This is a story about Pigs
I believe in God. But we’ll get back to that.
I remember once, years ago, when I lived in SKorea, a native girl I dated for a year and a half, she told me, “I prefer pork to beef.” I’d never in my life heard someone opine that, but I had to agree: pork tastes better than beef. At the taco truck, I usually order carnitas or al pastór over carne asada. I’ve always had a thing for pigs. I put a family of pigs on rear cover of my Culturebook. I owned pigs, once upon a time; that is, my ex-wife and I bought some piglets that her grandmother raised on her farm in the Philippines.
We had a big Pig Party once, there in Baguio City back in year 2000. Many people attended. It took four men to hold the yelping sow down while they slit its throat and drained its blood into a pan to make a sausage called, Bloody Mary. They used every part of the pig, giving portions away to guests, but cooking the majority of it that day. So many varieties of eats were consumed that evening: sausages, adobo baboy, calderetta, bbq short ribs, hearty soup. That was a long time ago. These days, I eat meat no more than once or twice a week.
These days, since I don’t have a regular job, I sometimes assist my friend, Flibby the Carpenter, doing home repairs. We met at 10:30 am Friday in front of Chepe’s East LA house. We were scheduled to replace the grate in front of the house. Chepe’s house is on a hill and the house sits over a garage, so the grate is 20, 25 feet up from the driveway.
Chepe keeps a scaffolding unit assembled in the rear of his yard. First we dissembled it, then moved it and resembled it in front of the house. Next, we brought out a big ladder. Flibby is over 6 feet tall. Yet, I imagined; even if Flibby stood on the scaffolding, he would still be many feet short of the grate.
I wondered how the heck he was going to accomplish this task. Were we going to put the ladder ON the scaffolding? Was my job going to be, “Hold the ladder”?
Instead, Flibby said to me, “We need to get the grate, let’s take a ride.” For the next three hours we drove to stores that were NOT Home Depot, but were essentially Home Depot. In the truck, as we drove, Flib handed me a book called LA Bizzaro about interesting places in LA. It was very humorous and I began reading passages out loud. I came across an interesting landmark, one I knew not of, The Farmer John Factory in Vernon. Not LA city, but LA county, not far from Chepe’s house, actually. Chepe tells me on some days, he can smell the Farmer John slaughterhouse.
Vernon, CA is the headquarters of Farmer John: where they convert live pigs into its Brand sausage, sandwich meats, Dodger Dogs, and other pork products. On the outer walls of this abattoir is also where, spanning several city blocks, several murals stand: painted pictures of cartoonish pigs having fun, looking happy and enjoying life. The authors of LA Bizzaro humorously quip, “This mural practice should extend to other venues. Wouldn’t that be great if on the walls of prisons were painted murals of inmates happily reading and lifting weights; instead of being gang raped by skinheads with swastika tattoos, which is what really goes on there.” I’m paraphrasing.
In the book, LA Bizzaro, I saw pictures of the mural. How I longed to see this mural live and in person! I began to read about the mural in the book. The writers informed me, “The original artist died before the mural’s completion. He fell off the scaffolding and plunged to his death!” I’m paraphrasing again.
The point is, I can’t remember the last time, if ever in my life, I assembled a scaffolding. I surely can’t remember the last time I read about scaffoldings. Yet, in the last hour, I’d not only assembled one, but I also read about somebody, a painter of pigs, falling of a scaffolding to his death! I began to dread the job I was about to do. As we drove, amidst my worry, I fell asleep.
In the end, we couldn’t find the proper sized grate. We drove to Cerritos. We drove to Alhambra. We drove to Pomona. We never found the proper sized grate.
When we returned to Chepe’s house, it was already 2:30 pm. Chepe was there and he wanted to have a band practice. It was too late to do any work. Turns out, in visiting not Home Depots, Flibby had noticed hydraulic lift rentals for $100 a day, so Chepe and Flibby decided that, sometime next week, they would rent a lift; and in doing so, not need me. Flibby paid me $20 dollars for my time driving around with him. They would change the grate another day. All in all, Win-Win.
Right about that time, our new friend Gnat showed up at Chepe’s to jam with us. Gnat is, kind of, our second guitar player. This would actually be the FIRST time we all played together, so I can’t say whether or not Gnat is officially in our band, cuz it’s too soon to tell. We four were standing in Chepe’s yard. It was a hot, summer day, nearing the 90s. I don’t know Gnat that well. We’ve only met once before. Gnat wore a tee shirt and right on her arm I could see it. She wears a tattoo of a pig on her arm.
Not just any pig, but the Butcher pig that I used to see in every butcher section in every market in SKorea for the decade I lived there. Pork is cheap in SKorea. Beef is expensive. As a result, pork is consumed a LOT more than beef in SKorea.
You don’t see this pic too often at Ralph’s or other American supermarkets these days; but I’m sure, once up on a time, that was a standard pic in every supermarket’s butcher section, showing all the cuts on a pig. Gnat’s tattoo pig didn’t have the names of each cut, just the lines marking each cut.
Once upon a time, beginning in the colonial days of the USA, till the hamburger craze starting in the 1950’s with the diners, waitresses on roller skates, etc., pork was the number one meat consumed in America. By the 1960’s beef had replaced pork as #1. And that was largely the result of McDonalds and other new Fast Food chains selling disposable meals: mostly hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I learned this fact from the book, Fast Food Nation.
Beef remained the #1, most consumed meat in the US, until McDonald’s came out with the McNugget and big boneless breast meat first became available in supermarkets in the 1980’s. That, plus the absence of beef consumption by so many so called ‘vegetarians’ who didn’t actually stop eating meat, just Red Meat, caused Chicken to become #1. Pork has tried to make a comeback, riding on the media tag, “The other white meat.” As soon as I saw Gnat’s tattoo, I remember thinking, “Gnat’s gonna fit right into our band.”
I remember…long ago when I was married to that woman from Baguio City, PI, my ex-wife’s mother, the daughter of the woman who raised our pigs in Pangasinan – my mother-in-law said to me once. “A pig is smaller than a cow, but you can get more edible meat from a pig, then you can from a cow.” I don’t know if that is true, but one thing I’ll never forget is…
That day in 2000 in Baguio City, PI, when we had that big pig party, when we took that adult female pig – she was huge – and slaughtered her. That pig was pregnant! She was so pregnant that when we cut open her belly, the little piglets inside her were almost the size of my hand. And I have big hands. I remember thinking how wasteful and stupid that was. If we had waited a week, we would’ve had 8 or 9 more free pigs!
Late in the evening, I mentioned something about the pregnant pig to one of the men in charge of the actual slaughter. He said to me with a smile on his face, “The babies? Yeah. They were delicious."
I believe in attaching meaning where there isn’t any. Isn’t that what believing in God is all about?