I awoke with a muffled scream. The middle of the night loomed surreally, despite me being buried warmly under covers, next to my wife, with our dog asleep on the floor nearby, curled up with all four of his legs intact. The vivid dream lingered in my mind. My mouth was parched and had the strange aftertaste of bacon and beer.
In the dream, my wife, dog, and I kept escaping collapsing universes by jumping into a cauldron that served as a conduit into alternate futures via some unexplained black hole science. In each universe to which we leapt, the same thing was happening – the edges were crumbling inward with a dark nothingness – not an “oh that’s cute, maybe Atreyu and the dragon can save us” nothingness, but a quantum-physics validated annihilation of matter, time, and energy. In the final escape we found ourselves in a cave. My dog had barely made it, in fact, we had been too close. His legs were gone, amputated at the kneecaps by the collapse of reality.
I blamed the dream, and the hangover feeling of the next morning, on an overdose of that crispy, tasty fried cured pork meat.
The previous night, with an overabundance of childlike glee, I had attended “Beer and Bacon Happy Hour XXII: Return of the Gutbuster” at Bad Decisions, a corner bar in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood. With my wife and two friends, we had imbibed and devoured our way through a super-human array of bacon covered dishes and drinks.
Normally, on a Wednesday night sans-bacon, this bar, just like any other in neighborhoods throughout the United States, would be populated by a handful of hardcore locals sipping their cheap beers and looking for a few hours escape from their everyday lives, a bit of camaraderie with friends just off shift, or a chance to simply unwind. Add in fried cured fatty pork belly, and an off night transforms into a glorious gluttonous sodium-saturated evening of adventure.
The night began, as all nights should, with oyster shooters and bacon infused cocktails. As we stood in the small, packed bar, hovering between the few tables lining the wall and the row of bar stools along the counter, waiting to snag any open seat should some soul finally admit defeat against the bacon madness, I sipped my bacon Manhattan. A surprisingly good combination, the saltiness adding certain umami-esque overtones to the already wonderful drink of choice. My wife sipped her Bloody Mary, garnished with bacon and pickled green bean. The others in our party likewise savored their drinks.
As we all reviewed the evening’s special menu, we wondered how the small kitchen behind a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Snoop Dogg could possibly keep up with the overflow of orders. I suppose the crack team of bartenders staffing the venue, four of them pouring drinks and taking down customers’ food choices, kept everyone under control. As long as the alcohol flowed, it didn’t really matter if it took half an hour, forty-five minutes, or an hour for our food to arrive.
And the alcohol flowed, and the food did arrive, and more alcohol flowed, and more food arrived.
First, the appetizers we ordered, and devoured, in no particular order. Bacon-wrapped asparagus. Spicy fried green tomatoes with red peppers and green chilies and (gasp) bacon. Bacon poutine – French fries smothered in cheese curds and brown gravy topped with (wait for it) bacon.
At this point, a couple of people vacated the bar and we managed to grab two stools for ourselves.
The (apparently) legendary Gutbuster – the first of the entrées, the big draw. A beast of mighty proportions, composed of two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches that served as buns for a medium-well-done hamburger patty covered in more cheese and more bacon. Deserving of the name, it would have been a goliath that any one person would be hard-pressed to defeat single-handed. Fortunately, we numbered four, a group of bacon warriors dividing and conquering the behemoth foe. Oh, oh so wrong, and oh, oh so good, with mouth-scalding cheese goo and the crunch of nitrate-soaked crispy fried goodness and that half-pound of grilled ground beef. An explosion of flavors the kind one loves but knows one will regret the following morning.
Each quarter of the Gutbuster devoured, the satisfied afterglow setting in, we returned to our beers. This felt good, a pleasant fullness, just right.
Then our second main course appeared. A sinking feeling began to grow in my heart. Looking back, this was the tipping point, the edge of no return, and I was going over. One of those four bacon-stuffed squash halves most assuredly did me in.
The others put up a good effort, but it was too much. We were soon defeated. There was no devouring this second monstrosity.
Another friend arrived. We ordered him an oyster shooter and a beer. We begged him to eat some of the acorn squash. Excited, salt-grease and alcohol fueled conversation continued. The place started to clear out. We realized we had been at Bad Decisions for three hours. I asked for the tab, settled up, and we headed home, with still one half of a bacon acorn squash packed into a takeout box, for lunch the next day.
And as the sodium coursed through my veins and my stomach digested those mortal pig remains, my brain spun wheels in my sleep, concocting some post-Armageddon story line about collapsing universes.
This, of course, begs the question: health concerns aside, can you eat too much bacon? The answer, I think, is quite possibly yes. This level of gluttony always seems like an excellent idea at the time, but a couple of hours later, the next day, the next week – you realize you’ve gone too far.
Like that half-bottle of Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban that you drank while smoking a fine cigar and watching the flames of the bonfire that you will later jump through fueled by that highland single malt Scotch whiskey.
Like that eccentric, nay, crazy girl or guy you met at an alternative art show, brought home, and decided you wanted to marry, only to have said person smash your entire collection of old vinyl records and run off with your best friend.
Yes, you can eat too much bacon, and wake the next day from a night of strange dreams with a parched mouth and the stale grease salt-flavor rimming your lips, desiring nothing but a cold clear glass of water and a sparse wild greens salad as you attempt to recover from the previous evening’s gluttony.
You’ve gone too far. You know you should stop. You swear off bacon.
Knowing full well you’re lying to yourself, that you’re more than happy and willing to make the same bad decision again, if only to be elevated through sheer overindulgence into a state of ecstatic joy for just a few glorious moments. Isn’t that, after all, worth the aftermath?
Author’s Note: I made it three and half days without bacon… until Sunday morning…