Monday, March 3, 2014

Random thoughts (2)

Like most writers, even in my grammar-school days I wanted to be a writer. But I confess that one of my reasons was frivolous: I wanted to have bookshelves that don’t sag, and I had noticed that writers’ bookshelves never sag. Every bookcase I ever owned had shelves that sagged – from the first bookcase I built out of orange crates, to the trendy collegiate bricks and boards, to mass-produced bookcases, to some quite expensive bookcases that were guaranteed in writing not to sag but did. (Pictured here: the late Elmore Leonard.)

And like most writers, I have always been curious. For example, as a young boy in the late 1940s, I heard many veterans sum up the recently ended World War II by saying “I saw too much.” But I never once heard a veteran say, “I did too much.” So I wondered, sometimes aloud: Who did all the “too much” that the other men saw? And what was it, anyway? Grown-ups told me to stop asking these questions; they wouldn’t say why, but they seemed frightened.

As I am sure you have noticed, people who give driving directions usually finish by saying, “You can’t miss it.” Why are they so optimistic? That only gives the driver false confidence. Myself, I wish direction-givers would be helpfully pessimistic: “Drive slowly and watch closely, because the house is easy to miss – it’s almost invisible behind trees, the driveway is narrow, and the street-number sign is faded.”

In my town, which is on a lake, there’s a marine salvage company. It’s an elaborate affair, with a big warehouse holding tens of thousands of parts – plus many large pieces of equipment lying out in the open. One sunny Saturday morning I noticed a hand-made sign in the driveway of the salvage company. It read, “Garage Sale.” Wha...?

Many widows “go home” – move back to the towns where they grew up. Why don’t widowers do that? Is there some rule against it?

Whatever happened to Brandy Alexanders?

Speaking of drinking – I used to think that “dropsy” is what you become if you keep drinking after you become “tipsy.” But I looked up “dropsy” in the dictionary. It’s not even an adjective; it’s a noun. And there’s nothing funny about it.

The New York Times recently said, “These sorts of romantic complications are hardly confined to North Carolina, an academically rigorous school where most students spend more time studying than socializing.” My, how the definition of “academically rigorous” has been watered down: to qualify today, a school need only have 51 percent of its students spend only 51 percent of their time studying. Yikes! If I had studied only 51 percent of my time, I would have flunked out in my freshman year (1961-1962). And if there was any romance around, I didn’t see it; I was probably in the language lab that day.

Why do we say “he wrote an article” or “he penned an article” but never “he typed an article”?

The Takeaway: Be here now.

Due credit: I shamelessly copied the title of this series of posts from my favorite columnist, the incisive Thomas Sowell, who writes a column called “Random Thoughts.”

See disclaimer.

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