1999 Notebook: Interval XXVIII

17 September 1999
The Inexplicable Magnetism of Flint
What are all these people still doing here in Flint, Michigan? Don't they know they're free to go?

18 September 1999
Back to Mount Morris
Let us not mince words or fall back on semantic twiddle-twaddle here: my mother currently lives in Flint, Michigan. I'm pleased to say that I have never lived in Flint, Michigan.

Under ruthless cross-examination by a hostile prosecutor, though, I would reluctantly admit to once having lived in Mount Morris, Michigan, thirty years ago. I lived there from birth until I managed to escape at the age of thirteen, with the help of that very same mother. (Thanks, mom!) But Mount Morris is certainly not Flint; it's at least a kilometer or two to the north of that similarly pathetic city.

Driving through Mount Morris today with my mother, however, wasn't like going back at all. My childhood home had been razed, as had the houses of my two closest friends, as had Hamilton's Restaurant, and so on. The structures have been replaced with parking lots, except for the house in which I failed to grow up. (I maintained then--and still do--that "growing up" is a euphemism for the end of growth.) A cinderblock building and its asphalt parking lot now cover most of the lot where my old home and two large chestnut trees once stood. I failed to note the name of the business in the new building; it was something like "Jenny's Nail and Glamour Parlour." Something like that.

Mount Morris looks like one of those popular urban renewal projects where the civic planners demolished the tarnished past to build a glorious new future--except that the planners so good at tearing things down seemed to lose interest in the urban metamorphosis when faced with a blank canvas of empty lots. I guess that's about the time they turned their attention to building more chain stores near the freeway.

Looking at old photographs back at my mother's apartment wasn't much help in trying to piece together my increasingly distant past. (My mother keeps a lot of old photographs; that's what mothers do.) All the photos show me in states and appearances that I do not remember.

19 September 1999
Instant Hangover Concoction
I just came up with a brilliant idea. Since I'll never get around to patenting it, the least I can do for humanity is to describe it.

It seems that a lot of people drink alcohol just to abuse themselves; they drink the night before so they can be miserable the morning after.

These people would figuratively and literally lap up a concoction that induced instant hangovers, eliminating the time-consuming stage of inebriation.

It can't miss! I do hope that anyone who makes a fortune from this idea will be kind enough to remember me with a nice bottle of whisky.

20 September 1999
Billy Is Wilder
Here's the story, purportedly true. It's 1950, and Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM at the time, is much annoyed after seeing the first Hollywood screening of Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard. Mayer asks his clique of lieutenants a hypothetical question, "How dare this young man, Wilder, bite the hands that feeds him?"

Wilder happens to overhear Mayer, and offers a rather impolite reply: "I am Mr. Wilder, and go fuck yourself."

It's one thing to bite the hand that feeds you; it's quite another to then defecate on it. That Billy Wilder, what an hombre!

21 September 1999
The Secret of Government Arts Funding
I asked a government arts administraitor how he avoided all the obvious political problems inherent in doling out taxpayers' money to purported artists and alleged arts organizations.

"It's simple," he explained. "We give our grants to both the elitists and the populists. The avant-garde crap, the traditional crap, it really doesn't matter as long as we only sponsor mediocrity. No one complains as long as we don't fund anything that's very good."

"That's it?" I asked.

"Yep, that's all there is to it," he said. "Most people like to see work that makes them feel superior to the artist, but they hate work that's better than theirs. It's a simple formula, really: mediocrity good, inferiority bad."

His words comforted me. I may be able to get some government money after all!

22 September 1999
11,111,111 Squared
11,111,111 multiplied by 11,111,111 equals 123,456,787,654,321. Since I don't speak math, I don't know quite what to do with this numerical palindrome.

23 September 1999
The Beginning of a Fine Conductor
Roderick used to be a high school violin teacher. Now, he's a high school orchestra conductor.

"Why the switch from teacher to conductor?" I asked.

"Do the numbers," he responded, "it's obvious."

"I suppose a conductor would get paid a lot more than a teacher," I replied.

"No, it's not about money, not at all," he explained. "Over a career, a private musical teacher can screw up hundreds of kids, but a conductor can screw up thousands!"

I'm sure Roderick will make a very fine conductor indeed.

24 September 1999
Eighty-proof Vision
I was at a party trying reading the fine print on the back of a bottle of rye. Or, to be more precise, I was at a party trying to read the fine print on the back of a bottle of rye in very dim light.

Rita sloshed over to appraise the situation.

"Looks like you need glasses, old man," she helpfully suggested.

"Rita, I've never needed glasses," I replied. "Hell, you know I always drink straight out of the bottle."

And then we did.

gratuitous image
25 September 1999
Carey Turnbull (snaportrait)
Carey is a friend of mine.

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart