Bending Ears in the New Year

One of the running jokes in my family is that I spoke my first word at the age of twelve. While I often challenge this sully with the contention of recalling distinctly, at the age of ten, a boy much resembling myself asserting his dissatisfaction with the evening’s fish sticks to all those present at the picnic table one hot and sticky August evening, I would be embellishing in the hopes of representing more loquacious origins (that is to say, I would be frontin') were I to submit that this first word had been anything other than “fish,” quickly followed by my second spoken word, “sticks,” which immediately preceded the third constituent of my declarative triumvirate, “bad.” This impressive auditory ensemble that I expressed was accentuated with a pause at the end, followed by a look around the table. In the written world, the scene would have come together something like this: He looked up from his paper plate of fish sticks, french fries and ketchup, took in a deep breath to ready himself, and spoke, “fish sticks bad.” He looked to the others at the table hopefully, expectantly, but this lasted only a moment before he withdrew, as two seconds had passed with no sign of approval, to assume a more dejected pose, at which point he looked back down to his plate and pretended that he had said nothing. Wished that he had said nothing. And hoped that the others had not heard him.

A shy boy? Of course, who wouldn’t be? Living amongst such a frightfully strange and eclectic array of nature’s misfits. Has there ever been, in the history of the world, such an impractical species as ours? I beg your pardon, my dear Erasmus, but if I am hearing you correctly, you are saying that you actually want me to choose my own destiny? Oh, dear God, just repress me.

The truth is I do have proof that I spoke before the age of twelve; in fact, even before the age of ten. It was much earlier than this, when I was in the third grade and considered by Teresa Hayden, the first of a long line of girls I would be in love with and would only kiss, a strapping young lad wise beyond my eight years on the planet. Back then, eight years was a lifetime and there were nine planets. I know this because I made a mobile replica of the solar system with some Styrofoam balls from the model shop and Teresa said it was really neat. I took this to mean that she was more into Mike Buschee, who was really good at drawing cars and trucks, as Teresa often referred to his drawings as super wicked. When it comes to girl talk, really neat is at best three notches below super wicked. Even with eight-year-olds.

Today, eight years pass more quickly than the time it takes to ask the question: Zoolander was in 2001? Eight years ago? Are you kidding me? And Pluto, once our courageous sentinel, standing watch in a perpetual Siberian winter on the dark and lonely perimeter of our solar system, has been relegated to the status of dwarf planet, not even counted anymore, thus leaving us with only eight real planets. Poor Pluto. Apparently, the IAU (International Astronomical Association) determined that Pluto had not successfully cleared enough of the debris away from its orbit to be considered a planet by today’s standards. Pluto likes debris. Pluto is a hoarder. Pluto lives in a trailer. That trailer orbits our sun. Not every(orbiting)body achieves his, her, or its dreams, but there are those of us who will always remember brave Pluto. You are not alone. You are never alone in a trailer park.

My proof of sound comes in the form of one sentence, forever etched in my mind like a faded, old-time, black-and-white photograph of perfect, grade-school cursive, written 50 times on the blackboard: I will not talk back when Mrs. Romano reprimands me. Actually, it was written 100 times, but only 50 times by me. The other 50 times the sentence was written by my accomplice and partner in the talking-back-to-the-reprimander-thing-a-ma-doodle-sitcheation, Kenny. Kenny was always in trouble, always writing sentences with cool and important-sounding words like reprimand on the blackboard. For me, the state of affairs was an anomaly: It was, in fact, the first time that Mr. Craw, our beloved principal, had ever reprimanded me.

What did we say to Mrs. Romano to account for this sentence, or, should I say, these 100 sentences? I cannot say for certain, but I am sure it was something that needed to be said. This, I can attest to, as I do not talk back haphazardly and without the conviction that my principles have been affronted. (And yes, to Mr. Craw, using your homophonous connection to the previous sentence and knowing your character I can attest that you, as well, would have been affronted).

You see, when I talk, I am saying something that needs to be said. Trust me on this one. It’s like when you are hungry and you eat food. But when you are not hungry, and you eat food anyway, you are then eating in excess and not out of necessity (like when I eat a bowl of ice cream three hours after having dessert). You are not eating what needs to be eaten, but what you want to be eaten. Some people are like this with talking. They talk not because of what needs to be said, but because they can say something: They want to show the world that they possess the gift of spoken language. We all know them, these show-offs who rant incessantly, bouncing from one inane subject to another, like a lemur leaping through the trees of Madagascar, with no apparent point nor any clear line of connection from one subject’s departure to the next one’s landing. Substantive topics such as why my brother’s wife is such a loser and guess who I saw (Sarah) at a red-light and she didn’t even look over to say hi to me, such a poser with her fake Prada bag up on the dash of her Mercedes C300 that’s probably going to be repossessed, like, tomorrow, who does she think she’s kidding are typically covered in depth. Sounds just keep coming out of their mouths making all kinds of interesting patterns, as if when they inhale oxygen, they must exhale words: the next step in our evolutionary metamorphosis.

“Blah blah blah,” they say, as you give a pensive nod, noting the way they embrace a state of obliviousness as related to your level of disinterest and inattention to what they are saying. “Aaaand then, unimportanty, who caresity, blah-de-blahdity.” They haven’t even looked at me. Not that it would matter, as their level of dedication to filling my ears with their bird-like songs of whoopty-doo-it-ness would preclude them from having the ability to note the way in which my contemplative nod has retracted to allocate some space for the looks of obvious impatience, contempt and downright are-you-freaking-kidding-me-ness to overtake my visage. And please consider that when I say bird I usually mean, as I did in the above case, the turkey vulture. “So then, I was like, insignificanty, meaninglessy, why-in-the-world-anyone-would-give-a-damn-is-a-mystery-y, and she was all, . . . until my last, dying breath this mouth will exude sound.

Sometimes, I would like the opportunity, when the biological necessity of oxygen sets in and forces them to pause for a moment from their monologue, to say, “You have heard that actions speak louder than words?” Then, I would pull the cork out of the bottle of Stag’s Leap Cabernet from my backpack and stick it in their mouth. “Cork is becoming rare,” I would add, “many of the Oregon Pinots are being bottled with screw caps these days.” Now there is something worth saying.

So as pertains to the New Year: For the politicians out there, the ones who will be directing our country through the next year and beyond, I offer the following suggestion for your New Year’s Resolution: Talk less, say more. And then do something.

For the rest, truth be told, I would never want the talkers to talk less, as this would mean that I would be required to talk more, something that I have no interest in doing. So talkers, let’s preserve the status quo: You keep talking to give the rest of us something to talk about and I’ll throw something in there when I feel the need. Like when Mrs. Romano reprimands me. Anyone have an extra piece of chalk?


can you Digg it?


Michael said...

I think you first question was "can I swim in your pool?"

love the "fish" photo...tater tot.

L.J.L. said...

Hey, is that Cockeyed Bob in the pewl?

Jenn Thorson said...

I need a moment or two to recover from seeing intricate, thought-out and intelligent humor writing on a blog.

I might need a cold compress, too. And possibly more caffeine and an aspirin.

The shock has been great.

L.J.L. said...

Thanks, Jenn :) However I must confess this post was actually just a front to lure people in . . . stay tuned for an onslaught of skateboarding stunts done wrong videos, with the occasional falling baby thrown in to increase my "awwww . . . oooooh!" factor.

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