my little red toy
Tuesday, July 5 2005
I drove down to a housecall in New Paltz today and on the way I thought I'd pay special attention to which houses fly American flags and which ones don't. It's pretty clear that if you're a Republican you have to fly the flag, while most Democrats and terrorists do not. Driving southward down Hurley Mountain road, there were a sprinkling of houses flying the flag, including the ancient stone residences of most of the big corn farmers. But there's also a couple trailers with an American flag, including the one at the intersection of Dug Hill Road and Hurely Mountain Road (the people who put up that flag have moved out, but their faded flag remains, hung out like a piece of laundry on a horizontal rope strung between two trees).
Among the bumper crop of McMansions growing in the swath to the south of Mill Dam Road there wasn't a single flag visible, though one of their neighbors in an older, smaller house had the flag on prominent display, and so did Davenport's, a produce place at the corner of Cottekill and US 209.
I've always had a sneaking suspicion that the village of Cottekill is Republican, though I could never come up with any evidence. Today, though, as I objectively counted the flags, I found a basis for this belief. Every other house in Cottekill, perhaps more than that, is flying an American flag. This wave of patriotism quickly dries up as one proceeds out to 213 and into Rosendale. There's a stretch of six or eight identical 80 year old houses at the entrance to the most populated part of Rosendale and most of them have identical DirecTV dishes pointing from identical places on porch roofs to the same satellite over the equator (despite the availability of Time Warner cable). But only two of the houses are flying flags, and their presence draws attention to the more numerous flagless houses, which we can only assume are safehouses for sleeper cells and the fans of acid rock "music."
To see any American flags at all in Rosendale, a self-proclaimed people's republic, is surprising enough, but most surprising of all was what I saw on James Street on the east side of Rondout Creek. Someone had erected the tackiest Fourth of July lawn display I have ever seen in my life. At its center was a fan-powered inflatable flag that stood like a puffy air mattress on its side. The words "God Bless America" had been printed as text upon an additional extra wide stripe at its bottom. I have too much respect for American manufacturing to believe this thing was excreted from anything other than a Chinese assembly line, preferably one staffed by criminals whose organs are scheduled for harvesting. Meanwhile, festooning the yard like an Oort Cloud of comets around the inflated centerpiece were numerous red white and blue ribbons. If God is reconsidering His usual policy of blessing America, all He need do is gaze down upon this visual monstrosity and then we can rest assured that He will surely stand resolute for His favorite nation. There's nothing that gets the attention of the God of Abraham and Moses more than a tacky yard display.
The subject of politics came up while I was doing my housecall. The client was 75 years old and she said that in all her years she's never seen things as bad politically as they are right now. She added that she hoped she died before it gets any worse. "Come on, don't you want to see us pull out of this nosedive first?" "No! No!" she insisted.
Heading back home I saw a guy driving some sort of shiny and red but otherwise nondescript smallish SUV. On its hood it had one of those clear plastic bug deflectors with a printed phrase. The phrase read, "My Little Red Toy." I just put quotes around that phrase because I'm quoting what it was saying, not because the phrase actually had quotes, though I've often seen similar phrases stenciled in with quotes on either side, as if what's being said is not being said by the driver but by someone else (perhaps the stencilist or an authoritative printed anthology of clever bug deflector slogans). Among the sort of people who get textual bug deflectors, there's not a whole lot of understanding of what exactly a quotation mark is supposed to be used for.
My Little Red Toy. For some reason I couldn't stop wondering about the mindset of anyone who would get such a inane expression stenciled onto his vehicle. My Little Red Toy. Obviously such a person is trying to reach out into the great anonymous world and say something, but there's a problem: he has nothing to say. My Little Red Toy. What can I take away from the experience of reading this message other than that it reflects a sense of taste whose quality is good only in comparison to the underlying sense of humor? You have to watch out for people with a sense of humor this bad.
I spent much of yesterday evening and this morning tearing several square feet of rocks off the concrete slab in front of the door. I'd cemented those rocks down two years ago before I really knew what I was doing, and the spaces between them now seem embarrassingly large and there's the additional problem of a low spot that accumulates a big puddle of water after every rain. I tore out the rocks with the idea of replacing them with a better, tighter assemblage that will shed water more reliably in the future. By this evening I'd selected replacement rocks and arranged them in a pattern suitable for retiling the slab, but by then it was growing dark and I was exhausted from swinging a big sledge hammer all day.
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