A Slice of Inspiration: The Welk Outhouse (Just off to Your Left)
December 15, 2008
On the 12th day of Christmas, OPEC gave to me: cheap gasoline. The $1.69-a-gallon carrot is being dangled, saying, “It’s safe for you SUVs to come out now and claim your lost summer vacation.” But with a fledgling economy, takers will, no doubt, still pinch pennies … which brings us to soapbox Issue No. 10: visiting childhood homes of celebrities.
This train wreck always lurks between rest stops: You’re driving along, destroying dental work with Corn Nuts, washing it down with a double-your-bladder-sized Big Gulp, playing “I Spy,” when ” BAM! ” the puppet-master billboard cudgels your sensibilities. It’s fate, you are convinced, an omen slapping you in the face, whispering, “Once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“Did you see that, honey? We’re only 10 miles from (pick your poison … Laura Ingalls Wilder’s, Larry Hagman’s, Mark Twain’s, Neil Young’s, Colonel Sanders’) childhood home.”
“Really?” she says in raptures.
“Really, really. That’s funny: I thought it was a national monument. Hmmm, guess not. Go figure. We should go anyway. We may never be this close again.”
I pity the tour guide ” the dude that eyeballs tourists and says, “Off to your left, just outside there, is the Welk Family outhouse. Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine little Larry sitting out there now, shivering in the cold, tearing a sheet from the Sears catalog … perhaps the sheet with that toy piano he always wanted. He stares at it longingly, sighs, folds it in half, completes his business, then drops it into the abyss ” allowing Mother Earth to swallow it forever, right here, in the bowels of Strasburg, North Dakota. You can almost hear him saying to himself, ‘Someday, Lawrence. Someday.”
The tour guide sighs profoundly and milks the tip jar.
If I ever hit the big time ” score a sitcom, sell my screenplay, get syndicated, wind up on your bookshelf ” and you’re doing windshield time in Washington state, trolling for adventure, and get the urge to visit my old toddler digs, don’t.
What inspiration, what mojo, what aura lingers at my childhood home? Uh … the bedroom window that I opened and flung my father’s socks out of (his dark world of polyester footwear failed to inspire me to fold)? The laundry chute that I used for basement skydiving? The toilet I plugged with spongy animal toys that you submerge in water for 2 weeks until they are life-sized? Truth is: My toddler home was a parental house of horrors, not the answer key to life’s most probing questions.
For bona fide inspiration, try Orbit Maui Melon Mint chewing gum. Read David McCullough’s “John Adams.” Sing ‘Kum Ba Ya’ with the teary masses in the grocery store Hallmark gift card isle. Don’t chase it down in the dining room where I used to fling Spaghetti-o’s and boiled, sliced zucchini to give the walls texture.
What if celebrity status was suddenly thrust upon you? Would a tour of your kiddy palace be worth the price of admission?
Methinks instead that the ghost of P.T. Barnum be laughing somewhere in the corner, saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
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