Once upon a time in California, I was late getting getting home from work on election day, and had just enough time to grab my sample ballot and leg it to my local polling place two blocks away before it closed. As I hustled past a lifted Ram pickup with a chrome bull bar idling menacingly in the mouth of my local gas station driveway, the driver, a young man in a ten gallon Stetson and sunglasses, flashed the lights at me, stuck his arm out of the driver’s side window and slapped the outside of the door.
“¡Andale Viejo!” he belted out. “¡Que te vaya bien!“ I gave him a perfunctory thumbs up and kept on trucking.
¿Viejo? I grumbled to myself. I’m forty-one, for fuck’s sake!
He was right, though. I’ve been old since I was ten, but now I’m eighty, and still hobbling along just fine. Go figure. Maybe that cowboy benediction had something to do with it. I’d certainly like to think so….
In my seventies, dreams have seized me.
Uncompromising, but not unkind,
Of more significance, now it’s come to this,
Than the judgments of my peers.
I embrace this purgatory of dreaming,
Consider it generous, a blessing even,
To be granted a good look at the bill
Before it comes due
When I was twenty
If I got this far
Would gruel in the morning
And a beer at sundown
There was a guy here
A couple of years ago
Musta thought he was
I wonder what happened
1. We’ve learned nothing.
2. We’ve forgotten nothing.
3. We’re not THEM.
4. Vote for us.
6. Thank you.
Watching President Trump try to beat the Congress into submission has been a uniquely gruesome experience, but also an edifying one. For decades now, the dysfunction of the federal government has been something sensed rather than seen, partly because it was in the interest of the political class to keep it hidden, and partly because the media, ever conscious of which side their bread was buttered on, shared that interest.
Today we’re told by Marc Short, the President’s director of legislative affairs, that the White House is simply “asking that the Congress do its job.” I wonder if he, or his boss, for that matter, has any idea just how big an ask that is. If the experience of the past 40 years or so is anything to go by, the problem isn’t that the Congress won’t do its job, it’s that it can’t. Our tolerance for venality, it seems, has drawn the veil over an alarmingly complete incompetence as well. What happens when you bully a moron? Nothing good, I’m thinking, but with the two-minute warning already being signaled, it looks as though we’re about to find out.
On Outliving the Language I Was Taught
Toe the line/Tow the line: We don’t have draft centers any more, where hundreds of young men at a time were once directed to stand with their toes against a line painted on the floor, then step forward in unison and take the administered oath. Your soul may belong to Jesus, son, but your ass belongs to the Army.
Jibes with/Jives with: I guess there aren’t as many sailors in the world as there used to be.
Set foot in/Step foot in: To step is/was an intransitive verb, except maybe for the military’s Step it up back there! (As in step up the pace, which, come to think of it, may be a different verb altogether — something like to upstep, a remnant of those pesky Germanic separable-prefix verbs which seem to be so deeply embedded in modern colloquial English: fuck up, fuck over, fuck off, fuck with, etc.)
How fun!: Fun used to be a noun. (O, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.) Sleigh is still a noun, but only Santa ever rides in one these days. (Vermonters, Canadians, Russians, work with me here.)