Where does it hurt?

November 20, 2007

Probably my favorite scene from the book is when our narrator meets Albie.  Our first introduction to Albie is him pulling up in his Bentley, leading us to believe that he is still living the sweet life from all that barbed wire money.  But the narrator enters the car to find it filled with groceries and a make shift cup holder.  Albie’s house is nothing but emptiness; a place left with nothing but animal heads and plenty of hot dogs.  We learn this comes from his divorce, after which his wife made off with most everything.  Like Albie’s ex-wife, the town has taken and used his name, Winthrop, but now the town is leaving him too.  Soon the name will be changed and he will be left with nothing.  He’ll just be the crazy guy in town who walks around in a sweat-suit who thinks he’s everybody’s friend. 

The part where the narrator is describing the scene at the awards ceremony at which all those in attendance are constantly looking at each others name tags so that they may engage in useless chit chat with their new friend.  I likened this to a particular episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine is going out with Lloyd Braun, who is an adviser to Dinkins, a man who is running for mayor of New York.  While in  casual conversation with Lloyd, Elaine mentions that she always thought the citizens of New York should have name tags, that way everybody would know everybody and it would be a friendlier place.  Lloyd passes the idea along to Dinkins, who puts it on his mayoral platform.  This move makes Dinkins a laughing stock and costs him the election.  While at the awards ceremony, the narrator believes that the name tags should be labeled with what people really are, and not their names, which is what they want people to think they are. 

The two defeats the narrator suffers the night of the barbecue are interesting.  The first coming at the Border Cafe which is “a Mexican joint that belonged to that robust tradition of lone ethnic restaurants in the middle of nowhere, beloved by the natives in direct proportion to the lack of competition.”  I love that description.  The narrator feels a sense of belonging among the help tourists, he equates to the giddiness that goes along with the last day of anything.  The final sense of connection seems to come with the party-wide recognition of the song “Peep This”.  The narrator is so moved that he jumps atop a table and is about to announce his new name for the town when his leg gives out and the whole moment is ruined. 

The second defeat comes when upon returning to the hotel after the embarrassment, the narrator finds that the cleaning woman finally forced her way into his room and organized it.  The narrator also finds his “do not disturb” sign neatly torn and placed on his bed.  The privacy the narrator has sought to keep since his injury is now gone. 

The fate of Winthrop is similar to that of the narrator’s toe.  Lucky is well on his way to making the new Winthrop into a haven for commercialism and yuppies who wear their college sweatshirts on the weekends and drink too many half-priced margaritas and sing karaoke.  But along the way there is some stubbing.  The first came in Regina’s surprise vote against him, thus putting on hold their coup of Albie.  Then there are people like Muttonchops and all those others who do not want the name of the town to change and do not like the direction Lucky is taking their home.  There are little bumps along the way, little stubs on the way to New Prospera.  Each time, a band-aid is placed over the wound.  But it doesn’t hide the hurt in the town, there are infections festering underneath that band-aid; eventually something is going to have to be amputated from Winthrop.  And it would seem that Lucky is the one holding the scissors.

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One Response to “Where does it hurt?”

  1. Hannah said

    ooo i really like your idea of something having to be amputated from the town, and lucky holding the scissors. maybe, though, it could go the other way, and lucky is the one making waves, and he’ll have to be the one cut out of this community that he has invaded and turned into a festering wound that is not even recognizable anymore

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