Wednesday, February 3, 2010


By KJ Hannah Greenberg

At one point in my life, my husband and I purchased a home in a fairly upscale neighborhood. Although ours was the small cottage among towering McMansions, our domicile was our heaven, sanctuary, and laboratory. Our youngest child was born there. Our interest in sacred matters was nurtured there. My rebirth as a writer began there.

That revival came about through a process of weeding. Somewhere, amidst our intentional gardens and our wild flora, I found a piece of me that I had previously and wrongly believed ought to be discarded as no longer serviceable. When we moved from apartment to condo, when we transported from rental to sublet, when we had no backyard, I had focused my energies on greenhouse beauties, both real and figurative.

In other words, rather than allow myself to become vulnerable to the enchantments of motherhood, e.g. to the chromatic nuance found in moon flowers and in other funnel-shaped blossoms, I directed myself toward things academic. That is, I allowed myself passion for only those blooms which are easily identifiable in catalogs. I cared nothing for dandelion or for chickweed, or for any other potentially healing agent. Artifice sufficed until goopy faces and filled diapers returned me to sensibilities.

Whereas it’s difficult to pursue footnotes with a toddler howling in the background or with a nursling plucking at your blouse, it’s not impossible to double dig a row of eupatorium or to sow seeds for a crop of hormone-friendly wild carrot while the kids fling mud. When I could no longer concentrate on the third level of linguistic abstraction, literally, on “the gist,” of a passage about deconstructed prose, I was still able to discern between chokeweed and horseradish. During that period, in preparing lecture notes, I frequently confused ancient criteria for determining truth with contemporary skepticism, but had little trouble teaching my preschoolers to nibble daintily on the petals of lemon sorrel or to suck the sweetness from honeysuckle.

I am forever appreciative that my family had the opportunity to own enough land (albeit far short of even an acre) to watch groundhogs borrow after eating our plantain, to observe local deer tasting our wintergreen, and to spy on tiny spiders that made their way across the arches of our Dutchman’s pipe. Together, my loved ones and I learned a lot by listening to the warbling emanating from within our junipers and the chirping echoing out from beneath our spreading wild grapes.

Remarkably, such moments occurred many years ago. My babies are teens now and getting older. My family’s home is no longer in a hardiness zone with regular cycles of heat and of cold, but in an area classified as a desert. Today, I am not mystified by milkweed or bewildered by lavender. I know thyme to be a powerful friend against respiratory infections and I recognize aloe as an ally for skin ailments. I applaud the march of tiny hedgehog feet across grand stretches of asphalt and smile as lizards scamper on my sun-soaked merpesset.

I still encourage my children, though, to celebrate life’s diverse goodness. Yet, during this chapter, it is my teens who overtake me when identifying roadside artemisia or distinguishing a parking lot full of prickly poppy. My not-so-little ones see as commonplace a bud’s ability to restore and to teach and they take for granted that their mother dances not only with research on semantic veracities, but also that she documents her life’s answers in essay and in verse.

As for me, bereft of those times of sticky fingers, while gladly rid of that span marked by performance-based outcomes, I watch the hummingbirds, bright in their iridescent dress, drink from the geraniums sprouting in my office window. Beneath those fliers’ busy wings, I track submissions to trade publishers, to staid literary magazines, and to women’s journals. As I move words around on my electronic pages, I remain thankful that some time ago I learned to value those seemingly undesirable elements that were growing around me. Specifically, I remain grateful that someone taught me the worth of “weeds.”

KJ Hannah Greenberg and her hibernaculum of imaginary hedgehogs fly the galaxy in search of gelatinous monsters and assistant bank managers. Although Hannah had worked as a rhetoric professor, she gave up all manners of academic hoopla to raise children. Evidence of that endeavor can be found in Oblivious to the Obvious: Wishfully Mindful Parenting (French Creek Press, Spring 2010).


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Opening Day 2009

Editor's Note: Major League Baseball opened its season April 6, so this week we asked a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and a fan of the Chicago Cubs, arch rivals in the National League Central division, to offer their reflections on Opening Day.

Out of the Cold, a Need for Closure

By Matthew Melick

I woke up on Opening Day dreading the thirty degree temperatures and snow that had pushed into St. Louis the night before. But I knew that these temperatures were short-lived—it was baseball season. Each spring in the Midwest, Opening Day—as all the great baseball writers have written—signals an end to the cold and darkness. As a Cardinal fan, Opening Day usually means two things—the natural beauty of spring and its longer, warmer days will be arriving shortly, and Cub fans can be excited about their team’s prospects for a couple weeks.

But this year, it is our turn to be excited, hopefully for more than a couple weeks. This is the year the Cardinals take back the Central, the year they come up with an answer in the bullpen. In 2008, the Cardinals blew a Major League-leading 31 saves and somehow still managed to finish just four games out of the wild-card. But that was last year. This year, the Cardinals have a great new closer and all of the problems of last year (and the year before) were just that, problems in the past. Right? For some reason (probably like most Cardinal fans), on Opening Day 2009 I had an uneasy feeling about the prospects of a bullpen anchored by a former catcher with only eleven prior Major League appearances.

Unfortunately, my feelings were validated—so much for change. So much for the chance to be hopeful about your favorite team’s prospects. Opening Day 2009 will forever be imprinted in my memory as the day I learned that one team can have two blown saves in one game.

Yet at the end of the day, somehow, hope had returned. It is spring, things change and grow, it is just a slow process. That is perhaps the best part about Opening Day. If your team wins—“awesome, this is the year”; if your team loses—“oh well, it is early.”

October Doesn't Care

By Bryan Timm

As a Cubs fan, I have come to a realization that is going to make this season a little different from those past. October just does not care.

October doesn't care about Opening Day. October doesn't care about players being tired from the World Baseball Classic. She doesn't care about signing a fiery right fielder or about the struggles from an imported center fielder. She doesn't care about the Houston Astros looking for some semblance of revenge for what Carlos Zambrano did to them after Hurricane Ike devastated Texas.

I encourage Chicago Cubs fans to ignore all the columnists, talking heads and any other random idiot trying to make a case for caring this early. It doesn't matter to me anymore, and it shouldn't matter to you. The only thing that matters is what the Cubs do once the season changes from summer to fall and the playoffs arrive.

I understand the excitement surrounding Opening Day because I feel it too. The prospect of sitting outside with a cold beer in my hand listening to Pat and Ron call a game is just as attractive to me this year as it has been in years past. But this year has to be different. It has to be.

The Boys in Blue may get off to a fast start and run away with the division. They may struggle early and have to hold off the Cardinals down the stretch to get in. But barring some sort of insane string of injuries, the Cubs are going to win the division, probably quite easily. So while I may be yelling at the television in May because Kosuke Fukudome misplayed a fly ball, resulting in a Cubs loss, it will be a reserved yell. Because quite simply, October just does not care.

Matthew Melick is an associate attorney at Carmody MacDonald P.C. in St. Louis, Missouri.

Bryan Timm is a cross country and track coach at Rosary High School in Aurora, Illinois.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are You There God? It’s Me, March Madness

By Brandon Christol

It’s March, and you know what that means: It’s Fire Prevention Month!

Oh, and it’s time for March Madness! Ah, March Madness—an annual tradition of buzzer-beaters, upsets, watching basketball at work while trying not to get caught, and—most exciting of all—lots of numbers accompanied by alliterative adjectives (e.g. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four). It’s an extended sports spectacle that grabs the attention of Americans young and old and fills the coffers of bookies everywhere. Sixty-four teams enter with one common goal: to apply the concept of Murphy’s Law to my bracket by losing if I pick them to win and winning if I pick them to lose.

March Madness is one of my favorite times of year, mainly because it features 126 hours of sweet hoops action spread out over 10 different days. But there are many other reasons to feel much gladness about March Madness:
  • You get to hear Gus Johnson call last-second shots. “Rises and FIRRRRRRES … GOT IT!!!!” Sometimes I spice up my day by pretending Gus Johnson is announcing my actions. As in: “He drives down the road, looks right as he goes to parallel park, squeezes in there, straightens it OUUUUUUUUUTTTTT … GOT IT!!!” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, or even if you do, click here, sit back and enjoy the beautiful rhetorical stylings of the third greatest announcer in the world.
  • The Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge!
  • It means baseball’s Opening Day is just around the corner. In fact, the championship game often coincides with the Cubs’ first game (like it does this year), which is like having your birthday on Christmas or buying a house and discovering that it comes with a BMW.
  • It’s college basketball with no Dick Vitale. Why won’t he stop yelling at me? I don’t care what BMOC stands for. What did he say? The ACC is strong this year? I can’t understand him when he screams like that. He sounds like Kermit the Frog if he were afflicted by voice imodulation disorder and injected with some sort of serum limiting his speech to strange and ridiculous exaggerations.
  • Winning the Chippens NCAA Tournament Challenge!
  • One word: Drama. It’s Win or Go Home. There’s something natural and Darwinian about it. Teams play 25+ games, fighting and clawing to claim a spot in the tourney, and then all of a sudden—BAM!—a last-second heave from half court (hopefully called by Gus Johnson) can send them packing ‘til next year. There’s no best of five, no byes, no Bowl. It’s drama to the 64th power.
If you want to reminisce, or perhaps whet the palate in preparation for this year’s Big Dance, check out some of these clips:

Western Kentucky over Drake, 2008
Illinois vs. Arizona, 2005
Top ten March Madness buzzer beaters from ESPN

Enough already, just tell me what to do with my bracket!

OK, now that we’re all ready for the games, I’m going to share with you my unrivaled expertise and guaranteed predictions. That’s right—advice straight from the person who finished in a respectable 8th place last year, and quite presciently predicted that all four #1 seeds would make the Final Four. (Pay no attention to my 43rd place finish in 2007, in which I guessed only one of the Final Four teams correctly.)

While there’s no one team with a stranglehold on the title this year, I still think the sport is top heavy. I have two #1 seeds making the Final Four this year (Louisville and Pitt) along with a couple of #2 seeds. I think Pitt, with the talent and athleticism of DeJuan Blair, Sam Young & Co., will come out of the East and ultimately defeat Louisville for the title. I love the Cardinals out of the Midwest—they didn’t just survive the insane gauntlet that is the Big East, they won the regular season and conference tournament titles, and I don’t see them losing to a young Wake Forest team, a strong but rebuilt Kansas squad, or the solid but not-quite-at-that-level Michigan State. In the South, I think UNC will stumble in a shootout with Gonzaga, opening the door for Oklahoma. And out West, I have Memphis taking down UConn in what should be a great game.

Teams that could advance further than expected include West Virginia, Purdue, Clemson and Utah State, who travels to the neighboring state of Idaho to face a Marquette team that has dropped five of six after losing Dominic James. And though I’m a big Illini fan, I’ve got them bowing out as the victim of the classic 12/5 upset. While Bruce Weber is one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in the tournament and has had them overachieving all year, U of I lacks a go-to guard in the clutch. Plus, Chester Frazier, their best defender, is most likely out. Either way, I don’t think they’re getting through Gonzaga, though I’d love to be wrong.

But enough talking about basketball—bring on the games! Enjoy!

Brandon Christol is an assistant director of admissions at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Ill. To read more of his sports writing, visit his blog Wait ‘Til This Year.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Truth and Resurrection

By Megan Taylor

Newspapers everywhere are dying.

Mass extinction has threatened their medium for some time, and those that live on may only do so by way of evolution into something else entirely. What will someday be classified as a “newspaper” may, by journalistic standards, be a “publication” at best.

It is widely speculated that dinosaurs died off as the result of some cataclysmic meteorite crash into the earth. Just like scientists argued over the cause of mass extinction, analysts have their different theories about what ails the newspaper industry today.

Most often, we hear the Internet threatens to dissolve print media. News done a la Internet is instantaneous. Readers can follow a story as it develops, and, for the most part, it’s free. Advertisers may no longer think about things like circulation when considering their best resource, but rather about Web hits, which typically outrank the circulation of even the best of pubs.

Threat initiated by the latest technological advancement is nothing new. Imagine the fear newspaper publishers must have felt when television producers began providing viewers with live news coverage. But newspapers have proven that they can ride out change, and this should again be the case as papers contend with the Internet. When marketed properly, a Web edition of a newspaper can help bring in more revenue and garner more exposure world wide. Many pubs use the Internet to build readership and promote their print editions. Indeed, the World Wide Web is not what afflicts newspapers today.

If newspapers (increasingly viewed as archaic and dated) are the dinosaurs, then greedy corporate America’s mismanagement, and not the Internet, will be the meteor directly linked to their demise.

In corporate culture, making money is more important than serving the public. Pressed by a limping economy (which gains its crippled status through the greed of other corporate enterprises), newspapers have seen a significant drop in revenue generated through advertising. Couple that with increasing print costs, and newspapers executives everywhere feel the pressure to crunch numbers.

Thus, the newspapers let accountant types and advertising clods run the show instead of editors. Devoid of all passion for truth and journalistic integrity, these number crunchers make cuts in the most illogical places while spending more money trying to sell ads. They can hire more people to sell, but if the product is compromised, who will want to buy it? It’s true a newspaper also is a business, but it can’t be run like any other business, because it is not.

In these cases, upper management seems to forget that in order to maintain or increase revenue, a desirable product must first be established. When the product is no longer desirable, sales go down. A newspaper is like a garden and the editorial staff cultivates a marketable product. The fewer gardeners tending to it, the more weeds. Weeds are things like national news filler or national photos where interesting local stories used to flourish.

Back to the dinosaur analogy, let’s look at the evolved “newspaper” of tomorrow. Because of the pursuit of the almighty dollar, advertising executives now exert all influence over the editorial board. Truth is buried because it may offend one particular advertiser. “News” now becomes stories suggested by the ad execs about things like new products sold by a participating advertiser or a business’s 11th anniversary. The newspaper is no longer a force for accountability, but a white elephant advertising-for-editorial swap meet.

The new creature dragging itself out of the muck bears the semblance of its former self. But underneath its skin it harbors a fatal flaw. It will only be a matter of time before it is picked off by something stronger and better equipped to stand the test of time.

Let’s hope whatever survives has the pursuit of truth in mind. That and that alone will ensure the newspaper's survival.

Megan Taylor is the former staff writer for The Town Meeting, a weekly newspaper of Elk Rapids, Michigan, which closed its doors on January 23, 2009 after more than 30 years of business.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


By David Chorlton

The use of language is a deceptive enterprise. Words don’t necessarily mean what they were meant to. Take the rental agreement issued by a prominent car rental company for example, in which the customer’s pink copy bears the details whose ink already appears faded in the moment they are printed. Toward the upper right-hand corner the letters spell out: DAY = CALENDAR DAY. My wife, having had to rent a car for a few days, asked what this implied. Jeremy, the enterprising assistant, mumbled something about the date and sounded deliberately non-committal. So the renting of the vehicle ensued, and when time came to return it my wife, who has lived her entire life with 24-hour days, had her sense of time challenged. According to Jeremy’s calendar, a day is a day even if it doesn’t begin until 5pm or if it ends at noon. Put plainly, counting the calendar day rather than the number of hours enables the enterprise to squeeze an extra day’s fee out of the customer to go with the additional insurance charges.

Jeremy, I am sure, is simply an obedient soldier in the army of commerce doing what he is trained to do. So let us check in with some of the published comments the enterprise in question makes about itself on its Web site, starting with “Personal honesty and integrity are the foundation of our success” and continuing through the stated intent “to exceed every customer’s expectations.” Shouldn’t “foundation” be plural? Never mind, at least we can guarantee that the customer’s expectations will be exceeded when twenty-four hours turns into two days. This observation simply points to a corporate manner of communicating in a promising but ultimately uninformative manner. Political language is taught in the same schools.

Vagueness in speech is never as useful as when employed in circumventing ethics in behaviour. At least the seven deadly sins were listed with specificity. In our time, we need to be sharp enough to interpret what is said to us and especially when it is said by politicians, the natural allies of enterprising corporations. Take “an honest mistake,” as it was brought up as a defense of the nominee for the position of Treasury Secretary when the news broke that he owed $34,000 in taxes and was still the choice to oversee the IRS. What exactly is an honest mistake and when does it become a tax break?

Slogans are designed to raise expectations without ever stating exactly what it is we can expect. You could be considering a career with our unnamed car rental company, the one that claims, “We built our company around being honest and fair, and at the same time, incredibly motivated and entrepreneurial. This is where your potential becomes reality.” All the qualities mentioned sound just fine, but in every one of them there is some of what we may call wiggle room, enough to accommodate a flexible interpretation. This is an even more cozy situation for those who invest in themselves by describing themselves glowingly. Public relations and advertising are excuses for corporations to lavish the kind of praise on themselves that we, as individuals, would find arrogant and objectionable should we speak of ourselves in the same way. Therein lies the difference between language as we use it to communicate and the neatly processed phrases with all the spontaneity ironed out of them in conferences before they are broadcast to the rest of us.

Imprecise language is, sadly, a staple in foreign policy. Consider the number of times “American interests” abroad are mentioned by spokespersons for the administration in their appearances on TV news shows to justify actions of a military nature. If the word “interests” were replaced by “military base” or “energy source” we would hopefully be more suspicious. Developing a sharper ear for manufactured speech should be then first line of defense against being personally manipulated and ultimately being party to the policy of killing for profit and power. Jeremy might think about applying for one of those jobs with the administration; he’d likely earn more than the car renters pay him.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

American Renaissance

Politics, the arts, and sports may not seem to have much in common, but in the last 16 months I have discovered that they have at least one common thread: they are all concerned with testing the limits of what is possible and with re-imagining an apparently fixed reality.

From September 2007 to August 2008, I was a sports writer covering high school sports for four small, weekly newspapers in rural Northern Michigan, and since August, I have taught humanities and English at Heartland Community College in Normal, Illinois.

As a sports writer, I watched as high school kids dared to have dreams that outsized their God-given circumstances. Many times, those dreams were realized, and those teams and athletes that achieved unexpected or unprecedented success did so not only because of their talent and preparation, but because they allowed themselves to think bigger than their current sphere of possibility, to have the same type of ambition as Captain James Cook, who once said that he wanted to “not only go farther than anyone else, but as far as it was possible to go.”

Looking on from the sidelines, I could always tell when a team succeeded in breaking limits that had been set and hardened by a grim history: the athletes always had the same look of joy that I saw on the faces of those in Chicago’s Grant Park on election night last November and on those filling the National Mall during the inauguration. It’s a look of faith rewarded.

I’ve seen that same look in the eyes of some of my students when they’ve been transported into a new world by a work of art and have not come back the same. The world has changed. What once seemed immutable, judicious, and even natural now seems transient and arbitrary.

These students, just like the young athletes I admire, also have faith in an ability to reach beyond the seeming boundaries of possibility and to trust what is found there.

The election of Barack Obama has made me realize that politics, despite what the cynics say, is no different. Art, sports, and politics, at their fundamental level, are all concerned with first dreaming and then achieving a new possibility. What we call tragedy is when those possibilities are put before us and then denied by malign fate. Romeo and Juliet. Steve Prefontaine. Bobby Kennedy.

But, so far, the story of our new president has not been tragic. Our sphere of possibility as a people and as a nation has been irrevocably expanded. And this time it was not just one man with a dream, but an entire nation that rejected its historical limits of possibility for one of its own citizens and thus for us all.

President Obama opened his inaugural remarks by addressing us as citizens, not just as Americans. On election day, each citizen had at least as much faith as the candidate, for each one was required to imagine something that has never been and trust in it. Each one was required to go beyond his or her previous limits and be willing to not come back the same. The candidate, now the president, led us there, but not by force.

By doing so, Barack Obama sustained the American Dream in a way much more profound than by giving Joe the Plumber a tax break. He led us to renew that dream ourselves through our own act of faith; he did it by leading us to trust in our own hopes for rebirth and change. He led us to believe once again in the main tenet of American idealism, that present circumstance is never to be confused with inevitable destiny.

Barack Obama led us to have the same faith in politics that we do in sports and in the arts — a faith that doesn’t seek to overcome the impossible, but rather a faith that validates our American belief that some things only seem that way.

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Monday, June 23, 2008


It was just another day at Traverse City Cherry Capital Airport last Wednesday night. At least, that’s what it seemed to me. Little did I know that while I waited for my 7 p.m. flight to Detroit, a god was soon to touch down amongst the large population of cherry orchards and grotesquely obese women that make this region famous.

‘Twas a June night in TC, when all though the town
not a fat woman was eating, not even Doris the Round
The candy and chips were all stuffed in the cabinets with care
in hopes that St. Simmons soon would be there

I had been waiting patiently in gate 3 for my boarding time to arrive even though my flight was scheduled to leave out of gate 4. As the time got closer and my plane arrived at the gate, I decided I’d better move the fifteen yards from gate 3 to gate 4, lest TSA rendition me to an Afghani torture prison for not waiting for my flight at the assigned terminal lounge.

My carry-on was nestled all snug in my chair,
when visions of genital electrodes straightened my hair

And W. at his ranch and I in my cell

had just settled down for a long day in Hell

As I gathered my things together and got up to move, people started spilling out of the jetway from the flight that had just arrived. I was halfway between the two lounges—directly in front of the jetway—

When in the depths of the tunnel there arose such a clatter
I froze in my steps to see what was the matter
And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but none other than Richard Simmons, that miniature queer

He came out of the jetway so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Dick
He was gay as a lark, a right jolly old elf,

and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself

Simmons’s hairdo was reminiscent of Jackie Moon, only more sparse. He was decked out in a splendid uniform consisting of a dark windbreaker over bright red short shorts of the kind that would make even Daisy Duke blush, complemented with white sneakers and heavy white socks pulled halfway up his rather thick calves. From where I was standing, I could have reached out and touched him.

He was dressed in skimpy cotton, from his head to his toe
And he proudly displayed his thinning brown ‘fro
A shiny rainslicker he had flung on his back

while his knickers rode up a bit, just exposing his sack

Simmons took a moment after exiting the jetway to mingle with the common folk. “It was all very clean, very clean!” he said to the gate attendant, gesturing with both hands. “I hope we didn’t destroy the bathroom too badly, hahahaha!!!”

The crowd around the gate stood in awe of the great man as he then proceeded down the terminal flanked by his posse of personal assistants; he was walking in such a way that it seemed as if he were trying to pinch a heavy, greased object where even his native southern California sun doesn’t shine.

He sprang to his luggage, to his team he gave a whistle
and away they all flew like the down of a thistle

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he waddled out of sight,
“A good night to all, and to all eat right!”


Friday, April 25, 2008

Get Outta My Town!

Well I've had it. My quiet town has just been overrun with the return of dag blasted summer people. I've started walking to work because I know that my parking spot is going to be taken and I'll have to park farther away than I live anyhow. Winter was bad enough with the snowmobilers, but these summer people are worse than the snowmobilers! For one thing there's more of them, and at least the snowmobilers don't take my parking spot. Plus I have to wait like twice as long now before I turn the corner in town.

What's worse is that I have to pick a new running route. Can't run through town anymore because the sidewalks are filled with these jokers looking in all the shop windows and oohing and aaahing at all the trinkets and knick knacks, and then they look at me like I'm getting in their way! My coffee shop is now littered with these tittering people, just so happy to be back in town. I'm sure the bar will just be packed every night too and I'll have to wait in line to get served there too. I'm a preferred customer! They know my name and my order! But now I'll have to deal with drunk summer people crowding me at the bar while I try to unwind from working 60 hours a week just to keep this hole going in the first place.

And it's only APRIL! Jeez, one warm day and you can't even breathe in this town. I can't imagine what June, July, and August will bring. Oh, they all come up here with their boats and their campers and they think they own the dang place. Then they have the gall to write these obnoxious letters to the editor that I'm forced to read every week. Actual example: "Don't pave the road, we like to keep the country feel." Yes, the rest of us should live in the 18th century so that after your vacation you can go back to your suburb and tell all your friends about how you roughed it in your "country" million dollar mansion on the lake with all the rubes up north. You can even tell them how you talked with one of the locals and how surprised you were to find he had all his teeth! And they weren't rubbed down at all from all that bark he had to eat all winter! Amazing!

Hey, I know! Let's get rid of all the modern medical equipment too. That way when one of you flatlanders cuts your leg in one a my possum traps we can just apply a tourniquet and cut it off.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Rate of Exchange

This one is culled from my journal from Egypt (which I happened to be looking through tonight, the fact that we got back almost exactly a year from today pure coincidence). Anyway, I found this gem under the title "Things I don't want to forget." But first, a little backstory is required.

So we're about 3/4 of the way through the trip and we're already quite weary of all the Egyptian vendors clamoring for bakshish (tips) and trying to sell us any number of cheap trinkets, but Dad has been looking for a t-shirt that a lot of the people on the trip had been buying, including the Aussie Dennis, Dad's new-found BFF (best friend forever in teen lingo). So he'd been shopping pretty hard, but...uh...the price was just never right.

And then it happened. Outside of one of the temples we visited, a local entrepreneur was selling the exact t-shirt that Dad wanted for the price of only five pounds (Egypt's currency is called "pounds" just like in England). Five Egyptian pounds is only about 80 cents. Oh, you should have seen the look of ecstasy that came over Dad's face at that moment. It was like he'd just been divined the answer to every single final Jeapordy question to the end of time. He thought he had the steal of the century. His countenance did not betray even a hint of guilt as he pulled out an Egyptian five pound note; in fact, his excitement was only intensified by the knowledge that our fellow travelers had paid over 10x as much for theirs. You could tell he was already forming a triumphant narrative in his mind to tell at the buffet line that night, especially to Dennis, who had been consistently one-upping us with all his tales of adventure.

But then the unthinkable happened. As the vendor saw that the five pounds Dad had pulled out of his man-purse was, in fact, the Egyptian variety, he shook his head violently and exclaimed: "No no no no no. Five ENGLISH pounds" (over $10 American). Such a switch of emotion has probably never been witnessed before or after that moment in the whole history of human civilization. Dad's head flushed harder than an industrial toilet as he shoved the five pounds back into his extra-security traveler's man-purse and then--with a gesture that, in any language, could only mean "this relationship is over"--he put the man-purse back under an extra layer of security, his Eddie Bauer traveler's polo, made with super sweat-wicking material.

But the local gentleman would not be so easily dissuaded from his sales venture. Wherever Dad went, the persistent gentleman followed right on his hip, offering final price after final price. Dad tried to say "No thanks" in the most disingenuous way possible, but that didn't work. He tried to ignore him, but that didn't work. He tried to pretend that he was browsing at a different store front, but that only increased the attention he was receiving from the local vendors. Dad sensed that his only refuge would be the bus. But as he made his way back to the parking area, he was horrified to see that a long line had already formed, and he would now have to either cut in line or showcase his negotiating tactics in front of our entire party.

Clearly, there was really only one choice here, the man's choice. So as he stood in line, his head still imitating a ripe Roma, he kept offering the man refusals, only now his tone had changed from deeply patronizing to patronizing with an awkward attempt at being humorous as he realized that everyone in our group was staring at him. Not wanting to come off as a cold, cheap tourist or as being extremely naive (in fact, our tour guide had warned us all that day of the "switcheroo" ploy as a staple in the Egyptian vendor's repertoire), Dad finally relented and bought the t-shirt, which our fellow travelers then forced him to display.

At this point readers, your souls are no doubt already deeply saddened by these tragic events. That is why with a heavy heart I must warn you that the worst is yet to come.

Tim and I spent the whole ride back to the ship reassuring Dad that he had made a good buy, that all was not lost. That he could still show his face in Cadillac upon our return. We stroked his ego like one would a trembling house cat. But then we got back to the ship and Dad finally had time to thoroughly examine his newly acquired t-shirt. As I saw his face crinkle with dismay I knew something was wrong. He called me over to him and asked if he could see the identical t-shirt that I had also bought that day.

With all the foreboding in the world I complied. He noticed right off that his was made of an inferior fabric. This realization was a severe blow, causing him to speak words that are not fit to repeat here.

But it was not the knock-out punch. Oh no. This came when I noticed his face reach a level of despair more dramatic than Caesar's looking into the eyes of Brutus. I could see his mind race back to that eager Egyptian vendor thinking, "Et tu, Abu?" I asked him what was wrong and, now rendered speechless by the shock, he simply turned the t-shirt around to reveal a long brown streak down the front of it that made it look like the salesman had just finished with it in the bathroom before selling it to Dad.

It is at this moment when Dad exclaimed this week's Quote of the Week. As he defiantly threw the t-shirt down on his bed he yelled "I'm not giving one more dime to those bastards!!!" Of course, only a day later he would be persuaded to buy this: