Katie Stalin: Coast to Coast, Part X

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Flanders Field, WD– Everyone knows I love Nachos. My friend Lucy says that eat so many Nachos that one day I’ll turn into a nacho. That’s not possible, but I sure like nachos. Today though, I realized that tacos are better than nachos, and by nearly two whole points.

How, you ask, does one quantify how good food tastes? Today I learned the answer thanks to this helpful scientist I met named Laura Ttotsis-Ossenberger. She’s a Food Scientist as the West Dakota Agricultural College and has developed the Tsotsis-Ossenberger Scale which can tell you how good a certain food tastes with extreme accuracy, up to five decimal places even.

Her method is simple. First you take a sample of the food in question and weigh it. Then you mix it with an equal mass of dog saliva and throw it in a cyclotron. When you’re done with that you put it in a little cup which goes on a this really super cool scientific scale that I’m apparently not allowed to touch. Next, you take the eyeball out of a chimpanzee. Those chimps do not like when Laura comes in with the pliers. They scream and howl and try to fight her off, but she’ll pluck that eye right out. The chimps hate it and then they sit in the corner kind of murmuring. Okay, then you put the eyeball on the other side of the cup and weigh it too. The computer then spits out a number that tells you exactly how good food tastes.

Braised mutton, Laura tells me, gets a 1.993, while caviar surprisingly is a .022 and sushi a disappointing .00021. Nachos, my favorite score an astounding 37.1 and tacos are at the top with the highest rating of any food; 38.9. When Laura and I went and got lunch, you know what we got; it was tacos all right.

And for all you animal lovers, don’t worry. The chimps that Laura blinds are given good homes; they’re exported to Platha where they’re used for farm labor. It’s like my mom always said “Never waste a blind chimpanzee and eat a taco every day.” Later my mom was institutionalized.

Katie Stalin: Coast to Coast, Part IX


Rapid City, SD– Before I began my journey I didn’t even know that there was a Museum of Geology in Rapid City. Now I know, neat huh? Actually it’s not that neat. There are a lot of rocks, and while I guess some of them are sort of pretty, when you really get down to it they’re just rocks. The whole planet Earth, where I live, is made of rocks. It’s a whole big thing made of rocks. Granted, sedimentary rocks are okay, but on a whole I’d give the Museum of Geology a 2 on a scale of 1 to roughly 8 billion.

Instead I hitch hiked up to Mount Rushmore, a famous national monument. And, guess what? That too, when you get up close, is just made of rocks. Sure, they’re rocks that look like people, but still rocks. There was a tree there and when you looked at it from a certain angle it looked like James K. Polk in profile. I tried to show the tour guide, but he just ignored me and talked more about Borglum, who is dead apparently. Mount Rushmore is not worth seeing. Believe me.

As I headed into North Dakota, I found this really interesting guy named Bill Lamb who plays the harpsichord. The cool thing was that he didn’t actually play the harpsichord, he’s trained his murder of 108 crows to play it. They were amazing. First they tapped out Sinatra’s My Way, then moved seamlessly into Radiohead’s Anyone Can Play Guitar and finished off with a rendition of Miles Davis’s Darn That Dream that brought the house down. Well, actually it brought me down, that is to say that I liked it a lot.

Mr. Lamb gave me a glossy photo of one of the crows and also, for some reason, a small box of broken door knobs. Then we rode around for a while on his tandem bike. On a scale of 1 to 8 billion, I give crows that play a harpsichord a 7.9 billion. Crows are cool.

Katie Stalin: Coast to Coast, Part VIII

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St. Louis, MO– It’s the gateway to the once untamed and wild West. Sitting, as it often does, on the banks of the majestic Mississippi, St. Louis is famous for its big upside down “U” thing that sits there glittering, gleaming, beckoning and other adjectives as well.

My first day there I took a little ride all the way to the top. Yeah, the view was intense; the whole of America seemed to spread out before me. Up there, I met a nice Polish tourist named Jano who told me that “Big arch…good.” That sums it up all right. For some reason, he kept referring to me as a “nice piece,” but he wouldn’t tell me what that meant.

Luckily, Jano had brought a case of Borschtweiser, the most popular of all the Polish lagers. We hung out at the top of the arch and tried to hit boats with our empty cans. On my third try, I totally hit a barge right near the bow. Nice!

It turns out you’re not allowed to throw empty beer cans off the St. Louis Arch. In fact, you’re not even supposed to bring beer up there. They kicked us out. Jano’s response was to point out that the security guards were “No good” and I agree.

The arch was totally lame. Really it’s just a bent piece of metal. Luckily there was a snack bar near by and yep, they had nachos! Maybe next time I’ll try Route 66 and see where the open road takes me.