Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.

#389: MY LOVE OF BOOKS HAS TAKEN ME FAR

I spent the last two days selling books for an organization that supports Canadian-owned book publishers. So you don't get the wrong idea, this is not my day job. I just like to sit in massive warehouse-like buildings hocking locally authored books at agricultural trade shows.

Actually, no, I don't. I mean, I like the hocking-books part. I used to do that for a bare pittance of a living before I married the Fiery One, and I miss it dearly. What I was none too crazy about was the venue. If you were paying attention four or five sentences ago, I typed the words "agricultural trade show". This means that the place was teeming with cowboys and cowgirls (I must stop to wonder about the infantilization of cowmen and cowwomen at some point) and tradespeople who were trying to sell brooms, fishing trips, miniature donkeys, anything made from alpaca wool, fudge, massive vehicles, mattress pads, retirement communities, and rat killer.

The building I was in opened into another that housed alpacas, miniature donkeys, cattle, and all kinds of horses. The huge warehouse door between the humans and the beasts was left wide open throughout the two days that I was there, supposedly to keep the animals from overheating. My thinking on the matter was that they should have moved in a huge fan and pulled the door closed, because the smell of manure and the heavy dust in the air was hard to take. When I coughed brown chunks out of my lungs this morning in the shower, I tried not to think about what I had been inhaling over the previous two days.

There were extended periods when the human traffic would dwindle between rodeos and auctions, and then I would pick up my pen and take notes about the people walking by. The snark can't stop just because I don't have someone next to me to share it with:

  • A girl came into the booth wearing a pin that said "I ♥ ME". Yay. You go girl. Unless the ME part was actually an acronym for something like Mennonite Eulogists or Mandatory Exorcisms or Malevolent Entities or Mongo Erections or Matriuschka Eggs or Masochistic Eritreans or Milk Enemas. Still, yay you. Wear your fetish with pride.

  • Watching all those people walk by caused me to feel a genuine wonderment at how it is that most people ever end up having sex. By the looks of most of the young men, it appeared that they had been hanging around the farm chemicals too long without proper protective equipment.

  • I have not been so immersed as I was in the smell of that agricultural show in many years. The heady sweetness of the cow and horse manure was cut with the sharp, sour smell of pig urine. It permeated my hair and clothing and was my perfume when I went home at night. My hotness increased immeasurably, as did my ability to freak out the cat.

  • I saw a whole bunch of young men walking around with matching sticks. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what kind of sports team they were all on before I realized that they were actually carrying cattle prods. If they were on some kind of sports team, I don't want to know what it is.

  • When I was seen eating a banana by a man selling beef magazines, he shouted out to me: Yer into that health food, aren't ya? That's right, buddy, my banana makes me some kind of health freak next to a person whose intestines likely resemble sewer pipes with bad scale buildup. Would it make him more comfortable if I went into the other room and started chewing on one of the cows? Because it wouldn't have made me more comfortable. I kind of preferred the uncomplaining nature of my banana, the health nut that I am.

  • I totally really did see the following outfit on a young cowgirl: track pants and a hoodie brought elegantly together by a huge silver belt buckle the size of my hand with all my fingers extended.

    Hold your hand out in front of you and spread your fingers. Imagine that your hand is a silver belt buckle. Now promise never to wear one with your active wear. Ever.

  • The people in the surrounding booths seemed nice, but I must say that I was very much out of my element. On my left was a booth advertising a new health magazine that was in severe need of a redesign already; facing me were three boothes advertising pre-fab retirement communities, a beef magazine, and northern fishing camps; on my right was a booth promoting a Christian highschool. I don't mean to bash anyone, but bad design, social separation of our elders, beef, hunting, and pervasive Christian influence are peaves of mine.

  • One good thing about working in a place filled with livestock is that you can fart and no one notices.

  • I tried to steal cookies from the retirement community booth, but they wouldn't let me unless I took one of their catalogues. I just leafed through it, and it's damn creepy. Here, let me show you a bit of what I mean and possibly break the law simultaneously:

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    See that younger woman at the top right? She's is one of the staff members who plans your activities, and she attends all the events. You have to hang out with her and be reminded constantly that your event has been facillitated by someone. You did not know that you were this helpless, did you? Don't you feel relieved to know your own feebleness? Just think of the sheer number of possible dangerous scenarios that have been averted!
    • They call it a catalogue, but there is absolutely no information about getting one of these communities built or the cost involved or age limits or anything concrete. It just waxes on about how everything is taken care of for you and how you will make friends.
    • Beginning with the table of contents, the company manages to use not-so-subtle reverse psychology through their lofty section headings to insinuate that you are swiftly running down hill and need outside help to be inspired, to rejuvenate, and to connect socially.
    • They offer an almost entirely insular life where many of your activities with other residents are organized by some thirty-year-old, and any activities away from the "masterpiece" are "off site". You, too, can aspire to be and pay handsomely to become an institutionalized "resident".
    • They build a stretch of fake shop fronts inside the complex with signs that say things like "Bistro" and "Hair Salon". It reminds me of The Island in the 1960s British television series "The Prisoner". They are all just parts of the whole "majestic" beast with different facades.
    It seems so sad to me that such a large part of our population, our elders, is being shut away and silenced. It is even sadder that so many are being convinced of the need for this and are paying to have it done. It is so sanitized, so homogeneous. Not only do we miss out on relationships with our elders, but we do not even get to see the faces of the aged when they are shut away on little colonies. Does this remind anyone of "Logan's Run"?

  • Next time I do this sort of thing, I am going to come prepared with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, because over the last two days I have subsisted on potato chips, burgers, fries, fudge, and bottled water. Oh, and that banana. My digestive system hates me, and broccoli never looked so good.



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    "The Old Prison" by Judith Wright

  • Tuesday Was a Glo-Ball Waiting to Happen