GQ — Late last year, the former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses propped up his camera phone, pressed the record button, produced a cherry-red coffin-shaped box and put its contents directly in his mouth.
The box contained a tortilla chip—one single chip—made from the dust of the Carolina Reaper, the hottest pepper on Earth, designed solely to obliterate the senses. In the video, the guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, places the shard of fire on his tongue as his wife of 27 years, Jen, does the same. Incredibly, Jen smiles. Bumblefoot, meanwhile, looks like somebody hit self-destruct on his face.
“If you like pain, you’re gonna like this,” he says, through breaths that grow increasingly panting. “It’s still burning. I’m feeling kind of sweaty.” He grimaces, forces some smiles, the fire inching back up his throat. A few minutes in, he absently brushes his right eye, which, because his immune system works, immediately swells shut. “I no longer have use of my eye,” he says, half-laughing through tears and mucus. Jen, next to him, continues to seem totally fine. A guy who spent eight years with Axl Rose as his boss is getting slaughtered by a tortilla chip while his wife is like, eh, whatever.
This episode goes on for six minutes. Bumblefoot excuses himself to flush his eye with water—which obviously doesn’t work—until the fire finally dies down enough for the couple to record an outro. “Paqui chips,” he says, sweating and one-eyed, “Thank you very much for destroying my life for the next half-hour.”
GQ — The Olympics are a showcase for peak physical magnificence, a relentless Tinderfest (you think you don’t stand out in a bar? Try navigating a village full of gymnasts and swimmers in Rio de Fucking Janeiro), and proof that we are surrounded by golden sports gods and goddesses who can totally swim in emerald-green water and not die. So it’s a little weird that they’re all losing their shit over free Big Macs.
Indeed, aside from Biles, Ledecky, Bolt, Phelps, and the Slovakian canoe slalom team (REPRESENT, MY PEOPLE!), the clear winner in Rio this year is McDonald’s, which established a fully functional calorie tent in the Olympic Village to offer free Big Macs, McGriddles, and dirt-cheap loaves of meat to hungry Olympians looking to kick-start just a littttttle bit of body decline.
The one on the left we made up. Everything else is fair game.
GQ — So, a New York bar has created a gourmet pizza that’s topped with Cheetos; it’s a fancy blend of cavatappi pasta, Béchamel sauce, a “signature cheese blend,” and the number-one reason your video-game controllers no longer work. It looks, well, delicious—let’s not be elitists about it. But it was hardly 2015’s only curious kitchen mash-up. We’re not sure what’s up with this game of culinary one-upmanship being waged by basically every restaurant that the Omnivore’s Dilemma buzzkill might have whined about, but a lot of the results make Cheetos pizza look like an organic-kale quesadilla wrapped in Volt brochures by comparison. See if you can tell the real food-flavored objects here from the very, very fake.
GQ — As if we needed further evidence that the whole secret menu craze at fast-food restaurants has jumped the shark, yesterday a latte enthusiast named William E. Lewis Jr. ordered himself a very much off-the-menu XXXXL cup of coffee including 101 shots of espresso and 17 pumps of vanilla syrup.
What’s next? We got to guessing. Below, the eight next secret-menu items we expect to see:
Burger King: America Burger. It’s just a regular burger, but every time you take a bite an air horn goes off and the chorus of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” starts playing.
GateHouse — I am not a big eater of fair food, which you can probably tell, because I am not dead.
I am also not a very big rider of fair rides, which you can also tell, for the same reason. There was an annual fair that came through my Indiana hometown every year — it had to, because it was an annual fair, and if carnies are known for anything it’s their strict adherence to contractual obligations — and I would go every year, because it was either that or play fantasy baseball with my friends. And here is this only time this sentence will ever be written anywhere on Earth: The county fair was the much stronger option for possibly meeting girls. (It was also a much better option for eating funnel cakes, which was the far more likely outcome.)
This happened when I was in my teens, in the mid-1930s according to my hair and posture, back when my unformed adolescent body could do things like consume three consecutive funnel cakes without collapsing into a heap of convulsive stomach-clutching. (By contrast, if I eat one whole glazed donut now I must run four miles to destroy the attendant calories, which is hard, as I don’t really have the two hours to spare.)
And it is a DARNED or possible GOLDANGED good thing, too, because if I were a teen hitting up the Lake County Fair now I would have all manner of newfangled (and newdanged!) fair foods to consume while not meeting any girls. (Can I tell you that I have never understood the idea of fair foods anyway, and not just because of my aversion to throwing up into a Crazy Ball game, but because I cannot fathom why, when you’re going to be hitting 8 Gs in a rattletrap spinny contraption that was built in 1956 and contains most of its original rivets, you definitely want your waist parts jammed full of unregulated dough prepared by undocumented gypsies. God the kids are going to LOVE going to the fair with Fun Dad in a few years.)
GateHouse — You hear a lot about pink slime these days, because frankly, pink slime is an a-MA-zing turn of phrase. It’s a writer’s dream, a lyrical, almost onomatopoeic slice of verbal sleight-of-hand that grabs your brain and demands it to conjure up an image, requires you to stop what you’re doing — eating a hoagie, feeding your baby, delivering a baby — to consider it. Frankly as soon as someone coined the phrase “pink slime” it was over, stick a fork in it. Actually that wouldn’t work because sticking a fork in an industrial-sized vat of gelatinous goo wouldn’t be practical and actually probably really frustrating; maybe you should go with a spoon in this scenario. Or an ice cream scoop. Ooh, soup ladle!
We think about pink slime for the same reason most people think about pink slime: Because we are writing “Ghostbusters II.” But also we think about it because with a meaning that evocative, especially in an age where headline value is measured by the level of instinctual milliseconds it takes someone to click on something distracting while they’re supposed to be working and/or driving, it’s perfect. It’s like “swine flu” or “SARS” or “Newt Gingrich” — your brain can’t help but think “THAT SOUNDS JUST AWFUL AND UNELECTABLE YET I CANNOT STOP MY HAND FROM CLICKING ON IT,” and there, before you know it, you’re 12 pages into pink slime material on the web and vowing to never eat beef, or slime, for the rest of your life.
GateHouse — I don’t know about you, but I spent New Year’s Eve getting hammered at White Castle. Ha! That’s a joke, of course — as I’ve somehow ended up with children living in my home, what I actually did was nothing! Well, at least nothing that required me to apply pants that aren’t operated by a drawstring.
Now, first of all, why this is needed is a mystery. White Castle, of course, is a brand that needs no improvement, no upgrading, no bridge to the 21st century. White Castle is built on the idea of shoe closet-sized restaurants that serve construction paper-thick burger-type objects on synthetic breadsubstance, all delivered to you in an environment that would suggest you are eating the food of kings and queens, if your royal subjects were all 400 lb. NASCAR fans or on their way home from the bars and think they’re in a Taco Bell.
Obviously, this is not a negative. This is what White Castle does, and it does it magically. Seriously if they started serving “salads” or “shrimp” or even burgers that were made of burgers I would be the first to lead the nationwide uprising. Ron Paul-college-volunteer style. “BRING BACK OUR WHITE CASTLE!” I would shout into a megaphone I stole from a hippie, “THESE NEW MENU ITEMS ARE DANGEROUSLY CLOSE TO FOOD.”
GateHouse — The grassroots protests spilling across the streets of New York against the excesses of Wall Street are raging into their second week and showing no signs of slowing, yet I am going to write about a dude who is too fat to sit at White Castle, because the Internet is very very large and plenty of people are talking about Wall Street, but who is standing up for White Castle in its hour of need? THIS MOTIVATED SLOVAK, THAT’S WHO.
Indeed, my blood brothers at the Castle know that I stand with them whenever some yappy 23-year-old energy drink consumption machine from The Media tries to besmirch, befoul or befmirch them with stories of “ghastly nutritional conditions” or “obese-American prejudice” or “fact-based stories about what animal remains actually constitute their Triscuit-thin patties.”
They know this because White Castle IS IN MY DNA. No, seriously, my Slovak grandparents lived pretty much across the street from a White Castle in Whiting, Ind., and my grandfather was known to spend his days there from about 7 a.m.-6 p.m. — moreso if my dear Slovak grandmother God bless her soul was feeling particularly prickly about the volume of objects he hoarded in the basement (official figures are hard to come by, but let us just say that special arrangements had to be made with the Dumpster Company in Whiting, Ind.). So when I say that White Castle is in my blood, I mean, no really, that stuff is straight IN MY BLOOD, probably slowing down the entire circulatory process and gumming things up something awful around the aorta.
GateHouse — When you see the phrase “Indiana entrepreneurs re-launch” at the beginning of a sentence and you are from Indiana, a few thoughts rocket immediately through the parts of your brain not dedicated to inventing increasingly desperate excuses for why IU hasn’t won a championship since ’87:
“Mellencamp’s giant robot will soon rise!”
“There must have been tremendous increases in the production of rickety hoops which can be attached to barns.”
“Whatever it is, Peyton Manning is shooting a commercial for it in the morning.”
“Automated Mitch Daniels-hitting device”
Ha! I kid Indiana because I love Indiana, except its stupid approach to time zones, which is such that when my cousin asked me last week what time it was in my current location I CACKLED WITH GLEE FOR TEN MINUTES because that’s literally the first time the question has swung that way in 35 years. I’m still cackling. I think I’ll take a small cackle break right now. Ha HO! Oh, it feels so good to laugh when you’ve spent 12 years calling people at incorrect times for interviews, such as that one time I woke up “Weird Al” Yankovic’s baby. Still feel bad about that.
GateHouse — Happy Spring Break, everyone! Hope you all had/are having warm, froofy-drink filled vacations and/or forced furloughs. Sit back, put your feet up and inhale a few more precious moments of clear-eyed fiction before you return to the unfettered horror that has become everyday life, the drive back to which will cost you $2,400 in gas.
Indeed you are probably going to want to return to whatever blissful malt-liquor induced haze you just reluctantly emerged from, because everything out here on planet America is, as is so often the case, worse than ever: Gas prices are ohthisisweird forehead-slappingly high again, the country’s largest corporation, G.E., pays exactly zero in American taxes in an inexplicable tongue-unrolling hilarity which will be humiliatingly justified by most of your boring GOP presidential losers (“Obamacare!” Tim Pawlenty will shout to an empty Elks Lodge), you have to pay to read NEWSPAPERS online now and though your public school hasn’t the remotest hope of “fixing those bus exhaust problems” or “replacing those teachers,” we’ve magicked up several billion dollars of bomb money for that 45th war going on in, I think it was Madagascar? Kazakhstan? Whatever. It’s brown on my globe.
And yet, in an age where daily soul-crushing reports of untethered greed and corporate power drive the nation’s economy, one hideous headline stands apart: They’re getting rid of Cap’n Crunch.
Writer: GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, Indianapolis Monthly, the official Bruce Springsteen site, the official Indy 500 site, Billboard, Vice, Live Nation, The South Magazine, etc. Even longer bio/clips.