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On my way to lunch at the Manhattan Mall Food Court, I noticed how many reflective surfaces there are in the mall. You can spend your wait for the elevators by staring at your mirror reflection in its closed doors. Structural columns are also covered in mirrored glass. Certain stores, like LIMITED, employ reflective trim around their plate glass windows. Everywhere you go, you get to see what a terrible decision you've made by visiting the mall.

Today I also got to see, very plainly, the small lump developing around my mid-section. I have not yet determined if it is benign. It's that weird lump you get after you've grown pretty accustomed to being skinny and then nature tells you, "hey, check it out. Party's over, fatty." It's small now, but I fear it could grow into what I like to call a "weed baby." (Check out lifelong pot smokers. Even the skinniest of them get a crazy second trimester weed baby. Skinny pot smokers eventually develop upper bodies that resemble a python digesting a mouse.)

I decided to swallow my shame, in the form of General Tso's chicken, food court style—probably the third-lowest tier of the food pyramid. (The lowest rung is the fried onion loaf, just barely edging out "turds.") General Tso must have been the most reviled military leader in the history of China, because if ever there was a "fuck you" entrée created by a disgruntled personal chef, it was definitely General Tso's Chicken. Napoleon lucked out. And General Custer's custard, although not a reliable meal for dinner, was at least pretty delicious.

But General Tso's chicken is like a culinary dare disguised as comfort food. It's made of all the wrong parts of chicken, each blindly hacked off with a cleaver, then cleverly concealed inside some kind of Asian glazed doughnut. The worst part is that its deep-frying only creates a perfect outer seal, protecting the bacteria crawling throughout the weird interior of poultry and tendon clinging desperately to each other. I love/hate it.

On my way back from purchasing my General Tso's Chicken, I saw myself in about fifteen mirrors and realized that the proliferation of mirrors in the shopping mall might have been a secret act of consumer advocacy on the part of mall architects. All those mirrors are like a warning, repeated over and over again for emphasis, telling you, "Jesus Christ, will you look at yourself? Is this what you really wanted? Standing there, clutching a shopping bag from 'Lids' with Cinnabon frosting stuck in your mustache! Our ancestors built America with their calloused hands. They fought off invasions—and for this?! Drop that fried chicken and just start running. Run and run and run, miles from any advertisements or free samples of smoothies, until you hit an undeveloped parcel of land. Then build a home on that land! With your own backbreaking labor. Plumb the lines. Grow what you need, and talk yourself out of flavored coffee cravings. Find a woman, make a child, work the land, die in the winter frost with collagen-rich skin. Drop that chicken and run, man! RUN!"

I guess it's hard to absorb that message, when you can see the reflection of a Brookstone massage chair directly behind you.

WE FIRST MET ON 04.03.2006

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