Columns » Bob Lancaster

Testimonial

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There comes the time when you can’t even get a little sick without wondering if you’re going to die. If not of this particular malady, at this particular time, then soon. In some of the larger contexts, very soon. And the thought is no longer scary as it once was. No longer intolerable, outrageous. No longer raising those terrible images from the great Edna Millay poem anticipating a desperate hysterical final struggle with Brother Grim. Call it the Geezer Consolation: when the prospect of passing becomes merely an invitation to review. Not a good thing if you’re given to remorse, regret — but comforting otherwise. There’s enough of my parents in me, God rest them, to spare me much brow-smiting for having pissed it all away. They were people who liked their lives, and were ever grateful for having been given the opportunity, and that same gratitude is now both liquor and pot-liquor to my old bones and nads and outlook. People generally and genuinely sanguine used to say “Praise the Lord” a lot, with the emphasis on the praise; and praise itself earned sacramental stature in the Eucharistic prayer. To the padre this was “praise for the gift of a world full of wonder,” and my own selfish modification has been to offer praise for an order of things that gave ol’ moi a carcass and an ID and a chance to strut my stuff, such as it is. If that amounts to the same thing as Praising the Lord, well, then, hallelujah. I think it amounts to the same as averring that this has been a swell time to be alive, a better time than Camelot or Da Gotta Da Vita to enjoy the fruits of human civilization because many of those fruits have only recently ripened to harvest. All of Croesus’ gold couldn’t have bought him a cortisone shot or a fridge that pops out ice cubes with the door closed. (I’ve wondered whether there are pismire hosannahs, chemically transmitted, of course, to the fruits of ant civilization, but I don’t think that veil will be lifted for me. The current prevailing scientific guess is that there are 10,000 civilizations comparable to ours just in this piddling galaxy, and neither will it be for me to know if any of that myriad of alien forms are out there singing praises.) I don’t know what expressing appreciation is good for — Editor Phil D. Hole could tell you — but as Pap used to say, it beats a hacking cough. It beats complaining to four indifferent walls about the sore back. So of the things I’ve enjoyed, the Moving Finger is hereby authorized to begin a testimonial, probably to be continued, sorry to say, at the next news lull, slump, dried-up well, or duly prescribed bed-rest hiatus. OK then: I’ve enjoyed the twilight of a thousand days, with swifts and bats and rose-bottomed scuds and cowbells off somewhere and the ghosts gathering, the same ones coming up again and again. I’ve enjoyed the pork at maybe 75 good barbecue joints. I’ve enjoyed gravel baseball — something you likely know by another name — for hours on end.I’ve enjoyed Provence and Tuscany, and steppe, moor, wadi, and outback, if only by vicar, and the blue ocean without ever having been out on it, and Cook’s travels, and Xenophon’s, and the plane rides with St. Exupery. And the Great Race. I’ve enjoyed maybe 20 lol sentences — written or uttered by H.L. Mencken, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor, Dan Jenkins, Charles Portis, John Randolph, Jimmy Durante, Peter Sellers, Curly Howard, and Pogo — and having concocted two or three of them myself. I’ve enjoyed driving through the bull gator bottom at night with the car windows rolled down, listening to either Herbert W. or Garner Ted Armstrong on the radio. And I’ve enjoyed hitting the floor in the weird dark of 2 or 3 a.m. to go fishing, then the long drive, then motoring a long way upriver, still before dawn, through a gathering mist that smelled of roe and willow and a fecundity as palpable as flathead slime. I’ve enjoyed being brother to Mr. Ed. and Flipper and Old Ben, and learning of the long road we’ve traveled together, and spying on the creation-science monkeys as they make anthropoid faces there at the looking-glass. I’ve enjoyed knowing who the aholes are, and, like the anti-hero of “I Am Legend,” what I had to do to keep from becoming one of them. I’ve enjoyed distancing from the Jesus weasels. I’ve enjoyed just about all the haint and booger tales ever since I came to know for certain that such creeturs warn’t literal. I’ve enjoyed the Hubble visuals confirming what the forebears knew by the force of imagination. I’ve enjoyed pondering just what made my superiors superior – for example, W.A. Mozart and Baby Petty. I’ve enjoyed the weather, mostly, the gorier hymns, the loonier prophets, Ogden Nash, the TV before it ran out of ideas, the newspapers when they had some class. I’ve enjoyed citizenship in a great country in its best time, just before vandals and fanatics took it over. MTK, as I said. Soon.

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