Some years back when I was living in Atlanta, I remember coming across an item in the newspaper about an incident that occurred in a small East Tennessee town. To properly appreciate this, you have to know that East Tennessee is a very weird a sort of place, and my apologies to anyone who hails from there, but you exactly what I mean.
Apologies aside, it seems that one evening police were called to a trailer after reports of a disturbance there. They found the residents were indeed having a little dispute. One of them, a dwarf albino man, had just stabbed his wife, a blind, one-legged transvestite, following an argument apparently over the television remote control.
Doesn’t hearing that make you feel just a tad bit more normal now? I mean, really, don’t we all argue over the TV remote?
And we can all smile forgivingly at those kinds of goings-on because they occurred in the South, which is notorious for its eccentric if not altogether crazy and occasionally dangerous people, right? Just think, Louisiana alone boasts more certified political wackos than any state north of Maine. Just go read Flannery O’Connor’s stories if you doubt that haunted characters inhabit the South But, well, wait a minute . . .
Some stories in recent Granite State newspapers do remind us that we are a lot more alike than we might care to remember. One example, and I’ll quote a newspaper’s lead paragraph since it’s impossible to summarize better what happened:
“A man charged with chasing a Chester homeowner around his yard with a running chainsaw has told a judge he may claim he was acting in self defense.” Now remember as you read through that, we’re not in Tennessee any more, Dorothy.
Of course you can’t make that sort of thing up; nobody would believe it. The claim of self defense seems irrelevant. After all, does anyone read that and not conjure up the image of Leatherface rampaging through “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?” in pursuit of the five stupidest teenagers in cinema history?
That’s hardly it for New Hampshire, however. Has anyone forgotten about that amazing woman in Epping a couple of years ago who somehow managed to get arrested four separate times in a mere 26 hours? That has to be some sort of record for law-breaking persistence.
First she was issued a warning at her home for playing loud music by the group AC/DC. One hour later they returned to arrest her for continuing to play music too loud. She was released, then arrested five hours later for the same offense. A few hours after that she was arrested a third time. Same problem. And amazingly that wasn’t the end of it.
Police had to come back to her house one more time — they probably didn’t need a GPS by now — after her nephew called to report he was trying to remove some belongings from her house when she threw a frying pan at him, which seems a minor offense after having to listen to AC/DC for so long. I think we can all agree it could have been worse if by worse you’re thinking of listening to loud music by Herman’s Hermits.
But unusual celebrity has come to other Granite Staters. Take Earl Tupper, for instance. Sort of an average guy, born in Berlin (ours, not Germany’s), raised on a working farm. As plain and as simple as Tupperware. And come to think of it, that’s why we remember Earl Tupper today.
Mr. Tupper — his friends never called him Earl, and who could blame them — was working for a chemical company during the Depression when he invented Tupperware. Only of course when he invented it it wasn’t Tupperware, it was just an oddly congealed plastic substance. Once he invented a lid to go on it and started marketing it in the 1940s, he got rich.
It’s a wonderful rags to riches story, isn’t it? Humble New Hampshire boy becomes a great inventor and a source of joy and pride for all Americans. Only it didn’t quite end that way. It seems Mr. Tupper wasn’t exactly as fond America as it was of him, especially the part involving taxation, so he sold his invention, divorced his wife and bought an island off the coast of Central America where he spent the last years of his life wishing he’d invented the Ronco bassmaster instead.
The point of all this meandering, of course, is . . . well, I may possibly have lost the thread somewhere along the way, but I’m sure if you read back over the column you’ll find it. Sorry, but I’m busy checking the yard to make certain there’s no one out there with a chainsaw.