A Charbroiled Epiphany

A Charbroiled Epiphany

I was going to write about the frailties of life. It was going to be sincere and thoughtful, a foray into the depths of human feeling and mortality.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the cow-stripper sign.

Yesterday, as my family was driving out of Payson, Arizona, we were quietly talking about the aforementioned frailties of life. It had been an emotional weekend, draining us of our natural optimism. Never had the universe seemed as cruel to me before, nor life as so accidental. “How can I take comfort,” I asked to my mother, brother and father as we quietly drove along, “knowing that good, beautiful people grow ill and pass on just because they were unlucky? Where is the justice in that? Where is the meaning? Are our lives are nothing more than–is that a cow?”

We all whipped around in time to pass by the sign for an Adult Cabaret, complete with a plaster cow on top. It was a pretty cow, milky white and sandy brown, perfectly proportioned and perfectly affixed to the sign. Unlike our own place in this random universe, the cow’s ultimate purpose was clear; it was meant to be part of the sign. They were a pair, Cabaret and cow, cow and Cabaret, the model bovine complacently smug, sure of itself.

We were silent for a moment, then demanded my father pull over so we could take a picture.

“No! We have a plane to catch!” he responded.

“Life is too short for us not to have a record of Pamela Heiferson,” I told him.

“I think it’s a Sign!” my brother said.

“It’s clearly a sign. An Adult Cabaret sign. With a cow on it,” Mom observed. “Actually, don’t stop. That place is probably full of very lonely cowboys.”

“Or the fattest strippers in the world,” I countered.

“Why can’t it be run by very lonely cows?” Dad wanted to know.

And then we laughed until we cried, because the world is a random, uncaring, chaotic place, but it is also a place where strip-joints have fake cows hanging off them. Bad things happen, but so do silly things, and funny things, and good things, and neutral things, and cow-related things. Life is absurd…but that absurdity makes the rest worthwhile.

We lingered for a moment, acknowledging the Sign. Then we stepped on the gas, because it was getting dark and we did not want to meet the people who thought “cow” was the natural thing to indicate an Adult Cabaret.

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This is for you, Aunt Kathy, who always laughed at the cows, even at life’s darkest.