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1995jun08. Travelled to a small town on the outskirts of Traverse City (hold out your right hand, palm facing you; Traverse City is roughly 4 hours from Detroit) this weekend. Passed through a lot of small-type towns with big, big signs proclaiming their big, big plans:

Copemish: On track to the future!
Coleman: See where we’re headed!
Smalltown: Currently sucky, but just you wait! Stop laughing!
So I ended up horseback riding, for the first time, with some friends. The worst part of it was just getting on the horse; not that it’s a big deal, but I can’t recall ever getting onto the back of another animal. Hey, lookit me, I’m a cowboy, howdy, howdy! The ranch hand gives me the basic operating instructions for Horse v1.0, which turns out to pretty easy to remember, especially the part about jerking the reins to do wheelies. We set out unto a two-hour ride down (mostly) two-tracks; Patches has been through this whole boring thing 10,000 times before, so when I just suggest moving left or right, he knows I want him to move to the other track. For the first ten minutes, I resisted the movement of the horse and became quite sore; then, suddenly, I remembered that lanky cowboy saddle-swagger, began swingin’ my Marlboro Manly-Man Man-type Man hips with the horse, and started getting into the horse-type groove. The lead horse, Penny, is constantly spooked by inanimate objects, bringing the pack to a halt (“TENT!” “CAR!” “OUTHOUSE!”), and it’s the leader’s first day, so we get lost. At one point, we brought our fine steeds into a canter [n. a unit of weight in Moslem countries, varying from c. 100 to c. 700 pounds]; then, in a stunning display of uninhibited freedom, the woman ahead of me pulled a half-Lady Godiva. I really like horseback riding.

1995jun28. Hot Summer Treats for Bachelor/ettes: Pot Kool-Aid (one in a series).

This Pot Kool-aid® is making me sick.

1995jun28. Nila Wafers Blow Up. I recently travelled to Toledo to meet Paul and Liz and take in a Toledo Mud Hens game. The Mud Hens are a minor league team, owned by the Detroit Tigers. The story of the Minor League was attached to a cap I bought:

For nearly 100 years, Minor League Professional Baseball has reflected the character and passion of North America. Generations of baseball heroes have honed their skills in ballparks throughout the continent providing enjoyment for fans of every age. Minor League Professional Baseball is the foundation of the Game, unique among all sports in the United States and Canada. This unrivaled heritage is reflected in the quality of all Minor League Professional Baseball products.

The Mud Hens franchise just won’t shut up about how “Fun” they are; the word is plastered everywhere, and their official, non-trademarked slogan is “Our Fun is Famous!” Hey, I’m there. Every night also seems to be a themed night: Library Night, Dairy Mart presents Hall of Famer Bob Feller, Disco Night, Advertisers Appreciation Night, and everyone’s favorite, Arrows Thru The Head Night. That evening was “Rained Out Night”; fun! All of the excitement, none of the action! We picked up a few souvenirs and beat feet for the nearby Nabisco plant. One of my favorite sections of Beer Frame is the inevitable tour of some broken-down factory, long since abandoned to the ravages of time. Unfortunately, the guards posted at the front gate of Nabisco Inc. appeared very much alive, and not quite happy to see us. After a few introductory remarks (“we’re visitors!”) they loosened up quite a bit, which leaves me worried about the future safety of America’s favorite snack cracker family. “The numbers on the grain silos indicate the year they were built ... ” I remained a safe distance away from the guards, packing heat: my cheap-ass Kodak 35mm. I took one picture of the safety board and the guards became tense again: “Did he take a picture?” “What was that flash?” Both of them instruct our group not to take pictures so close, because the silos could explode.

No, I’m serious here. They said that.

“Friction. They’ll fire anyone found on plant grounds with a cigarette.”

Cigarettes and camera flashes being about as close as Sonny and Cher these days (did I say that? Just can’t believe I used the old “Sonny-n-Cher” crutch gag), I had a hard time believing I could have taken out half of Toledo with a CAMERA. Personally, I wouldn’t miss tourist-trap Tony Packo’s (“Our Dogs Are Tough Fun!”), but then again, I’d be gone as well; any martyrdom in a storm, I always say. Bored stiff out of my skull one day, I started asking around about this exploding grain silo phenomenon thing.

“Oh, yeah,” one of my friends assented ... “it has something to do with the fumes.”

Another friend gave me instructions on how to create my own mini-grain explosion (and I just gave away most of my toy farm set! Drat!), but no flash photography was involved. Just as I was about to send random farmers in Iowa some Fun-Saver cameras, X’s staff chemist stepped in:

Flour consists of very tiny particles. These particles have tremendous surface area. In fact, the total surface area in a teaspoon of flour is equivalent to 3.7 football fields! [I totally made up that statistic, but it IS large, really ... ] Anyway, the more surface area, the better things burn, because there’s more exposure of the material to oxygen, the burning element. For example, try to light a block of steel on fire – you'll have problems. Now try it with steel wool. Voila! Instant sparklers! So, if you light flour on fire (especially a lot of flour), it will burn with explosive vigor. My guess is that long ago, when photographic flashes actually burned, someone blew up a bunch of flour. The tale (flash photography = ignition source = flour explosion) was perpetuated, even though now photographic lighting is completely contained and spark free. So, the answer to the question, “Why can’t I take a picture in a cookie factory?” is “You probably can and the prohibition is obsolete.” It DEFININTELY has nothing to do with “friction.”

Thank you, Dr. Berk. Later, we ended up polluting a bar called “Wilson,” a carnival, an abandoned mattress factory with unopened mail from 1994, and “Paris,” the other bar, within the space of four hours, surely breaking some kind of Guinness record. Fun™!