Beauty Pageants, Route 66, Old Cars . . . and Me

I went to a Route 66 festival this weekend, and though it had its disappointments — relatively few people showed up and I sold only a few books — it also had a few highpoints — I met some old friends, I made some new ones, and . . . I sold a few books!

The beauty pageant that took place in the center of the artists’ and authors’ pavilion was too surreal to be a lowpoint and too bizarre to be a highpoint. The first pageant event seemed more of a bitty pageant then a beauty pageant since it featured babies barely able to walk (one needed her mother to hold her upright). I couldn’t help wonder how that crown would affect the rest of the winner’s life. Will it be the highpoint of her life even though she’ll never remember winning it? Or will it be the first of many wins, giving her an inflated sense of her worth?

It seemed to me that the older girls and women who entered did have an inflated sense of worth. (The preschoolers and girls in the early grades just seemed sad with their make-up, mincing walks, practiced smiles, and regal waves. And the 11-year-old winner looked terrified as if the responsibility of being a queen weighed heavy on her skinny little shoulders.) During the speech portion of the event, one of the older girls (a young women, actually), vowed that if she were to win, she’d uphold the integrity of Route 66. Typical budding politician, she never explained how she would achieve this grandiose and absurd goal. For cripes sake, most of the road no longer exists. (The longest parts of the road still extant are in San Bernardino County, probably because that section of Route 66 meanders through undeveloped desert.)

I guess I don’t get the mystique of any of it — beauty pageants, route 66, old cars (some of which are remade beyond any semblance of authenticity) — but I seem to be in a minority. The economic impact of Route 66 is huge — according to a recent study by The National Parks Service, Route 66 generates over $132 million per year in the communities through which it passes. The economic impact of beauty pageants is astronomical — over $5 billion!!!

By selling a few books at the festival, I added to that gross revenue, even if my income from those books was in the low two digits. Don’t know whether to be proud of that or not.

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