Wednesday, August 25, 2004

'Dja Hear the One About the Bulimic Birthday Party?

The cake jumped out of the girl!

Part of me still finds that terribly amusing. The part of me that isn't feeling pretty raw from the latest in a nightly series of conversations with area teenagers who apparently have nowhere else but the radio station chatroom to go to be shriven:

"Forgive me Ben, for I have etched records of my sadness into my beautiful skin, pulled crimson wads of hair from my scalp, sought for divinations in my own coughings-up, and tasted the coolness of gunmetal against my tongue, thoughtfully . . . thoughtfully . . ."

"Oh, my child, I see that you are heavy-laden. I want you to pray with me, then go eat brownies and mint chocolate chip ice cream until you stop crying, and tomorrow get a restraining order on your bastard of a boyfriend. Go in peace."

Sunday, August 08, 2004

They Who Are Fresh From God


I am summoning my final reserves of lucidness to post this briefest of notes from The Farm, my grandparents' homestead in Rose City, MN, and the only timeless place I know. Here four wee cousins, abandoned by their Hawaii-bound parents, have demanded of me and the grandparents about two-weeks worth of love and patience in the space of 48 hours. It's been a fine time of piggy-back rides, tree climbing, hide n' seek (which you haven't played until you've tried it on a dairy farm, let me tell you), scraped knees,bloody noses, ATV rides and bedtime stories. All of which served to further whet my appetite for and dilate my pupils with fear of eventual fatherhood.

I had forgotten what an extraordinary schatological fixation occupies the pre and elementary school mind. Either it's all very Freudian, or it serves to explain from whence came Freud's fancies. It's a wonder, really, that MORE parents don't come away from the experience with slightly mad theories hinging on unsavories--"poop," "potty-heads," even "boogers." I've decided that, contrary to the popular idea that bathroom humor appeals with greatest resonance to undergraduate guys, those sophomoric expressions are instead merely pale revivals of a much richer period of hilarity occupying the first seven years or so of life.

At least one of these expressions was made with some poetry. Addressing to one nervously dancing little boy the question of why he wasn't proceeding to the just-vacated bathroom and the business that so obviously awaited him there, I was answered, "I hafta' wait 'till the toilet stops making its lonely, rustling sound." Many thanks to five-year-old Riley for so lyrical a description of a running toilet tank.



Monday, August 02, 2004

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to Canada . . .

They're playing the blues today over the speakers at Coffee Landing, brown sugar dissonance whirling round and round the lazy ceiling fan with ghosts of steam from the coffee roaster. Better Monday than Wednesday music, if you ask me, though no one has, and if the afternoon strives for the consistency of most uneventfully crummy days, no one will.

Actually, I shouldn't whine so. I bellied up to the bar this morning intending to down a cuppa and read Jung for twenty minutes; instead, I found myself discussing _The Seven Pillars of Wisdom_ and mid-eastern politics for an hour and a half with Jim, an off-duty Canadian border customs inspector. He told me that not two weeks ago, Saddam Hussein drove casually up to his window and handed him a Wisconsin driver's license. The mustache, the eyebrows, the jowls--everything checked out. Jim almost told him, "B-but you're supposed to be in Baghdad under lock and key!", but instead dazedly called over his supervisor, who grumbled his way out of the office ("Hussein? Geez--how could you be such an idiot?) and over to the car, where he stood blinking for several seconds at what did indeed appear to be the terror of Iraq himself. One by one, every one of the customs officers filed over to gawk at the man and his ID, until finally waving him on through to Fort Francis. "They say everyone has a twin," Jim said, leaning low over his latte, "and I suppose this poor guy's life has been hell what with him lookin' like he does, but I tell ya', if it turns out that somebody sprung Saddam out of prison, well, Wisconsin or northeast Ontario wouldn't be bad places to start looking for him."

We checked our watches, then, and shook hands, but before I waddled off to do something about the four cups of coffee I'd absent-mindedly consumed, he told me that between my syntax, diction, and reflective squinting, I reminded him somewhat of Hugh Grant. A first for me, and certainly for Hugh Grant.

Naw, I'm grumpy because even as I type, I'm supposed to be out and about selling advertising. Working for a tiny radio market is a many-splendored thing. Hosting "Six to Ten With Ben" is the least of my duties, and then there are middling tasks like making sure that Shortwave, the tailless radio station cat, gets fed, but the the greatest of them, the big icky, is trying to part area business owners from their dollars. Most often, that part of my job seems a little bit like Heaven, for there is no parting there.