Musin’s and Thinkin’s – May 2011
Whatever happened to the lost art of visiting? Nowadays we think we’re pretty smart with our brand-name gadgets, all designed to help us communicate without ever truly coming close to one another for a neighborly hello. Whenever I hear talk of all these so-called modern advancements and suchlike, I can’t help thinking something aphoristic to myself, and, no, I don’t have any examples.
I can tell you one thing, though. When I was a boy, a visit to a neighbor meant a walk of a mile or more, usually through a perilous bog, whilst carrying a basket of mother’s special preserves. No self-respecting caller would appear at a friend’s door empty-handed!
Given the more leisurely pace of times gone by, one usually arrived at one’s neighbor’s home in the dead of night, after everyone had gone to bed. Not even then did our pioneer spirit let us admit defeat! One recalls creeping around the house, silencing a suspicious hound dog with a delicious piece of raw liver brought along for the occasion.
The heart races upon the stealthy approach to the farmhouse window!
There, tucked up in his bed, slumbers the old farmer himself, dressed in his old-fashioned nightcap and little else, perhaps, beneath his rustic, homemade quilt, so redolent of the rich folkways of the region. His homemade dentures bob gently in a mason jar of sparklingclear well-water. See the soothing rise and fall of his manly bosom in its hard-won rest as the stately ticking of the grandfather clock keeps time.
Find a comfortable shrub: you’re going to be here a while!
If you expect the old farmer to kick off his blankets, you’re in for a long night of disappointment. We slept strictly under the covers back then, providing a hint of mystery for any accidental onlooker—much more provocative, you will find, than the rampant nudity of the “liberated” generation. A glimpse of a feminine ankle was enough to send us into a swoon, especially if we were prone to seizures, as most people were then. Yes, sir, we relied on a little something called our imagination. God, we were so fantastic.
And we had manners. You better believe that before I left the farmstead for the long walk back home, I was sure to leave behind a thank-you note in the elegant penmanship and exquisite grammar beaten into me by my concerned teachers. That was another great thing we had going!
The world was a different place. Pitchforks held a lot more hay, and added a quaint, homey touch to the occasional murder. You knew the name of your postman. It was Doug. That wasn’t his real name, but in those days you could call your postman whatever you wanted, and if he tried to give you any sass about it, you could have him fired on the spot. Every corner was graced with its lemonade stand, every tree with its kitten and friendly fireman. Every balcony had a sad guy in cool sunglasses on it, playing a sexy saxophone solo. I really miss that guy. He would move from balcony to balcony. There were only three balconies in the United States, and they were just a few blocks from one another. Sure, you’ll say we have a lot more balconies now, but how is that guy supposed to get to all of them? On some kind of futuristic jet pack? They tried that. He’s still missing. And this is what we deign to call “progress.”
There’s nothing like “progress” to make you long for those golden Sundays of chicken dinners with all the fixings and a paralyzing fear of hell. Why, back then you could go to hell for having freckles! The devil was really at the top of his game.
You know what else was good? Butterscotch.
When you come right down to it, everything used to be better. If it’s any consolation, that means things are as good now as they’re ever going to get. Think about it! If the world we live in only gets worse and worse, just imagine how glad you’re going to be when you finally die! So that’s something to look forward to.