By Jon Cogburn
Baptist Ski Trip is not a place and as such causes no problems for signage.
By way of comparison, consider Baptist Louisiana and two signs which can be found on the stretch of Interstate 12 east of Baton Rouge, through Livingston, on the way to Tangipahoa Parish.
Tangipahoa is wonderful for three reasons:
- The City of New Orleans Amtrak station in the parish seat, Hammond,
- The Louisiana Renaissance Festival, which is our annual version of what Austin, Texas was like during that brief period after Janis Joplin died and before the California techmology companies established suzerainity,* and
- The way national journalists pronounce "Tangipahoa" in the aftermath of one of our natural disasters.
If I had to guess, Baptist Louisiana was originally called "John the Baptist" by Roman Catholics who founded it. But laziness combined with influx of Scots Irish Protestants led to the abbreviation. The issue with signage comes up because the unincorporated community of Baptist is located near Pumpkin Center Louisiana. Nobody knows why Pumpkin Center is called Pumpkin Center. Locals in the know traditionally refer to it as "Bumpkin Center," but we don't do that anymore because it's exactly the kind of thing that hurt-feelinged bumpkins use as an excuse to for Donald Trump.
And then when you drive in the other direction, west (on the way back from Baton Rouge from the Renaissance fair), the sign reads "Pumpkin Center Baptist," which is weird in other sorts of ways. Who is the Pumpkin Center Baptist and why does he get his own sign?
But we won't have to face these problems, as the Baptist Ski Trip is an event, not a place. And, as such, creating the same kind of confusion would require the name of the blog posts to be "Baptism Ski Trip."*
O.K. Now that that's out of the way. . .
*During those times they didn't need a Ren fair in Austin because they had Eeyore's Birthday Party, which still exists in an attenuated form as a sort of cult of remembrance.
Some Austinites now put bumper stickers on their cars demanding that the rest of us "Keep Austin Weird." This was started by people who remember what it was like when you could purchase marijuana from Willie Nelson's private stock, but as far as I can tell it's been picked up by lots of people who don't even know what you're talking about when you mention Willie Weed. It's sad.
If I were the sort of person who hectored people with stickers, mine would read "Just Give Up."
Seriously, if you have to put "Keep Austin Weird" on your SUV's bumper then you've already lost. And please note that my advice for all of us to just give up is not (solely) because using bumper stickers to browbeat people is the opposite of weird.
Please consider by comparison Louisiana's pathetic attempt to copy Texas' successful "Don't Mess with Texas" anti-pollution campaign. Our version is "Don't Trash Louisiana." Besides the standard issue of Lousyana copying Texas to her detriment, the problem is that when someone trashes something or something, they've already succeeded! You can mess with (either literally or metaphorically) someone prior to being on the receiving end of an (either literal or metaphorical) ass-whooping, but if you've trashed someone, they are on the receiving end of it. "Don't Trash Louisiana" only makes sense as the plea of a people who have already been comprehensively trashed, in this case by resource extraction and refining companies, most of which truck their untaxed profits out of state to their corporate headquarters in Texas.
Keep Austin Weird is in the liminal space between Don't Mess With Texas and Don't Trash Louisiana. If being Weird were as simple as Truckin' then one actually could, in fact, Keep On doing it even in light of harassing bumper stickers. At least prior to the onslaught of autonomous vehicles (predicted to lead to two to three million unemployed truckers and cab drivers) all you have to do is just on your own continue Truckin', no matter the bumper sticker. But a city's weirdness? This is a collective issue, not something that isolated individuals in their cars have any power to do anything about.
I could go on about how the bumper sticker is analogous to my friends and spouse who yell at me when I forget to recycle, but at this point my footnote kvetching and moaning is in danger of becoming longer than the post to which it is attached.** And it's not too unreasonable to assume that nature knows what it's doing when it makes pilot fish smaller than sharks.
**The very first time I found myself on the other side of the table job-interviewise I confronted a candidate whose Ph.D thesis on the phenomenology of walking was written entirely in footnotes. Get it? Har. Har. Har. Har. Walking! Feet! Footnotes!
The phenomenology of walking guy didn't get the job. I don't remember his name and I can't find the dissertation in google. At the time I thought the whole conceit was the height of foolishness, and now I'm terrified that it was a work of genius on the level of Nabakov's similarly structured, albeit not punny, Pale Fire.
Fifteen years ago I'd read neither Nabakov nor phenomenology. What the hell could I have possibly known?
The same round of interviews involved another guy with a dissertation on virtue ethics who, in response to my question, laughingly admitted he'd never read MacIntyre's After Virtue. That day he won the David Lodge Humiliation game olympics but not the job. He cornered me at the "smoker" that night and made all sorts of self-deprecatory remarks about his interview in that way that basically sympathetic people who unintentionally fish for compliments do. I already knew he wasn't going to get a callback but couldn't say anything. Goddammit. Poor kid.
***Not quite the same kind. Proper names for events are more likely to be confused with names for events of that type. One can imagine a weird thing where people go on ski trips to get baptized by immersion. This would be along the lines of Birthright Israel, but instead to Sugar Mountain North Carolina.
How old were you for your baptism ski trip?
Forty six! Can you believe it? I used to drink two bottles of wine a night, praise Jesus!
Life is inspiration.]