisson is not immune from context,
friends, and so I have chronicled all manner in which to lose one's appetite in the modern world, particularly in Rockford, Illinois. Arrogance and stupidity - when it is yoked to power and elitism -stick in my throat like a stray chicken bone. Thus, I have chosen to return to my icy homeland in the north for a lengthy - and probably permanent -sabbatical. I am fed up (notice a food analogy) with ranting and raving about things I cannot change and long to return to a place where I can contemplate the stars, reaquaint myself with the French language, gyrate wildly and let my nuts swing free. To that end I must say au revoir, dear readers!

(Well, Mort, I will miss your pithy venom, which acted upon me much like a strong coffee colonic which purges one of all waste. I bid you bon fortune and wish you will with the separatist program up in old Montreal!--Dr. Abner Mality)