Saturday, May 21, 2011

Archy and Mehitabel

I think most of you who have been to this website more than a few times, know how much I admired Central High's Charles Kuralt.

He became an early hero of mine, although I didn't know him at the time, when I learned that he had gotten a job as an announcer at WBT when he was only 14 years old!

Charles Kuralt 1958
Wow, that was something!

I had dreams of being an announcer since I first became a Briarhopper fan sometime around the age of  5 or 6 years old.. I was fortunate enough to get my first radio job at age 15, but if Kuralt hadn't  done it first, I doubt if I would have had the nerve to even consider applying at that early age.

A couple of years before I got my job at WGIV......I had applied for, and been turned down by Belks Department Store.

But that was my own fault.  Because the application stated that you had to be at least 16 years old to work for them, I lied.....and told them that I was 16.

But farther on down in the application, instead of subtracting 3 years from my actual birth date,  I added 3, which made me even younger that I actually was.  (Math was not my best subject.)

But I digress.

Danzigers Restaurant circa 1955
I met Kuralt the first day I arrived at the University of North Carolina.  A mutual friend introduced us over coffee at Danzigers restaurant on Franklin Street. The conversation between my friend, who was a card carrying "intellectual" and Charles made me wonder if I had accidentally crossed over into another dimension.

It was intimidating.  I was determined to start paying attention in class for a change.

Maybe it was time for me to "buckle down," as my Mom often advised.

So I seriously began my campaign to become an "intellectual'........like Charles.

About a week later, he called and invited me to come by the cabin and have coffee and cookies with he and his wife Sori and three or four friends for an evening of "great conversation."

The Old Well at UNC
Now, I thought, this is what college is all about!  Great conversation....with smart people. YES!

I suddenly felt like Jason, the ancient Greek mythological hero and leader of the Argonauts and son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus who was married to the sorceress Medea....searching for the Golden Keys of intellectualdom!

Hey....look at that. Maybe it worked!

Naw.  It didn't. I just made that up.

But I digress.

The only reason I remember that night at all is that it was the most boring 3 hours of my life.

The entire evening was spent talking about "Archy and Mehitabel".........a cockroach and  a cat.

Archy
Archy, the cockroach, would jump on this reporter guy's typewriter at night.......and write stuff for his syndicated column the next day.  The reporter's name was Don Marquis and he wrote those stories in 1916.

Maybe it was clever or even funny back then, but the discussion among the guest "intellectuals" at the Kuralt cabin that night took it very seriously........debating the deep social meaning of Archie's  prose.

Archy only wrote in lower case letters. He wasn't able to write capitals because, the author said, he could only jump on one key of the typewriter at a time.

I remember thinking at the time that all Archie had to do was jump on the Cap Lock key....but that might sound too simplistic and logical.....which certainly wouldn't have been appropriate for that evening's conversation.

What I should have said was something like, "I think what the author meant was that Archie was type-CAST as a member of the lower-CLASS by an uncaring society's inherent prejudice against the peaceful Periplaneta Americanas,  (American cockroaches). That was the  reason Archy could only type lower case letters. Just another example of our cruel and unfair society."

But, as usual, I can't  think of great things like that to say....until usually the next day, or even a week later.

Darn it!

So much for my intellectual aspirations.

Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that the only kind of sense I was ever going to have was a little bit of the common kind....that almost all of us used to have......until everybody started going to college. -Ed

The Lesson of the Moth

By Archy

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires
why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense
plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves
and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity
but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

archy