have a winner -
We spent the weekend in Clovis, which is like spending the weekend at a luxurious spa -- just without the spa and the luxury. It was one of those family things where the in-laws are going to be just a few hundred miles away visiting other family members, so why not just swing on up for a visit. So up we swang.
While there, we attended the third annual Tarantula Festival in Coarsegold, an enterprising bend in the road to Yosemite which dedicates itself to trafficking in antiques, crafts, and candy. This bend in the road also enjoys one of the greatest concentrations of tarantulas, and during October, their mating season, people come from hither and yon to celebrate all things arachnid. This includes a toy spider race, which Amy entered. She was in the lead until a clueless and unruly six-year-old strayed into her path and, using her enormous hulking Barbie shoes, the girl severed my daughter's toy tarantula from its bulb and air tube, thereby robbing Amy of her title as winner. The officials failed to take note of the foul. Even though right and goodness were on our side, cooler heads prevailed, and we moved on to the Scream-off Contest.
Dozens upon dozens of children had entered. The officials herded them onstage in groups of five, with a hand over the head and audience applause used to determine a finalist from each group. Amy, fresh from being cheated, was undaunted as she stood in line to go up. As child after child screamed, I realized that I'd never really heard my daughter scream before. I've heard her yell, loudly, but yelling is a few notches down the vocal register than that full-on Jamie Lee Curtis piercing thing we all enjoy so much.
Not wanting her to be embarrassed by being the only kid who goes up and yells instead of screams (she's already got enough obvious differences going on, so she doesn't really need any more to feel embarrassed about), I made my way through the crowd and whispered to her about whether or not she knew the difference between screaming and yelling. She nodded that she knew, and stayed in line.
Her name was fourth among the next group of five, and up she went. The first girl screamed loudly. The second girl screamed loudly, and long. The third girl screamed louder still, and even longer. Amy took a deep breath and let out a short... sharp... yell. The fifth girl screamed. I don't remember for how long. I was still hearing my daughter's yell, her brief, shy, trying, yell.
Got me right in the heart.
She was a tiny bit sad after that, but not much. She knew she was different, but we were all making such an effort at emotional buoyancy afterward that she couldn't help but stay afloat above any tears she might have summoned.
I felt as if the whole afternoon was up for grabs at this point, one possibility being a total write-off as a lesson about signing her up for stuff that shows off her differences and is just plain too stressful for her. Or, we could go on as scheduled, participating like everyone else, being who we are, and just doing it. You know, chin up, boldly go, that sort of thing.
What she did next was, well, she got in line for the Hairiest Leg contest.
The officials, wisely, saw fit to divide the contestants by gender so that unshaven females wouldn't be pitted against ape-men. There were only about a dozen or so females with enough mettle to enter such a competition, and true to her form, Amy was among them. Their ages varied, and had any of the adult women been brazen enough to train a few months ahead of time, a victory might've been simple and certain. But none had, and upon first glance at the naked legs, this was going to be close.
It is an extremely rare instance when a brain injury offers an advantage, but in this case Amy had one. Often, upon the onset of damage to the brain, there is a change in body chemistry which can accelerate various mechanisms, and hair growth is one of them. She's nine, and her little body hairs are still wispy, but they are wispy in slightly greater volume than usual, and it was upon this characteristic that she rode to victory.
She took first prize: fifty damn dollars. Somebody say amen.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
I've spent the last three days trying to get something written down in this journal, but it's been Thwartation Central around here. And tonight, rather than guarding the house (and sneaking in some typing) while Amy and Viv went trick-or-treating, I joined them and the rest of the extended neighborhood throng for an extended two-hour-long candy raid. We were half a dozen parents and three times as many kids scuttling along the sidewalks, and it all felt like being in the middle of a Peanuts special.
And my back is killin' me. So I'm gonna have me some Tootsie Rolls and call it a night.
But not before I say a word about Steve Allen. When the news came this morning that he had died, it was a jolt. He was a tremendous influence upon me, a fixture of my youth, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that his thoughts and his comedy have had a major effect upon the shape of my brain.
Here's an odd memory. Once, back in the old days when I used to mess around a little at the Comedy Store, a comedian acquaintance of mine told me that he had come upon access to Mitzi Shore's rolodex (for those of you out there too hip for the room, I'm talking about Pauly Shore's mommy, the owner of the Comedy Store). My friend asked me if there was anybody's address and phone number I wanted. Just one, I told him. Steve Allen's. I spent the next several weeks trying to come up with the funniest Christmas card I could think of, and then I sent it to him. Anonymously. I hope he laughed. I bet he did.
Thanks, Mr. Allen. You left lots.
"This Could Be The Start Of Something Big" -- Count Basie -- LIVE AT THE SANDS (BEFORE FRANK)
"Perseverance... is the very hinge of all virtues.
- Thomas Carlyle