Brian Jacobson
Deep-Fried Romantic

the mental vacation edition

By - Jun 16th, 2010 04:00 am

© Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I’m trying really hard to concentrate on this article. But it’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m still coming off my high volunteering at my hometown parish festival. I served up brats with kraut and butterfly pork chop sandwiches in the a.m. and called bingo in the p.m. (However, I did not stick around to drink Miller Lite and watch Mt. Olive with the locals in the beer tent).

What’s really not helping right now is that ABC Family is running a Toy Story marathon before the third installment (in 3-D, natch) opens on Friday. While the high-tech computer animation from Pixar would make the movie series seem high culture, it’s actually the king of low-culture remark and fantasy.

It is, after all, a movie about toys. The main two characters were made to promote Saturday morning cartoons and puppet shows. Nostalgia for other recognizable plastic toys such as Mr. Potato Head, Green Army Men and Etch-a-Sketch is a universal experience among Americans. The notion that our playthings have lives of their own is another.

All the added psychology and sociological commentary on low-culture life is just a special bonus for me. I was glued to watching the parts involving Sid, a malcontent boy whose poor lifestyle lead to creative Frankenstein alterations of his toys. If it wasn’t for the emotional scarring Woody and the revolting monster toys gave Sid, he likely could’ve grown into a famous post-modern artist.

Do you know when the first movie came out? 1995. That means a seven-year-old who loved it and bought the Happy Meal toys now has them sitting on a desk where he or she works as a law clerk.

Now I’d like to give a shout-out to the fashion designers who deemed the return of a certain summer clothing item too hideous a notion for the runway but instead sold the idea to department store brands like IZOD, Ruff Hewn and even Old Navy. They brought back the plaid shorts.

I don’t mean the lighter, two-color, over-the-knee bermudas that have made the rounds since 2008. I mean Dad-leaning-over-the-grill, scorch-your-eyes-with-the-color-pattern, “boy-those-are-short” shorts. Of course I bought a pair. Why? Because I’m still clawing for tangible connections to my father — which is exactly how they’re being marketed.

Of course, I also broke down last week and bought the Big Top Cupcake maker. I’ve made three giant cupcakes with it already, including a giant banana-peanut butter-chocolate ‘Elvis’ cupcake.

Finally, I’d like to give a big WTF?! to the return of a Wisconsin axiom. We know some of them: “the state bird is the mosquito,” “if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes” and the other meteorologically-themed “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

But one other adage is always chuckled at: “there are two seasons in Wisconsin — winter and road construction.” Well, chuckle no more please.

Certain periods of re-surfacing and change enter the low-culture consciousness as we stare at men in hard hats and read bumper stickers on other cars as we crawl towards the Marquette Interchange. But this year seems particularly brutal, despite of the completion of the aforementioned hub. It’s not just a freeway issue, either.

After giving up trying to commute from my home in southwestern Racine County to Milwaukee by means of I-43, I-894 and I-94 daily, I started to explore surface streets. In a way, it’s kind of like discovering old neighborhoods again. While I’m still stymied every seven minutes by construction bottlenecks, there’s a lot more to look at than before.

But seriously, I dare you to find me a way into Milwaukee from any direction 27 miles out that takes less than 50 minutes — and doesn’t meet up with orange barrels. Matter of fact, I’ll come up with a handy prize for anyone who can map me a path to downtown (say, 3rd and Wisconsin Ave.).

I’ll double the prize for anyone that can hand over the person who greenlit all the construction to be done in one month. Maybe it’s the same person who okayed all of this past weekend’s lakefront events to happen on the same day.

Maybe the winner will get a Big Top cupcake. We’ll see.

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