– By William Cooper

When I was 16, my father decided he was going to teach me how to drive. Using some old orange-painted broomsticks stuck into cement-filled milk jugs, he set up a parallel parking course in the parking lot of a local church. Back then, everyone seemed to have cement lying around for some reason in case, I don’t know, the Kaiser came back. It was a different time.

I felt supremely confident in my mastery of all things mechanical, as only a 16-year old can, until one day a carload of Japanese tourists squealed around the corner and began taking photos of us, then drove off as mysteriously as they had arrived. I should have recognized this as an omen, because that same afternoon, a squirrel ran in front of our car and I panicked and swerved, hit the gas and drove up into the middle of somebody’s yard. Not surprisingly, that was also the last driving lesson my father offered before turning me over to the professionals.

After my unscheduled trip to my neighbor’s hydrangeas, it took me years before I gained enough control of a car to be granted a license. The memory of that fluffed-up tail, the WHUMP of the curb, and the act of staring out of my window into the dining room window of one of our neighbors’ houses put a serious damper on my interest and my efforts. I never saw the Japanese tourists again, but am convinced they were time travelers working for some great Squirrel Nation in the far future.

In my college years, squirrels found me once again on the quad, where I had developed something of an understanding with Sciurus carolinensis. I gave them food and allowed them to sit on my shoulder or my head to eat, and as a result, I received a write up and a photo spread in the local paper as the Squirrel Man of Ohio State University who had Tamed the Midwestern Wilds and So Lived in Harmony with The Beasts of the Field.

The squirrels on campus eventually became more aggressive and one ripped a glove off my finger (and nearly rippled my finger off with the glove) during the peak months of winter. While I was chasing him down, his buddies ransacked and destroyed my backpack and most of its belongings.

That’s the thing about control. It’s elusive. You think you have it, then you don’t have it, and then you run it down and think you snag it, and then the huge, massive world of endless, expansive, ridiculously random possibilities comes along and reminds you that it’s all really an illusion and actual control doesn’t exist. We keep trying to make the world smaller and more manageable, but the joke is on us, isn’t it?

Like rambling podcasts, things tend to run away on us the more we hold them down. And then it all gets confusing – the break pedal looks like the gas pedal, and one of our hands is suddenly colder than the other and our text book is chewed into little bits with hardly a thank you very much. It’s nuts, I tell you, but maybe that’s just the squirrel in me talking.

In this episode, we face the big, confusing world and try to gain some control over it. William shares a very narrow and obscure superpower as Scott seeks Spinal Tap clarification but perhaps achieves only obfuscation. We travel beyond the porch where William visits the World’s Tiniest Wetlands and assists a Great Blue Herring in some social observation and chicken frightening while Scott laments his past ousting from his Childhood Retention Cave by some do-gooder nephews and a rogue water heater. William endures caucus chaos in a low-rent Breakfast Club where meaningless neighborhood lines are hotly contested while Scott discovers he’s in a low-rent Speed where his listening retention depends directly on his GPS movements. William then heads to the symphony and Scott to the doctor’s office where we find out how to composersplain, the art of loud but complimentary elder marriages, and finally who Susan REALLY is. Scott says goodbye to both the segment and his hair by refusing to play along with the baldness cover-up orchestrated by Big Barbershop. Set it on Number Two, Number One! If that wasn’t enough, and honestly it probably should have been, we see what ridiculous musical act Scott has invented this week. Turns out, it is Walter Carlos of early electronic music fame. After a quick test-tone balancing for maximum enjoyment, we are off into the wonders of the synthesizer in the pre-sequencer age where we discover that electronic music actually is rocket science, that Eric Idle loves to photobomb, and that Walter not only has a well-tempered synthesizer but a much more interesting life and discography than either of us imagined. This one goes to 11!

Spinal Tap
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Spinal Tap: Big Bottom
Walter Carlos and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer
Walter (Wendy) Carlos

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