Just Bill and the Mister

January 21, 2010

REVENGE OF THE TUITION BANKRUPTS

Filed under: Uncategorized — bknister @ 6:57 am
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The next seven postings present a travel piece I wrote in 1990.

After what’s happened in Haiti, it seems callous to talk about frivolous things, especially cruising in the Caribbean.  But other than condole with the Haitian man who works at the tennis courts where I play, and write a check to a relief agency, there’s not much I can do. 

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 Cruise ships are very old hat now; they had long ceased being exotic even in 1990.  But I think something of the less acidic flavor of that era comes through, down to my choice of cruise reading.  Imagine a garden-variety Democrat—not a journalist or a politician– freely choosing to read anything whatever these days about Ronald Reagan.  I did so twenty years ago, and that seems amazing to me, now. 

 There are also politically incorrect aspects to the piece.  You’re not supposed to talk about people being beautiful anymore—that’s Lookism.  And it’s no longer acceptable to talk in terms of national or regional character.  That’s Profiling.  I suppose it’s even sexist to still use feminine pronouns when referring to ships.  Ah well.  Here’s what I wrote, warts and all.       

                     REVENGE OF THE TUITION BANKRUPTS #1

On this particular Monday morning, the mid-winter grind at last does you in.  You’ve arrived at that nadir of personal resources no amount of reason or common sense can salvage.  Like the midnight-blue morning and failed backyard outside, you look defeated in the kitchen window.

The dark a.m. commute works like road salt, corroding everything.  Waiting for a traffic light, the one timed so long you can actually feel your life slipping away, you turn to watch the woman waiting next to you.  Alone in her own grimy car, she’s deep in debate.  Her mouth is working, then stops as she listen to her phantom companion.  Now she makes another point, finger jabbing at the windshield.  You see this all the time, but this morning it gets to you. 

The day that follows fits perfectly.

On your drive home, at a different traffic light you happen to glance at a service station.  A person half your age is doing most of the stylistic things about his generation you most dislike.  Someone else is pumping his gas while he preens for traffic, overcoat and suit coat off, standing next to his Lexus in the wintry air so all can see his sharpie’s red suspenders.  Look at him yammering into his cell phone, poised with one arm over the open door.  Very take-charge, very New Order.

Home, you find your wife in the kitchen, still in her coat.  “We need a proctologist in our office,” she says as she opens a piece of mail.  “He’d feel right at home.” 

The mailing is from the gold-plated college our younger daughter attends.  “This is the bill for next term,” your wife tells you.  “Let’s do something to mark the occasion.  At this moment, all our money is gone and so are the children.  Here we are.”

Penniless and alone, you both face the frostbelt evening.  After dinner, you scan the travel section of Sunday’s paper.  The following morning, you are on the phone, looking for an exit point.

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