Election results still got you down? Have you tried thinking about the quantity of shrimp consumed in Las Vegas? (Part 2)
Part 2: Bring on the shrimp!
That's right, it's about time we talked shrimp.
"Since the election, I sometimes wake up at three or four in the morning, disturbed by dark thoughts, and when that happens I try my best to think of the surprising amount of shrimp consumed in Las Vegas every day. We all have our own way of dealing with this thing."
-- Calvin Trillin, in "Counting Shrimp," in the Jan. 16 New Yorker
Okay, it's time to talk shrimp.
Last night we tried one way of dealing with the reality of that, you know, gentleman with the orange hair who is scheduled to swear an incredible oath before the week is over to become the leader of the, you know, Free World. We tried Google's proffered solution of denial, at least insofar as it can be managed via the Chrome browser, through the substitution of pictures of kittens for those of, well, you-know-who.
Well enough for those for whom the trick works. But some of us were left in need, and to plug the need we turned to that paragon of wisdom, Calvin Trillin, who in his New Yorker "Shouts and Murmurs" piece "Counting Shrimp" described his strategy -- what I would tend to call "changing the subject" -- as "what might be called replacement denial":
In order to avoid dwelling on a depressing or disturbing subject -- the sort of subject that can keep you from falling back asleep -- you concentrate on a subject that is so engrossing that it can drive the depressing subject from your mind.
SO WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE SHRIMP?
You're probably thinking that it quickly came to Calvin T, in a blinding flash: shrimp consumption in Las Vegas. Not so, however. First he went through a number of other "replacement denial" candidates:
• "the ramifications of a similarly surprising fact: the largest state east of the Mississippi, in land area, is Georgia"
But alas, "diverting ramifications were not forthcoming." He came up with just one: "that people who are asked to name the largest state east of the Mississippi tend to say that it’s Pennsylvania or Florida -- both states won by the man I was trying to put out of my mind."
• "the fact that Edna St. Vincent Millay's middle name is not an old family name, as people tend to assume; she was named for St. Vincent's Hospital, in Greenwich Village"
This worked for "a moment or two," but then left him search[ing] my mind for other poets with buildings in their names."
The poet's family would presumably have known this view (though it presumably looked better in 1892, when young Edna was born), but while a number of the buildings of the former St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center have been repurposed, the hospital itself is history.
• "a few more geographical surprises"
The one example we're given: "that the second most populous city in Illinois is Aurora."
Aurora, a suburb of Chicago, is a city predominantly in Kane County and DuPage County, with portions extending into Kendall and Will counties. It is located in the outer region of Greater Chicago in the U.S. state of Illinois. It is the second most populous city in the state, and the 114th most populous city in the country. The population was 197,899 at the 2010 census, and was estimated to have increased to 199,963 by July 2013.Frank Lloyd Wright? Mies van der Rohe? Designed stuff built right there in Aurora, IL? Wow! Who knew? Perhaps people from Illinois's Second City.
Once a mid-sized manufacturing city, Aurora has grown tremendously since the 1960s. Founded within Kane County, Aurora's city limits and population have since expanded into DuPage, Will, and Kendall counties. Between 2000 and 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked Aurora as the 34th fastest growing city in the United States. From 2000 to 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked the city as the 46th fastest growing city with a population of over 100,000.
In 1908, Aurora officially adopted the nickname "City of Lights," because it was one of the first cities in the United States to implement an all-electric street lighting system in 1881. Aurora's historic downtown is located on the Fox River, and centered on Stolp Island. The city is divided into three regions, The West Side, located on the west side of the Fox River, The East Side, located between the eastern bank of the Fox River and the Kane/DuPage County line, and the Far East Side/Fox Valley, which is from the County Line to the city's eastern border with Naperville.
The Aurora area is home to an impressive collection of architecture, including structures by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bruce Goff and George Grant Elmslie. The Hollywood Casino Aurora, a dockside gaming facility with 53,000 square feet (4,900 m2) and 1,200 gaming positions, is located on the river in downtown Aurora. Aurora is also home to a large collection of Sears Catalog Homes (over 50 homes) and Lustron all-steel homes (seven homes). . . .
-- Wikipedia (links onsite)
It's at this point that he "settled on shrimp consumption in Las Vegas." And I think you'll see why this quickly eclipsed Georgia, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and even Illinois's renowned City of Lights.
ALL RIGHT ALREADY, LAS VEGAS? SHRIMP?
Okay, okay. "I had acquired my knowledge of Las Vegas shrimp consumption," Calvin T explains,
from one of those interstitial statements that “PBS NewsHour” flashes on the screen to give viewers a sort of bonus fact about the segment they’ve just seen. What had flashed on the screen, after a segment that took place in Las Vegas but had nothing to do with shrimp, was this: “60,000 pounds of shrimp are consumed per day in Las Vegas, more than the rest of the country combined.”
On the first night I put that fact to use, I’d awakened at about 4 a.m., thinking, Could it really be that American children are going to be raised to look up to a coarse blowhard who has boasted about assaulting women?
“According to no less a source than PBS,” I replied to myself, “Las Vegas consumes more shrimp every day than the rest of the country combined.”
There was a slight delay. Was it working? Not yet, because this thought came into my mind: His appointments so far—people who are opposed to the mission of the departments they’re supposed to lead—seem to indicate an attempt to find a fox for every henhouse.
I countered with: “Where did that figure, sixty thousand pounds of shrimp, come from? It was confirmed, in an Internetish sort of way, by some sites with names like Fun Facts About Las Vegas.”
Maybe it's just as well to go with NewsHour for Vegas fun facts. PBS's may not be as much fun, but at least they don't have to do with "prostition," or the "Cirque Du Soliel."
CLOSE, BUT STILL NO SLEEP RESTORER
"Had I chased away the depressing thoughts?" Calvin T asks. "Not quite."
I could still envision him as President, giving out the Medal of Freedom to some beloved old television star. Instead of a few graceful remarks of the sort we came to expect on such occasions from, say, Obama or Reagan, he’s boasting that the ratings of the star’s show were nothing compared with the ratings of “The Apprentice,” which, he explains at length, was shafted by the Emmy Awards because the Emmy Awards are definitely rigged.But, he says, he "was ready for that."
“Saying that more shrimp is consumed in Las Vegas than in the rest of the country is not like saying that more toasted ravioli is consumed in St. Louis than in the rest of the country,” I said to myself. “St. Louis is about the only place where people actually eat toasted ravioli, so that would make sense. But think of all the shrimp consumed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Aurora.”
"BUT IMAGINING THAT MEDAL OF FREEDOM
CEREMONY HAD STARTED SOMETHING"
At this point Calvin T takes a step back, and then he's ready for the final sprint.
Now I could envision a state dinner for the President of France, during which, in the room where the cellist Pablo Casals played so memorably for the Kennedys, the guests are being entertained by a tag-team exhibition from World Wrestling Entertainment.
“And consider the shells,” I said to myself, even before the thump of huge men hitting the canvas faded. “There must be mountains of shrimp shells, piled on the desert like slag heaps in a played-out coal county. Let’s say that there are thirty or so shrimp to a pound. That means peeling two million shrimp every day.” I could envision the shrimp-peelers, probably paid by the shell, peeling and counting: “One million four hundred and eighty-six thousand five hundred and eleven . . . one million four hundred and eighty-six thousand five hundred and twelve . . .” Long before they got to two million, I was asleep.
Yes, once upon a time the great cellist, conductor, and humanitarian Pablo Casals -- seen here whispering to President Kennedy, with Mrs. Kennedy looking on -- played at the White House.