Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fear of Latitudes

Among the myriad things I teach to our many future generations, the lost art of geography is the one I cherish most. However, this last year, as I was showing my pupils where Barrow, Alaska and McMurdo Station were, I was overcome with an inexplicable fear. It made me think, and when I think I get questiony, and when I get questiony I like to turn to Christian for answers.

Pat:  How far north (or south, I suppose) have you been, Christian?

Christian: North-wise it’s Cordova, Alaska. South-wise Canberra, Australia.  

Pat:  I ask because I was reminded recently, as I thought about a road trip this summer to visit my brother-in-law in northern Montana, of my fear of latitudes. Do you ever get that?

Christian: No. In fact I love latitudes. The farther away the better. What exactly is it about them that frightens you? I also seem to recall you having issues with crossing over county lines while riding in a car. Is it related to that?

Pat:  No...different source of anxiety altogether. The county thing stems, I think, from years watching The Dukes of Hazzard. Remember how the county lines seemed to be an instant reprieve from the danged oppression of Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane? I guess I thought that meant that county lines were some sort of justice-warp, and I just didn’t want to inadvertently end up on the wrong side of justice.

Latitudes? I don’t know...I just get weird when I feel like I’m getting too far north. Never crossed the equator, but I imagine I’d feel the same if I inched towards the Tierra del Fuego or the Cape of Good Hope. There’s something inherently comforting about knowing I’m in the relative middle of the globe. Yes, I know an orb has many middles. And I know I live on the earth, not on a globe. North scares me, that’s all.

Christian: So what I’m hearing is that I totally won on who has travelled the farthest north and south!  In your face you lati-pansy!  

But I want to help. Is the anxiety triggered more from being too far away from the equator or too far away from your home vertically (globe-wise)? Perhaps you have a phobia of falling off the earth? That happened to a friend of mine once. Although, he was a fictional character in a movie at the time. Actually now that I think about it, it wasn’t a friend of mine, it was David Bowie. And he fell to Earth, not off. Anyways, are you cured now?

Pat:  I don’t remember that part of Labyrinth. Was Jennifer Connelly in that scene?

Yes, okay, you win (so what!?!), and thanks, I suppose, for the willing counsel. It’s not about falling off. I gave up my membership to the flat earth society-- http://theflatearthsociety.org/cms/ for those interested-- years ago (STILL not convinced though!).

But you are onto something with the pop-culture analogy. I think my fear is more akin to Gulliver’s Travels. It’s like the further north you go, the smaller the trees and plants become, and I think the people too. So you start feeling a bit like Gulliver, with the equator representing Brobdignag and the northern latitudes Lilliput. It’s just WEIRD. Okay, I know that people near the equator aren’t all giants, but they WOULD be if it wasn’t for that damn European colonialism. Giants, I tell you!

I think this may just be my special irrational fear, like my wife’s irrational fear of eels and my sister’s irrational fear of packs of feral dogs on the streets of Bucharest, Romania. I mean, she only got harassed by them three times...c’mon!

Christian:  I think you’re thinking of the movie The Prestige where Bowie plays Nikola Tesla.  It was Scarlett Johansson that was in that not Jennifer Connelly.

I’m glad to hear your issues are more based in the fear of becoming a giant humanoid than falling off the earth. Because that would have been ridiculous. Although I think I’m having a hard time relating. The only things that I fear are drowning and being poisoned by my own countrymen. Totally reasonable. Does it help to know that when I traveled farther north than you have ever been- to the state of Alaska- I remained in proper proportion, size-wise, to the humans that lived there?  

Side note:  I was once attacked by a vicious attacking eel. And when I say attacked I mean it swam off when I got too close to it. Harrowing!

Side side note:  In the attacking eel story above, I should have made it clear that I was snorkeling at the time. Thank you.

Addendum to the Side side note: Underwater.

Pat:  I’m not sure you can help on this one, buddy. Not for lack of trying, mind you, but just ‘cause I think I’m weird on this issue. I know I wouldn’t shrink if I went north continually (maybe if I went south, but not north), but I just don’t see the point in doing so. Why stray too far from the middle? Maybe it has to do with that sign on I-5 as you pass through Salem: 45th Parallel--you are halfway between the equator and the north pole. I’ve seen that thing so many times that maybe it has given me some sort of fixation with latitudes, and since you don’t see signs indicating any other parallel, I just convinced myself at an early age that good ole’ “45” MEANT something.

I don’t know. I DO know that eels are scary though. Did you ever go to the rock slide at Triangle Lake? Word had it the pool at the bottom was chock full of eels, just waiting to...do whatever it is eels do. Swim up your shorts, I guess. Anyways, I always got out of that pond post haste, if you know what I mean.

I just reflected on the above narratives, and realized that Jennifer Connelly is MUCH more pleasing to think about than eels or high latitudes. I’m going to end this one on that image.

Christian:  You’re right. Until our next session, let’s just end on a nice pleasing image of Jennifer Connelly.



  1. Is it just because I have a fear of leg warmers (they are like knitted eels!!) or is that a picture of Jennifer Beals?

  2. I also have heard that there were eels at Triangle Lake, but I never saw them. So I decided it was a lie. My experiences there were greatly improved as soon as I didn't have to worry about eels anymore.

  3. Tumbleweed - You're right! She was in Fast Times At Ridgemont High with Phoebe Cates right?

    Megiweg - Are there such a thing as fresh water eels? I thought they needed salt to survive. Or am I thinking of slugs?

  4. There are totally fresh water eels! Do you think I would make that up??? On a more serious note-you are thinking of slugs.

    I have a confession to make. I've been drinking. And watching wedding TV. It makes me feel funny.

  5. Anyone ever seen a lamprey eel? Not a true eel, apparently (it's a mother of a parasite though!), but scary enough to join their ranks. They remind me of that thing in the trash compactor in Star Wars.

    Hey! I bet lamprey eels don't live at higher latitudes! Mighta' just solved my problem!

  6. I'm sorry -- I couldn't get the past your entirely correct use of "myriad." You made my day.

    Still -- isn't that Jennifer Beals?

  7. Sharyn - That use of myriad was all Pat. He's the grammar scholar between us. I don't do good grammar. Also, you're right, that is Jennifer Beals. She was great as Rachael on Friends wasn't she? I'll get it right next time.

  8. Finally! I can write my parents and tell them that my minor in "Proper us of 'Myriad'" was worth something! Thanks for the validation, Sharyn!