Originally published Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at 06:00a.m.
This is the second in a series of two columns about a topic that no one else would bother to write.
In my last column, I was complaining about not being clever enough to make up my own platitudes that would cement my legacy to the American experience. The only difference with this column is that now I’m complaining about not being clever enough to make up my own quotes that would cement my legacy to the American experience. If I can’t think of anything else to grumble by next week, this will remain a two-column series and I’ll probably move on to some other trifling issue.
I’m greatly impressed when I hear a quote that immortalizes an idea or thought. For example,
Sam Levenson, writer, humorist and journalist once said, “If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the UP button.” It will be difficult to come up with a funnier elevator quote than that one.
Since I’ve had nothing else to do, for inspiration I’ve looked up quotes by Samuel Clemens, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. These guys were so smart, why should I try to construct my own axioms when I can easily borrow theirs, with attribution, of course. Seriously, they aren’t using them anymore!
Seems to me that Sam had a stronger sense of humor than Abe or Winston. But then Sam wasn’t trying to win a war. I did notice one chuckler from Winston, “There are two things that are more difficult than making a dinner speech: climbing a wall which is leaning toward you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you.” I have to admit, though that Abe could zing one now and then: “No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.” Even with these punch lines I can’t see Winston or Abe doing stand-up comedy.
Sam also was the only one of the three who labored behind the safety of a pen name. Maybe the octane of his humor made that necessary. No matter how hard I tried, I could never devise a funnier quote than Sam’s comments about fashion: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” I have to admit, if I sat down to devise a timeless quote, it probably wouldn’t be about naked people.
Actually Sam and I have something in common. But only one. He had and I have a mustache. Other than that, he had the courage to print what I only have the courage to think. Many of his down-to-earth proclamations are words that helped shape my life. For example, I’ve been concerned over the years about my declining ability to spell. Sam made me feel better with his comment “I respect a man who knows how to spell a word more than one way.”
My wife encourages me to eat a healthier diet to avoid diabetes. Her diet recommendations include vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy selections, beans, and green, leafy things. These references are fine, but I’m looking for nouns such as fudge, pie (as in peach) and cake (as in chocolate). An occasional snack (as in salty) every once in a while wouldn’t hurt, either. Sam abbreviated my concerns nicely when he said “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
Finally, I occasionally use colorful language. Again, Sam has rescued me with the advice “When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.”
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