MAD DOG: Throw Food, Not Punches

How many times have you sat around talking to someone and wondered, "How come with all this chit-chat we still haven't cured the world's ills?" If you're like most people, the thought simply hasn't occurred to you. After all, you have better things to think about, like whether that garbled message on your answering machine that said "You've got it!" was from the producers of Survivor III, that Internet start-up that wants to buy your idea for a power blackout screen saver, or the STD clinic.

I, on the other hand, think about these things. When I'm not thinking about what's for lunch, what's for dinner, and why we pay to use free weights. I wonder about why there's always so much fighting going on. For instance, right now they're fighting in West Timor, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, and the apartment next door, just to name a few hot spots. Can't they just argue without fighting?

Even though I hate arguing, experts say it's healthy. They've actually done studies which prove that couples who argue well stay together longer. The imperative phrase, of course, is "argue well." To most people, a good argument is one they win. Unfortunately that's not what the experts mean. They're more concerned with form rather than content, much the way guys look at women. They say a fair, well-balanced, and open argument is healthy. They say winning isn't everything. They'd obviously make real bad Little League coaches.

Here's an example: George W. Bush and Al Gore debating is a good argument, in spite of its being dangerously close to Gore debating an unarmed opponent. They follow basic, structured rules of debating, which for some reason is called forensics, probably because it's a dead art and what we're seeing is a political autopsy. Or maybe it's because the ratings stink like a decaying corpse.

Another example is Anna Nicole Smith. She did a good job of arguing when she convinced a judge that she deserves $449.7 million from her dead husband's estate. As far as I'm concerned any 26-year-old who will sleep with an 89-year-old man deserves that kind of money. Of course she also should be made to have a warning label tattooed on her that prospective husbands can't miss.

On the other hand, a bad argument is one that ends up in a fight. And since it's obvious we can't all get along, we need to find a better way to resolve disputes. I propose food fights.

Yes, food fights. They're safe, relatively harmless, and fun. No one can go through a food fight and still be in a cranky mood. Well, not unless they're being pelted with raw chitlins, hard boiled eggs still in the shell, and last year's Christmas fruit cake. Is there anyone who's watched "Animal House" without thinking how much fun a food fight would be, especially if John Belushi hadn't been so stupid and was still around to join in?

They understand this concept in Bunol, Spain, where each August they hold a festival called La Tomatina. The highlight is when they dump five truck-loads of over-ripe tomatoes in the streets and 30,000 people pelt each other with the squishy fruit. Why they do this is lost to history. One story says that years ago some kids got bored at an annual balloon festival and started throwing tomatoes at the balloons. Another version says it stems from a family fight. Either way, you can bet there are no fistfights during La Tomatina. Hell, people are too busy holding up French fries trying to catch some tomato paste as it flies by to think about fighting.

Then there's pie-ing, which has a long, time-honored tradition. Charlie Chaplin was pie-ed. Soupy Sales was pie-ed every day. Even Bill Gates was pie-ed and he took it in his usual good manner--he bought the people who pie-ed him and released an improved, though buggy, version of them.

Some people don't appreciate being pie-ed. A couple of years ago members of the Biotic Baking Brigade were arrested in San Francisco for tossing a cherry pie at Mayor Willie Brown. They were found guilty of battery, he was found guilty of having no sense of humor, and no matter how you look at it, it's still better than a duel in Union Square at dawn. Right, like they could wake up the homeless that early to get them to clear enough space for a duel.

In Amsterdam (motto: "Illegal? What's that mean?") a group of protestors recently stormed into a TV studio and sprayed chocolate sauce on a right-wing extremist from Belgium. It was unclear why they did this, though I suspect it was because they didn't want to waste any gouda. Unfortunately this food fight wasn't harm-free--two protestors were injured in the melee. This brings up a good point: Even a food fight is unfair if both parties aren't adequately armed.

That's why I think everyone should keep pies and ripe tomatoes on hand at all times. Wouldn't it be better to lob a few Mrs. Smith's Banana Cream pies than to end up on Jerry Springer's "I Got Tired of Fighting With My Wife So I Hacked Her Up Into Little Pieces and Shipped Her C.O.D. to Alaska" show? Don't you think a few well-placed tomatoes would make the Israelis and Palestinians calm down? Well, providing they didn't argue over whether they had to be kosher or not. And wouldn't it be nice to know that a few squirts of Hershey's Chocolate Sauce might eliminate another terrorist bombing?

Peace talks could be held at an All-U-Can-Eat buffet. Marital counseling would consist of a trip to the supermarket. And instead of throwing a fit you could throw a handful of pudding. Hmmmm, I wonder what they serve for dinner when you accept a Nobel Peace Prize?

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