Coping with Spring Fever

Spring Fever On Tuesday, April 7, 2010, this columnist sat down at the computer and prepared to write a column wondering if Afghanistan’s Premier Hamid Karzai had ever read a biography of Ngo Dinh Diem (or maybe even one for Australia’s PM Harold Holt?). We figured that to make such a column work, a brief bio of the long dead Asian leader might be necessary as well as including a short recap of the particulars of the Vietnam War. We looked out the window and saw that it was a Kodachrome (R. I. P.) day. Nix the column plans. It seemed like a better idea to take our new Nikon Coolpix camera out for a walk which might produce some material to be used on our car-spotting blog. The only thing missing was a proper destination.

Then we figured that we might find some hot new column topic in the books at the Berkeley Public Library used book store. Off we went. We picked out two 50 cent bargains and enjoyed the bright warm day. Can it get any better? Well, naturally New York City just had to have a better, warmer, day. One of the books was copyrighted 1991 and had a chapter about funny election results in Dade County Florida, things called “hanging chads,” and chap named Ken Collier. Unfortunately Jonathan Vankin’s book was titled “Conspiracies, Cover-ups and Crimes.” Conspiracy? Toss that column idea into the “round file.” Using such a topic would be as unsportsmanlike for this columnist as it would be for a pitcher to use a sharpened belt buckle to gouge nicks into a fresh from the umpire new baseball.

On Wednesday, we planned to go to the San Francisco Public Library to look up information about the legendary local columnist called “Freddie Francisco,” because National Columnists’ Day is coming up and a little preliminary fact checking seemed like a perfect excuse for going across to “Baghdad by the Bay.”

When we arrived we discovered that the San Francisco Public Library book store was holding a sidewalk sale and we scored three books (one with a ragged torn cover) by James Norman Hall. Between world wars, he was one of the legions of “get-away-from-it-all” writers who flocked to the South Pacific. Hall and his war time buddy, Charles Nordoff, wrote the Bounty trilogy.

The South Pacific between world wars seems like it was a prototype for the blogosphere. There must have been days when more writers were jammed into Quinn’s bar in Papeete than there were at the round table at the Algonquin. If anyone ever starts a Beachcombers’ Hall of Fame, Hall will be sure to be included among the first group to be named as inductees. There was one problem about doing a column about that topic: Do bloggers really care who people such as Hall and Robert Dean Frisbie were? Especially if Frisbie wasn’t the guy who invented the flying disk?

We have found very little on Freddie Francisco (who was supposed to be the West Coast’s answer to NYC’s Charlie Knickerbacker) on the Internets, but we found a passel of material in the San Francisco Public Libray about the bloke. Enough to write a book perhaps? Perhaps. But National Columnists’ Day is two weeks off. It’s too soon to do that column.

Between world wars Freddie Francisco is reported to have lived in Shanghai where he found great raw material for a writer, such as General Cohen (the kosher Mandarin), Mazie Duncan of Love Lane fame, and Joe Smith who would provide the funds for shipping the bodies of indigent Americans back home for burial. He thought that it was sad that they died so far from home. (He used to put some illegal contraband in the caskets which his cronies would retrieve by digging up later.) There’s nothing on the Internets about these interesting folks and scoring a Google first would be great, but there wasn’t enough details to flesh out an entire column.

When we got back to the World’s Laziest Journalist’s Home Office, the news informed us that there seems to have been a coup in Kyrgyzstan. The turmoil in Kyrgyzstan doesn’t bode well for the War in Afghanistan. Could we milk a column out of this question: “If President Obama loses the war in Afghanistan will patriotic Republicans permit themselves to cheer wildly?”? Wouldn’t that be an oxymoron for patriotic fellows to cheer when their country loses a war?

One of the other books we bought in SF was a copy of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” In the preface to the new edition Huxley wrote: “At the time the book was written this idea, that human beings are given free will in order to choose between insanity on the one hand and lunacy on the other, was one that I found amusing and regard as quite possibly true.”

There’s no use trying to write a column about how that applies to taking troops out of a war in Iran to keep a campaign promise and then sending them to the war in Afghanistan because if I did that I’d have to be stripped of my Obama Cheerleading uniform and turn in my “Liberal Blogger’s License.” We could pump out a column just to maintain the tradition of wondering at the beginning of a new baseball season what the Fremantle team’s chances are of winning the World Series in the fall.

Since we try to be culturally aware and since we have never heard one song by Lady Gaga, perhaps we could write a column urging Uncle Rushbo or . . . could Sean Hannity play one of her songs as a way of auditioning her with his listeners for those wonderful philanthropic concerts he promotes? How are we ever going to hear a Lady Gaga song if most of the radio content is Republican spin? It will be years before her material becomes eligible to be played on the True Oldies Channel. Scratch that column idea.

Spring is the perfect season for planning a summer surge in Afghanistan. Isn’t a war the perfect way to express the springtime sensation that the French have dubbed “joi de vivre”? Emily Dickinson wrote: “A little Madness in the Spring/ Is wholesome even for the King.” Now, the disk jockey will play “Endless Sleep,” “Something Stupid,” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” We gotta get the hell outta here. Have a “we’re coming to getcha” type week.


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