Tuesday, January 25, 2005

How Windmills Work

Ah, the winter doldrums. With ice and snow and wind-chill 5 below, it’s just about enough to make an otherwise “normal” man answer the doorbell with Cheese Doodles stuck in his nose to scare neighborhood Girl Scouts peddling their cookies of doom. After the third such warning from humorless “parents,” one’s mind turns to Institute business, and the prospect of warmer climes as a tax-deductible business expense. That’s right, an anthropological expedition into the wilds of a America unimagined by those without cable, and otherwise commonly known since third grade as a “field trip.”

The problem with all such expeditions is, of course, determining where to go. Applying the vast training afforded me by the Institute, I fashioned that, given the late unpleasantness of the Presidential election, the world would undoubtedly benefit from my research into that center of national equipoise that best reflects the values of a divided nation. Given the unpredictable hostility of certain Blue State denizens, I elected to capture the soul of America, such as it is, in the safer confines of Red State Jesusland. After nearly seven minutes of online searching, I selected a small southern town as the epitome of two fat guys on a see-saw after an afternoon keg. My course being clear, and the promise of warm weather and Delta Blues inviting, I made preparations for departure.

The first step to any trek into the vast unknown is to plan an escape route transportation. Fortunately, the Institute had a fleet of readily-available and eco-friendly vehicles at my disposal. Given my pre-disposition to hot women in tweed skirts, I naturally, choose the Hupmobile Cabriolet for my long journey into the sun-speckled southland. I knew that I’d have to pack heavy, so I ran down the official Institute checklist:

Radar Dectector? Brapp.

Cheese Doodles? Check and double check.

Cooler? Iced.

Credit Cards? Maxed, but untraceable.

Contraceptives? Glock 9MM, three magazines.

Pantyhose? Six pairs, Queen size, nude…(hey!)

Lackey? Um ...no.

I immediately grasped that as a general manager, I needed a foolproof, efficient device to locate said mediocre median town without risk of undue partisan calumny, and to accept entire blame should things going South go south. Since there was no device immediately available over the counter without a license, I turned to Cue, the Institute’s resident bar-fly and techno-magician.

spd rdr: Cue, I need your help.

Cue: Six ball side pocket, kiss the four, side. Whaddyawant?

spd: I need something to guide me into the deepest recesses of the Red State South.

Cue: Crap! Look at that leave! Seven ball off the three, one, no TWO banks in the far corner, Whaddyawant?

spd : I need something that…

Cue: Hey, Mug, you chalk that cue over the felt again and I’m gonna cut off your fingers! Whaddyawant?

spd : Have you got a GPS unit that I can borrow?

Cue: Two ball side. Yeah, but it ain’t finished.

spdr: Does it work?

Cue: Ya got me. One ball down, bank back for the six. You take your chances, hotshot. Whaddya need it for?

spd : I’m trying to find the soul of America.

Cue: Yadda yadda, you knuckleheaded spooks are all alike. Listen Einstein, I’ll loan you the unit, just don’t touch the red button.. Five ball cross corner, and that eight is my cherry.

spd : What does the red button do?

Cue: Nobody knows. So don’t touch it.

spd : I’ll take it. And try to control that tobacco juice, will you? It’s, well, disgusting.

Thus armed, I sped home clutching the precious device close to my chest, which of course made shifting the ancient Hupmobile’s “three on the tree” with my knees a much less efficient mode of travel. Arriving home after experiencing more than a few incidents of “road rage,” I raced into the house to inform my wife of my impending departure. I found her, as usual, hunched over the kitchen table engrossed in the New York Times crossword puzzle, her ink-stained fingers fervently gripping a large coffee mug. She did not return my loving gaze.

spd: Honey? I’m off for an expedition.

Ms. Rdr: Good.

spd: I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. It could be several days.

Ms. Rdr: Better. What’s an eleven letter word for “walking with a Greek teacher?”

spd: Peripatetic. I am going to seek out the soul of America.

Ms. Rdr: You’ll need a map.

spd: No I won’t.

Ms. Rdr: Yes you will.

spd: No I won’t. I’ve got the latest and greatest in technological achievements right here.

I whipped out the svelte 36 by 24 by 36-inch device that Cue had provided and laid it on the table. Ms rdr glanced up briefly and offered her endearing sneer before returning to her puzzle. A moment of silenced passed while she filled in the small squares before her.

Ms. Rdr: What the hell is that?

sps: It’s the world’s first and only computerized Personal Assistant and Zero-Negativity Advisor, or “PANZA” to grace this planet in four hundred years!

Ms rdr: What the hell is that?

spd: PANZA is a combination Global Positioning System and driving companion. All I have to do is input the Zip Code of where I want to go and the PDA guides me there automatically. Plus it’s got a built-in hologram generator that can produce up to three human images within a fifteen foot radius, so I can cruise hassle-free down any HOV lane in the country!

Ms rdr: What’s an eight letter word for “easily deceived?”

spd: Gullible.

Ms rdr: You’ll need a map.

NEXT: On the Road Again