Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Former US Senator and senate majority leader Harry Reid passed away last week, and so far the best obituary I’ve read came as part of a longer piece by Garrison Keillor.

My friend Harry Reid who grew up dirt-poor and fought his father to protect his mother and hitchhiked forty miles to go to high school and who wound up marshaling the Affordable Care Act through the U.S. Senate had a luminous faith in this country. I talked to him a couple months before he died last week and he was full of life and quoting Mark Twain — the line about the man who lives fully does not fear death and also, “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” Harry was the only politician I knew who kept a picture of a humorist on his office wall. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Writing, Garrison Keillor

I didn’t realize that Reid and I had that in common. An appreciation for a humorist dead now these nearly 112 years.

Of course, lots of people love Mark Twain, whose life’s work was to find the sometimes elusive truth in things and show it to us. So perhaps it’s not so unusual to find another kindred soul, really.

Googling “Mark Twain quotes” brings up site after site jammed with sayings that could easily and profitably be stitched into samplers and hung on the walls of almost anywhere you can imagine. And by so doing improve that wall immensely.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

Mark Twain

There is no distinctly American criminal class – except Congress.

Mark Twain

No particular reason that I chose these two, except to illustrate that they will be true as long as there are cats and Congress. Not appreciating this is to court being badly scratched, at a minimum.

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From The New Yorker

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I would like to take a moment to bemoan the unfortunate trend of wearing puffy coats. I will admit that I own one, having been giving it as a gift by my favorite roommate of all time. And I further admit that it is one of the warmest and lightest garments I have ever owned. But, my friends, being warm and traveling light aren’t everything. We have made large strides toward becoming a nation of people who all look like Pillsbury Doughboys. The only variations are in color.

Before this nasty plumping of America came along, things were different. I will only speak for my own gender, and let women decide for themselves (as they would whether or not I let them do so).

In past eras we wore things like the pea coat, the Loden coat, and the flight jacket, just to name a few.

The Loden parka

The pea jacket

The flight jacket

Now, compare the manly and rugged looks above with examples of the men wearing puffers below. I guess if you’d like to look like you are wearing your sleeping bag, such coats might be just thing for you.

I can see where this is all going very clearly. It’s one more sinister attack on the patriarchy, where the object is to make the men appear so peculiar that no one in their right mind will listen to them.

And this, my friends, is where it’s all headed. I present to you 52 year-old Archibald Mountbatten, whose wife purchased a puffy coverall for him for Christmas.

The poor soul can scarcely walk, can’t use his arms at all … can’t even get himself into or out of the garment without assistance.

To top it off, the missus bought him the infamous Anaconda Scarf, which when wrapped securely into place severely inhibits any sort of verbal communication but for unintelligible grunts.

.

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From The New Yorker

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It’s already the winter of our discontent here at BaseCamp. The icy patches on sidewalks and streets pose fresh hazards for someone who has had knee surgery. The temperature has already dipped below zero, which is unusual for this area. At least we’ve passed that shortest day of the year thing, and there’s a little more daylight today than there was yesterday.

I’ve made the switch from Gold’s Gym to the local recreation center. For the past couple of months I’ve slacked off on my exercising, and that means that I am pretty much back to square one, with a muscle tone and appearance slightly more impressive than that your average ameba. At my present stage of life, conditioning that took six months to acquire is lost if I take the weekend off. It goes away so fast you can hear it doing so if all is quiet. A low-level rumble and whoosh sort of sound. Kind of like listening to the corn grow in Iowa but in reverse.

But it’s pretty obvious that the other attendees at the rec center are more like me. Gold’s is the place where you find the serious muscle-builders here in Paradise. Where the average client has trapezius muscles that start at the shoulders and slope up sharply toward the head.

That is so not me. I can confidently say that there is nothing about any part of my corpus that anyone in their right mind and with normal vision would consider ripped.

The recreation center, in contrast, is full of ordinary folks with ordinary bodies that are not intimidating at all to a slouchmonkey like myself. In fact, if you can attain a vertical posture you are already ahead of many attendees.

I think that these may be my people.

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King of the Cowboys

I used to watch you when I was little
The games I played I learned from you
I kept dreaming, you kept playing
When I awoke you were 62

Say goodbye to the king of the Cowboys
First and last of a dying breed
Say goodbye to the king of the Cowboys
Chained to a life he doesn’t lead

You told the truth, you were always ready
Whether with your gun or with your hand
It was lies but I never knew it
You taught me how to act like a man

Say goodbye to the king of the Cowboys
First and last of a dying breed
Say goodbye to the king of the Cowboys
Chained to a life he doesn’t lead

You lost your health,we lost our courage
In the things we say, the things we do
Early this morning, I woke up crying
Crying for me, praying for you

‘Cause now I know I want to be like you were
Just as long as I’ve got the strength to stand
Don’t stop trying, don’t stop fighting
You taught me how to act like a man

Say goodbye to the king of the Cowboys
First and last of a dying breed
Say goodbye to the king of the Cowboys
Chained to a life he doesn’t lead

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