Who knew I’d learn far more than I wanted to about bestiality at the dentist today? While the dentist lectured one of my kids on her inadequate brushing, I flipped through an old copy of New York Magazine and came upon the WHAT IT’S LIKE TO DATE A HORSE story. As the prig I am I only got about halfway through and turned my attention to a more enjoyable pursuit: watching one of the Toy Story movies in which a young cowgirl toy remembers being tossed into a Goodwill box and abandoned by her person–yet another throwaway piece of plastic. I teared up. Yep. Don’t know why it hit me. Maybe I’ve never grown up and have a guilty conscience about my own lost and abandoned toys with eyes that always seemed to peer into my soul (I’m sorry, Bunny–where are you now?)
Toy Story does that weird thing–the story makes you want more toys that you know you’re going to toss aside one day for new interests. Maybe that interest will be equestrian sports or boys. Maybe you will one day embrace your bestiality.
Woody Register’s book THE KID OF CONEY ISLAND Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements offers a look behind the curtains of manufactured fun. Isn’t seeking out FUN fun? I’m reminded here of a slightly overweight man walking back to his wife’s car with a bag of craft items from AC Moore. My daughter and I laughed about the stick figure stickers on the back window proclaiming to the world that both man and wife were members of the Disney cult of fun.
“What self-respecting man drives a minivan with a stick figure version of himself sporting mouse ears?” my daughter joked.
We felt bad for the guy. (When we spotted the sweet looking wife carrying even more Halloween craft projects we felt a little guilty).
I like toys. I have an antique toy double barrel shot gun. It looks real so I don’t bring it outside much. I like dolls and horses. I don’t date them. I’d like to say I’ve never been taken in by a mass-produced craze, but that would be a lie (I collected Smurf figurines as a child).
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
1 Corinthians 13:11
Fred Thompson was an idea man. He was a motion man and an engineer of flimsy amusement masquerading as therapeutic respite for the over serious man (or woman) tired of the 19th century pillars of thrift, diligence and self discipline. Fred was a man of FUN. Work must be fun in this new paradigm shift. Fred was a spendthrift at a time when people questioned a man’s masculinity for spending with childish abandon. He never settled. Settled boys became MEN.
Have you ever spent time with a child who laughs at the dinner table and at first it’s cute, but then it turns bad with milk and food sputtering everywhere? Fred Thompson’s life was kind of like that.To be sure, everyone who visited his theme park on Coney Island or went to one of his extravaganzas at the Hippodrome was amused (his creditors not so much).
In the beginning Fred created a world and he became that world. He was the light of that world–the world of blinding incandescent bulbs and dancing girlies; trips to the moon and the Orient, but as with all false paths to fulfillment his lights began to flicker.
At the San Francisco Exposition his plans for a comeback after a failed marriage to a child-like woman and a series of health scares brought on (some whispered) by the grown-up drinks he consumed, the facade of the Peter Pan world Fred created began to crumble. The organizers, a mix of high-minded fellows grappling with the modern lust for cheap thrills, let the man-boy Fred have his way (secretly nervous when Fred shared his idea for a hot dog concession stand set up to look like a factory where stray dogs were ground up into tasty treats).
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
19th century thought: Human needs and markets are final and satiable.
20th century thought: Markets and people can be made to be insatiable. The dissatisfaction of never ending desire opened many a new market.
Here’s what Woody Register (not to be confused with the adorable cowboy toy) has to say:
“Luna (Fred Thompson’s Luna Park at Coney Island) elevated the temporal, fabricated, and personal over the universal, the timeless, and the divine.”
And so I discover while watching Toy Story and trying not to imagine men having sex with horses the reason Chuck E. Cheese and POP MUSICIANS EXIST–they are easily digested (who cares if we feel dissatisfied after bad pizza and Rihanna singing her repetitive techno garbage?). I understand why architecture took a nose-dive in the 20th century ( we all know that children aren’t any good at taking care of their toys).
Beauty, reflection, and reverence require discipline, thrift, and maturity.
And, yes, I come from Puritan stock.