I never worked at a factory. I did, for a few months, between my graduation from college and when I went off across the country to graduate school, work at an oil refinery, which at least is another industrial setting. That was the summer of 1988, which not coincidentally was the last time I was shaven; the refinery prohibited beards for safety reasons. I did a variety of things there; some clerical work, some gopher work, some light manual labor, so I was not bored. I find it difficult to imagine myself in something like an assembly-line job, doing the same thing all day long; I think my personality is not suited for that and it would be very hard on me. Other types of factory work are much more varied.
American royalty is an odd lot. We have “Camelot” and the court of JFK, and we’ve seen the Flivver King (Henry Ford), the Mattress King (from the TV series “Friends”) and the King of the Road (courtesy of Roger Miller). We’ve also had Queen Latifah and Prince. Americans seem to have an odd need for royalty—just witness the lavish attention so many Americans pay to British royalty—but in our own country our de facto royalty seem to be celebrities and the incredibly wealthy. “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbilt was American royalty and so is Kanye West. Sometimes our American royalty leave odd legacies. One descendent of Vanderbilt is news anchor Anderson Cooper. And we’ll get to meet another American royal and his still-enduring legacy.
In which our intrepid hero encounters a mystery building…
One of the saddest things about life is that we can never re-live things we experience. Do you remember a time when you were deep in the throes of a new love—how that person made you think, how it made you feel? Do you remember the first time you saw your favorite movie and how it made you feel? You can’t get those feelings back; you can only vaguely remember and appreciate what it was like to have them. It’s a less illegal version of that first hit of heroin—even if you married that person you fell in love with and have been happily with that person for decades, you don’t physically feel the same way about them. Literally, the chemistry is different. And you can watch that movie again, but you won’t be scared or amused or moved to the same extent that were the first time. The movie has worn grooves in your brain now; it is no longer as fresh. You can’t get that “first time” back.