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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Something About Brass Balls and a Monkey

I avoid cliches like the plague.

Little verbal crutches, that’s what they are. Clichés, that is. The words and phrases that we use to try to convince others that we’re really communicating, when in fact we’re just taking up time.

“Hot enough for ya?”

Not really a cliche, but verbal clutter just the same. I just don’t have the stomach for this kind of chatter, especially if it truly is hot enough for me. If we just happen to be standing waiting for the bus, well, sometimes, I just don’t want to talk. It’s nothing personal. I wake up slowly and have a voice like an amphibian in need of a drink. A smile is good. A nod is acceptable, in a Minnesota Nice kind of way. But we don’t need to speak, not all the time.

Especially if we’re going to just fill the hot air with more hot air.

Still, a question has been posed; and somewhere in me, I can’t help but take it at face value. Is it hot enough for me? Hmm. I guess so, yeah. How about you? Is it hot enough for you?

I know I sound cranky about it, but really, I just wonder why we bother. These automatic responses we’ve developed so that we don’t have to really pay attention? We don’t even hear the words as they leave our lips.

And yet some of what I've heard remains with me for decades.

Overheard on the bunny hill:
Someone: “My fingers aren’t going to stand a snowball’s chance in hell in these gloves.”
Someone Else: “Yeah, it’s cold as hell out here.”

I still think about that one.

My father was not a believer in the cliché. He said it was just laziness. I remember, particularly in junior high, that he made a point of calling out clichés and other “word tricks”, as he put it.

But now that I think of it, I realize that clichés are not just verbal…

Randy and I were both in 9th grade. He’d come around and work on bikes with my brother Kevin. Randy had a limited vocabulary of “yeah, right”, “oh, man” or “OK”. I mean, it was pretty much a toss-up which one of those five words he’d say because there didn’t seem to be any pattern to how he used them; but odds were good that you wouldn’t get too much more out of him than that. He wasn’t mean or disrespectful; he just seemed to be high all the time. Randy's favorite radio show “friggin’ rocks”, his favorite subject in school was “lunch”, and the car he was going to get when he turned 16 was going to “kick ass”.

This fascinated my Dad – not the part about him being stoned, but the part about him seemingly able to communicate only in words and ideas that had been prepackaged for him.

Dad asked me about it. “You ever notice that Randy only really says a handful of words?”

“Yeah, right.”

Dad smiled. “Are you being funny?”


Dad frowned at me in a thinking sort of way. “But he does, doesn’t he?” He shook his head. “I just don’t get it.”

A week or so later, Randy and Kevin were in the back yard. The bikes were upside down. The tools were out. Attempts were being made at fixing something or other.

“Randy!” My dad yelled out the kitchen window. “You want to stay for dinner?”

“Yeah! OK!” Randy yelled back.

“Yeah, OK, what?” my dad yelled. He winked at me. He was playing a game with Randy, trying to get him to say another word, that word properly being “please”.

“Yeah, OK, cool!”

“Groovy!” Dad yelled back. And that’s how it usually went.

We moved from there a year later and lost touch with Randy.

Twenty years later, however, I got a letter from him. He was in prison in New Jersey for racketeering, would be out in just 23 more months and what would I do if I suddenly had access to 275,000 dollars? Would I be willing to meet with a guy?

Nah. I wasn’t willing to meet with no guy.

Randy wrote back that I would always be his angel and that he “looked forward to the days our paths cross again”. (There was a small silver angel pin with pink plastic wings in the envelope.)

Poor Randy. Still relying on clichés.


Draea Lael (Rose) said...

Wow, creepy...the use of cliches and the rest...just wow.

CatLadyLarew said...

Poor Randy... no Pearls of Wisdom from him.

Anonymous said...

Awww...a prison proposal.
You have all the luck, pearly Girly. ;-)

Simply Suthern said...

Being the introvert I am I rely on the time proven cliches to start most of my conversations. If I had to come up with something origonal I wouldnt have anything to say. Which would prolly be the wisest thing to say. Nothing. LOL. BTW I have some free time. Where do I need to meet this guy?

a Broad said...

Letters from Prison .. sad and funny .... .

I never had a letter from Prison but I was saddened/horrified to learn many many years after high school graduation, that a classmate, childhood acquaintance, had been executed for being a "mad dog killer" in Texas.
Sheesh ! I will always be thankful he didn't send me a note or an angel in an envelope :(

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Far out. (A cliche I relied on a whole lot in the 70s; it still pops out once in a while.)

Kevin Musgrove said...

I'd definitely be wierded out by that one.

Douglas said...

When someone asks me if it is hot enough for me, I usually answer "No, it's about 10 degrees too cold."

Our cold cliches involved witch's mammary glands. And, no, I never could understand the reference in "cold as hell" either.

Nobody really wants to know how you're doing either.

Madame DeFarge said...

I suspect (to use a UK cliche) he was banged up good and proper. But did you keep the angel?

Gigi said...

I'm guilty. I admit it. But in my defense, I only use them with people I don't know well. Otherwise, if I just launched into a conversation with whatever was *really* going on in my head it could be awkward....

Cheeseboy said...

If I did a post on cliches, it wouldn't stand a snowballs chance in hell at being good.

The more I read about your father, the more I like the man.

Irish Gumbo said...

Funny, sad...and making me paranoid about what I say now! Eep!

Anonymous said...

厚 !!!等了好久的更新~~一定要支持的啦(ΘωΘ)......................................................

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

275K? Fuhgeddahbodit. Touch that Judas purse and you'll hang yourself.
It is what it is man. That boy still ain't right.

Peace ~ Rene

Catch you on the flipside

injaynesworld said...

Yeah, whatever... ;)

Joanie M said...

I hope you don't cross paths with Randy!!

Golden To Silver Val said...

Sounds like Randy thought he was the cat's pajamas...wonder what he did after you rained on his parade.

Warty Mammal said...

What a yarn.

Meet with a guy, eh? How can you pass up an opportunity like that?

Warty Mammal said...

By the way ... what a fantastic premise for a movie. Whacky hijinks ensue! Romantic comedy meets whatever.

Tempo said...

As usual interesting, insightful and educational...Oh, and cool!

dogimo said...

Uh oh, I use cliches all the time. And I don't even give it the fancy shmancy accent! I'm real familiar with them. A certain brute, gruff familiarity. I don't usually just throw a cliche out there on its own, to fend for itself! But I do lard my conversational biscuit-dough with those cliches, and then damn if I don't also pepper the gravy with them!

It's not deliberate.

But I've also developed a good group of stock responses for when somebody does drop a lone cliche out there on its own. I find you can pretty much always give it one of these:

"Pretty much."
"You know it!"
"You said it."

That's in ascending order of noncommital-ness.

Aw man.

I see should never write my comment based on the first half of the post with you. That story is so sad, because it ends so up in the air.

Poor Randy!

Fred Miller said...

It doesn't take many years of high school teaching to realize that some kids who talk in that prepackaged language are actually just hiding a very agile mind.