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The Summer of Our Discontent

A FAN’S NOTES:  by Paul Pintarich

In my best memory it is always the summer of 1955, when I was just 16 and the sun-filled days were held in an aspic of innocent ennui; when the unmarred moon was much fuller and counted Indian

months; when the air was clear, the river clean for swimming and my girlfriend a gentle soul who slow-danced with me to Sinatra tunes.

Remember the movie “Picnic?” That’s how it was, but not to me before all the years got in the way. That summer of 1955 I worked on the Columbia River and the sun-filled days held nothing but promises, most of which I failed to keep, but some I have and it‘s still too early to sleep.

Now this summer we experience what the Chinese have long referred to as “interesting times.” Following the knockdown of two of our largest buildings by a clutch of fanatical “Worthy Oriental Gentlemen,” lots of grim things have been afoot: a weird war of sorts that seemingly has no bounds, stock market flips and flops, corporate greed, drought and forest fires, a plague of fatness and the continued proliferation of cell phones, SUVs and bed-and-breakfasts (B&Bs), with some small thought given to threatening astroids, old love and, perhaps, the end of the world.

Oh yeah, and global warming.

As for myself, I’ve become concurrently fatalistic, riding my bike more and making more visits to the casinos, where I tend to throw cash around and say, “To hell with it!”

Having reached my early 60s, I have gained the curmudgeonly wisdom of other old farts like myself, low-income retirees who have done the right things all along, learning to survive despite the slings and arrows of outrageous assholes who occasionally intervene in our lives. Wisdom, however, is an unwanted commodity in a society driven by youth, greed, moral ineptitude and a callous disregard of our world’s enviroment crushed by the sheer numbers of us.

To quote Kurt Vonnegutt, “We could have saved it but we were too lazy and greedy to care.”

It’s reason I’m not an aficionado of bed-and-breakfasts–which are a woman thing, anyway, aren’t they? All cutesy Mother Goosey, with a bathroom down the hall, most likely, and I have a bad prostate. And usually a gushy woman proprietor who explains how she and husband Bob dropped out from the big city and found this “lovely old Victorian. . ,” fixed it up and found their three-legged dog, “Bernie,” abandoned on the four-lane–and in the morning come down early and they will serve “Bob’s blueberry muffins,”giving you a chance to meet “Bernice and Floyd,” a lovely couple from Minneapolis. . .

Call me “Ishmael,” I’d prefer sharing a room above a Nantucket tavern with a tattooed harpooner from the Marquesas Islands (though I’m certainly not gay. I have enough problems with women) or a ghost, which I encountered once in a cheap room in London.

Ghosts, at least poltergeists, are a pain in the butt. They bang and crash and thump and keep it up until you tell them to knock it off. In a B&B, however, when you have to creep down the hall to pee in the night, a ghostly encounter is most disconcerting, and I roll my eyes whenever I hear: “. . And we have a ghost,” said with a whisper and a glance around.

Unfortunately, at my age relationships are often accompanied by my partner’s desire to immerse herself in the “romantic ambiance” of said B&Bs, thereby kindling sparks of love and desire best found in pages of Barbara Cartland novels.

Hence, after I’m ensnared within the cloying floral-patterned confines of the B&B, it is her hope (“a triumph over experience,” to quote Dr. Johnson), that I will get all mushy, take her hands and, rather than watch a Mariners’ game, stare into her eyes for hours on end. (AP Photo links to Mariner home page)

It is why I never eat “Bob’s Blueberry Muffins.” They put something in them to make you nice. And it’s probably why there is never a television in a B&B.

Companionship and sex are fine at a certain age, but love is overrated and best reserved for children, grandchildren and surviving family members, as well as pets: dogs, cats, and the occasional iguana. In the long run, once passion subsides, love is friendship and letting the other person alone; accepting rather than insisting, “It‘s not too late for you to change. . .”

Stay out of B&Bs, and choose instead the fo’csle of a whaler.

“Have you seen the white whale?”

Well, yes I have, actually. And on increasingly frequent occasions. This year may be “The Year of Fat,” with conspicuous corpulence on every side. And though I’m a man of somewhat capacious girth myself, I’m overwhelmed by the omnipresence of the obese. I have come to the conclusion that those who are cutting weird circles in the world’s wheat fields are from Planet Mogo, and we know what those guys do. Expect to find your missing neighbors on their menu– “I’ll have the ground Chuck.”

Which, by the way, is compatible with the Atkins Diet.

The way I see it, the Mogoans (their ships have the square windows), have entered the great American corporate subconscious to inspire bigness in all things. As well as larger vehicles, we have a continued proliferation of fast-food restaurants–not only here but around the world. This in combination with less exercise, more computer time. . .well, the rest is cliche’.

Corporations get fat making us fat, just as there are no forests in Somalia because they cut down all the trees. Corporate greed will not be contained by hand slapping and government admonishments — “Really, Ken. You should be more careful”– but by placing the miscreants in wooden carts and trundling them over the cobblestones to the guillotine.

“ENRON,” after all, is an acronym from the Mogoan word “Ronen,” which means “bend over and grab your ankles.”

Other “interesting” things this summer have included the continued spat between Israel and Palestine (Geez, guys! Enough’s enough!), the AIDS crisis in Africa (“Is anybody home?), baseball greed (they mostly just stand around), Iraq (bomb the bastards) and the melting arctic ice packs. Where the hell is Osama bin Laden? He got fat and shaved his beard and mustache.

The forest fires will be over with the fall rains, and the stock market will go up and down. I’m going to keep riding my bike and gambling, doing my best to avoid B&Bs and Bob’s Blueberry

muffins, while I watch “Picnic” and consider the Atkins Diet.

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