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Guinea pigs are the new buffalo wings 

Wednesday, Sep 13 2006
There are currently eight guinea pigs living in my house, the piercing squeaks from which would give even Krzysztof Penderecki pause. They reproduced, you see, as rodents are wont to do, and before I knew it I had a herd. I say "herd" because guinea pigs are supposedly distantly related to buffaloes. A few years back they found a gigantic fossil of a prehistoric piggy in South America with decidedly bovine attributes. In fact, to this day, guinea pigs chew a cud of sorts. If you look really closely at guinea pigs, they sort of look like buffalo. They have big, geometric booties, heads that take up a third of their bodies, and they don't really like to exert themselves. It's no wonder I feel a kinship with these creatures.

In South America they eat guinea pigs. They put them on spits and call them "cuy." Peasants let them run free in their houses, where they scurry across dirt floors. Whenever it's time for a meal, the Peruvians simply swoop down on a piggy, snatch it up, and prepare the grill, giving new meaning to the phrase "Pets or meat."

I was thinking about all of this because I met someone who wants to farm buffaloes in Montana. He wants to raise them and sell organic buffalo meat. I pictured him in a dirt-floor kitchen, scooting in his chair every once in a while to let a buffalo pass, then eventually reaching for the nail gun to plug his dinner right between the eyes. Surely that is a job that only Ted Nugent could love.

"I used to slaughter pigs," says Scott, the future buffalo farmer, nonchalantly. "I grew up with it, so it's no big deal." I suppose one can get used to anything.

His last name is ironically "Blood," and that is what I call him, simply "Blood." He's the new guy at my job, working with developmentally disabled adults in Marin. He has already been pegged a "hotty" by several of the female clients and he does indeed look a bit like Brad Pitt did in Thelma & Louise. He's 22, barely old enough to go to bars, yet extremely wise beyond his years, as I soon found out when we landed at the Mayflower Pub in San Rafael one night after work. It was Pub Trivia night and we had to come up with a name for our team. I suggested the name I always wanted to give my band, The Golgi Bodies — which are the parts of a cell that receive, package, and process proteins. He liked it but said, "Don't you mean 'The Golgi Apparatus?'" What could I do but look at him in awe?

But I am getting ahead of myself. The Mayflower is an expansive pub run by actual people of British descent, complete with dark beams running across the ceiling, Guinness on tap, and baskets of deep-fried this 'n' that. When we first walked in we were like, Oh hell no. Let's just say the average age was about 52, with a smattering of what Blood calls "Trustafarians," meaning upper-class white boys with Rusted Root T-shirts and dreadlocks. But this was Marin, which is devoid of any decent nightlife, and we knew we had to take what we could get. We plunked it down at the corner of the bar, right next to some Brits who collectively looked like Sherlock Holmes, that guy from Bronski Beat, and Dame Edna.

Cut to the first trivia question, which was true or false: The sun is denser than water. "True," said Blood. I thought he was nuts. The sun is made up of gas, so it can't be that heavy. "But it is so full of gravity," he argued. "You know, like how a black hole is just pure gravity, sucking everything in with its weight. The sun is like that. Plus the gases are magnetic." Jesus, I thought, with my good looks and his brains we might just win this thing. I told him that I was impressed with how much he knew at his age, which, as it was coming out of my mouth, I already regretted. I hated it when people said stuff like that to me when I was 22. It's a compliment that is actually pretty insulting. And you know what? Most people are much more sophisticated than we give them credit for, anyway. Instead of pointing out how smart I am surprised people are, I should really be calling out the dumbasses that I meet. I should say something like, "Man, for a 19-year-old you are really fucking stoop." Or, "Dude, I have guinea pigs smarter than you." Stuff like that.

Anywho, back to the game. Every once in a while the Brits would chime in and help us, but for the most part we knocked that shit out of the park. We eventually came in fifth out of all the other teams, garnering $20.

Soon after that we left, especially since the somewhat tweaky barmaid kept checking Blood out and giving him the willies. He can slaughter a buffalo, but don't put him in a room with a middle-aged seductress on crank.

We passed a whole gaggle of teenagers hanging out on the corner. They had backpacks and dyed hair and iPods. When we got up close we overheard one of them talking to the other: "The funny thing about math is ... " Blood and I just looked at each other and laughed. Kids today, we sighed. Only interested in math, science, and reading. Wise beyond their years. Naturally precocious. And smart for their age.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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