March 7, 2012

Mechanical Musings

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Guided by Voices’ Bee Thousand is my favorite album of all time. I found out about it by several “best of” lists on the internet, but if I had it my way, a small time inventor named Professor Randy Lardlop would have suggested it to me. Randy would be a jovial man with a workshop in his basement, like most small time inventors are. As he worked, meticulously screwing springs and gears together with tiny tools, he would consult notebooks of scribbled plans and reach around into piles of unfinished machines for components to spruce up his inventions. The contraptions that he completed would make it out of his basement and be put to use around his house, which would be like any other house on the inside. However, on the outside, the building would be strewn with noticeable arrangements of pinwheels, windsocks, chimes and miniature windmills. Miniature windmills are the perfect things to adorn the exterior of a small time inventor’s house, aren’t they? Anyway, enough about decorations, let me get back to Professor Lardlop. As I’ve said, he would be one of the most jovial men on the planet; so jovial that he would spend all of his time during the day loving his family. He would retire to his basement workshop to toil over his inventions, only  when he was sure that his wife and children were peacefully asleep. Roughly once a week he’d get frustrated with his work and awaken his wife with the clang of metal being bashed with a hammer or with the crashes of small machines being flung into the wall. He’d scream, cry and cover himself with his tiny machines, but the very sight of his supportive wife coming downstairs with her arms open would always be enough to get him to crawl out of the corner and persist with his inventing. Before she went back upstairs to bed, his wife would give him a kiss, wipe the dust from around his eyes and mouth and say in her Midwest accent something like, “Oh, Randy, I’m terribly sorry about your big toy spider there. Just know that me and the girls think you’re a super inventor, so no need to cry and throw these little machines everywhere, okay?” “What a lovely and supportive wife I have,” Professor Lardlop would think to himself, even though his invention was not a toy spider and but a robot codenamed “The Librarian” that he was programming to organize his record collection. So, this inventor, Professor Randy Lardlop, is a great guy who bounces back from the tantrums he throws because he loves his family and they love him too. They even put up with his big piles of trash in the basement. How do I, the author, play into this whole thing. How does Lardlop get around to telling me about Bee Thousand, the album I love so much? Well, ideally, I’d be the Professor’s neighbor and help him in his workshop throughout my teenage years, and on the summer night before I went off to college he would invite me over for dinner to thank me for all the help I had given him. I’d walk over to his house and follow the smell of charcoal around the back to the patio, where in the blue light of the summer evening I’d see the Professor standing behind the grill mixing potato salad with his real arms while a robotic arm protruding from his left rib tended to the hamburgers. He’d smile and wave to me with the glistening spatula hand of his robotic third arm. When he had finished grilling and his wife had set the table, the professor would replace his spatula hand with a hand that was a salt and pepper shaker and serve his family and me loads of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and corn on the cob. It would be delicious and once we finished and scraped our corn cobs into his incinerator, he would tell me over the whirring and flapping of his wind ornaments that I should come inside because he had something that he wanted to give me. “Here,” He’d say, “Before you go away to college, I want you to have a record to remember me by… Librarian! Fetch Bee Thousand for the boy!” The Librarian, fully operational at this point, would then prance down the stairs with her eight long legs and grab Bee Thousand off the shelf.“This album,” He’d say, “is really, really good. Each of the 20 songs are pure gold and more fun than my favorite windsock. If you listen to it a lot, you will learn something you never realized about music.” Professor Lardlop, The Librarian and I would then all share a group hug. Then I would run home to listen to the album for the first time.

Original Author: cody ernst