Sunday, March 27, 2011

Whatever Happend to Mayor McCheese?

I was in McDonald's the other day (and lest ye judge me, I was there with my daughter as a reward for her being very good during a day of necessary shopping) when I noticed something. It wasn't the expanding waistlines that make for a nice physical model of the expansion of the universe and/or demonstration of how the bigger the object the bigger the gravity it has. It wasn't the secretly addictive power of the Shamrock shake. Nor was it the woman who looked entirely too much like she would have been at home on the cast of Jersey Shore. Which no, I don't watch, but I'm not completely ignorant. This woman belonged to the tribe of Snooki, and it was far, far scarier to observe in real life.

This isn't about any of that. No, this is about something far, far more sinister. This is about missing people. Missing, important people, and how despite their conspicuous absence no one acts like they are missing, and no one's mounted an investigation or anything else. It's almost a conspiracy of silence, and its victim is Mayor McCheese.

I don't remember the last time I saw him, or some of the other McDonald's anthropomorphic menu items that have also slipped away along the wayside. (Talking chicken McNuggets, anyone?) For that matter, I don't remember the last time I saw any of the McD's crew, other than their eternal leader, in any television commercial. I could be rational here, and point to the changes overall in advertising, particularly children's advertising, that has become necessary as the Saturday morning bloc of cartoons broke up and the target demographic scattered across the cable channels, many to networks that run limited - if any - commercials during their programming for the younger set. Or how changing ideas on proper diet and exercise have also taken their toll, and a visible symbol of greasy caloric consumption probably sends the wrong kind of message.

I could, but that would be less fun. And absent an official announcement from the Powers That Be, I'm going to go with the more nefarious explanation.

Mind you, not all of the mascots have vanished. Grimace, Birdie, even the Hamburglar can still be seen painted on the walls of the various Playplaces, or they turn up on the in-house items. They may not get their moment on the television screen anymore, but they are still around. Contractually bound to silence, or perhaps threatened with the same fate as the Mayor should they attempt to break ranks.

Maybe this, then, is the story of the lone dissident, the one who would not go quietly. A mayor of a land whose silence would not be bought (obviously not a Chicago mayor), who refused to be intimidated when others came to shush him, and who paid the ultimate price for it, being buried unceremoniously in an unmarked grave in some landfill, forever preserved in a giant version of those styrofoam containers McD's used to package all their products in. Maybe Mayor McCheese paid the ultimate price for his integrity by being tossed, piece by piece, to a flock of ravenous seagulls or park pigeons.

If so, I'm willing to bet his fate was meant to serve as an example to the rest of them: cooperate, tow the corporate line, OR ELSE. Hence the Fry Guys went quietly, and Hamburglar hasn't stolen a thing in years. Grimace keeps his politically incorrect overweight self well out of the spotlight, and Birdie has been encouraged to fly south and stay there, except for the occasional public appearance or photo op.

And the orchestrator of all this? The person behind this scheme, so callously disposing of once beloved icons behind the scenes? Well, ask yourself? Who has the spotlight all to himself now?

Oh sure, it can't be him, you say. To which I reply: he is a clown, after all. And we all know, when clowns go bad, they go really, really bad.

So, I say we should observe a moment of silence for Mayor McCheese, to take a brief pause and remember a man/food item of integrity, who paid the ultimate price for his principles.

And then I'll take mine with extra pickles, please.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Like a Lion

I hate March.

Okay, "hate" is a little strong. Truth is, I don't have anything against the month other than the weather. It can't quite seem to make up it's mind, at least in my neck of the woods, whether it wants to be a spring month or a winter month. (And why can't I ever remember if seasons get capitalized? One of these days I will break down and invest in the Chicago manual of style, but for right now my little tiny style manual is woefully silent on this.) Even if the day starts off with "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," it will often end with "It was a dark and stormy night."

It's the old "In like a lion, out like a lamb" proverb.

Writing a story or novel can be like that, too, especially if you're not sure where it's going when you begin. (If you are one of those writers who outlines everything before they start and then actually stick to that outline all the way through the process, I have but one thing to say to you: go away. I'm not talking to you.) You get a certain idea in your head, and you charge in, ready to get it down on paper. So you roar, figuratively speaking I hope, and then tear into it. Only to get maybe halfway through and realize things aren't going entirely in the direction you expected them to. You slow down, you sputter a bit, you back up, you rewrite. And maybe you recapture that initial thrust, and maybe you don't, but eventually you skip across the field and leap the fence of the finish line.

(Yes, I am aware I have just badly tortured that metaphor. I'm not done yet.)

Conversely, a story may start slow, grazing about in the field of ideas, and then at the end it turns into the snarling, ravenous beast that seizes the ending of the story in it's jaws and devours it until it's finished.

There are times in writing when it never changes. Times when either the entire story goes slow and gentle. Here I'm talking strictly about the process, mind you. The page can be strewn with blood and guts but behind the scenes there was more bleating at the keyboard than roaring. Or, the ones I really like, when it's all charging ahead from start to finish, committed to the chase once the idea has been properly stalked.

For the most part, though, it seems to be one or the other. Not just with myself, but among the other writers I have talked to. Even the more workmanlike amongst us, the ones who sit down and churn out five pages a day, have their stories that they find themselves varying on in terms of their enthusiasm, their ideas, their ability to sit down and really churn. Some days those five pages come easy, after all, and some days they barely come at all.

Do I have a preference in my writing, which I'd prefer to start with? While I'd like my month to go out nice and gentle and preferably warm, I tend to find the stories that write best are the ones that end the most aggressively. The ones that are slower towards the end - again, in terms of the process, not plot or pacing - are a little bit more like work, a little bit less like fun.

I suppose the only thing that really matters is that, like on the calendar, eventually it comes to an end.

And in case anyone is worried, I shall not compare rewrites to April showers.

Maybe taxes, though.