Readin' writin', rithmatic. One of the things I've admired about those three is how balanced they make each other, and isn't acheiving the right kind of balance important?
Yesterday I discovered a Tom Lehrer cassette I probably hadn't listened to since 1966. I had errands to run and I had Leonard Cohen already in the pickup CD player. I planned the errands so I listened to Leonard on the way out and Tom on the way back home. When I conceived of this idea, I thought there would be some sort of balance achieved by back-to-backing them. Going I listened to "Everybody Knows" and "Hallelujah" as a dirge accompanied by bagpipes. Returning I heard "Werner Von Braun" and "The Vatican Rag" ended with recorded applause as I pulled into the driveway. I turned off the motor and was pondering the things I'd heard. I was thinking that, you know, those two guys had looked at a lot of the same world, sort of like through a kaleidoscope though, and the crystals just wound up arranged differently for them. That's when the tornado siren went off. Clear blue sky, bright sun, not a ripple of breeze. "What the hell have I done?" flashed through my mind.
I hurried in the house and flushed the toilet to see if the water swirled backwards or not. Rats. We'd had eco-potties installed. The water doesn't swirl. The sirens stopped, and after two seconds of silence it dawned: first Monday of the month siren test. Phew.
The next morning I went out to get the paper. I bent over and tumbled ass over teakettle. Fortunately, the paper had landed on the lawn that morning, not the driveway like it had every other day this year.
Which goes to show you, it's better to be lucky than good, or balanced.
Still it'll be a cold day in hell before I back-to-back Leonard and Tom again.
John Zerr is the author of four novels, The Ensign Locker, Sundown Town Duty Station, Noble Deeds, and The Happy Life of Preston Katt.
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