Thursday, October 14, 2010

Adventures with a Midget

I was yelled at by a midget today and narrowly avoided physical confrontation.

I was in Benton, Louisiana and needed gas. So I pulled in at the gas station located beside the local Brookshires. Following the normal protocol, I got out of the truck and started the gas pump. Not noticing anything out of the ordinary, I began to clean the windshield and throw random items of trash away. The next thing I know a car pulls up and a midget gets out (I didn't even know they could drive). He walks towards my general direction, looks around and begins yelling at me.

Now, I immediately assume this has to be a practical joke. I don't even know what the little dude was saying. Instead, I begin laughing, hysterically. I mean, I'm doubled over here.

Well, it was not a joke. Apparently, this guy was getting gas right before me and his wallet had fallen out of his pocket. The back tire of my truck was now resting comfortably on top of his wallet and that little sucker was pissed. Me laughing didn't help. At all. In fact, I think that was the stressor. He may not have actually been yelling at all before I began laughing, but he was squeaking and speaking loudly. In my defense, my only prior interaction with little people was after a trial in Corpus Christi, Texas, and it was frightening.

On that fateful night, while walking back to my hotel, a midget stripper was prowling the streets attempting to drag passersby (mainly me, because CC is a dump and not that many people walk the streets of downtown who aren't indigent and/or mentally challenged in some way) into her chosen establishment for an all midget strip-show. I did not attend.

So, I now find myself at a gas station, gas pumping, my vehicle's tire squishing a midget's wallet - it was a normal size wallet, I think. And because of my laughter, I sense that the little guy is preparing to attack. I didn't know what to do. I mean, I couldn't fight a midget. That'd be worse than hitting a woman. So, what did I do? I got in the truck and locked my door. I would have pulled up so he could grab his wallet, but the gas was running and I didn't want to risk blowing both of us up. He walks up to the truck, bends the 18 inches down to the ground and pulls on the wallet for what seemed like forever (probably 15 seconds) until it finally slips out. He's winded and angry, but he hustles back to his car, peels out and flips me the bird.

I almost pee'd my pants laughing. As this was taking place, I wanted to take a picture, but I felt like that would only lead to escalation of the situation. And I didn't want him stabbing me with a miniature knife or ninja star.  After all was said and done, I felt bad for the laughter which had to be terribly insulting.  However, it was an honest mistake...and highly comical.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What I learned from Holden Caulfield

Holden Caulfield.  His name is one of the most recognizable of 20th century American literature.  The protagonist, anti-hero and every-man (or every-teen as the case may be) of J.D. Salinger's pièce de résistance, Caulfield remains one of the most controversial and universal creations by an American writer.  I was a junior in high school the first time I read The Catcher in the Rye. Upon Salinger's death in January, I undertook to re-read the novel.  

No longer an angst ridden teenager, I wondered how I would connect to Holden Caulfield as an adult.  As I read the final pages of the book, the words resonated poignantly: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you'll start missing everybody."  Reflecting upon the statement, the book and the author's life, it struck me that I would always connect with Holden Caulfield.  You see, Salinger's genius was in his creation of a literary character that would come to encapsulate what I believe to be, ironically enough, the unifying theme of the 20th century - alienation.  

I cannot claim this idea for my own. In the 19th century, Karl Marx wrote in his Manuscripts of 1844 that alienation is the systematic result of capitalism.  And it was the encompassing strength of capitalism that marked the 20th century.  I do not suggest that alienation should carry with it an entirely pejorative connotation.  In his essay on the architecture of Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts describes the necessity of mankind's alienation from long-held ideas that had constrained the progress of humanity for centuries if not millennia: ideas such as the "manifest destiny" of empires and the propriety of waging "just" wars.  Indeed, alienation from such dangerous notions certainly suggests the progress of the human race.  

During the first half of the 20th century, we experienced two world wars, wide-scale genocide and nuclear proliferation.  Culturally, philosophically and psychologically speaking, the first half of the century brought mankind face to face with never before experienced existential threats. As the century progressed the world witnessed an unprecedented global increase in knowledge.  With breakthroughs in every known scientific field and many previously unexplored realms, science and technology marched ever forward. The coming years were filled with the ever mounting tension between communism and capitalism in the form of the cold-war and a global race towards nuclear dominance. The planet became too small, and man ventured to the moon.  Communism fell when a wall tumbled.  We entered the age of computers and the internet.  And as the century closed, we sequenced the human genome.  Each step began to feel more like a leap.  With each leap, we made exponential gains in understanding the frailty of human existence.  

By the end of the century, technological revolution in terms of travel, communication and economics entrenched us in a period of globalization. Barriers between nations and cultures began to fall. Lines blurred and ideas of pluralism gained philosophical and religious ground; we became increasingly alienated from many ideas we once held to be true. From the catalysts of innovation and understanding such as relativity and genetic theory to dissociation from individual understanding such as the freudian subconscious, the marks of alienation have been painted across the landscape of the 20th Century.  As I look back, I can't help but think of Holden Caulfield standing in that too big world missing everyone.            

-- swm            

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wade Issues Statement (Absurdity Ensues)

In a statement on July 18th, 2010 Dwyane Wade acknowledged the bulls-eye that he and his newly arrived Miami Heat teammates (Lebron James and Chris Bosh) would certainly have on their backs in the first season since the Heat found a way to unite three of the NBA's top free agents.  Wade discussed the possibility of a losing streak and the sure to follow media up-roar that such a streak will cause.  Speaking of the media, he predicted: "You all are going to make it seem like the World Trade has just went down again."  

12 minutes ago, the New York Daily News posted an article (link below) indicating that Wade has now apologized for his WTC statement.  Indeed, Wade did issue an apology pointing out that he was "simply trying to say that losing a few basketball games should not be compared to a real catastrophe."  

My question is this: to whom does Dwyane Wade owe an apology? 

It seems to me that Wade's initial statement was quite insightful and in no way directed towards the families whose lives were torn apart by the horrific tragedy of 9/11.  Rather, Wade seems to have struck a nerve with the media and those of us who place far too great a value on sports and entertainment. 

Wade's WTC comments are just the latest in a string of sports related events that both media and fans have clamored to cover and discuss ad-nauseam only to turn around and publicly blast the athletes who have (however misguidedly) provided both media and fans with their material.  From Wade's teammate Lebron James' ESPN special "the Decision" to Dan Gilbert's curious and inexplicable public letter addressing freshly scarred Cleveland fans and now to Wade's insensitive??? comments, I believe we, the public, have become far too sensitive.  Either that or we are sheep, blindly following the lead of the media. After all, Wade's statement was not directed towards (and may not be offensive to) those who were directly affected by 9/11; rather, it was a sort of admonishment of the media and fanatics who fuel the fire and hang on every word and action of the super-star athletes and actors of our time.  An admonishment that I, for one, believe is well-deserved and does not call for an apology.

-- swm