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Touring the Filthy South, Part I May 28, 2009

Filed under: Do Re Me,Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 7:53 pm
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Last week, I experienced a healthy dose of what some people refer to as “the dirty South.”  I would rather refer to it as the Onion does:  “the filthy South.” Dirty just doesn’t capture it all, because dirty things can be cleaned up. The word implies underlying cleanliness, and boy, is that wrong. “Filthy,” on the other hand, has no such connotation; it implies lasting dirt, sort of like Pigpen in Charlie Brown comics. That’s far more accurate.

We set off from Little Rock early last Saturday morning. Somewhere around Memphis, my 10-month old car received its first bullseye, which isn’t a tragedy on a regular day but on a day when PMS hormones are on the rampage, it’s the equivalent of nuclear meltdown. I fumed all the way through Mississippi and part of Alabama, until we reached our first destination: the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham.

Holy crap, who knew this was in Alabama?

Holy crap, who knew this was in Alabama?

Note to those wanting to visit: eat before you go. There is no food available at this exit, and all they had inside were a few vending machines. I ate two gas station hot dogs for lunch. They were rubbery and the buns were suspiciously chewy. Also, you had to tell the cashier exactly what toppings you wanted, and she gave them to us in packets (mayo, mustard, relish, ketchup). I’m not opposed to packets, but I am opposed to estimating how many I’ll need before I even eat. It kills the joy of spontaneous consumption, in the same way that asking someone what time sex will be over can do. Besides, is there really a need to ration ketchup packets? Are people in broke-ass Alabama so poor that they hoard gas station packets of pickle relish?

Perhaps. The ride into Birmingham was like descending into Africa’s Rift Valley, only with bingo parlors instead of roadside stations selling bushmeat and Maasai warrior blankets. Apparently, there’s not much people there can afford except Bingo and chicken. There were empty storefronts by the truckload, and entire strip malls sat vacant, mile after mile. What I don’t understand is…how can these people even afford bingo? You have to pay to play, right?  So if there’s money for Bingo, why isn’t there money for any of the businesses that used to inhabit the empty space? Seriously, there are like twenty Bingo parlors between the freeway and the Barber Motorsports Museum. Someone is making a killing.  And someone is hella stupid, forking out money to Bingo parlors that could be used to, oh, I don’t know, FIND A JOB.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the Barber Motorsports Museum itself. The highlights: gorgeous grounds, millions of dollars of cars and motorcycles, and a track where people were learning to race Porsches. This Barber guy shelled out a lot of money to his architect—the building has a sweeping multi-story curved walkway, floor-to-ceiling glass elevator, and stacked rows of shelving for cycles that go all the way to the rafters. There are weird art sculptures scattered all over the place (the ones out front look like angry Soviet-era proletarians on Segways), and I’m really surprised I didn’t see personal memorabilia mixed in with the bikes. This Barber guy seems content to let the machines steal the show. Then again, nothing screams “I’M RICH, BITCH” like a hand-picked collection of Lotus racecars.

I discovered that if I were to ever own a motorcycle, I’d want what’s called a café racer.

Bitchin' cafe racer

Bitchin' cafe racer

Very simple, linear bikes with a hunk of metal for the gas tank, horizontal handlebars, and a big-ass headlight. They look freakin’ cool, and they’d look even better in pink and black, with maybe a few rhinestones or black pearls superglued onto it somewhere. And a quilted seat, with an embroidered Chanel logo. Dude, that would rock so hard.

Somewhere toward the end of our visit, a very large man started talking to my husband about a particular make of Italian motorcycle. He walked with a cane, and couldn’t stand up for long. He asked P. what kind of motorcycle he had, and P. said he didn’t have one right now because we live in a place where it’s really boring to ride.  When the man found out we meant Little Rock, he cooled. He seemed offended that we think the Ozarks are boring, but when you’re used to the Sierra Nevadas, a couple 3,000-foot-tall bumps in the road don’t really faze you, do they? The man was quick to point out that he’d ridden in from Atlanta on his Gold Wing, and this is totally evil, but all I could think was, oh my God, your shocks and tires must be shot from carrying all that weight. Seriously…if you weigh as much as your bike, are performance features not affected?

I know, I know. Sometimes I’m not a very nice person. I blame PMS.

Next time: my tour of the filthy South continues, through Atlanta and down Florida. Highlights will include bad drivers, fried chicken fragrance, and more bad drivers.


This Is Gonna Sound Crazy, But… May 14, 2009

Filed under: Do Re Me,Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 8:51 pm
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Think of something you fear deeply…something you’ve always been afraid of, as long as you can remember.  For me, it’s fire. I’ve never lit a match in my life.  I can’t do it; I just stare, paralyzed, at the strike box on the matchbook and wonder how the fuck people put their fingers so close to it. Every candle I’ve ever lit has been with a cigarette lighter, and even that’s pushing it. That represents years of growth.  I used to use those long-stemmed BBQ lighters.

Why do you suppose we fear the things we do? I’ve never been burned, never been in a fire, never watched a house burn down.  My parents both lit matches without fear; I saw it done a million times.  But what in my brain instinctively said HELL TO THE NO when it came time to do it myself?  Where did my juvenile brain get the notion that I would be irreparably harmed if I let myself get that close to fire?

I have a theory. I think these strange, illogical fears are the cosmic leftovers of some traumatic event that happened to us in a past life.  (I can hear you now…whoa, this chick stepped off the deep end with that one…what kind of head case believes in past lives?)  I do.  There’s no proof, of course…most people would say there’s not only a lack of proof but a lack of any evidence whatsoever. That’s fine. All I know is that there must be a reason why I start shaking when I pick up a matchbox. And this is the one that makes sense to me.

If you pay attention to history, you see that it starts repeating…if you think Iraq and Afghanistan are a mess, take a look at the Crusader kingdom Europeans tried to create in the Holy Land in the 12th century. Just put George Bush’s face on the Pope’s body, replace the Knights Templar with Halliburton, and it starts making sense.

Bush With Pope 2' x 3' Magnet (2913)

History is the product of human nature…what we do, how we act, emotions and deeds that create other emotions and deeds in those around us.  Those are all ephemeral things you can’t quantify.  And if situations occur over and over again, does that not imply that the same emotions and ephemera can occur over and over again, too?  Why shouldn’t some fragment of human thought/spirit/whatever pass from one generation to the next?  And why shouldn’t it sometimes give the recipient a taste of what the donor experienced?

As a result, I’ve translated some of my strange fears and behavioral characteristics into possible past life experiences. It’s a fun yet frightening game.  Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Illogical fear of fire: burned at the stake
  • Inability to leave food on my plate: starved to death (no, my mother never made me clean my plate as a child, no “starving children in Africa” blackmail)
  • Paranoid mistrust of open water/swimming: drowned or was shipwrecked

And not everything has to be about death.  I also think the things you like may be influenced by things you liked before:

  • Strange obsession with royalty: must have been one at some point
  • Strange obsession with Russia: must have been Russian at some point

Once these things started to occur to me, I ran with them.  They make more sense to me the more I let the idea rumble around in my subconscious. Some things I fear have an actual logical reason in my childhood. Dentists, for example. I fear and loathe them.  But from age 8 to age 15, I was having the roof of my mouth widened, teeth pulled (14 of them, to be exact), spacers, braces, braces again, cavities, tooth resurfacing, etc. There is a very good and very clear reason why I do not ever want to sit in a dentist’s chair again. So this would have nothing to do with a past life.  I mention this only to explain that yes, I do know the difference between a logical fear and an illogical one.  I’m not trying to pawn off my fear of dentists on some past life where a frontier dentist ripped out my front teeth without anesthetics.

There isn’t a rational conclusion to my rambling here.  There’s nothing I can do to prove this idea, and even if I could, there’s nothing I can do to help the past me who was burned at the stake. It’s just making me realize that historical speculation suddenly has a real-life application. It ties you to history. It makes you a part of it. And it makes you think about what makes you you. If you can give your fears some base of understanding, maybe it’s a way to try and fight them.  Plus if it works, it’s way cheaper than therapy (which I obviously need lots of).


This Is Why YouTube Was Invented May 5, 2009

Filed under: Life, Whatnot — indiakonstanze @ 7:57 pm
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This is one of the coolest videos I’ve ever seen:

And once you get to checking out the kind of wacked-out shit they do in the Middle East, you find stuff like this:

And this:

Holy smokes. These people know how to have fun.