Rich Hall’s Vanishing America

I have no excuse for suffering my eyes to read this “book” except that I saw it at a local bookstore and it looked like a dumb but refreshing mental mint. Indeed. 1980s comedian Hall hits the road and introduces us to Pandi the Pakistani shopkeeper in Oklahoma who stocks his items upside down (“Spap-oop” instead of “Doo-Dads”, “W&Ws” instead of “M&Ms”), a Poseidon Adventure viewing party in Austin where a construction worker charges people $1 a viewing in order to make payments on his VHS player (watching the scenes upside down, replaying the capsizing scene where passengers float upward and furniture sticks to the floor), “in each forzen frame there is a joyous newfound quirk of gravity.” He meets a guy who builds model ships in cans, not bottles (Emporia, Kansas), a motel in California that mailmen frolic in the pool at 3am because the owner guarantees postage if anyone drops a key in a mailbox, a banana split shop where they cost between $0.05 and $1 depending on which balloon you choose, a man who’s kicked his wife off their tandem bicycle for going too slowly, lady truck drivers in Arizona giving him rides, etc. etc. Like I said, mental break, as is necessary after slogging through a pile of 1930s books trying to find ones worth finishing, and continuing to grapple with Gertrude Stein.