Columns » Bob Lancaster

More Q's A'ed



Oh no, not another of those stupid Ask Assmunch columns.

Afraid so. Since I've got enough inquiries saved up.

Q: I moved here recently from a different region, one in which the residents speak English. My first day here, I found it necessary to ask directions from one of you local yokels, and his response was “Do what?” Needless to say, this was pronounced dew whut. I repeated my question, and he said, “Do what now?” I'm assuming by his puzzled look that he was answering my question with a question of his own, but for all I know this dew whut is a common declarative observation in these benighted parts, or even an interjection, perhaps meaning “Your fly is open” or “Your hair is on fire!” Can you shed some light?

A: He was trying to tell you that he didn't understand your question any better than you understood his. Or if your hair really was on fire, he might have been making colloquial reference to that.

Q: Have you been outdoors lately? Big changes going on out there.

A: I stuck my head out just the other day, first time since the big snark hunt last fall, long enough to renew my acquaintance with fresh air. Looks like a good year for pink and yellow bushes that end in the letter a. I didn't see any polar bears, but saw lots of sign, and understand they've been forced down this way by the advancing glaciers that exist only in the imaginations of the global-warming deniers. Lots of birds of different kinds than I remember, such as rodeo eagles and albatrosses. Gave me the hankering to angle, but I hear all our native fishes have been snapped up by the invading hordes of northern snakeheads. That's a real shame. The wind was down from Montana and I thought I got a whiff of Custer loess. It smelled of old foolhardy.

Q: My doctor says I need a sense of purpose. I have to admit I don't have one. Any suggestions?

A: I borrowed one from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who thought a noble everyday ambition would be “… to hammer out as compact and solid a piece of work as one can, to try and make it first rate, and to leave it unadvertised.”

Q: I see that great swarms of grasshoppers are appearing in the American West. Isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse, or one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, or whatever? Aren't there four of these? What are the others?

A: I wouldn't know about that. I came away from Sunday School as a youngster thinking there were four Apocalypse thingies, all right, but in my junior cosmos, instead of portents or horsemen, they were dogs. The four Dogs of the Apocalypse as far as I was concerned were Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, the Hound of the Baskervilles, and Lon Chaney Jr. when the moon was full.

Later on, I came to think of the apocalyptic foursome as Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen, and Rosie Grier, and later still as fire, rain, sunny days that I thought would never end, and lonely times when I could not find a friend. Makes no sense, I know. But as much as an orange-skinned congressman (Boehner, R-Ohio) seeing enactment of a minor health-care law in one of the lesser nations of the earth in one of the more inconsequential epochs as the Big A trigger.

Q: I've got an old song on my mind that I can't think of the name of. This has gone on for two weeks. It's driving me crazy. It goes dum-dum dum-dum-de-dum dum-dum-de-dum-dum dum-de-dum, and then repeats. Can you help me out?

A: From the combination of dums you described, I'm guessing it's a snippet from the overture of the musical Candide by Leonard Bernstein — the one that Dick Cavett used as the theme music for his TV talk show back in the good ol' days. I could be wrong, but that's the only yore tune I can think of that fits your unusual 2-5-4-3 dum pattern.

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” comes close, but that's not a title that would slip your mind. I'm pretty sure your music isn't the Huntley-Brinkley news theme that they stole from Beethoven, or the jungle crow theme that the cartoon stole from Mendelssohn. It's also not “You Done Stomped on My Heart and Mashed That Sucker Flat.”

Anyway, I feel your pain because I've been there, having one time hummed an unremembered song from the old “Your Hit Parade” for two solid years before Lawrence Welk dropped in one night and told me the title. That's embarrassing, yes. Champagne Music was anathema to hep cats like I was then. My only excuse was that I was channel surfing on the TV, OK? Back when it was called that. And I caught a passing strain of the damnable maddening 4-5-5-dum melody that had dogged me through 700 nights. The Little Lennon Sisters were singing it, and the maestro thoughtfully identified it when they concluded. I'm not proud of how it happened, but the sumbitch hasn't bothered me since, and I'm fairly certain that otherwise, in restraints, I'd be humming “Under Paris Skies” in the nuthouse today.

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