Breakfast At Wimpy’s

My lord what a perfect day is Tuesday! The sky is blue, temperature 71 degrees, I did some piddly amount of household work this forenoon to allow me to shut that nagging protestant work ethic away for a couple of hours, and have moved to the front patio.

My frivolousness is out there for all to see, where anyone that wants to walk the bike path has to trudge past me. A pair just went past shaking their heads and although I couldn’t hear what they said their lips clearly formed the word “Democrat,” said with a slight curl of the lip. In my mind I bless them on their walk, and wish them only a small harm, nothing greater than the awakening of a latent hemorrhoid.

I can see four grassy yards from my chair, and three of the four have a robin working the lawn. Surely there aren’t any worms anywhere near the surface. There’s been too little rain. The birds must be eating seeds and bugs. The one in my own yard always keeps one eye firmly on me, but that bird has nothing to fear for I am the purest of innocent bystanders. Also, my inertia is overwhelming.

Today’s patio tunes are all blues, which go very well with sloth, I have found, and with a puckish frame of mind as well. Jelly Jelly just finished playing … it’s a little naughty but hey, we’re all grownups here. Great Godamighty!

Jelly Jelly, by Josh White

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From The New Yorker

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I don’t know much about politics, but I know what I like. I am a nominal Democrat, but have found little about the local party to get excited about. It seems to be basically a group of well-meaning and liberally-bent older Caucasian citizens. They frequently have an outdoor BBQ in the fall and those that I have attended have revealed a startlingly low percentage of young people and people of any other color than white in the membership.

This does not bode well for a party’s future here in this politically red county. This is really odd because the other party (the elephantine one) is something more on the reprehensible side. This would seem to leave a whole lot of room available for improvement.

I looked up the definition of firebrand, and found these two in an online dictionary:

  • a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.
  • a piece of burning wood

Our local gaggle of liberals fits the latter definition better than the first, if you exchange the word smoldering for the word burning. Let me hasten to add that I include myself in this group of ineffectuals. The problem for me personally is that I am not, nor have I ever been, a leader. My gifts run much more strongly to those of supporter, spear-carrier, and gadfly. But leader … I can only wish. (If anyone requires references supporting my claim to bootlessness in this area I will be happy to provide them.)

Way back when I still lived in Minneapolis and had not a single gray hair, I attended services at a Unitarian church for a few months prior to being conscripted by the Air Force. The “minister” was really a lecturer on ethics and morality, without a smidge of dogma about him. I totally looked forward to sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings during that short part of my life. It was while sitting on that wooden bench that I heard the first notes of what was to become the feminist concerto. (What … women aren’t happy with the world as it is? What a concept!)

I recall one morning that he described the membership of the Unitarian church as wanting to do good, but that they were like a person having a generalized seizure. A lot of energy being expended but jerking in all directions without the coordination needed to be effective at anything. His statement got a laugh at the time, and its memory has stayed with me for half a century. I keep finding new places to apply that metaphor, and being a Democrat in Montrose County is one of those places.

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From The New Yorker

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To my mind, the above drawing should be in the Cartoonist Hall of Fame, if there is such a thing. I laugh every time I look at it. So many details … the darts everywhere … the door off its hinges … the bare bulb … the chicken … and is that an old-line coffee mill over on the left? Even that final word – fled.

I may not have lived in such a house, but I have definitely visited it.

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My dad had a high school friend named Wimpy. Wimpy had never married and lived on a small farm near Barrett MN with his mother. One pheasant hunting season Dad somehow got the idea that we should ask this friend for permission to hunt on his farm, so we went to do just that. At the time we knocked on his door, Wimpy would have been around fifty years old and his mom in her early seventies.

I might have been warned by the external appearance of the farm house, which was not so much in need of a coat of paint as it was a bulldozer. Inside was a revelation. There was no part of the floor in the living room that was not covered with several layers of news paper. Magazines were stacked here and there. The dining table was covered with newsprint as well. There were perhaps four cats in view, but who knows how many lurked in other rooms? There was no litterbox visible anywhere, and my sense of smell told me that there probably had never been one.

Wimpy was a pleasant man in his crudely patched and creatively stained bib overalls, and his mom couldn’t have been more “Minnesota nice.” They graciously gave us permission to hunt their fields the next day, and went so far to make us feel welcome that they insisted we come for breakfast that morning before heading out with our shotguns.

And before we could stop him, my Dad accepted their offer.

Now one of my brothers-in-law was with our group that day, and he was a supremely fastidious man. The idea of breaking bread anywhere near this house made him nauseous. As soon as we had said our goodbyes, he began to plan how to avoid the need to return without hurting anyone’s feelings. However, it was also plain that he would walk the two hundred miles back to Minneapolis if he had to, because there was no way any food prepared in that kitchen was finding its way to his mouth. I joined him in his revolt, and our absence at breakfast the next day was explained away as that we were chronic late sleepers and worthless ne’er-do-wells, and would only have been unpleasant company at the early morning meal.

Except for the darts, and swapping the dogs for cats, the room in the cartoon could have been at Wimpy’s farm.

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My earworm this entire week has been a song of Linda Ronstadt’s that I really never paid much attention to in the past. It is Someone To Lay Down Beside Me, from the album Hasten Down the Wind. A story of coping with loneliness. I found this blogpost that says it better than I could.

It’s a Karla Bonoff song, and she’s actually got a really nice version of it herself, but the Linda Ronstadt is the one that got enough radio airplay to catch my attention, somehow only late at night as I recall, so here we are. I only needed to hear it once. It felt like dying inside, like one of those dreams where you’re caught naked somewhere you’re not supposed to be. It’s one obviously for all the lonely people, and if I’m giving away too much about myself with this—which I may or may not be—I’m also pretty sure that everybody out there has to know what this song feels like in some way. At some Dark Night of the Soul level. Has felt the yearning ache alone in bed in the middle of the night. The planet is overcrowded, everybody on TV is coupled up and happy as hell, so are half the people walking around in the songs and movies, and all the rest are having dramatic breakups and quickly moving on to next partners. This song … speaks for the rest of us: Can’t I just please get some just a little bit of that for myself, once in awhile, maybe? Is it so much to ask? “People all over the world are starvin’ just for affection,” as Jonathan Richman reminded us earlier. The immediacy of that starvation lives in every measure of this song, desperately. It occupies a kind of miraculous hushed space of fragile piano and human voice and swelling sound. It’s a bummer, it’s haunting, it’s depressing—it might even be depressed itself. But you know how true it is too.

Some To Lay Down Beside Me, by Linda Ronstadt

I thought that maybe sharing my earworm here might allow that cerebral pudding I carry around above my shoulders to go on to other tunes, we’ll see it that’s true. I like the song very much, but it does put one in a mood.

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