Columns » Bob Lancaster

Molasses riff

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This is the slowest time I can remember, and I’ve lived through some slow ones. I lived through Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter, and Carter was the slowest till now, my memories of that era centering on his mother, his brother, and his daughter, none of them actually doing anything, except his brother staggering around drunk on Billy and slurring slurs at the Ayatollah — so indeed I might have drowsed away entire Carter months and Carter seasons, or time itself might have ceased functioning for an epoch or eon there, its anchor sludged to immovability in what the man himself called le grande malaise. Wasn’t there a hostage crisis of some sort?

I lived through the summer of 1990, which boiled out all but three of our remaining Arkansas swamps, and through a recent two-day power outage that I would have sworn went on for weeks, or longer than “The Iceman Cometh” or a Fidel Castro speech. Zell Miller couldn’t have made that outage seem any longer. He and John McLaughlin could have been here in the parlor as Click and Clack, and it would’ve remained stupor time for Ol’ Moi nonetheless. Those were slow times, slow as cold molasses, slow as the huddled nights in the Homeland Security bunker hoping the terrorists scurrying by outside wouldn’t stop off here on their way to Blue Hole and Powhatan to nap goats and poison strategic wells.

But last week was slower still, the last six weeks, the whole glatial span since February. Mild January was a snap this year, but since then we’ve been becalmed here in a vacuous Dixie springtime, kudzued fast in another kind of Sargasso Sea. Trying to hoke or conjure or beaker up an interest in which of the white boys in this tootsie lineup might be lieutenant governor next. Talk radio in the morning. Is this what they fought for at Pork Chop and Hue and Antietem? In March and April I pondered installation of a secret taping system like Nixon’s but all that would be on it now would be residual white noise from the Big Bang. And somebody wanting to sell me an Oreck 8-pound vacuum cleaner, a Garden Weasel, and a Little Giant ladder system. The last in addition to the one I already have. Doesn’t everyone really need two?

Lord, I hate these hot-early mornings when you wake up breathing Blue Ribbon Johnnie Fair. The real reason DeSoto died here was that he couldn’t just once take his clanky mudbank repose without full cognizance that before the morn mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds would have spelunked down through the rusted-out holes in his plates and greaves to suck every one of the El Dorado hopes and dreams into dry welts. The same sense of petty-pace creep that sent Byron to Missolonghi and Davy Crockett to the Alamo and Mad George into Babylon and Mad Ez to bay with the Duce now has McCain and Free Willy Falwell gaily entwined. Slo-mo simpatico; synergy. The gfy veep shot one old birdman but then slank back in behind the sneer with Mama and Butch. My guess is that Anna Nicole doesn’t know who the father is because nobody’s explained to her yet how chilluns come to be. And what happened to those twins?

Manned lunar missions used to pull us out of these sinks, or the desegregation of some whitey citadel or preserve, or a good hair-raising doomsday square-off, or a mere song could do it, or a car, and each of us had inside the wherewithal and ingenuity to lift ourselves up and out. A daily poop smear was all the great Dutch microbiologist Leeuwenhoek required to move his profession a century forward. And I knew this old boy who looked for Newtonian truths in the flight patterns of dog-peter gnats. Don’t know that he ever found any, but isn’t that beside the point? Events like Riverfest and FEMA hurricane relief are good temporary diversions, but I suspect a big breakthrough here in Century 21 will require a great leap by reality TV. Either that or sports might do it. Some ongoing spectacle like Olympics ice skating pairs or the Smarty Jones pursuit of the Triple Crown.

But right now the sporting scene is as desolate as Wally Hall’s metaphor stock. Poker is not sport. The NBA finals are as much a thugfest as rap and baseball just blows, Yankee aholes and Pujols a mute colossus, the Bonds thing of polite interest to San Franciscans and maybe a little to people who look a whole lot like manatees. There was a solemn report on CNN that the 700 Club’s resident Christ figure, Pat Robertson, the one with the jack-o’-lantern head, has kept himself fit into his mid-70s by leg-pressing a full ton, which Samson couldn’t have done, or the South Park Satan, or any living human who eschews clownhopper bejesus imbecile whoppery. A possibility is that the myth arose as a float for a Huckabee-Robertson ticket, or vice versa, that would whip voters into shape both in body and in spirit, trimming authentic fat while shepherding true believers en masse onto the glory train.

All Aboard with Pat and Mike.

Is that a campaign slogan or what?




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