"Publishers and editors chiefly acquire their ideas about the world from their own newspapers," writes Joseph Epstein.
This is true.It's also true that columnists get their ideas from the same place.
In my case, I get my ideas of the world from Dear Abby.
I'm always intrigued that a mother-in-law who thinks she's the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln and a man who wants to dress like his mother-in-law will write for some good, old-fashioned common-sense advice - and Abby will dish it out.
Actually I'm not intrigued; I'm totally baffled.
Last week the topic in Abby was "The Seven Deadly Sins," what they were, where they could be found, who made them up, etc., etc. As I read the list - "envy, lust, gluttony, anger, sloth, pride and greed," I was troubled - like most readers - to learn I'd committed them all. I was also troubled by the fact I'd committed them all so often that Jesus told his followers to forgive people seven-times-70. He knew I was out there.
But what really troubled me was realizing I'll be committing every deadly sin on Thanksgiving Day.
You see, I already know what Thanksgiving Day will be like. We're sticklers for tradition in our family. We don't need Jean Dixon around to predict how things will go. They'll go like this:I will have nine helpings of turkey dressing before noon (gluttony) and by 7 p.m. I'll be lying on my back in the TV room bloated like a Holstein cow and staring at the ceiling (sloth).
In between, I'll have this conversation with my brother:
"Dave," I'll say, "I've written a new country song for your band to consider." (pride).
"Oh?" he'll say.
"Yeah," I'll say, "and I think there might be some bucks in it (greed). I think the lyrics will sell - they're about hot-to-trot cowgirls." (lust)
"Do tell," he'll say.
"Yeah," I'll say. "If I could sing country style (envy) I'd record it myself. Ticks me off (anger) that you and Dad got the pipes in this family."Years ago I read a book by Donald Barthelme called "Sam's Bar." At one point this world-weary slob walks into the bar and begins to talk. "I took one of those stress tests today," he tells the bartender. "There were 20 questions. I had 19 of them. The only thing I ain't got is `death of spouse.' "
The day after Thanksgiving I can picture myself walking into Sam's Bar and bellying up beside the guy to commiserate.
"You think you got it bad," I'll tell him. "I took a look at the seven deadly sins the other day? I got all seven. Ain't one I ain't got."
"Bummer," he'll say.
"Yeah," I'll say. (Pause.) "Say, you wouldn't have a copy of today's Dear Abby would you?"