As the soon-to-be-butchered Ghost in the Shell points out (1), human memory is particularly fickle and ephemeral. It may make us who we are; at the same time, its existence may mask a deeper epistemological conflict. We certainly don’t get to choose what sticks in our memory. As we get older, this becomes more and more frightening. We try and hold on to things like anniversary dates, first kisses, an especially significant bit of moonlight. Sometimes we find that there are things in our minds we’d rather dispense with: distasteful happenings, random detritus. And then there are the bits we love, the odds and ends that we haven’t memorized on purpose but that have stuck with you for decades, each time seeming fresh and new. Such a memory, for me, is Sideshow Bob’s remark about air shows.
What kind of country fried rube indeed? I spent my youth at air shows, the easily impressed daughter of a Navy pilot. I remember that the SR-71 Blackbird was one of my earliest ideals of beauty. I saw multi million dollar planes come close enough to touch, risking in-flight collisions with colluded grace. Their force and variety impressed me. Sometimes I even got to sit in the cabin.
Now that I’m an Alabamian (going on a decade, sans buzz cut) I ask myself what I once thought was so great about these dangerous displays of government might. I can see my childhood wonder, my love of a spectacle, the gee whiz-ness of it all. What I can’t see is appreciating them as an adult. They’re incredibly loud and extraordinarily wasteful. They’re basically in-person recruiting pitches that don’t mention the free college, citizenship and health benefits (2). That’s not even to talk about the ways that they’re basically sound bombs designed to quiesce the working class so they don’t think about troublesome things like military spending. No need to look at that 10% budget increase, people – over here these two planes that your taxes pay for doing this all the time are maybe going to crash into each other! And there will be colored smoke!
Which might as well be the cover of RSVP’s new edition – a whiff of colored smoke. That would be nicer to look at than the existing jet plane promotional picture (3). It would have the added benefit of accurate advertising for the inside matter – puffs of colored smoke, largely punctuated by the occasional brute force reminder of what counts for some people as “fun.” But it’s the 70th birthday of the U.S. Air Force, an institution created to wipe humanity off the planet with nuclear weapons, and the show’s themed “Heritage to Horizon: A Century of Airpower since WWI,” and it features both the Thunderbirds and some trick French outfit, and it’s at Maxwell next month, so that pretty much guarantees that local journalistic bastion RSVP is going to feature the event on their cover.
Once upon a time we used to write a lot of free magazine reviews (4). We’d recently moved to town and were curious about the representations made by these magazines. Who paid for their journey into our hands? Who advertised within? What stories did the advertorialists tell about Montgomery and its denizens? Over time, the endless arrays of glossies beat us into submission. There were always new profiles to read, fresh rankings of orthopedic surgeons, of the moment photo shoots of events by the Mystic Krewe of whatever having their Thing White People Like in a Renaissance conference room dressed up to look like Undersea Paradise or what have you. From the beginning, these stories did not match up with our lived experience of the place. As we stayed longer, our skepticism metastasized from giggles to eye-averting shame. There came a point where, as the kids say, we couldn’t even.
But all good things deserve to be rescued from memory’s fickle tar pits, so we’re going to give this another try. Welcome back, readers, to Lost in Montgomery’s Free Magazine Review.
What’s it called? Montgomery RSVP: The River Region Guide for All Things Social. Notice the “all” in there – a bold claim, a “look no further” attitude. If you click that link above, you’ll see that we have reviewed RSVP plenty of times, and said enough about them to ensure that we’ll never, ever make “The List.”
What is it? This is not our first rodeo (but March 16-18 could be yours, as the events calendar informs us that the 60th Annual Southeastern Livestock Exposition Rodeo is coming to town: “Grab your cowboy boots and hat”). Indeed. So we know that RSVP isn’t just a publishing house. It’s also (and largely) an event planning firm whose lady employees pose every two months for some kind of photo of them being fashion-forward. This photo is usually attached to the “from the GIRLS” column that introduces each issue. The editor’s name is Peyton Flowers, a name that somehow could not be more perfect if a thousand Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates slaved away on the matter for a thousand years on a thousand MacBook Airs. Peyton is evidently about to give birth. If you did not know this from the column, it might make you wonder why her co-workers were each touching her belly, besides to point out its impeccable drape in a bold printed tunic.
Where’d we find it? Where do you not find RSVP? Have you ever played that game Plague, Inc.? The goal is to engineer a virus that will kill all of humanity before a cure can be found. One winning strategy is to infect as close to 100% of the population before you begin to manifest deadly symptoms. This works because you (the virus) get taken for granted, just another thing to put up with, no need to worry about a cure. And then one day you (again, the virus) evolve the ability to dissolve organs through aspiration and it’s all over. Puny humans. About all we can say for sure is that RSVP Magazine has not yet evolved the ability to transmit by air.
What’s the deal? Oh, Montgomery, you’re so much more sophisticated than you seem – at least according to the folks at RSVP. Their vendors have hashtags and muted colors. Their models have no pores, and you don’t need to either, because they’re offering a 15% discount on something horrifyingly called a “chemical peel.” Sometimes their ads have an illegible black font on dark purple background, but maybe they’re just sophisticated like that. Mostly, RSVP’s advertisers are betting that their readers have pets (check), wear makeup (nope) and are looking for a home – preferably of new construction (double nope). And yet, we read. Like a moth to the flame, we read.
What sections do they have? Mostly, if we’re honest, when we read RSVP we want to see who made The List. The List is RSVP’s bi-monthly curated compendium of the intentionally integrated, “young” and well-dressed. These folks may be artists, chefs, or account executives. They may be especially well-rounded nurse practitioners. What unites people in The List is their willingness to pose in affordable-to-reach clothing against some kind of reclaimed wood or slate background. In flattering light. This month, it’s slate. And we’ve got people who are passionate about their “fur babies,” CrossFit, and God, perhaps in that order, perhaps not. Some are pretty in pink, others have a kind of Vampirella thing going on. What’s important is not who they are, but what The List says about Montgomery. It says that we’re a place with dessert menus, a choice of gyms, modern couches and upbeat positivity-drenched
consumerism civic pride. And air shows.
What’s interesting in this issue? The best part of this issue is the list of coming attractions (here titled “what? when? where?” as if by some kind of dementia victim). Beginning on page 74, the listing promises that we can “BE IN THE KNOW … AND IN THE NOW” if we follow these listings and sign up online to RSVP’s own newsletter, “full of weekly SPECIALS, PROMOTIONS, LIVE MUSIC and more!” Let us leave alone for a moment, because we are feeling especially generous, the matter of the erratic all-caps behavior (see also: Facebook conversations with screaming Libertarian/racist family members). This will allow us to focus on the substance of the matter – who and what will light up our local experience across the next two months? Among what manner of delights shall we choose? However shall we plan our busy social calendar?
A surprising number of upcoming events involve cruises on the Harriott II – a vessel whose dining room our MML correspondent Jesseca Cornelson once described as “straight out of The Shining.” Then there are the ASF and Cloverdale Playhouse productions. Some seem cool – we are definitely in for The Tempest and The Crucible, the latter of which we are certain will only be about Salem and will have no bearing at all on contemporary world events. Afterward, we’re left with a number of one offs whose collective impact is to make our poor city seem about like the air show lover that it is. There’s trivia at heavy RSVP advertiser Blackfinn Ameripub. Plus side: Winner gets a $50 gift card. Minus side: You have to go to Blackfinn. Not gifted with either a knowledge of the arcane or especially defined cheekbones? Doug’s 2 has you covered with Contouring 101 ($55, March 15 & 22). Maybe if you go the first night (and don’t wash), your face will still look super-narrow when you go see a culture warrior, “Tater Salad” Ron White, perform at the MPAC the following evening.
March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day, so newspapers everywhere are offering hot takes on corned beef, and bartenders everywhere are preparing for amateur night (unless they are, wisely, offering “Saint Practice’s Night” at other times). RSVP recommends that you go to “Dinner with Sugarcane Jane” at the Capitol City Club. It’s at 6:30: “Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with dinner and a show. You can expect an incredible performance with this high-energy husband-and-wife folk rock duo while enjoying a five-course meal…” The meal is $100 for non-members, $85 for members. Remember that value is not the only way to represent the worth of your soul.
If that isn’t dark enough for you, Blackfinn will reveal the winner of its “Best Leprechaun” contest at midnight. See, someday your prince will come.
But wait. There’s more. This is spring, the end of accursed Daylight Savings Time, the rebirth of Our Lord, the rolling back of the rock to expose … commodities values! That’s right, MPAC will host “The Price is Right! Stage Show” on March 24. We assume that either Drew Carey or his contractually obligated genetic clone will be there to help your peers guess the market price of a box of detergent. To attend this spectacle, you’ll pay $35 to $55. And then, of course, the piece de resistance – the arrival of the Easter Bunny. Leaving alone the weirdest of weird brand synergy between “I just died” Jesus and “I hid someone’s eggs” Bunny, can we all marvel for a minute that the rabbit’s arrival will be on ice? At the mall? With escorts from the Eastdale Mall “Teen Team?” If it seems like this is a setup for the next Friday the 13th movie, you can just put your pen away slowly – we’re wayyyy ahead of you (5).
Reader, the buffet stretches forth endlessly. You’ve got a Jamboree at Faulkner, a Troy Festival, a tennis tournament for the almost-dead … so much to look forward to, and that’s not even till the temperatures top 90. So for this and so much more, we salute RSVP. Without you, we’d never suspect exactly how
banal active our beloved community could be.
(1) Save your time; the sequel isn’t really worth it, even though the animation is stunning. The characters spend a bunch of time saying quotations to each other on the order of “The ape wandering through the forest must step on many leaves.”
(2) Lest you say that we are in some way “anti-military,” consider that both of us have parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who served in the military. Also maybe consider why being anti-air show might make someone anti-military, unless that makes your brain hurt too hard. In which case, probably go ahead and delete your comment.
(3) And for those who are going to pursue writing their comment anyway, I’ll just say that the Blue Angels are better than the Thunderbirds anyway. This is dogma. I was raised to believe this in the same way that some people are raised to believe that God made the world in seven days. Neither idea may be correct, but both are largely unfalsifiable as matters of belief.
(4) Okay, maybe “a lot” is a wild overestimation. We wrote some. That’s better than most people did.
(5) Easter Bunny no longer played by Sean Spicer.