OLD ART, NEW COPY

My father is the only person I can recall ever using the word “damnedest”. And he used it a lot, especially as regards me. “I’m doing my damnedest to get you interested in building soap-box derby racers,” he would complain. Or, “I’m trying my damnedest to understand how you could mistake the oil reservoir for the gas tank on the goddam lawn mower!” And then he would wait for a response, which always baffled me because it seemed like a perfectly enclosed statement, about which not much more needed to be said. Occasionally I would try a look of sympathy for his plight, even once shaking my head in a “kids today! What are you gonna do?” gesture, but that only seemed to send him deeper into damnedesty.

The fact is, I have never done my damnedest. It’s a concept that eludes me, like neutrinos, or a Gingrich presidency. If I had been able to do my damnedest, I might have made more progress through this vail of tears, although I have it on good authority that the far side of this vail of tears is not a place you should want to be in any hurry to reach.The only difference I can see between undamnedested me and others plodding through said vail, albeit far ahead, is the amount of money we have accumulated. And the thing about the getting of money, as we all know but I’m going to say it anyway because it bears repeating, the only thing it buys is the desire to have more money. And that leads to obscenities like having a half-million-dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s or owning eight houses. Eight houses! The only possible benefit John McCain can possibly derive from owning eight houses is the ability to look down his nose at the poor forlorn loser who only owns seven houses. And you just know it eats at him in the dark of the night that there are people out there who own nine houses.

I didn’t arrive at my current saintly state unbesmirch’d. As my friend Chris, who has appointed himself the Jiminy Cricket to my Pinocchio, will tell anyone who comes within earshot, I was once as upwardly mobile as anyone. I didn’t seek out reduced circumstances; they fell into my lap from a great height, like space junk. But I have embraced them as my own, which is pretty much the only option open to me. If I ever doubt the path that has chosen me, all I have to do (just to bring full circle the larding of this post with Republicans) is look at the face of Mitt Romney and know that I am a happier man than he is with his millions upon millions of dollars and his sacred garments twisted as he does his damnedest to become President.