Smile Politely

No Column This Week

“My transcendency allures you,” I said, breaking away from my meditation to let Lee come in the room. She was hauling up the space heater we had used to thaw the frozen pipes in the downstairs bathroom.

“It always has,” she replied, leaving me to my emptiness.

Ignore that. Ignore the column this week. We can take some time off. Yes, we can. It’s inauguration week, so, yes, we can.

This is the week, finally, to relax. This is the week we watch an African-American sworn in as President of the United States. I still don’t believe it.

This is the year of living dangerously. This is the year I don’t care if I go into debt. Make that, more into debt. This is the year I have made plans to take off a month to go to South America, regardless of the cost.

The problem with that last item is that it will throw off my planned future column on the value of vicariousness, about how not traveling is better than traveling, about how I am content to stay here and let others do the hard work of bribing customs officials and negotiating lodging. Better rethink this entirely.

Lao-tse’s words in verse 80, just before the end of the Tao Te Ching, say that

“If a country is governed wisely, its inhabitants will be content. They aren’t interested in travel. Even though the next country is so close that people can hear its dogs barking, they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it.”

Or, as George Harrison rephrased it in one of his songs, “The further one travels, the less one knows.”

Actually, if I were to write a column this week, it should be about a dog, about the sound of dogs barking in other countries. Mickey Rourke thanked his dogs when he won the Golden Globe award. My wife can’t stop taking pictures of our dog wearing scarves and hats. John Foreman’s Sunday editorial was entirely about the hit dog movie, Marley and Me. Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, is a major TV star. And, truly, the only presidential appointment anyone really cares about is that dog.

If I were to write anything at all this week, it would have to be something light, some fun time-waster like a list of the 50 Worst Album Covers of All Time, although I find I disagree with these ratings. For one thing, the Terry Riley album, #34, A Rainbow in Curved Air, is a classic work of experimental music. I think most of these album covers were downwardly rated because of the hairstyles.
Most rating systems dumb down the culture. I especially dislike movie star rating systems. Even Roger Ebert resents having to rate movies with stars. “Nonsense” is how he refers to star ratings and sometime, not this week, I will write a column about that, probably in conjunction with this year’s Ebertfest.

No, I believe I will take this week off to write a poem, an inaugural poem. This is the week I boldly will declare myself a poet. This is the day I will write a poem, a sonnet.

Here I begin to sing in praise of ice,
Since one must learn to love the circumstance,
Since winter comes to interrupt your dance,
Chin up, head high, you slip. So what? It’s nice.
At least we say so. Have we any choice?
For February comes no matter what.
The weather rules, this cold a bitter cut
Against protest. We cough without a voice.
So learn to love it! Think of those who stand
In Washington DC to see the show.
You think they care about the bitter snow,
The mob, the wind, the awful marching band?
Heck, no! They want a bite of history.
I’m just too old. I’m watching on TV.

On second thought, scratch the poet thing.

A lot of people are going to the inauguration. I should write about the mindset of the people of Central Illinois, but that proposition is entirely too scary. I’ve lived here long enough to recognize that my neighbors in this alternatingly frigid and boiling flatscape can be a little, well, cuckoo. Last Thursday on WILL AM580’s “Afternoon Magazine,” Celeste Quinn interviewed the authors of Barack Obama: The New Face of American Politics. The very first caller, in a kind of curmudgeonly and weathered voice, complained to the authors that Barack Obama was trying to take over the world.

“Everything you’ve said about Obama applied to Adolph Hitler in the 1930s,” he said. “He was a very good speaker, very charismic (sic), the people were in a poor economic state and were swayed by someone slick talking, like a used car salesman. That’s how Obama has impressed me.”

Obama is really Hitler? Celeste and the authors were entirely nonplussed, but I’m a little bit surprised Cheney and Bush haven’t pulled this idea out of the hat in their interminable exit interviews. Blame Hitler. Why not? The two of them haven’t offered even a whiff of a mea culpa for anything.

Seriously, we all need a break. I’ll write a column next week. This week, I’m downloading the official picture of Barack Hussein Obama, printing it out on glossy paper, putting it on the refrigerator and taking a well-earned nap, hoping I wake up to find that the last eight years were just indigestion from pretzels and pork rinds.

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