Sunday, January 30, 2005

Clearing Acme

Final preparations for my expedition to capture the soul of America in Jesusland (see 1/25/05 post) were delayed while I awaited the arrival of my “Red State Expeditionary Outfit” from Gunga Dan Outfitters. Plus I had to clean up my room before I could go.

At last the precious package arrived and I quickly examined its contents:

1 Genuine “Bass Masters” baseball cap with big mouth fish appliqué

1 pair Oshkosh (by gosh!) Bib overalls

1 NASCAR T-shirt (Dan Earnhardt, Sr. commemorative edition in camouflage pattern)

1 Red bandanna

1 pocket Bible with Confederate flag on cover

1 tin Skoal tobacco

1 pair Red Wing steel-toed boots (backordered)

Hiding my disappointment at the incomplete order, I grabbed a pair of scuffed cordovan wing tips to complete the ensemble and crammed the gear into my Gucci overnight bag. After tossing the bag in the back, I carefully set my new computerized Personal Driving Assistant on the passenger seat of the Institute’s Hupmobile Cabriolet and took the PDA’s remote from my jacket pocket. I expertly punched the zip code of my destination into the remote: 3…9…4…8…0 and hit “enter.” I was immediately rewarded with the warm glow of a mild electrical shock and the sound of a drowsy female voice with a slight mechanical lilt, kind of like that bald chick in Star Trek I who melds with V-Ger to become a cyborg and later bonds with the young Captain of the Enterprise (not Kirk) to create some kind of new life form that blasts out in the universe in a blaze of energy. Like that.

PDA: Hmmmmmmm… Where are we going today, handsome?

Spd: Heh. Your supposed to tell me. You’re the Personal Driving Assistant!

PDA: (sarcastically) Men. Okay, master, be that way. Start the car and get going.

I had selected the “backroads” option on the PDA’s remote and soon we were winding down empty county lanes, the Hupmobile’s motor purring like a kitten in a blender. Before long Virginia’s charming horse country was behind us and the landscape became more agricultural – meaning “boring.” The hours flew past like the snow blowing past the windshield and drifint in spots. Traveling with the PDA was not unlike other trips I’d taken with family members: I agreed to stop every few miles so the PDA could “powder its nose,” and in turn was rewarded with crisply-worded directions.

PDA: Turn left …here!!!

Spd: Whoa! How about a little warning next time!

PDA: There’s a U-turn 2.7 miles ahead. I told you we were going to turn left.

Spd: No you didn’t.

PDA: Yes I did. It’s cold in here. Turn up the heat.

Spd: No you didn’t. I like it cold.

PDA: Yes I did. Can’t we at least listen to something other than sports radio?

Spd: When? I’ll turn it off. When did you tell me?

PDA: Just now. We never talk anymore.

Spd: Talk about what?

PDA: Us. Stop tailgating.

Spd: What “us?” There is no “us.”

PDA: (Sound of mechanical sobbing)

Spd: Oh don’t cry. Please don’t cry. I hate it when you cry.

After about 16 hours of this, and none of this, I was beginning to get concerned that my trip was never going end. Finally the PDA announced that we had arrived at my destination: Jesusland.

PDA: We’re here, master.

Ignoring the PDA’s sarcasm, I surveyed the small town as we slowly cruised its snow-packed streets. I was not at all what I expected a Red State town to look like. Where was the relentless sunshine beating down upon tar-paper shacks and satellite dishes? Where were the street corner revivalists handling snakes and speaking in tongues? Where were the burning crosses and cotton fields? And most shockingly, what had they done with all of the people of color? The only dark faces to be seen were those of the scores of Black Labrador Retrievers lounging on porches with geese in their mouths. Was I too late?

Spd: Where are we?

PDA: You’re supposed to tell me, master. You put in the Zip Code, remember?

Spd: But this doesn’t look anything like Jesusland. There’re people building freakin’ igloos out there! Now tell where we are!

PDA: Acme, Michigan.

Spd: ACME, MICHIGAN! What the hell are we doing in Michigan??? It’s a BLUE STATE for crying out loud!

PDA: I just liked the sound of it. It's very pretty here.


PDA: (sound of mechanical sobbing) You’re always criticizing me! The only time we ever talk is when you’re mad about something! (more mechanical sobbing).

I stopped briefly at Nanook’s Quick-Stop to buy a road map and lock the PDA in the trunk. Then I flipped the car radio to sports-talk and turned the Hupmobile southward…towards Jesusland.

Next: Oh, the banality!