Sunday, August 27, 2006

make three wishes

We had just walked by the Eureka Barbershop when a man leaned out of a nearby second story window and called out to us:

"I'm your Fairy Godmother. I will grant you three wishes."

It's an odd conversation-starter, even if you run into one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I was completely unprepared for this free-lance Fairy Godmother. I had no wishes at hand. Not two. Not one. None. I was struck dumb, a wish 'tard.

My companion came up with three wishes on the spot. With no malice nor criticism intended, I have to point out that they weren't very good wishes. Nor were they original. Instead, they were grand -- the usual bid for world peace -- and vague -- something about happiness for those at hand and for Mr. Lumpy, the cat, who was waiting at home for us at the top of the steep hill we were about to climb.

You should always have three wishes prepared for occasions like this. Otherwise you'll waste them on something unfulfillable (the world peace thing), something unknowable (the happiness thing), or something too connected to momentary comfort (the "fly us to the top of the hill" thing).

Lumpy would've done better. He'd have gone for nine cans of Fancy Feast, assorted, heavy on the Chunky Chicken, his current favorite. All the good varieties; none of the notorious aspic flavors. (A cat who licks himself clean is blameless for harboring a profound suspicion of aspic. Aspic. It just sounds so wrong.) And three jars of all meat Gerber babyfood (Chicken, Turkey, and Ham). And maybe one of those deli containers of Honey Ham, extra thin sliced. Served all at once. Buffet style. As much as you can eat. Like they do at Luby's or in Las Vegas.

It's a pretty good wish, given his preoccupation with food.

I don't even know if that's one wish or three by our Fairy Godmother's rules. But even if that consumed all three wishes, Lumpy would be satisfied. It would be a feast, served just the way he liked it: the best flavors all at once. He wouldn't even need to go on a Princess Cruise to get it.

But we're stupid. I could tell right away that the world peace wish was out-of-scope for our Fairy Godmother. Just one look at the Middle East proves it. On the other hand, you don't want to wish for anything too trivial: I hadn't worked on that zit on my chin or I wish I'd drunk 8 ounces of prune juice instead of 16. You want to wish for the attainable, but you want to make your Fairy Godmother stretch his powers. Here. Let me try again:

1. I wish the yellowjackets in our front yard would move to Utah (the Beehive State) without further ado.

2. I wish the yellow mushrooms that grow with my houseplants were edible so I wouldn't have to keep going to Safeway; it seems unfair that you can't just shop once and be done with it.

3. I wish the Colbert Report would get a sponsor other than Girls Gone Wild or Axe Deodorant Body Spray (now appearing as that obnoxious Clix ad). These ads make me feel like a demographic outsider for my favorite program.

4. I wish I could tumble as well as Stephen Colbert or Amy Sedaris. (Damn! That's talent!)

5. I wish the pig catapult had been more entertaining, given the huge buildup I gave it over the last couple of weeks.

See. That's five already. Surely there are three wishes among those that our self-appointed Fairy Godmother could've delivered on.

Peace and happiness. You could tell that our Fairy Godmother was going to turn away from his second story window and snort derisively into the room. Which was no doubt filled with people laughing at our expense.

"Ha!" He'd say. "Told you so. The neighborhood's going to hell in a hand basket."

Perhaps the Pig Catapult's lack of success is a direct reflection of that. The store where we bought the Pig Catapult used to carry sly products like Strap-On Barbie and an assortment of other Castro-appropriate paraphenalia such as jumbo economy-sized tubs of lube. Now it carries normal superhero comics. Not even 'zines or comix or the artier graphic novels. Just Marvel and DC and that sort of stuff.

X-Men instead of XXX Men.

Maybe the comic books are a good lure for cute teenage boys. But I doubt it. If that were the strategy, you'd probably want skateboards, cigarettes, and Mike's Hard Lemonade, not the goofy stuff you'd buy at Archie McPhee. (At Archie McPhee, you can buy a Chicken Chucker, a Boss Tosser, a Nun Chuck, a Cattle-pult, and other flingers in addition to a pig catapult.) This sort of stuff just attracts the nerds.

Yep. Sad to say, but I'm afraid the availability of the pig catapult is a harbinger of the neighborhood's decline.

I can't figure out why the pig catapult is so disappointing. What is it? Unlike Clix, it works as advertised. I can fling a pig from one end of our tiny upstairs to the other. In fact, I've been finding the small pink plastic pigs scattered hither and yon, beneath the couch, halfway down the stairs, in the nest of wires under our ad hoc media center. (When I say "media center," I mean a jumple of obsolete stereo components and players which are hooked together using adapters from Radio Shack, a store which must have a branch in Purgatory's outlet mall. Electronics of the Darned.)

But I was talking about the pig catapult, not about my obsolete electronics.

The problem is, once you get over the novelty of the device, you can't help but wonder: Why is it fun to fling plastic pigs? You fling a pig or two, hunt for it for a few minutes, then go back and do it again. Boring. If I wanted to be a Golden Retriever, I would've been reincarnated as a dog.

My own troupe of pigs knew that the new catapult was a bust right from the start. I put the mysterious object -- the pig catapult -- on the coffee table, and they gathered 'round to take a look. They gawked briefly at their plastic cousins (my pigs are members of a rubber species) and then coaxed one of their own kind into the launching apparatus.

The pig who'd succumbed to piggy peer pressure was all, "I don't know about this, you guys."

But they talked him into it and across the room he flew, landing with a slightly more compelling thud and somewhat less dignity than his smaller plastic comrades.

"Ouch. They don't pay me enough to do this," was his unenthusiastic response. I knew instantly that I'd have to schedule an extra session with the pig therapist this week.

I aimed the thing at Lumpy. He was notably unimpressed and continued washing his face.

I aimed it at Mark. He too was unimpressed and snapped my picture.

I aimed it at myself.

"Any more funny business and the girl gets it!" I told the pigs, Mark, and Lumpy. I'd never before considered suicide by stunning myself with a flying pig, but sometimes you have to seize the moment.

I had the pig flinger locked and loaded and pointed directly at my temple. Mark turned on motorcycle racing from Braselton Raceway in Georgia. Lumpy snuggled up to the plaid stadium blanket I'd gotten from Hertz Rent-a-Car some years ago and settled in for his morning snoozeroo. The rubber pigs went back to debating whether they'd recognize the International Astronomical Union's decision to disenfranchise Pluto as a real planet. (In case you're wondering: the pigs have officially parted ways with the IAU, deciding instead to start their own PHBU, the Piggy Heavenly Body Union, pronounced fiboo. "What's truthy is also true," asserted the pig who'd been flung and might've suffered a minor blow to the head.)

In this hothouse environment, no one was impressed by my suicidal gesture. Nor were any of them entertained by it. Instead, it was the cause of considerable (if discreet) eye-rolling.

Sometimes I wonder why we fall for this shit, you and I. We buy these clever little things -- cars with rolling eyeballs, levitating magnetic spaceships, Magic 8 Balls, Super Bendies, Wind-up Nuns, Buddhist Monks holding cell phones -- and we think they'll somehow keep us entertained. This isn't even recent. When I was a kid, I succumbed to that ad that featured a hundred magnets for a dollar. The kid in the picture had assembled an adorable Scottie dog entirely out of little magnets. Ha! If only. It was hard to do anything even remotely interesting with the weak chicklet-sized magnets.

And it's hard to do anything even remotely interesting by flinging pigs. I should've stuck with my reliable rubber pig cohort, rather than expecting the remarkable from a product you might order from Archie McPhee. In fact, I've noticed that many of our visitors have the disquieting habit of assembling the rubber pigs into spontaneous pig orgies without any prompting from us (or permission from the pigs themselves, for that matter).

In the end, that's what I should've wished for from our recently materialized (and hairier than normal) Fairy Godmother:

"Make the less advisable of the living room tschotchkes disappear."

That's a wish he would've respected. Maybe he'd have thrown in new window treatments as well, although I doubt he could've done anything about the yellowjackets.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been recommending a book called "My Stroke of Insight - a Brain Scientist's Personal Journey" by Jill Bolte Taylor and also a TEDTalk Dr. Taylor gave on the TED dot com site. And you don't have to take my word for it - Dr. Taylor was named Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People, the New York Times wrote about her and her book is a NYTimes Bestseller), and Oprah did not 4 interviews with her.

12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wish for me and my family to be healthy
i wish to have 1 million dollars
i wish that rodricus would love me like i love him

11:23 AM  

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