“The Whole Chalupa” by Jack McCarthy

Jack McCarthy


There’s an educational controversy raging in Massachusetts over the “MCAS” tests, a series of standardized tests that students have to pass before they can get a high school diploma.

So I’m on my way to work, jumping around the AM dial,
trying to get last night’s Red Sox score from the west coast
and I hear these two guys talking about
the Drop the Chalupa commercial,

and I stop and listen because I think
it’s one of the funniest commercials I’ve ever seen,
but that’s not what these hockeypucks are saying,
no, they’re complaining about that commercial,

because they don’t get it;
and even before I can hit the scan button again,
Beavis and Buttahan are on to capital punishment,
and why am I not surprised that they’re in favor of it?

But I am surprised that they have the cojones
to express an opinion on it
right after they’ve just admitted
they don’t get Drop the Chalupa.

But isn’t that typical of us right now?
We live in the Golden Age of the Opinion:
no knowledge, no education, no qualification,
just give us your opinion, like …

like a judge in a poetry slam.
And even though I like that commercial,
don’t get the idea that I’m in favor of advertising:
the other day I was waiting for the subway

and there’s this kid on the platform next to me
wearing a GAP sweatshirt, and I said,
“How much you get for that?” and he said, “What?”
I said, “I’m not proud, money’s a little tight right now,

paying off all those college loans and such,
we could use a few extra bucks;
so how much do you charge the GAP
for wearing their advertising like that?”

And he started to move away from me
down the platform. I yelled, “I got
just one word for you, kid: MCAS,”
and he started to run, and all the kids on the platform

started to run away from me as I stood there
shouting “MCAS! MCAS.” Which set me thinking
that if I’d stayed with the Drop the Chalupa guys
five more minutes they probably would have been

ranting and raving about the schools and the
teachers and Why can’t kids pass the MCAS?
Maybe they can’t, you Twin Peaks of Nincompoop,
but I guarantee you, they get Drop the Chalupa.

So why can’t kids pass the MCAS?
Because they don’t do any homework.
Why? Because they’re all out working at
Taco Bell. Why? Because they’ve become

the hottest market for all the advertisers;
because they have to shell out
forty-eight bucks for a GAP sweatshirt,
eighteen ninety-eight for the new Britney Spears CD.

I bought Don’t Be Cruel for eighty-nine cents;
Hallelujah I Love Her So, Ray Charles,
changed my life, eighty-nine cents;
Mack the Knife, the Louis Armstrong version—

I laid a crumpled dollar down, they gave me back
a penny and a dime (and they didn’t need a calculator
to do it). These kids have to buy the whole CD,
and they have to work half a day for that.

Studying pays nada, and they’re consumers now.
They know it; we’re the ones who haven’t
gotten around to admitting it yet. Now
you’re going to tell me they don’t have to

listen to the ads, and you’re right, except for
one thing: advertising works. Every so often
the stakes get high enough to compel us
to acknowledge that it works; we took

liquor commercials off TV, and cigarettes;
we force them to put in disclaimers: “Please
chugalug responsibly;” “May cause drowsiness,
anal leakage, and agonizing death;”

“Erections lasting more than four hours, though rare,
require immediate medical attention.” I wish
somebody had told me that a long time ago.
It would have explained so much.

What we really need is a disclaimer that says,
“I got paid big bucks to tell you that about Doritos.
If you believe one word I said, you’d be safer going to
Hannibal Lecter’s for an intimate dinner than you are

watching TV, because the advertisers will eat you
alive.” Even that might not be enough; we’ve made
TV the babysitter for two generations of our kids;
now we find out that was like putting Dubya

in charge of the evidence in a coke bust.
And no one understands the power of advertising
better than the politicians, who gave away the airwaves
in the first place; now it’s poetic justice that they have to

sell their soul every few years to buy their office back.
Campaign finance reform? Why don’t we just say,
“Political ads are free”? Can’t we do that?
Don’t the airwaves belong to the people?

I’ll have to call Beavis and Buttahan
and see if they have an opinion about that.
But of course they’ll have an opinion about it;
as soon as they hear it, they’ll have an opinion.

Because you see this bone here? Note how it goes
directly from the ear to the jaw. This is the
Opinion Bone. An idea enters at the ear,
and this bone carries it straight to the mouth,

where it exits matched randomly with one of three
opinions: It’s Cool; It Sucks; or, for anything
that’s less than instantaneously clear, It
Doesn’t Suck. The brain never has to be

engaged. In the wrong hands, this bone is
still the most dangerous weapon in the world:
the jawbone of an ass. And the Philistines
have turned it against us.

Of course,
that’s only

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007
Tribute to Slam Poetry


Jack McCarthy: “I write poetry because in 1964 I heard ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales.’ I perform my poetry because in 1993-94 I found out that there was an audience for what I was writing, and that I loved being in front of that audience. (And I really love it when the people who introduce me use the word ‘legend.’) I compete in slams because it’s a chance to do two or three poems instead of just one; and because whenever someone tells me they liked my poem, I burn to ask, ‘How much did you like it? On a scale of one to ten???’” (web)

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