The Invisible Man

Has anyone ever written about the slimming powers of camouflage?


That’s good.  It has none.

The other Wal-Mart shoppers never see him coming.

The other Wal-Mart shoppers never see him coming.

It does, or so I’m told, have the ability to drastically reduce the chance one will be gored, trampled, or otherwise molested by a wide assortment of woodland creatures.  This is a definite plus for the weekend warrior crowd who are forever attempting to prove the superiority of the species while cowering in a tree stand.  But to speak of it – it being camouflage – as a fashion statement…  What it states, boldly, is that the beer-gutted wearer has pretty much given up all pretense of attracting a suitable mate.

In short, while the deer may lose the battle, they just might win the war.

While we’re discussing the future, or want of it, for our species, I’ve recently become aware of a locale where the above points on style need to be made – namely the local boat, gun, and RV show.  Making said points via Jumbo-tron, in addition to being ironically appropriate, would probably net the best ROI, but it isn’t my first choice.  Personally, I’d like to print the opening three lines of this piece and nail them to the front door of the convention center, but I’m not sure if either basic literacy or the ability to appreciate an allusion to Martin Luther can be expected in my target audience.  Based on my experiences, I’m thinking not.

If you think this is a history book…you might be a redneck.

If you think this is a history book…you might be a redneck.

Here the question arises as to what precisely I was doing in said environs, given that my first response upon encountering a squirrel, rabbit, or small dog is not, “I could shoot that and eat it,” accompanied by the sound of something ricocheting off a spittoon.  Well…correction – the dog sometimes sends the ol’ train of consciousness down those particular rails, but that’s usually because the dog is crapping in my azaleas and deserves to die.  No, my presence at the venue was tied up in the doings of some event organizer who had negotiated the temporary import of a couple dozen exotic animals.  Yes, you read that right.  Endangered species.  Readily available firearms.  Wisconsinites of dubious sobriety.  And last but not least, beer served right there at the event – serendipity or stupidity?  Only time and the local news would tell.

Yet before inebriation attempted to blend itself with a spontaneous exercise of second amendment rights, I had high hopes of using the fauna as a diversion for my daughter, who is approaching two and self-identifies as a guinea pig.  I saw the proceedings as an opportunity to either let her gape at strange and exotic creatures, hopefully prior to taxidermy, or as a chance to reunite her with her own kind – provided I could discretely pitch her into a pen without her mother noticing.

Hey – anyone else that has had any two-year-old in their care for any length of time has thought exactly the same thing.

Yet to return, after much meandering, to the subject of camouflage and what it will and will not do for its wearer: I’m convinced that if the RVs had been replaced with some sort of indoor forest, all the attendees still would have looked ridiculous – just fractionally less so.  Though camouflage was the unofficial dress code of the day, given the complete dearth of greenery, I found myself questioning if anyone actually understood how the fabric worked.  Or was the go-to assumption that it magically makes you invisible?  One oversized, camo-clad guy, manning some sort of hunting booth on a crowded exhibition floor, was blissfully sitting in a camouflage chair eating popcorn from a large tub.  He was shoving so much in his mouth at once that he had to hold the tub under his chin to catch what wouldn’t fit as it fell back into the tub.  It was hard not to stare – partially because he put off measureable units of gravity, but I’ll try to keep the fat jokes to a minimum…though such is difficult since the fat jokes practically write themselves.

My wife, whose knowledge of hunting starts and ends with Jane Austen novels where men with British accents and uncomfortably tight pants potter around for a couple hours before tea, expressed bemusement that it was a boat, gun, and RV show, as if the third was some sort of non-sequitur.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, she was laboring under the assumption that our woodlands were being depopulated by sinewy men with facial hair best described as “robust” and not those who could have served as stunt doubles for Rover in The Prisoner.

The Great White Hunter

The Great White Hunter

Needless to say, she knows better now.


Headed for Destruction

There is a class of people who come together once a year in the backwoods of Wisconsin to celebrate the three core tenets of their way of life.  First, that the best gas mileage can only be attained when ninety-five percent of one’s vehicle is made up of iron oxide. Second, the greatest, nay the only malted beverage fit for human consumption looks approximately the same at the moment of consumption as it will at the…erm…moment of discharge. And third, the path to universal enlightenment begins with the ceremonial adoption of the holy hairstyle – most often referred to as “the mullet.”

Joe Dirt

The only hairstyle with the ability to convey to one’s parents, “I’m sorry. You failed.”

As for the celebration itself, it begins at the county fair amidst the jubilant bantering and cooking of anything within arm’s reach that will fit in an industrial fryer. As for where it ends, the restroom or the arrival of the county health inspector might seem like the obvious answer.  However, the event’s climax actually occurs in yon outdoor arena where the crash and roar of automobiles locked in mortal combat nearly equals the gastrointestinal battle between deep fried cheese curds and one’s intestinal track.

Having set the scene, let it be known that one mosquito ridden summer night I, with my pasty skin and English degree, found myself at ye olde demo derby where I watched vehicles in better repair than the ones in the parking lot gently nudge each other at speeds approaching three miles per hour.

At one point, I saw one of these fly by carrying a family of four.

Much to my surprise, there was some hard to define cathartic pleasure to be had in the proceedings.  My theory is that most of the models, makes, and years competing had, at one point or another, cut me off in traffic; thus, it was good to see them finally get their comeuppance.

However, there was an unnecessary cap to the enjoyment gleaned from the proceedings as a result of the event announcer, who talked far too much and sounded suspiciously similar to Jed Clampett.  Jed, it seems, had never seen one of ‘dem ‘dere horseless carriages before the night of the destruction derby. As a result, he managed the nigh impossible feat of making John Madden appear insightful.  To give you an idea, some of our announcer’s more brilliant quips included the following:

“Look at all the bumpers!” (Well, they all started with two, and it does seem they are making heavy use of them.)

“That one car sure is smoking!” (I haven’t been able to see the arena for fifteen minutes, and now you opt to point out one of the vehicles is in the process of boring a hole the size of Kentucky into the upper atmosphere. You, sir, are a visionary.)

And then there’s my personal favorite:

“Fire!  Fire!” (Let’s review. We’re seated in a semi-circle around an arena about half the size of a football field. Within said arena, there are nearly two dozen locomotive devices made out of steel, powered by flammable liquids, and hell bent on each other’s destruction. That in mind, it seems the eight foot pillar of orange combined with the aggressive intervention of the in-house fire department is a fairly good indicator that number thirty-six is indeed on fire. But thank you for your spastic verbal warning nonetheless.)

Unless I’m mistaken, I reckon some o’ these here cars are gonna run into some o’ them there other cars.

Speaking of number thirty-six, something needs to be said about one’s choice of a chariot in this modern Circus Maximus. As number thirty-six discovered, it is generally best to ask oneself a few questions before selecting a rolling coffin. For simplicity, I think we can reduce those questions to:

“Is this car easily damaged?”

“Is this car able to damage other cars?”

“Is this car prone to fiery eruption?”

Obviously, it is hard to find any one brand of automobile that fulfills all of the above criteria. For example, there is little difference between an Oldsmobile and an M1 Abrams tank; thus, it gets a resounding two thumbs up in regards to questions one and two.  Unfortunately, if one has ever experienced the plush cockpit of an Olds, one should be painfully aware that it is akin to being transported in a mobile pile of kindling. In short, the Olds fails the smoke test. Simultaneously, Buicks are not generally renowned for their heartiness in situations involving head-on collision.  However, in my experience, there is absolutely no way to light a Buick on fire. Trust me. I’ve tried, and I was never able to collect the insurance money.

Of course, there are vehicles that in no way satisfy the requirements for a derby car, but people will enter them anyway.

If your car could be crippled backing into a rogue Shriner, it’s probably not a good pick for a demolition derby.

I’m not entirely certain if the person who entered the Ford Festiva was considerably dumber than the average fifth grader or if they had, if I might be frank and a touch crude, a seriously impressive pair. Sadly, I’m inclined to believe the latter, as midway through the round it became apparent there was a real chance the Festiva was going to win. In regards to how this was possible, I think it had something to do with the fact that the Ford Festiva is the only American-made car that can, when traffic situations merit, be portaged through busy intersections.  Obviously, given its lack of heft, it couldn’t damage anyone, and plainly it would burn in a pinch. Yet whenever anything would hit the Festiva, some bizarre alchemy of Newton’s laws resulted in it being pushed around but not otherwise harmed.

Perhaps the most interesting result of the Festiva battle came in the form of the Jed’s singular insightful comment of the evening: “That Festiva gets forty miles to the gallon and has a five gallon tank. You know how long we’re gonna be here?”

I hate it when you’re right, Jed.

Some Chair

There are lots of things that get rotated at approximately thirty year intervals.  Mortgages.  Spouses.  The oil in my car.  The magazines at the doctor’s office.  And, as I recently discovered, the furnishings in most public sector offices.  Unlike the other items, the last occurs not because it is, strictly speaking, necessary.  Most furniture I’ve encountered from the late seventies and early eighties could quite accurately be characterized as robust if not out and out bomb proof.  However, being of the late seventies and early eighties, the furniture in question also tends to be “showing its age” to put it politely – or “an affront to God and man from the moment of its construction” to put it honestly.  I know this because, rather than direct it to the incinerator where it belongs, a misguided sense of frugality has led the State of Wisconsin to try and sell a few pieces.  So having said that, can I interest anyone in “One Odd Chair?”

Ah, the seventies – when the only difference between the living room and a construction zone was the presence or absence of protective headgear.

While I admire the candor of whoever listed the chair for what it was, namely singular and strange, I have to admit that when they said “one odd chair,” I was expecting a vision of madness I could set my posterior upon.  I was expecting a chair of a variety that, when viewed by Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction, would lead to a declaration to the effect of “That is one seriously odd mother!@#$in’ chair.”

Ain’t nothin’ good ever happened in that chair.

This would probably be followed by a gun fight.  It’s always followed by a gun fight.

In this case, however, I’m not sure that is particularly likely, as the chair is not particularly odd.  Sure, it looks like it was constructed out of 2x4s and upholstered in the same material used to make traffic cones, but aside from that, there does not seem to be anything particularly bizarre about it.

I promise you this: Someone, at some point, got really, really high in this chair.

I have some questions about the carpet, which looks vaguely like a glitch in the matrix, but I guess that isn’t for sale.  And so we return to the chair itself, currently the charge of “Randy,” who I’m led to believe can be contacted to schedule a viewing of the One Odd Chair.  Part of me wonders if Randy happens to be a loquacious spider, as this whole listing has a very Charlotte’s Web vibe to it.

Somehow less endearing than Wilbur.

Then again, I take back what I said earlier.  There is something bizarre about it.  Two things, actually.  The first is that, as I attempt to write this, I cannot stop humming “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. The second is that the minimum bid is $5.  Perhaps the good people at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have seen one too many episodes of Antiques Roadshow and are laboring under the impression some collector will identify the +1 Chair of Oddness as an artifact from the Ming Dynasty.  Yes, there is an off chance that the only way to get that exact shade of orange is through a dye made possible only through Aztec sacrifice, but chances are better that the chair is the furnishing equivalent of a Haitian penny stock.

In short, I might lower my minimum demanded bid.  In fact, I might even open it up to barter.  And regardless of what is offered – chicken, goat, sedan chair and low mileage eunuchs – I’d probably take it.

What can you expect?  It’s an odd mother!@#$in’ chair.