Monthly Archive for May, 2005

A Meditation on Creative Cartography

The last Saturday Night Live I saw was the episode with Justin Timberlake as both host and musical guest. Not bad. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. For me though, nothing can top the show’s zenith with the original cast. My father was an obsessive devotee and my childhood is dotted with soundbytes from the Coneheads, Two Wild and Crazy Guys and the Blues Brothers. A high school trip to Chicago with my dad was punctuated with constant reminders that we were “on a mission from Gahd” and a must-see visit to the Billy Goat Tavern. (“Pepsi, no Coke.”)

My father pretends to be a lot of things. Jewish. Black. Chevy Chase. One of the first words I learned to spell out in refrigerator magents was “facetious”. I learned to sense sarcasm early from him. When his face would suddenly relax completely and take on the signature Clark Griswald look of solemn truth, I knew to prepare myself for a tale of mighty proprortions.

“Kids, ” he would say (though there was only one of me), “I have something to tell you.” Then he would cast his eyes downward and heave a deep sigh. “I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a very long time and it’s not going to easy to hear, but there’s something you need to know.” And then he would finish with plainspoken National Lampoon fact that I was born with a partially formed twin embedded in my back. Or that my mother was actually his fifth wife. Or that I had three stomachs and that’s why I was always constipated.

Eventually, he would sneak one eyeball upwards to check how well it was going over. Since I knew “gullible” was, in fact, in the dictionary by the time I was five, his ploys didn’t last very long. He would then burst out laughing and try to convince me that he had indeed convinced me of whatever strangeness he had in his mind.

One of my all-time favorites was initiated on one of our annual trips to the beach. My dad had been busy in the basement mapping out a new route when he came running upstairs to show my mom and I that our journey was going to take us past the site of a little known Eastern Shore town called Chugamo City. The town, apparently, no longer existed but the body of water it was named for, Chugamo Creek, did. We knew this because it was right there on the map, see? My mom and I looked at the map to see a squiggly blue line drawn out from the Chesapeake Bay with ballpoint pen. Labeled with my dad’s unmistakable bl0cky writing, it clearly said “Chugamo Creek”.

My mom and I looked at him with wary skepticism and my father launched into the tale of Chugamo City. It seems that the area had originally been an old Indian burial ground and the name “Chugamo” was derived from the ancient language. The city had sprung up as part of the Bay’s fishing industry but had died with the birth of the Industrial Revolution. And it all must be true because the woes of its citizens in the early twentieth century were documented in a forlorn little ditty that my dad promptly sang to us. Oh, Chugamoooooo.

“But Dad,” I protested, “you wrote it in on the map.”

“Well, of course, I did! That’s how sad this little town is. No one even knows it existed anymore. So I had to write it in. To correct the record.”

Every summer after that, the trip to the beach would give my dad an opportunity to expand on the story of Chugamo City. The woes of the town grew more woesome. The song grew more verses. And my dad would grow more and more convinced that he had convinced us to believe in Chugamo City.

Day Three

On the way in to work today, we stopped at the most expensive gas station in town, the one at the base of the Watergate. It inhabits a quaint little stone canal house and charges $5000 per gallon. Of course, one only visits the most expensive gas station in town if one is neighbors with the likes of Condoleezza Rice and Placido Domingo. Or if one has the kind of big picture vision to know that it’s better to get a couple pricey gallons in the morning than to waste any time on the ride home. Fortunately, my car pool driver has this kind of vision.

While she was pumping, I popped in to the quaint little stone store and bought myself a yummy Vanilla-licious uber-frothy Starbuck’s Frappuccino. Ooh la la. And my day has been cruisin’ ever since. I supplemented after lunch with a COKE (!) and my afternoon was a double header the likes of which my neuropaths have never known. Man, did I get a lot done today. I swear, I think I had a whole day’s worth of work done by 9:00. And by 2:00, forget about it. The phone was ringing off the hook. My feed was down. My feed was up. I was working the Exchange server double-time with all the email flying out of my Outbox. I was what people outside the government call “productive”. I could teach workshops on this shit.

On the ride home yesterday, my car pool driver and I were discussing the color fuschia. She’s a big fan. Me, not so much. I was explaining to her that this is because I’m an Autumn. She said she must be a Winter or Spring because she loves fuschia with anything and owns quite a lot of it. I got to thinking about being an Autumn and why I know this. And it dawned on me that this was one of the few semi-useful bits of information that I garnered from being a Girl Scout.

Yes, it’s true. While the Boy Scouts were out learning things like how to tie knots so your shit won’t blow away and how to hunt with a buck knife so you can survive in the woods for a week on your own, we were being visited by make-up specialists. I find this unnerving. Especially now that I’m supposed to have a “go kit” ready on a moment’s notice for when the terrorists arrive.

I do have my “go kit” ready and I have my escape route mapped out and I have all my emergency contacts on permanent notice. But god forbid a gale wind should strike while I’m on the back of my getaway moped because all my shit’s going to blow away. Because I only know how to responsibly select eye shadow.

Of course, if there is any color choice at all in selecting one’s burka in the post-fundamentalist-invasion America, I will certainly know to stick with chocolate, olive and pumpkin.

The Blogjacking Continues

Mat’s out battling the wilds of government contracting so while he’s on safari, I’m manning the helm. It’s official now. I am your tour guide.

I used to have a blog of my own. It was originally created as part of an elaborate stalking strategy for snaring myself a Mat. However, once the mission was complete and I no longer had critical information to casually pass along encoded in my daily entries, I ran out of inspiration. Occasionally, I would indulge in a hearty political rant. But that sort of thing is everywhere these days and I realize it can get rather tiresome (which is why I took my rants to the airwaves, thereby inflicting them on a more captive and unsuspecting audience). So I ultimately dropped the blog.

But I have found new inspiration. My muse, her name is Caffeine. And she’s fickle. Sometimes she makes me so I can’t put two thoughts together and sometimes she lubricates my mind. Yesterday, she did me well. But today, it’s a whole nother shooting match. To my left is a freshly emptied bottle of Starbuck’s yummy extra frothy Mocha-licious Frappuccino. Let’s drop in and see how it’s going.

Brain Cell One: ‘Ere she blows! Ye better move fast or we’re gonna lose ‘er!
Brain Cell Two: Aye aye, cap’n. I’m reelin’ ‘er in as fast as I can, but the men are havin’ a hard time of it! They cain’t see through the fog, she’s so thick!
Brain Cell One: Why, ye better pull it together, matey, or we’re gonna lose the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle.

It doesn’t look good.

Does anyone remember “kaboodles” of the 1980’s? Pastel plastic cases for carrying all the earthly delights a teenage girl could muster. Since I was deprived of most earthly delights, I’m not sure what mine contained. An assortment of thread for friendship bracelets? Fake little girl make-up? Sweet Valley High and Bobsey Twins paperbacks? I don’t recall. Maybe I didn’t even own one and I’ve just substituted the permanent impression of all that pinpoint accurate demographically-targeted marketing as my own memory.

I’ve had that happen before. I thought I remembered something as having occurred in my own life, only to realize after searching deep in my brain for the source, that it was something I saw on TV. How disappointing. (Or maybe it’s a good thing if it was a scary memory.) It’s like discovering that something you thought your parents made up and was unique to your life was actually something they mined from the pop culture of some earlier age and you had to share it with the greasy needy palms of the rest of the world. It’s like everyone else already knows the punchline.

My dad and I used to play a game when I was a kid. We’d pull the blankets over our heads on the bed and I’d tap-tap-tap on his belly like it was a typewriter. He would make “briiiing… briiiing… briiiing” telephone noises to which I would answer “Good morning! This is the Reisterstown Library! How may I help you?” (Other variations included the Reisterstown Post Office and the Reisterstown Hardware Store. My pick.) Then he would respond in the voice of either Flibberty Jones, Smackwood Sam or Throck Morton. (His pick.) He would inquire about some item that we didn’t carry and I’d have to politely tell him to take a hike. Invariably, he would fall asleep while on hold waiting for my supervisor, and I would have to wake him up, begging for another customer.

Really, it was an ingenious indoctrination into a service-based capitalist economy and it probably speaks volumes to my personality that I was so enraptured with the idea of playing a librarian with too much to do and too little time. I think I was always a little starstruck by the idea of playing a mile-a-minute Wendy Wasserstein-style feminist yuppie. (Hence the excitement over my newly discovered caffeine-induced extrovert.) But in my childhood dreams, my yuppies always worked retail.