2016

7 December 2016: The human condition in Clear Creek County

I’m trying to find and tap into my inner Garrison Keillor. It’s challenging to say the least. Maybe because I’m tilting not at windmills but, instead, at wind turbines. Don Quixote would find it tough in this day of green energy.

Keillor has a magical, unmatchable twist of the pen or, more likely, peck on the keyboard. That little commonality might be something we share: Composing not the old-school way but via Word.

Hillary Clinton once wrote about Bill massaging a sentence ad infinitum to get it just right. I wonder if Bill is ever satisfied it’s just right. It’s rarely for me. Being a fan and admirer cannot make one a great practitioner.

But with Keillor, ooo yeah. It’s always right. You can’t beat the opening sentence of his recent column: “So many Trumpists have written in since the election, and I am grateful for their interest and also impressed by the sheer variety of their profanity.”

Such flair. Such aplomb. Grace under fire. And funnier than crap, that is for one not a Trumpist. Then, I guess, it’s disrespectful. And unfair.

A writer is blown away seeing how he’s able to pack so many ideas into one line: “It’s not good form to curse at someone you’ve just defeated. That is why the president-elect made it clear he would not be waterboarding Hillary Clinton or sending her back to Mexico.” Zing! Boorish behavior. Jailing political opponents. Torture. Mass deportation.

Yeah, Keillor is beyond good, but I wonder if he has it so good. He’s a big-name superstar. Understandably so. He’s earned it. Hard work. Incisive wit. Affable demeanor. Prairie wisdom. What’s not to love, eh?

But I got Clear Creek, and he’s marooned in the Land of 10,000 lakes with an infinitude of skeeters, where Cutter and DEET trump—pun intended—Coppertone.

You gotta love Clear Creek. Blustery most of the time. Even the wind. All kinds of great characters. Reminds me of the early 1990’s TV cult hit, Northern Exposure. Interesting, well-developed characters, round and complex, not one-dimensional, flat, straight-cut.

Most recalling the show would name Maggie O’Connell and Joel Fleischman as the primary characters. Their dysfunctional love-hate relationship is the core around which the larger story unfolds. But there are other magical ones: Ed Chigliak, Holling Vincouer, Marilyn Whirlwind, Chris in the Morning.

One of the deepest is Maurice, the wealthy, rigidly firm, law-and-order former astronaut who sees the world through the full array of his color spectrum: black and white. No grays, chartreuses, or fuchsias.

Maurice, though, has a deeper and softer side. He is a man of culture: fine wine and cuisine, art, and a passion for musicals.

In one episode, two men, who have recently arrived in town, agree to purchase a run-down house he’s trying to unload. As the three kibitz, they realize they have similar tastes in food, drink, and music. Maurice invites them to his place to create a meal and share the evening. Everything goes swimmingly until they reveal they’re gay. It’s then, Maurice must face his inner doubts, anger, and insecurity.

Stories like Northern Exposure are gems because they relay the human condition with all its quirks, hypocrisies, foibles, contradictions. Not only can they help us see ourselves honestly, but they also allow us to step back and laugh at ourselves.

Maybe that’s the biggest wrong with America today: We don’t laugh at ourselves; only at others. Too often, we go beyond poking fun to ridicule. Debasement to the point of de-humanizing.

We’re unable or unwilling to look in the mirror and see how clownish we look to the outside world and even to the universe, assuming God is paying attention. That’s the price of collective anger.

Lately, it’s been suggested I hang up my spurs and ride off into the sunset. That’s in lieu, I suppose, of paragliding off atop Mt. Evans into a wind shear.

Initially, I wondered if the cowboy thing might be something to consider. But then I figured I’d make a poor cowboy…no hat, horse or saddle with only a Mustang with leather seats that can be heated or cooled depending upon the season in which to ride.

I dunno. What’s an egg-head liberal to do?

To be continued.

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