Standing counter-high in the kitchen, about five years old, I came to the realization that meat was a dead body.
Encountering a dead body was about the scariest thing I could imagine.
I did not like meat so much after that, at least not for a few months. The thought returns to me, unable to be forgotten, from time to time, and is one that has inspired several ill-planned attempts at vegetarianism.
Given how much dead stuff scared me, it’s a wonder that some of the happiest times of my childhood, up until about the age of twelve, were spent focused on dead stuff in Houston’s wonderful Museum of Natural Science (HMNS).
I loved the dinosaur hall, but even more than that, the Egyptology hall. Somehow, desiccated, disemboweled, millennia-old corpses were far less offensive to me than raw hamburger. Until seventh grade, I wanted to become an archaeologist.
An archaeologist is, after all, the ultimate cold-case detective.
I had books on Egypt. I wrote my name in hieroglyphs. I watched TV shows about Egypt. In kindergarten, I begged my parents to let me eat dinner in their room so I could watch a Discovery Channel special entitled “Who Killed King Tut?” which came complete with a dramatic intro sequence featuring blood running down the famous funerary mask. (It turns out Tut likely died of infection from a broken leg)
When not reading about Egypt, I was probably reading about the RMS Titanic. When an exhibition of artifacts came to the HMNS, I went at least twice. I also watched a three-hour A&E series about its sinking obsessively. Already present was my interest in human drama of a somewhat darker nature.
The worst thing I would ever see on TV would not be scheduled programming.