Erika Hoffman :: Home Fries Riff ::


Southern Legitimacy Statement: I attended Duke University aka University of New Jersey, the state where I was born and bred. I married a Georgian fellow I met there and lived in Atlanta for five years before returning to North Carolina and having my four kids in the small town of Siler City, last home of Aunt Bea, a former New Yorker and Hollywood star. Most of my life has been here in the South.

Home Fries Riff

I was hungry when we walked into Sound Furniture Store at Emerald Isle.  We were supposed to look at bed frames, but I ended up wandering about perusing all the décor on display. On a wall, I saw a sign “Home Fries.”  Weird. Then my mind meandered about home fries and how good some would taste with ketchup about now, or maybe Ranch dressing, or even mayonnaise, like those the Dutch serve. So, as my reverie ‘bout home fries continued, I saw other printables, and recalled the humorous Progressive Insurance Commercial starring Dr. Rick who tutors young homeowners on how not to be their parents. Dr. Rick prevents a group of young adults from turning into their folks by pointing out ludicrous things they say and do which are exactly what their old parents would say and do.  At the beginning of the commercial, Dr. Rick admonishes: “Do you really need a sign that says: Live, Laugh & Love?”  When a woman nods yes, he asserts: “No you don’t!” and then gives the plaque a dismissive heave-ho into the trash bin. After several other scenarios, where Dr. Rick educates this group of forty-somethings, at the end of the commercial, another young gal proudly reads the sign she’s holding: No Fussin” No cussin’, No backtalkin’, Dr. Rick unceremoniously snatches it from her hands and hurls it into a large garbage can.

Anyway, gazing at these signs full of words reminded me of a skit I saw on SNL where a bunch of women seated on couches celebrated Amy’s character’s birthday. Every gift, she opened from a friend was a wall sign with a message about drinking too much.  The guests clapped and enjoyed each of the presents they’d bought for “AMY,” while each sign’s message became more insulting than the last, and the birthday gal became more agitated. She was outright upset as she realized her friends had given her wooden signs with a similar theme to the first one: I Drink Too Much. After about ten had been unwrapped, she realized her pals considered her an out-of-control, raging drunk. Apparently, that was hilarious to them.  I laughed aloud at that skit.

Then, I turned a corner in the store and glimpsed the sign “Home Fries” from another angle.  It said, “Home Fires.”

Well, that’s not funny at all.  And that didn’t send my mind ricocheting off in any random way, except… I began to think about loose associations and word associations and how the idea of fried sliced potatoes could do that to me while my stomach growled.  Do writers have more of this loose wiring in their heads than other folks? Is it a sort of a mental condition, perhaps a disability that makes a person unfocused and go down rabbit holes? Is it how poets create similes and metaphors by linking things that aren’t related to each other? This whimsical habit could be a veritable handicap. What if you’re a pilot trying to read directions and decipher illustrations as your plane spirals out of control?  What if your mind started riffing on the word “fall?” I’m sure that’s not the “right stuff” pilots need in their heads.

Writers see the world in layers. Seeing nuances for them can be a gift, instead of a liability. Yet, a writer must have discipline or else a person with a capacity for loose association is more like Jack Nicholson’s pals in One Flew over the Cuckoo Nest than like Willy Shakespeare.

Ergo, before I ponder the boring wooden sign “Home Fires” anymore, I’ll follow up on my imaginative take. What if the “artiste” who meant to carve out “Home Fires” had a dyslexic moment and transcribed the “I” and the” R” and produced a much more appealing oeuvre d’art: HOME FRIES.  Now a sign that reads “Home Fries” might be more apt to embellish a kitchen wall. I’d buy that! With that being settled, I decided I really didn’t feel like examining any more metal bed racks and would rather seek out a fast-food eatery serving home fries. Or anything fried.  Fried pickles, fried okra, fried green beans…my mind envisions a cornucopia of possibilities. Amazing how a couple of words can inspire!