Thursday, February 11, 2010


This morning, I had to brake at the top of the little hill at the end of our driveway because a car was approaching.  Lately, I've been putting my Dodge Ram pickup in 4-wheel drive until I'm on the main road, but today I didn't think about it.  As I slowly slid backwards, I wondered if it would have made any difference on what seemed to be solid ice.  No big deal.  We stopped.  I ground into the super-gear and up we went, me and my Ram.

It has one of those big 8-cylinder engines I was hoping our new President would ban from the highways.  Talk about nixing a second term; fussing with Fifth Amendment rights ("due process") would wreak tons more havoc than the Second ("right to bear arms").

There you have it -- my inconsistency.  Talk is so cheap, sometimes I wish we'd drop the pretense.  It doesn't work anyway most of the time, even for very good actors, because as the stack of white lies gets thicker, few people are smart enough to prevent at least one of them from reaching out to bite.

I'm as suspicious of cute, wonderful human interest stories as I am of eulogies, not that they can't or shouldn't exist to help us aspire to greatness.  Maybe this goes back to a newspaper article written about me ten years ago, which said I majored in "piano math" in college.  I wondered if the problem was a missing "and" or whether the writer actually thought I had answered "piano math."  I'm not saying such a major shouldn't exist.  It just wasn't mine.

I'm getting off track, as too often happens.  The criticism I'm leveling is not only inaccuracy -- if we didn't recognize it before, certainly the Internet has taught us abut the potential fragility of the written word -- it is, dare I use this word, obsequiousness in a writer, like a supersweet overly attentive waiter.  Avoiding crossing the line between truth and sacharrin-ity, I imagine, is the supreme challenge facing someone who writes about human success, dead or alive.

"You're rambling again," says Virginia.  "Are you saying you prefer a few warts?"

"Exactly," I say.  "Often when I read an obituary or attend a funeral I imagine the departed one floating above, wondering who is this person being described."

"Tell me something," says Virginia.  "What does this have to do with your pickup?"

"It may look macho, but once it begins sliding down a sheet of ice it's just a piece of metal.  Give me some pimples and warts."

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