Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Slinky: Secrets of the Divine Coil, Who guessed that the future really would be in plastics?

 I wrote the following piece inspired by Ed Shirley's comment to a Freshman Studies class at St. Edward's (it's near the end about stretching a Slinky out). Ed died suddenly a little while back and a variety of his possessions were just auctioned off to fund an All Faiths Meditation Garden at the school. I knew I had to own his Slinky. And now I do.

 BYLINE: joe o'connell   

DATE: March 6, 1997
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
PAGE: 57

I have found God and He is Slinky. I confess, for many years the closest I came to a church was watching fat men with Astroturf hair and bad suits punch squirming people in the face on Austin Access Television (your hemorrhoids are HEALED). My favorite was the bearded guy from California who smoked huge cigars and showed footage of his large-breasted girlfriend riding one of his many horses (God don't work for free, but he loves to play the ponies).

No, religion and I were distant relatives. I was raised in the Catholic Church, but we moved when the parishioners complained about the campfire. From there I went straight to hell -- public schools.Austin schools, contrary to rumors propagated by heathen Zoroastrians, are full of prayer (Dear God, don't let Eddie Lumbago, the guy with one eye and a fashionably shaven head kill me.)  My personal prayer was answered and I graduated.

In college, I prayed that I wouldn't graduate and that my parents would keep the checks a-coming. God failed me. After six years, 30 gallons of trash can punch, 873 pizzas, 247.5 cases of beer, and three blackouts (or so I'm told), I was the proud owner of a fine looking piece of paper. My dark night of the soul had finally arrived.I was told to go forth wearing suit and tie and get thyself a job.

What tiny splatter of faith I had amassed was severely shaken. Wasn't this kind of like what those religious guys on bicycles did while sweating Rorschach inkblots of the fat Elvis onto their short-sleevedwhite shirts? Under duress and still recovering from that college hangover, I moved to small-town Texas, found semi- gainful employment and realized I was surely a sinner. A few years dating a Baptist believer from Baylor (sinning is BAD, BAD; let's do it again) offered little relief.

So I moved back to Austin and tried to make sense of it all. Was God dead? Was there really such thing as original sin? Which is better, pizza or Chinese food? (Mexican food, of course, damned non- believer!) Is God really a right-winger as Jack Chambers, Austin's misshapen Rush Limbaugh in training would have us believe?

Why, chicken have wings, I thought. I'm not a chicken (beak, teak teak). I'm a human being, or reasonable facsimile of. I tried flapping my arms loudly, but accomplished little more than drawing a crowd to the grocery store (Aisle 5: catnip, catsup, cobalt) and being healed by Eddie Lumbago, who had grown up to have his own ACTV show, ``An Eye On God,'' and was coincidentally shopping for a blessed six-pack.

Dejected and dazed, I wandered down Aisle 7 (tobacco, toys, terra cotta) and saw Him. The answer was hidden in the name. How had I missed it? Slin-ky. I had found the key to Slin, ur, sin.

There was no denying it. I had rediscovered a secret every four-year-old knows instinctively. As long as there are stairs, Slinky will go down them. Slinky is eternal.

I fell to the linoleum in awe. I quickly wiped the awe off and examined him more closely. Oh, He had changed a bit from my childhood dabblings in the coiled arts. He had left the metal age behind and, verily, He was plastic. This change I accepted as part of the grand design. Slinky understood plastic allowed Him to be one color when seen from one side, and a separate color from the other. Desegregation! We are the world!

Then I began to wonder. Why is the word of Slinky not ringing through the streets and churches of the world? Where were the priests? The nuns wearing slinky Slinky outfits? Did they not know that the universe itself is coiled like a giant Slinky? Certainly the wisdom of the ages can be summed up thus: a Slinky stretched to its limits is but a wire. As are we all.

Ah, but in a moment of enlightenment I realized His servants had been under my nose the whole time (ahhhh-choo). The true believers were disguised as parents hosting birthday parties for little boys and girls with minds clear and ready for the Truth. And, most ingenious of all, followers were posing as credit card salesmen who doled out the sacred ``toys'' for merely completing a credit ``application.

''Since that day my tie hasn't felt as constricting and my job has been at least tolerable. I keep a shrine on my desk and coworkers stop by occasionally to let the Great One undulate between their fingers.The word of His divine coil is spreading quickly, with services scheduled regularly at a toy store near you. Last one there is a Frisbee lover.

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