Invariably, there's always something that stops me from the year-end-cleaning of the research files. Some items are not pertinent, some were never pertinent, and most all are impertinent.
I make notes in the margins of newspaper articles and columns by other commentators. One such piece was about exotic animals that were adopted by families who wanted a different kind of pet. How about a peacock dwelling in the backyard of a home someplace in Ohio? I bet the La Cañada City Hall honchos would be thrilled to ship off a few of these foul animals from our side streets and utility easements.
Or a flock of turtles (turtles don't flock, I know, but please, it's holiday time) who dozed in the horse pastures in Idaho. Not one of these odd clippings merit keeping. But I kept them anyway. One day my gracious and encouraging editor might suggest a really bizarre column about strange pets.
I must be ruthless and clean house. Yet I got no further than a printout of Victor Borge's funny quips. I figure if it makes me laugh, how can it be tossed?
Borge was a gifted Danish concert pianist who no doubt tripled his annual income when he turned his musical skills into a comedy routine. Learning English did it to him.
My personal favorite Borge shtick is the skit that describes common words with a number as part of the word, such as: “My neighbor's daughter is dating a very smart, young man who has joined the Air Fives. He scratched his fivehead many times befive he decided to enlist, but the young lady says he's not romantic: for sure he is not even a Don Two.”
You get the idea: twice upon a time, or talk about your fivefathers, or she was absolutely twoderful.
He would sit down to play a serious piece, fall off the piano bench, turn the music upside down and play it backward, all of the time fracturing English.
So I am prompted to try and play with words, substitute or transpose words for other words. Anything but cleaning out the files — let's take five.
In this case, try “up” and “down.” These two words are exact opposites, but by pushing them around in lots of sentences with many meanings, I can spend an inordinate amount of time avoiding doing anything else.
An up attitude is good. A down attitude is not. Why is it that up is the good part? Is it because we stand taller, pull ourselves up straighter and have a jaunty air about us as we move through our day?
People like to feel up to par. As a golfer, I would rather feel up to birdie. Or even up to an eagle.
Then there's our friend, Burt, who loves horses that run on oval tracks. “Listen, Rocko, put me down on Tootsie Wootsie in the fifth at Horseshoe Bend. Whadda ya mean, I'm down on my luck? My marker's always good. I'll make it up to ya.”
Don't forget the home wine-making enterprise run by Mr. Winelover himself, a down-to-earth guy who squashes his grapes in the secret room behind the furnace down in his basement. But he looks up to make sure the local federales haven't caught on to him yet.
But if he ever gets caught with his precious product, he's locked up, even if he did look up the best defense attorney in town who promised him he'd be right down.
Or conversely, “OK, Lady, your visiting time with Studs is down.” Or, “Hands down, this is a stickdown.”
“This is your captain speaking. Prepare yourselves for landing. We're going up now.” Or try this, “Well, team, this is it, the show-up. It's down to you to win this game. All chins down, you hear?”
Had enough? Me too.
I decided not to delete any files, toss any articles, or cross out any quips. What doesn't work today may work tomorrow. What's up can be anything we choose and every day is truly a new beginning.
GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at email@example.com or phone (818) 790-1990.