Friday, November 18, 2011

In a sentimental mood

What the fuck is wrong with sentimentality? I'm clutching this shot glass for a reason, poot. It comes down to acting the part of an old dog licking his wounds, thinking, hey, maybe there's not much time left on this bright blue planet. The Cragganmore whispers to me, ain't no such thing as connoisseurship in this culture, it's all about how much cash you can spend on top shelf booze. Look around this joint. I see too many people near me looking back at their lives, trying come up with a plausible account of how they came to be where they are. I hear them repeating phrases, sentences, anecdotes, looking for the right combination of signifiers to settle on. How many times can you listen to the same tall tale especially if it's not your own?

I turn up the effin stereo -- some twitchy string orchestra is playing that tune from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It gets to me. Hell, am I that old? Nah, I was just a kid back then. So was Deneuve. The song is called "I Will Wait for You" and I'm sitting here mouthing the lyrics and letting these tears salt my drink, thinking, nobody waits for you. When I'm like this I allow myself a bit of self-pitying bullshit.

I'll tell you what's wrong with sentimentality. Picture Hitler petting his beloved Blondi just before he gave her cyanide. Or that baby-killer in Auden's poem starting to blubber. We see it again today. Look at the macho policeman with his truncheon keeping order down at the Battery or the drone pilot ensconced in his Nevada bunker delivering a lethal payload to some village in the Afghan mountains. Give these tough guys a tumblerfull of schnapps and some quarters for the jukebox, next thing you know you'll have a big crybaby on your hands, harmonizing with Merle Haggard and belching sour heat in your face. Effin sentimentalists. Singing about babies, kittens, teddy bears, and reformed alcoholics. Chasing after zoftig angels in white robes and golden halos doing the Jesus rhumba. Cripes, it’s hard to avoid becoming sentimental oneself.

Gimme another pull of scotch. Sentimentality ain't much different from patriotism, the way it's practiced on the hill. Old Glory lapel pins. Red, white, and blue boxer shorts. And always the envoi, “God Bless the United States of America.” If I’m not crying over spilt milk then I’m crying over spilt blood. Sacrifice in battle, pro patria mori, always makes my eyes water and my knees go jello.

No, nobody in those cheesy Air Force TV commercials is gonna wait for you, only Mr. Death, standing there on the corner paring his nails, dressed like Jimmy Cagney in White Heat, a rolled-up newspaper stickin out of his back pocket. Silk socks, trifold pocket square, and a soft gray felt fedora. A thug in spats.

Quist once told me that there's nothin wrong with sentimentality, it’s the price we pay for being human. You’ve got to let your feelings show. When you see a dauntless little cripple in a wheelchair trying to roll himself uphill it makes you realize how lucky you are to have both feet on the ground. So cry.

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