The Big Chill, Part II: The Crackdown

Saturday was one of those Big Days that keep you up late. It started early and strangely enough when I encountered a midget I hadn’t seen in a while walking through the park on my morning constitutional. His name is Thaddeus and when last we spoke he had been asking my advice on some theology for the cult he was starting. He had needed something snappy and I helped him punch up his scriptures where I could and I advised him on presentation (I felt that fasting, sleep deprivation and a series of various esoteric psychedelic drugs would work best with his material).
Thaddeus looked well, and we embraced. He produced a surprisingly large loaf of bread and we sat by the pond and began to feed the ducks.
“I’ve been wanting to thank you for your help on that last project, Winston’ he began.
“Oh, it was my pleasure. How did all that work out, by the way?”
‘It went pretty well at firstbut then 9/11 happened and the business just went to hell.” said Thaddeus glumly.
“Really? I would have thought just the opposite would have happened!”
“Oh, no! The field boomed! Don’t get me wrong. There’s never been more confused and lost people running around. The problem is that it’s gone global. There isn’t room for an operator like me anymore, man. The days when a little person with a dream of an invisible giant named Cecil who lived in the sky with Duane, his talking umbrella, who were going to destroy the Earth and take the worthy with them to their cosmic water park could convince other people to give him their money so that they might be saved are over, man! I can’t compete anymore.”
“So what are you doing now, Thaddeus?”
He turned to me with a twinkle in his eye. “I got drafted. I’m going to be the marketing director for a new Creation Science theme park/museum/shopping mall/church/resort spa. That’s why I really have to thank you. When they were looking at my portfolio the stuff they liked best was the stuff you changed.”
“You mean they actually liked Duane?’
‘They loved him! ‘Cuz of how marketable he was and how he worked into the whole Flood thing. They were even talking about working him into the story so that they can sell him in the gift shop!’
‘”Working him into the story?”
‘”Well, you know, like, he’d be one of the characters walking around, and there would be a display in the museum with some of the verses about him…”
“What? That’s insane!”
“They really like him, Winston! Kids are gonna love him. I mean, there’s going to be a whole waterpark devoted to the Flood! A talking umbrella just makes sense!”
I felt sick. I stood up.
“I’ll sue you. I won’t let you do this.”
“Don’t bother, Winston. We had a contract. I own the characters.”
I walked away. God, I hate freelancing.

I went home, showered, grabbed my laptop (The Powerful TVC-15!) and went to my first appointment of the day. (Lily, this next bit will be news for you.) A friend who used to work with Lily and Tommie is getting married on 7/7/07 and she asked me to perform the ceremony. It’s going to be in Evanston at a lovely church with a simple reception afterwards. I met them and their lovely children at Omega in Niles. (A word about the Omega: It has been continuously open for decades, which means that there are concievably patrons at the counter who haven’t left since the sixties. It has that kind of feel.) We talked about details and what they wanted out of the ceremony. I’m going to use the same benediction I wrote for Bill & Coral and that I have always used since. Tracy would love to hear from you, Lily.

Afterward, I went to a graduation party for one of my students. I usually don’t do that, and I usually don’t write about them either (to preserve their privacy), but this was special. This year one of my assignments was to be the lunchtime aide to a handicapped student. Upon starting this year I discovered that some of the other aides were actually quite hostile and unhelpful with this student, and that one person in particular displayed a resentment towards dealing with her that I found surprising, not only because it existed at all, but that it existed with such intensity. I started by breaking the rules. I asked Jenny if she minded if I sat with her and ate lunch with her. This admittedly served me as well; it freed up my actual lunch hour to do paperwork and run errands and also allowed me to eat at noon as opposed to ten thirty in the morning. Jenny agreed and our arrangement immediately was a hit with her mother. Previously the aide would sit and read a book at a distant table and come if Jenny gestured to them for help. They would also bring her a plastic cup which Jenny would then fill at the drinking fountain across the cafeteria from where she sat. I found it simpler to provide Jenny with a bottle of water when I arrived. A regular group of students gathered to eat with Jenny and her mother reported to me that after choir, lunch was the high point of her day. I must admit that it was for me as well. One of Jenny’s friends who sat with us was a young man named Sam. According to the binder that purported to tell me all about Sam, Sam had severe social anxiety and had problems making connections with people, among other things. Sam has an unusual facial structure as well as low academic ability which contributes to his social problems. The Sam I knew was very funny and very conscienctiously compassionate towards Jenny. Sam’s favorite musicians were Elvis and the Beatles, and there was nothing funnier on Earth to him than the Three Stooges, so there was never an end to our conversation. On April Fool’s Day I spent the entire lunch hour with them in character as Elvis. That was fun. Christopher, I owe you yet another debt of deep thanks. I’m sure you remember that beautifully absurd dancing Elvis telephone you gave me a few years ago. While it gave me endless ironic delight, my enjoyment of it was more of the keeping-it-in-the-box-on-the-shelf kind of enjoyment, because to me the idea of a dancing Elvis telephone is far more delightful than actually having one as my actual phone. However, as I discovered when I gave the phone to Sam on Saturday at his graduation party, there are folks who take far more delight in the idea of having such a phone and Sam is one of them. Jenny and her mother were there and we ate dinner and talked for a couple of hours. Jenny showed me the pictures of her and Sam at the prom. She was wearing her ‘sassy’ boots. They were both adorable.

After I left I took a long drive on my way to TIGfest, a reunion party of friends from high school, some of whom I haven’t seen in twenty years at least. On my way I spun a new disc I burned on the TVC-15 that I call ‘Set the Controls For the Heart of the Day’: Here’s the playlist:
Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun-Pink Floyd
‘a backward mix of Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’
”It’s the Sun’-Polyphonic Spree
a backward mix of ‘Stairway to Heaven’
‘Fearless’-Pink Floyd
Bach: Concerto #7 G Minor, BMV 1058-Andante(Glenn Gould, piano)
Memories of Green-Vangelis
‘Andy Warhol’-David Bowie
‘Lady Day’-Lou Reed
‘Aquarius’-Hair Soundtrack
a backward mix of the Beatles ‘A Day in the Life’
‘Count the Days’-Prince
I’m listening to the backwards music because I’m contemplating an animation project with them as the soundtracks. Also, I might be schizophrenic because they make a certain kind of musical sense to me.

I arrived at TIGfest thoroughly psychelicized to a level I considered appropriate for such an occasion. To be honest, I was a little nervous. I had skipped the previous gathering because it was in another state and overnight and I was really busy. Also, I had asked to be taken off the email group list they had formed because they had overloaded my email with pictures and things and I was worried everyone would think that I was a pissy pretentious git or whatever. But this time the gathering was a few miles from where I’m living and it’s the middle of my summer vacation, and I found myself really looking forward to it.

I wasn’t disappointed. I had a wonderful time and am immensely grateful to Mindy for making such an effort to get me to come. I knew that these were good and beautiful people when I knew them all those years ago and it was stunning to see who they have bloomed into. To give you an idea of how comfortable and warm I felt, this was a party where my ex-wife arrived and I was glad for an opportunity for us to be social together and laugh. Her and Melora and I had a particularly hilarious conversation about their youngest sister, Megan. I can’t tell you how much I love my former sisters-in-law, and to laugh with them about them again was unspeakably gratifying.

Even with that as a high point, the entire evening was amazing. Until Dan and Mike showed up, I was the only man there. Being surrounded by radiantly goregous women in their prime who are all drinking heavily is not the worst way to spend a Saturday night. It can actually be fun, really, even if all of them are kind of like your sisters. The conversations I had that night were some of the best I’ve had in recent memory. I got home around 4. Mindy, I owe you an erotic foot massage or something. Thank you.
-My unlimited love to y’all-

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