Columns » Bob Lancaster

Blown away

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I've suddenly run out of opinions.

For an opinion columnist, that can be occupationally disadvantageous. But I can't help it — it's come to seem to me that just about all the latter-day opinion-mongers are blowhards. And I don't want to risk being remembered by my friends and grandchildren, my heirs and assigns, as one of those. Lord, there are so many of them any more. Like the zombies in “Zombieland.”

Too many opinions, like the too many notes in Figaro. Most of them, the contemporary ones, I mean, deriving from a slew of additional opinions expressed by like-minded blowhards in so-called opinion polls. Once in a while even Justice Thomas has one. Only to find expression his have to be mimed.

And most of them should be in ALL CAPS. You have to go loud — including in the sense of outrageous — to even hope to be heard over the din. Nothing of the unhurried, the meditative, piddling along, unsure where you're going but curious and attentive — like LaSalle — like this. You could do that from Elia right up to the mad scramble's commencement but not anymore. Now it's blow hard from the gitgo.

Entertaining even an ellipsis of Learned Hand uncertainty is not an option. You can't worry about getting it right or wrong when the whole ball game is git-r-done and git-r-moved. If you have to, you can come back later and “clarify,” the newspeak for recant.

So for the moment I'm shucking opinion altogether, along with my shoes, and side-streaming the Ol' Moi canoe over to the next sandbar, where I plan to set a spell while the torrent roars on by. Put my feet up. Chew on a jimson weed. Mull fall. Take stock.

Ah, but in the peace and quiet of unopinionation, with this gymnasium-size space to fill up, what's a columnist to do who has a tabula rasa where his brain used to be?

• I'd tell some jokes if I knew any, but I don't have the art, never once, in a long life, insofar as I know, having made a single person laugh by cracking one. And the jokes I like are simply too slow developing here in the Blowhard Epoch. For example, Mr. Clemens told his classic Grandfather and the Ram joke with such glacial deliberation that he actually fell asleep on stage, and snoozed there easily for a considerable time, before he got around to delivering the punchline. Imagine that on PTI.

• Or I could call in sick and have them subject you to a guest blowhard.

• Or  with just a smidgen less of dignity I could fish up out of the Ruskinesque must one of the thousand old failures — they're all failures, wishful thinking aside — and give it another lap, a tactic made semi-respectable by overuse on TV,  which not only repeats programs occasionally but continues to repeat them hundreds and thousands of times. Some TV shows actually get better in re-runs, but that seldom happens with reprised  informal journalism of this ilk, which, like left-over pork, loses something each time it's reheated and re-served.

At least in my unopinion it does.

I've tried to keep busy this past week looking for topics that I can feel OK about not having an opinion about.

    One that I found was plastic or paper in the supermarket checkout line. Here's the transcript:

“I don't care. You pick.”

“We're not allowed to do that, sir.”

“How come?”

“I couldn't say. It's policy.”

“Well, I shouldn't have to decide. I'm already clinically stressed from all the shopping decisions back yonder at the dairy case.”

It was suggested we could flip a coin, as in “No Country for Old Men.”

Or name a designated decider, the role for which George W. Bush once nominated himself.

Or submit to binding arbitration. With me across the negotiating table from the bag boy, who in this case is about 93 years old and has the incurable habit, when you choose the plastic, of tying the top flaps together in an absolutely un-untieable granny knot so that when you get the bags home you have to rip them open with your bare hands or with some pinking shears, and you always wind up collaterally ripping open an enclosed flour sack or sugar sack and before you get the stuff put away you've scattered it all over the kitchen and down the hall into the parlor and halfway out to the woodshed, and varmints are popping out of baseboard holes to scarf at scattered granules.

It's almost enough to make you see the attraction of blowhardery, I swear.

But comes a point when those waiting in line behind you start rolling their eyes and grumbling, calling you a prick, and so forth. So you have to choose your battles. 

I remember when we got our groceries at the commissary in a big old towsack, which Pap then slang over his shoulder and lugged home. Walking home, of course, toting the poke. Cut through the field, crossing the crick at the ford.

Couldn't have done that with paper or plasic but that burlap is tough. And roomy. He could've th'owed a nice-sized shoat in there for ballast and it wouldn't a been a whole lot harder to fotch.

 

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