Vicarious. Could I Please Have the Language of Origin?

My weekend was a pretty normal Saturday and Sunday, spent doing probably the exact same things everyone else did.  Saturday I went skeet shooting with my cousins and my uncle at the Stockton Skeet and Trap Shooting Club, as a last hoorah before my cousin Steven moves to Oklahoma (A reverse Grapes of Wrath: goin’ to the Dust Bowl, hear tell there’s jobs there).  Sunday’s highlight came from  me drinking wine and watching the Finals of the Scripps 2010 National Spelling Bee, which I recorded Friday night.  That IS what everyone else did this weekend, right?  

Surprisingly, between these two events, the Spelling Bee was the one that was most disturbing.  At the Stockton Skeet and Trap Club, you get exactly what you expect: the ten citizens of Stockton who legally own their guns, out shooting.  You also get me making “skeet” jokes until it’s no longer funny.  I’m joking, it NEVER stops being funny.  There’s a bar within twenty feet of where you shoot, even though the piece of paper you sign upon entering requests that you not drink until you are done shooting.  

My cousin Danny has a beast of a 12-guage shotgun that has absolutely no give on your shoulder.  Here’s a picture of the bruise I had today.  The camera makes me look pretty pale and scrawny, but I assure you I’m very tan (aren’t all Norwegians tan?), and ridiculously sculpted.  

Arm Bruise. Pretty gross.

For those of you that are interested, the Stockton Skeet and Trap Club does weddings.  Here’s the website: 

Conversely, there is no way to anticipate the feeling you get while watching the Spelling Bee.  Before I give off the wrong impression, let me clarify: I love the Bee (because I’m a logophile, not a pedophile), I watch it every year.  It’s just that watching the Spelling Bee is  like watching any David Lynch film.  It doesn’t represent reality in ANY way, yet it’s grotesquely hypnotic.  You become attached to the characters, even though they don’t seem human, and you can’t relate to them in any way.  You fluctuate back and forth between rooting for and against the main characters.  And, at the end, you’re left trying to make some sense of the whole thing, which is absolutely impossible to do.  

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the National Spelling Bee is televised by ESPN every June.  It is an event similar to a beauty pageant, except the children aren’t pretty.  The parents, however, are just as batshit as the average beauty queen parent, reliving their own successes or failures vicariously through their offspring.  It’s an event that brings the  most socially awkward and socially deprived home-schooled children that the nation has to offer (plus one Canadian), pitting them against each other in a sudden-death spell-off.  I love the spirit of competition, and I love the celebration of words and language but, after watching the program for a while, you just feel sorry for the kids involved.  As you watch their bios, you start to root for each one to achieve the ultimate goal.  At the same time, you start to wish they would miss just one letter, hoping maybe their parents will give up the whole spelling thing, leaving the child to lead a semi-normal life (where they might someday have intimate relations). 

You just know that none of these competitors ever had a chance to be a kid.  Each day, they finish school-time with their private tutor, run through piano practice and soccer practice before dinner, then there’s just enough time to memorize the dictionary for a couple of hours before putting on their Chopin pajamas and hopping into bed ( In case you are interested, I just google searched to see if Chopin pajamas actually exist.  Apparently, they do not, which means I could make a million dollars inventing them.  For those of you seeking symphony-themed sleepwear, you may have to settle for some Wagner PJs, and just pretend that he wasn’t a fuckhead anti-Semite).  What about playing baseball, or sneaking cigarettes at the park next to school?  When do they have time to find themselves, if their younger years are spent learning what their parents want them to be?  One of the contestants, a ten or eleven year old girl, was asked who in the world she would like to meet most.  Her answer?  Frank Neuhauser, the first winner of the Spelling Bee.  Of course, isn’t he every child’s hero.  Really?  At ten years old, that’s her hero?  If you had asked me this very same question at age ten, you could have stood back and actually watched my brain debate between Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe and Crackle from the Rice Krispies box (Snap and Pop were kind of lame).  And that’s just it, these kids are just raised to be different, raised to be somethings other than kids.  In the end, as a simple viewer, there is nothing I can do to make sense of it, and certainly nothing that I can do to help the children.  The only thing I can do is feel sorry for all of these kids as they go on to live their miserable lives making millions of dollars and possibly curing cancer.  

P.S.  The funniest part of my entire weekend was my entrance into the Stockton Gun Club.  I had my iPod on Shuffle, so I pulled into the parking lot with my car blasting Toni Basil’s “Mickey.”  I’m going to guess that’s a first for their establishment.


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