On Threading the Needle

 

“Every year, back spring comes, with nasty little birds, yapping their fool heads off, and the ground all mucked up with arbutus.” — Dorothy Parker

The curmudgeon in me grins whenever I read Dorothy Parker, and I regret only that she didn’t address the pollen issue in her springtime lament. Still, her work stands as a testament to the glory of the (sometimes) unexpressed thought. Her essay entitled, simply, “The Waltz,” is a masterpiece of contrasting the comments one makes in public with the thoughts that simultaneously go whirling about in one’s mind. After a gentleman asked Parker to dance, she replies, “I’d adore to,” while seething to the reader, “Well, might as well get it over with. All right, Cannonball, let’s run out on the field. You won the toss; you can lead.”

Out on the dance floor, she wonders:

…Why does he always want to be somewhere that he isn’t? Why can’t we stay in one place just long enough to get acclimated? It’s this constant rush, rush, rush that’s the curse of American life. That’s the reason that we’re all of us so — Ow! For God’s sake, don’t kick, you idiot; this is only second down. Oh, my shin. My poor, poor shin that I’ve had ever since I was a little girl.

And later…

…Look at the spirit he gets into a dreary, commonplace waltz; how effete the other dancers seem, beside him. He is youth and vigour and courage, he is strength and gaiety and — Ow! Get off my instep, you hulking peasant! What do you think I am, anyway, — a gangplank? Ow!

If I could narrate my own thoughts during the course of a typical day in the world of retail, why I’d, …I’d get fired most likely. There was the case of the nice but somewhat linguistically challenged lady who, apparently looking for a Casio G-Shock watch, asked me, “Do y’all carry them g-spot watches?” If I had been drinking coffee, or anything else for that matter, I’d have immediately shot it through my nose on hearing that question. Rather, I stifled all natural reaction and politely led her to our impressive array of G-Shock watches and sold her one (along with a complimentary pack of cigarettes). Nope, nope — can’t say that. See what I mean?

There are certain things you simply can’t say! Ditto with the graceful, white-haired lady who stopped in her tracks to turn to a co-worker and I to ask whether we watch “Game of Thrones”? After we both replied in the negative, she felt compelled to bring us up to speed on a series in which neither of us had the slightest interest.

I’m not sure, but I believe there it involves a white dragon and a red dragon, and the red one is the biggest one. I think. Also, there is a character (or maybe it’s a dragon) that can incinerate you with his eyes. No biggie, I thought. The librarian at my high school could do that much. Well, almost. One time, she chastised me during study hall and tried to stare me down. I was stupidly impervious and refused to avert my eyes from her gaze. “You may lower your eyes,” she said after a protracted staring contest. “Sorry,” I shot back, “they’re stuck right here on my face.”

I later regretted talking that way to a kind lady who rightly upbraided me for my mischief. In fact, I regretted it almost as much as I now regretted the still-unfolding saga of Game of Thrones, with its interminable and confounded twists and turns, castles and dragon eggs, warlords and damsels. We hoped that her long-winded narration would eventually lead to a question about a watch, or a piece of jewelry, or anything having to with the existence of the department store and our employment therein. Alas, there was no end game to this Game, as she continued, calm and composed as concrete, to persecute us with detailed analysis of characters in which we had no knowledge nor the slightest interest.

My co-worker, apparently fearing I might not be able to politely contain my growing stupefaction, politely told me that another co-worker in the jewelry department was trying to get my attention for something. Relieved, I begged our guest’s pardon and headed straightway to jewelry. Actually, I would have headed to the gallows if necessary.

In a similar respect, it is the knowledge, inconsistently applied in my own life, that one must nearly always resist the temptation to respond reflexively to the unpleasant words and actions of others that prompted me to temporarily withdraw from public comment on political issues for a while. I can’t truly say whether there was an actual increase in the snark and hostility of the comments I saw, some directed at me and others directed at friends and colleagues, or whether my growing weariness made those comments seem worse than they really were. Either way, when I realized that the temptation to respond in kind, or respond in a gratuitous fashion, was becoming increasingly difficult to resist, it was time to step back.

Likewise, I regret terribly the situation in which my friend Denise McAllister now finds herself. A powerful intellect and gifted writer, Denise has the nearly unique ability to compel the reader’s attention in very difficult and complex issues by communicating from (and to) the heart. Whatever snark I’ve had directed at me positively pales in comparison with the death threats against her family, and the venomous attacks she has endured for taking stands on the sanctity of life of the unborn, or against ludicrous attempts to equate the word “masculinity” with the word “toxic.”

Criticism, of course, always comes with the territory when one engages provocative issues, especially when one engages with tremendous passion and conviction. The balance between engaging the public and allowing oneself to become literally absorbed into the muck that increasingly passes for commentary on social media can become elusive enough even without the personal threats. Under the circumstances, my own rule of thumb is to respond sparingly, A) because of the demands of time, and B) to avoid the creeping sensation that one must respond to Every. Single. Taunt. It is indeed a difficult needle to thread.

I would have preferred that Denise disengage from the exchange rather than let anger’s inertia carry her into territory where no civil person should venture. And she is indeed a civil person, and a caring lady with a gracious spirit, and a loyal friend. Should she choose to do so, I have every confidence that my friend will be back. People make mistakes, and (most) learn from them, emerging stronger.

As for me, I’ll be back as well. My respite, prolonged a little by the recent flare-up of a back injury, is drawing to a close. The podcasting and writing will resume presently, and I look forward to many interesting exchanges, on just about any topic except “Game of Thrones.” After all, a guy has to have standards.

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There are 28 comments.

  1. Thatcher
    She

    Bravo! A reflection on one of my favorite literary luminaries, and a testament. Your friends are lucky to have you in their lives.

    • #1
    • March 31, 2019 at 5:18 pm
    • 4 likes
  2. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    She (View Comment):

    Bravo! A reflection on one of my favorite literary luminaries, and a testament. Your friends are lucky to have you in their lives.

    You’re very kind as always, She, when in reality it is I who continues to benefit from my association and friendship with so many good people on Ricochet (including you). Thank you! 

    • #2
    • March 31, 2019 at 5:44 pm
    • 2 likes
  3. Member

    With Dave back on Ricochet, I have my second reason to continue my membership (Boss Mongo’s writing being the first). DC is blessed to count you as a friend, Dave. Welcome back!

    • #3
    • March 31, 2019 at 6:05 pm
    • 6 likes
  4. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Nerina Bellinger (View Comment):

    With Dave back on Ricochet, I have my second reason to continue my membership (Boss Mongo’s writing being the first). DC is blessed to count you as a friend, Dave. Welcome back!

    Looks like I timed this perfectly then. Never underestimate the power of total befuddlement. Thanks so much! 

    • #4
    • March 31, 2019 at 6:14 pm
    • 4 likes
  5. Member

    Dave,

    I’ve really missed your posts on Ricochet. Fantastic we’ll be hearing from you more often.

    Speaking of people I miss a lot around here, where’s Claire Berlinski ?

    Sorry Denise McAllister has been under harpie attack. I love her work. This, of course is very easy for me to say, but they wouldn’t be after her if she wasn’t doing something right.

    • #5
    • March 31, 2019 at 6:30 pm
    • 3 likes
  6. Member

    O.K., I’m caught up on the story. Definitely Denise McAllister shouldn’t have been thinking out loud. (Under the same circumstances I would have been thinking something very similar, by the way.)

    • #6
    • March 31, 2019 at 6:48 pm
    • 2 likes
  7. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Dave,

    I’ve really missed your posts on Ricochet. Fantastic we’ll be hearing from you more often.

    Speaking of people I miss a lot around here, where’s Claire Berlinski ?

    Sorry Denise McAllister been under harpie attack. I love her work. This, of course is very easy for me to say, but they wouldn’t be after her if she wasn’t doing something right.

    Thank you Ansonia. I too regret the slings and arrows that have come Denise’s direction and agree with the old military adage that you tend to take the most fire from the enemy when you are over the target. As I say, I regret the nasty turn that it all took, and note that Denise has since apologized. 

    • #7
    • March 31, 2019 at 6:49 pm
    • 3 likes
  8. Member

    Dave you have been greatly missed. Sad for Denise. I’ll keep my opinions on all things McCain to myself. 

    • #8
    • March 31, 2019 at 7:01 pm
    • 3 likes
  9. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Sweezle (View Comment):

    Dave you have been greatly missed. Sad for Denise. I’ll keep my opinions on all things McCain to myself.

    And I’ve missed hanging out with you folks. Thanks!

    • #9
    • March 31, 2019 at 7:21 pm
    • 2 likes
  10. Coolidge

    Dave – so good to have you back. And speaking of which, how is your back now?

    As for Denise McAllister, many is the time while watching or reading about the current crop of socialists I have some pretty good comments for them. In my mind. Whether or not I’d be able to voice them to their face is another matter. (Especially these days when I probably wouldn’t be able to remember those witty retorts I had composed in my mind.) Ah, the fun of aging.

    Seems that a guy’s wife sent him to the doctor as he had been complaining of no energy, aching joints, sleeping much more, and the like. When he got home his wife asked what the doctor had said. Her husband replied, “he said it was early onset rigor mortis.”

    • #10
    • March 31, 2019 at 7:36 pm
    • 3 likes
  11. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    barbara lydick (View Comment):

    Dave – so good to have you back. And speaking of which, how is your back now?

    As for Denise McAllister, many is the time while watching or reading about the current crop of socialists I have some pretty good comments for them. In my mind. Whether or not I’d be able to voice them to their face is another matter. (Especially these days when I probably wouldn’t be able to remember those witty retorts I had composed in my mind.) Ah, the fun of aging.

    Seems that a guy’s wife sent him to the doctor as he had been complaining of no energy, aching joints, sleeping much more, and the like. When he got home his wife asked what the doctor had said. Her husband replied, “he said it was early onset rigor mortis.”

    Now THERE is a diagnosis I can appreciate! And thanks, Barbara. I’m on the mend. The injury of two years ago (two herniated discs) required a nerve block. Unfortunately, my Orthopedist tells me that occasional flare-ups are very common, so I can anticipate this occasional issue for the balance of time I have left. The pain isn’t as bad as the original injury (this time around), but I had to have the steroid packs and pain meds, etc. Happily I’m no longer driving an 18 wheeler so it’s a little easier to cope with it all. It’s basically a pinched nerve, and it gets testy with me a times. But things are improving steadily. Thanks for inquiring! 

    • #11
    • March 31, 2019 at 7:44 pm
    • 7 likes
  12. Member

    ‘Tis good to see you back.

    • #12
    • March 31, 2019 at 10:21 pm
    • 2 likes
  13. Thatcher

    Glad to hear you are feeling better, Dave. You have put into words how I have been feeling about our friend. I knew you could say it perfectly. Good to know you will be around more. Now about that pollen……

    • #13
    • April 1, 2019 at 6:13 am
    • 2 likes
  14. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Blondie (View Comment):

    Glad to hear you are feeling better, Dave. You have put into words how I have been feeling about our friend. I knew you could say it perfectly. Good to know you will be around more. Now about that pollen……

    Pollen is simply a plot by Big Antihistamine to make us dependent on them. And thanks! It’s good to be back. 

    • #14
    • April 1, 2019 at 6:23 am
    • 3 likes
  15. Thatcher

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    • #15
    • April 1, 2019 at 10:49 am
    • 6 likes
  16. Thatcher
    She

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . . . 

    • #16
    • April 1, 2019 at 11:13 am
    • 1 like
  17. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    She (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . . .

    He’s a great guy and a good friend. He even came to mine and the lovely Mrs. Carter’s wedding. What’s more, he brought moonshine! Can’t ask for more than that. 

    • #17
    • April 1, 2019 at 11:27 am
    • 6 likes
  18. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    Agreed. It’s an easy trap to fall into. 

    • #18
    • April 1, 2019 at 11:28 am
    • 2 likes
  19. Thatcher
    She

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . . .

    He’s a great guy and a good friend. He even came to mine and the lovely Mrs. Carter’s wedding. What’s more, he brought moonshine! Can’t ask for more than that.

    Ah. Moonshine. I will never forget Beecher Court (eighty-something patriarch of a PEI fishing family) dancing around his kitchen, with a mop as a partner, and singing this song:

    Beecher is the old gentleman who once gave me a copy of the KJV bible with the unforgettable words, “The King James Version. The actual words Christ spoke!”

    Very long story.

    Perhaps I’ll tell it sometime.

    • #19
    • April 1, 2019 at 11:43 am
    • 1 like
  20. Thatcher

    She (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . . .

    Wait a minute…what is scary about my name?? lol

    • #20
    • April 1, 2019 at 12:00 pm
    • 1 like
  21. Thatcher
    She

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . . .

    Wait a minute…what is scary about my name?? lol

    33 years ago (1986, please check the math), I swore off concrete forever. Foundation. Dry stack block. Filled solid with concrete. Rebar. Bituthene. Ugh. Cold. Gray. Drying. Nasty. Heavy. Horrible. (On a positive note: survived the coal company undermining in 2018. No cracks. No leaks. Yay! Mr. and Mrs. She!)

    Since then, I’ve limited, and mitigated, as much as I could, any exposure to the dreaded “C” word. So, yeah, I’m skittish. Although I had fun with a “trench drain” a couple of years ago. And one or two other small projects. But “concrete” and I do not get along.

    • #21
    • April 1, 2019 at 12:11 pm
    • 1 like
  22. Thatcher

    She (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Concretevol (View Comment):

    Yeah I feel the same about Denise, and consider her a friend as well. I just happened to watch some of it going down in real time on twitter and then the aftermath……. I feel bad about it. I think it is easy to feel like you are “fighting the good fight” and end up just down in the gutter with everyone else at some point. To me the short version was she was misread, attacked for it, and then lashed out unnecessarily. Sometimes it’s best to just let others have the last word and bow out. Either way, she is still my friend.

    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . . .

    Wait a minute…what is scary about my name?? lol

    33 years ago (1986, please check the math), I swore off concrete forever. Foundation. Dry stack block. Filled solid with concrete. Rebar. Bituthene. Ugh. Cold. Gray. Drying. Nasty. Heavy. Horrible. (On a positive note: survived the coal company undermining in 2018. No cracks. No leaks. Yay! Mr. and Mrs. She!)

    Since then, I’ve limited, and mitigated, as much as I could, any exposure to the dreaded “C” word. So, yeah, I’m skittish. Although I had fun with a “trench drain” a couple of years ago. And one or two other small projects. But “concrete” and I do not get along.

    That’s good, I don’t need any more competition! I will take care of the concrete so you don’t have to. :)

    • #22
    • April 1, 2019 at 2:29 pm
    • 3 likes
  23. Thatcher

    I’m glad to hear that we’ll be seeing more of you, Dave. I enjoy your posts a great deal.

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Speaking of people I miss a lot around here, where’s Claire Berlinski ?

    Paris.

    She is on Twitter, some, and on FaceBook, occasionally. I miss her too.

    • #23
    • April 1, 2019 at 5:52 pm
    • 2 likes
  24. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Percival (View Comment):

    I’m glad to hear that we’ll be seeing more of you, Dave. I enjoy your posts a great deal.

    Ansonia (View Comment):
    Speaking of people I miss a lot around here, where’s Claire Berlinski ?

    Paris.

    She is on Twitter, some, and on FaceBook, occasionally. I miss her too.

    Thank you sir. It’s great to be back. 

    • #24
    • April 1, 2019 at 6:13 pm
    • 2 likes
  25. Member

    She (View Comment):
    OK. Although I said (elsewhere) that your name scares me, this comment convinces me that you might be an OK sort of guy . .

    But no better than that.

    • #25
    • April 3, 2019 at 2:55 pm
    • 3 likes
  26. Coolidge

    “oh my shin, my poor shin, that I’ve had since I was a little girl.”

    Wonderful read, thank you very much.

    • #26
    • April 3, 2019 at 3:15 pm
    • 1 like
  27. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    “oh my shin, my poor shin, that I’ve had since I was a little girl.”

    Wonderful read, thank you very much.

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it! 

    • #27
    • April 3, 2019 at 8:12 pm
    • 2 likes
  28. Moderator

    Dave Carter: There are certain things you simply can’t say! Ditto with the graceful, white-haired lady who stopped in her tracks to turn to a co-worker and I to ask whether we watch “Game of Thrones”? After we both replied in the negative, she felt compelled to bring us up to speed on a series in which neither of us had the slightest interest.

    I bet most people in retail experience similar things eventually. Some old people are just lonely and will tell you their life story, if given a chance. Great post, Dave!

    • #28
    • April 4, 2019 at 11:01 am
    • 3 likes