Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Search for Meaning In an Existential Context

Hunter S. Thompson book signing (of sorts)

Okay, in 1993 this college professor loads his students in two buses and they go on a literary tour of America. They read Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and visited Whitman's grave in Camden, New Jersey. They read John Steinbeck and toured his museum in Salinas, Kansas. Then they made it to Colorado while reading Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.

The professor decided to contact Thompson to see if he would meet with his students. Thompson agreed, and arrived at a bar in Woody Creek, where he drank and played pool with the students. Then Thompson took some of the students to his home, Owl Farm. There, he made the students line up, each clutching a copy of Fear and Loathing. Instead of autographing their books, Thompson pulled out a gun and shot a hole in each one.

Is that cool or what? I would love to have a Thompson book personally shot by the author. Alas, he is gone. Thompson's remains were loaded into fireworks canisters and exploded over Owl Farm. He is now probably working on Fear and Loathing In Heaven.


From Billboard Magazine: The rapper sometimes known as C-Murder will be tried a second time on a second-degree murder charge.

Here's my thinking. If you're going to be a rapper/murderer, you should probably pick a better name than C-Murder. It's a dead giveaway (pun intended). Makes things easier for the police, too.

Cop #1: Looks like we've got a rapper murder here. You think it was a DJ PuppyKisses?
Cop #2: Nah. What about MC FloralScent?
Cop #1: No way. Hey, what about that other guy, C-Murder?
Cop #2: That's our man. I'll get the warrant. You get the Taser.


There's an author, Will Leitch, who wrote a pretty good YA book, Catch, about his hometown, Mattoon, Illinois. I enjoyed it, though I don't often read slice of life books. (I like stuff to blow up, you know?) Thing is, it was weird reading about Mattoon, since I grew up there too. Leitch put in all the streets I know, the local landmarks, even a couple of people I remember. There was something odd about reading a story about a place I know so well.

On the other hand, I can't think of anything interesting to say about Mattoon. U.S. Grant took command of his first troops there. Many sociology textbooks mention the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, who likely didn't exist but managed to cause mass hysteria during World War II anyway. And, um, dang. Not much else to talk about.

On the other, other hand, if you get on I-57 and drive 15 miles north, you run into Arcola, with a population around 2,700. It's a weird place. The locals call it "Amazing Arcola."

First, Arcola was, until fairly recently, home to the French Embassy, the only four-star French restaurant and bowling alley in the world. When I say four-star, I'm not kidding. Gourmands from everywhere came to eat at the French Embassy. Fantastic food, but très cher, as them French folk would say. Still, after eating a gourmet meal, what better way to burn a few calories by strolling across the hall and bowling a few lines?

Arcola also claims to be the "Broom Corn Capital of the World." This would appear to be a Good Thing, except I don't know what broom corn is for. Apparently they make brooms with it, but wouldn't any sort of corn do the job? Besides, I always thought brooms were made of straw. It looks like straw.

In addition to the broom corn thing, Arcola also has an Amish Interpretive Center. There are a lot of Amish near Arcola. You can tell because there's horse doody on the streets and sometimes on the sidewalk, so watch where you step!

I've talked to Amish people plenty of times and I don't need an interpreter. "Get thee off my land, spawn of satan," they tell me. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard that!

Hey, we're not done yet! Arcola is also the home of Johnny Gruelle. He's the guy who invented Raggedy Ann and Andy. Matter of fact, Raggedy Andy was installed in the Toy Hall of Fame last month. I don't know why he didn't go in with Raggedy Ann a few years ago. It's the same doll! Okay, they wore different clothes but that's about it. It's not like they are anatomically correct or anything.

I wonder if they had a pet dog, Raggedy Spot, or Raggedy Creepy Stepdad, or Raggedy Weird Uncle Lou. Nah. Too edgy. Anyway, there's a Raggedy Ann museum in Arcola, probably full of Raggedy stuff.

There can't possibly be any more going on in Arcola, you say. Hah! Arcola is home to the Lawn Rangers, the world's only precision lawn mower drill team, as far as they know. It's a bunch guys wearing cowboy hats and carrying brooms while pushing decrepit and oddly painted lawn mowers, and yet they've marched in the Holiday Bowl parade, the Fiesta Bowl parade, the Indianapolis 500 parade, and the NFL Hall of Fame Game parade. Author/columnist Dave Barry was so enthralled with the Lawn Rangers that he came up to march with them, and he's written several columns about them.

You think we're done, don't you? Arcola has only 2700 people. How could there be more? And yet, there is.

How about the world's only Hippie Memorial? Right in the middle of Arcola it sits. It was created by the Bob Moomaw, who was "Arcola's town crank" according to Roadside America. Bob walked a different path than most, and he created a monument sixty-two feet long to remember hippies and others who cherish freedom. Now Bob is gone but the Hippie Memorial remains.

Maybe Bob was a crank. After all, he decorated a building he owned with such messages as: "America you're turning into a nation of minimum-wage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!" Crank or not, Bob was all about freedom, and that's a message too important to forget.

Remember, when you plan your next vacation, think Amazing Arcola!

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