Editors Note:

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

In Awe of 'Rivethead'

I have a new hero and his name is Ben Hamper. Okay, so I’d never heard of the guy before a few days ago, when I picked up his memoir ’Rivethead’ in a Myrtle Beach bookstore. But 234 pages later, I’m thinking of building a statue to the diminutive author. Why the unseemly adoration? Simple, Hamper has accomplished exactly what I yearn to do: turn his years at (what often feels like) a dead-end job into an enlightening tome for the masses. Admittedly, he had it far rougher than your own whiny lenslinger. The son of a son of a son of a Flint, Michigan autoworker, Hamper reluctantly followed his own lack of ambition into the GM truck factory he grew up hating from afar. Once inside the belly of the beast, he picked up the rivet gun and tried to turn his brain off. But it didn’t work. Everywhere he looked, he saw the casualties of the assembly line: the burn-outs, the moronic management, the soul-sucking repetition of mass production. So he did what any born writer would do, he scribbled intensely between shifts and, when not too heavily intoxicated, punished his typewriter with his prose and pain.

From there Hamper’s path differs from mine, for he gained the attention of hometown heretic Michael Moore - who published his raucous columns in the 'Flint Voice'. This exposure brought him national attention, but he kept driving rivets home for an inflated wage until the constant lay-offs, the alcohol abuse and the suffocating stifle of assembly line existence drove him to the very edge of madness. That part I’d like to skip, but I can certainly identify with Hamper’s unhinged take on a profession that doesn’t make as much sense as perhaps it should. As a reader (and a wannabe author), I cannot help but admire his savage eloquence, his gonzo style and his blistering insistence on telling the truth. Every industry should have a ‘Rivethead’ - and perhaps, just perhaps, a ‘Lenslinger’ as well.

Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Coastal Report

Pre-Fab VacaMidway through my summer respite, it has occured to me to crack open the laptop. I've forgotten why exactly, but here I sit - staring back at you without thesis, thought or reason. But I've never let a lack of lesson plan stop me before, so let's get started, shall we? I join you from the sandy confines of an anonymous high-rise, somewhere on the northern edge of the quiet hamlet of Myrtle Beach. While it's no private island with matching helicopter, know that your lowly lenslinger is being well cared for; awakened at daybreak, dragged to the shore, pummeled by offspring and fed continuously, I take my coffee at nine, my tea at noon and my whiskey at dusk. But that's not important now, what is important is that I shake myself from this leisurely haze and offer you something substantial for your time.... Nope, I got nothin' - let's show some slides!

North Myrtle BeachI find I vacation like I live, within reach of others I never know. Maybe someday I'll take my holiday atop some distant, thoughtful peak, but as long as my girls underfoot I have a feeling we'll seek out the low-lying and the shrill. Come to think of it, no two words better describe this gaudy edge of the lesser of the Carolinas, a swath of urban sprawl marring a once probably pristine shore - a wretched hive of shirtless delinquents, sun-fried families and the occasional giant neon crab. Man, I love this place! Where else can an otherwise reserved middle manager types wander up and down the dune in blazing orange shorts with piped floral inlay and feel pretty god about himself? Throw in some black socks and a lighthouse t-shirt and you have the typical cubicle dork's idea of quality cabana-wear - at least the one I'm watching wrestle with a heftier beach chair, anyway. As one who underdresses for a living, it offends me when the average Caucasian Dad can't seem to get it right.

Lazy RiverBut I didn't open a portal to cyberspace to pretend I know anything about fashion. Rather, I'd like to speak on something I've been pondering since I arrived here: Why would anyone travel excruciating hours in a cooped-up SUV, only to forgo the wide-open acreage of the Atlantic Ocean for the clogged-up turnpike of a so-called 'lazy river'? Sure, the kids dig it - but when I was their age I thought 'The Gong Show' was nuanced viewing. No, the lazy river is anything but for a father of two dragged into this twisty abyss - only to be kicked, gouged and molested by a gang of tweenster ruffians bent on extended underwater subterfuge. Heck, one scruffy Dad put up with it for only a couple of laps before he belted out a homicidal war-cry and lunged for one of the little bastards with a day-glo pool noodle. Eventually, they let me back in, as long as I promised to keep my pissy attitude and any found weaponry to myself. Lousy lifeguard...

Tubular!Once we shook the beefy young whistle jockey, we found conditions in the open surf far less restrictive. There my daughters and I milked a few convenient store boogie boards for w-a-y more than they were worth, until one of us got too much saltwater up his whiskers and had to be dragged to shore by his mortified offspring. I suppose I could have stuck it out there in the curl, but I never could pass up a chance to embarrass those two young ladies who share my DNA. Consider it a testament of my love, I tell them as I lurch from tidal pool to tidal pool with the grace and bellow of a beached whale. If I didn't care deeply for them, would I work so hard to find new ways to bring shame to us all? By then of course, they're not talking to me, in fact they're adept at moving away from me as if we don't know each other. Wait 'til the prom, ladies, wait 'til the prom.

Seaside ShellyJust ask their mother. Immune to my buffoonery and deaf to my lamentations, this brute of a woman holds a Masters Degree in defusing Stewie. Perhaps it's due to her long-term exposure to my stale patter, by chance it's because she stopped taking me seriously a half hour after she met me, maybe it has something to do with her marathon stretches in weekend ER. Whatever the reason, no one can sedate me from afar quite like my bride of sixteen years. No doubt it's something she learned back in The Mullet Years, that formulative stage of our marriage when she was studying emergency medicine while I mastered the art of TV news goobery. Sorry about that babe, but one of us had to marry up. Besides, I've matured a wee bit over the years - even if I did startle you from your nap this afternoon by laughing uncontrollably at that 'SpongeBob SquarePants' rerun.

A man's got to unwind somehow...