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Tuesday, November 07, 2006


First of all, happy voting day. If you aren’t old enough to vote, it’s your job to go after anyone in your house who is. This is the time to pull out the sharply pointed stick and poke, poke them in the direction of the polls. Get out there! Herd them!

Second, I have some very happy news to report. Thanks to YOU, 13 Little Blue Envelopes has made the Teen’s Top Ten list! I am so happy to be included on this illustrious list, chosen by readers. There will be celebrating at the MJ desk tonight.

Speaking of, I’m back at the London Desk now. I got here just in time for Guy Fawkes Night. If you have never been to the UK, Guy Fawkes Night is sort of the English answer to Halloween, but without costumes. In 16somethingorother, a man named Guy Fawkes and a gang of wiley conspirators tried to blow up Parliament. They were caught and stopped. And ever since, the English have celebrated on the 5th of November with big bonfires (in which they burn effigies of Guy Fawkes) and fireworks.

So Oscar Gingersnort and I went to a large torchlight procession through the town. This was kind of fun, except that I was fairly certain that thousands of people walking along in highly flammable coats and massive scarves while carrying fire was an idea of questionable merit. Especially since some of the other people around us were twelve year old boys playing “Slap Each Other with a Stick of Fire” and some girls who were walking backwards while talking on their phones. And then there were the clearly very drunk guys. And the toddlers with the ginourmous torches.

“This is going to be an inferno,” I said to Oscar with a smile. “Many will perish.”

“It’ll be fine,” he said, sending an e-mail on his blackberry as he walked along with his torch.

The English are like that. They never worry. Even if we did set the entire town on fire, as we came very close to doing on several occasions, I think they would just say something like, “Oh rot. Go and fetch the bucket, then.”

But we made it to the big field across town. There was a massive bonfire and a carnival. The first thing we encountered was a huge ride called the Big Boost. The idea behind the Big Boost was simple. It was a big spinning thing, with only two clusters of seats, each at either end of a long spinning mechanism. They strapped you in, and then they sent you way, way up high as they strapped the other people in. And then, it spun. The seats themselves also spun all around, so people were doing 360s while being flung all around.

Oscar didn’t even need to ask me what I thought about going on it. He knows my answer would be “No @#%$^&#%$^&#ing way.”

See, I don’t like rides, really. I have finally come to this conclusion. I can take the occasional log flume, and I’m okay with things that just go around, or bumper cars, things like that. But the Big Boost is not for me.

Maybe this is because I grew up near a major Eastern Seaboard amusement park. I rode the rides back then, and I noticed that most of the people strapping me in to the death machines (as I call them) were stoners and freaks. I climbed into seats and allowed myself to be buckled in by people so clearly high that they may have thought I was a giant walking hot dog, and they were just putting me into the Big Magic Hot Dog Machine. Maybe it’s not a huge shock that this park had a bad reputation for things bursting into flames and people flying off rides.

And just recently, I was in the Midwest, and there was a fair. They had a “ride” there that was just a HUGE CRANE. The sign was hand-written on a piece of poster board. People were being strapped into tiny harnesses and then being hauled up the crane and swung back and forth. The people running this crane were two fourteen year old boys who played the pull-away hand-slapping game while people were swinging above us.

I don’t get this at all. I would be happy to pay NOT to get hauled up on a crane by snarfling guys whose voices were cracking as they took my money. And yet people were lined up. People who did not outwardly appear to be insane.

What is this? I don’t get it at all.

And things like bungee jumping or jumping out of airplanes? Oh, friends. Oh no, no, no. This is where I whip out the MJ Manifesto and begin to read.

Airplanes were invented to get us around, and they work really well for that. And humans are simply not meant to jump 10,000 feet. There is really nothing accomplished by this. It’s not like falling and screaming your head off is a skill, because if it was, I would have about nine Olympic medals by now. I’m not parachuting unless the wings fall off my plane, and even then, I think I might try to coast it out. I’d sit up in first class, drink all the nice drinks, and pad myself with pillows.

“Oh, Maureen,” someone out there is saying. “You’re just scared.”

You bet I’m scared. And for good reason. I am smart enough to know that jumping out of an airplane is a stupid idea. I think this is natural selection at work. I’m prepared to handle normal risks, like riding in a New York cab, or flying in heavy turbulence, or eating sushi on Monday. I even took my first skiing lessons on the top of an Alp during a blizzard with a mad Swiss racing instructor named Jean-Claude. But high-risk hobbies that involve huge heights that can actually kill you? No. I like being alive, and there are plenty of other stupid ways I am likely to kill myself with no help at all.

But anyway, I was staring at the Big Boost mumbling under my breath, and Oscar said, “I know you won’t get on it. My ears are still ringing from the water slide.”

Okay. There was a water slide incident. I had this kooky idea that the English guy would like the water park, so I organized a trip there in the summer. I thought it would be fun.

Apparently it was, for everyone else. As Oscar tells it, I got on the double raft with him on the first tunnel slide and ALLEGEDLY screamed by entire way down the dark, long, twisting tube until we crashed into the pool. I actually can’t remember what happened—it’s all black to me—but I’m sure that is an exaggeration. Obviously it wasn’t too bad, because I got on the massive open air slide with the six person rafts. However, I went down backwards, and the other people on the raft claim that, again, I was screaming the entire way, taking only one small pause for breath. And then I went on again with the words, “Okay, I’m going down facing the right way this time.”

This I remember. Facing down the slide didn’t really help much, because I could see the first drop and the entire New Jersey skyline all the way out to the ocean, fifty miles away. We were very high up.

It’s possible that there was more screaming. I cannot say. My memory bank goes blank again here. I remember the view, and one second when I was thrown all the way up the wall of the slide, and nothing more.

When I got off, five year old children ran around me, giggling with delight. Oscar had to buy me a beer just to get me to start speaking again. I happily held the towels after that. Holding the towels is a lot of fun, if you look at it the right way.

My point is, I want to keep alive and in one piece, so I can keep writing for YOU! It’s YOU I am thinking of! Plus, I need to stay sharp for when the zombies come. Or the werewolves.

I’m just saying. Don’t look at me like that. It’s not like I’m a coward or something. Now go vote! Scram!


Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

I want you to stay alive and writing for me too. You are not to leave your home without encasing yourself in full-body kevlar armour. That's an order, Johnson!

1:33 AM  
Blogger Justine Larbalestier said...

Forgot to say: CONGRATULATIONS on making the top ten list!!! Awesome!!! You rule!!!

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Liz said...

Being someone in the Midwest who lives around all those Midwest-Carni-freaks--I TOTALLY AGREE. Going on a carnival ride in the Midwest is a BAD, BAD idea.

Congrats on 13LBE making the list!! It definetely deserved it!

1:51 AM  
Blogger siobhan vivian said...

congrats, MJ! so so so deserved!

11:44 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Congrats on 13 being in the TTT! Lucky 13, indeed.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Thank you all! I am thrilled to the very tips of my teeth.

justine: you don't need to tell me twice. that sounds like a good idea to me. what colors does it come in?

liz: EXACTLY. EXACTLY. I am glad that people are representing here.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I just finished 13LBE and now I realize that my very unique book that no one else at my school is reading is on the top 10 list?!
OH well. I'm not sure If you can answer this, but did you base Keith Dobson off anybody you personally know?
I admit, I have a huge crush on Keith. Once I learned he had a british accent I fell for him automatically, but with the reddish hair and the kilt and practically everything else he did I love him!

8:53 PM  
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