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There, there, nebulae

BY BEAU ELLIOT | DECEMBER 08, 2009 7:30 AM

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So a major winter storm is coming, public radio warns me in that grave, sonorous manner that public radio adopts because, let’s face it, these are grave, sonorous times.

I need new boots, I tell public radio, but public radio doesn’t seem to hear me. No, it (not they) tells me every 15 minutes or so that a major winter storm is coming. A blizzard, in fact. Thanks, public radio, I say.

I need new boots because I have fully enjoyed my current boots. “Fully enjoyed” in this context is a polite term for I have worn these boots for so many years that the soles are no longer what a reasonable person (which I have never claimed to be) would call soles. A reasonable person would describe the soles of my boots as not soles but some indescribable material probably created in the Large Hadron Collider. Not that that facility is exactly up and running just yet (if “running” is the word for something that pretty much sits in one place).

I worry about the Large Hadron Collider sometimes. Well, when I’m not worrying about major winter storms bearing down on Iowa. And wondering why they are always “Major” winter storms and not, say, Colonel winter storms or General winter storms. You have to admit, a General winter storm sounds as though it could turn Iowa into Afghanistan, not that I’m suggesting we should try this at home.

Besides, the economic recession is already doing its best to turn Iowa into Afghanistan.

I do not, like some worrywarts, worry about the Large Hadron Collider creating black holes that will swallow the Earth like BLAP. Because, first of all, were that to happen, we wouldn’t know it. We’d be gone, zip, swimming to further nebulae, in the words of Apollinaire, who swam to further nebulae in 1918 — which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much before anyone dreamed of the Large Hadron Collider. Not to mention black holes.

And in any case, any black holes that the Large Hadron Collider might create would be minuscule and would be gone, zip, before you knew they were there. At least that’s what I think an astrophysicist said, gravely, sonorously, on public radio around a year ago. And, he pointed out, this process goes on all the time naturally when the Sun’s radiation hits the upper-upper atmosphere.

They’re minuscule black holes and gone, zip, before you know they’re there. So there’s almost no there there, to borrow the words of Gertrude Stein.

No there there. Sounds like the soles of my boots.

Well, you say, being reasonable and all, you could always buy new boots.

And you’d be right. Except that — have you noticed? — there’s almost no place in downtown Iowa City to buy new boots. Something about the economy, I guess. Plenty of places to buy a beer or a cocktail, but boots? These are the thoughts you have when you don’t have a car and walk everywhere. Which is why there’s no there there when it comes to your soles.

(Oh, sure, there is one place downtown to buy boots, but it seems to target an audience somewhat above my income level. Just to use the polite phrase.)

Why don’t you think about something important instead of boots? myself asks me. Such as the health-care debate in the Senate? Or the climate-change conference in Copenhagen?

The health-care debate in the Senate — there’s a laugh a minute. First, the G-No-P says health-care reform is too expensive; then, Republicans try to strip the bill of all the cost-cutting measures.

And Copenhagen? Call me a cynic (go ahead; I can take it), but I suspect the climate-change policy that will come out of Copenhagen will look a whole lot like my boots.

Did I mention I need new boots?


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