Archive for April, 2009


Wow. I mean……WOW.

Where would you put this? WHERE WOULD YOU PUT THIS? In any SEMBLANCE of a welcoming home – – where would you possibly put this where it wouldn’t stand the chance of scaring small children or perhaps other LIVING animals? Would it be a special Autumnal table center piece for a group of unsuspecting Thanksgiving guests? Imagine eating your turkey with THAT GUY snarling stiffly at you as you timidly put a bite into your mouth. Or maybe placed prominently on the mantle over the fireplace – – screeching silently down on you as glance shiftily around the room wondering if anyone else has noticed that this thing is not only in EXISTENCE, but is HOLDING A FOOTBALL.

And how would it be explained?

“Well Barbara and I hit the little guy with our car one evening coming back from the country club and we couldn’t bear to see him lying there on the side of the road. So I said ‘Honey….I think there’s something we can do to make everyone feel a lot better – – including our furry friend here…’ He’s become a part of the family, really. We dress him up for every major holiday or seasonal event – – you should see the bunny suit we put him in for Easter. Adorable doesn’t begin to describe it…right honey?”

And I don’t even want to THINK about what he’d look like as Cupid.

Furthermore – – is it just me, or is that thing’s hair styled into a MULLET?


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The bizarre can descend upon a seemingly normal day like Joaquin Phoenix on a late night talk show – – rambling and unexpected from the wings of the afternoon’s stage, suddenly obliterating the careful script you’d written for your activities into a million pieces. And so began my afternoon last Friday when I was driving to see my Dad – – en route to Indiana by way of Interstate-24 West, aiming for Nashville before I changed course to meander through the green fields of Kentucky, and finally into the southern part of Indiana.

I like driving – – and I especially like cross-country trips. I love seeing the vastness of the US open up along side a ribbon of highway, taking me through so many varying terrains. Even as my legs get stiff and neck aches from being in the car for hours at a time, I still love the feeling of being in my own small, metal world, watching the scenery fly past, slowly transporting myself to another place. I feel contemplative, calm, curious and free – – a great combination to experience so acutely at once.

On this trip, I had brought along one of my books on CD – – “Revolutionary Road” – – and was lost in the eloquently told drama of Frank and April, a troubled 1950’s married couple, as the narrator drew me deeper and deeper into their story with his gravelly, expressive voice. I had the car on cruise control and was leaning on the window sill with one hand driving, while periodically stretching out my legs and shifting my body weight as I was growing a little weary after nearly 3 hours on the road.

I glanced up and saw clouds forming in the green hilled distance – – dark, angry clouds, actually. Remembering that the weather had forecasted storms along my route today, I hit the eject button on the CD player and began to scan the radio stations for some information to ensure I knew the depth of the storms in the distance. I stopped on a Nashville station as someone said the breathless, urgent words “tornado on the ground” and “I-24”. I blinked a couple of times, thinking, “What road AM I on?” And as if answering my thought, a blue and red sign whizzed past saying “West I-24”.

“Ohhhhhh crappity crap, crap, CRAP!!!!!!!!”, I thought.

I listened further to what the radio was saying, hoping for some good news, but none would come. There were multiple tornadoes touching down near Murfreesboro and I was about 30 miles outside of that town heading directly for it. Not to mention there was a Tornado Watch over the whole area where I was traveling. I picked up the phone and called Dad to let him know what was going on, telling him I was going to stop and wait it out somewhere but that I wasn’t seeing any exits at that time. He insisted that there were exits all along I-24 along that stretch of road, but I wasn’t seeing any. I told him as soon as I found a place, I would call him back.

I was growing more and more nervous as I continued to drive through that beautiful countryside with the ominous clouds looming larger and closer with every mile and no exits in sight. At one point, I glanced to either side of the road looking for ANY sort of shelter – – a barn, an outhouse…..a large neon sign with an arrow pointing to a trapdoor on the ground that said “STORM SHELTER ESPECIALLY FOR YOU, AMY – – RIGHT HERE!!!!”. But no such luck. Then in the dark recesses of my mind, I remember hearing a few times that if you are on the road, caught in the path of a tornado, you should stop and lie in a ditch. LIE IN A DITCH!!!!!!!! Let me say that one more time: LIE IN A DITCH!!!!

That thought made me quietly begin to panic. Because let me make this loud and clear – – if I see a tornado barreling toward me, the LAST place I’m going to want to be is a freaking DITCH. I mean, come on – – a tornado would look at me cowering face-down in a ditch and laugh its menacing winded head off. It would be all…”Ooooooo, wheeeerrreee’s Amy? Whheeeerrreee could she be? Oh….look….I wonder if that’s her in the bright purple shirt, jeans and gold high heel shoes….in a wide open field, LYING IN A DITCH???!!!” And then it would pick me up like a rag doll and throw me in a nearby tree or, better yet, in a trailer park to hang out with the REST of the victims.

So it was with considerable relief that I saw a sign indicating a gas station coming up at the next exit. As I veered off the road at the “Bell Buckle” exit, I began looking for this gas station that had been advertised. And that’s when I saw it…perched on a small hill. A beacon of hope to a weary traveler looking to avoid a ditch.

I pulled into the gas station and parked the car, noting that it was a BP station, small concrete building, built into the side of the hill. “Excellent”, I thought. Concrete has to be good, right? And partially underground was even better.

I hurried into the doors and took in the traditional smells of a convenience store – – smells which, let’s face it, are mainly predominated by some questionable meat being deep fried and then re-heated under a flickering golden lamp. Today, it was thrice battered oily chicken fingers and wilted looking potato wedges. There was also a make-shift dining area in the center of the room which was inhabited by the most stereotypical redneck looking men I’d seen in a very long time. Ball caps, chewing gum – – smelling thickly of stale cigarettes. One picked his teeth with a toothpick. Another one weighed about 300 pounds and was pulling air from an oxygen tank when he wasn’t intermittently laughing with a gravely chuckle. As I sidled in and sat down at one of the tables, it was like the record stopped and all three men swiveled in their chairs to look at me. One grinned slowly – – I can only assume it was a smile that at one point had made the knees weak of one of the women in the small, Tennessee village from whence he came. But for me, the smile just made me reconsider getting in a ditch.

As they slowly began to return to their discussion, I was watching the TV that was set up along side the wall of the convenience store with interest. The problem was, I didn’t really know where I was – – and I was trying to put it all directionally together as far as how concerned I should be about a tornado heading toward this little gas station. And as I sat there and watched the news for more information, the more confused I became. Travelers who were also looking to get off the roads began shuffling into the gas station, looking bewildered, mildly concerned and asking the question quietly to one another “Where are we?” You would hear someone mutter the answer “We’re in Bell Buckle” – – but no one understood what that meant and exactly where that was in relation to the storms. The rednecks at the table appeared to be enjoying all the hubbub at their regular hang-out, grinning and leaning back in their chairs at the silly tourists and all of our i-phones, blackberries and cell phone use. The grinning guy grinned at me again and winked. I shifted in my chair and became terribly fascinated by one of the 7 deer heads on the walls. Deer heads who seemed to all have a smirking expression which said: “You people are worried about a TORNADO? Well at least you’re not dead and hanging on the wall of a place that sells burnt corn dogs and lottery tickets…”

At one point, after the news was indicating that the tornado was headed in our direction, a few of the men went outside to act as “spotters” and one particularly excited, round man kept yelling back into the convenience store about the size of the hail coming down. Repeatedly saying with wide, circular eyes, “Oh Lord….OH LORD! It’s getting BIGGER!”

“Way to calm the masses, buddy”, I thought

All told, I was in this convenience store for an hour and a half, waiting for the squall line of storms to pass. As I looked around the room periodically, wondering if we were all going to have to squeeze into a nasty, dirty, smelly BP public bathroom at any moment to seek shelter from a passing tornado, I was struck by all the different types of people there were together in that little room. And how it’s always in rare moments of sudden danger that you find yourself talking to strangers like you’ve known them a long time. People were chatting about where they were going and why they were going there – – people were asking if women with children wanted to sit down in their chair to rest – – and the rednecks were….well, chewing on toothpicks and giving crooked toothed grins but, still, they were mainly just watching the news like the rest of us, waiting to see what was going to happen. When you’re in danger, everyone lets down their guard because – – what do you have to lose? And no one wants to feel alone in a moment like that.

As it turned out, our little building was spared – – and the storms finally moved well past the area with blue skies ahead, so we all made our way out back onto the open road. Fifteen minutes from where I’d sought shelter, I passed by a long stretch of destruction. Houses with roofs blown off, power lines down – – a tractor trailer truck blown over – – all on either side of that stretch of I-24 that I would have been driving directly into if I hadn’t stopped. And as I continued to drive north toward Indiana, NPR reported on the very destruction I had just seen and the very places I had just happened to be driving through when All Hell Broke Loose.

And so as I finally made it, safe and sound, into Indiana that evening, I counted my blessings that I was intact and ok.

And that I hadn’t had to lie in a ditch.

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You know, I didn’t just wake up one day and want to wear a Viking hat. Granted, it’s a perfectly PLAUSIBLE thing to happen in my world, but it just didn’t happen this time. THIS time, I have to…once again….blame Facebook.

Facebook is, I’m convinced, a strange, sometimes disturbing, fabulously inane, alternate universe where your past and present meet in some sort of quasi-reunion extravaganza. I could write an entire post regarding my feelings about it – – but today I am just going to write about one experience that has exploded into an inside joke of epic proportions in my life – – and that is “The Viking Hat Chronicles”.

You see, in the world of Facebook, you can log on and write anything that possibly enters your mind at that given moment and it shows up as your “status”. This status could say anything – – anything at all. ANYTHING. Which, for me (as I’m sure all of you know by now), is like receiving a beautiful, gold-leafed, elegantly scripted invitation to expound on every bizarre, twisted, pseudo-cerebral nugget of information that enters my head. And then the SCARY part is: everyone can see it. All 300 some-odd friends of past and present on your Facebook page: co-workers, a few family members, childhood friends, college friends, long distance friends, old boyfriends, elves, circus clowns, Jimmy Hoffa……….they all can SEE what you’ve written and then, what’s more, HAVE AN OPINION ON IT.

On the day that the Viking Hat Strangeness began, earlier that afternoon I’d had lunch with a friend at a nearby quirky little restaurant – – and on the wall of this restaurant was a painting of a Viking. He was a stern looking Viking – – with a red beard and beady little narrowed eyes which seemed to say “If I weren’t locked up in this painting, I would kick over every table in the room, drag out all the screaming women by their hair, and then burn down the restaurant with the fire that I breathe from my mouth” This caused my friend and me to ponder about whether any kinder, gentler Vikings existed. Maybe one who knitted afghans and quietly read romance novels by the fire, while the rest of his brethren went out to do their daily raping and pillaging. And whether this Viking would have been shunned by all the other Vikings because he wasn’t mean enough to hack it in the Viking’s world of conquering peaceful villages.

With all this on my mind, I came home, and opened my newly acquired book on Iceland – – because in parallel to the Viking painting, I had also been having thoughts about Vikings in relation to Iceland since I’ve become obsessed with the thought of visiting there – – so I’d bought a book on a whim recently to nurture this desire and keep it rolling around in my brain. I’m much more want to create action that way, I’ve found.

As I read this book and pondered the lunch conversation – – I looked at the laptop on my coffee table and thought that perhaps the World of Facebook might want to know my thoughts on this subject matter. Just like I wonder if they might want to know my thoughts when I type out my statuses about tater tots, my Thursday afternoon desire to be an 80’s Rap Star, and my opinion that if Jabba the Hutt had a lesser-known southern cousin in the universe, his name would be Hank. Hank the Hutt.

And so what I blasted off towards Planet Facebook on that particular day was this statement: Amy is reading about Iceland and wondering if there were ever any kind Vikings. And if they were shunned by the Rape and Pillage Vikings?

Whenever I post a thought, I am often surprised by what will catch a person’s attention. Sometimes a status that I think is pretty dadgum funny will be passed over completely, leaving a ghost town of non-commentary around my lonely status – – tumbleweeds blowing down the streets of my vacant attempt at humor. Other times, something completely off-handed that I write on a whim without thinking about it much will garner tremendous response. I almost want to say “But I didn’t even TRY to be funny on this one, People!”

On the day of the Viking comment – – I was somewhere in between these two extremes. While I had obviously been pondering this thought on that day, I honestly didn’t think many people would care about it. So I put it out there and then began to peruse other parts of Facebook, like taking another “My Personality Quiz” or perhaps send a Chuck Norris snow globe to some lucky person’s wall with the Snow Globe Application. So much time to waste on Facebook – – so many applications with which to waste it.

But suddenly I noticed a comment underneath the status – – then another and another. People were making hypotheses about whether the kinder, gentler viking would listen to Bjork or not – – another theorized that his name would be Norval and a children’s book should be written about him. Or better yet, someone added, how about a musical!!!!?? Oh this was good…this was really good! This was better than Chuck Norris snow globes – MUCH better. No sooner had we ventured down the avenue of the musical possibilities, when some of my European friends who’d actually VISITED and/or studied Iceland began chiming in with facts about Iceland. We were informed that Bjork is sooooo yesterday. That the Iceland young folk were now listening to Sigur Ros. And that an actual real, historic Viking was named….get this…… Snorri. Snorri Sturluson. You could almost feel the collective groan from everyone in the commentary thread because, let’s face it, “Snorri” is a profoundly disappointing name for a real Viking. Snorri is the name of a kid whose lunch money gets stolen on the playground and has to carry around a large box of kleenex to accommodate his chronic nose-running problem. And what was MORE, Snorri had a girlfriend who was named “Oddny”. “Well that’s odd”, we all thought.

All told, there were 72 comments contributed to that conversation from people all over the world from all avenues of my life. A Kumbayah moment taken directly out of an episode from The Twilight Zone. And aftershocks occurred in the days following from this conversation including my request to my friend Murdo to do some Viking hat photo shops that were brilliant. This one was used as my profile picture for over a month:


Based on this profile photo, I got much commentary from people both publically on my Facebook page, and privately via e-mail, discussing the Viking Hat – – wanting to know the story of the Viking hat. Some people didn’t care about the story behind the Viking hat, they just loved the idea of me wearing a Viking hat and really didn’t ask WHY I was wearing it. Which, frankly, is a tiny bit worrisome, because it means that people just accept the fact that it’s a perfectly NORMAL thing for me to do. When would people start worrying? If I was dressed up as a demented clown? Or perhaps photographed myself in a George Washington costume eating some pop tarts? What would it take to garner concern that maybe…..maybe…this time, I’ve TOTALLY lost my Raman Noodles? (A request though – – if you think I HAVE gone ’round the bend, please don’t tell my mother your concerns because she’ll call me up and tell me that I will feel much better if I would just clean my house. To my mother, a clean house is the prescription for any mental malady. And George Washington eating pop tarts would cause her to prescribe a REALLY BIG deep cleaning of my house. And I don’t want to.)

Anyway…a few weeks ago, out of the blue, my college friend Heather sent me a note telling me that she had a Viking hat for me. “What??? WHAT????”, I said. “Gimme! GIMME NOW!!!” She said that in a few achingly long days, this piece of plastic horned goodness would be in my hot, greedy little hands. But before she sent it, she took this photo of herself in it:


Do you see? Do you see how the disease has begun to spread? Like some sort of Icelandic fungus…

After I received the hat, and got over my cold, about a week later, I subjected my friend Melissa to the Viking hat while she cooked me dinner when house-sitting for a friend. She wore the hat with pride the entire time she was cooking and let me chronicle the event on film. I think that the hat gave her super human cooking powers because that meal ROCKED:


So be warned, people. What started with a few comments on Facebook is now sweeping the nation – – the world! And if you come into contact with me, then you will likely come into contact with the Viking hat in the near future – – and I WILL take a photo of you in it. Just say a little prayer that I won’t make you pose like this in it (cue my mother calling me RIGHT NOW to tell me I need to clean my tub thoroughly):


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