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"Cornflakes Man"

     "Don't be like your father!" Sunshine says to me.  I realize
that I am like him, in little ways that bother me, too, when I
catch myself reminding myself of him.  The way I cross my legs in
order to write in my lap, the choice of nearly archaic words and
phrases occasionally, the dislike of conflict --
     But Sunshine means big things; she means his narrow-
mindedness, his closed-mindedness, his rigidity, his bull-
     The question came up recently, because, once again, we had a
test at the grocery store -- in the dry cereal aisle.  Of all the
dry cereals in the world -- the rack of shelves extends from here
to yonder where I can't see the end of it without changing
glasses -- I prefer and select corn flakes.  For some reason that
bothers Sunshine.
     I suspect that the main reason she's so put out about this
is a lecture she heard twenty-five years ago, by Dr. Sabine
Ulibarri, in a Spanish literature class at UNM.  The professor
made gross fun of "the cornflakes man," as he called him.  The
cornflakes man was weak, shallow, uninteresting, routinized,
boxed-in, pre-packaged, gringo and dull.  Sunshine's second-hand
description of Dr. Ulibarri's anti-hero reminded me a great deal
of Caspar Milquetoast, a cartoon character from long ago, who
pussyfooted fearfully through life, always apologizing.  It
didn't remind me much of me at all, if I may say so.  I know that
this kind of self-examination is difficult and often not accurate
in its results, but I wonder if my cereal of choice was puffed
wheat instead of cornflakes, would that bother Sunshine as much?
     She seems to think that I should not yet, at this stage of
life, have solved definitively the question of which cereal I
like and want.  I should still be experimenting.  But I have
already experimented a great deal, including recently at her
suggestion.  I tried, once again, puffed rice.  For me the choice
is still clear, as it has been for a long time.  What I prefer,
if I have any choice in the matter, is cornflakes.
     I wonder why that doesn't settle it.  We can afford to have
two different kinds of cold cereal in the house:  whatever she
chooses for herself and cornflakes for me.  Why can't this
question be put to rest?  For me, it has been, and further
experimentation will be superfluous and done only to humor her.
     There is an ironic footnote to all this.  When BRGH [bovine
rapid growth hormone] is given to cows, the result sometimes, not
never, is cracked and infected udders, resulting in pus in the
milk.  I have proven my adaptability to change, if that's really
the issue here, by swearing off milk.  I won't be eating any dry
cereal of any kind any more.  Not even cornflakes are appetizing
enough to eat completely dry.  Someone suggested eating them with
orange juice poured over them, as milk was in the old days, but I
haven't mustered what it would take to try that.
     Sunshine thinks I should not be so fussy, and normally I'm
not as squeamish as most people, but this has turned into a kind
of futile political protest, for me.  Chemical companies have
somehow persuaded the FDA -- and I think all that takes is money,
which they have lots of -- to make it illegal for dairies to
announce to the public that they are not using BRGH.  They claim
that the hormone is undetectable by any testing of the milk, so
the claim cannot be verified.  It makes a body long for the old
days when dairies were owned by one's neighbors, some of whom
were honest persons, who could be trusted not to make false
claims.  And besides, pus is detectable, when it is present.  
     That seemed to settle it for me.  I quit drinking milk and
the cornflakes question became moot.
     Maybe I'm not quite alone in my protest; maybe it isn't
quite futile.  Very expensive giant billboards encouraging adults
to drink milk indicate that they have more milk on hand than they
can sell without that expensive advertising.  Crotchety old Andy
Rooney recently blurted out in one of his weekly rants, "They've
altered the contents so drastically, it's a wonder they dare even
call it 'milk' any more!"
     I wonder if the sale of dry cereal has dropped perceptibly
recently, and if that could be blamed on the introduction of
BRGH.  I thought I had settled the cornflakes question for
myself, but circumstances "out there" settled it again, more
definitively.  And I have adapted to this unwanted and
unnecessary change.  "Cornflakes man," indeed.

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Copyright © 2000 Harry Willson

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