Originally Posted: 2004-01-11 11:00am

Yes, Virginia, goats DO eat gingerbread houses

Dear Craigslist community:

The holidays are over, and Spring has officially come to the Bay Area. And it was you, the Craigslist community, that made this possible, and gave one man the gift of fulfilling his dream.

That dream being: to see an enormous herd of goats gobble up a gingerbread house.

It all started off so innocently, when, on Christmas Day, I wrote this letter to Craigslist:

*** snip ***

I desperately need your help to find a large herd of goats to eat a reasonably-sized gingerbread house. Preferably this would be in or around Berkeley.

I'm sure you're wondering: Why?

Well I'm Jewish, and as you can imagine, not really into the whole Christmas scene. By rights, neither should my girlfriend -- she's half Jewish, after all. But she really loves the holidays, and especially Christmas -- the tree, carols, everything. So this year, I have been dragged to parties, and we're eating fruitcake, and we're looking for ornaments, and since she has been making a gingerbread house every year since she was like 6 or something, we actually made a real life gingerbread house together -- something I have never done before in my life.

I must admit that, due to my influence, the house is pretty good. It's quite colorful, with an incredible variety of candy (thanks Costco!), and an extravagant tile roof made of Necco wafers. It even has some upturned candy canes along the gables in the style of a Thai temple. (I was searching for inspiration.) It truly is a work of art -- and an edible one, to boot. Sure, by the time we're done enjoying it, the frosting has hardened into concrete, and the gingerbread structural materials are also probably less than ideal. But it is truly a great merger of food and decoration.

So what will happen to this precious objet d'art? Normally, shortly after Christmas, it is unceremoniously tipped into a garbage can. That's it. The thing must contain 300,000 calories of candy and gingerbread, and it's just going to go to the dump, where it will be compacted in an anaerobic environment for thousands of years, until garbologists unearth it and say: Wow, that was a pretty good gingerbread house.

Well, I think that's just wrong. Admittedly, the house should not be kept -- it is symbolic of the now (thank god) nearly completed holidays and must be destroyed if Spring is to arrive. But I have also learned that it is a shame to waste food. And thus, my goal: to say farewell to the house in an orgy of consumption. Not by humans, but by goats.

Why goats? I have spent much time considering what animal would be best. Were we in the tropics (where I hail from), ants would do the trick, and indeed, it would be an ant orgy the likes of which you have never seen. But in the cold, sad, holiday-time Bay Area, accessible animals are few. Deer are skittish, and are unlikely to tolerate my watching them (Did I mention I have to be able to watch the destruction? Well, I do.) Finding raccoons or skunks is unlikely, and I doubt they would take to the demolition with the speed and ferocity of which I dream. The closest we have is livestock. And, once you go through the list -- cows, horses, sheep -- it is apparent that only goats have the avidity of will, strength of teeth, and solidity of stomach to properly destroy the gingerbread house.

So I'm looking for goats -- lots of them. I want them to be hungry, and in all sizes. My vision (eyes wet with fantasy) is that we have at least a dozen swarming on the house at one time, tearing off Necco wafers, sour tarts, gum balls, M 'n' Ms and yes, the now regionally-prohibited silver dragees with their outturned teeth and strange, prehensile lips. As they rip at the house walls and frosting-mortar, their elliptically-pupilled eyes will be crazed with delight, tasting a food as delectable in taste as it is aesthetically pleasing. As one sated goat falls away, another will replace it, until the house is nothing but red and green crumbs in the dust. And I will be looking on, watching the symbolic destruction of the holidays (and all that it implies -- the shopping frenzy, the incessant carols, the mock cheer, the creepy gift baskets) by my hornèd minions.

My problem: I don't know where any goats are! Please, please, help me find a herd of goats, ideally in or around the Berkeley area. Preferably, during the day they should be unattended by someone concerned about controlling their diet. The feeding will occur sometime after January 1 -- and yes, if they're your goats, you can watch them (and me an my girlfriend) to make sure nothing untoward happens. I am, of course, open to suggestions on other forms of livestock, but I think you can easily see why only goats will do.

Just write me at goatseathouse@yahoo.com . Yes, this is real! I mean it! Please help....

** snip **

As a result of this Craigslist announcement, six people wrote me. Two of them were journalists: one from the Oakland Tribune, another from KNTV Channel 11's news department. The Oakland Tribune wanted photos, but I was still completely goatless: no dice. But television.... At first, the idea felt ridiculous -- clearly the result of a slow news day beyond all reason. But then I thought: if anyone can help me find large quantities of goats, it's the mass media. And Channel 11 was really desperate to speak to me. So I called them up, and eventually, they interviewed me -- they actually did it at a (another!) holiday party at the home of a friend. Yes, I had actually brought the gingerbread house from Berkeley to this dinner party in San Jose -- interrupting the hors d'oeuvres -- so that I could be in the spotlight glare of local news. How pathetic am I? But the fantasy drove me on.

Like a flu shot, gathering local TV news (or rather having it gathered from you) is short and painless while it happens. The problem is (to extend the metaphor) that you never know if it will give you a sore arm or some kind of mini-SARS. I wondered what would become of my quest. Would I be "local man has goat fantasy," or maybe "local man hates Christmas," or "local man is total nutbar?" But while it happened, it was fun. At 6:30 pm, a reporter and cameraman came (they call the last guy a "photographer" -- ooh), pointed a tripod-mounted camera and lights at me, and started me off with a softball: describe the features of the house. I did so, pointing cheesily to the Necco wafers roofing tile (yes, I am proud of it, thank you), the starlight mints, the log pile made of Tootsie Rolls. He then started on random questions. Why goats? Why not just let people eat it? How long did it take to make? And (most importantly) how could someone with an enormous quantity of goats contact me? It was all a beautiful blur -- I was high on my ego, my verbosity, and all the time I was imagining the herds, nay, swarms, nay, myriads of goats that my TV appearance would summon. I imagined a grey, braying cloud sweeping with nobbly legs over the soft green hills of the East Bay, all converging on my gingerbread house and utterly annihilating it. (Perhaps I was also influenced by a recent viewing of Return of the King.)

And then it was over: they packed up and fled off to some silly story like a power outage on one of the coldest nights of the year. Breathless waiting, waiting until 11:00 pm. And ten minutes into the show: there I am! Is my hair really receding like that? But wait, I'm a teaser -- my story is so compelling that can use me to get viewers to stay tuned. Commercials, and then more boring news -- Tito Jackson, Michael Jackson -- and then: I'm another teaser. Wow... I'm big. But no mention of the goats.... when will it happen?!?

And then, after a Kwanzaa story: "A local man has a dilemma." How mild a start! And there I am (I have it all on videotape), and there's my house, close up. According to them, the house is now nearly a foot tall! (I suppose at 8 inches it is closer to one foot than, say, zero feet, but by this standard I am nearly six feet tall -- an Amazon among Jews.) And there are the gumballs, and the rubber bunnies, which no, the goats would not get to eat. I emit a strangely literate sound bite, about how I want the house to be appreciated by animals that can take advantage of the calories that the house embodies, or some such nonsense. Did I really say that? While it's a personal triumph, though, I can't believe what I am hearing: that I want the house to be eaten by "A" goat. Not plural goats -- just a goat. ONE goat.

I ask you, where the hell is the drama in that? The ambition? What made this story so palpable is the you-are-there feeling of the greedy, bleating, rough-haired goats obliterating my gingerbread house, ripping it apart, reducing it to crumbs and powder. Not the image of a single, straggling petting-zoo refugee gnawing feebly at a Necco wafer. It was a unfathomable letdown, and then: they didn't mention my email address.


But I was philosophical about it. With this show now on tape, the goatherders, or goatmongers, or whatever they are, will know I'm serious. It's clear that I mean business, and serious publicity will attend the eventual (and now, hopefully inevitable) house consumption. So while some may argue that my fantasy had been betrayed, I believe that, in fact, it has been both vindicated and revitalized by the mass media. And, most importantly, it will happen. Oh yes. Oh yes.....

And what of the other four writers? Just kind, gentle folk like you dear readers, who pointed me, directly or indirectly, to the monopoly provider of goat-powered brush clearing services in the East Bay: Goats R Us. Yes, that's its real name. They indeed look like a winner, and with the incredible PR machine behind me, I hope to gain their approval for a full and open gingerbread-house gobbling -- no furtive drop-and-run here. This revolution will be televised! Or at least, photographed.

Needless to say, I promise to keep you posted.


OK, that's what I wrote, thanking Craigslist for making my dreams come true. Yet I was still bereft of goats. And the press people were still after me, promising, begging, imploring. Fine: I call Goats R Us, and get voice mail. Their voice mail message sounds chipper, business-like, so... sane. Maybe they're Republicans. Maybe they'll see right through me. Maybe.... I don't know. I hang up, think, and call back. At the beep, I cross my fingers and leave my name and number, without telling them what it's for...who's going to believe me? They soon call back, but I'm in the shower, and they get my voice mail. I call back (voice mail again!), and leave another coy message. This time they're suspicious (and who wouldn't, if you’re a prominent goat supplier), and they ask the indiscrete question: Could you PLEASE tell us what you actually want?

So I call back (voice mail!) and leave them the message. I had rehearsed what I would say, but what came out was a tide of verbiage, alternately rational, apologetic, incredulous, perhaps psychotic: "The press wants me to yada yada gingerbread houses yada yada publicity for you yada yada yes it's all for real, really."

I hang up and wait. No response for a long time. I think: They think I'm insane. I think: Maybe they're right. I get an idea: I need leverage. The TV people got me into this, and I'm gonna make the TV people get me the goats, dammit. So I call the TV people. (In my mind, they're all blending together: a single, peppy, twenty-something lady producer. Please forgive me, all of you: the Daras, Joeys, and Sabrinas -- without your help, I wouldn't be here....)

I don’t know what they tell them, but BAM -- within minutes, Goats R Us is on the horn (ha), ready to deal. We figure out a time to meet, and they will even provide a selection of both friendly and non-friendly goats. (Huh? I don't know what this means, but I play it cool. Don't want to scare them off.) It will be an intimate affair: just me, my girlfriend, the goat people, a photographer from the Oakland Tribune, the NBC Channel 11 camera crew, and scores of ferociously hungry goats.

I wake up early on Saturday -- the chosen day. It's beautiful: clear, sunny, finally dry after seeming weeks of (sad, holiday, Bay Area) rain. On this day clearly designed for renewal, I can’t contain myself. I'm gonna be on TV! In the paper! With goats! TV was now old hat, but I was imagining my color picture on the front page of Section B of the Oakland Tribune: my eyes clenched shut as one goat devours my house, while another does that weird kissing thing they do to me. (If a goat gets near your face, it will kiss you, or at least lip you. Don't ask me why.) I could be like the Crocodile Hunter guy -- but with goats! "Crikey, that's a big 'un!"

Just before heading off to the secret goat detention camp, I called the press. They had told me don't call us, we