People have been asking me all day, "Did you go and check out the free bacon?" The answer is yes, but at what cost? I suspect, for instance, that the integrity of my sleep will be for a long time compromised by memories of the horrors that I witnessed last night. I feel fortunate that I and my digital camera survived. The story turns out not to be a happy little paean to the pleasures of pork, but instead a cautionary tale about human powerlessness in the face of cost-free bacon and its potential to bring out the most fiendish elements of the human soul.
Two persons gamely volunteered to go with me on this trip that would take us to Wando's, in the heart of Madison's untamed Undergraduate Bar Scene. To preserve their anonymity, let me refer to them here as "Thelma" and "Louise," a choice of pseudonyms that also emphasizes what good friends they were to one another at the start of our expedition.
Thelma and Louise were saavy enough to realize that my own plan--just walk in and get some bacon--had no chance of any of us getting out of there alive. Instead, they insisted, we needed to enter the bar incognito, disguised as undergraduates ourselves. They went to some impressive effort in this regard. Myself, I had no idea what possibly in my closet would serve as such a disguise, so I just put on my intentionally-completely-garish UW hockey jersey.
1. The evening began with much enthusiasm and merriment, perhaps masking the trepidation we all felt within. Witness here Thelma's thrill at first seeing the street sign advertising the All-U-Can-Eat bacon to be found inside.
2. As we were nervously pacing around outside, trying to muster the moxie to enter, we learned that, in fact, the bacon was not quite available yet. Fortunately, we happened to be less than a block away from the Karaoke Kid, which we thought would help raise our courage. Hastily, Thelma, the karaoke genius of our little group, did her best to put together a medley of appropriately-themed songs. She did Madonna's "La Isla Baconita," followed by a rousing rendition of Miami Sound Machine's "Baconga." Then, we decided that a song from The Breakfast Club soundtrack also seemed a propos for an evening about bacon (breakfast, bacon, get it?), and so below we have Thelma and Louise doing the gestures for the "rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down" line from "Don't You Forget About Me."
3. Finally, we returned to Wando's and walked in. Despite my best effort to look like a happy-go-lucky-causal-bacon-enthusiast-undergraduate-senior, the bouncer was having none of it and waved me in without checking my ID. "Nice jersey, Professor," the bouncer whispered to me as I passed, "You're not fooling anyone." Thelma was also dismisively waved in without having to show ID. Thelma was then insulted when the bartender not only checked Louise's ID, but, with obviously great suspicion, subjected it to a range of forensic tests to ensure that it was genuine. Thelma may be the karaoke master among us, but Louise is apparently the master of disguise.
As soon as we were inside, we could see the undergrads all gleefully milling about and feeding obscenely from the little red and white cartons of bacon. Some were using both hands to cram the bacon into their already-grease-drenched faces as fast as they could. We quickly deduced that the hellmouth from which all this bacon was coming had to be located somewhere near the end of the downstairs bar. Soon we were there, and with an appropriate drink order, a carton of bacon was ours:
4. I thought we might pause for a few moments and just enjoy the splendid site of the bacon--Our Free Bacon--sitting there on the bar. Not so. "My precious," said Thelma immediately, in this raspy, otherworldly voice, and she scooped the bacon up off the bar, including even the stray pieces that had been sitting on the bar for who knows how long. She began immediately stuffing the bacon into her mouth with a zeal akin that seen in those films of the rescued Antarctic explorers having their first real meal after having survived for months on only sawdust and the remains of fallen comrades.
Louise and I both entered Wando's as professed bacon abstainers. We just wanted to see the free bacon, not actually taste it ourselves. While the uncompromising character of my own dietary discipline is well-known, Thelma began to try to entice Louise to try some of the bacon:
5. Louise, after some initial horrified meat-is-murder-and-don't-you-remember-Charlotte's-Web protestation, quickly caved and began having some of the bacon herself. For awhile, the two of them seemed a perfect picture of friendship: just two pals standing around, swapping stories and sharing bacon.
6. Things became ugly, however, when Louise accused Thelma of actually hoarding the best bacon for herself. Indeed, Louise all at once appeared consumed with rage at the thought of an inequitable distribution of bacon strips. An argument ensued, culminating in Louise taking the bacon away from Thelma and holding it up out of the shorter Thelma's reach.
At first, Thelma seemed to react to all this reasonably amiably, as in her smiling pose in this photograph:
7. But it turned out this was simply a ruse to lull Louise into complacency. Suddenly, like a mongoose to a cobra, Thelma struck, putting Louise in a skullcrushing headlock and pile-driving her into the floor.
8. A series of violent maneuvers followed, which Thelma had apparently learned from watching many hours of professional wrestling, as well as some combination she learned from the karate-death-match sequence in The Neverending Story. "And that's for all those snide little comments you've made about demographers," I thought I also heard her say at one point.
The reader might ask why I did not intervene, to which I can reply only that one should not judge me if one has never seen the spectre of two people completely in the thrall of bacon bloodlust.
In the end, Louise lay huddled against the Galaga machine in the corner, sobbing. Thelma, meanwhile, turned to me, as if nothing had just happened. "Yummy bacon," she said as she popped a particularly massive piece of coagulated fried pork into her mouth. "Are you sure you don't want any?"