ModelStory: Set in Stone

IMG_2885The fossilized footprints of a tiny, undiscovered Triassic dinosaur secreted away in Felicia’s enormous backpack will one day leave a permanent impression on her life.

She chipped them from the Chinle Formation – inside Many Lost Ways National Park – so if the small square of stone is found out, it’s a $10,000 fine and three years imprisonment.

But she sees herself as a scientist and isn’t she here doing research for her BS in geology?

She closes her eyes and daydreams with the sun on her face.

Yes, a scientist and one day that stone, carefully polished and mounted, will hang behind her desk and students will marvel at its beauty and the brilliant professor who collected it.

That’s the dream but here’s the problem: Felicia is a struggling student. Geology isn’t her passion.

Cutting and polishing stone is and she’s darn good at it. She has a remarkable eye for the textures and colors, which suits her more to a career in countertops or terrazzo floors – good paths in an age of diminishing craftsmanship – but we’ll get to that.

First she needs to graduate.

(Don’t worry about the Federal Penitentiary. She won’t get caught.)

Felicia is carrying a 2.73 grade point average. It is her final semester. She needs every one of the 20 credits on her schedule to receive her degree.

Fifteen credits are actual classes and she’s pedaling hard for four Bs and a C. The other five credits are the self-study “senior symposium” she sold to the guidance office.

Add Working the System to polishing rocks. She’s good at that, too.

She’s convinced the school that a seven-day backpacking trip with her friend Cameron (an actual geology student) is worth five credits. They’ll co-write a paper, give an oral presentation and voila, she’ll walk the stage with a 3.0.


Then a half-hearted effort at getting into grad school, but she doesn’t really want it and she can’t overcome her transcripts anyway. She will apply to three schools and be accepted by none.


There’s a guy who loves her and they’ll do well. She’ll fall back on her Way with People and sell corrugated packaging, adjust claims and eventually inspect worksites for OSHA. (Good thing that Federal background check came up clean).

Years from now she and hubby will move into a new house. The granite countertop guy will be there when the movers split open a fatigued old box and the fossilized footprints of a tiny, undiscovered Triassic dinosaur will tumble out.

A pot of coffee and a long conversation later, she’ll partner with the countertop guy and the little contractor will do $7 million the next year.

During that year, Professor Cameron will lead her annual “senior symposium” to Many Lost Ways. Secreted in her giant backpack will be the fossilized footprints of a tiny Triassic dinosaur. She’ll have a decision to make: Discovering them would define her career, but she will probably just leave them behind.

(Scratchbuilt Play-Doh backpacks, Preiser figures.)


Good Sense, Even at the Very Noisy Circus

The monster truck show came to town last week, leaving us much to ponder about not-quite-sports and the people who live in the not-quite-mainstream.

???????????????????????????????Nevermind the monster trucks doing their wheeled two-step over the corpses of some late-90s Dodge Neons.

Nevermind the scripted minibike race between the Home Team and a villainous opponent from a neighboring state.

Nevermind the lawnmower races, nevermind the ceaseless sales pitch for monster truck merchandise.

For all that, I could not take my eyes off the MC.

He was an old-school ringmaster straight from the Big Top, updated with crisp white shirt and wireless headset.

A traveling showman bringing us spectacles wondrous and bizarre, he only barely hid his shame at so shamelessly efforting to separate us from our money.

What’s the deal with this guy, do you think? Is that a “real job”? Where does he fit in the hierarchy of teachers, lawyers, truck drivers and bean counters?

I don’t think he cares. Isn’t that the beauty of it?

See, I was raised by prudent, mainstream achievers to achieve mainstream, prudent things. My upbringing tells me look down my nose at him and say something about how he needs to grow up, be “productive.”

But I don’t want him to.

I never wanted to grow up and do anything productive myself. Frankly I’m not sure I have. But life happens and one day you realize you’ve surrendered to good sense and prudence. You’re part of the hive, doing what you’re told. Jobwise at least, careerily speaking, you’re on the path of least resistance.

The straight and narrow.

Turns out it’s … straight and narrow. Passionless, safe, sensible, indoor, daytime work in exchange for just enough to keep you coming back.

I want the monster truck guy to be the antidote to that. I want to believe he’s run away with the circus, told prudence and good sense to pound sand, and hasn’t given it a second thought.

Don’t you wonder?

What did he set out to do for a living, and what crooked path landed him here?

Does he feel like something went wrong or does he feel quite the opposite?

How long does he plan to do this, and what is he shooting for next?

For heaven’s sake, what do his parents think?

We may never know. The media contact at the company that produces the monster truck show (yes, they do circuses, too) did not respond to repeated requests to interview the monster truck MC.

Anyway, I doubt the answers would be as liberating as I imagine. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

He was probably raised by showfolk and there was no great leap, no wandering in the desert, no breaking of shackles to pursue this dream. He probably grew up in a monster truck world and is doing exactly what’s expected.

And don’t let the big tires and wicked names fool you. Monster truck people are as sensible as they come:

During the “freestyle competition,” each truck is allotted sixty seconds to romp around the arena in search of the most extreme, crowd pleasing stunts. Each time one roared full throttle toward the heap of crumpled Neons, I hoped for it to launch a dozen stories into the air and land with a devastating crash and a great cloud of dirt and parts, maybe fire.

Instead they each braked at the last and rolled over the cars with a banal crunch.

Prudence and good sense, even at the monster truck show.

What a bummer.