Saturday, March 03, 2007


Over the past decade and a half I have amassed a collection of floaty pens from various locations. What's a floaty pen you ask? They are the novelty pens, that, when tipped sideways, some tiny image moves across a little background, say the Eiffel Tower floating across Paris, or Elvis's pink cadillac floating in front of Graceland. Part of the rules of collecting, my special rules, is that you can never go into a store, approach the cashier and ask outright if they have floaty pens or not. You must hunt them down on your own. The search for floaty pens is part of the fun. They are often in the most cheesy of tourist shops, right up by the cash register. I can breeze through a souvenir shop and know in under 30 seconds if they sell floaty pens. Airport gift shops are good bet for finding floaty pens. They're usually right there with the souvenir shot glasses and those little spoons my mother used to collect. I used to insist that all the floaty pens be from places I'd gone to myself, but recently, in the past five years or so, most of the additions to my collection have come from other people's travels.
Thankfully I still have some friends who travel, even to places like Wichita, Kansas. Joan just got back from a business trip there and brought me my favorite souvenir. The image is of a tornado funnel whirling past what must be the Wichita skyline, sucking up in its wake: a tree, a cow, a truck, a wind turbine, and, a barn.
I wonder if the Wichita Chamber of Commerce has seen these. Do they really want to put the image of a tornado, something that screams out "national state of emergency" on their tourist products? I could see if it had a Wizard-of-Oz-type theme but this one did not. Just your ordinary - run of the mill - everybody in the cellar - tornado.
It would be like showing an image of a hurricane battering boats up against a rock jetty with the words "Welcome to Cape Cod" emblazoned on a floaty pen. For the record, the pen I have of Cape Cod has some sailboats breezing past an image of Nobska Light.

song: Windy • artist: The Association

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