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Getting It Off My Chest

I’d like to get several things off my chest, including the bronchial congestion that has plagued me the last few days.

Breaking up is hard to do.

Maybe I need to move to Arizona and get well. Several friends have sent the story about the lunger from the East who came out to a Wickenburg dude ranch, hoping to improve his health.

Two weeks after he got here, he died. His brother visited him in the funeral home and said, “Why, old Cecil never looked better.”

Maybe I ought to go to Arizona to get warm. The basic reason for my illness is that I smoked too many cigarettes a long time ago, but ditzy weather doesn’t help.

During the holidays, when we had guests from California and Canada, the weather was gloomy, and as much as 20 degrees cooler than normal. On the day we sent the last visitor home to Victoria, BC, the temperature rose to 81.

It didn’t last, though. One day last week we had half an inch of rain, which produced two mornings of ground fog. (Do you use ground fog to make fog burgers?)

The thick fog cancelled several airline flights in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. In our new global village, a cancelled flight out of anywhere causes a chain reaction.

In Frankfort, flights delayed from Phoenix stranded two British rock ‘n roll stars on a peace mission; one egotistical U.S. actor; one former U.S. President; the female dictator of a small nation; two Iraqi spies, and a North Korean nuclear engineer.

They formed a group, Nuclear Fog, and burned a CD before their respective flights finally left. The CD includes a really funny number in Korean dialect, about why George W. Bush can’t pronounce “nuclear.”

I know that fog doesn’t fit the image of Arizona, where boosters will tell you the sun comes to spend the winter. But while we’re on the subject, I need to get this into the record.

In the uplands of eastern Arizona this time of year, ice and fog often seize the valley of the Little Colorado River between St. Johns and Winslow. The drive between St. Johns and Holbrook is exciting when you have three-inch visibility, the road is icy, and the fog bank is setting up like frosting in front of you.

On really bad days, the Department Of Transportation cuts a tunnel through the fog bank and leads motorists through with pilot cars.

Here are some other things I’d like to call to your attention:

You’ll often hear public figures claiming that hindsight is 20-20. Our research at the Institute For Factual Diversity says that isn’t true. People can no more agree about what we should have done once than they can agree about what we ought to do next.

Speaking of public policy, I’m tired of Bill Clinton jokes. He was a natural, but he has been out of office for two years.

I also respectfully disagree with those e-mails which blame our present problems on Jane Fonda, who went to Hanoi thirty years ago, and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who got prayer banned from public schools forty years ago.

I was long out of school by 1963, and I don’t remember praying much in school. Mostly we did our lessons, passed notes and tried to eat pinons without getting caught by the teacher. We prayed in church.

I like receiving the nostalgic lists of how things were during the simple days of yore. I especially liked a recent one from a friend since high school days. She pointed out that we actually lived dangerously in those days, with asbestos, and without seat belts.

The government, insurance companies and consumer advocates hadn’t begun hovering yet. Some of our innocent practices would drive a modern underwriter crazy.

Riding in the back of a pickup truck never did much for me. That’s where my brother, the dog and I had to ride for several years. As long as the truck was rolling, we were okay. When it stopped, great clouds of dust rolled in over us, and surely that contributed to my chronic bronchitis.

How many of you remember when cars had a starter pedal on the floor, just above the accelerator? If you remember that, you’ve probably drawn your first Social Security check.

And was the first credit card you ever saw issued by a gasoline company, probably Standard Oil? My memory says that was in the early 1950s; how do you remember it?

People didn’t trust credit cards at first, or automatic transmissions. When seat belts came along a few years later, many thought the idea was outlandish.

The credit card was good for scraping ice off your windshield, so you didn’t run over some little kid riding his Flexible Flyer down a Flagstaff street in traffic.

There, I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

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