Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Mamma Done Tol' Me

If you’re like me sometimes you think the political world is a pretty grim place; as in “no fun”, “a complete drag”.

Watching this Administration paddle the country toward an economic waterfall is very tiring, especially when you see how persistent they are. It gets a fellow plum tuckered out. There’s only so much you can take.

Last evening, for instance, I was home. While fixing a sandwich I turned on the television, but instead of tuning in to O'Reilly or Hannity I clicked on TCM and found Clint Eastwood’s documentary about songwriter Johnny Mercer. In a few seconds I was hooked. I stood there in the kitchen for an hour and a half and watched the whole thing, start to finish, "from Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to St. Joe".

It was a very good film, not as good as Johnny Mercer’s songs or Mercer’s own delivery of those songs on the occasions when he sang them himself instead of letting people like Bing Crosby, or Frank Sinatra, or Cab Calloway sing them. Still, it was a very good film. I enjoyed it immensely.

Mercer’s lyrics are so rich, so pleasant and sophisticated in construction that they feel like a warm summer day; like a natural pleasure that we take for granted until its gone and we find ourselves in the cold looking back wondering where it went. They are full of crisp, original observations, of saucy romance and wistful regret, all told with easy Southern humor.

Listening, Mercer’s tunes erased all the concerns in my mind about how those corrupt fixers in Washington are working to rig the American health care system so that it’s a duplicate of any other public facility, be it public education or the DMV. But isn't that sense of sunny transportation part of what made those old songs and shows work so well, that sense of leaving your cares behind and stopping in on another world?

Here’s just a small sample of the hundreds of songs Johnny Mercer wrote: Blues In the Night, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive, Fools Rush In, I’m Old Fashioned, Moon River, One For My Baby (and One More for the Road), Jeepers Creepers, That Old Black Magic, I Want To Be Around To Pick Up the Pieces, By the River Sainte Marie, Lazy Bones…..and on and on….

I went to bed happy and rested.

When I got up this morning it was back to the real world. I fixed a cup of coffee, scanned a few internet news sites and found this gem of a story.

They never stop, do they, that curious bunch of people running the government. It must be in their blood; for night and day, around the clock somebody in a Federal office building is trying to figure how to spend large sums of money. The article in question is a shopping list of goodies tucked into the so-called “Stimulus Plan”, the plan our tax dollars are paying for. Reading the piece I cruised down the page but didn’t notice any golf courses or merry-go-round museums this time, never the less there are some interesting items to be spending money on, regardless of current economic conditions. Here are a couple:

$300 Thousand for a helicopter to track radio active rabbit droppings near a nuke plant. How did we ever get along without that?

$6 Million earmarked for a snow-making machine in Duluth, Minnesota, which needs snow the way Florida needs sunshine or Seattle needs rain.

And, there's $11 Million to build a bridge over a freeway between two Microsoft corporate buildings. How did Microsoft end up with corporate buildings on either side of a freeway? Were they too busy running down the bugs in Windows “Vista” to notice? As a business, Microsoft is famous for “creating more millionaires than any other company in the world.” Okay. Why not get eleven of them to chip in for the bridge and leave taxpayers alone?

But my favorite – gather ‘round fellas – is this one: The Stimulus Bill actually provides the University of Syracuse with $219 Thousand to study “the sex lives of freshman women”. Who do they think they’re kidding? They’ll hang a few sign-up sheets around campus and get a bunch of interested volunteers who will do the research for free. Then, the $219 Thousand will get funneled through to ACORN workers to teach hookers how to cheat on their taxes.

Reading all this at quarter after seven in the morning reminded me of another Mercer song; The Country’s In the Very Best of Hands.

Gone over thirty years but in that homely Southern drawl Johnny Mercer still sings to us from the Great Beyond. Makes me wonder what he could do with material like he'd find today.

Yes, indeedee, "My Mama Done Tol' Me", alright.