Ship of Fools
August 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve been in Florida four days, and today was the first time I managed to make it to the beach during the brief period the sun was out. We splashed in the blue water, and I felt almost normal—and came out covered with baby jellyfish stings. They don’t hurt too much, but aren’t pleasant. I’m marinating in vinegar now, thinking of all the work I have to do, and the sadness comes and goes. Am I emerging from this depression, or is this merely a pause? Is the Zoloft working? Or is it what I decided yesterday…which I’m not going to tell you….
Okay. New topic: the Republican debate. Even I, in my romantic bathos, admit that this was more despair inducing than my personal life. Rank stupidity in high places used to be a good source of jokes, but it’s just not funny anymore. As for Obama; I’m suffering buyer’s remorse, big time. Hilary: I’m sorry! You were right! Maybe she wouldn’t have been terribly effective—the subhuman viciousness of the Republicans is not Obama’s doing—but she wouldn’t have been so craven. We could have cheered her on as the ship sank. The sword and sorcery novels I read all have a point where some character says: “All that’s left for him is a good death.” This concept is pretty much confined to fiction in modern America, a place where doctors blackmail bedridden, pain-wracked terminal patients into having more invasive tests so that “your children will know what cancers they’re genetically prone to.” Yes, this is happening to the mother of a friend of mine.
Charles said to me, “We need to get living wills,” and I replied, “It’s not really necessary yet. We each know the other would choose to die—”
“As soon as possible?”
“Non. If we’re terminal, paralyzed, brain-damaged, or after more than a week in the hospital.”
“Or when the money runs out,” he said.
“If the money runs out, I’ll die in a worthy cause (see above), and you can go live in the nudist colony on your Social Security.”
“No; I’ll go with you.”
“But what about the cats?”
“I’ll work until I’m 90,” he said with a sigh.
We both will. But for the country, sinking into a ruin we won’t get out of in my lifetime, I do wish we had a noble captain on the bridge, fighting with a sword, a battle-axe, and wizard lightning. But this is a small time, small-minded, shortsighted—one of those historical periods when the writers skitter about like spiders, no place to anchor their webs, which collapse anyway under the weight of the death-bred flies…
(I was being metaphorical. In literal mode, The New Yorker ran a story this week about insect-eating, which includes a recipe for maggot seviche, using maggots obtained from corpses. Yes, we live in a damned era, but isn’t that taking it just a little too far?)
Once Upon A Time…
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.