I call them "scan stoppers."
You know them. There you are reading along and a phrase stops you dead in your tracks.
It could be almost anything. A typographical error. An astoundingly improper use of grammar. A bizarre bit of irony that only Noel Coward could untangle.
But my favorites are the inadvertent comments on contemporary American culture. And I was treated to one this morning.
I was reading my former home state's newspaper of record at Rooster's with enchiladas on the table and Barco grumpily waiting underneath. One reason I continue to read The Oregonian is to keep up with just how nutty the Portland area has become. (Portlanders call it "weird." But that is simply an apologist's substitution for "nutty.")
And there it was -- under the headline "New Shelter." I had no idea what to expect. I certainly did not expect this.
"The former site of the Black Cauldron, a vegan strip club, ... ." I didn't finish reading the sentence.
"Vegan strip club?" Images started dancing in my head more frentic that sugarplum fairies.
What on earth is a vegan strip club? I imagined strippers dressed as the meatless characters of the food pyramid strutting their green stuff on stage.
Remember Harvey Fierstein's opening monologue in Torch Song Trilogy where he described some of his stage names? Virginia Ham. Anita Mann. Fonda Boys. Clair Voyant. Fay
Ways. Bang Bang La Desh. Something similar played out in my head.
Carrot Peel. Lettuce Entertainyou. Julienne Potaotes. Husky Corn. (The article was silent on the gender of the strippers. But, gender is such a touchy topic these days. Or a topic not to be touched.)
Self-peeling vegetables. What could be more user friendly?
Or maybe all of the strippers are vegans. The juxtaposition of adjectives tends to confuse rather than to enlighten.
But I think I know what the hapless reporter meant. The Black Cauldron was undoubtedly a strip club where people of the vegan persuasion could go to congregate with other vegans to work out their respective sexual frustrations. After all, this is Portland.
Where there are enough vegans for the market to accommodate that special interest. Much like a club for Left-handed Latvian Lesbians. Or maybe not. The rest of the article informs us the club is now an emergency family shelter. Perhaps, the salami was sliced too thin.
That explanation just makes the irony greater -- vegans seeking sexual release by watching what is commonly called a meat market. Even Jung would have to call that a bit perverted.
And because it is Portland, I would not be surprised if the Black Cauldron had at one time been a Wicken temple. With services interspersed with vegetable servings.
Several people have asked me why I bother reading The Oregonian each day. After all, it is a rather poor excuse for the newspaper it once was.
My answer is simple, As long as Portland keeps serving up essay fodder like this, I will keep eating my vegetables.