My haircut, "Ronald McDonald is not my God"

Fashion alert! I got a haircut last night! Yes, friends, it had been six months since my last haircut, and I admit the locks were getting a little ridiculous. Here you can check out the before and after photos and determine which Jonathan you like best. It's been seven years since I sported the shoulder-length Cobain haircut, but I still have not readjusted back to the normal habits of regular hair-care and maintenance. One of the main reasons for this current trim was weather related. As winter sets in, my hair gets more and more dry and static-charged, and all that combined with the constantly wispy, body-less and straight nature of it...well, it's a sad state of aff-HAIRS (my Aunt Marlys calls this genetic phenomenon "stupid Finnish hair").

In other news, I thought I'd share a bit more about my daily life as a stay-home-Dad. What frequently happens in our kitchen is that my family will "eat ourselves out of our own house," meaning that over time the fridge and cupboards are more and more empty, and it eventually gets to the point that you MUST go to the grocery store lest you end up feeding your children water, ketchup, and peanut butter in a bowl. Today that happened to us, but by the time Noon rolled around I was too hungry to go to the supermarket and shop, haul all the food home, and THEN make lunch. So instead I took Paavo (and sleeping Svea) to McDonalds for lunch.

This is the part of the story where I feel a bit like someone confessing a sin. I feel like one of the worst things anybody can say these days is "I voluntarily ate at McDonalds." It's the most un-PC thing in the world...especially when children are involved. As someone who enjoys eating at McDonalds, I know that feeling of embarrassment that comes with admitting you've been there. I remember one time in Chicago I went to the post office to mail some CD packages, and I carried a McDonalds drink cup with me into the post office. As I paid for my stamps, the post office cashier looked at my drink cup and said with a snide smile and scolding voice, "Well, you went to McDonald's for lunch today, eh?" As if to say, "All your sneaking should be ashamed of yourself!" I was shocked! What do you say to that! So I said something like "Yes, it was delicious. It's my favorite place for lunch."

Here's the truth: as a stay-home-Dad, it's a fantastic place. Cheap (and tasty!) food, and a huge awesome playroom with tunnels and slides where my toddler can run free and wild for an hour in the middle of a cold crappy winter day, and a booth where I can drink free refills of iced tea and read free copies of the Star Tribune. Pretty ideal for everyone. Plus the kid gets a free toy! Man, this corporation knows what it's doing. Yes yes, I know I've fallen for their marketing tricks. I am aware. Please don't scold me.

Okay, I know. I know my cheeseburger was made from more than one cow (maybe more than one species), and bugs, and animal waste and index fingers of illegal immigrants. Yes, I saw the "Supersize Me" movie (kept me away from the arches for a couple months, I think), and I read the book "Fast Food Nation" (but haven't seen the movie). I know all the arguments.

You know who really hates McDonalds? Musicians and hipsters. Hang out at a club or rehearsal with indie rockers, or in a studio, or in NYC with music scenesters, and they will do anything to avoid McDonalds. They ALWAYS search for authentic Indian food, Thai food, Middle-Eastern food, vegan food, etc. And they TALK about it much they love it, where they were when they ate it last. But sometimes I just want french fries, okay? Don't hate me.

Actually, my favorite fast-food place is Culvers (by far!), but McDs can be good, too. I have a theory (here's another incredibly un-PC thing to say). Your experience at McDonalds is directly proportionate to the income level of the neighborhood in which the restaurant is located. I've eaten at McDonalds in New York City, Los Angeles, Helsinki (Finland), Tallin (Estonia), Warsaw (Poland), Berlin (Germany) and the West Side of Chicago. I bet McDonalds in Beverly Hills is really good, fresh, clean, etc.

When I was a kid we never went to McDonalds (Ishpeming, MI didn't have a McD back then). We were a Burger King family. I went to Burger King at the Detroit airport while I was on tour a few years ago, and it was SO GROSS I pledged to never go there again. But this Summer I was out cruising to Menards with my Dad and he wanted to go to Burger King, so I went along, Yet again, it was repulsive. Never again.

In 1989 I spent a year living in a van with my friend Joel, traveling around the Midwest playing music. Joel had a previous career climbing the corporate ladder (and doing quite well) at McDonalds, so I learned to like the restaurant during that year. Joel taught me the company's "Seven Steps of Customer Service" (I think the last step is the Suggestive Sell: "would you like a hot apple pie to go with your order?"). After deciding to leave the company to volunteer for a year with our music group, Joel had composed a disturbing little song about his former employer, and the lyrics went like this:
"Ronald McDonald is not my God/French Fries did not die on the cross."

It's funny. I take Paavo to McDonalds once every week or two so we can have lunch and he can run around in the Play Land tubes like a gerbil in a habitrail. And while we're there it's this John-Lennon-"Imagine" society where little blond Paavo has fun running and playing and eating with a roomful of other kids, Hispanic kids, Muslim girls in full head-coverings whipping down the purple slide. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I'll never forget an interview I saw on the Charlie Rose TV show years ago when he was interviewing New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and Friedman said that no two countries who both had McDonalds restaurants had ever waged war on each other.

Today was a good McDonalds experience. My food was fresh and hot and good, Paavo got a toy he liked (some sort of weird Japanese anime character who shoots trading cards out of a spaceship...whatever), and the floors and tables were clean. The iced tea blend was particularly well-balanced.

Then we came home, woke up Svea, fed her some milk, and played Candyland. We played for the first time yesterday, and Paavo totally got it. Candyland is a bit more intense than I remember it from my own youth. Nowadays the gameboard is covered with characters...a princess, a king, an old lady, and an evil bad guy called "Lord Licorice." Paavo is terrified of Lord Licorice. If you land on a licorice square you lose a turn. Paavo asked me all afternoon long, "Why is Lord Licorice so mean? Why did he put that licorice in the way? Why does he want us to get stuck? Why does he not want us to go to the Candy Castle? What will he do?"

Lord Licorice, this is Ronald McDonald. Ronald, this is the Lord.


Steve said…
Jonathan, this blog totally made my day! Right before I opened it I was having a conversation with someone about how I was having a McCraving for lunch and wished we were at Abbott where they have a McDonald's in the building. I'm expecting to hear "Ronald McDonald is not my God" tonight at your gig! Your story of Paavo and Lord Licorice is super-cute too. Keep blogging, I love your perspective...
Bridget Delaney said…
I've nothing against McDonald's itself. However, I have something against where a certain manager works. Also, I only know of one McDonald's in Lake Charles that actually serves good food. If I go there, it's not near my area of town, and I'm not particularly fond of some of the sites I see at that McDonald's.

I've never been to a Culver's because I don't think I've ever even been near one!

Burger King here is good.

Here, I'm okay with Wendy's, Burger King, Sonic, and Whataburger. Though, I am still picky about the way some things are at these places.

Ah, Candy Land! I remember Lord Licorice and what was the Queen's name and then the rainbow passageway and molasses lake. . .of course, we've had a board in St. Paul's fellowship hall since I was 5, I think!

Too cute about Paavo asking about Lord Licorice!

Stein Auf!

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