This weekend I drove 1300 miles with my wife and sons from Kansas to an undisclosed haven in North Carolina. The haven is undisclosed not because I fear any of you people, but because most of our family lives in North Carolina, and some of them track how much time we spend at the homes of other family members. On the way we stopped at the St. Louis Arch, where we learned, just before being hauled over 600 feet to the top, that the Arch was the site of some of the first high profile affirmative action (read: race-based) hiring in the U.S. Fortunately, this was back before skill had been completely displaced by race as a criterion for employment.
We also stopped at Mammoth Cave, where Caleb thoroughly resented the fact that I made him hold my hand in order to prevent plunges into dark uncharted depths. There we learned that the cave system was once owned by a ruthless entrepreneur who despoiled this natural resource in order to provide tours. But I think that if the Feds had found the cave first, it would have remained the private playground of researchers living on the government teat. Thank goodness a ruthless entrepreneur had the foresight to blast out some entrances and carve walkways before the government confiscated it.
So we'll vacation here for two weeks, though half of that will be taken up by work. Not that I'm bitter.
Okay, so I'm bitter. But I'll get to see my family, bust some caps with my brother-in-law the deputy, and eat food that can only be survived for extended periods when you spend 12 hours a day priming tobacco. I'll also write, and some of that will be to you, here at Sand in the Gears. Then we'll drive up to our new home in Virginia, and the next stage of life will begin.
As always when I travel, I store up little snippets of reality to share here. What follows is a sampling. In the next couple of days I'll put together an actual cogent essay for you, on a topic I think you'll like. But for now I give you excerpts from the Great Woodlief 2002 Migration:
It is mile 675, and the wife and I have engaged in a running temperature skirmish since St. Louis. When she is absorbed in her book, I turn the temperature up. When I'm trying to keep runaway tractor trailers from grinding us into aluminum dust, she turns it down. Finally, she catches me in the act:
Wife: "Will you stop turning it up? It's hot!"
Me: "I'm really cold."
Wife: "Did your mama birth you in Hell?"
Me: "I wasn't born in hell, but I was raised there."
Wife: "Self-pity is unappealing."
Me: "So is frostbite."
Later, I ask the wife to turn down the narration of the train video Caleb is watching.
Me: "Can you turn down the volume? That guy is loud AND boring."
Wife: "Caleb won't be able to hear him. You get a headache when you can't hear what people are saying."
Me: "Can I test that hypothesis for a while?"
Me: "Why are you pointing that remote control at me?"
Wife: "I'm looking for the 'Nice' button."
Me: "I don't come with that feature."
Wife: "I knew I should have bought the newer model."
One morning we were enjoying the continental breakfast in the restaurant of a hotel (On what continent do they eat instant grits and greasy doughnuts for breakfast? Is Hell a continent?) when a man with gray hair tied back in a pony tail strolled in with a book under his arm. He walked over to the waiting area adjacent to the restaurant section, turned up the television, and then took a seat in the restaurant as far away from the television as possible. Then he opened his book and began to read. I wish I were more comfortable telling people like this that they are rude. Instead, I listened to Bob Schieffer conclude "Face the Nation" with the most ridiculous soliloquy on September 11th that I have heard to date. "We still don't know for sure," he opined, "why these people did what they did."
Oh really, Bob? Those bin Laden videos haven't quite laid it out for you? The hateful screeds pouring forth from Muslim countries don't compute? I think when one examines all the evidence that contradicts your claim, one can only conclude that you, Bob, are a moron. You shouldn't be on television. You should have a job that requires you to wear a shirt with your name on it.
The reality, I think, is that even though we know precisely why the September 11th perpetrators "did what they did" (here's a hint, Bob: it's called "murder"), liberal elites aren't comfortable confronting the truth, because it contradicts their peace-loving-brown-people-oppressed-by-capitalism paradigm. I say Toby Keith should get his own Sunday morning talk show, and use it to interview American servicemen. There would be a dearth of J.D.'s, Ph.D.'s, and journalism B.A.'s, but I think we could all cope, don't you?
And finally, because I know why many of you are really here, a brief Caleb update:
* He is getting very good with his unprompted "thank you"'s.
* When he wants to be held, he sticks his arms up and says, "Can I hold you?" Sometimes I respond by putting my leg against his chest and acting like I'm going to jump into his arms.
* He has learned that the word "big" always sounds better when followed by the word "ole." Examples:
"I want a big ole kiss!"
"I want a big ole bite of ice cream!"
"I had a big ole poopoo!"
* He thinks that the Southern "bye" (pronounced "baa") is a different word from "bye." A few months ago he told his great-grandmother "bye," and then, as if remembering that he was speaking to someone of another language, threw in a "baa."
* On the steps up to the St. Louis Arch, he got just his toes on the next step, and nearly fell backwards. "Whoa, that was a close one!"
* Sometimes when we play I pick him up, cradle him, and then lay him on the ground with mock force while I say "body slam!" He likes this. Unfortunately, he sometimes requests a body slam in front of total strangers, who look at me in dismay. They seem to think that either I physically abuse my child, or let him watch professional (i.e., fake) wrestling. I'm not sure which is worse, by the way.
* He has become the master of two year-old sound effects. My daughter used a hair brush to brush a doll's hair, my son uses it as a gun. This would seem to contradict the "social construction of gender" theory espoused by childless women's studies professors. Don't tell them though -- as my wife learned whilst earning her M.A. in Education at the University of Michigan, they get really snippy when you make arguments based on facts. I'm reminded of one of my favorite taunts: