A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average screen time — the time my computer is linked with the Internet — is eight hours, fifty-six minutes.
I close the box.
Algo orders the digi-gerbil to tug one of Tina’s videos through the Intertube, and it flashes on my screen.
I’m a fan.
Tina is at a Miami sports bar, taking on the Chowhound Challenge — a meal comprising six pounds of appetizers, “enough for the whole team.” I assume this claim refers to a soccer team or the like, rather than a tennis doubles team. The Chowhound is the proverbial shitload of apps.
Tina has 30 minutes in which to devour the entire mess and, if successful, she wins a T-shirt, the food is provided free of charge, and she takes her place in the establishment’s Hall of Fame, her out-of-focus Polaroid portrait complete with Churchillian hand gesture (or, perhaps, East LA gang sign) indicating victory tacked to the wall in the entry.
Better yet, she gets to replay her triumph in a video posted on her website.
Tina is impressive; this woman doesn’t eat … she crams. She washes each wad of crap down the pipe with impressive gulps of Sprite. She’s a professional eater, a competition regular. She knows the drill.
I’ve been an admirer of the pros since the day twenty years ago when I was in the audience at a hot dog eating contest held at the plaza in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in LA. There are few displays as nakedly human as when a guy accepts a trophy, hoists the heavy object above his head, and projectile vomits eighty-four barely chewed and partially digested dogs and buns on the spectators gathered at the base of the awards podium.
And, to think, there are unenlightened assholes who insist this is not a sport. Shame on them!
The pro scene is Tina’s milieu. Tina belongs in the pantheon, but there’s more: according to a highlighted note (24 pt. bold) in the CV on her website, she is also “a model.”
It’s obvious Tina is “a model,” since she wears a skimpy top to her challenge and competition events, the scoop neck of the garment revealing a formidable pair of obviously modified breasts whenever she bends over to gobble the gunk.
I’ve watched all of Tina’s videos and during one of my favorites, Tina loses control of a fistful of tater tots as she pushes them toward her mouth, and a couple of the cylinders fall into the tit crevasse and disappear. She seems not to notice, busy as she is wedging big hunks of a five pound burger and scores of shredded and compacted fried spud accompaniments down the chute. I wonder if the tots are retrieved or if they remain undiscovered for months, embedded in dried ranch dressing like prehistoric insects trapped in amber. If so, should Tina be stranded in the wilderness, she can survive for weeks on edibles fished from her cleavage.
Tina adds a soundtrack to her Chowdown video: peppy techno music with a “let’s gorge and/or fuck” edge to it. Unfortunately, You Tube halts the soundtrack halfway through the spectacle. In a voice-over, Tina explains that, “there’s sumpin’ called copyright. I dint’ know.” She is displeased, as am I. We forge on.
The rest of the Chowdown food mound is consumed absent music. As a result, I hear the sound of carbohydrates, greasy ground beef, guacamole, fake crab wontons, and molten cheese-slathered Little Smokies being shoveled into the nutrient hole and demolished before being swallowed. This is unexpectedly arousing.
Tina easily bests The Challenge, while a fellow gutbucket leaves the table two-thirds of the way through the event, likely to flee to a nearby restroom and hurl. I realize the guy is a lightweight at the outset: his tattoos are garden variety, there’s a tear next to the left strap of his sleeveless, ribbed T-shirt, and he wears his hat backwards. It’s clear that, heedless of his lack of skill, this lightweight believes he will make a favorable impression on Tina by joining her at The Challenge. The poor dolt fails with the apps, but I’m sure Tina, being a model, is insightful and compassionate. I suspect that once Tina’s polaroid is mounted and autographs are signed, the duo repairs with a bottle of Jack and a couple grams of synthetic cathinones to digs at a nearby Motel 6 where they celebrate Tina’s win by working each other until one of them loses consciousness.
At the end of the Challenge video, once she finishes wiping sludge from her chin and collar bones, Tina reminds viewers that her website offers “all sorts of merch, and info and advice and stuff.”
So, of course, I mouse my way to the site with “stuff” in mind.
I find clothing for sale on the site, as well as caps, stickers, a list of techniques to employ at my next eating challenge, Tina’s competition record, and a number of photos of Tina reclining provocatively on a park bench, her skirt riding up far enough on her thigh to expose a patch of tantalizing cellulite.
Tina has some tempting crap for sale. It’s a timely commercial opportunity, since I need to don some unique duds once the Covid quarantine ends and I return to public life in my role as a boulevardier. Once I go out again, I require clothing that draws attention to a gap-toothed old man of little appeal, something that makes people pause, stare, and say, “Wow, you wouldn’t expect him to wear that!” Something to sport when I go to the liquor store or to Wal Mart.
I also need decorative items that signal my status as a hip, slightly cynical insider, and prominent elderly “cultural influencer.”
I scroll through the products.
Tina’s got the goods.
There is an array of stickers from which to choose, each sticker featuring a caricature of Tina attacking a slab of cartoon chow. I can litter the back window, tail gate, and bumper of my 1993 pickup with a flurry of these beauties. I’ll be a big hit with the guys at the dump when I pull up to unload cardboard and vodka bottles. Tourists will take selfies next to my truck when it’s parked in the lot at the supermarket.
As for clothing, I eye a hoodie with a caricature of Tina screened on the chest, the character cramming a gigantic toon burger into a gaping toon maw.
Tina indicates that she can modify the sweatshirt’s design as per the purchaser’s wishes. Chances are this means she will have a screen printer add lettering to the existing image, likely a name: “Tad” “Spanky,” “Pablo,” or the like.
I have something more extensive in mind, and I need to know if Tina is willing to give it a go. I have a hunch she might; after all, she’s a pretty adventurous individual. Models are like that, you know.
I fire off a request in the “Send Them Comments” section of Tina’s site.
“First, before I get to business, let me tell you how mightily impressed I am with your ability to take in and process incredible amounts of foodlike substances without a follow-up trip to the emergency room. Truly remarkable!
“Your parents must be so proud of what you’ve accomplished. I hope you’ve provided your mom and dad with free merch, so they can wear their sweatshirts to signal their pride whenever they go walking during senior’s exercise hour at the nearly deserted local mall. It’s a shame Orange Julius went out of business; it was the ‘in place’ in which to be seen at the mall, and the drinks offered top-notch, cooling refreshment after a tough workout. Alas, change is one of life’s few certainties, and we must vigorously adapt to new circumstances.
“Regarding an item of said merch: I wish to purchase one of your hoodies, size xxx-large, cerulean blue, and I would like you to modify the graphic printed on the front of the garment.
“Tell me if this is possible: I want to retain your caricature, with the gigantic toon burger removed from the image. I want to replace the burger with the following: the front half of a cartoon orca protrudes from Cartoon Tina’s open mouth. The orca’s mouth is also open wide, and from it emerges the front half of a mature, market ready heritage hog (Tamworth or Duroc, whichever is easier for your cartoonist to depict), the hog’s teeth gripping an unblemished, perfectly ripe Egremont Russet apple.
“No doubt, the ramified meaning of this Boschian daisy chain will not be lost on you, a crafty entrepreneur, an impressive gourmand … and a model.
“If you are willing to have the staff at the hoodie plant swing into action, I have several rough sketches at the ready, and can immediately forward an array of jpegs upon request. I also have a contact in The East Midlands who can supply bushels of Egremonts should you wish to engineer an English Heritage Apple Challenge for you and your gluttonous comrades. The stiff shipping charge is worth it. Every once in a while you need to plow through a couple bushels worth of fruit. It’s medicinal. Diverticulitis is no laughing matter for someone in your line of work. Take my advice, I know of what I speak: Run a major load of pectin through the system now and then, and you’ll avert a gastro-intestinal disaster later in life.
“I eagerly await your reply, and I’m thrilled by the prospect of joining with you in this groundbreaking creative venture. You will be the envy of the other pro gorgers when your merch sales go through the roof!
“Signal your cooperation, and I will draw up legal documents establishing us as partners in the marketing, distribution, and sales of items bearing this new, stunning image. The hoodie will be a big hit with art history majors at Ivy League schools — an untapped market holding great promise for shrewd capitalists like you and me. There are thousands of these lively scholars eager to send us their parents’ cash.
“Bon appetit, in extremis!
“Your friend in food,
I fire off my request, then check my G-mail inbox every twenty minutes or so during the day.
Nothing from Tina, thus far.
Perhaps she is busy in Louisiana, wolfing down four pounds of crawfish with all the trimmins’, or loading up on a two pound brisket burrito (and a two-pound side of fries, paved with faux queso) in San Antonio. These competitive eater/models get around.
I’ll keep tabs on You Tube. Algo and the gerbil will see to it.
If you are reading this and you are an Ivy League art history major, and the thought of wearing one of the newly designed hoodies on campus appeals to you (why wouldn’t it?) post your name and mailing address on the Siberia With a View comment page.
Have no fear when transmitting your information — I am of your tribe, a pseudo intellectual just like you.
Need proof? I’ve read Proust. Although he was male, white, and a citizen participant in a fading yet systematically cruel colonialist empire, he was also a secluded and extremely sensitive gay author who, as a result, remains somewhat reputable in Ivy League lit departments. My connection with Marcel provides me with the bona fides I require as an important “influencer” in your neck of the woods.
I am as aware as any dork in the Ph.D. crowd that uneven flagstones in front of a carriage house are as capable of provoking an epiphany as is a madeleine. Soon the same will be said of the cartoon image of Tina regurgitating an orca that in turn is regurgitating a heritage hog that is devouring a rare English apple. I promise.
These beauties are going to sell out fast! Place your pre-order now, in order to secure your purchase. Be the first in your clique to wear one of these hoodies to a lecture on the topic of the disgusting mysogynist elements in the work of Puvis de Chavannes. Sit at the front of the room. You will be a big hit!
Pick a color for your hoodie.