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Monkey Number 101

February 11th, 2006

First of all, thanks to Sharon in California for telling me that she made Alafair’s piecrust recipe from Old Buzzard and loved it. My mother swore by that recipe, and she’d be thrilled that you enjoyed it.

A couple of days ago I was talking to a friend of mine about the “One-hundredth Monkey” philosophy, which, briefly, goes like this: If you teach a certain number of monkeys (maybe a hundred, it’s a nice round number) how to do something, then suddenly and mysteriously every monkey in the world will know how to do it. This idea is based on a Japanese research project that occurred during the 1950’s, which is too convoluted to go into here, but in the end, the scientists proposed that this phenomonen suggests some sort of monkey collective consciousness in the universe. There was a book that was published a couple of years ago called The Tipping Point, which proposes something along the same lines for human beings. One person can come up with an original idea, and tell it to another person, who tells someone else, etc., until a point comes where the idea has spread throughout human consciousness, whether each individual has been told or not. I like the idea that we’re all connected somewhere on a subconscious (or should I say superconscious) level.

I tried to tell my friend, in a somewhat inarticulate way, that all throughout my life, I’ve felt rather like monkey number 101, at least where my generation is concerned. I’m a leading-edge baby-boomer (I can hear you say “Oh, no!” Dear Reader, but one can’t help when one was born), and since I was quite young I’ve noticed that as soon as I get a brilliant and completely original idea, it suddenly becomes a standard Boomer fare — from getting tired of curling my hair and letting it grow long and straight, to horrible fear of housewifeliness, to all-white walls in my house (did you realize there was a time when walls weren’t white?) Just a few of innumerable 101st monkey moments.

Then as I passed the half-century mark, I started to look back and take stock. I became open to something I had never even considered before — appreciating my elders. I think that writing about the recent past is an attempt to understand a mind-set and way of life that was completely foreign to my young self. Of course, it’s a dash of cold water in the face when those younger than I am have no idea whatsoever about my own cultural references. Could it be that I was as clueless about the world of my foremothers? Since I’m the 101st monkey, I won’t be surprised if within the next few years, the whole Baby Boom generation isn’t looking back over its shoulder.

And finally, my sister-in-law filled in a few of the details about the incident upon which is based the story of Bobby Tucker, (see the previous entry), the untimely death of her baby sister in 1938. My husband’s eldest sister was a little girl when baby Lorena Fay died, and remembers the incident fairly well, as you might imagine, since it was so traumatic. The family was passing through Colorado at the time, not living there. They were staying with the father’s sister in a shanty town outside Montrose, while he looked for work picking peaches. The kerosene starter that the baby got into was behind a big cookstove rather than a pot-bellied stove. After the baby died, the family discontinued their trip to California and went back to Oklahoma, where all those kids met their future spouses, and the rest is history.

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