Yeah, Baby, Yeah
By Tom Waltz
Copyright © 2001
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The invention and eventual mass-production of the videocassette recorder--or VCR, as I like to call it--has had an undeniably profound effect on the recent history of mankind. This remarkable device has brought educational programming into the homes and schools of millions. It has directly influenced the way Hollywood creates and markets its many works. It has allowed families to forever save precious moments and memories onto reusable videotape. It has provided stand-in babysitters to frustrated parents around the globe--sitters with names like Pikachu, Simba, and Barney. It has given the masses a better understanding and appreciation of the infinite philosophical and metaphysical meanings behind the ever-blinking "12:00". And, most importantly, it has brought Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, into my home for my family's Thanksgiving celebration.
Even before the last yam was plopped into a serving bowl, that zany Brit with the funny teeth was go-go dancing his way across our TV screen, and the fit, as they say, was perfect. As a matter of fact, I've no doubt Mr. Powers' visit to our Thanksgiving feast would have earned two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert (or, sadly, only one from Ebert. R.I.P., Gene... God bless ya!). Why? Because as the great globs of food made their way around the dinner table, and as I continually ran to my computer to check the football score on the Internet (www. Espn.com rules!), I couldn't help but notice the close relation between the super spy's exploits and our thankful festivities.
Here we were, ten to fifteen modern people (I can't tell you the exact number; I lost count more than two years ago), eating a so-called traditional meal, descendant from a first Thanksgiving dinner that may or may not have happened hundreds of years ago. We were, in a sense, folks caught in a moment outside our own time--much like ol' Austin was, that cryogenically frozen loony from the tripping sixties who now found himself adventuring through the conservative nineties. Ask anyone at our table why we chowed down like we did every last Thursday of November each year, and their only response would be, I'm sure, that it was a mystery. Or, it's just something we do because... well, because we can, thank you. I'll bet a lucky wishbone that Austin would say that's also why he's a philandering spy: Because he can, baby... because he can!
And, as if that weren't enough of a similarity between my family and the flashy Limey, take the Detroit Lions professional football team into consideration. I grew up in southeastern Michigan, and have been (painfully) a true blue Lions fan as far back as I can remember. As a result, part of my annual Thanksgiving tradition is to watch my team find a way to lose--usually in some unfathomable and absurd fashion--the yearly Turkey Day battle of the gridiron.
This year it was the Chicago Bears on the other side of the line of scrimmage, and the cats from the Motor City seemed to have things well in-hand--much like Austin Powers' archenemy Dr. Evil, who was simultaneously concocting his "eveel" plans on my television set--when, lo and behold, the Bears started to make a miraculous comeback in the second half of the game. The Lions should have finished them off early. Dr. Evil should have eliminated Austin Powers when he had the chance. Instead, both the hapless Lions and the vile but deluded Doctor chose to play with their prey, only to have their clever, would-be victims fight back, nearly destroying them in the process. As it turned out, the Lions escaped a humiliating defeat at the last second--as did Dr. Evil. Coincidence?
I don't think so.
Once dinner was finished--and top pants buttons were unlatched all around--I made my yearly Thanksgiving trek to the lavatory. (Hey, it's a big meal, you know? What's a guy supposed to do?) Anyway, once there, I sat down (well, what did you expect?) and grabbed up the book I keep in the bathroom for extended stays. On Thanksgiving it was Terry Pratchett's Small Gods. As I read and... well, you know... I couldn't help but hear a funny Scottish accent reverberating from the TV speaker. It was Fat Bastard, another bad guy from Austin Powers' world, shouting about an urgent need to... um... to... oh, hell, to defecate! Actually, he was saying something about having to go so bad it felt like he had a "turtle" poking its head out from his rotund Scottish posterior. Again, upon hearing this villainous complaint bursting forth from my TV, I was struck with the correlation between the movie (oops... video. Sorry.) and my holiday.
There I was, also dealing with turtles. No, not from my booty, you sicko! From the book I was reading. In it, Pratchett describes a world that resides on the back of a great turtle--a turtle that endlessly swims through infinite space and time. On TV, a man of infinite girth and flesh was identifying a turtle making its way through his amazing and nearly eternal vastness. The frightening resemblance of the two descriptions was close enough for me. I had to shudder at the bizarre sameness.
Then I flushed the toilet.
As I made my way back into the living room, my wife walked past me and into the small, well-plumbed room I had just occupied. She stopped suddenly at the door, however, nearly falling down in a desperate effort to escape the odiferous remnants of my visit.
"What the heck did you do in there?" she croaked after she finally caught her breath. "Drop a dead elephant in the toilet, or something?"
I looked at my wife, noticing how her eyes were twitching spastically--as they always do after she tries to visit the john too early after I've been there.
"No," I answered. "Not an elephant, honey. Instead, let's just call it: 'Mini Me'."