A few weeks ago, I was invited to my parents’ house for dinner. My aunt and uncle, who live an hour away, were there, too. We were gathered in the sunroom on a rainy weekend afternoon (oh, the irony), drinking wine and chatting about life. My mom brought out a bowl of tortilla chips as an appetizer. I grabbed one and instead of popping it in my mouth, stared at it in surprise.
“Hey,” I said, holding it up for everybody in the room to see. “This tortilla chip looks like Oregon!”
And it did. Remarkably so. Here’s a side-by-side comparison.
When everybody agreed that there was a definite resemblance between the tortilla chip in my hand and the Beaver State, I nearly bubbled over with excitement. “Hallelujah!” I declared. I’d seen news stories over the years of people finding images of religious icons on their food: the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, Jesus on a slice of toast. While my discovery was considerably less divine in nature, I still thought it was pretty…well, divine (in the non-secular sense) regardless.
“What are you going to do with it?” my aunt asked.
Alert the news media! was the first idea that popped into my head. Sell it on eBay! was the second.
“I don’t know,” I replied, tempering my enthusiasm a bit lest my conniving uncle got any ideas in his head about swiping Oregon out from under my nose when I wasn’t looking. I eyed the whole table rather warily. I could tell, beneath their bemused stares and phony nonchalance, they all secretly coveted Oregon. “Keep it for now, I guess.”
At that point I stuck it in a Ziploc sandwich bag for safekeeping and, when nobody else was looking, hid it.
Later that evening, I spirited it home, where it sat in its bag on my dresser drawer, under lock and key in the master bedroom, while I decided what to do with it next. Would Oprah be interested? I wondered. Letterman’s more my style. Or…even better…Conan. I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to limit my appearance to a single talk-show host. The whole country would certainly clamor for a glimpse of the 33rd state in fried blue corn glory! I envisioned a slate of appearances that would include Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Piers Morgan, and even – what the heck – the ladies from The View. Such awesomeness demands to be shared. I could get the people from Tostitos involved as sponsors. Perhaps following the conclusion of my media tour, I would donate my Oregon chip to the Smithsonian Institution. Surely they’ve got an edible map of the U.S. somewhere – and if they don’t, well, I would be providing them with the incentive to do so (not to mention a head start!). I beamed with pride, knowing that the tortilla chip I discovered might one day help to educate the youth of America. I was so caught up in the moment, I even hummed a few bars from Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love Of All.
“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…”
So, imagine my dismay when I picked up my Oregon chip today to once again marvel over, when I noticed a crack bisecting Harney and Malheur counties in the southeastern portion of the state. It was as though a giant fissure had opened up on some hidden fault line.
screamed observed casually, wondering how such a tragedy could have befallen my beloved corn chip.
I’ll give you ten-to-one odds it was the cat. She probably jumped up there and stepped on it.
I tried vainly to overlook the crack, to pretend it was barely noticeable, but upon touching it, the whole lower right corner of the state gave way.
Damn it. I broke Oregon.
There’s not much out there, I thought hopefully. Just a lot of desert. Sagebrush and rocks. A few lonely ranchers. Maybe nobody will even notice?
But I’m sure they would. The damage was done, and just like that, my dream had died. There would be no Late Show, no hobnobbing with musical guests while munching on miniature sandwiches in the green room. No Leno, no Smithsonian exhibit. Sigh. In my moment of despair, I did the only thing I could think of.
I ate Oregon.
“How was it?” Audrey asked, when I shared the devastating news with her.
To which I replied, “Could’ve used a little salsa…”