Millard Fillmore's noodle roller

One day you were feeling that life wasn't good enough and then the music swelled and the tour bus doors opened. A nondescript house sat behind its historic sign and that sign added a little gold to the bleak surroundings. You step out further, the music continues to swell.

The black-and-white photos dusted and the microphone plugged in, the voiceover begins to paint in broad strokes. Luckily, whenever people are doing things others want to be measuring and keeping track. This is Millard Fillmore's teacup. It was touched 411 times by Millard Fillmore's lips. This is Millard Fillmore's noodle roller. This is the table that he built, this is the DNA we got from his teacup.

“This is the floor he built for his Abby,” says his volunteer tour guide 140 years beyond Millard Fillmore’s time. She isn’t the only one in town to jump on the Millard Fillmore bandwagon.  There’s the Millard Fillmore Festival and the graveyard tours that end at the gravestone that bears his name.

This is where students snicker at his silly name and where they snicker at the professor with BO fruitlessly trying to make a point. The sound of our names is how we all live on. Then there are the daily things, the things that we think are silly. We never try to attach ourselves to them until someone points to someone else living modestly.

A maple sap trough, the gun below the mantel, they encourage you to try and conjure the sound of a sack of potatoes hitting the floor. And yes, there is an end. He was a loving husband, good with his hands. Still, there is a lowering of expectations, like the postage stamp designed in Millard Fillmore’s likeness that few really cared about.

Years later the whole town turns out for the Millard Fillmore birthday bash. They take their pictures smiling and waving next to his cardboard cutout. They say his silly name a lot and wear silly wigs. Pride swells to somewhere below the Buffalo wings while you’re grabbing for the milk.

“Aren’t you glad you stepped off the bus?” one of them says.

Sensing the gravitational potential they have wheeled out anything not too elegant. Each cold winter will be superimposed on the homestead. But the only pauses that will be injected will be those of future commentators. This is how we make American life.

It’s not true that we only use 3 percent of our brains. Now is a time filled with the urge to get away. The stream will be in front of you when you step back on the bus wondering who the gravedigger is having lunch with.

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