Columns » Bob Lancaster

A new leaf



I used to be a columnist for the Arkansas Times, but that was way back last month.

With what's happened to the attention span, who can remember last month?

It was July, right? There were fireworks. Something about the Potter boy. Homeland Security into gut-feeling mode. Crony walking off to an early start. Starlets run amuck.

I went out to Wal-Mark (preferred local pronunciation) one day along there and in the parking lot a woman I didn't know gave me as sulfurous a cussing as I've ever got, and I still don't know why.

A mystery. Maybe she thought I was Tiger Nelson.

That's how the 21st Century has been ... unsettling, and you never know WTF.

Here's a prediction for you. Our attention span being what it is, when George Bush leaves the White House in 17 months, nobody will even remember how he stunk up the joint.

We'll vaguely suppose that he must be his father slinking away, and we'll already have forgot the Clinton interval completely. Tell you the truth, the Clinton years escaped my recollection some time ago, abandoned to the dim back there where Jimmy Carter and Grover Cleveland play gin rummy and Grover cheats. And the Bush years have gone to disappearing in chunks, as reality does in Kevin Brockmeier's recent remarkable brief history of the dead.

Clinton World was about nookie, I remember, and it was when our once-proud press died and went to hell. This zombie press we have now might as well be scripted in dingbats. No more sentinel lions; lots of hyenas though.

Here's a July comment left on the blog by a wag: “Lancaster on vacation from what?”

Yeah, well, what that parking-lot heifer said to me, guy. What the Animal House float banner said. And the veep to Sen. Leahy.

Even slugs need out from under. Without occasional leave, Beetle Bailey would be even more of whatever it is that he is.

OK, yes, the wag has his point. This is not rocket science. Not like having teeth pulled.

Sitting down at the keyboard and opening a vein, as has been alleged, it is not.

The opiner has been described as he who rides down after the battle and shoots the wounded. But it comes even to the cripple shooter to know the well needs refilling.

Buffalo Bill could and did shoot buffalo without stopping for months on end, but the time came for him too when some inner conviction had to be restored before he could put the next poor sumbitch out of its misery.

I don't know how I got off on this topic of vacation apologia, but let me circumlocute to the thought of using this attention-deficit opportunity to make a fresh start. I'm herewith renouncing the previous thousands of columns that have appeared in this space, am asking presidential pardon for inadvertent crimes committed in them against good grammar or good sense, and am resolving, since apparently nobody ever turns over an old one, to turn over a new leaf.

It'll be a different column for the duration. All staleness gone. Completely reverbed. No more geezer nattering. No annoying sesquipedalianism. Cheap shots and low blows drastically reduced.

I've just got to work out the form.

We don't need another twerp column or another blowhard column, I'm sure of that. Especially the twerps. I'm so tired of twerps, a watershed of them on either side of Tucker Carlson. Lord, send us misfortune; send us locusts; just don't send any more twerps.

We don't need spin and we don't need folksy or that faux folksy that skunks up so often from on down Scott Street.

We don't need “human interest” or vignettes or mailbag or hard-asses or dillweed from these “lifestyle” gurus. We don't need Miss Manners or Dr. Phil or Dr. Ruth types since total up-front cultural crudity has obviated nuance.

(Just an aside here, but I was just wondering what your average 6-year-old makes of these incessant, relentless erectile dysfunction ads on TV.)

I'd do a column on pimping your ride if I had the expertise. One week it might be pimping the Popemobile, and Air Force One the week after.

Humor columns go lame fastest, and there's no salvaging them once they've turned. The conventional Buchwald-Bombeck-Grizzard-Barry progression is a half hour of funny and then 25 years of not so much. Anyhow, at least until regime change, laughter is inappropriate in Century 21— except, of course, the rueful oy kind that burbles up from pathos.

The specter of diminishing options begins to loom and might oblige consideration of a column of helpful hints, hot tips and practical advice, like from Heloise's girl or Janet Carson. But again there's that comprehensive shortage of expertise. I can handicap dog races but that's about it.

Might come down to a column about nothing, a la Jerry Seinfeld. No. 1 submitted for your consideration.

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