Sunday, October 26, 2008

The real life adventures of Erin O'Brien, girl writer, vol. three

The following is a true story.

So it's about 50 degrees under overcast skies. The wind is blowing pretty good. I'm about two and half miles into my five-mile walk.

I'm listening to what might be the most brilliant podcast of all time: Dan Carlin's discourse on the Punic Wars. He is taking a short break from the hand to hand combat in order to muse over violence and media technology, discussing how our modern attitude toward war changed as soon as we had pictures of what the hell was really going on.

And I'm thinking: good and goddamn right he's got a point because if Mom, Dad and the 2.5 Carthagian kids were sitting in their Carthagian split level watching beheadings and rapes and rampant murder going on at the hands of recent Cathage High grads, it might not have gone over so well.

Acourse, the ancient Mediterranean people loved public torture and gladiator-type stuff, so maybe I'm all washed up. Maybe it would of been like Survivor Tunisia. Dunno.

In any event, I'm thinking about war and media and the fact that I'm a writer and how there is a thin undeniable tether between me and some 80,000 Roman guys who drowned in a storm two thousand years ago (80,000 at one time!). And while a big chunk of my mind is focusing on the obvious things Carlin's talking about, another part can't help but digress to all the unsaid details, like whenever an ancient general had to get information to troops afar, he didn't have a telephone or radio. He had a guy on a horse. And weapons? Every single one of them was hammered out on an anvil by a blacksmith whose two main tools were fire and brawn.

Holy shit!

When I get into this groove, I'm sort of like a little Erin locomotive, fast and determined. I'm walking hard and breathing hard. I'm trying to rein my mind in and sometimes winning, sometimes losing. (If I see, say, a plastic Halloween skull in a flowerpot, it can stop me. I'll try to take a pic with my phone cam, fail due to a "memory full" error, try again, fail, give up and continue on my walk.) Who cares? It's all good.

That's about where I am I see two figures in the distance.

They are wearing colorful clothing. It is two young women and they are stopping at each house. The girls are crouching and stammering against the wind, stopping to talk into cell phones, looking around in indecision and digging at the sidewalk with a twisting toe, clutching their thin sweaters.

My hands are warm as baked potatoes.

We are almost upon each other. The girls are each holding stacks of McCain/Palin literature. Aha! They are canvassing the neighborhood. We pass.

Three seconds later, I stop dead and press the pause button, interrupting Carlin's description of a major badass named Hamilcar. I turn around and face the girls' receding backs.

"LADIES!" I boom. They turn, stunned, and look at me. "OBAMA 2008!" I announce.

The girls gasp in surprise, look at each other, then scurry away in the opposite direction. I swing back around with flair and continue trekking along sidewalk they've already abandoned. I'm following another guy named Hannibal across the Alps. I'm deciding whether or not to make potato pancakes with dinner.

Previously on "The Real Life Adventures of Erin O'Brien, Girl Writer."

More previously on "The Real Life Adventures of Erin O'Brien, Girl Writer."


Anonymous said...

nice sunday reading. thanks. :)

Anonymous said...

I've only seen three or four McCain yard signs in St. Louis city. I have NOT seen any McCain canvassers. But if I had, I hoped I would've done the same as you.

Sam Bennet said...

I love good history podcasts.
Check out the following link for an excellent series.

The Duchess said...

Nice, nice, nice!

Anonymous said...


Believe it or not, I have seen more than expected support here in "we're tolerant as long as you agree with us" land (that's Vermont) when I wear my McCain T-shirt here. It varies from a 30ish woman in a Subaru leaning out of her car while I was on my way to the laundromat ("I love your shirt!") to the older gentleman traveling down the street who merely gave me a thumbs up. I also had a great conversation with a 30ish computer tech at the laundromat - he agreed with me that the folks in Montpeculiar (that's Montpelier, VT) are just a little bit on the weird side (yesterday I saw a guy who obviously had not bathed in days playing a cello like a guitar on the street - all in 40 degree or so weather with no shoes on). His term for them: "left wing nut jobs." Again, his term, not mine. And he's lived here all his life.

It brings me no small source of pleasure when I piss off the truly pompous and self-important locals here. They are absolutely beside themselves when I wear the shirt ("What? You're voting for McCain? How could you do that? I mean, Barack is awesome. He's into change and stuff!"). As I've said before, I feel like Karen Allen's character at the end of the first remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Basically, I state my position, and all the Donald Sutherland characters come out of the woodwork, point at me, and basically go "oooohhhhhaahhhhh....." to identify the enemy for all to quash.

What really kills me is these folks get so personally involved in all of this. It's like you're attacking them personally by wearing a t-shirt they don't agree with, which of course isn't the case. But yet they take it that way. This is why I continue to wear it - folks who take it that personally are usually interesting to talk to, whether I agree with them or not. At least they're passionate about something, which, in my view is a good thing. I'd rather talk to someone who supports a position and defends it passionately than someone who is indifferent. Plus, I just love to piss them off ... ;-)

Anyway, I'm doing the same as you. Everytime I see an Obama backer, I say "McCain 08." He may not win, but like you, I'm supporting my candidate, which, in our republic is as it should be I think.


Erin O'Brien said...

Al, what am I going to do with you?

I thought FOR SURE you would have something to say about ancient hand-to-hand combat or war in general. I thought for sure you'd say something about the associated weaponry or communications or maybe something about war and the media ... or ... or ...

But what do I get? I get a tee shirt.

That, Al, is some serious sort of coitus interruptus.

Don't worry, baby. I'm not going to go writing anything about it on a bathroom wall. But if I were you, I'd watch my ass!

Anonymous said...


If you wish I can expound at length on military history, though I must say my specialty is 20th Century American and European Military History (it's what I studied in college and continue to study today). Let me know and I'll oblige.

And it is, in fact, a nice t-shirt. And you can bet I'm watching my ass and other parts of my anatomy around here. Like I said, as long as you agree with the "tolerant" people of Montpelier, you're OK. Disagree and ... well, you risk being deported to ... say ... San Francisco!