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94 Whole Hog Tenaya Darlington Three seasons out of the year, I don’t see my next-door neighbor Kim. Just traces of him—the trail of his cigarette, the sound of his Harley each morning at first light, and sometimes at night, the blue glow of his hot tub, which materializes out of the Wisconsin darkness like a ghostly window of sky. A quiet guy, he rarely appears at neighborhood gatherings —the winter solstice potluck, the Day of the Dead fête, the annual thirty-seventh birthday party of my neighbor Cherie, which inevitably turns into an all-night extravaganza of daiquiris and Sufi dancing and dogs dressed in little costumes. Kim is an auto mechanic, a stout, bearded man in his sixties who has lived in the same house since he was fifteen. Nine months out of twelve, he stores up his burly gusto for the one party he throws each year: his summer pig roast. Kim is a summer lover. More than anyone in our neighborhood (affectionately referred to as “the massage ghetto,” for its surplus of body workers), he knows how to maximize his warm-weather pleasure. A few years back, he installed a beer tap next to his sliding screen door so he could pour a cold one from his deck without having to leave his lawn chair. Before that, he installed a platform for his television across from the Jacuzzi, so he could watch the Packers games while submerged . On Sundays, his bearded face and pint glass are barely visible above the blue foam. In downtown Madison, where the yards are narrow and the trees are thin, Kim is the ultimate urban outdoorsman, and nothing—not his deck, not his canoe, not his mysterious spelunking gear in the garage—showcases his talent for masterminding a bona fide summer blowout like his pig roast. Three years running, it features a different porcine personality each time around with posters that precede the event, announcing the coming of “Willy the Pig” or “Harry the Hog” until a whole persona has evolved long before the poor thing arrives from pasture packed in ice. 95 Tenaya Darlington As with many ritualistic events, there is an element of joyous crudeness to it, evident in the numerous drunken snapshots that have survived from past years, in which Kim and his grown son Roger pose with the Pig of the Year before it’s cooked. In the photographs, Kim and his son hold up drafts of Budweiser, huge grins slashed across their beards. The pig, propped up on cinder blocks with an apple in its mouth, always sports the latest summer fashion: sunglasses, fishing hat, Hawaiian shirt. During the last election year, I seem to remember an American flag poking up through a hoof. It takes two full days to slow-roast the pig. The job demands sentries, timers, someone with the stamina to make it through a night shift. Every fifteen minutes, coals must be carefully laid under the pig’s sizzling body. The coals must be kept red hot, requiring careful watch over a set of hibachis stationed by Kim’s garage. The whole process involves beer and fire, beer and fire. Through this, the neighborhood spirit is revived. On the day the pig arrives, our block comes alive with both curiosity and revulsion. My neighbor Dana saunters down in a muumuu, carrying her requisite cup of sake, and stands against the fence across from the pig, imagining—despite her Jewish heritage—the forbidden taste of its sweetness. Behind her, the vegans gawk from their lawn, keen noses set to the west—What is that smell? Oh Gawd. And off they march in the opposite direction toward the grocery co-op, their vegan dog loping behind. By late afternoon, a distinctly porcine smell begins to drift through my window screens. It’s a smell unlike any other that wafts through our neighborhood—a place that is downwind from a coal plant with four smoke stacks that breathe constant black wisps into us. The smell of pig is stronger than that smell or the pungent smell of the lake that off-gases three blocks over or the bus exhaust from the...


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pp. 94-99
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