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Black Lamb


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You say tomato, I say…

... but you may have a point there

March 1st, 2007


My wife, Deborah, says she has “nigglings”. Webster’s says she has “inklings.” “Nigglings” is her definition for the intuitive flashes she has that rule my life. When I’m making the call (and remembering that I’m married), the home team, i.e. Deborah, has a decided edge.

I know what she means, while the technically correct Team Webster, outfitted in 2,000-plus pages of italics, footnotes, abbreviations, racing stripes, designer logo-wear, and accent marks, not only gets the short end of this particular stick, but can also be banished to a musty closet. (I’ve spent time in that closet; trust me when I say it’s not Cozumel.)

It’s all about who knows when (and where) I’m going to be asleep. When I make the mistake of showing her the “Big Book” to score a pointless point, I lose every time. After all these years you’d think I might know better, but I still commit the occasional “wrong” of having to be “right.”
“Right” is never an absolute, unless my wife or daughter, Anna, are the ones who happen to be right. Then, somehow, it’s covered by the “lost tablet” codicil, the one about the stone Moses dropped when he was lugging the Ten Commandments down the mountain.

It took me quite a while to learn how wrong “right” could be. Even now, I still find myself apologizing for correctness; not so much because of right or wrong, but because I might try too hard to dominate a situation, rather than try to best facilitate that situation. Not to mention staying out of that closet.

“My way or the highway” is an extreme example, and only rarely have I backed myself, or anyone else, into that particular corner, but I have been on the receiving end a time or two, and it’s no picnic. My family isn’t an army, and I’m certainly no general. “The General” was a pejorative title my grandmother bestowed on my father, even though he’d been a Navy man. He did run our family as though it were a military unit, as did most of my friends’ dads. They had the Depression, World War II, and the right of American might as their frames of reference, so their world view came as no surprise. Like the television of the day, right and wrong was black and white, and it’s the way we were taught to think.

Civil rights, Vietnam, the women’s movement, and maybe some well placed psychedelics changed all that. As consciousness expanded, a blurring of absolutes also occurred. We learned to question authority, and that, as much as anything else, defines my generation. So, for an aging part-time freak, it has been troublesome to watch what I see as a societal backslide in a country that apparently is content with being told what to do.

I’ve asked some of my daughter’s friends about their take on the world, and for the most part they don’t get too worked up about much. There isn’t a military draft, so there isn’t any great outcry about kids getting killed in Iraq. Intellectually, they may be down on the Bush regime and our aggressive imperialism, but none of them feels a need to flee to Canada to avoid participating in the carnage. Of course, if the current White House regime has its way, we might see today’s tepid bloggers enraged to the point where they step away from their keyboards and out into the streets to protest.

Civil rights have come a long way since the heyday of the KKK, and women have achieved much in recent years, which isn’t to say all is well; White Anglo-Saxon Protestant males still receive better remuneration for doing a job than do women and other minorities, religious intolerance is still alive and well, and racism is nowhere near eradication. But the problems haven’t been enough to foment much in the way of social revolution.

Where right and wrong should matter, we find ourselves too tired to care enough. With a shrinking middle class, the “haves” exert more control than ever, and face less opposition. Money is the be-all and end-all, and is the “might” that’s “right.” Doing unto others in preemptive fashion is today’s logic. These waters only get deeper and murkier, and unless the rest of the world drops what it is doing in order to heed my sage advice, my contributions won’t amount to the proverbial hill of beans. Let us pause to listen for a moment… nope, nothing but the echoes of my mental marbles.

It’s time to minimize the scope and get back to personal relationships. The right vs. wrong is less important than the relationship itself, yet too many of us (go ahead and put your hands down, we know who you are) fail to get the picture.

I just did a little anatomical reconnoiter and noticed that out of ten potential toes, I’ve only shot off eight of them, and that my nose-less face does have a certain rugged appeal. It’s a good thing I’m finally wising up.
However, in poring through my dictionary, I can’t help but observe that the first listed pronunciation for “coupon” is “koo-pon”, which is how I say it, not “kyoo-pon”, the second listing, which is how Deborah says it. And, hey, check it out, “peridot” comes with a “dot,” just as I thought, not with a “dough,” the way you-know-who articulates it. Who’d a thunk it?

Of course, I’m also having a “niggling” that says I’d be a lot better off if I made the highly expedient decision to just stuff my mouth with saltines, plop down in my armchair, and harangue the sports announcers. Yes, that would be the right thing to do. Life’s too long to do it any other way. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Ferrandino | Link to this Entry


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