Elijah: Grandpa, what’s surreal mean?


The Elephant Celebes by Max Ernst. Oil on canvas. 125.4 x 107.9 cm. Tate Gallery, London.

Grandpa, what’s surreal?

Where’d you get that word? You’re only five months old!

I heard it on the news. Some flake from Arizona said it.


Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Well, it wasn’t “some flake,” Elijah! It was Senator Jeff Flake, and he’s not a flake. Flakes are like snowflakes. You haven’t seen snowflakes yet but it’s supposed to snow tomorrow. You’ll see. Snowflakes fall from the sky, turn everything white, and then they disappear.

Did Jeff Flake disappear? He’s white. Is he surreal?

No, Elijah, he hasn’t disappeared and he’s not about to disappear.

So…what are you talking about? You’re not making sense, Grandpa!

Well, Jeff Flake was saying what thinking people know: what’s happening in the world right now is surreal.

That’s what I asked you!!! What’s ‘surreal’?

Life is, Elijah! You’re only five months old.  You’ve never known anything but the surreal world. It’s the world that has “the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of dream; unreal; fantastic” (Dictionary.com). Life itself has become surreal.

Grandpa, are elephants real?

Yes, why?

‘Cause Marissa doesn’t’ like elephants. She says they’re mean and out of touch with reality. Are elephants like snowflakes?

No, Elijah. Elephants are real. But some elephants, like the one Marissa is talking about, are . . .  well . . .  surreal and deranged. They want the whole world to be white. They’re snowflakes.

Yeah, but not like Jeff Flake. Jeff Flake’s no flake!

Right, Elijah. He’s like Max Ernst and the Surrealists who exposed the underlying insanity by painting it. Jeff Flake painted it with words.

IMG_1779 E 5 monthsThanks, Grandpa. This whole conversation has been surreal. I love words!

  • Grandpa Gordon, Chaska, MN, Oct. 26, 2017.





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