The house is officially trashed. Half of everything’s in boxes, the garage is filling with garbage bags and the dog is starting to look around with a worried expression — he just knows the new place doesn’t have a fenced yard.
(Which is doesn’t, yet. When I mentioned the possibilities of invisible fencing, Alan reminded me of our neighbor’s experience with it. Their redbone hound would hurl himself at the fence, yelping in pain from the shock he was getting, scramble over and run off down the street. Evidently he either never connected the pain with the fence, or else he thought freedom was worth a few seconds of pain. I can see our tough little terrier adopting the same attitude when mocked by a squirrel just outside the perimeter. If you have experience with these gadgets, give a report.)
Anyway, the house is trashed. Tomorrow I have half a dozen errands to run and 65 phone calls to make, and one of those errands will be to the cable company to return their box and unreliable modem, which means we’ll be dark here at NN.C central offices and otherwise insane. So let’s figure on shutting this outfit down until the weekend at the very least, although I’ll still be available via e-mail, thanks to my neighbor’s leaky wireless signal and unsecured network.
In the meantime, feel free to carry on a lively discourse in the comments on topics of your choice. Maybe you could start with this amusing trifle: “Lincoln, gay? Of course!”
UPDATE: Or, you could try out this bit of locally obscure Johnny Carson trivia — the rise of Myrtle Young, potato-chip inspector. Never mind that the linked story appears in my old paper’s competitor; it encapsulates the basic outlines of Myrtle’s story well enough, while leaving out some important details.
One day Myrtle read a syndicated feature we used to run on the comics page of The News-Sentinel, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” It was about a man who had some bizarre bit of agricultural trivia — a potato that looked like Ziggy or a zucchini that resembled Richard Nixon or something like that. She sat down and dashed off a note to her local p.m. daily. That’s nothing, she wrote. I have a potato chip that looks like Bob Hope, and there’s a lot more where that came from.
A smart assistant features editor, John Bordsen, saw this and assigned it to one of his best reporters. That reporter sought out and interviewed Myrtle, who was an inspector on the line at Seyfert’s, our local snack-food purveyor. Her job was to stand by the conveyer belt and pick out and discard discolored, burned or otherwise unacceptable chips. Over the years, she’d started picking out chips that she thought looked like something other than chips — a pair of cowboy boots, famous people, etc. She was an absolute treasure, a seemingly dotty old lady who had turned the ordinary into the extraordinary, and the story captured all of this. There were lots of pictures.
Someone sent the story to David Letterman, and he invited her on. The reporter went along with Myrtle. It was her first time on an airplane. When the stewardess said there was a life vest under your seat cushion, she got up and pulled the cushion up, just to check.
The Letterman show didn’t go so well. He wasn’t very nice to her, treating her as a boring whack job, a reminder of why so many Hoosiers flee the state for places like Manhattan. Maybe she embarrassed him; the show just didn’t work. Myrtle flew home. But the next time the phone rang from a late-night talk show, it was Carson’s people. She got back on the plane, flying west this time, the reporter again accompanying her, and did the Tonight Show.
The rest isn’t exactly history, but it was memorable TV. Myrtle delighted Johnny, and he pulled the trick that TV Guide called television’s funniest moment — when she turned away to get another part of her collection, and a loud CRUNCH came from off-camera. She turned around, horrified, to find Johnny munching on a potato chip. Her face was like something out of a cartoon, and then he showed her the bowl of fresh chips he had stashed under the desk.
She was supposed to be one guest of three. She ended up being the only guest. Jennifer Tilly got bumped, along with an Irish flutist.
More TV and public appearances followed, in places like Japan, Europe, all over the world. Myrtle was the best thing that ever happened to Seyfert’s chips, although the plant closed a few years later, after she’d retired, when it was sold to a Missouri company that saw no reason to make chips in Fort Wayne. The News-Sentinel no longer has an assistant features editor, and the departmental staff has dwindled to just one writer, not several. I like to think those who remain would be smart enough to pick up on another Myrtle-like story if it came along, but you never know. If the wrong editor had opened that letter, it could very well have been round-filed.
And the reporter who turned Myrtle into a worldwide phenom? Well, that would be my husband, Alan Derringer. And now you know…never mind.
The next time you read this, I’ll be a Mitten Stater. Fingers crossed.