Sunday, July 31, 2005

Backroads and License Plates

I’m on vacation at the beach in North Carolina and the weather is doing its best at making this experience memorable and less than desirable. It’s raining. It’s been raining more than not for the past three days. But I had a good drive down here—taking the back roads through Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. How else could I’ve seen Annie Oakley’s gravesite, stop at local potters, or drive through an Ohio town that had a sign noting that it was a "Certified Clean Community?" And just what is a clean community? Do they have a community ordinance that all children must bath regularly? Or have they cleaned up their toxic landfill? Or have they outlawed dirty bookstores? I should have stopped and asked. But I didn’t. Instead, I spent the trip looking at license plates.

Just before leaving home, I’d read about Kentucky’s discontinuation of its smiley sun license plates. According to the announcement complaints have poured in from those who dislike the plates. Who with the possible exception of a psychopath road rage warrior would complain about a smiley sun? I’d not even seen one, but about halfway through Ohio (near the certified cleaned community), I spotted my first. It didn’t look bad, except that the sun resembles the rising sun in the toddler’s television show, Tele-Tubbies. Other than a lawsuit from the producers of that hideous show, I couldn’t see why Kentucky would want to change their plates. After all, many states feature a sun. New Mexico is the only one that sports a risen sun, at least as far as I could determine through my unscientific study. My own truck’s license plate features a partial sun either rising before or setting behind the Mackinaw Bridge. Both of Kentucky’s neighbors, to the north and the south, feature a partially risen sun. Of course, Florida, whose plate features oranges as large as the sun, lays claim to the sunshine state.

Most states try to say something clever on their plates. My home state of North Carolina has a plate bragging that it’s "first in flight." Not to be outdone, Ohio boasts of being the "birthplace of aviation." And both are true, the first flight occurred in North Carolina on Kitty Hawk, by the Wright Brothers, who obviously chose the location in order to catch the fall Bluefish run. Their plane was built in Dayton, Ohio, an early example of outsourcing. Ohio also has a plate bragging that she’s "the heart of it all." This trend to see one’s state as the center of the universe is catching. Indiana is "the Crossroads of America" and Alabama is "the heart of Dixie." South Carolina has at least two different sayings. For those who feel that God’s getting shortchanged these days, there is the "In God we trust" plate. I wish those from the lessor of the Carolina’s would learn that having such faith doesn’t mean you can drive like a bat out of hell. The other saying on South Carolina’s plate brags even more, "Smiling faces, beautiful places." The smiling faces must have been of coeds on Clemson’s campus. I’m not sure about the beautiful places, maybe the author was thinking about a site just north of the state line.

Another trend I noticed in license plate design is the inclusion of state websites. Wireless Internet users could type in and discover what’s going on in Indiana. Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia have followed suit. And people think cell phone users are dangerous. Of course, tailgating in order to read the fine print on the plates isn't the safest activity around.

I hope the sun shines for a least a few hours tomorrow. I wanna dig my toes into some warm sand, ride a few waves, read some, nap a bit under the rays of the sun, all while jumpstarting melanoma.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Condoleezza Challenges Satan's Lack of Credibility

I wish I had time to write a parody of Condoleezza Rice challenging Satan for his “kingdom’s credibility problem.” I could see our Secretary of State walking into hell, dressed in one of her sharp pant-suits. She confronts the the Author of Deceit, who responds, “At least you'll have to admit, there’s no humidity here.”

Rice recently informed Sudanese government of their “credibility problem” over Darfur. (see It’s her boss, George Bush, with a credibility problem. What Sudan has done to the non-Arab population within the country goes beyond a gap in credibility. It’s evil.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Fishing at Dusk

Granddad’s old Browning fly-rod, nine and a half feet, nicely lays the line out. Casting next to the lily pads, the fly drops just inches from the dark green leaves. In a second, the water swirls and I yank, as the line dives below. Pulling just enough on the line to keep the fish from getting it tangled in the lily pads, I work the fish. He comes to the surface, jumping completely out of the water before diving deep. “He’s a nice one,” I think. Keeping the line taut, I allow him to swim back in forth in the deep water, slowly luring him toward the canoe. He begins to tire and I pull him closer and into the net. He’s not as big as I’d thought, but still a nice fish. I remove the hook from his lips and gently place him back into the lake. Wasting no time, he dives deeply into the waters as I look around. The western sky is pink. The waxing moon hangs low in the southeast. Up in the meadows above the lake, fireflies light the night. It’s time to paddle back to the truck and head home.

Driving home, a firefly strikes the windshield. A final flameout, glowing green ooze slides down the glass slowly fading out.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Short Summer of the Jesus Streetlight in Chicago

Recently, Chicago officials decided to turn off the "Jesus’ Streetlight" after crowds fought over first dibs on seeing the Prince of Peace. See:
Now, in the grand tradition of that great Chicago journalist (Mike Ryoko, not Paul Harvey), here is the rest of the story:

Responding to complaints from neighbors over the increase traffic into this East Chicago neighborhood, a Chicago Alderman, flanked some of the city’s finest in blue, held a meeting at the ‘O’Leary’s Memorial Elementary School on Conflagration Way to discuss the situation. Neighbors crowded the gym, joined by preachers, public servants, abiders of the public dole as well as abiders of the public taverns and professors of theology, sociology, psychology and several other unnamed olgies. Tensions ran high as neighbors debated if the shadow from the streetlight was an apparition of the Savior.

"From dusk to dawn, cars keep driving by," said one of the local neighbors who refused to give her name just in case it really was Jesus. "They honk at each other as they strive to get close to the light. Why can’t they park down the street and walk? All the people who saw Jesus back there in the New Testament walked, why can’t these folks. None of us can get any sleep with all that racket out there,"

The Reverend Billy Bighair, pastor of a local Baptist Church, commented that he was shocked with how many people came out to see the light. "I’d always thought when Jesus came back most people would hide and those brave enough to venture toward the Savior would be on their best behavior."

People nodded in agreement as they’ve been numerous fights every since Josie Holk, a well known former boozer, saw Jesus’ shadow while holding onto the utility pole one evening, waiting for the earth to stop spinning. "I’m sure it’s Jesus," Mr. Holk wailed, "he’s the only one who could have saved my beloved Josie from the bottle.

The esteemed Dr. Dogood, professor of religious behavior at the equally esteemed Chicago Divinity School, noted that "Jesus told us that he would divide friends and family. Maybe," he said, "we shouldn’t be too shocked at all this fighting."

Over in the corner by the refreshment table, provided by the Haymarket Square Donuts, representatives of the police shook their heads in disbelief. "If Jesus is just going to start a riot, he can do it on someone else beat," one cop mumbled as he downed his fifth donut. All the officers were in agreement that the Anarchy Bomb Donuts, which are filled with chocolate chips representing shrapnel, are the best.

Finally, after much discussion, Police Chief Angelo Machuca suggested a solution. "Let’s have the Department of Public Works unplug the light".

"Don’t turn off the light," cried a salesman, "I’ve got a trunk full of Jesus trinkets to unload." Joining him in the chorus was a brother and sister team who’d recently begun selling Kool-Aid and hot chocolate to weary pilgrims. But the cries of the local entrepreneurs were quickly drown by the cheers of nearby residents.

The entire event came to an end later that evening after a crew from the Department of Public Works arrived on the scene. After a frantic and unsuccessful search for the plug, Frank Boss, the supervisor, ordered JohnBoy to climb the pole and unscrew the light bulb saying, "there’s more than one way to skin this cat." As JohnBoy took off the globe, he was sprayed with a host of dead moths. "Hey, I think this is the problem," he yelled. "Let me clean this globe out and see what happens." Wiping it with his handkerchief, he replaced the globe and the light shinned brightly. There were no shadows resembling the Messiah. "Here we had all those professors and folks talking Jesus and it turns out that it wasn’t nothing but dead bugs," JohnBoy proudly proclaimed when he got down the ladder. Waving into the cameras from several networks, he yelled, "Hi Mom, see, I ain’t so dumb after all, my eighth grade education did do me some good."
Most of those waiting to see Jesus’ shadow were disappointed to learn that a bunch of moths created Jesus’ facial features. "You can’t convince me that God didn’t have a hand in the placement of those dead bugs," one local priest was heard saying. Another woman who’d driven in from South Barrington expressed her frustration. "I should have known that Jesus wasn’t coming to Chicago," she said. "Why would he want to come down here when he could stay with us white folks out in the suburbs? We got a nice gigantic church there and I’m sure the pastor would let Jesus say a few words. He may even let him give the whole sermon if he could come on a Wednesday night."

However, Josie Holk, the gal who started it all, was elated. "That wasn’t Jesus? You mean I can go back to drinking!" she said as he headed off to the Billy Goat Tavern. "Shucks," Mr. Holk mumbled. "Expect I’ll now have to go back to working overtime to support Josie’s habit.

And now you have the rest of the story….