Monday, March 1, 2010

My Super Groundhog Weekend

Although I have lived most of my life in Raleigh, NC, I was born in a small town in the northwest/central part of Pennsylvania called St. Marys. (The lack of apostrophe bothers me, but they don’t seem to miss it there.)I moved away when I was three, but all of my mother’s family still lives there, although several aunts and uncles have passed away. Many of my father’s family live in Indiana, PA (childhood home of Jimmy Stewart), which is about 1½ to 2 hours away from St. Marys. In order to get from St. Marys to Indiana, you go through the town of Punxsutawney, home of the world famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.

Although I had passed through Punxsutawney several times on summertime road trips with my family, I had never been there for Groundhog Day....

More info about Groundhog Day here: For some reason, no one ever wanted to go with me to stand in the Pennsylvania woods for a couple hours in the dead of winter at three o’clock in the morning just to hear the tongue-in-whiskered-cheek weather prediction of a sleepy woodchuck as translated by some crazy old white men in top hats. But last year, I had a milestone birthday in February, so I managed to guilt some folks into it.

My brother Bob and my brother-not-in-law Cookie, who both work for an airline, flew to Pittsburgh and then rented an SUV. They were to meet us in St. Marys on Saturday. On Friday, my husband Sean and I drove from Raleigh to Johnstown, PA, where we would take in a minor league hockey game and stay in a hotel overnight. We decided to drive Sean’s truck because it has four-wheel drive, and I’m glad we did. The cab was packed with our gear and a cooler and a bag of snacks that included what my mom called “butterscotch balls,” which are really disc-shaped hard candies. Having butterscotch balls on car trips was a family tradition for us four kids growing up. When I got older, into my teens or twenties, I thought to ask my mom how this became such a tradition. She told me that on our 500-mile, nine-hour journeys, she just gave them to us kids to make us shut up for a minute.

Another preparation I made for the trip was to create Bingo cards. They had categories such as Bumper Stickers, Animals, and Ornamentia. (Ok, it really spelled BANGO.) So when we saw a “Support the Troops” sticker, or some cows, or some unidentifiable roadkill, one of us got to mark off a square. The Ornamentia category was for lawn ornaments and house jewelry. These are things we don’t often see in Raleigh, but in Pennsylvania, you’ll see gazing balls, plastic deer, large metal stars or eagles on houses, Dutch hex symbols on barns, and so on. We were also on the lookout for things like state troopers, pot holes, strip mines, coal trucks, snow plows, paper mills, skunks (smell counts), Amish people in buggies, and statues of Mary in the lawn.

As we got into the mystery zone of the journey, where you can’t tell if you’re in Virginia, West Virginia, or Maryland, we could see the snow clouds ahead. By the time we reached Pennsylvania, it was snowing (or “pickin the goose,” as Cookie says). I was thankful for the four-wheel drive, although Sean was jealous that it wasn’t his turn to drive, because his truck (named Trinity) really likes utlizing all her four wheels. We were getting close to Johnstown, and I was afraid the journey was ending before we had completed our second round of Bango, but just outside town, Sean yelled, “Plastic deer!!!!” and I nearly slid off the road.

We checked into the Holiday Inn Express with about four to five inches of snow in the parking lot. I changed into my Carolina Hurricanes hockey jersey and my snow boots, grabbed my signs, and we were on our way to the Johnstown Chiefs game. I had printed a Google map of Johnstown, but we ended up basically guessing where we were going, and it worked pretty well. The arena holds about 4,000 hockey fans at capacity. Our general admission seats cost about $17. We were near center ice and could easily have moved up to sit just behind the glass. The goalie for the visiting team actually sat in a folding chair at the end of the tunnel where fans walk in to their seats. So, yeah, we could have spat on any player, basically. I thought, “Why didn’t I come here when Irbe played here?!” (He was my favorite Canes player, a goalie who got sent to the minors.)

I had just arrived and was looking for food when a stranger noticed my Carolina jersey and asked me if I had been to a game at the RBC Center in Raleigh. I told him yes, I lived in Raleigh. He said he had been there a couple times, had a friend there. He told me the friend’s name, and then the street in Raleigh that the friend lived on, as if I’d know him. Then he said something like, “I bet you aren’t ready to move back.”

I was confused for a moment and then explained, “Oh, no, I’m not from here; we’re just visiting.”

I guess it is unusual to be at a hockey game in Johnstown, PA, when you have no ties to the town. But the Johnstown Chiefs are named after the fictional minor league hockey team, the Charlestown Chiefs, that were depicted in the 1970s movie Slap Shot, starring Paul Newman, which was partly filmed in Johnstown. Not surprisingly, it is one of my husband’s favorite movies. I’m quite sure this side trip to the hockey game kind of sealed the deal in convincing him to accompany me on this crazy adventure.

The game was loads of fun because not only did the Chiefs beat the Mississippi Sea Wolves 5-2, but they also had a hat trick in the process. At NHL games, when there is a goal, you can tell by looking at the red light behind the net. A goal is indicated by a red light bulb. In Johnstown, the red light is actually a neon Budweiser sign. I shit you not (as the locals say).

We also noticed that the entire team was wearing a #7 on the left chest of their jerseys. We were wondering what that was about and decided to ask the man sitting in front of us. It just so happens (with the luck I like to refer to as “trail magic”), this man was a writer for the local newspaper and a main contributer to a recent book about 50 years of hockey in Johnstown. He explained that the 7s were in honor of Paul Newman, who had died recently, because that was the number he wore for the Charlestown Chiefs.
The fictional Charlestown Chiefs.

As I am used to Carolina Hurricanes games, I brought some signs with me: “CHEER IF YOUR TEAM SUCKS!” which I hold up whenever the visiting team scores (which turned out not to be very useful); an eye chart for bad calls from the refs; and since the Chiefs were playing Mississippi that night, “GIVE BILOXI THE BLUES!” I mean, I’m glad I brought them and all, but it’s less exciting when you consider there is no Jumbotron or cameras for me to mug for. Still, I think people noticed me. I’m not sure it had anything to do with me, but they did play “Rock U Like a Hurricane” in the arena, as well as “Sweet Caroline.” It might have just been a coincidence, but on the other hand, I was probably wearing the only red jersey in the entire arena, which was otherwise a sea of black and gold. It was two days before Super Bowl Sunday, but EVERYONE was wearing their Pittsburgh Steelers gear.(The Johnstown Chiefs colors are also black and gold.)

So we made it back to our hotel in the snow safely, had a good night’s rest – well, except for waking up at 2:30am because of the snow plow that passed outside our window about six times – and got on the road at about 9:30 headed for St. Marys. We didn’t make great time because of the snow, but I enjoyed the scenery and was really excited to be able to cross off “hex” on the Bango cards as we finally passed one on a barn near Ebensburg.

Since we were running late, we called Bob and Cookie, who were already at Aunt Ada’s house. Yay! The cell phone works! We had them meet us at about noon at Straub Brewery. The brewery, in operation since the 1800s, is just about the only tourist attraction in town, other than Decker’s Chapel, once known as the smallest chapel in the US, but I guess maybe they discovered there’s a smaller one somewhere. Straub Brewery has an “Eternal Tap.” You can just go in there any time and drink free beer. Serve yourself. There’s nowhere to sit there, but you can stand there and sample it all day if you want. Well, sort of. The “eternal” tap closes at 1:00pm on Saturdays and isn’t open on Sundays, so that’s why I wanted to get there in time. I am not a big fan of Straub beer (or weak, light-colored beers in general), but they now have a dark beer available that I wanted to try. It was...meh.(Not even as good as Yuengling, which I was happy to find at the drinking establishments we visited later.)We met three people standing there at the tap, and one of them did happen to know my cousin Jeff. Small town.

Ok, so after a trip to the gift shop, we went to Aunt Ada’s house. I took a detour down Hemlock Road to point out to Sean the house that I used to live in (not that I really remember it, since I was only three). Aunt Ada fed us lunch, and then some other relatives showed up to serve as guides on our elk safari. St. Marys is in Elk County, and the state has really been encouraging tourism by promoting what they now call the “Pennsylvania Wilds,” where you can view (and sometimes hunt) the largest free-roaming elk heard east of the Mississippi. We had three vehicles winding our way to the tiny town of Benezette, about 20 minutes away, where the elk were known to hang out. (Benezett(e) is sometimes spelled without the last e, but I haven’t figured that one out yet.) Everyone had their eyes peeled, and then I saw three of them, elk, just hanging out in somebody’s back yard. One of them was about two feet from the back porch. We stopped to take pictures. We continued down and up and around the road some more in search of more members of the herd, but we never did see any more. Glimpsed a couple of deer though – live and plastic – as well as a painted wooden “zebra elk” that a smart-ass local had erected in his yard. We also had to dodge a few snowmobiles before making a rest stop at the Benezette Hotel. We had a round of beer, thanks to Uncle Tom and Aunt Betty. Also with us was their son, my cousin Jeff, his wife Connie, their 16-year-old daughter Frankie, and her boyfriend Tony. We found it particularly cool that our beers were served in Mason jars. And while most people think I have the largest and wackiest earring collection in the world, and I did already own a pair of Steelers earrings, there was a woman in the bar who had BLINKING Steelers earrings. I was humbled.

Next, we went back to St. Marys for a meal at the Green Lite restaurant. I had a yummy meatball sub (or should I say “hoagie”?). Jeff had 30 Buffalo wings. Frankie ordered a salad and it came with french fries on top. This was not considered abnormal. It was then decided that we would visit Jeff’s house to see the taxidermy shop in his basement. I mean “cellar.” He had to go pick up his 10-year-old son from a party first, so the rest of us killed some time bowling on the Wii at Uncle Tom and Aunt Betty’s house. Aunt Betty beat the pants off us.

On the way to Jeff’s, I pointed out to Sean all the Valentine’s Day decorations on all the houses. One house had a glowing heart in every window. Of course some people hadn’t taken down their Christmas decorations yet. Anyway, Sean said, “Things are starting to make sense.” So this is why I feel compelled to celebrate every holiday, even the minor ones, and have earrings for every occasion. It’s in my roots.

Jeff’s basement was full of antlers waiting to be reunited with heads. He has won several awards for taxidermy. He also had a moose rack from Alberta, Canada; several taxidermied turkeys; a huge elk head on its side on a huge pedestal; whatever the state bird of Pennsylvania is (grouse?); and a bear cub that gave me the weirdest mix of emotions. It was so cute – and yet it was so sad to know it had died. Jeff said he had put in a request to the Game Commission if they ever ran across one. He said a farmer had shot it for eating his livelihood. At least it won Jeff a blue ribbon.

Well, after that, Sean and I were on our way back to Aunt Ada’s for the night, while Bob and Cookie stayed in a bed and breakfast in nearby Ridgway. We met them at their B&B the next morning (Super Bowl Sunday). Cookie was trying to give me directions: “It’s the huge Victorian mansion right across from the church.”

“Uh, Cookie, I can see five churches from where I am right now.”

Eventually, we found them and went inside briefly to check out the place. It was really nice. When Bob and Cookie had arrived Friday night, there was simply an envelope with their name on it taped to the door. Inside was the key and a note stating “Your room is on the first floor, to the left.” It was a big, nice place. The owner, who showed up the next day for breakfast, told them she paid only $100,000 for it (and then sunk in more for renovations -- but still!). On the way out, I noticed a candy dish. Full of butterscotch balls!

Part Two

Bob and Cookie had a GPS that decided to take us on a very odd scenic route from St. Marys to Indiana that ran alongside a river. I kept trying to call them from our car to say, “Where the hell are we going?” because it didn’t make any sense on my map, but the cell phone kept cutting out. I saw some more deer and what looked like elk in a pen on a farm on a hill. Then we had to stop behind Bob and Cookie in the middle of the road. “What’s going on?” Sean and I wondered. Then we saw the wild turkey crossing the road in front of their SUV. “Why did the turkey cross the road?” I texted to Bob.

By this point, I had crossed off numerous squares on our Bango cards: cow, deer, horses, pot holes, snow plows, lawn balls. Sean was vexed because he needed to cross of “Amish in Buggy” as well as “Statue of Mary” before winning, and he felt like that would be too hard to come by. He didn’t know Pennsylvania too well, but I agreed to accept “any religious statuary” instead.

Eventually, the GPS brought us through Punxsutawney. There was almost a little bit of a traffic jam, seeing as how it was the day before Groundhog Day. I rolled down the window because the heat had begun to build up in the car like a greenhouse. I kept looking at the houses that we were rolling past and their decorations. There was Steelers stuff everywhere (house flags, black and gold ribbons), some Valentines stuff, and to my great joy, quite a few groundhog decorations. People had groundhog house flags, stakes in the ground with “Happy Groundhog Day,” and carved wooden groundhogs in the snow-covered garden. Then we passed a house that still had some leftover Christmas decorations, and I shrieked, “Plastic Jesus!!!!!!!” Then I remembered the window was open and I probably offended someone. Oops!

We made a pit stop at the McDonalds in town. Outside McDonald’s was a giant, brightly-painted groundhog statue. They have several of these all over town. Sean wanted to get a picture of himself beside it wearing his Crossfit t-shirt. Crossfit is his gym, and they ended up putting his photo on their website for the day.

Around town, you could see tourists, but it wasn’t overwhelming. You could tell everyone was excited and friendly and in a good mood. Some people were wearing groundhog hats, with eyes and teeth and a tail on top, and I decided I simply must have one. We walked down the street to the gift shop. It was a little busy, but not bad. Cookie and I got groundhog hats; Sean got a groundhog stuffed puppet. The excitement was building.

We decided to walk to the town square, where some tents were set up. Twice, Bob warned us when we approached a curb, “Watch that first step; it’s a doozy!” because there were muddy puddles of slush on the corners. This is a quote from the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray is a sourpuss who has to repeat the day over and over until he gets it right, and every day he steps in a mud puddle outside his hotel. Sean was irritated and said to Bob, “Are you gonna say that at every corner?!”

The tents on the town square were selling things like Steelers gear, “Dutch” funnel cakes (I didn’t realize they were Dutch), and small oak casks so you could age your own whiskey or cigars. Two different mascot-like groundhogs were walking about, and I think they were just random townspeople (not officially sanctioned), because one of them actually spoke to me when I asked to have my photo taken with him. Mascots don’t talk!

Some of the “Inner Circle” guys were wandering about – you know, the guys who wear top hats and handle the groundhog. One of them said he liked my groundhog hat. “Wanna trade?” he asked.

“Sure!” I answered, obviously excited about the prospect.

"Nah, I don’t think so,” he replied. What a tease!

We wandered over to the library, which is the home of Punxsutawney Phil and his woman Phyllis during the rest of the year, when they are not prognosticating. There they were in the window, running about their little habitat. Kooky!

Afraid that McDonald’s would soon tow us, we headed back to our cars. As we were crossing the street in front of the Pantall Hotel, I actually stepped in a puddle of slush! We all started laughing because Bob hadn’t warned me (thanks to Sean), and I felt like Bill Murray.

Ok, I confess: I actually started crying. Tears of joy -- because I stepped in a puddle. And this wasn’t the first or last time in the trip when my eyes started leaking. I tried to explain it to Sean. Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney. There were people there from other states, other continents. Despite the cold, everyone’s in a good mood; everyone’s friendly. They converge on this tiny town and go out there to freeze their toes off in the middle of the night, climbing up a hill outside town. Why? Why? It’s totally pointless! It’s stupid and pointless! And that’s why I love it. It’s nothing but silliness; it exists for pure absurd amusement. It’s like a big joke, and the whole town is in on it! It means there are people out there, thousands of people, who “get” it. Like me.

Well, we went on to Uncle Pat’s house in Indiana and managed to get up his long, snowy driveway, and I was thankful again that we had driven Sean’s truck. Uncle Pat and his woman Kate have a great house with lots of open areas, lots of Uncle Pat’s art on the walls, and funky stuff. He had Bass Ale on tap in his basement. As it was a Sunday afternoon, several other relatives showed up for a drink and to say hi to us: Aunt Margie and Uncle Bill, Cousin Leslie, Cousin Amy and her daughters Hazel and Lily; Cousin Bill. Naturally everyone was wearing their Steelers gear. Most of them had plans to watch the Super Bowl elsewhere. Uncle Pat and Kate fed us a turkey dinner, then we gathered to watch the Big Game. It almost got kind of boring....until the last few minutes. When the Steelers scored their final touchdown, Cookie and Kate were shrieking and jumping, but I couldn’t believe my eyes. How could this trip get any better?

Friday night, I’d was treated not just to a win by the hometown Johnstown Chiefs but to a hat trick. Saturday, I drank from the Eternal Tap, spotted elk, and reabsorbed the uniqueness of the odd little town where I was born. Sunday, I watched our team win in the craziest Super Bowl in history in the middle of Steeler Country. I worried I had used up all the trail magic before the main event.

Soon after the Big Game, we all knew we needed to go to bed, dreading our 3:30 a.m. wakeup in order to make our way to Punxsutawney. I did not sleep the whole night. I was terribly dehydrated, mostly from a few drinks, somewhat from the dry climate. At 3:30 I dragged myself out of bed and put on all my warmest gear (including my groundhog earrings). I couldn’t eat anything, which is too bad because Uncle Pat was up frying eggs from the chickens in his back yard. I put on my boots and grabbed my sign and my new groundhog hat, and we piled into the rental SUV. It was just me, Sean, Bob, and Cookie. Uncle Pat had “done” Groundhog Day previously, and he refused to ever do it again. I braced for the cold and warmed myself with the thought that I’d never have to do this again either, after this once.

So the four of us are in the car, feeling rough and bleary-eyed and barely alive. Suddenly, the gloomy silence is broken by Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” I had totally forgotten to bring my iPod that morning, but Bob remembered. This is the song that awoke Bill Murray every day in the movie, over and over. There was something particularly cruel about hearing Sonny & Cher that early in the morning when you’re half dead, and yet also it was piercingly funny. We actually suffered through the entire song -- only to be assaulted yet again by the “Pennsylvania Polka” that Bob had cued up immediately after.

About a half hour later, we came into Punxsutawney and managed to find one of the last parking spaces at a shopping center where we could meet the school bus that would drive us the mile and a half up to Gobbler’s Knob. Before I could make it to the bus, I was accosted by what seemed like college kids who had been up all night partying. They wanted a picture of my sign.

Known in hockey circles for my clever signs, I had felt a certain responsibility to bring along signs not only for the Johnstown hockey game but also for Groundhog Day. It was self-inflicted pressure, but it was intense. The day before I left, I was still pondering what I could do. What did I want to say? “Hey, I’m from NC”? Cookie, who believes he was an Eskimo in a former life, wanted me to make him a sign that said, “Six More Weeks! Six More Weeks!” but Uncle Pat told me with a sign like that, he’d better stand 20 feet away from me. Nobody up there wants more winter!

I’m not quite sure how it finally hit me, but I decided to spoof the Obama campaign posters; you know, the ones that say “Change” and “Hope.” I went to this website ( that allows you to upload a photo and enter a short slogan, and it generates a blue and red, Obama-like poster for you. I found a drawing of a groundhog, uploaded it, and generated two different signs. One said, “CHANGE...THE SEASON!” and the other, “HOPE...SPRING IS EARLY!” I printed each image out in quarters onto sticky paper and affixed the stickers to a piece of poster board. At home, I wrapped the two poster boards around a piece of foam board that was attached to a yardstick. A yardstick is much easier to hold up than a poster board all day. I was particularly tickled by the way the groundhog on my poster looked like he was praying...for an early spring!

So, after a few photo ops, we paid our $5 each for the school bus ride up to Gobbler’s Knob, where we joined 13,000 other crazy people at about 5:30am. “The largest crowd ever after a Steelers Super Bowl victory” as the official proclaimed. I have to say, this was a pretty well-oiled machine. There were cops and National Guard all along the way directing traffic, blocking off streets. There were port-a-johns and a bonfire up at the Knob. They had laid down hay overtop the snow for less mud and more traction. There were designated areas for the news vehicles. I had that “Oh my God, this is it; we’re here” feeling when I saw the Weather Channel truck. Snacks were available, and the lines weren’t too long, and the prices were surprisingly cheap for such an event: $1 for a soda, water, coffee, or hot chocolate. Souvenir long-sleeve t-shirts for $5. There wasn’t any spectacular entertainment on the stage; just some girls in long-sleeve t-shirts dancing to whatever music was blaring over the loudspeakers: YMCA and the like. But the crowd was happy to dance, too, to keep warm. We were lucky: it was above freezing, when it had been like 9 or 16 degrees Fahrenheit every night beforehand. We had plenty of elbow room on the hill and found a spot where we could see the stage fairly well. We settled about half-way up the hill, at the same level as a TV camera.

At one point we spotted Ed Jekielek. He is a member of the Inner Circle and a friend of my Uncle Pat. I had met him at Uncle Pat’s 60th birthday a few years ago. Bob yelled, “Ed” and he turned around. He had given away his last VIP pass, but he gave us each a special “Punxsutawney Groundhog Club” collector coin. I felt special.

As we waited, people kept wanting to take pictures of my sign. Then, I was approached by a local newspaper reporter from the Indiana Gazette. He told me my sign was the best he’d seen. He asked where I was from, and why I was here, and what I thought. Because of my crying fit the previous day, it was like I had already rehearsed my quotes and sound bites. “The whole point is that it’s pointless; and I just love that.”

As I was being interviewed by the first reporter, a second one lined up behind him and waited. The second interviewer was from a Pittsburgh radio station; I think he said an NPR radio station. This interview was shorter, and he just asked me to describe my sign. I found this surprisingly easy – usually, if it’s a TV camera, I get all nervous and have “bright light” syndrome. I guess I can handle newspaper and radio fine. Or maybe I just felt comfortable there among so many other crazy people.

Well, after that, the fireworks started. Fireworks themselves have been known to make me cry. Because, again, what’s the point? People spend all that money just to make something pretty in the sky for a few fleeting moments. But these fireworks were not so fleeting. They were arranged by the Zambelli family, who also did the Super Bowl. Now, Punxsutawney is a town of 6,000 people, but the fireworks lasted at least as long and were just as impressive as the fireworks that Raleigh (population 350,000) puts on for the Fourth of July. And they were accompanied by the themes to Star Wars and Superman. Everyone oohed and aaahhhed, just like my mom and Uncle Bill and Aunt Pat used to.

After the fireworks, it was time to bring in the members of the Inner Circle. They marched down the hill in their top hats to the “Pennsylvania Polka.” Again with the polka! My eyes began to leak again. It was beginning to get light outside. I was warm in my coat, but my toes were totally freezing. Some of the crowd began chanting, “Phil. Phil. Phil.” The Terrible Towels were waving. Cookie began yelling, “Six more weeks!”

Finally, they dragged poor Phil Groundhog from his tree stump and held him up. The top-hat men huddled around as if to listen to him whisper his prediction. After some sort of proclamation about the Steelers being the World Champions, Phil eventually announced (through his Groundhogese interpreter of course) that he’d seen his shadow and there would be six more weeks of winter. If you can imagine, the crowd had sort of a mixed reaction of cheers, groans, and boos. I think the cheers were for the simple fact that we could all go home now. (Except for Cookie’s.)

And that was pretty much that. Everyone rushed to wait for the buses back down the hill. Handily, my sign made it impossible for the four of us to get separated from each other in a crowd. But everything was orderly, and we were back to our car in about a half hour. We didn’t stick around; we went back to Uncle Pat’s to settle in for a long winter’s nap.

I woke up around 1:00pm and had a nice, rejuvenating shower. Sean and I decided to take a trip into town, as he had never been to Indiana before. He saw the statue of Jimmy Stewart and the Jimmy Stewart museum briefly as we drove down the main street. We spotted a card shop and stopped in get a copy of the Indiana Gazette to see if I was in it (it’s an evening newspaper). I could have purchased a black and gold plastic Christmas tree there, but I settled for a Terrible Towel. We got back to Pat’s and opened the paper. I made the front page!

So that evening, some more relatives showed up to say hi to us and join us for dinner. I think there were 14 of us, and Kate made two lasagnas. I kept telling Sean he had still met only the tiniest fraction of my family. Cousin Amy saw the newspaper article and said, “Man, I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never been in the paper!!!”

We had a good time visiting, and then, after dinner, I heard a commotion and turned around and saw a birthday cake and heard singing. I thought, “Whose birthday is it?” The cake said, “Happy 40th, Magic Wanda!” and it was for me! It was totally unexpected.

As Bob kept pointing out to everyone, when HE turned 40, he rented a beach house and invited all his friends to the beach for an entire week. When Cookie turned 40, half a dozen of us joined him for a fabulous European vacation in Zurich, Switzerland. But when I turned 40, I dragged them to Punxsutawney, PA, in the dead of winter.

As they quoted me in the paper, “The whole point is that it’s pointless, and I just love that.”

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