Sunday, January 23, 2011

Atlas Old and New

My helmet camera isn't the only new toy I've been playing with lately.  My 21st century atlas - the Garmin GPS I recently installed - has more perks than Micheal Jackson's nightstand.  Yet, for all its new found functionality, there are plenty of options I doubt I'll ever use. I know I have a somewhat technical occupation, but I tend to see the world more like checkers than chess and there are times when I prefer the simple to the complex.  One GPS feature I will use on the Alaskapade is its audio book player. The Zumo supports the Audible format and I love audio books. I got hooked on them when I was driving a weekly 600-mile commute to and from Houston for eighteen months. Among countless others, I devoured almost everything from Michael Chrichton, John Grisham, David Baldacci, and all of Dan Brown's work.I'll certainly use the mp3 player too and have literally months worth of tunes to keep me occupied.

I’ve decided on this trip to revisit my all-time favorite novel in Audible format. Written in 1957 by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged takes a novel approach - figuratively and literally - to explain where America is heading. As a country, we started meandering down a slippery slope of  political correctness and collectivism back in the 1960's.  In 2009, our winding road became a straight vertical plunge at Autobahn speed. To deny it is like saying Ann Frank was just trying to avoid paying rent.  It takes 63 hours to listen to the unabridged version of Atlas Shrugged.  I can’t imagine Ms. Rand knowingly/willingly submitting any of her work to an abridged format, but it was available from Audible.  63 hours is nothing really, because on this trip I have nothing but time.

As I said, I've enjoyed audio books for years.  And really, who doesn’t like being read to?  I remember being read to by Ms. Franklin in the kindergarten class at St. David’s Episcopal Church I attended as a kid.  My family wasn’t Episcopalian.  In fact, my grandfather was a Methodist Lay Preacher.  We only went to church on Easter and Christmas and I remember I always got a new suit.  No wonder I’m an Agnostic now.  Agnosticism  does have its benefits. I'll likely never be born again because I'm pretty sure I got it right the first time. I went to this Episcopal school because my mom worked at Harper Printing across the street.  For some reason, I often saw my mom at the school talking to the faculty.  I suppose it was convenient working so close. Thinking back, there might have been another reason or two; or twelve.

For story time in Ms. Franklin’s class, we would lie on our pallets (mine was an old bathroom rug) and she would read aloud from various books to us.  The Mouse and the Motorcycle was my favorite, but I always fell asleep during story time so I missed the end of that one.  If that happens with Atlas Shrugged on this trip, I’m in big trouble.

Ms. Franklin was ancient.  Looking back, I suppose she was the Episcopal equivalent of a Nun and she looked like a mummy without its wrapping.  She wore her white hair in a tight bun and she had thick black whiskers sparsely spread over her upper lip.  We kids were all fascinated by her teeth, which she kept in a jar of water on her desk which magnified them to an unreal size.  She only put them in to talk when the pastor came into the classroom. He showed up daily to read us a Bible  story- and to yell at me for something I did.  I remember once asking him if there any Bible stories about Ms. Franklin.

As difficult to believe as this may sound, for some reason Ms. Franklin didn't like me. I’m not sure if it was because I scribbled an entire sixteen color Crayola crayon carton onto the walls of the time out room  (a closet), or if it was because I once locked her and the rest of the faculty out of the classroom, forcing them to break a window to get in at me.  Maybe it was because of the time I knocked over a candelabrum during  a daily compulsory chapel service and accidentally set a tapestry on fire.  Who knows?  It might have had something to do with something I once did with her teeth when she wasn’t looking.  She never would have found out if some other kid hadn't snitched.  Regardless, I remember her being very impatient with me.  But I digress…

I challenge anyone reading this to read Atlas Shrugged and if you don’t see parallels to what is going on in our country today, then you either didn’t really read it or your comprehension level is on par with my crayon scribbles on the wall at St. Mark’s.  In that case, the The Mouse and the Motorcycle might be for you.  If so, do me a solid and tell me how it ends.