Friday, October 29, 2010

Zombie Clowns and Shopping Witches! (I Get Paid For Doing This)

Last week's adventure -- which was going to be Trick-Or-Treating At The Zoo - -was rained out. So I'm forced to tell you about a less fun day I had - -a day at work.

Not every day as a litigator is glamorous, as I've pointed out before. Put another way, don't believe everything Sam Waterston made you think about the law.

Some days, like yesterday, I spend my afternoon reading 3,500 pages of banker's documents about a business loan, sitting in the conference room of someone else's law firm, drinking coffee that remarkably is worse than the coffee at my own office.

Other days, though, there's a hint of elegance and excitement about the job, like the day I had to drive to Stevens Point for a deposition and got there about 45 minutes early.

Did I say elegance and excitement? Sorry about that. What I meant to say was empty malls and cool toy shops.

And murals.

I had to go to Stevens Point about a week ago. I'd been there only once before, on what Sweetie and I still agree is the single most boring trip we ever took. We'd driven up there one time for the weekend on a getaway, only to find that there's no place to get away to in Stevens Point. The only landmark there was a giant, inoperative steam locomotive, and we could never figure out why it was there. Was Stevens Point known for locomotives? Trains, in general? Steam? Who knows? The only other thing about that trip was that the local mall had a pet store with tarantulas in it -- only the tarantula cage was empty, making me think that one had escaped, and making me feel a little creeped out the whole time we walked through the mall.

So I was not all that excited about returning to that city, and even less excited to realize that I'd made such good time that I had an hour to kill before actually having to work. I opted to walk around the downtown and see what I could see, and here's what I got paid for that day.

Stevens Point, whatever else it may lack, cedes ground to no other city in two areas: Wall art, and tattoos. I was greeted, where I parked, by a large mural that actually stretched around the corner of the building it was on. I think it's of the 1910 New York Yankees:

Or it could have been of "Market Day" in 1910, if you want to go by the bottom caption. Whichever it was, the crowd in the mural presented a mixture of the grimly determined (the guy second from right in the front) and the overly jovial -- the guy in the green cap and goatee just over his shoulder.

I like to think the Market Day 1910 Crowd was drawn facing a giant wall of Zombie Clowns: Sure, they may kill us, but it'll be amusing!

From there, I walked through Tarantula Mall, which I found to be both sunnier than I'd remembered it, and emptier. I was one of three people in the mall, not surprising given that there was only one actual store open in it (a hair salon). The only other "store" in the mall was a Children's Museum & Dentist's Office. But it was closed, so no children would be learning or getting fluoride treatments that day.

Leaving the mall, the door behind me closed with a resounding crash that echoed all over, and left me standing in an alley of sorts, where I saw this door:

I don't know what's behind it, but I suspect is has something to do with why everyone in that first mural was grimly determined. What kind of city is plagued not just by Zombie Clowns but also by Shopping Witches?

The alley led onto the main street of the town, marked by the plethora (is 2 a plethora?) of tattoo shops. Here's the Monkey Wrench Tattoo parlor. It was the more scenic of the two.

A little further down, past the tattoo shop and past the library, is another wall mural, depicting (I assume) the settlers of Stevens Point deciding to stay here despite the lack of tourism opportunities. The bearded guy in the front is obviously holding something designed to fend off Zombie Clowns.

The high point of the day was my trip into Geppetto's Toy Shop, one of those amazing toy stores that simply didn't exist when I was a kid, chock full of neat toys and throwback toys and giant playsets and books and musical instruments and whimsical gadgets (note: Under federal law, when describing a toy store of this sort, you are required to use the word "whimsical.") I walked through it twice...

I had a lot of time to kill, still...

and ended up buying two wind-up toys for Mr F and Mr Bunches, an airplane and a boxing kangaroo that would jump up and do a backflip.

Then I stopped back at Shopko -- which anchors the mall-- to pick up a Stevens Point t-shirt for Sweetie, only to find that while they did not have Stevens Point t-shirts at this store, they did have Christmas gear set up, just down the aisle from the Halloween costumes:

With that, I retired to my car to eat lunch and watch people for the next half-hour until I had to get to work.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ninety-Four: Part Twenty-Four: Wherein The Younger Me Gets To Tell You Stuff The Older Me Forgot.

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. From time to time, I'll recap that year. This is part 24. Click here for a table of contents.

A big part of thinking back to what I've always viewed as a momentous year is trying to figure out what my memories tell me about me -- and what my memories tell me about my memories. How accurate are memories, really? I wonder that all the time -- and wonder how good memory is, too, as each day recedes back from me and I forget more and more about the life I've lived while I live my life.

It's hard to test how accurate memories are, though; what are they tested against? Other people's memories? Pictures? With the ease of videotaping things nowadays, memories might be less tested and more reliable in the future, as everything gets recorded and put on Youtube in snippets set to music we liked: Our memories as personal music videos:

What about testing memories against our own memories, but more fresh? Crazy, you say? Crazy?

Not so much, not so crazy... if you've got a good record of your memories. The record I had of my memories, though, is gone -- the red notebook journal I kept of 1994 thrown out in 2000 when I thought I'd never need it or want it again, ready to move on without looking back. Then I decided I wanted to look back and capture my memories after all, but had nothing to check them against...

... until I got some old letters back. When I was in Morocco, I wrote weekly to my Mom and sister, who lived together at the time. They were long letters, longer than average, detailing what I'd been doing the week before and commenting on anything that popped into my head while I was struggling with drinking the local water, not speaking the local languages, and being further away from home than I'd ever been before.

I'd forgotten about those letters, mostly -- until they were mailed back to me after my Mom died last year. I got a bundle of the letters I'd sent to her, letters she'd saved for 16 years. In effect, Mom served as an interim post office, holding those letters for me -- so it was as if I'd sent letters to my future self, letters that I could then read and reflect on who and where I was, sixteen years later.

And when I say sixteen years later, that doesn't sound all that long, but really, it's a lifetime: When I wrote these letters, I was 25 years old, and had little experience with life. When I read the letters again, I was a 41-year-old man with five kids, a marriage, and a half-lifetime of experience behind me. More than 1/3 of my life passed between writing the letters and reading them again, and I was amazed at how little I'd changed, and amazed at how much I'd changed, at the same time.

And also amazed at how fallible my memory is. For instance, the first letter is dated May 31, 1994 -- or, as I wrote it then, "31 May 94; Tues" -- which surprised me because (a) that's a pretty cool way to write a date and I should go back to doing that, and (b) I thought I hadn't gone to Morocco until later in June; I can't believe I was already there in May of 1994.

The letters I wrote typically had song quotes on the top of the page, from songs I liked that I thought also had something to do with the subject of the letters. Over the next few posts, I'll re-type those letters in here, and add in thoughts as I go along.


"We thought that everything we could possibly do was right..."-- Sinead O'Connor, Troy.

31 May 94; Tues

Kate & Mom--

(Sorry if this is a bit rambling & confused; culture shock and jet lag still haven't worn off).

Well, it's been a full week since I came to the 3rd world. Quite an experience, to say the least. To be truthful, it hasn't been totally fun, although it's always interesting. I'm very homesick right now; it's been a hectic week.

The flight was okay; I was a bit nervous taking off from Milwaukee, but by the time we landed in Pittsburgh, I was Mr-Experienced-Traveler. It's not all that exciting, but it is a lot faster.

[Present-day Me Says: I now find flying far more exciting, but not necessarily because I'm up in the air. I like to fly because I like to see the different view of the ground, a perspective I never get. I like to see clouds from above. And more than all of that, I like that, once on a plane, there's absolutely nothing else I should be doing: I can't clean the house, rake the leaves, write a brief, try a case, fix the TV... just nothing to do but sit and relax and read. But back then, that was my whole life. I had no responsibilities then, no real chores other than to attend enough of school to make sure I passed and learned something. So flying wouldn't have served as a respite from that.]

The JFK-to-Casablanca trip was really rough; we had to keep our seatbelts on most of the time because of turbulence. Then, Casablanca was fogged in, but he pilot still tried to land twice. It was sort of like being on a roller coaster with 500 other people. I had to have other students explain to me what was going on, because all the flight announcements were in French & Arabic.

[Present Day Me, again: I'd completely forgotten about that, too. I actually thought we'd landed in Rabat, where we'd stayed most of the trip. There's more to come from this letter; we're only through 2/3 of page 1. But that's it for today.]

go ahead and spit flames (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 66)

Untitled LeBron James Poem
by Crystal Booker

Letting go is hard, we know.
The King is here, and we've warmed up his seat.
Cleveland, go ahead and spit flames.
You can't burn up the Heat.

About the Poem: NPR had a contest recently where readers could submit poems about LeBron James. Entries came from as far as Canada, as 1,100 aspiring poets competed to win two tickets to a Miami Heat game and a reading of their poem on the air and at a poetry festival...

... there are poetry festivals?

Crystal's poem was announced as the winner on October 26.

About the Hot Actress: The Babies! and I went to the library last night, and they checked out three DVDs, one of which was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. That proved a little confusing for Mr Bunches, who usually watches that movie on Netflix on our computer -- so after getting bored with it, he asked me to switch over to his game, and I had to explain that we don't have the game on the TV.

One of the previews on that movie was for a movie about a dog named "Hachi," starring Richard Gere and Joan Allen. Apparently it's a true story of a dog that never stopped waiting for Richard Gere to come home from work, or something. But that reminded me that Joan Allen existed, so I put her on here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quote of the Day, 49:

"I'm like Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" crossed with MacGyver."

-- Sweetie, explaining how she'd patched a tear in Mr Bunches' mattress -- a tear where a spring was coming through -- using just ordinary tape and a feminine hygiene product.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010