Today I was rereading a little chunk of Lake Wobegon Days and came across Keillor referring to Ausländers, and was reminded of that moment years ago. And then just after that was the passage about Flag Day, and I was catapulted far further back, to fourth grade and the first time I read (or was read?) any of this book. I was in a Gifted and Talented class in an elementary school in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, with that teacher who had a chunk of the Berlin Wall in her classroom. Did she read that to us or did I read it by myself?
Saturday I was on the 7 train back home from Maker Faire and I was sitting near some girls who -- as they happened to say aloud, in their conversation with each other -- were 12 or 13 years old. I am about three times their age. Yet I wanted them to look at me not as an alien grownup but as someone they might be like. They all have smartphones and evidently deal with boys sending them dick pics. And they act blasé about it; I don't know how they actually feel. The next day I talked about this with the people staffing the table next to mine. One of them suggested that boys have always done sort of body-part-display to girls less as a sexual come-on and more as a thrill-of-the-forbidden act, with dick pics as analogous to mooning. We joked about the dedication of an imaginary man from a previous century who worked in rotogravure or lithograph or woodcut. Or at least, like, Matthew Brady or someone using silver nitrate film.
cue "Ashokan Farewell"
My dearest Elizabeth. Tonight the Union Army rests. We know not what battle the general will order us to tomorrow. But know that my love for you is the wind that calls your name through the trees. Here's a dick pic. I had to sit for five hours for the army portrait painter boy to make this.
Sergeant Cowling was killed at the Battle of Bull Run.
I was laughing pretty hard by the end of this.
Maybe one reason I like laughing with others, and making others laugh, is because it is a kind of proof that we are not entirely aliens to each other.