Noun: cur·mud·geon (kər-ˈmə-jən)
Origin uncertain. First use in English ca. 1570.
by Ron McFarland
Well, it looks like that thunderstorm with its much desired rain has veered off to the east of us, which not only disappoints me but makes me angry as I decided not to water this morning in anticipation of the promised event. One sees the storm approaching as the days advance on the back of the first section of the local paper to which I’ve been a subscriber for lo these thirty-odd years: 40%, then 60%, and as of last night a full 70%. These predictions constitute promissory notes as I read them. Of course I could go ahead and cancel my subscription, as I’ve threatened to do on various occasions, but I probably will not.
And then twice today I’ve come upon this crazy woman with the ridiculous sunhat with a broad brim that projects fore and aft, as if she were wearing a green cloth canoe on her head. She was walking her irksome dog this morning along Hayes. This afternoon, early, she was walking down Main in the vicinity of the hospital. I suppose she’s some sort of ‘character’, one of those self-contrived oddballs every town must have at least a few of; I suppose she’s a Unitarian, maybe an Episcopalian.
And then, as I was approaching the house and the storm was veering ever farther away, blown utterly off-course by some malignant deity, this young man, probably a college student, bikes past and he’s wearing an absurd beard about the size of a spade, reddish, somewhat parted in the middle, and he emits this huge, unstifled yawn as if he’s totally bored with life like some young aristocrat in 19th-century Russian fiction. He could be Eugene Onegin or Lermontov’s Pechorin. I stifled a natural and thoroughly understandable impulse to run him over.
Another reason I might cancel my subscription to the ‘Daily Spews’, as it’s sometimes called, has to do with their recent front-page celebration of the #1 pompous bigot in town, an evangelical nut-case whose fury over sodomy is enough to convert me into a devoted sodomite. There he stands, treading on the flag of the LGBTXYZFW, who the hell knows what letter will be next affixed, and staring altruistically into the future, which doubtless promises him some eternal rewards in Heaven, perhaps the services of several dozen virgins. Okay. I checked it out: 72. It seems the Qu’ran, or the Koran, or who knows what, offers up no fewer than six dozen full-breasted gals for the faithful Muslim male who dies while on Jihad. No wonder all these impressionable Western adolescent males are trooping over to the Levant, although why the Western females are joining the throng does baffle me—perhaps to be numbered among the lucky 72 in Paradise? Yes, no doubt our local bigot-in-residence hopes to get lucky by building his own version of theocracy here in Idaho. This seems as good a place as any, I reckon. Where this kind of journalistic crap belongs is on the opinion page, if it belongs anywhere at all in a respectable newspaper.
Another reason I might cancel my subscription, but probably won’t, has to do with the erratic delivery thereof. As I pointed out to the circulation lady last month, delivering the papers is not, repeat not rocket science! I often resort to clichés when I get pissed off, and I find myself getting pissed off more & more often as I sag toward senility. Yes, I did point out that I delivered papers myself for about six years when I was a kid, and while I cannot claim to have been 100%, I surely did have the edge on this bozo, and no, I did not call the carrier a ‘bozo’. I just thunk it. I still think it, even though, after a three-month spread of muffing it at least once per month he has managed to go flawless this past month. Hurray. Or hoo-rah (aka oo-rah) in the event the guy’s a former Marine. Thank you for your service, which does not necessarily pertain to your delivery of the local rag.
Which local rag all too often features blown headlines and subject-verb errors of the following variety: “The growth of charter schools in the state of Idaho have quadrupled in the past five years.” Do you see it? The subject of that sentence is ‘growth’, right?—not ‘schools’—so what we want here is a singular verb: the growth has quadrupled. Well now I just feel better already, even though I think charter schools will most likely undermine the already besieged public schools in this famously anti-education state. The state funds schools mostly on a formula based on enrollment: subtract 40 or so students from the local high school, and guess what? Duh!
Every issue of our cherished tribune offers fresh evidence of the miseducation offered by our local university, which does indeed boast a School of Journalism and Mass Media: JAMM—you gotta love the acronym. . .I guess. . .like “we’re in a real JAMM here”. The local U also boasts a college that calls itself CLASS: College of Letters, Arts, & Social Sciences. That’s right. You strip all of the fields that might be able to score some major grants (like biology, chemistry, math, & stats) and dump all of the underfunded disciplines (like history, English, & foreign languages) into one college of what’s-left-over, and you’ve got CLASS!
And so yeah, sure, I’d go ahead and cancel my subscription right off except, you know what, it’s raining.
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Ron McFarland teaches literature & creative writing at the University of Idaho. His most recent book is Appropriating Hemingway: Using Him as a Fictional Character (2015).