lost time incident 74 – tips for banana driving

lost time incident 74
This last weekend, I celebrated by 42nd birthday. For the last few years, I experimented with treating my birthday with contempt, primarily marking the passage of time with memento mori reflections and melancholy. This year, though, I tried something new: a trip to southern California to spend a few nights on a mountain, among pine trees and great boulders, with cold air and fire-tending and companionship.

Also included was a road trip to a slow-moving natural disaster: The Salton Sea. Do you know it?

In the 1950s, the Salton Sea was going to be a resort destination… a desert bloom, like Las Vegas, attracting tourists and celebrities. But the sea doesn’t have any outflow, and over the years accumulated salts and agricultural runoff built up until the fish started dying. It’s now a slowly collapsing ghost town, a showcase of decay, a giant stinking pond surrounded by abandoned buildings, dead fish on its shores. We visited a grand yacht club with a colorful front facing the street, but around back, there are no yachts, nor any water. Thanks to years of evaporation, the yacht club and its broken pylons now stand a good 200 ft. from the water’s edge.

You can skip visiting the Sea yourself. Unless you, like us, want to visit a banana museum.

The banana museum is not educational. You’ll learn nothing there, save that many things have been made in the shape of bananas. Dolls. Candies. Sunscreen tubes. Figurines. Hand mirrors, for those with banana-shaped features in need of reflection. As soon as you enter, you’re met with a wave of candy banana scent, a welcome respite from the grim stink of the Sea outside.

They make banana milkshakes.

Next door, though, is an unmarked wonder of The Salton Sea. It’s a humble convenience store, but every one I was with who went in there left with an anecdote about the woman behind the counter.

While I grabbed a bottled water, a family of tourists was getting snacks at the counter. I overheard the father ask for a recommendation: Where should they go if they were looking for someplace nice to eat?

“Back home,” said the woman behind the counter. Hit a grocery store, make something wherever you’re staying. Just casually murdering the reputations of every possible eatery within driving distance.

When my wife Amanda was in there, she heard the same employee telling the tale of The One Time a Guy Needed His Bottle Opened. Amanda was buying a bottle of Jarritos, a Mexican soda. When she paid, the counter lady handed her a bottle opener, saying “Now, this isn’t a twist-off. I don’t want you hitting it against the edge of the counter.”

This course of action hadn’t even occurred to Amanda and her face likely reflected some confusion, because the counter lady continued.

“One time, a guy bought one of those from me and when I went to open it for him with a bottle opener, he said ‘Naw, I got it,’ and tried to twist it off. It’s not a twist-off. And then he tried hitting it against the counter a couple times. I said ‘Will you just let me— I don’t want you to break that and get glass everywhere.’ So then… he tried to open it with his teeth. And his tooth… caught. Popped right out onto the counter.”

A beat.

“Then he let me open it.”

Another beat.

“I don’t think he could drink it.”


Also: The banana-shaped vehicle that was parked out front? Just coincidence that we were there when it was. The guy who built it was there for the weekend to kick off a cross-country trip. He offered to give us a ride around the dirt lot in it for tips to help subsidize his trip. We all declined.

So… I don’t know how far he got without any donated gas money. Let us know if you see him.


whee jee
You (a fool): A ouija board is good fun at a slumber party and it’s fun to watch Melissa freak out when we spell out her crush’s name

Me (an intellectual): [preening my feathers and beak, a flying incarnation of clawed fury, above the rooftops of the town where I am known by many names: The Nightmare Crow; Feather Hell; Eye-Stealer] Does Melissa really like me?

[director’s commentary: The borrowed joke construction here is the “me (an intellectual)” framing, which you’ll find repeated throughout Twitter. Traditionally, the first person says something innocuous, then “me (an intellectual)” says something that’s almost intelligent, but actually more foolish than the prompting comment. Which is a long way of saying that in my version, I’ve completely broken the joke construction and possibly needn’t have bothered, save that I find breaking joke structure to be funny in its own right. So the “Melissa” punchline is just a nice bonus.]


advice for witch prison
Should you ever find yourself in witch prison, sealed by arcane runes because of actions you’ve undertaken (bending the world to your will, etc.), just remember that the reputation you make on your first day will set the tone.

Go up to the biggest witch you can find, introduce yourself, then ask for a boost. If they’re really big, they can chuck you over the wall and you’re out and free, ready to pursue the dark arts again.


things sacrificed at the ebony altar (because the nice altar is in the shop) and what happened
eye of newt: transformed a regular newt into a newt with trust issues

an ancient tome, bristling with knowledge best forgotten: forgot all the knowledge

a receipt for the nicer altar that, in hindsight, maybe I needed to hold on to for when I pick it up from the shop: a being of smoke and fire appeared and put in their pocket

a mixtape of smooth jams: the smoke/fire creature knows I have a crush on it


ending theme song
Well, those were certainly a lot of words. Time to go find my shoes and go get tacos.

—Michael Van Vleet

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