Blonk blues


Imagine not finding one under the tree. So put yourself in my place when I take it upon myself to lead my wife to the garage. Then try to understand the glee that possesses me as I throw back the sheet. “I bought one for the whole family,” I announce. “We are now proud owners of our own Blonk.” 

It took all three of us to carry the Blonk into the house, a journey that got stuck at the back door with the debate about whether to put it in the basement den or in the living room next to the TV. I prevailed. Everyone would want to Blonk, so why make them go all the way downstairs?

Blonking took a long time to catch on, arriving by fits and starts from its Asian origins. It caught on first in Oregon, then slowly spread its wings north to Seattle and south to L.A. The Rockies may have slowed its passage east, but once the first Blonk parlor opened in Greeley truckfuls of Blonks deluged the Great Plains on their way to the salons of Cape Cod and the coastal Maine resorts.

Those of you who have Blonked know why it can’t be dismissed as a passing fad. To Blonk is like nothing, and everything, else, engaging its devotees in a performance at once mystical and cardiovascular. The Blonk as thing is simple enough: A pyramidical cone, its shape not unlike a squat Christmas tree, its base made of a material heavy and dense, and its apogee silver-tipped. Though it seems to weigh in at half a ton, its gravity is carefully honed to concentrate the high energy its use is designed to generate. Its design is simple and brilliant, and it comes in a variety of subtle hues.

A glance at the Blonk manual reveals that mastery requires the subject to twirl with increasing intensity around the Blonk’s cone without losing touch of the silver apogee. Endurance and a deft touch are required if certain quality benchmarks are to be achieved, and it’s no wonder that only a few Blonkers, Asians all, have become Masters. These Masters, esthetes and ascetics all, have devoted themselves to teaching neophyte Blonkers worldwide about the symbiotic relationship between psychic centers of gravitas and the cone. Their discipline emphasizes how subject and object become one in the course of a well-executed twirl, how we can approach the ecstasy of mystical delirium as the twirl increases its acceleration rate, and how, more than anything, it is important not to lose touch.

Blonking for the many is an entertainment (merely). For some it is a skill. For the few, like me, it is performance art. Guiltless pleasures are rare these days.

Like any serious form of art Blonking requires passion, commitment, and quest for perfect form. And there is a price to be paid by devoted practitioners. Did my dedication to Blonking lead to slippage in my performance at work? That is an opinionated subject about which I keep a dignified silence. Nor do I regret troubling my family to move the TV rather than the Blonk into the basement den. What comes of artists who surrender the high ground, notably in the privacy of their own homes? The cost to dignity is directly proportional to decline in artistic value, especially when one factors in the not-inconsiderable price of a single Blonk cone, with the final payment finally in the mail. When one is free to practice one’s art in the comfort of one’s home, one is best situated not only to set one’s sights on the perfection of art but on art’s organic relationship to real life.

My individual progress was visible for more than seven months, refining itself into difficult small increments that made the going more polished and smooth. All was going well until the fateful moment struck when we suddenly are forced to count our blessings while licking our wounds. My doctor, who seems immune, gave me the bad news. His surgical manuals had led him to the conclusion that my Blonking days were kaput. How seldom we can say we reap what we sow. I had suffered a tear in my transverse abdominals, and they were hyperextended beyond repair. His verdict was final: More Blonking would tear me apart. I had to give it up.

So there it stood, in the middle of the living room. “You’ll have to get it out of here,” said my wife. “It’s ruining the rug. It’s leaving a black mark.” I couldn’t agree with her, though I noticed a sag in the floor.

I said my farewell, and with the help of neighbors we moved it to the garage. “It can’t stay here,” my wife informed me. “I keep banging the door on it whenever I try to get out of the car.”

I had it moved to the back yard, quietly troubled to see its colors fade in the glaring sun. “It can’t stay there,” I told my wife. “There’s a blackbird that sits on the apogee and besplatters it. I throw stones but the blackbird’s always there again when I turn my back. Do you expect me to spend my whole life in the yard?”

I insisted on moving it into the basement den, and my son moved the TV back upstairs to the living room. The next Christmas I found a ping-pong table waiting for me on the front porch, a gift from my wife who wanted it for our son. “Where are we going to find room for a ping-pong table?” I asked.

“I was thinking of the basement den,” she replied. “The living room rug is a mess, with that big circle in it. The vacuum won’t suck up the damage done by your Blonk.”

“Why don’t we buy a bigger house?” asked my son.

The ping-pong table moved in and the Blonk moved into the yard again, covered this time by a tarp. My blackbird friend called all his friends to make regular visits to the tarp, and the cone began to list after heavy rains because our Beagle named Bella was digging around its rim.

It did not help to discover that the standard Blonk was becoming as much a thing of the past as the Model T, replaced by aggressively marketed imitations customized to factor in individual body weights, heights, and diet regimes.

“Yours is maybe collectible,” said my wife. “Let’s sell.”

Her suggestion opened a vacancy in my heart. I wanted to ask, “Don’t you love me?” but I kept the question locked inside. How could I explain to her my need for a good Blonking now and then?

The home economist in her prevailed, but no one responded to our classified ad.

“Let’s have a garage sale,” she said.

“Maybe if we put a good enough price on it,” was all I could think to say.

We lugged it back into the garage, and this time I’m the one who put the dent in the door trying to get out of the car.

“We’ll have to park the car in the driveway from now on, until the garage sale is done.”

People came and went starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday. They bought my old jeans and shirts, boxfuls of yarn, mysteries, and old screws, forks and spoons, picture frames, an old TV and stereo, hubcaps, Bella’s sofa-bed and a rickety Christmas stand. Almost everything went, except three old computers. And the Blonk.

“We did pretty good,” said my wife. “Let’s have a yard sale next week. We could put a special price on The Thing.”

“You want to move it again?”

“Do you want to park the car in the garage ever again?”

The yard sale came and went, but the Blonk stayed in the yard. A lot of people looked at, then looked away from me. I lugged it to the curb and hung a sign around its neck: “FREE TO A GOOD HOME.” It reminded me of a man standing next to a traffic jam while holding up a sign, “WILL WORK FOR FOOD.”

No one stopped for it.

I made the call, but the trash hauler shook his head no. “Sorry, we can’t take these things. The landfill is full up with them, can’t take in any more. Plus, they leech. And I wouldn’t try burning it. It’s like setting fire to a mountain of old tires.”

“What should I do with it?”

He shook his head sadly and walked to his truck. “I know one guy who tried cutting it up, but it cost him a fortune in carbide saw blades. Maybe you could paint it to look like a Christmas tree. Or something.”

The garage was out. She’d moved the car back in. And the yard was out. The blackbirds would drive me insane.

“Where we going with it now?” asked my son.

“Back inside, for now.”

“Dad, how much did you pay for this? You could have bought me new video games, or a new wide-screen, or a pool table like I keep asking for, or a neat ATV, or motorcycle, or an exercise machine for Mom, or a rider mower, or a nice little boat. Dad, can we get a new car?”

We lugged it into the living room, right next to the TV. We were very careful to put it right over its footprint already pressed into the rug.

“If that thing stays, I’m moving out,” said my wife. She stormed out and I heard her talking to herself in the laundry room as I stood there gazing at it. An odd thing happened as my gaze turned into a stare. It seemed to swell right before my eyes, and it seemed to be looking right through me as I shrank.