Monday, March 17, 2008

Make some space on the shelf right next to The Illiad

Here it is! After dozens of minutes of revisions and cheeks for spelling and grahammatical accuracy, I can now proudly present two ewe…The Odyssey of Tom and Paul! Yes, my epic transcontinental journey back to the land of my forefathers after voyaging deep into the heart of the barbarian Eastlands will be unveiled to you in all its two-dimensional, bloggy glory.

Prepare yourself a flagon of mead, leg of lamb, and figgy pudding! Arouse the knights and nobles; escort the women of the court to the Great Hall! Command the jester to adorn himself in the frumpiest of multicolored one-pieces, and commission an especially absurd hat with bell tassels for him to wear! Make Haste! Avast! And other exceedingly dated slang terms!

Alternative for individuals not trapped in a medieval time warp:
Fill up a tall glass of cran-raspberry juice, make a grilled cheese sandwich, and open an individual serving sized refrigerated Jello pudding cup! Bring the laptop into the kitchen or other space where you are most likely to find your housemates! Someone put on a retro-90s super ridiculous winter hat (yes, 90s are now retro)! Get on it G-bomb yo!

Crash Course in Epic Tales
If there’s one thing I took from being an undergrad, it’s the inevitability of seemingly unnecessary and convoluted rules. THUS, in accordance with the rules of the International League of Traveling Bards (ILTB), this entry includes the following 8 Elements of an Epic:

1. The hero is a figure of great national or even cosmic importance, usually the ideal man of his culture. He often has superhuman or divine traits. He is greater in all ways than the common man….ahem…for sake of consistency between reality and the demands of literature, you are encouraged to envision UND Sioux Goalie Jean-Phillipe Lamoureu playing the role of yours truly. Please refer to: if you need any clarifications about his magnificence.

2. The setting is vast in scope, covering great geographical distances, perhaps even visiting the underworld (South Bend, Indiana), other worlds (Brennan’s), and even other times (3:35 AM).

3. The action consists of deeds of valor or superhuman courage (especially in Minneapolis bars, Holiday Inn Express Lobbies, and Kia Sportages).

4. Supernatural forces/gods interest themselves in the action and intervene at times.

5. The style of writing is elevated, even ceremonial. Amenway.

6. The writer invokes a Muse to provide him with divine inspiration to tell the story of a great hero. Normally, I would call upon my personal muse, Reginald, but ol’ Reggie left a note yesterday announcing that because he is now “Assistant to the Regional Manager” of Shoebox Greeting Cards, I’m on my own…. Fine, Reg, that’s how you want to play it? Then I’ll be calling upon the 2008 NME Best Live Band: MUSE! Please be sure you’ve downloaded “Hysteria” or “Knights of Cydonia” so that…MUSE is present during your reading…MUSE! You hear that Reginald?! Who’s clapping for you Reginald? Who’s clapping for you?!

7. Use of the epic simile. While a standard simile is a comparison using "like" or "as." An “Epic” or “Homeric” simile is a more involved, ornate comparison, extended and having great detail, like an anaconda…um…moving through the underbrush…um…of your subconscious…um…with an umbrella made of mysteriously mysterious…stuff… yeah, ok, yeah that’s a pretty good warm up simile. They’ll get better later. Pssst, Reginald? If you have time, text me a couple of starter similes. Please? Buddy?

8. Heavy use of repetition and stock phrases. The poet repeats passages that consist of several lines in various sections of the epic and/or uses Homeric Epithets (short, recurrent phrases used to describe people, places, or things). Both make the poem easier to memorize. I could do something witty here, but I’d rather wait to spring this trap upon your unsuspecting ankle as a sneaky spider that does wait before leaping upon its victim with the utmost tenacity and vigor. Thanks, Reginald. *wink*

Okay, so beginning…nope not yet…okay… now! I, your orator of great renown and esteem amongst his peers who doth reside throughout the imaginary realm bound within his crania, upon which doth rest a tuft of ever-decreasing, unkempt brown locks, magnanimous hairs which do gleam with the sheen of a fine pomade purchased with farthings and pence acquired through the most noble of endeavors, do call upon the mighty muse, MUSE, to assist him in recalling the voyage of two brave men. Men who struggled against the Fates. Men who knew not fear when faced with nature’s forces. Men who praise and abide the gods up until the gods see fit to hurl tiny pieces of hail toward the eyes and other vulnerable parts of the body. Men hearty enough to endure the influences of beverages of both the caffeinated and non-caffeinated natures, and the ever-unwavering keepers of taverns. Men who knew not the limits of mortals; not exhaustion of the flesh, nor pain of the spirit. Nay! Neither idleness of mind nor the fiery will of those that would oppose their successes have ever prevented these models of masculine perfection! These, pinnacles of strength! These, all around pretty alright guys!

This tale of truest valor has been outrageously embellished, that you might come to understand the galactic truths which lay within its velvety folds. These words, a garment so luxurious its touch intoxicates one’s very understanding of cashmere, may lead you to places in your soul never before lit by the light of…um…shiny, shiny, bright-up luminescence stuff! Indeed be warned that you will question whether you possess the courage, the force of will, the RESOLUTION to procrastinate until the final chords of MUSE sound and the final punctuation soothes your eyes into a slumber of deepes- ok, that’s it, I give up! Homer?! How in the world did you talk like this for DAYS about a guy who got lost while tooling around in his boat and not find yourself impaled on a pike by the bored townsfolk you bamboozled into giving you food and shelter for the night?! I’m sorry but we may have to tone down/scratch Epic Element 5.

DAY ONE: Lucille the Tempest
I and my most esteemed travel companion (whose name is herein redacted to T. so that T. might still have a chance to forget the many horrors of our excursion and thereby save himself many a sleepless night.) collected the necessary objects for our journey into the spacious back seat of his Ford Focus, enjoyed one last home-cooked meal (Tombstone Pizza) and departed from the land of Far-Go. T. set our heading due East toward the great Twin Kingdoms...and directly into the heart of a most treacherous winter tempest, called up by the goddess, um, Tabitha. No, make that Lucille. Yes, Lucille, angered by our arrogant ambition to reach the sanctuary of the Twin Kingdoms in under 3 hours threw ice, snow, and exceedingly slow-moving motorists into our path. The mighty Ford Focus proved its mettle, however; placing us safely into the fold of our old companions, N., D., and J. Upon our arrival, we discovered N. deeply hypnotized by the CGA presentation of that most familiar and beloved tale of Beowulf, his Dorito-dusted left hand absently scratching his ear as Beowulf delivered fatal blows to the evil eater of men, Grendel. That reminder that good always prevails energized our spirits and comforted our hearts as we made our final preparations for the continuation of our voyage East.

DAY TWO: “Ain’t no way you’re gettin’ through MLK without someone tryin to pop dat trunk at a red light.”)
From the great sky port of the Twin Kingdoms, we departed for Atlanta. To go East, you must sometimes first go South, wait, and then battle turbulence, motion sickness, and colicky babies as you go North. Such was our voyage.

In Atlanta, our need for victuals navigated our ragged bodies to the tables of Sam Adams’ hostelry. Southern hospitality has a particularly unique flavor in Atlanta’s sky port- the goblets of brew were stale; the Nachos Supremo were far from. I’d rather not recall the hamburger since it tried to recall itself shortly after consumption and still I fear its ghost.

In Baltimore, we sought out the services of one of the local rickshaws. A man from the furthest reaches of the known world (“Me? Topeka. Hate Bahluh’more, but it ain’t Topeka, so that’s something that’s going for me or some shit like that. You want stuff in the trunk? Lock’s broke an’, jus sayin, we’re takin’ MLK boulevard an’ aint no way you’re gettin’ through MLK without someone tryin to pop that trunk at a red light.”) escorted us to his carriage and sped most intrepidly toward the commercial center of the city where he deftly weaved between the various vehicles occupying the road. At times, we exceeded 60 mph and indeed a ragged creature did attempt to open the trunk at a red light. Many of those moments occurred in regions that the nobility of Baltimore had decreed no creature may move faster than 30 mph under most extreme penalty of law.

We eventually came to the gates of the residence I was finally leaving forever. We crossed the threshold of my domicile and quickly fell into dreamless slumbers.

DAY THREE: “That? Probably just a homicide.”
I packed what possessions seemed most urgent to bring home saying farewell to the larger furniture that would not fit in my Pontiac. T. arranged an evening bread breaking with his kinfolk. We arrived and enjoyed a wonderful feast of many pastas and then retired to the home of said kin for reminiscings and obscure Scandinavian liquors. At the end of the evening, T. and I returned to the roads of Baltimore and soon found ourselves mere feet from a great tragedy. A half dozen or more members of the caste of guards had circled their chariots round a body laying in the street. An event I have come to be far too comfortable with observing. T. however immediately recognized the event for its significance, reminding me that I’ve lived far too many sunsets in Baltimore.

DAY FOUR: “So is this a sign that I shouldn’t have quit, or just proof that Indiana is the worst?”
After many hours of navigating the Great Roads, we entered Indiana and took a quick meal with the kin of our mutual acquaintance, R. After leaving the godforsaken land of South Bend, which seems to be the place all other villages export their potholes to, we continued West…until exit 23 on highway I-80 near the tiny hamlet of Portage, Indiana.

Once again, the gods commanded events to thwart our journey home. In the not-too-early, very well-lit midday hours - a time when human beings are most alert and ready to react to whatever may befall them- the gods disabled our carriage. A mighty 2004 Pontiac was crippled under most disastrous conditions.

We had stopped at the turnpike to pay the tax levied by the lords of the Great. These gates with rumble strips, flashing lights, large warning signs, and the countless other indications that now is a very good time to apply brakes and come to an easy stop- it is not surprising that a 1980 Dodge Aries- bearing the raw materials for making crude methamphetamine in its trunk- might not recognize the insistence that it stop was more than a suggestion. While paying my farthings to the gatekeeper, the Dodge Aries plunged into my carriage’s generous trunk space, launching my Pontiac forward as a billiard ball might shoot forth from the impact of a cue ball.

After checking T. for injuries, I leapt from the vehicle to determine the cause of this newest malady. 7 curious creatures alighted from the Dodge. A man adorned in spiky metal ornaments, a collar of the variety often found on dogs, and a mashed green mohawk began to console the driver. She bore similar aboriginal ornaments and a haunting tunic wove from the swampy darkness of an OzzFest mosh-pit awaiting the discordant sounds of some unheard-of garage band hired to fill the time Ozzy Osbourne requires to properly liquor himself up before explaining to the crowds of miscreants the origins of Iron Man. These two were soon joined by a member of some other, though closely related tribe. A thin man with dark circles painted over his eyes, the beginnings of a bear belly, and crying out in pain as he rolled on the concrete claiming back pains from a recent surgery, dragging on a cigarette between the howls. Two blubbery globes of humans emerged from the back seat to assist in the nervous cigarette smoking. Finally, a pair of fully grown Labradors exited the Dodge.

Once the Indiana guards arrived, it became clear that this band of travelers:
1. Lacked insurance for the Dodge
2. Lacked license plates for the Dodge
3. Lacked “brakes” for the Dodge
4. Lacked knowledge of their exact whereabouts (they were operating on the assumption that they were in Wisconsin…please refer to a map of the USA if you need to confirm your suspicion that those two states do not share a border)

The strange hodge podge of persons was deeply admonished by the guards, assured they were wholly responsible for the crash, and their vehicle’s cache of meth-making materials was duly noted before the group was sent to the local apothecary for ointments and salves to cure their whiplash.

My Pontiac was towed to the local inn. The keeper agreed to discount our room for the evening, recognizing the deep furrows of anguish which marked our faces. T. and I later departed for the tavern just down the road where we met a gnome-like creature whose love of the Chicago Cubs was exceedingly evident in his manner of dress, though his origin- Germany- was mistaken by T. as being a speech impediment and not an accent. In the wee hours we retired to our sleeping quarters, the tavern keeper giving us each “to-go cups” for our drinks. That’s all I have to say about that.

In the morning we hired the services of a Kia Sportage. While transferring our luggage from the Pontiac to the Kia, it began to hail. Looking up at the Heavens, I considered my options for which deity to curse. I was promptly struck in the eye with the aforementioned hail. I put my head down and grumbled as my Kia filled up with my possessions, the Pontiac left to wait in the parking lot for a tow truck that would take it to a body shop.

Off on the Great Roads again, we soon reached Madison, WI. There, we battled ridiculous odds to reach Brennan’s: an oasis of fresh foods and fine cheeses where we acquired the items desired by my father. The phone conversation went something very literally like this:

Me: Hello?

Dad: Hello?

Me: Yeah Dad?

Dad: HelloooOooo? Well what’s wrong with this thing

Me: Dad!

Dad: Oh, oh there you are. Can you hear me good?

Me: Yes, dad I-

Dad: Oh, you sound very far away. Talk into the phone. Are you talking into the phone?

Me: Dad, turn up the receiver volume on your phone.

Dad: Oh, how do I do that? Nevermind, just talk louder, can’t you just talk louder?


Dad: You haven’t gotten to Wisconsin yet have you?

Me: …NO…

Dad: Well, if you get a chance (translation: Do this), why don’t you stop by Brennan’s and pick up some jellies. Boy, if you could bring home a few jellies that would really be great. They have really good jelly. Have you ever had their jelly? Hey! Are you listening to me? Paul?


Dad: Oh, well you didn’t say anything for awhile. I wasn’t sure if you were still there. Anyway, the jelly there is really quite remarkable. So if you could pick me up a few jars of jelly, that’d be really appreciated. Can you do that for me? Can you pick out some jellies for me?


Dad: Oh, I don’t know. Use your judgement. Some Huckleberry jelly would be really good though. Oh and the Boysenberry is also excellent. There are so many kinds; blueberry jelly, raspberry jelly, blackberry jelly, huckleberry jelly. Did I already say huckleberry jelly?

Me: So how ma-

Dad: Paul, speak up! I can’t hear you.


Dad: $100 worth should be good.

Me:…a hundred dollars worth of jelly?!

Dad: *chuckles* Yeah, about a $100 should be good.

Me: Anything else?

Dad: Oh, if you can, how about a few six packs of beer. Use your judgment, I’m sure you’ll find some good stuff. Of course, it’s all very good. Very good stuff at Brennan’s.

Me: Uh huh, so where exactly is Brennan’s?

Dad: You remember don’t you? And speak up you’re cutting in and out.


Dad: It’s on University. University is a street with a whole bunch of shops on it. Brennan’s is on University.

Me: Ok, Dad.

**Hang up. Dial Mom.**

Me: Where’s Brennan’s from the interstate? Dad wants me to buy a hundred dollars worth of jelly and beer when I get to Madison.


Jelly purchased, the remaining drive uneventful, we eventually reached Minneapolis.

The end.