Ranting

It’s hard, but you can do it.

May 17th, 2018

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

I’m guessing no one else is going to quote Calvin Coolidge to you today. Chaucer would have loved Calvin Coolidge.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, May 18, 2018, and in The Memphis News, May 19-25, 2018

Chaucer

TO FLY, YOU’VE GOT TO TRY.

This morning, I was feeling kind of sorry for myself.

My leg hurt. Hell, both legs hurt. A couple of my deadlines hurt. I was out of coffee, and out of patience with a couple of projects. Just can’t get going. And suddenly somebody I haven’t thought about in a long time from a long time ago came to mind.

Chaucer. That’s what happens when English majors name pets.

Chaucer was a spur-of-the-moment-in-K-Mart decision in the first month of our marriage – I think we were buying toilet paper and we came home with Chaucer, too, along with his cage and parakeet accoutrements, all of it on sale including the toilet paper.

Chaucer wasn’t much of a parakeet – didn’t talk or sing, kind of coughed more than chirped. Chaucer, in fact, wasn’t much of a bird – didn’t fly, just sort of engaged in long falls. But Chaucer was entertaining, and since we didn’t have two dimes and didn’t go anywhere, I’d grab a PBR and a seat on the cheap furnished couch in married student housing and watch Chaucer.

His cage was on the kitchen table, which was also the dining room table, which was also in the living room, and since the kitchen was a bad stove and fridge in the corner of the same room, I guess you might call it an open floor plan.

He would walk back and forth across his open cage door, bobbing as parakeets do, with one earnest eye on the only painting on the wall above the couch. Courage gathered and with great flapping flourish, he would launch himself into the air, remain there momentarily, and crash into the middle of the floor.

He would then walk back and forth in front of me, bobbing as parakeets do, with one earnest eye on the only painting on the wall above the couch. Courage gathered and with great flapping flourish, he would launch himself into the air … sometimes landing on the knobby frame, sometimes on the bottom of the frame upside down, sometimes on the side, and very often on me, requiring another launch to make the frame.

Once there, he would watch Star Trek re-runs with me, often remaining for hours until moved to repeat the process in order to return to the cage where the food and water were. The bird had taste. The painting in that frame was a Dolph Smith print, print and frame a wedding present from a groomsman. But then, it was the only painting in the apartment and the frame had some neat bumps for landing/standing – so don’t let it go to your head, Dolph.

So, right after I file this column, I’m going to walk back and forth in front of my desk, limping as I do, with one earnest eye on this day, and launch myself into it. It won’t be pretty, but I’ll make it to the frame. 

I’m a Memphian, and I owe it to Chaucer to give it my best shot.

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