Bad For You

The Amish had the tops raised on their buggies as they trotted into town on the gravel shoulder along the road. I sped past them on the opposite side, wheels spitting dirty water off the rain-slicked asphalt. In front of me, a young man in britches and a straw hat ran across the road. He ducked into a small farmhouse and on the periphery I noticed a discretely placed satellite dish.

It reminded me of the time we bought chairs from a local furniture maker and, walking behind his barn, we passed a trash bin and spotted an empty bottle of blackberry schnapps. (As some astute person once opined: Whatever the conviction, everybody breathes the same way.)

The fields and front yards along the road were all flooded with water, and the river running alongside swollen over the banks, the last insult of the harsh winter. But passing by at 70 mph, it’s easy to neglect to appreciate how disconnected you are from everyone else’s resultant hardship. Because you are on your way to go fishing.

Mike driving jonboat

And you’re going to meet people and drink beer and eat all the food you are not supposed to–eggs and salt potatoes fried in bacon grease, brats and kielbasa and pepperoni, bricks of cheddar cheese and bags of garlic flavored curd, chocolate chip cookies from Wegmans and beer. Beer for lunch, for dinner and for the first second third fourth fifth sixth and seventh hands of Texas Hold Em.

I’m not sure why at every meal we always eat and drink the things that are bad for you. Even the vegetables are sprinkled with bacon and a layer of shredded cheddar. Maybe it’s just an act of defiance,  a tiny mutiny against the notion, which is never mentioned but implicitly understood, that we are all born to die.

Matt Casting

The water was cold and the fish were cold too. They had not yet crossed the fine line between preservation and predation. When their metabolism finally speeds up they will get hungrier and hungrier until they can’t resist anything that passes by, but in the moment they moved slowly, eating maybe out of spite, or just to keep going for another few weeks until the water temps rise and the reaffirmation of everything that is hardwired into their brains begins.



Profiling Mr. Matthiessen

The 10,000 Islands are fantastical without the help of literary flourish but their significance, for me, has been amplified tenfold by the words of Peter Matthiessen in Shadow Country, his great work that combined the trilogy of Killing Mr. Watson, Bone By Bone and Lost Man’s River.

Matthiessen would be a giant based on the Watson trilogy alone, but  add in his collected works and life story, and you get something seriously heavy.

So I was thrilled that Chris E. passed along this profile from the New York Times:

Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing

The Top Two Songs Involving Corduroy Fabric

Yesterday I spent a lot of time listening to the Pogues, which is something to do on St. Patrick’s Day among other days. The song “Poor Paddy¹” came on.

In the song, Shane MacGowan references corduroy britches  nine times. It struck me as an intriguing cultural reference in that the only other song I can think of that mentions the fabric is NWA’s “Dope Man.”

In “Dope Man” Eazy-E mentions them only once. At the song’s four minute mark he says, “I’m the dope man yeah boy wear corduroy, money up to here but unemployed.”

These are the top two songs to my knowledge that involve corduroy². Both songs have the same hardness to them, of the working man trying to get by in less than ideal labor conditions. So what does corduroy have to do with that?

Luckily, Google provides ready answers for surface grazers, expedited by the magic of autofill.

No less an apparel authority than  Brooks Brothers³ calls corduroy the “cloth of the king,” before noting that during the Industrial Revolution, it became the go-to fabric of the working class, or as BB tells it, “poor man’s velvet.”

A more in depth history of corduroy can be found at V is for Vintage

This accounting describes it as having a “velvety feel making it durable yet soft to touch.” It also makes reference of using corduroy to sew “trousers” for soldiers, mountaineers and factory workers and those in “ink-based trades.”

So corduroy rightly has context within the two songs, and its strength as a material has afforded it venue in other pop culture mediums(4).

In any event, I own one pair of corduroy pants but several works of the Pogues and NWA and Eazy-E, so I’ll keep attuned to any other possible commonalities.

And, in case you were wondering about the justification for this, there is corduroy in fly fishing.

1. (It’s a traditional song, “Poor Paddy Work on the Railway,” documented by Carl Sandburg in American Songbag.)

2.(The Pearl Jam song  titled “Corduroy”  never actually mentions corduroy and, vocally, Eddie Vedder sounds like he may or may not be taking a dump. Who can say?)

3. (Brooks Brothers titles its clothing advice page, “Of Rogues and Gentlemen.” I can imagine the scrubbed salesman at the retail shop trying to play up the rogue angle to some accounting consultant from Deloitte. And, in hearing this, the consultant daydreams of the gang at the 19th hole saying, “He’s such a rogue, he played the entire round from the gold tees.”)

4. (Corduroy gets more play on Seinfeld in the form of swooshing pants. So do velvet, Gore Tex and cotton. Side note, the Yankee’s cotton uniforms episode has one of my favorite random Seinfeld bits, where George reads aloud, “Wade Boggs says, ‘What a fabric!'”)


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