rib redux


The ribs are feeling better today. Thanks for thinking about asking about them. I've taken it real easy today -- reeeeal easy, which is easy to do with Viv home. I think the healing has begun.

When one is under the weather as I was (and will probably continue to be until Viv goes back to work, I sense this somehow), advice seems to appear from every quarter. Treatment plans are recalled, reviewed and exchanged. For my case, a tight wrap was suggested by some, while others said there was nothing I could do.

Doing nothing, in conjunction with regular and heavy doses of idleness, is a plan that has worked so far. Such advice I am capable of taking.

People seem ready to offer advice at the drop of a hat. This is why I do not wear hats. To suggest a course of action unilaterally fulfills both the need to be helpful and the desire to appear smart. It has become my practice, however, not to give advice unless I'm asked for it. In fact, the tremendous amount of advice for which, amazingly, I'm not asked should leave me feeling profoundly useless and stupid. But I don't feel that way at all. No, really. I feel as brainy and important and invaluable as always. Really. I do.

This leads me to believe that I must have great internal reservoirs of available guidance just brimming beneath this placid surface of mine. Oh sure, every once in a while I'll let fly a "measure twice, cut once" or a "let sleeping dogs lie", but these serve as releases of pressure, short little bursts from the helpfulness valve to keep me happy, tuned to my environment, and oh so easy to live with. But lucky is the next person who actually asks for my advice. Wow, are they ever gonna get their money's worth.

How did I get so smart, you're asking.

Well, it's like this. I just make it a point to never listen to anybody. By completely disregarding attempts by others to influence my thinking, I enjoy that clarity of thought, that simplicity of concept that one hears is so sought after by religious and spiritual leaders around the globe. Unblown by gusts of counsel, I am a still pond, a reflective pool, deep and wise. Sometimes deer come down and nibble on my toes.

It's been this way for a long time. But it's not like people haven't tried to sway me.

When I was in high school, my cousin's boyfriend, without solicitation, suggested I try to get away with not working for as long as I can. As a man seven or eight years my senior, you can imagine my eagerness to test out his advice. Here was wisdom from a guy who'd been around, but without all that jive we were getting from the establishment.

He later married my cousin, got really fat, stayed stupid, got divorced, and was never heard from again.

When I graduated from high school I got advice from a guy, again seven or eight years older than I (I see a pattern here), suggesting that my next move, my very first step out of high school, would decide my fate for the rest of my life. Then he asked me for a ride home. During the entire time I knew this guy he always needed a ride.

The last time I saw him he was loitering in front of a small post office. Waiting.

Then there was my Uncle Mike. He actually gave me good advice. I was at a party at his house, the occasion I forget, but I just went up to him and asked him for advice. I think I was at a crossroads in my life, one of those times where the choices are clear, you know the paths will diverge, and you just gotta pick. So I asked him "What's important in life?" or "What is success?" or something like that. And he says, "Well, I think if you look clean and you can talk a good line, then you'll do okay." That was it.

It wasn't so much the information contained in his words, as the fact that he was so sincere that made me hold on to that advice. Here was a man who had done well in life, he lived in a big house on a hill, raised two daughters, and retired. During that retirement he discovered he had cancer and had to have his right arm and shoulder amputated. It was a big shock to the family, and after the amputation first happened there were those awkward moments, like when he came over for breakfast one morning and asked for ketchup for his eggs. I brought him the ketchup and then he asked if I could open it for him. It may have been the first time he realized he couldn't open a ketchup bottle by himself, there was something of a furtive embarrassment on both our parts.

Anyway, the thing is, when that kind of sincerity gets pointed at you by a strong and successful man, you listen. It's not as if I've lived by his words, but when I close my eyes and remember that party I can see him sitting there in that chair with a view of his dancing daughters in a room overlooking a green valley, his arm in his lap and his eyes squarely on my young young face. When he spoke it wasn't to inform me. I think it was to make contact with a boy in whom he may have seen a bit of himself, the ambition, the urge to opine, rising in me then as it must have in his own youth. In the middle of a loud party where he was the pitied old man sitting against the wall, it was his chance to reach out with his one hand and touch a future he knew he wouldn't live to see.

Perhaps one day, when I'm sitting at the edge of a party, old and pitied and bored, I'll be approached by a young man with similar eagerness and bright future written across his face. He'll motion for me to bend nearer. I'll lean in, nodding, and he'll ask "Can you gimme a ride home, Pops?"

As I drive him to his girlfriend's house, I'll suggest to him that he try to get away with not working for as long as he can.


Today's Music:

"Everything Happens To Me" -- Chet Baker -- CHET BAKER - VERVE JAZZ MASTERS 32


Wisdom of the Day:

"Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat in a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own."

-- Nelson Algren