Today is the first day of 2022. It’s been about 3 weeks now that I’ve been ruminating on writing a blog post only to be thwarted by my own numbed-out apathy. If there were an award for ignoring that little inspirational spark that tries to light, I’d have that one in the bag. Hell, I might even be able to teach a master class in avoidance and procrastination, if, you know… I could find the desire.
Anhedonia, party of one.
I did make some progress on the attempting to write something down front a few days ago, though! Go me, I plugged in my MacBook and charged it for the first time in months. However, I never actually cracked open the lid to do anything with it. This whizz-bang, swanky new computer that my family gave me for Christmas last year is lovely. In fact, it is the very same one that brought a tear to my eye because I was so surprised by it when I unwrapped it. And, also the very same one that were I to sell it as a used car might be described as “adult-owned, with low mileage.”
I am a slug.
In previous incarnations of myself, a few fleeting milliseconds of inspiration could usually be enough to carry me through to maaaaaybe writing something. Not in ’21, honey. I just fell short. In every way. I wrote nothing. I took few pictures. I shared nothing. I talked to no one.
At the stroke of midnight welcoming in 2021, it would have been hard to imagine that the year to come wouldn’t be better than the one that preceded it. I believed that things would improve. I really did. But as we know, kids, we have no control over anything but ourselves. And what didn’t improve, was me.
Many people suffered through their own illness or that of their loved ones. Thankfully, my immediate family didn’t get sick. Others felt the pain of trying to navigate through loss of work, issues with child and elder care. Thankfully, we didn’t. On paper, I can tally up the marks in my Wins and Losses columns and unequivocally say that I came out a winner. And yet, I spent most of my year in a state of burnout.
Most of my mental exhaustion was the direct result of my work life. I’ve made some changes to try rectify that but my 2021 work year can still eat a bag of dicks and wash it down with a nice folding chair to the face. My job and the way I was committed to doing it, completely drained my battery.
Once I’d leave work for the day, all of the air was let out of my balloon. Talking to people, going to the store, cleaning, recreating, making a phone call – they all became like my Mount Everest.
When goodhearted, well-intentioned people would email, text or message asking how I was doing – even being able to formulate a courteous reply like a normal human being went by the wayside. And the more people tried to reach out to me, the less and less I wanted to talk to them. It made my skin crawl to have another person communicating with me – even if it was personal and out of an abundance of care. See: “I gave at the office.”
Sometimes loving someone means leaving them alone but that seems to be the hardest trick to learn. We don’t often see this as an appropriate response – it’s typically seen as a signal of not caring.
In the moments when I willfully chose not to communicate, I did so on behalf of my own wellbeing. It’s nearly impossible for the person on the receiving end of the withdrawal to understand this. In the end, when you close off to people, the why doesn’t seem to be quite so important, they only feel the end result. Yes, I’ve burned some bridges. They were the choices I was capable of making at the time. While I am sorry if people felt discarded, I needed to do it. And so I try to make peace with that.
It is strange to me that ’21 is my year that wasn’t, moreso than ’20. Life is nothing if not mysterious.
Here now on this first day of the double deuce, I’ve been contemplating what part of myself I ghosted last year. What did I lose or quiet in order to survive? And it struck me that I have forgotten how to see beautiful things. I don’t remember what it feels like to follow a whim just because. My fancy hasn’t been tickled in quite some time. I’ve poured all of my secret fun-time sauce into surviving and left nothing to slather on the bread of my happiness sandwich. No glitter. No silly. No fun for fun’s sake. Just existing. When did I become so afraid of being my authentic self even when no one else is looking?
What. The. Fuck. WHATTHEFUCK!?
What the hell kind of life is that?
At the risk of making any promises or plans that will inevitably set me up for failure with regimentation, my only goal for this new year is to try to remember that life is indeed full of weird, wonderful, beautiful things and experiences. And when I fail, to try to remember that if I want to, I can try again. I don’t need to explain my actions or inactions to anyone. The only thing that I owe is to myself ~ a shot at feeling happy.
Zipping along on I-40 East, I saw the white geodesic ball of Area 66 come into view. “What the…?” escaped my lips as it drew closer.
There was nothing that would have stopped me from exiting the highway to get a look at this nonsense. Besides, my fingers were frozen in my leather gloves in the chilly January air. The temperature hovered in the low 40’s that morning. Warming them up was the perfect excuse for a stop.
It was still early in the morning when I pulled in. The UFO museum inside was not yet open. But I did get to walk around and take in this curious sight.
As I walked around the lot, I wasn’t sure that even if the museum were open that I’d have payed to take a look. But, I love that such places still manage to pull in enough curious customers to exist.
Between you and me, UFO-stuff freaks me out. I think if I ever saw a flying saucer or an alien, I would just die immediately.
One interesting point of note is the Ford Arizona Proving Ground sign at the entrance to Area 66. You can see on Google Maps satellite view that the proving grounds, which now belong to Chrysler, are still an active site. I wonder if Area 66 was once the entrance or if these folks just picked up the sign when Ford moved along? Or… maybe it was aliens.
Area 66 12716 Alamo Road Yucca, AZ 86438
Mail Pouch Barn at Cantagree Farm – Stanfordville, New York
Any road trip that includes a pitstop at a Mail Pouch Barn is a good day.
One of the “local” areas that I love riding my motorcycle is Duchess County, New York. Granted from where I live on Long Island, it takes a couple hours to get to get there but a good chunk of the gettin’ there is a big part of the fun.
Much of Duchess has my favorite type of riding – rambling roads that line horse and other farms, big green rolling hills, small towny towns and less traffic than some of the neighboring counties.
In addition to great riding, there are some roadside sights that I love in the county. Just up the road from Wing’s Castle is one of the southern portion of New York State’s few Mail Pouch Tobacco barns. You’ll find it on Duell Road in Stanfordville.
Though the western tier and the most northern portions of the state do have a good handful of Mail Pouch Tobacco barns, they are hard to come by in this neck of the woods. What we’ll find here downstate more often are city-based mural ads on brick buildings.
Mail Pouch Barn Relocated
A quick search around the web turned up a great blog post from Chuck the Writer with information about how this barn was actually relocated to the wonderfully named Cantagree Farm from Spring Green, Pennsylvania by former co-publisher of the Daily New and U.S News and World Report Fred Drasner. In 2003, the renovated farmhouse on the property was featured in Architectural Digest.
It makes me so happy when I am able to find information online about such sights. I hope that other curious bloggers continue to research and share their findings. Documenting the world around us is important. Keep exploring, keep sharing, and thank you!
But before I knew that muffler men were indeed referred to as muffler men, I knew that they existed in a peripheral sense. You see, we have a muffler man Indian here on Long Island. I’d passed the Elmsford, NY Bunyan many times and mini-golfed with a halfwit in Seaside Heights, NJ.
Muffler men have long been a part of my universe. They were simply waiting for me to wake up to them.
Muffler Men – The Same But Different
Now, I’m sharp enough to know that some people think my level of interest and muffler man visitation is a waste of energy. The idea of traveling around and looking at big dumb fiberglass statues that “look the same” as all the other big dumb fiberglass statues I’ve seen before is ridiculous. But who needs that kind of negativity in their lives?
Yes, it’s true that they share the same basic DNA. And yet, these same-old-same-olds do have their own personalities, if you will. Each with little details that set them apart from one another that the uninformed might not be aware of. From accessories like hats, hamburgers, eyelashes and chest hair, the giants do have their own unique flair.
It has also occurred to me that each one is infused with the flavor of their locale. They take on the vibe of their surroundings as they become infused with the landscape, neighborhood, or the personality of the owner.
You hear it all the time, “people are the same everywhere.” Hell, I’ve said it myself and meant it. But that sentiment is both true and false depending on the parameters and nuance you wrap around it. The same is true for big fiberglass people. They’re all the same, but different.
Take a moment to consider the thought process of the person charged with repainting the Uniontown, Pa. muffler man. They looked at his face, squinted their eyes and said “something is missing…”
And then someone somewhere else looked at the Lake George, NY Around the World mini-golf muffler man and said, “Yeah! Him, too! …but only on the right eye.”
Tales of Muffler Men Resurrection
When cruising around if I know a muffler man is close by, even if I’ve previously visited, I will typically stop to see what’s doing.
Over time the overall condition of the giants will change due to wind, sun, storms,… people hitting them with their cars. When you pull up to find one repaired or in better condition then when you last saw it, I’m not gonna lie – it’s kind of exciting. It’s heartwarming when someone loves what you love.
Having passed by the Hancock, Massachusetts giant a few times over the years, I got to witness his resurrection. He’d been suffering from a terrible case of the peels and it was great to see him freshly painted again.
Check out his blue bowtie – now red, nails on fleek, and sporting a fresh baseball cap.
Just look at those beautifully manicured nails!
Elmsford, New York
Another case of a giant who needed some TLC was the Elmsford, New York Bunyan. He stood armless for years. This spring (2021) when I stopped by, I was glad to see he’s got at least one ticket to the gun show again.
Sadly, the green-eyed giant is now starting to peel.
The first time that I pulled up to the House of Doors in Cheshire, Connecticut years ago I was surprised to find nothing more than a pair of muffler pants. Doh!
Saved! The muff was returned to flag holding service!
He too was little more than a pair of muffler pants for a while.
Thankfully, Long Island’s beloved giant was repaired and is back to waving at the traffic in the town of Riverhead, NY.
Muffler Men on the Move
As well-loved as muffler men are, it isn’t surprising that enthusiasts and collectors buy and move the giants from their long-term locations to new locales. Sometimes they move clear across the country.
And then sometimes, they just up and disappear altogether.
The Big White Guy of Massachusetts
This fella, previously referred to colloquially as “Plantation Man” as he stood outside of the Plantation Inn in Chicopee, Massachusetts – was sold at auction and then turned up in nearby Agawam, Mass. He stood there for a short time and is now MIA.
From Mecca to Joshua Tree, California
In 2016, I visited a muffler man who stood in the town of Mecca, California along the Salton Sea.
If you too love muffler men keep scrolling for more photos of the big guys I’ve seen in my travels. Buckle up, there’s a lot to look at!
Say, hello to Stan from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a gemini and like lifting invisible weights. Hiiiii Stannnnn.
I’ll be honest – there is something a bit creepy about the dead black-eyed stare and drawn on mustache of the Planada, Calfornia muffler man. It’s a wee bit, I dunno,… murdery? I believe this guy may have been sold or moved.
Hope you enjoyed this trip down road trip muffler man memory lane. If you’re interested in finding out about the history of, the latest news, and location maps for muffler men, these sites are excellent resources for more information:
The other day while talking to my daughter (20), I asked her if she read any blogs. Her tepid response was a sing-songy “not reaaaallllly.” Not really. Yep, not really. Over the course of my internet lifetime things sure have changed. Traditional hobbyist bloggers are dinosaurs.
Remember when Facebook was new and “fun”? Its smoldering carcass is an echo chamber for shit politics and I don’t even know what. Useless garbage.
It’s been that way for years but now it feels like it’s on its last swirl circling the drain. I give it a cursory glance each day and more often than not find myself thinking, oh, who cares? about the majority of the crap the algorithm thinks I want to see.
Instagram isn’t too far behind on the apathy scale. Scroll, habit-scroll, habit-scroll. Most of the time I don’t want to participate. I don’t want to share. I don’t want to care. Maybe I’ve just reached my saturation point, I dunno.
So much of the Instagram experience feels phony – where bodies are displayed as a commodity under the guise of talking about van life, or motorcycles, or travel, that I just… blah. I super don’t care about anyone else’s boobs. Like, at all. If I want to see relatable or inspiring photos of women traveling, having the images served up with what?-no!-its-totally-not-intentional cleavage is such a turn off.
We’re never moving beyond the need to sexualize and titillate for relevance, are we? It works. Every. Fucking. Time.
In some way I feel like I’ve allowed myself to be numbed out, and my thinkin’ muscle to get weak. All I do is cram more of this useless nonsense into the spaces where curiosity should be toiling away. I’m slowly smothering my imagination with a walrus-lost-his-bucket meme’d pillow.
And I hate myself for continuing to participate in something that doesn’t bring me joy. Because social media definitely doesn’t do that. But, because blogs are typically passive, if I don’t leverage social media to remind people that I exist the chances are pretty good that I’ll miss out on reach opportunities. At least that’s the excuse I tell myself. I’m a whining hypocrite.
Maybe I need to reevaluate for the eleventy millionth time why I write these posts. Would it truly matter if no one read them? Is the real key to it all that the satisfaction and purpose is solely in the doing? And once the word baby flies away to the world at large, my job is over. If a post was not read by someone would I still get what I came for?
Or maybe the pendulum needs to swing wildly in the opposite direction – I should post cleavage shots next to my motorcycle and STFU. Because Likes = Love. Or something.
Don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here petting my brontosaurus.