Q: Why are you not Dr. Toast in Bolivia? Is Dr. Toast trademarked there? Does your degree in all things toast not translate into Latin cultures? Do you ever wonder why a cold-fusion toaster would be a bad thing?
– Yours in toast, Katie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(ed. note: Katie is referring to the copyright disclaimer at the bottom of the page.)
A: Katie, your sharp eyes have uncovered another dark, obscure bit of Dr. Toast’s past, a past which haunts him even today in his copyright disclaimers.
In the summer of 1984, I was a ten-year-old child who had received the gift of amazing toast intellect just two years earlier. I knew it would only be a matter of time before the CIA learned of my powers, and one sweltering July day they did.
They caught up with me in a cafe in the North Beach district of San Francisco, where I was standing on the small black plywood stage, a young prophet preaching the word of toast to the disheveled masses gathered around me. Before anyone knew what was happening, men in dark glasses and sharp suits rushed in and hustled me off into a waiting van.
John Burton was the local CIA operative who filled me in as we drove towards the airport. Seems they needed my superhuman intellect to crush a powerful ring of government-sponsored toast smugglers working out of Bolivia, flying their goods out of the country in cargo planes provided by the Honduran military in exchange for a cut of the profits. “You can’t make me do jack,” I muttered as I snubbed my cigarette into the upholstery. “Is that so?” sneered Burton.
He reached into his raincoat and slowly withdrew a fresh loaf of Home-Pride brand buttertop wheat bread. He untwisted the twistie sadistically and, savoring the look of terror on my face, began tossing slices out of the van’s window, one by one. “Enough!” I cried. “I’ll do your dirtywork.”
I stepped off of the plane in the Bolivian capital of Sucre, in the Chuquisaca region. The air was so thick you almost needed gills and fins. It was hard to imagine a crispy slice of toast originating in such an inhospitable environment, but everyone knows this is where you buy the good stuff. Comes from climate-controlled warehouses deep in central Bolivia. A multi-billion-dollar industry.
As my Bolivian contact, Mario Villegas, drove our jeep along the muddy road to our destination, I opened the manilla envelope Burton had given me and started to read. The center of the operation was a fortified government lab deep in the rainforest between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz in central Bolivia. The local townspeople were virtual slave laborers for the government, sorting and packing the precious commodity. If they refused to work, the government cut the power to their homes, rendering their toasters useless. The very thought gives me chills to this day.
Soon after nightfall, Villegas stopped the jeep about two miles from the lab. We would make our final approach on foot under cover of darkness. “I’ve gotta quit smoking,” I wheezed as I hacked through the vines with my machete. “Here, have a slice of toast,” Villegas offered. Not surprisingly, it was the good stuff. My stamina restored, we pressed onwards.
We were close. The glimmer of floodlamps began to flash through the swaying foliage from time to time. When we finally came to the chain-link and razorwire fence at the perimeter of the compound, Villegas was as shocked as I. “The ruins of an ancient Tiahuanacan temple? So far from Lake Titicaca?” I exclaimed. “It seems our government has many secrets,” mumbled Villegas.
Military vehicles were lined up by the edges of the temple, not far from a large circular area which was inscribed with strange ancient characters, pointing inwards. The large character at the center looked somehow familiar: a square with a bulging, uneven top. Couldn’t quite place it. The circular area was brightly illuminated with floodlamps, and men in fatigues lounged by the vehicles. “It looks like they’re waiting for something,” I whispered.
As I tried to light another cigarette, a sudden breeze hindered my efforts. The breeze grew, and soon a low whirring noise became noticeable. As colored light began to bathe the entire area, Villegas and I slowly tilted our heads back, only to be practically blinded by the phantasmagorical display that was descending from the heavens.
The lights swirled and danced on the temple and forest as the enormous spacecraft approached the landing area. After the soft thud of contact, a door quietly slid open.
The smell of toast was overwhelming.
Dozens of small, spindly creatures formed a line going from the craft along the ramp to the ground and, fire-brigade style, began passing along slices of hot, crisp toast and placing it in neat symmetrical stacks on the tarmac. The eyes of the military men glittered with greed as they watched the slowly accumulating bounty.
Immediately, my hyper-intelligent toast intellect put two and two together. I grabbed Villegas’ shoulder. “Do you realize what’s happening here?” I trembled as rage swelled up within me. “These extraterrestrials were the benefactors of the ancient Tiahuanacan people. Lacking electricity, the Tiahuanacans had no way to make toast. It was a dire need that was generously filled by the technologically advanced aliens, but now the well-meaning creatures are unaware that the Tiahuanacan civilization disappeared eight hundred years ago! They continue their timely deliveries of toast, which are snapped up by these money-grubbing fiends!”
I could contain myself no longer. I had to end this charade. Before Villegas could stop me, I scrambled clumsily over the razor wire and made a dash for the landing area. “Benevolent creatures! Your generosity is being wasted!” I yelled as I ran. “The Tiahuanacans are – “ Two large men in fatigues cut the thought short as they threw me down and pinned me by my bloodied arms, knocking me breathless. The aliens, startled by the commotion, hastily left in a swirling vortex of dust and light. In retrospect, they probably didn’t speak English, anyway.
One of the men produced a .45 which he placed to my head. His partner stopped him, pointing to the name tag I was fortunately wearing. “Hello, My Name Is: Dr. Toast, CIA”. They knew the CIA signed their paychecks for a number of covert operations, and that to dispose of Dr. Toast would be a bad career move.
After my release, the Bolivian government, in cooperation with the government of Honduras, dealt me the harshest punishment permissible under their secret contracts with the CIA. Knowing that I intended to eventually capitalize on my adventures in Bolivia, they rescinded any and all of my copyright, trademark, and other business privileges within their borders. No “Dr. Toast, The Bolivian Autobiography”. No “Dr. Toast, the Honduran Movie”. No “Dr. Toast, the Bolivian and Honduran Breakfast Cereal”. This is the price we must pay for standing by our morals.
So the next time you hear someone say, “Bolivian toast comes from aliens,” do not be overcome with despair. Just be inspired by the fact that Dr. Toast tried to do the right thing.
– Dr. Toast
ps - About the cold fusion toaster: It’s a good idea, but it makes the toast taste funny.