On Writing

Something Foul at the Chicken Shack

I hoped for spark as I watched the new version of the motoring show Top Gear this weekend. It reminded me of a visit to Pittsburgh.


Outside a downtown cheese steak and sandwich shop was a sign with a huge rooster promising spark with copy which read in essence, “This is the hottest chicken sandwich you will ever eat. Hot. Hot. Hot!” Recently removed from Texas, where I had eaten my share of hot food, and now living in Las Vegas, where hot food can be found, I of course was very interested in eating the “hottest chicken sandwich in Pittsburgh.”

I ordered and waited for the challenge.

It seemed to take longer than my friend’s cheese steak and I visioned the cook dipping it in extra hotness and spices before it was cooked. Special hot requires special handling.

Soon my number came up and the cook promised, “You are going to like this one.”

The plate was hot and steam was coming from the middle of the chicken. It certainly was hot and it smelled promising.

My mouth watered in anticipation and I prepared for the blast of Pittsburgh-inspired heat.

It was bland.

The cook was smiling when I returned to fetch some Red’s Hot Sauce.

“Are you sure? That is one hot sandwich!”

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for a Wendy’s so I could down a spicy sandwich and cleanse my pallet.

Returning to the new Top Gear, the show missed spark. It was bland.

Not so much because of the missing trio of presenters – Clarkson, May, and Hammond – although I missed their banter. It was more that it seemed like someone forgot how to write small talk. The hosts were off.

In fact, the spark came during the off-road desert test of Matt LeBlanc. I thought perhaps I was being an Americanocentric snob when it hit me: this piece worked because of excellent writing. The writers really knew how to spice it up.

Whoever wrote this really knows how to make the rocks fly and the wheels jump.

The writer captured the excitement of flying through the desert and made it fun. Adding the evil British villains was a clever play on the outsider American on the car show. Overall, the writing engaged the viewer and kept me past 40 minutes of the program.

The rest I am not sure about. My son brought me a video titled “DHL box challenge (No 4, medium)” which gave me back some of the spice I missed.

© 2016, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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