While I am on the topic of obsessive/compulsion, let's dive into something else that has captured my attention lately. In the last month or so I finished reading "Possible Side Effects" by Augusten Burroughs, and while all of the ten or so essays in the book are well worth reading, a small detail in "Getting to No You" (yes, the spelling is correct) has securely fixed itself into my brain.
It's a piece about Burroughs meeting and arranging dates online, particularly one man (yes, he's gay, and yes, I'm sure James Dobson is well aware of this) who he knows right away he has nothing in common with, but he can't bring himself to not agree to a second date. At the end of a horrible evening, Burroughs finds himself in the man's apartment, looking for a way to tactfully leave, when his date starts to tell him how he has recently discovered spirituality and religion, and how it has changed his life. He excuses himself and reappears shortly, wearing some type of thick cotton dress. Then he begins spinning, and when he stops, he tells Burroughs that he is studying to become a Whirling Dervish.
I swear, my life has not been the same since I read those two words. Whirling Dervish? What kind of religion calls it members Dervishes? And why do they whirl? Intrigued, I found the answer here (if you too are curious). And then I moved on, or so thought. But instead I have become obsessed with the phrase "whirling dervish." It's as foreign a coupling of two words as I can imagine. Well, maybe not. I forgot about "compassionate conservative."
Anyway, it's not what a whirling dervish is. It's just about what the words sound like together. Whirling. Dervish. If someone had walked up to me on the street and asked me what I thought a Whirling Dervish was before I read the essay, I don't know what I would have said. I probably would have guessed that it was a bird. Yes, the elusive Whirling Dervish, sleeping all day only to emerge at night to taunt the fruit bats in a spinning spectacle of confusion. I do know this: it's far too mesmerizing of a phrase to be construed to just a religion.
What if instead of calling it a "split-finger fastball", Bruce Sutter has been a little more inventive with naming his out pitch? "OK, here we go. Two outs, bases loaded, the count is full. Here comes the pitch... swing and a miss! Struck him out with the Whirling Dervish!" The sporting possibilities alone are endless.
What about politics? Who came up with filibuster? Wouldn't "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" be that much better if Jimmy Stewart went into a 24 hour whirling dervish at the end?
So I've spent many a moment in the last few weeks challenging myself to come up with a better use for "whirling dervish", and I think it came to me just this past week:
Most every night I go for a bike ride around nine PM, and I have developed a certain route that takes me a few different neighborhoods of the town I live in. Just to the East of my home is a small enclave that I would gather is about sixty years old. It's only three blocks long and has no sidewalks or streetlights. The homes in this area are split almost 50/50: half are huge homes that have been built recently, multi-story brick homes with four car garages, enough outside lighting to land planes in fog, built in lawn sprinkler systems and huge entrance doors that cost more than I paid for my first car. The other half are ranches, the homes that were built when the area was first settled. Throughout the summer I have seen a sample of the people who live here, and every ranch seems to be occupied by folks in their "golden years" while the new homes are full of new families, where there are as many cars in the garage as there are people sleeping in beds at night.
The ranches are dying. Many have for sale signs in front. The one that has a "sold" sign also has a sign next to it, advertising that a builder will soon knock it down and put a much bigger house there. And soon, when I ride past, there will be an orange fence around the lot. That's the sign of death for a ranch. It will be nothing more than a hole soon.
It's weird sometimes. There will be a single ranch in the middle of the block, bordered by two huge new homes on each side. I imagine in the dead of night that the homes stare down on the ranch with and say "What are you waiting for?" And the ranch says nothing, because it knows that it's history once whoever is inside dies or moves away to the retirement home. It's just a matter of time.
Last week I noticed another for sale sign, and I found myself saying "there goes another whirling dervish." I have no idea why I thought of it like that, but I like it. The whirling dervishes of this town (and many others around it) are disappearing, replaced by the modern day upper middle class mansion.
I'm not really bothered by it, but that is exactly what is happening. And I used to reside in a whirling dervish myself, selling it when it became apparent that the land was worth more than the building, so who am I to judge?
I'm sure that there is some connection between religion and the real estate market here, but I don't see it. I'm just happy I found a suitable use for whirling dervish. I know I'll never be able to find one for "compassionate conservative."