There Was This Place, Near A Town, Just Plain Little
It’s In A State, Also Small, In Our Middle
(This installment originally appeared with other articles here at The Pie.)
Rhettie and Wally are meeting for the first time in Newton County in northwest Indiana. Rhettie had arranged for Wally to meet her at Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area so Wally’s first impression would be a good one, and she could explain “the story” that had been growing one page at a time for years. She was clear about her intent, respecting that both of them were tired of “sly…compelling…story…telling.” It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and the weather is great.
Rhettie had created a sort of narration with graphics and text using a phone app called STQRY (an actual thing I’m trying to incorporate too), and she’s showing the app to Wally today. They start at the Willow Slough campground. From the parking lot at the campground, J.C. Murphey Lake looks like a “real lake”, except that you notice there is no motorized boat traffic, which is pretty cool here, considering the resulting quiet and natural atmosphere.
(Stu leaves some happy tears every time he visits there, because it’s so much like Beaver Lake was. You might think he’d just stay here at this relocated Beaver Lake, a very small version, but he realized there are more fundamental and intriguing issues to investigate, so he doesn’t dwell on just recovering lost realities.)
They’re on a tight schedule, so they just take in the sights and talk about them with the STQRY app in the car. Wally is impressed with both the app and the place right from the start. They tour some of Rhettie’s favorite sights, including the town of Morocco, and talk about the app and the content added by the county’s historical group. We’ll pick up their conversation as they visit one of Rhettie’s dream sites for a Landing, as she’s started calling it, now that Reset has become a politically loaded word.
Wally: Rhettie, this is beautiful. What a little hidden treasure this is. I actually noticed a lot of hidden treasures today.
Rhettie: This is my favorite. This is where I got the idea of Landings…or IndSteadlings. I haven’t decided what to call them. They used to cut ice from that pond.
Wally: This is a scene from, like, Hallmark Homesteaders or something.
Rhettie: That’s not a thing is it? I hope not. Well, it’s fine, but I’m not doing that. I don’t want it to be that kind of scene. Too contrived. Too twee.
Wally: I get that. I could see you saying that. I really do not mind Hallmark movies, to be honest. It’s a niche thing, and, I think, there is a certain honesty to them, although that will probably sound weird to hear.
Rhettie: I actually think I know what you mean about the honesty. Dark, jaded, edginess can be just as contrived. I’m not interested in showing people I’m still as cool or whatever as my sixteen-year-old self. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually. I was actually more “myself” when I left Chicago to come down here. I didn’t have to keep up my “real, authentic, fearless, interesting self” persona anymore.
Wally: When does authenticity become inauthentic itself? Yeah, I know. It’s weird. But people build their Transformers, and they’re coached to do it.
Rhettie: And then they stick with it so their inauthentic authenticity doesn’t seem like it was inauthentic, I guess. I guess I just dropped it and never went back, because there was no need anymore. I was lucky I left that scene up there. Then it was funny to see kids doing that down here, since my own friends here weren’t into it, and I’d left my old friends up there that did. I kinda wanted to tell the kids here, “Dude, you know what you’re doing, and you don’t have to do it.” Hey, let’s talk about something else. I mean yeah, this place could help with that stuff, and I want it to, but I don’t need to focus on that now, and there’s some pain from it still. I mean, Onward Squidward.
Wally: Just one more thought on that though, since we were talking about Dad’s writing and “Carpet Crawlers” from Lamb Lies Down. “The carpet crawlers…heed their callers” and “They’re pulled up by a magnet, believing they’re free.” That song gets to me. Well, I guess it really got to Dad. And he was part of the magnet realm, and he was pulled into the magnet realm, I guess you could say, into being a magnet. And once he realized he had been one of those magnets, he wanted to collapse the whole thing, and couldn’t even stand to be a lowly carpet crawler. He wanted to start burning it, but he didn’t know where to start burning, and he was worried about starting in the wrong place…and…
Rhettie: Wally, wait. Wait. Okay, I’m not exactly following you, but I think I get most of what you’re saying. I kind of know the song. It’s a big deal. It’s like…the biggest possible deal. I know there’s something big going on in your mind. I have to tell you something I’ve noticed. You’ve always been so professional and controlled and careful with your words. Your words and your demeanor are almost too…sculpted for me sometimes. You’re like, too-oo good at talking or whatever. Your emails are the same way. I’m not really complaining about that, but listen, okay?
Rhettie: When you first emailed me about your dad’s stuff, there was this shift in your tone and your writing. You were like excited but also anxious at the time. You NEVER do that, and I know it, and I want you to know that I know. I want to know that you know I know. This is big.
Wally: Well, I guess learning how your dad really thinks or thought after all that time is a pretty big deal.
Rhettie: Of course. But…okay I’m not trying to be all girls’ intuition, but is there something else? It seems like there’s something else. Something besides your dad’s thoughts. It seems like there is, that’s all I’m saying. I don’t think it’s about, like, your mom and dad possibly getting back together, although…
Wally: Right. No. They’re not. He won’t, because he’s too sick. Well, they’ll talk more, but he won’t let her take care of him, and I don’t think she wants to. Too much history and hurt, and he has good options at the home.
Wally: This place is really something. And you’re thinking of, I mean you’re dreaming of, there being a lot of places like this. I get it. I think we’ve got to get one of the shows out first.
Rhettie: Yeah, I know. That’s why I came to Matches and to you, I guess. I didn’t know exactly how it was gonna work, but it seemed like a good place to start.
Wally: Hey it’s almost Thanksgiving, and I want you to know I’d list you as one of the things I’m thankful for this year.
Rhettie: Awww. You don’t just see me as a future revenue stream? Or maybe you do and that’s why you’re thankful.
Wally: Okay, not only do I see you has a future revenue stream, and an extra nice stream, but it’s nice to have someone care about my dad. Someone to talk to. I mean, he’s someone who really only has existed this way after he left his family, me and mom, and he only had ten years of this, his new self or whatever, his new perspective, before the Alzheimer’s hit him. All we really have is his papers. And you’re going over them with me, and you get it.
Rhettie: You should probably talk to your mom more about it.
Wally: I think it gives her some pain. It’s like it’s a near miss or something, of what could have been, so she’d rather just stay on her path and let things stay in the past. That can’t really be reconciled now. I get her.
Rhettie: He was chasing only cheese, you’ve said. Yeah. People get hurt.
Wally: Yeah, I remember. But Mom too, lots of the time. I think they read the same book. Ayn Rand probably.
Rhettie: You know Ayn Rand? We haven’t talked about this. My grandma hated when mom had to read her in school.
Wally: Yes. Something Dad said at my graduation about “what’s in the water” and how pages of ink of certain books “run through the river for a while.” He said, “Beware of the fountainhead,” so I looked it up. I know what it’s about, but I haven’t really read it. I just read about it. Oh, and Dad made up another word from all that, which I didn’t understand at all until I looked up The Fountainhead. Something he calls Pan-Randianism. I’m still not exactly sure what he meant.
Rhettie: Do you remember what he said? She was a sort of philosopher too. Maybe it’s tied to her philosophy. She called it Objectivism. I know about her mostly because of how my grandma despised her ideas and her books.
Wally: Yeah, he said something about it justifying chasing and eating any cheese with fake reasoning. Yeah, he actually wrote CHEESONING! on one of his papers about “Carpet Crawlers.” He was just messing around and he didn’t write more about it. It’s the only place I’ve seen cheesoning in his notes. I also remember now that the Pan in Pan-Randianism meant she had a way of justifying anything we wanted to do, not just for getting material things and money.
Rhettie: My grandma would probably like your dad.
Wally: I remember some of his notes talking about our ideas about reality, our assumptions about happiness and everything, being from what’s dissolved in the water we’re swimming in. “It’s what’s in the water that makes what’s so so.” He was referring to the Three Fish joke, like David Foster Wallace used in his This is Water speech. He liked him.
Rhettie: I don’t know that. This is water? I don’t know that.
Wally: That’s okay. Hey, are those fruit trees over there?
Rhettie: Yeah, some. Most have died. Let’s go check them out.
Wally: (while walking) Hey listen, I’ve been thinking. You know, we’ve been talking about this musical thing. I mean…I wanna help you do the musical thing still, of course, but reading through all Dad’s stuff and thinking about the story of the Stralfs and Bug Stu and all, and this Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album…these are the kind of things I’ve been thinking about for probably ten years. I don’t want to end up like my dad with all these papers and thought, but no mind to do anything with them. And I know you connect with this stuff, too.
Nobody’s really trying to connect the dots about what makes so so or what makes Is be. Dad realized he was one of those kinds of makers. He was in marketing, making people’s realities, and it wasn’t for the people. That’s what I’ve been doing too. But I couldn’t justify getting out. I couldn’t see the bigger picture. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been excited about. That’s what you noticed a couple of weeks ago that mentioned when we got here. I’m just trying to be careful about saying what it is I guess.
Rhettie: Okay good. And thanks for telling me. I’ve never been in marketing, but I think I understand.
Wally: Yeah, you don’t have to be in marketing to get this. You don’t even have to be in marketing to be afraid of getting out. I mean getting out of this way of thinking. Cheesoning and stuff. Pan-Randianism.
Rhettie: Hey, these are my two favorite trees out here. That one’s a persimmon, and this one’s a pawpaw. But try to imagine this all in the summer. I love Thanksgiving, but it’s kind of bleak, color-wise. Leaves are mostly gone, there aren’t any wildflowers, the black raspberry bushes are just thorns. I’m imagining it’s…July 1st. Black raspberries are ready, the wildflowers are up, and there are buzzing bugs and singing frogs at the pond. It’s the best time to be out here.
Wally: Okay, it’s July 1st. Hey I know — you can close your eyes and think of that, but I sent you a link to the Carpet Crawlers song. Let’s listen to that together. You’ve gotta have earbuds in. You got em, right? You miss too much of the feeling if you don’t have it either loud or on earbuds. And then I want to read you something when it’s done. I’m listening too. (You might might want to click there and listen to a little at least -lyrics are included.)
(It’s five minutes long, and they make just a couple of comments during the song)
Rhettie: Wally, why didn’t we get music like this?
Wally: I don’t think it would be very popular. It was only in for a few years.
Rhettie: It’s not just the sound, it’s the words. You can’t read Ayn Rand and listen to this. “We’ve got to get in to get out.” Yes, that’s the chant we hear. “Pulled up by a magnet, believing they’re free.”
Wally: It goes with our wiring. All we need is justification.
Rhettie: I don’t want to think about Pan-Randianism right now. I’m just gonna let it finish and be quiet. (The song finishes a few minutes later.)
Wally: Okay. My dad started a poem about this. Well, maybe he just did a short poem. It’s just two stanza’s, but I’m adding a third. He did some research on the album. He was surprised at their lyrics, they’re actually Peter Gabriel’s lyrics on this album, because he was only twenty-four when he wrote them.
And Genesis had done all this British pastoral-progressive stuff, and this was different for them, because it’s set in New York City and like, dark, but hopeful or perceptive or something. They’d been together seven years, and Peter Gabriel left after this album, which is like “the Ulysses of concept albums,” it said in The New Yorker a while back. Pretty cool. It was actually released on November 18, 1974, so about this time of year. Funny.
It’d be cool if you could get music on that STQRY app, and this would be great. It’s so different. Anyway, okay, back to July 1st, and you should close your eyes, and imagine you knew a guy that had been the most Pan-Randian disciple of “If it feels good, think it and do it” imaginable for twenty years, and he’s waking up, and he writes this after listening to that song and others and reading the lyrics seriously for the first time.
Wally: I’m going to read it slowly.
Why’d I buy this tale I bought?
To flail against the cage it wrought?
This age tried fixing fear and dread.
No sages saw just where that’s led.
The Want of More and limits shed.
But still dependent, slaves instead.
Someone sang the song I’d sought.
I’d sung that song but hadn’t thought
of what it meant or what he saw,
those decades back, so young and all,
their seventh year, released that Fall.
It calls the Crawlers from their crawl.
Now here’s what I added:
Someone wrote a thing I’d thought.
I’d thought that thing but thought I ought
to work on it and maybe see
if another would agree with me,
if another would join me…and we
could qualify…what makes Is be.
Rhettie: (Opens her eyes suddenly) Me?
Wally: I think maybe we should be thinking bigger. Together. Go deeper. You know, you’re not the everyday…whatever you are.
Rhettie: (Rhettie tears up a little, smiling still) I’m not? Not to you? I’m not a goofy girl with a goofy idea?
Wally: No…you are. And I’m a goofy guy with a goofy idea I’ve never even talked to anyone about. But it goes with what you’re doing. It’d be more than the story of Stu and the musicals and the retreats even.
Rhettie: It’s not already too big? Too much? (Still smiling)
Wally: It probably is. Well actually, this would just add another dimension to your idea. Your awesome idea. I just see it differently now. I’ve always loved it, you know. “The Landing” means something bigger to me now. Would you do me a favor? A big favor?
Rhettie: It’s sounds like it’s gonna be something I’d say yes to. What though?
Wally: Would you come with me to meet my dad, and tell him what you think of his stuff and this music and that we’re gonna use both and try to do these Landings and Insteadlings or whatever, and thank him for helping us?
Rhettie: He would understand? I mean, he’s still able to make sense of things?
Wally: Yes. On good days. And maybe I’m wrong. And maybe we can’t know. But we will know if he smiles. And if we don’t try, we’ll never know. I know you would make him smile anyway, just by meeting him with me. We can play the song.
Rhettie: Let’s. And yes, let’s do it all. I think we’re sure enough to try. That’s what my grandma would say. We’re sure enough to try. Yes. And I guess we’re ready to get some helpers.
They both beamed and then nodded their heads as a sort of unspoken pact, then they talked nearly over each other all the way back in the car to Willow Slough and J.C. Murphey Lake, where Wally got his car and headed back to Lafayette with The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway blaring.
Then Rhettie headed back to her grandma and grandpa’s farm and called her parents to talk more about their Genesis days and the album that she knew they’d loved too.
Something seemed to finally be moving them to boldly go.
Thanks for reading.