what's good for you
stray thoughts about bacon and barton springs
I wasn’t there, and so I didn’t see it, but my mom tells me that when they were cleaning out all of my grandfather’s things following his death, the cabinets were filled with supplements—various pills he thought were good for him. The images are hyperbolic in my imagination. I picture dozens of trash bags filled with little beads, colorful and matte like dull confetti.
There is an older woman I read about who believes that Barton Springs has healing powers. She swims three mornings per week before the sun comes up and says this keeps her joints in order.
An incomplete list of things my grandfather told me to consume more of, for my health, that I never did:
Bacon (for the nitrates)
Vitamins C and D
Fish (for the oil)
Proof of Barton’s curative powers is that the woman who swims thrice weekly was reduced to using a walker during the pool’s three-month closure in 2020.
I thought the bacon would make me fat. Same with the orange juice. The good fish were too expensive. Fish oil would make my breath smell bad. No one I knew took vitamins. Salt was in everything already, I didn’t know how to add even more.
There is also me and my friend Emily, who swear that the cold water at Barton will cure any hangover. We like to go on Sunday afternoons and lay in direct sun. The body’s hottest points feel the coldest upon jumping in. Particularly the bottoms of your feet.
It’s tomato season and I’m eating a lot of BLTs. I think of my grandfather every time I eat bacon. I have never Googled anything related to his theory about nitrates. I have chosen to believe something about it is good for me.
This morning, Marshall turned to me at 7:30 and asked if I wanted to take a morning dip. The neighbor got a rooster that wakes us up at dawn, and to cope, we’ve taken to going to Barton first thing, before the parking lot fills and the hill is all sun. The temperature differential is less severe before the day has cooked. We believe it wakes us up, the same as coffee, but somehow better.
I am thinking about my grandfather’s pinching. He was expert at finding vulnerable sections of fat and squeezing in this certain way. They felt like bee stings. He called them love pinches. I hated it as a child. I do it to others as an adult.
They recently found the bad algae at Barton Springs—the kind that, every year, is responsible for killing several dogs. “It’s only bad if you ingest it,” is what people keep saying. They mean this as a comfort. What I wonder is: How would you even know?
Before I was born, my grandfather smoked cigarettes. He spent a lifetime in pastures under the sun, before we knew as much about SPF. He worked with chemicals daily. And then, toward the end, there were all the supplements. I wonder what among it all was poison.
He thought it was good to have a little meat on your bones. Finishing a meal was not just polite, but correct. He’d steal leftover bites off your plate. He was always dipping his fingers into the pots on the stove. He is where we learned about stealing small pinches off the cake before it was served. I know, without question, that he was happy. He went through a brief phase where he was infatuated with parmesan cheese. Once, I watched him sprinkle it over leftover Chinese food. It feels like proof. The last recipe he recited to me was for his frozen margaritas, which included the addition of powdered sugar to cans of frozen limeade. It’s jotted down in my phone. I remember transcribing it as he spoke. Sometimes, I do think, you just know.
If I hold still for a second I can imagine what it feels like to jump right in. And, every time, it feels so good.
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Hannah, as always Wonderful