Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.
Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Life(?) of Trillian
Thursday, December 03, 2009
It's official. The Universe is testing me.
Or, failing that, perhaps something along the lines of serenity now!?
I'm going to step away from my Snuggie® doling place of positivity for a moment.
Belgiuming swutting mother-Belgiuming Hoosier State Troopers.
I swutting hate Belgiuming Indiana. Always have. Always will.
Crossroads of America? Take a look at a map. More like armpit of America.
Okay. Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now.
Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh.
Deep breath in, exhale slowly out.
Giant metaphoric blanket of compassion for everyone in the entire state of Indiana, yes, including the fine patrol officer who pulled me over on the Indiana Toll Road and spent 45 minutes harassing me.
Maybe, maybe I was driving slightly over the speed limit. But I'm not sure because the speed limit wasn't posted in the area where I was driving. He claimed it was a work zone and the speed limit is under the 45 MPH law.
If I'd seen any sign, and I mean any sign of construction - a stripey orange barrel with a flashing light on top, a flashing yellow arrow, a sign stating "CONSTRUCTION ZONE", a sign stating, "45 MPH," a sign stating, "WORK ZONE, FINES DOUBLED," a sign with a funny looking round-headed guy with a shovel, a DOT pick-up truck, an actual road worker, loose gravel, heck, even a lone sandbag split open and flapping in the breeze in the median, any indication that construction was taking place - I would have been driving 45 MPH. I'm a safe and considerate driver that way. I don't mess around in construction zones. I just don't. I'm Ms. Courteous and Safe Driver. I really am. So safe and courteous that even without any indication of construction on the Skyway I was driving 55 MPH while everyone, and I mean everyone was passing me so fast they were blurry and made that whooshing Chuck Yeager noise. I know better than to drive above the posted speed limit on the Skyway. I know the speed limit is 55 MPH. I also know Hoosier troopers don't mess around with Illinois, Michigan and Ohio drivers.
Sidebar: What the swut is a Hoosier? I mean, I know it generally means hick or dolt or lackey, but really, what is a Hoosier? And furthermore, Indianans out there, please, explain to me why you're so swutting proud of being hicks/dolts/lackeys that you go around calling yourselves Hoosiers? Is it because you want to come off all humble and full of humility and aww shucks-y? If so, you're misguided. So. Stop it.
Okay. So. I was driving a rental car with Michigan plates. Through the fine state of Indiana. Near the fine city of Gary. Home to US Steel and Michael Jackson and the stinkiest stretch of highway in the United States. Those three facts are related and not coincidental. Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh. Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh. Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh. Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh. Okay. So. I'm rolling along, cruise control engaged at 55 MPH exactly, cars and trucks are flying past me at speeds that made me feel like Mr. Magoo in a Model A with Jetsons-esque spacecars whizzing by me, complete with the whooshy blippy noises, and Sgt. Imaprickwithabadge comes darting up behind me, nearly rear ending me. Me, the one going 55 MPH while dozens of cars are Jetsoning by me, Sgt. Toobigforhishoosiersuit magnetizes his HoosierTrooperMobile to my bumper. I looked in the rear view mirror and smiled. I nearly waved to him, all pleasant and happy-like. Because I wasn't doing anything wrong. I was all "60 miles from Chicago, a full tank of gas, half pack of Twizzlers...what a lovely day for a drive, the snow is falling and I'm driving a rental car with a mere 1,200 miles on it, an iPod adapter and front and rear speakers to break in." The only thing, the only thing I may have been doing "wrong" was listening to the stereo too loud.
Had I been in a residential area a) I would not have had the stereo at amps at 11 volume and b) I wouldn't have been listening to Planet of Sound. Because it's scientifically impossible for me to listen to Planet of Sound at a volume lower than permanent hearing loss, PHL, levels. But because I was driving on a stretch of highway through the middle of swutting US Steel I felt pretty confident that blaring the Pixies at PHL levels is not an infraction of any local laws. And as far as courtesy goes, a car driving along the Skyway through the middle of US Steel while the occupant blasts Planet of Sound at PHL levels is the least of the local population's problems.
So I'm all "Good day officer, how's it going back there, la la la..." not even bothering to tap the brake or decel the cruise. I mean, I was going 55 MPH, the only one on the road traveling less than 70 MPH. Why would I even worry about the Hoosier Trooper magnetized to my bumper, right?
Well, next thing I know Sgt. Wasteoftaxpayersdollars has his lights and sirens flashing.
My reaction? "Oh dear, there must be an emergency somewhere, I'll pull over and out of his way."
You're probably a lot smarter than I am. You probably know where this is going. You probably know no good is ever going to come of a Hoosier Trooper magnetized to your bumper on the Indiana Toll Road with lights and sirens flashing.
But since I had absolutely no idea that I was doing anything wrong, I was all little miss innocent and confused when I pulled over to let him pass me and noticed that he pulled over, too, and was getting out of his Hoosier Patrol Mobile.
"Afternoon, Ma'am." I hate getting ma'amed. Hate it. So that put me in a bad mood with this guy.
"Do you know how fast you were driving?" I hate that ridiculous question. Does anyone, anyone ever answer that question honestly when they get pulled over? Why do they insist on asking us drivers if we know how fast we were driving? Obviously if we're driving fast enough to get pulled over by a state trooper we either know we were over the legal speed limit or we don't know what the legal speed limit is or we have a broken speedometer or we're drunk or stoned out of our minds and have no clue we're even driving a car let alone how fast we're driving it. In any or all of those cases there's no way anyone is going to answer truthfully. The correct and I'm guessing only answer to that question, in the entire history of driving, is, "No, officer, I'm not sure how fast I was driving." What comes next is divergent upon the driver and the circumstances. Some people start nervously blabbering on and on, some people cry, some people get sarcastic with the officer, some people meekly shrug, some people try to stay calm and say as little as possible.
I take the silence is golden approach. Less is more. That is, on the occasions when I've been pulled over. And there haven't been many of those occasions. Thankfully. But kind of oddly considering I have a bit of a lead foot. Except on the Indiana Skyway where I always set the cruise at 55 MPH. Yes. Okay? Yes. I have a tendency to drive fast. Okay? But only where it's safe to do so. Only on highways where there isn't much traffic or back roads in the middle of nowhere. I would never, ever endanger anyone else. Sure, I like to drive fast, but I like to drive safe, too. And I always obey the speed limit on the Indiana Toll Road where I always set the cruise at 55 MPH. My dad taught me a lot. A lot. A lot of useful, practical stuff. One of the first things I learned from my dad was that you always, always drive the posted speed limit in Indiana and Florida. The local highway authorities in those state don't take kindly to out of state plates, especially Michigan plates.
On our many road trips I observed my dad slow the car down the second we crossed the Indiana border. My dad habitually drove 95 MPH so when we hit the border and he slowed it down to 55 MPH it always felt like we were entering another dimension, falling over the event horizon of a black hole like on Star Trek when time stands still. It seemed like we all started talking sloooooower and deeeeeper until no one said anything and gravity inside the car got all wonky. Adding to that effect was that my mother always, always sighed and said, "Indiana. In-dee-annnna. Sigh. Indian.Ah. (pause) You know they don't observe daylight savings time, here. Stubborn. And I can never remember if they're Central or Eastern time. So I have absolutely no idea what time it is. (looking at her watch and the dashboard clock, all nervous-like, eyes darting from watch to clock to billboards, like a frightened victim in a Hitchcock movie looking for some sign, some escape) It's Summer, so it's either 10:15 or 11:15 or possibly 9:15. Hurry up and get to Chicago, dear. Indiana confuses the children. (another pause) And it smells. Kids, remember to hold your breath through Gary. You don't want to catch lung cancer from the steel mills."
I kid you not. Every time we drove through Indiana my mother recited that exact speech. Every now and then I call my brother and impersonate my mother giving that speech. It makes him laugh and reminds him that he's due for therapy. The phrase, "Indiana confuses the children" lives in infamy and perpetuity in my family. Of course. How could it not?
Never mind that we lived within smelling distance of Detroit and Flint, we spent summers swimming in Lakes St. Clair and Huron and our dad smoked Chesterfields. The eminent danger of the smell of Gary looming ahead of us cast a sinister and serious pall in the car. One minute we were rolling along at 95 MPH playing car bingo, singing along with the radio, friendly little cartoon bluebirds whistling outside the car windows, all snug and secure in the knowledge that we knew exactly what time it was and the next minute we were all helter skelter about what time it was, abruptly slowed down 55 MPH making gravity inside the car all wonky, observing radio silence, and scared witless about "catching" lung cancer.
Welcome to Indiana.
You know, my mother is normally a very sane, intelligent, thoughtful, logical woman. The voice of calm and level-headed reason. But the second, and I mean the second we crossed the Indiana border she got all funny in the head. She does have a thing about knowing what time it is. I think the whole Indiana Summer time defiance thing messes with her mind.
I have pre-existing issues with Indiana.
I know, I learned from my dad, you always, always drive 55 MPH in Indiana. No matter what time of year it is or how bad Gary smells, you risk catching lung cancer and drive 55 MPH.
Hence my confusion as to why Sgt. Prixalot was asking me if I knew how fast I was driving.
"Yes, sir, I had the cruise engaged at 55 MPH." Big smile and outstretched palms of the innocent motioning toward the speedometer.
"Uh-huh. I'll need to see license and proof of vehicle insurance."
"Um. Okay. But can I ask why? What did I do wrong?"
"You were in a construction zone. Construction zones are 45 MPH. You were driving 10 MPH over the limit. I don't know how you all feel about worker safety in Michigan, but here in Indiana we put the safety of our road crews at a paramount and fines are doubled in construction zones."
I already had my wallet out to pay the tolls. I handed him my license. "Construction zone? I didn't see a construction zone. Or a construction worker. Or a posted speed limit sign."
I know. I know. Okay? I know. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid thing to say. Never, ever insinuate that you're right and the officer holding your driver's license is in any way wrong. I know this.
But I was confused. Bewildered. Flummoxed. And a little scared. It was a rental car and I had no clue where the proof of insurance was. I assumed the glove box but I couldn't find it in there.
"The toll road is under construction from LaPorte to Hammond."
"Oh. Ahhhh. (affecting an air of logical explanation) See, I got on it at Lake Station. If it was posted at LaPorte I wouldn't have seen the signs. And, honest, officer, I haven't seen anyone working on the road..." Outstretched palms of the innocent gesturing to the workerless shoulder of the road.
I know. Okay? I know. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid girl with an Illinois driver's license driving a car with Michigan plates on the Indiana toll road. I know. Okay? I know.
"Chicago, eh? Chicago. How is it you have a Chicago driver's license and Michigan tags?" he said this looking over his Clint Eastwood sunglasses.
"Rental car." I said. I think I may have implied a "duh." I'm pretty sure I didn't actually say "duh" but I can't be positive that I didn't roll my eyes, thus implying "duh."
What happened next can only be explained by the fact that I am the Universe's whipping girl, scape goat and longest running joke. Yes. The Universe is bullying me. I hate to sound (or be) paranoid, but how else can you explain that even though I turned down the car stereo when I pulled off to the shoulder, suddenly, the jangly weirdo opening guitar of Motorway to Roswell came blaring, and I mean blaring out of the car speakers? Okay, it can be explained thus: I had my iPod plugged in and I had turned off the volume equalizer for sound-a-rama on my Michiana road trip. Regrets? I have a few. But still. What are the odds that at the very moment that Sgt. Womenhavehurtmeinthepastandmyunderwearisridingupmyass started badgering me for the proof of insurance Motorway to Roswell would come blaring out of the car stereo? I mean, on that very same iPod there's some Bob Seger, sure to be a Hoosier Trooper favorite, there's some Tom Petty, he sings about Indiana. But does the Universe blast Seger or Petty the exact moment Sgt. Igetoffonharassingmotorists bent his head down and toward the open window to look me in the eye and reprimand me for not finding the rental car proof of insurance? No. No, the Universe instead decided to have a laugh at my expense and blasted out Motorway to Roswell at the precise moment Sgt. Wedonttakekindlytostrangers stuck his face in the open car window in preparation for a reprimand.
The very second he opened his mouth to start a speech about the responsibilities of driving a rental car and what to check for before you leave the rental car lot, out blasted that jangly guitar intro, which is silly-sounding and seemed like I was mocking Sgt. Ihavenosenseofhumorandhaventbeenlaidin10years.
And to make the situation even worse, while I was fumbling in the glove box for the proof of insurance, my iPod, tethered to the dash, fell between the passenger seat and the console between the seats. So I couldn't just hit stop.
Instead I grabbed at the cord and attempted to pull it out of the dash. But it was a brand spanking new car and my cord fit really snugly into the dash hole. (I like that term, by the way. Dash hole. Hee hee hee.) In all the nervousness and weirdness of the moment I couldn't get the thing unplugged and ol' Frank was screaming, "Last night, he could not make it, last night he could not make it...HOW COULD THIS SO GREAT TURN SO SHITTY..." and that guitar was jangling away, and crimony, the whole situation just kept getting worse. It seemed like the "turn so shitty" part was a lot more loud and well pronounced than I remember Frank singing it in all the times I've listened to it in the past. But maybe that was just my nerves effecting my hearing. Indiana. It messes with your mind. Ask my mother.
And still no proof of insurance.
At this point Sgt. Imgoingtomakeanexampleofyou had had enough.
"I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the car, ma'am."
Again with the ma'am? Really? Really?
I knew better than to protest.
I didn't like getting out of the car and I didn't see any reason for him to ask me to get out of the car and every urban legend and horror story I've ever heard or read about policemen turned bad and fake policemen and evil doings in hayseed counties flooded my brain. "I'm going to die. In Indiana. On the toll road. Near Gary. At the hands of a pissed off psycho Hoosier Trooper. At the very least I'm going to catch lung cancer standing out here in the open air. I hope he does rape and kill me because that would be quick, and hey, at least I'd get to have sex, and since I'm probably catching lung cancer standing out here on the side of the toll road in Gary, rape and murder would be better than a long, drawn out lung cancer death."
"I'm sorry officer, it's a rental, like I said, and just give me a minute and I'll call the rental car company and we can get this all straightened out in no time."
"I'm going to need you to get out of the car and take a breathalyzer test."
Hang on just a cotton-pickin' Hoosier second.
I do not drink and drive. Ever. Never. Ever. Not one sip, not even a rum ball if I'm going to be anywhere near a driver's seat within 24 hours. I. Just. Don't. Do. It. Never have, never will. It's like, I dunno, a commandment to me. Thou shall not drink and drive. Period.
So I was not only surprised and confused by his request and insinuation, I was also insulted.
"I'm sorry about my stereo, officer, really, but I have not been drinking."
I know. I know. Okay? I know. Stupid, stupid, stupid girl with an iPod malfunction and no proof of vehicle insurance.
Then, suddenly, I remembered my rental car agreement. Ah-ha!!! That shows that I signed for insurance!!! So I reached into my bag to find the rental car agreement. The ratty old starred bag, which suddenly looked like a stoner girl's bag, a bag of weed would look totally natural falling out of it onto the car seat. The ratty old bag would look totally at home on the seat of a '78 Camaro. I'm tellin' ya, Indiana, man, it messes with your mind.
Sgt. IhaveweaponsandIknowhowtousethem had no patience or tolerance for my fumbling around in my bag and apparently he thought I was going to pull out a gun or knife or mace. He backed away from the car and yelled, "Keep your hands where I can see them! Step out of the car! And keep your hands where I can see them."
Having never been in a "keep your hands where I can see them" situation I was more than a little, um, what's the word? Oh yes. Petrified.
I managed to grasp the rental agreement as I pulled my hand out of my bag. I put up one hand and said, "It's just the rental agreement," and slowly handed it to him with my other hand.
"I said step out of the car."
I was still really, really, really, really uncomfortable with that.
Every instinct, every feeling in my gut, everything about this seemed, well, wrong.
Maybe, maybe I was going 55 MPH in a 45 MPH construction zone. I'll give him that. Maybe I didn't see a construction zone sign and maybe I deserved a 10 MPH over the limit, doubled in work zones, ticket. I don't think deserved it, but let's just say I did. Okay, fine, give me the ticket, and another one for not having proof of insurance on a rental car, and that's that. A big day for this guy, I would think. Why the breathalyzer? Why the "step out of the car?" Why the "keep your hands where I can see them?" All because of the Pixies blaring out of the car stereo? I dunno. I'm not usually so suspicious, but my antennae were tingling, big time.
But there he was, yelling at me to get out of the car.
So I did.
He took the rental car agreement and told me to move to the rear of the car and to put my hands on the trunk. I hoped that Hoosier squad cars have video tape rolling at all times so that if Sgt. Pulloverinnocentwomenandthenrapeandkillthem tried anything it would at least be caught on tape. So the guys back at the station could enjoy it, too. I made sure to stand right smack in the middle of what I hoped was the squad car camera lens. (I've seen COPS a few times. I tried to recall the camera angles from the squad car tapes they show on COPS.) Sure enough, Sgt. ThisishowIgetoff came back and administered a pat down.
And yes, he spent a little more time than I think was necessary on my chest and butt. But how do I prove that? How much time does a thorough boob and ass pat down officially require? And, how firm do the pats need to be? I will say this, Sgt. Gropeandfeel had a light touch. A little too light if you ask me. A little too, this makes me feel creepy and dirty, um, well, a little too sensual. I'm used to the female TSA agent frisk. Pat. Pat. Pat. Swat. Pat. Done. Have a nice flight. This guy was more tap, tap, tap, tap, wiggle, tap, wiggle, tap, ooooowhathavewehere?anipple? tap, tap. I mean, I dunno. There's gray area. I didn't do anything wrong in the first place, certainly nothing to warrant a pat down, and for that reason alone the whole thing is suspect. But, on the other slim chance, the guy was (albeit overzealously) doing his job. And he didn't manhandle me. Maybe, maybe he was trying to be polite? Is there such a thing as a polite roadside frisk? Yeah, I didn't think so, either.
Sidebar: I've been pretty humiliated in my life. I think it's fair to say I've already endured more, and more types, of humiliation than the average person experiences in an entire lifetime. But standing bent over and pressed against the trunk of a rental car on the side of the Indiana Toll Road with US Steel exhaust billowing in the background while being frisked down by a Hoosier Trooper is a form of humiliation I never thought I'd get to experience. Once again, one more time, all I could think about was my parents. Hanging their heads, my mother shedding tears, my dad trying to console her and flashing me disappointed and angry looks, "A good neighborhood. The best schools. Church on Sunday. Girl Scouts. Summer camp. Music lessons. Art lessons. Math tutors. Encyclopedias. Travel. Orthodontia. Good shoes. Love. Affection. Encouragement. Support. Where did we go wrong? Where? Where Trillian? How did we fail you? What did we do to you? How did this happen? What's wrong with you? Why are you doing this to us?" Yeah. Shame. It's a bitch.
Realizing I'd already sunk to a new and different low of humiliation I took the breathalyzer. And passed. Of course. I haven't had booze in a week, and that was two (small) glasses of wine.
Sgt. OooopsIdiditagain seemed disappointed that I was alcohol-free.
And then something truly bizarre happened.
He handed me my license, rental car agreement and told me he would let me off with a warning but that I should remember that the Indiana Toll Road is under construction and the speed limit is 45 MPH and fines are doubled in work zones.
And that was that.
I got back in the car and pulled back onto the highway, set the cruise to 45 MPH, cars and trucks whooshed by me even faster than before, and I crept, slowly, back to Chicago with the stereo volume all nice and civil. Appropriate for a residential area on a pastoral Sunday morning.
After all that. After all the "Because I Wear the Badge and I Said So" nonsense, the frisking, the breathalyzer...after all that, he just gave me a warning and sent me on my way.
Not that I'm complaining about not getting a ticket. I didn't do anything to deserve a ticket in the first place. (I triple dog dare you to find any, any sign of construction or road work along that stretch of road. And what about the people speeding along a lot faster than 55 MPH??? Huh? Huh? What about them??) It's just...I mean, huh? What the...???
If it was "just" so Sgt. Hoosierdaddy could, um, heh heh, cop a feel, wouldn't he make a bigger deal of it? I mean, borderline sensual pat-down notwithstanding, he didn't really "get" much. I've had more intimate encounters with people crowded next to me on the El. I know, I know. Never underestimate the mind of a pervert. I know. It's shocking how little it takes to get some guys off. I know. (And yet...do I ever manage to date a guy who has such low standards or desires??? Noooooo, I get the guys who have complex needs and desires specific to only 2% of the female population and 10 page (8 point type, single spaced) lists of requirements that eliminate me from anything more than a first date or casual fling.) He didn't "do" enough to warrant me filing a complaint, and really, did he "do" anything to me? I mean, apart from the humiliation? Ahhhhh, the humiliation. B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name, oh. Getting off on power. Forcing someone, a woman, to do what you tell her to do. Niiiiice. Nice work Sgt. Ihaveissueswithwomenandareallysmallpenis.
The joke's on him, though, in some respects. He had no idea who he was messin' with. Humiliation? Yeah. Being frisked on the side of the road was a new kind of humiliation for me. But humiliation comes natural for me. By the time I rounded curve at the Field Museum I was over it. Even now, reflecting on it, I'm not feeling especially violated. I've endured worse. Even if he did get off on his little magic fingers pat-down I'm not particularly "upset" about it. On the list of Humiliating Experiences I've Endured it'll end up pretty far down in the tally.
But I am mad to think a creep like that could get a badge and it disturbs me to think that sort of behavior exists and is perpetuated. I shudder to think about what other, less fortunate women, have endured by more forceful, more intrusive men behind a badge. But for me? Meh. He lives in Indiana. That's punishment enough. By tomorrow I'll have wrapped him in a Snuggie® of compassion and sent him on his way to the back of my memory. But not before giving the world a warning about a creep patrolling the Indiana Toll Road.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Tell me somethin' good...about Michigan!
Betcha didn't know that Michigan is home to the Magic Capital of the world, did you?
It's not just an illusion...
Colon, Michigan is the official Magic Capital of the World. Harry Blackstone called Colon home and training camp for his traveling show. He's buried in the local cemetery. Actually, now that I'm on the subject, the Harries Blackstone, senior and junior, make for some interesting reading. Blackstone senior filled the void left by Houdini, but, with a twist - Blackstone had a sense of humor about the whole thing. Child protective services probably wouldn't go for this today, but, Blackstone senior indoctrinated his son into the world of magic showmanship as an infant. Harry junior was used as a prop in Harry senior's shows. Just observing and reporting. Not here to judge. Times were different back then...and it didn't seem to adversely affect Blackstone junior.
He went on to have a thriving career in magic, too. My parents took me to see his show when I was a really little kid. He freaked the crap out of me. Not just his magic tricks, but he, himself, the man, freaked the crap out of me. And yet...I found him oddly compelling...oh yes, he was a magic man. (Cue Heart guitar intro.)
My brother developed some pretty impressive sleight of hand skills thanks to Blackstone junior's magic kits. (And my brother's young assistant and pet cat helped a lot in honing his skills, too. Ahem.)
Harry, senior, was born in Chicago but is buried in Michigan. Blackstone, junior, was born and buried in Michigan. Magic Michiganders. Cool.
And, they make more than cars in Michigan. Michigan is home to Abbotts, the largest manufacturer and distributor of magician supplies in the world. Seriously. Check out their site. I promise you'll find something you want. And I promise you'll find a lot of things for the Harry Potter fan in your life.
I read the Harry Potter series and like it, but, I'm not really into magic and magic tricks and all that. (See above, crap freaked out by Harry Blackstone, Jr., at an early and impressionable age.) So I can't really comment with any degree of knowledge. But. From a purely innocent, objective observer and somewhat wary perspective, I have to admit that Colon and Abbotts are pretty darned cool.
Every summer there's a festival with magic tricks and shows galore. Even for those of us who are not really into the sleight of hand it's a lot of fun. And hey, how often do you get to send a postcard from Colon? A magic postcard from Colon, no less. Sweet.
We tip our bunny filled magic top hat to the Harries Blackstone, Magic Men of Michigan, and Abbotts, we salute you for proudly keeping your wand in Michigan.
Monday, November 30, 2009
The more I learn the less I know. This is a fact. But.
I do know there are at least two constant, absolute certainties in the Universe: Change and death.
I’ve always chosen to believe that all change is good. Even change for the worse is good.
The alternative, stagnation, is worse than the worst change for the worse.
Evolution = good. Not so good for certain types of dinosaurs and plants, but, you know, “good” that the planet continues to evolve on its progression. Strong arguments could be made against that point of view – evolution = humans = raping and pillaging of the planet ergo change = bad. But there’s strong evidence that the dinosaurs were raping and pillaging the planet in their own way.
I like dinosaurs. For the obvious reasons. They’re cool. And also because they ended up as fossil fuel.
Hang on, hang on a minute. Don’t get all up in arms shocked at my sudden vulgar inhumane flippant attitude about animal life. I don’t like that they ended up as fossil fuel in the sense that I like to burn fossil fuel because I like to rape and pillage the planet and whoooo boy, aren’t we lucky to live in modern times where we use fossil fuel to power our conspicuous consumption of natural resources so that we may have things like NASCAR, space rockets, iPods and, ahem, blogs. I like that they ended up as fossil fuel because it serves as a daily reminder that even the mightiest, coolest beings had their day, failed to evolve, change, died and…yet…even in death, even (and especially) after lying stagnant, decayed and fossilized, they serve another purpose. Sinclair petrol is one of my favorite brand trademarks for that reason: Straight to the point, their dinosaur silhouette logo says it all: Yesterday’s dinosaur is tomorrow’s road trip. That dinosaur is a harbingering warning: Change or else. Or else you’ll end up in someone’s Honda bound for the Mystery Spot.
Change and death. Change or die. Change and die. There’s no choice, really. If you don’t change, evolve, you will die. If you do change, evolve, guess what? You still die. Change and death. Welcome to Absolute Certainty. Population: You.
I grew up in a really, really, really, really small town. I mean really small town. I didn’t hate it the way many people raised in small towns hate small towns. I don’t resent my parents for leaving the city when they had kids. They had solid, valid reasons for raising us outside of the city limits. Okaaaaay, perhaps they took it to an extreme, perhaaaaps the exact center of the middle of nowhere, the bull’s eye on the nowhere target as I affectionately call it, wasn’t necessary, but they had good reasons and honestly, none of us are any worse for it. Fortunately my parents traveled. A lot. So we got out of the inner circle of Hell quite often and for prolonged periods of time. I was lucky that way. Best of both worlds, I guess. I got to see and experience outer circles of Hell on a regular basis.
And when we returned to our really, really, really, really small town I felt, you know, okay with it. Except for one thing. One thing I really, really, really, really hated about our small town. One thing fueled my desire, my compulsion, my need to get as far away from that really, really, really, really small town as possible. One thing. One singular, unwavering lament.
Nothing ever changes.
I know. I know. Many people view that as a good thing. Many people don’t like change. Or at least not in their town. People who don’t like change usually like small towns. They like the stability, reliability and security of knowing their churches, schools, local authorities, restaurants and neighbors are always going to be the same. It makes them feel like their ship is anchored securely in a safe harbor. No matter how stormy their sea of life is they know they are anchored in a safe place.
I get that. I understand. Kind of. The thing I think they fail to recognize is that the harbor itself isn’t what provides the stability and safety. It’s the community, or sense of community, that makes them feel all cozy and snug (and smug) and secure in the knowledge that tomorrow will be just like today which was just like yesterday. They fail to recognize that change happens. Everything changes. Even them.
Except in my hometown. Nothing ever changes in my really, really, really, really small hometown.
Until about 10 – 15 years ago, that is. And then a bunch of stuff changed. A growth spurt. A mini housing boom. A couple new restaurants, an addition on the high school and a new traffic light with a left turn arrow and everything. I know, I know! Big time, we’re on our way, we’re making it!
And then crash bang wallop, a couple years ago things started digress. A little too much change too soon, too fast, and there were repercussions. The new addition on the high school isn’t paid for, yet, but it’s already unnecessary. The new people with their progeny left almost as quickly as they arrived and the extra space in the school isn’t needed. Uh-oh. Back where we started. Some things changed, and then those things changed again, so if you happened to have missed the little growth spurt, the change blip, and returned now, you would never know anything ever changed in your hiatus.
It’s weird. I’m part of that town because I’m from there. And because my parents have lived there since I was born. I am from there. And I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of that.
It was always more part of me than I was of it. I never really fit in there. People were nice enough to me, are nice to me, but I’m sure that has less to do with genuine concern and feeling for me and more to do with respect for my parents (who are well liked and fit in very nicely) and small town politeness. It's part of me because it's where I'm from. Small town values, way of life, all that. There's no denying that no matter how bad I want to be, no matter where I go or what I do, there's a part of me, a core part of me, that is a good girl from a small town. Even though I never fit in there. Even though I'm not exactly the Local Girl Makes Good success story. There's part of me that is a good girl from a small town. Not exactly Doris Day, but not exactly Briget Bardot, either.
What I’m starting to realize is that I don’t really fit in anywhere. I think I might be a drifter. Or just another disaffected GenXer. Or just run of the mill depressed.
But I don’t blame my small town roots. It’s not my hometown, it’s me. I knew it when I was a kid. I knew I was lucky to live in my hometown. It’s a nice place with nice people and good schools and everything a kid could want. I knew that. I just didn’t see myself staying there one day longer than required. But not because I hated it or the people.
I left when I went to college and apart from landing there a few times between moves I’ve never been back for any reason other than to visit my parents.
Consequently I have a unique perspective on the whole mini-boom and the current “bust.” I’m from there and my parents live there so I “care,” but, I’m so distanced from it that I can see it for what it is. It’s like I have one subjective eye and one objective eye.
Things, now, have swung back to how they were when I was growing up. The new people and their new restaurants have left. No one’s “happy” about this but most people kind of expected it, I think. And everyone thought one of the new restaurants was overpriced and had a weird menu – and you had to pay extra for a salad and that salad had dandelions in it! Dandelions!!! The only “new” businesses that have managed to last now that the “new” people have left are a Tim Horton’s franchise and a pet store. The township has a Walgreen’s and there’s a new McDonald’s out by the highway, now, but that’s on the other side of town. Not really part of my hometown. Not really.
But here’s the thing. The thing that makes me feel old and sad and lonely. All the things that I thought never changed are, well, changing. And not in a good way. In a tomorrow’s fossil fuel kind of way.
My parents live way out on the township borderline, way past the city limits and a half mile from the county line road which is the last line between “civilization” and “no life guard on duty, travel at your own risk.”
When I talk about my really, really, really, really small town I’m talking about the place we traveled to for school, church and groceries. If you’ve ever seen an episode of Little House on the Prairie it’s kind of like that. We “went into town.” We still “go into town.” Except now the road is paved and there’s not only a stop sign but also a traffic light on the journey there. And when we “get into town” there are a couple gas stations, small grocery, a 7-11, a few mom and pop restaurants (a pizza joint, natch, where the Rotary meets on the second Tuesday of the month, natch), a couple clothing/gift/liquor stores, a pharmacy, a funeral home, the once/week newspaper, a flower shop, a cemetery (with a ghost, natch), schools, churches, the library, a few doctors and dentist offices, an insurance agent, a lawyer, a vet, Elks, Moose and VFW, a fire/police/post office/municipal building and a dry cleaner.
That’s it. That’s the sum total of my home town. 10 – 15 years ago things changed, new businesses came in, fancy high falootin’ places, but now most of them are gone. Things changed and now they’ve pretty much changed back. Which is still change.
The dry cleaner has been owned and operated by the same family ever since I can remember. Mr. and Mrs. Yee. I’m not going to cat dance around this. It is what it is. The dry cleaner is run by a Chinese family. Okay? Yes. Yes. My hometown is so stereotypical that our dry cleaner is run by a Chinese family. When I was growing up they were the only Chinese family in our town. They had a son a grade behind me in school and guess what? He was so good at math he was bumped up a grade for his math classes so I knew him. And guess what else? The lawyer and dentist are Jewish. Okay? Look, I’m not saying I like the stereotypicalities of my hometown. But for all the cringe-worthy stereotypicalities in businesses, the residents have always been diverse and at least from my perspective there weren’t any racial issues.
So. Mrs. Yee died a few years ago. Everyone thought for sure Mr. Yee would sell or close the dry cleaner. Mrs. Yee was the face of the dry cleaner. She kept that place spotless and was always there to greet customers. Mr. Yee was more behind-the-scenes. He’d work the counter when it was busy, he was friendly, but Mrs. Yee was the social one, and the one everyone knew.
People just assumed Mr. Yee couldn’t or wouldn’t stay open without Mrs. Yee. Everyone figured he’d sell or close and move out west with his son the fancy schmancy software developer. So far that hasn’t happened. Mr. Yee is still at the dry cleaner removing spots and pressing suits.
But I dunno. I’m starting to worry about Mr. Yee. When my dad died and I needed to have his burial suit cleaned and pressed ASAP Mr. Yee took care of me. He had my dad's suit and my clothes funeral home visitation ready in a few hours and he didn’t charge me. That's an example of really, really, really, really small town life.
Everything seemed, you know, normal on the dry cleaning front. That was (gasp) 16 months ago. Since then I’ve taken in or picked up a few things for my mother. The once spotless and perfectly maintained building needs some work. And I’ve noticed Mr. Yee isn’t quite as sharp as he used to be. He doesn’t rush to the counter as quickly as he used to and the smile isn’t as ready and easy. Instead of talking about his son’s MIT degree and job in software he kind of mumbles perfunctory greetings.
Okay. So. I needed a jacket cleaned and pressed. I took it into town to Mr. Yee.
Nothing, and I mean nothing in my weird life full of strange people and strange experiences prepared me for what happened next.
Whooo boy. I don’t know how to say this. Just thinking about it has me all weirded out.
I walked into the dry cleaner, which is starting to show signs of lack of upkeep, and the second I opened the door I was greeted with a rush of stale air. And when I say stale air I don’t mean “hmmmm, Mr. Yee brought his Pekingese into work today and then had stromboli and coffee for lunch and that whiff of perfume can only mean Mrs. Anders was in here this morning and left her lingering scent.” I wish it was that kind of stale air.
Unfortunately the kind of stale air I’m talking about is the kind of stale air no one wants to associate with older people, especially older people they’ve known all their life, especially older people they’ve known all their life and happen to be the parent of a classmate.
All right, I’ll just come right out and say it.
Mr. Yee was obviously smoking pot in the back room of the dry cleaner.
The last time I was in there I thought I smelled a faint whiff of it, but there was a heap of newly dropped off clothes on the counter and I just assumed it was wafting from those clothes.
But this time there was no heap of clothes. Just the skunky, musty, fieldy smell of pot.
When I rang the little bell on the counter it took Mr. Yee a really long time to appear from the back room. And when he did he was, well, how to say this in a way that doesn't weird me out even more...he was...well...clearly baked. Red eyed and wispy and grinning.
Whatever. S’cool. It’s all cool. Man.
Mr. Yee???? Really???? I mean, huh???? You think you know someone, for your entire life and then all of a sudden he goes and gets stoned in the back room of his business.
And worse, yes, there’s a worse part to this, the dry cleaner building happens to back up to the fire/police/post office/municipal building.
I’m cool, but the local cop is definitely not cool. I was in orchestra with his sister and I kinda got to know him a little thanks to him picking us up and giving me a ride home after rehearsals.
He was two grades ahead of us.
He was Jr. ROTC.
He was a douche.
Considering he never left town and became the local cop, and based on the ridiculously self righteous police blotter reports in the local newspaper, it’s safe to assume he’s still a douche.
One whiff of Mr. Yee’s pot and he’d go Barney Fife on Mr. Yee in seconds flat.
I feared for Mr. Yee. I like the guy. I’ve always liked the guy. And his son. And his wife.
His wife. Oh God, his wife. Oh God, Mrs. Yee. Mrs. Yee would never go for that kind of behavior. Or. At least. I mean, I don't think she would.
Then again...she always was exceptionally pleasant...
She was always nice to me when I was little. She let me pet their many pet Pekingese dogs and gave me fortune cookies around Chinese New Year. As I grew taller, and taller, she teased my mother that my mother needed to stop feeding me bamboo because I was growing so fast and tall. She started calling me Little Bamboo and eventually, just “Boo.”
For a couple days in 10th grade I had a crush on the Yee’s math wiz son. A trip with my mother to the dry cleaner cured me of that particular crush. The thought of going out with a guy whose mother called me Boo pretty much killed all romantic notions my 10th grade imagination could fathom. Still, I hold the Yees in an affectionate place.
The thought of Mr. Yee getting busted for possession of pot and public intoxication by douche local cop bothered me. A lot. I felt protective of him.
This is also the father of a classmate. A friend of my parents’. I mean, awkward much? What was I going to say? Or do?
“Uh, Mr. Yee, I’m cool with the, uh, ‘cleaning fluid’ but you know Captain Zuhlkes is on duty today, I just saw him pull the cruiser into the back lot, and you know what a stickler for the law he is…”
“Duuuuuude! Awesome!!! That smells like some good shit, man! But duuude, that ROTC douche Zuhlkes is right outside, man.”
Instead I just pretended nothing was weird. “Hi Mr. Yee. Got a jacket for you. No hurry. Sometime next week is fine.”
He kind of giggled and told me he’d have it ready Monday. Or Tuesday. Or maybe Wednesday. And grabbed a couple chips out of a giant bag of Lay’s tucked under the counter. Can’t stop eatin’ ‘em.
I presume one of three things is going on with Mr. Yee. He’s got glaucoma or cancer and it’s medicinal pot; he’s sad and lonely and going a little senile without Mrs. Yee and he’s turning to drugs; he’s been a stoner all along but I just never noticed it.
The more we learn the less we know.
Even in my really, really, really, really small town. Where nothing ever changes.
Here’s the thing that scares me: I fled that really, really, really, really small town because nothing ever changes there. I craved change. I wanted to evolve. I thought predictability and routine were boring, stagnant and sure to bring a small mind and an early grave. So I left as soon as I could.
And I ran and ran and ran and ran and never looked back, never got homesick, never longed to be back in that really, really, really, really small town.
Yet standing in that dry cleaner with stoned Mr. Yee I realized: I haven’t changed. My life has changed, I’ve lived in lots of places, traveled around the world, seen a lot of things, met a lot of people, had a lot of experiences, taken a lot of classes, worked a lot of jobs, dated more men than I care to admit, and yet, really, I’m pretty much the same little girl my mother used to tow into that dry cleaner to pick up my dad’s suits.
All the time I’ve been other places looking for change, right there back in that really, really, really, really small town the local dry cleaner was changing into a stoner.
To add final punctuation on this epiphany, that afternoon I had an ill-fated run-in with a former classmate.
After my, uh, trip to the dry cleaner I fetched my mother and took her into town to the grocery. I was standing there examining the calories and fiber in a serving of Lucky Charms (I dunno…maybe I got a little contact high off Mr. Yee…hey, at least it's not cookie dough) when I suddenly became aware that my mother, several feet away from me, was talking to someone.
I dread grocery store run-ins in my hometown. No matter how hard I try to steer the conversation to the other person inevitably the conversation
Yes. Yes. I’m still single and I still have a career and I’m a gal, okay? Crucify me on the spinster cross, whydontcha? I know. I know.
It’s my issue, not theirs. I shouldn’t get defensive and angry with them when it’s myself I hate. But honestly, why do people probe and spear unmarried women like this? Nail us to a cross because we're not married? Maybe if people wouldn’t be so eager to nail me to that spinster cross I would hate myself a little less.
Or at least feel less self conscious about it.
And now that I don’t even have a career I feel like a total loser. A spinster career-gal without a career.
I’m just a gal. A spinster gal.
Which in my hometown is the female equivalent of a gay son dying of AIDS. We had a local family whose son was gay and died of AIDS. (Not my high school dating debacle. Another, different gay guy a few grades behind me.) The local townsfolk held a charity fun-run in an effort to raise money for his medical expenses.
No one’s organizing a fun-run to help offset my medical expenses. Not that my foot issues are in any way comparable to AIDS, but, I’m just sayin’…I need a surgery and medical care and I can’t afford it and my parents are pillars of this community but there’s not a public fundraiser for me, the unmarried careerless gal. Being gay and having AIDS is less humiliating and more charity worthy than being single and careerless.
Being a spinster in my hometown is suspect and shameful, but having a career gives the long-suffering parents a consolation topic. “No, no, our girl’s not married...no kids...career gal, you know…”
“Oh yes, we know.” Sympathetic pat on the shoulder.
Now that I’m unemployed my poor mother gets a lot of sad looks and sympathetic pats on the shoulder. More sad looks and sympathetic pats on the shoulder than the mother of the gay guy who died of AIDS. At least the mother of that guy got support in the form of a community fun-run. My poor mother just gets worried looks and tut-tut shakes of heads cast her way.
I was pulled from my Lucky Charms reverie when heard my mother say, “Oh yes, Trillian’s home for the holiday, Trill, darling…you remember Martha.”
I remember Martha.
And even if I didn’t, her sunny blonde hair, bright blue eyes, perfectly honey bronzed skin, perky petite frame and dazzling smile would jog my memory.
Martha’s that girl everyone would be so envious of they’d hate if it weren’t for the fact that she’s also nice, funny and smart. You can't hate her. It's impossible.
Martha and I kept in touch via another classmate for a while. And her mother and my mother kind of sort of know each other via a charity thing they worked on a long time ago. Martha went into advertising, too, only she went into the finance/account side of things while I stayed in my creative safety zone. I lost touch with the classmate friend we had in common, but my mother runs into her mother now and then so I’ve had occasional Martha updates. I knew she got married and I knew her husband was a surgeon of some sort. I knew she had at least one child.
And there she was looking almost exactly like she did in school. I mean, you know, yes, she looks a little older, but not that much older. If anything she looks better.
Everything changes. And in Martha’s case, everything changes for the better apparently.
She had two perfect blonde, blue eyed, honey bronzed adorable children with her. She was home visiting her parents for the holiday. With her cardiologist husband. She took a few years off from her career in advertising to be home with their kids.
And she recently rejoined the working world at an agency. The woman was gone from the the working world for 5 years and walked right back into an executive job a few months ago. About the time I was laid off, in fact. With her new job they were able to move into their dream home, they got a steal on it.
"What agency are you with, now Trilian?" she asked.
Of course I felt like a pile of crap, for myself, but even worse, I felt like a total embarrassment to my mother. Martha was in no way condescending or bitchy or mean. To the contrary, she was exceptionally nice and upbeat. ("Oh, you were always so creative and talented, I'm sure you'll find a great job soon.")
But the most interesting upbeat things I can say about myself is that I went to a Pixies concert and I’m back to wearing underwear every day. Kind of pales in comparison to a happy marriage, two great kids, a new home and a successful re-entry into a career after a five year hiatus.
Worse, she recognized my mother, not me, and when my mother said, "Oh, Trillian's home, too," and pointed at me a few feet away Martha was clearly shocked at what she saw. She tried her best to politely stumble out of the fact that she clearly didn't recognize me but the damage to my self esteem was already done.
Making that matter worse was that I actually thought I was looking "okay" that day. I was having a decent hair day and didn't have the sleepless night dark circles and wrinkles as badly as some recent days. I was dressed, complete with clean clothes and underwear. I’d had several days of regular meals containing actual nutritional value. I mean, for me, lately, I was in top form.
And I had on a Pixies shirt, feeling all cool.
But obviously even on a rare "good" day I look old and tired and unrecognizable from the person I used to be.
And like a pathetic old spinster desperately trying to look cool and, worse, still going to concerts instead of working at her new executive job and spending time with her husband and children.
Someone needs a Snuggie®.
And it ain't Martha.
One of her perfect progeny pointed to the be-haloed monkey on my Pixies concert shirt. “What’s that on your shirt? Is it a monkey angel?”
“Yep. That’s exactly what it is.”
Death of embarrassment in the cereal aisle in 3-2-1.
Martha chimed in, “Oh, the Pixies, my gawd, remember when they were the bomb? That’s so cool, did you ever think it would be vintage?!! Geeze, Trill, we’re not old, are we?! (ha ha ha) I didn’t save any of my stuff from back then. You were smart, it’s all cool now.”
I tried to pass the Doolittle shirt off as really old. Even though it’s less than a week old. There’s no date on it, just a monkey gone to Heaven. And Martha gave me cred points for it.
Except me and my taste in music and apparel. To Martha’s eyes I have not evolved. I’m the female equivalent of a computer porn perv who lives in his mother’s basement.
Or the personification of our hometown. I had a little growth spurt, a boom, there for a few years, but if you missed that, didn't happen to catch me during that phase, and just saw me now, again after many years, you'd never know I ever changed.
I haven't felt so embarrassed and pathetic in years. My sad little world came crashing down around me. Not that I bother to care about what I look like anymore (I’m ugly and that’s that, I accept it now, and interestingly, I feel a lot better about myself now that I accept that I am an ugly shrew), but when combined with a lack of job, lack of man, lack of children, soon to be lack of home, well...
The whole change, evolving thing really, really, really slapped me in the face.
I was the one who fled looking for change and I’m the one who’s landed right back where she started without changing anything.
Just what I needed long about now.
A reminder that I, too, will be a form of fossil fuel.
Sure, of course I'm envious of Martha. Sheesh, I mean, duh, of course. I'm sure things are not as perfect and happy in Martha's world as they seem to me, but, they've gotta be better than things in my world. Martha has a job. Martha has a new home. Martha has a husband who apparently loves her enough to make two adorable well-mannered children with her. From where I'm sitting, jobless, single and on the verge of foreclosure, Martha's world looks like a pretty nice place.
I know envy and jealousy are as futile and stupid as hatred and anger. I know this. Wastes of time and energy and brain matter. But. Um. A little help here? How does one not feel envious of the Martha's of the world? Accept. Forgive. Heal. Peace. Love. Duh.?
Accept, yeah, I can accept her, as is.
But. Um, forgive her for what??? Forgive her for doing everything right? Forgive her for having a happy, successful life? Hmmmm. Gotta think on that one for a while.
Sure, ultimately Martha and I will end up dead and then we'll be equal. Equally dead.
There’s some comfort in that. Not that I have a deathwish for Martha. I don't. I don't begrudge her her success and happiness. (In spite of how this may read.) Yay Martha. Yay happiness and success for Martha. She's nice. And funny. And smart. And pretty. She "deserves" happiness and success. It's the way it's supposed to be. Nice, smart, funny, pretty people achieve success and happiness. That's just the way the Universe works. There's a lot of comfort in the fact that that rarely, if ever, changes.
Martha’s going to be fossil fuel, too. Her successful, all-falls-into-place, happy life isn’t going to change that fact.
Except. She’s done her part for evolution. She changed. She evolved. She bred. The species, her successfully careered, happily married, perfect blonde honey bronzed species, will continue.
Survival of the fittest.
Change and death.
Snuggies® of compassion for everyone, even me.