wherever those car trip memories come from, attached to them are a pile of cassette tapes. because i was a bit older, i sat up front with my dad, while mom usually stayed in the back with becky and tim (they got very good at playing travel guess who?, and would do two or three people at once; that always impressed me). i also seem to remember me usually choosing the music. whether this is due to: a. me being the oldest, b. me being up front, or c. me having a poor memory of this whole era in general, i know not. all the same, when i wasn't consumed with final fantasy legend 2 on my gameboy, we cycled through a trusty collection of tapes. the three that come to mind at the moment are the ghostbusters 2 soundtrack, an oldies rock 'n' roll compilation with a neon jukebox on the cover, and my dubbed copy of the uhf soundtrack. as i type that, i already want to call my mother and commend her for her job-like patience in hearing the same inane-songs again and again across much of the western united states (a similar scenario occurred when they drove me out to the mtc years later, only this time it was the CATS soundtrack with which my father and i were obsessed).
while the uhf soundtrack was, as the title suggests, the accompanying music to "weird" al's under-appreciated masterwork, it also contained a handful of songs not in the movie. these songs, like all of his oeuvre, are novelties, genius to anyone under fourteen, mildly amusing the first time to everyone else. this includes parodies like "spam" (before i had ever heard "stand" or even heard of r.e.m.) and original gems like "attack of the radioactive hamsters from a planet near mars." the last song on side two was "the biggest ball of twine in minnesota", a ballad wherein al and his family use their annual family trip to visit the eponymous string ball.
today i was playing mah-jong when my phone rang.
"jeffrey, guess where i am!"
now, my sister and i call each other when we're on top of mountains; it's just what you do.
dad wasn't as easy to guess, although my first two guesses were logical, considering the circumstances. i'm sure there are so some father-son teams out there who would call when one of them is being welcomed at buckingham palace, waiting to be seated at a fine restaurant in paris, or just leaving a meeting with the board of trustees at harvard. and i'm sure that's wonderful.
i first suspected texas, in reference to pee-wee herman proving he's on the phone in texas in pee-wee's big adventure (yes, nearly all of the in-jokes with my illustrious father are rooted in campy 80's movies). in fact, it was my plan to call him and then actually holler, "the stars at night are big and bright!" when i was in texas for allison's wedding last summer, but completely forgot.
my second guess was that he was at the alamo (again, pee-wee).
"i'll give you a guess," said my dad. "'weird' al."
and then i knew it:
my dad was at the biggest ball of twine in minnesota.
it was probably the coolest thing of the whole week, and today was only sunday. i told him to take a picture, even if he only had his cell phone camera. i don't think he'd ever used it before (his finger's in part of the shot) but it would be a tragedy not to have a memory of the occasion.
according to wikipedia, it is 13 feet in diameter, weighs 17,400 lbs., and is the largest ball built by one person (a man who wrapped for four hours a day for 23 weeks).