Some truths aren’t for everyone.
There are those among us who aren’t quite old enough to learn every little thing, and there are others who will, sadly, never be old enough. If you know someone like that, there’s no need to tell them. Why spoil their innocence?
(Note: Spoilers below the line.)
From time to time, I like to take a break from politics and world events to sit and think about the important things in life. For instance: Have you ever noticed how they make socks inside-out? Those seams ought to be on the outside, where they won’t catch on your toenails or etch lines into your skin. And another thing: Is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?
While you’re thinking about that last one, let me tell you about something a new friend of mine from Down South asked me. She’s snowed in for the first time in her life and is suffering from cabin fever after only a few hours. “How do you Yankees handle it?”
Let me tell ya: It’s a bit of an art.
There’s a hoary old tale that’s been circulating in American politics for generations. It starts with an elderly farmer, because in myth and parable those are our wise men. The English have wizards; the Germans have magic dwarves; Americans have farmers.
Seems this old feller was out mending fence one day and had a mishap, so he went in to see the town doctor. As he was getting his hand stitched up, the doc asked how he’d happened to slip so badly with the fence wire.
Every age has its own myths and legends, its tales of heroes and hidden horrors, of villains and their victims, all suited to the age they were told in. And on my shelves, safely bound between hard covers (one or two locked shut) is a broad collection containing thousands of these tales.
This is not hard to do. Folklorists do nothing but collect and then publish, and then the copies sit and molder, mainly unread. Few ever attain a large print run, and of those that do, most are corrupted by public demand. Both the Grimms and Andersen bowed to pressure and revised what they’d published for later editions, softening the sharper edges and draining away some of the blood. Even then, though, it’s quite possible for an ambitious soul to track down the originals, which in turn were, in large part, collected from older tales told and retold over the ages.
The common error here lies not in the collecting or the publishing, but rather the mistaken illusion that these tales once bound will stay that way. For tales are living creatures; they grow in the telling, as they pass from teller to hearer, and every soul they pass through is changed by the experience — some forever, some only for a night and a day.
If you’re a native Mainer living in Maine right now, you probably never wondered how your home town got its name. You’re content to live in Passadumkeag or Molunkus knowing they’re from the original native tongues, something your Penobscot neighbor might be able to translate (or maybe not, times being what they are). If you’re the sort who asked questions when you were young, you’ve probably moved away by now; I know, because that was me. Asking too many questions makes folks uncomfortable, I’ve found, so nowadays I do it in a big city where everyone already ignores me anyway.
Trouble is, if you don’t ask, you never learn. And so many fine old tales that ought to have been told over and over have started to die out over the years. This is one I heard when I was very young; not long ago I ran across a variant of it in one of the Histories of Paarfi of Roundwood (as translated by Steven Brust) and bethought myself to track down the original, just to make sure (more…)
A friend and I were discussing some of the finer points of sportsmanship. We disagreed on one point; his view, expressed quite fervently, is that winning is worthless unless you’re a good sport. My point was that, on some occasions, winning is more important, and sometimes it’s all about how you play, but that it entirely depends on circumstances. Upon hearing this, he proceeded to berate me, opining that I’d never teach a beloved child such drivel.
Miami doesn’t really exist. It’s just (more…)
“Mr. Lion, Mr. Lion!” says the monkey. “If you’re the king of the jungle, why is it you’re down there and I’m up here?”
-Joel, at South Station
Editor’s Note: Read while listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung.
Too much caffeine; too little sleep. South Station in Boston, just coming back from the New Hampshire primaries. Nice guy, name of Joel. Don’t know his story, but he likes a good joke. We got to talking.
Joel was worried about me; saw me dozing off (more…)
No meme is safe.
“So in the middle of the Civil War,” it says, “someone was like, You know what this country needs? A delicious steak sauce.”
And therein hangs a tale.
See, back in the day, the armies didn’t generally carry enough food (more…)
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