Saturday, August 27, 2005

E-Salesman With A Foot in My Door

So, I log in to see who left a comment to my last post "St. Elvis." What a surprise! It is my old friend lewissmith6536. Ah the great time I had with old lewissmith6536. (I call him 6536 for short.)

I remember the time that 6536 and I would call up the local store to ask them if they had Prince Albert in a can. 6536 could barely get through the punchline - "You had better let him out before he suffocates!" - without snickering.

Having lunch with 6536 was always a blast. I always knew how to time my jokes just right so that he would laugh while he was drinking his milk. . .

"Hey 65, why did the monkey fall out of the tree?"

He glances my way as he is drinking his milk. Wait for it! Now just as the milk is past the uvula and just in front of the epiglottis . . . .

"Because it was dead!" Oh, the wonderful Vitamin D-enriched blast of milkiness! And out the nose - how it burns!

Yes, we always thought 6536 would go far. The 6536 name was well respected in our community. His father owned the local auto dealership. He would have this huge sale once a year and mark all cars down to $6,536.00 for one weekend. He was well-known for his cheesy antics on those dreadful commercials. Mr. 6536 would be riding a bull or a camel or some other bizarre animal. Beside him was a blonde sweetheart holding a placard with "6536" on it. (It was rumored that she and Mr. 6536 were having an affair, but it was never proven.) At the end of the commercial, Mr. 6536 would shout out, "Come on down to 6536 Auto Sales. And tell them Bob 6536 sent you! That's a name you can take to the bank - or take out of it!"

I really think that my old chum 6536 felt a bit intimidated by his father's local celebrity and salesmanship. He tried his hand at car sales but failed miserably. I heard that he and his father had a sort of falling out. (Some say it was because 6536 and the blonde sweetheart started going out. But that's never been proven.)

I had not heard from lewissmith6536 in years and now along comes his heart-warming comment to my St. Elvis post. I see that he is back in sales. Sadly, I see he hasn't learned anything either. He is reduced to posting unreasonably long ads on my humble little blog.

What are you thinking 65? Do you think any of my readers are really interested in fifteen cent stocks or the future of biometric identity chips. Zzzzzzzzzz! Sorry old friend, that is the sound of all of us falling asleep to your miserable diatribe. And did you really think any of us are interested in that Section 17(b) nonsense? No, don't tell me that you are required to put that mumbo-jumbo in the post because of the STC. You were always a geek for such rules. Did you ever wonder why you could not sell cars like your father? Here is the painful truth old pal: he understood that the public was more interested in corny tag lines, camels, and blonde beauties. Customers were always looking for the door when you started waxing eloquent about the compression ratios and foot-pounds of torque of each model. Do you see why you were the one we dared to eat crayons in third grade?

Thank you lewissmith6536 for what is a rather bittersweet comment. On the one hand it is so good to hear from you and recall the old days; but on the other hand I am sorrowful that you have been reduced to a lonely e-salesman desperate enough to stick your foot in the door.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

St. Elvis

Yesterday was the anniversary of Elvis' death. I was almost ten when he died and I remember it. I remember it because my mother was a fan. When Elvis died in 1977 my mother was barely past thirty. Elvis was only 42. These numbers seem quite small to me now as I am stuck somewhere between them.

My mother was a fan, but I don't recall her weeping or sobbing refusing to be consoled over the news that the King was dead. I don't think she ever had the urge to go to Graceland or light a candle in his memory. I just remember her going about her daily duties that summer day - probably snapping beans, washing dishes, or working out in the garden with my grandmother. I do recall the TV being on and the commentary on Elvis' death. Mom had her own commentary. She thought it a shame that a talented man got hooked on drugs. She remarked that he had needed someone in his life to set him straight. And that was it.

In the pantheon of celebrity gods Elvis is one of the saints. Graceland is a shrine. I have no idea how a celebrity gets canonized into the sainthood. It would seem to have something to do with how many fans mourn and how much merchandise they buy after your death. If one really wants to learn how a celebrity joins the sainthood keep an eye on the rise of Dale Earnhardt. I noticed a T-shirt yesterday that depicted a scene of St. Dale watching over NASCAR from heaven surrounded by his mystical number "3."

My mother was a fan, but she wasn't fanatical. She simply lamented the loss. People like her are lousy customers for the sainthood market.

Monday, August 15, 2005

True Believer

I am not convinced that there are no super-heroes. I have seen them. Just the other day I was mowing the lawn when suddenly from out of nowhere I saw a dash of color blaze across my front yard.

"Look, out on the yard! It's a squirrel! It's a cat! No, it's . . . ." Lightning Man? The Black Bolt? I really didn't recognize which super-hero it was. I have quite a few in my neighborhood. He was wearing a black cape with a purple tunic. A golden lightning bolt was emblazon on his chest. Unlike many super-heroes, he wasn't very tall, in fact he may have been just a kid, but there have been many young super-heroes in the history of heroics.

When I glanced up to see where our young hero had gone I couldn't find him. Just then he peered from behind the tree and placed a finger on his mouth urging me to be quiet. No doubt he was stalking alien wizards from another galaxy. Or perhaps he was protecting us all from the nefarious schemes of General Mayhem. Then again he may have been dodging some nosy girl-reporter trying to discover his secret identity.

In reply to his "carry on good citizen" glance, I gave him my nod of assurance that I would carry on with my mowing and that I felt much better knowing that our fair city was under his protection. Then off he dashed in a blur of motion.

Tonight when my youngest son is concerned about werewolves attacking the house or the invasion of toads from Mars, I will reassure him with the knowledge that our neighborhood is under the protection of a small but brave super-hero. I will tell him that I saw this super-hero while I was mowing the grass. And then I will ask him if he has ever seen this hero.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Series of Fortunate Events

I had the surprise of seeing old friends last night. We met in the middle of I-540 about 300 feet above the ground. No, this wasn't an out of body experience nor was I under the influence of illegal substances. The story goes something like this . . .

Karen and I were on our way to Brentwood to collect our children at my parents' home. Typically we take Interstate 540 to get there and this evening was no exception. I-540 was built within the last ten years and takes advantage of the best technologies in highway construction. Rather than follow the curves and contours of the rolling mountains like Highway 71, which is I-540's scenic counterpart and once the only major route to Northwest Arkansas, I-540 shoots straight across deep valleys and bores through the sides of mountains. Highway 71 attempts to become one with nature, but I-540 lives by the adage that the shortest and fastest distance between two points is a straight line.

We were barreling along on I-540 and were crossing the high bridge over the railroad track just before the Bobby Hopper tunnel. Five or six cars ahead of me I could see something massive obstructing both lanes of traffic. We came to a quick stop. Soon traffic was backing up behind us and we were frozen with other trucks and cars in the middle of the bridge. There are no exits that high up and the shoulder is quite narrow. There was no getting around this accident.

After a few minutes the curious nature of the obstruction aroused my curiosity. What was the massive construct stretched across the highway? Did I see a boat in all that mess? I noticed that no emergency vehicles had arrived so in addition to curiosity I was motivated by a concern to give whatever aid I could. I suppressed my concern over what tragedy might lie ahead. I started on my "spacewalk" outside the safety of the mothership and emerged between the two Wal-Mart trucks blocking my view. Ahead of me was a camping trailer on its side effectively blocking both lanes. On one end was a blue truck still attached to the towing equipment. On the other end was a boat trailer attached to the camping trailer but hung up on the concrete barrier that kept it from plummeting down on the Mountainburg field below. Lying alongside the trailer was a keen looking fishing boat that had somehow jumped off its trailer in a vain attempt to escape the accident.

After my initial survey from a distance I met another adventurer returning from the barricade. "Is everyone alright?" I asked.

"Yes, they're all perfectly okay," he replied with a slight hint of amazement in his voice.

Satisfied that there was no human tragedy, I returned to my van. The minutes ticked by and my boredom mounted. The parade of emergency vehicles followed by a news truck stirred my blood but I resisted the urge to be a rubbernecker. Then my intellectual curiosity and scientific inquiry overcame me - "How exactly will they move that colossus?" I thought. I took a breath and launched back out into space.

Closer now I ventured. Closer still. I was upon the small crowd of civilians huddled near the concrete barrier of the bridge. In the rainbow colored lights of the emergency vehicles I watched the skilled engineering maneuver being used to disconnect the truck from the towing bar on the trailer. They were smacking it with an axe.

Just then I noticed a woman speaking on her cell phone. Beside her was a man holding the hand of a small child; he was speaking to a state trooper. I overheard the city police officer tell the trooper that this couple were the owners of the truck/trailer/boat assemblage. The woman finished her phone conversation. We looked at each other with recognition.

"I know you!" she said.

"And I know you!" I replied as I introduced myself.

I knew who they were even as she told me that she was Holly and he was Alex, a couple I knew when I lived in Russellville. This was no time to catch up on old times but to assess the present situation. Did they need anything? Were they okay? No to the first and yes to the second. Good answers! As we looked at the black and gray markings on the stark white concrete barrier, Holly gave thanks to God that their truck did not go over the edge. She told me how she was praying through it all. I could tell that she had been through a terrifying few seconds when the various components of their freight train decided to go their own ways. It was obvious that she was thankful and felt fortunate to be alive with her family. She and Alex were smiling with relief. Finally, she asked me to apologize to everyone stranded behind them.

I returned to the van just as the tow truck was headed down the shoulder of the highway. Alex and Holly shuffled off to speak to the state trooper. I realized that they had quite a story to tell. Quite a testimony to give. I hope they do not mind if I tell my part of it.