This shouldn't make me laugh, but it does.
My office is a long way from home, even by Houston standards. I face a round trip of roughly seventy miles, every single day. Each year, just in the simple, joyless task of commuting, I am driving 15,400 miles.
That's a ridiculous amount of driving. How ridiculous? Well, intrepid reader, if I were to drive from Houston to Los Angeles, and from there to San Francisco, and from there to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, and then take the Trans-Canada Highway through Calgary, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City, afterward heading south through Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Miami, then cut west across Florida, turn north, and take I-10 through New Orleans back to Houston, I would have driven only 8,900 miles. That leaves enough miles left over for two round trips from Houston to Buffalo. Take a minute. Look at a map. It's a ridiculous amount of driving. And all I see for all my driving is an endless string of fast food joints and the fifteen-story illuminated white cross the Southern Baptists built down near the I-45 cloverleaf. It's depressing.
So thank goodness for audio books.
I'm listening to one right now, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Jon Ronson's investigation of the US Army's forays into the paranormal. It's a bizarre and gripping story.
One of Ronson's interviewees claims that the Army had established a hierarchy of stealth skills for its paranormal forces. Level One is to subsist for a month on a diet of nuts and grains. Level Two is to master invisibility. Level Three is harnessing sufficient mind power to kill goats, simply by staring at them. These so-called "Black Operations" have been lavishly funded by the US government, which is clearly beside itself over the prospect of fielding an army of invisible vegan warriors who can kill small livestock at will.
Invisibility, Ronson's source explains, doesn't necessarily mean the ability to dematerialize. It simply means that the subject can "hide in plain sight;" that he (or she, although there is a remarkable dearth of women pursuing these things) can move in public without detection, like a boat that inexplicably leaves no wake, no ripple in the water.
I have concluded, intrepid readers, that I am close to achieving invisibility. I am on the cusp of becoming a Ninja.
Two weeks ago, one of the local news programs interviewed me, in connection to a local school board election. I wasn't running, but had been active in the campaign. Despite the reporter having written down my name, despite her having called me to double check the spelling of my name, when my large middle-aged head appeared on the 6:00 news, the graphic underneath it said, "Cort McCurry, Concerned Parent."
Yesterday, a lady at Church, a delightful, kind, friendly woman, someone who has known me for two decades, introduced me to a group of Primary children as "Brother McMurtry." And she said it three times: McMurtry, McMurtry, McMurtry.
I've written previously about the remarkable variety of sobriquets with which I've been saddled by friends and neighbors. It is a rich pageant: Kurt Corky Corey Coit Colt Curry Carey Carl Cole Horton (don't ask) Stephen (really don't ask) Peter (seriously, it's a long story) and my personal favorite, courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club, Kirk McGurkle. Now McCurry and McMurtry enter the panoply. People named Bob Smith don't have this problem.
What explains it? It's four lousy syllables, after all, all blessedly free of long runs of grouped consonants and disconcerting graphemes, like umlauts and tildes. I can understand honest spelling errors, adding a "u" to "Cort" or dropping the "a" from my last name, but "Kirk McGurkle"? "Mister McCurry"? "Horton"? I mean, come on!
Mr. Ronson has helped me to see the light. There's some serious mojo at work here, folks. Somehow, using powers far beyond those of mortal men, I am becoming invisible (a feat rarely accomplished by anyone wearing size 42 pants). Today, I am Coit McMurtry. Tomorrow, I am just a shadow. The day after that, it's on to Level Three.
Goats everywhere are terrified.