As I reckon Addison once said more or less, you meet now and then with those who give learned and knotty responses to clear or transparent propositions, as a general will carry on for 12 minutes to assure us he never could have won the victory without soldiers.
Peachers also wrestle considerably to prove that goodness is on the whole good, and men far gone in weather lore are frequently able to say it will precipitate very likely within the week.
Believe me, there are hard questions undreamed of, apparently, by those who are paid to answer, and I shall address some of the thorniest ones that have come to my personal attention, this very day.
Like all dutiful subscribers to papers, at vast expense I might add, I read all the question-answer columns and my life is the better for it.
So it is with no sense of snidery that one gently points out that the hoary old wise ones to often traffic in advice or answers that are trite, obvious, irrelevant to the question or patently incorrect.
Even the best answers -- and I think of good Dr. Miller who is such a comfort when one has an orangutan with manage or other beastly problems -- are not able to answer everything.
Nor am I. But so often on the bus, which I ride every day that it runs which is frequently, if you look at it from the end of the year, you hear questions that cry for answers, but none is forthcoming.
The hungry sheep look up, but only a handful are fed at our standard cribs, and while I am no more expert than you (and no less, for we all have reserves of wisdom we rarely call on) I shall answer truthfully so help me God, since I know that common sense and compassion go far to help the neediest:
Q. Please explain the brain.
A.It is better designed than the ankle but, not so well as the ear and the main trouble with it is it has too many moving parts and is certain to be out of order much of the time.
To deal exhaustively with the hunman brain would require a full column, but I sense you require practical tips -- how to cope with the odd brains other people have.
First and most important, the brain comprehends only what it already knows or thinks it knows. Things are in the brain, and if something outside (like a dog approaching at reasonable trot, say) registers, the brain says ha, a dog is approaching. Not because the brain really comprehends a new fact, but because its chemical structure already knows about dogs.
But if the brain hears Charles Ives, say, at a concert, it does not say "Ha, music by Ives." It says Je -- Chr -- and gets mad.
That is because there is nothing in the brain to receive Charles Ives. I do not say the brain is wrong.
But what you will find useful, to answer your true question, is to remember never to tell anybody anything new. They will not like it. As for informing people, remember that if they had any real desire for knowing, they would already know, and in any case would hardly be asking you.
Thus, if they ask the time of day, do not respond quickly that it is "18 after three." Instead, say:
Gee. I was wondering myself. Hey, man, that's a great shirt you got. Uh. Let's see. This watch looks like it's after three. Uh. About 18, it looks like."
That is the correct answer. The guy did not really want to know the time, but was merely wondering why you are so fat (thin, bald, stupid looking, revolting, etc.) when you happened to look at him, and he did not want to say what he had been thinking, so he asked you the time.
By telling him his shirt looks great, even if it's yellow and he probably got it for 20 cents at a rummage sale, he feels better and starts thinking you have a lot of sense.
The only other thing about the brain is that if you want to go to Sea Island the brain will show you why that is a good idea.
Beyond that, the brain is useless and should not be coddled. Or tampered with.
Q. We have a problem with our son's education. Tim is 12 and the schools here are bad. We know a good boarding schol that will accept him next year, but our problem is we are liberals. We have been in the forefront of the battle for integrated public shcools. It would look odd if we now sent our own boy to an expensive school in New England. On the other hand, he has got to get educated somehow.
A. Do not worry too much about its seeming odd. People think you are odd already if you are a liberal. On the other hand, do not count too much on St. Marley's turning the boy into an "educated" fellow. Most boys from good schools are fairly stupid, and virtually all are ill-read, especially since nowadays they let them read Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
The advantage of sending the boy to the fancy school is that he will learn the right kind of speech rhythms and will learn that certain words are never to be used under any circumstances.
He will make useful friendships, but this is usually cancelled out by his making lifelong enemies, too.
Picky people might say it is immoral to decree lousy schools for the public at large but good schools for your own family.
You will find, however, that this moral dilemma will not bother you greatly, if you are a true liberal, and it will not bother others, either, since they will not expect different behavior from you.
Q. I am frightfully depressed. Little Baby, our guard dog, recently devoured -- this is terribly difficult -- recently went berserk, temporarily. Our neighbors had adorable twin babies. It is too horrible to think of. They do not know it was Little Baby since nothing was left. I would do anything, anything at all, but what can I do at this point?"
A. Well, these things happen. They are terrible, but we are mortals, not gods. Try to remember that time is a great healer. Specifically, for you must take action if the depression you feel is to be lifted, you should speak to your neighbors. "Haven't seen the twins lately," is a good way to begin. Then listen, as they pour out.
No purpose is served by dwelling on details, which I would keep strictly to myself if I were you. Also -- and this is going to be hard, but you must face reality as it exists -- you should consider finding a foster home for Little Baby in the country with a family that (already) has no children. At least temporarily.
Q. I am a Sagittarius.My girl says we would not have a happy life together, I cannot live without her. She is a Capricorn.
A. Sagittarius and Capricorn were made for each other. But do not argue with her. Tell her you want nothing but her happiness and respect her decision. Hock what you have and give her a sapphire ring from Carter's. Then disappear. When she phones, instruct your landlady to say you have gone to Tunis to settle your grandfather's estate since you are the only living member of the family and there are tremendous tangles about land in six countries.
You should check right now into excursion fares to Tunis, so you will get there before she does.
Q. My marriage is endangered because my husband refuses to eat either mince pie or plum pudding. That is what we have for holiday dessert. But I am willing to change, to save my marriage. Please advise.
A. How wise you are. And, if I may say so, how wise your husband is also. Learn to make an orange ice. Any imbecile can do it. Put it in tall champagne cups and fill the rest of the glass with champagne. It is an ideal holiday dessert. Use cheap champagne.
Serve Veuve Clicquot in separate champagne glasses with it. Even with the accompanying good champagne, it will cost less than plum pudding and it is actually edible. Yes, this marriage can be saved.
Q. My mother-in-law sent me a very expensive footstool which I need like another hole in (etc).
But my wife says I cannot send it back to the store.
The damn thing cost $385. Is there any solution?
A. Thank your mother-in-law for the knockout new ski boots, sweater and really zany great silk gloves. Then make the exchange at the store. When she says she sent a footstool, phone the store in her presence and give them hell. Let her know the dumb clucks made a mistake and, worse luck you have already worn everything. "But golly, Mama Lisa, the stuff the idiots sent is something I never would have brought, of course, but they're all just great, and I'm nuts about all of them. Almost as much as the footstool." Then kiss her. Big. It will work out.
Q. Planning our vacation stumps us. As Americans we can't really go anywhere but France or England and they cost too much. Is there some warm island, really unspoiled, full of color, where we won't get shot?
A. No. But follow this itinerary:
On July 31 leave Olney and your daily grind for Sixth Street NW. Scout the area in advance and surprise your wife with one of the little hotels. You are sick of the usual holiday strings of Hiltons. Ask for a room without air conditioning. Try Fourth or Seventh if you don't find what you want on Sixth. Dine at the picturesque local "hash joints." Try a Cowscraper (gin, rye, grapefruit and peppermint schnapps) at a native bar. Watch it, they're generous and one will probably do you.
Shop the local boutiques. Expect great buys in roof tiles. Buy her an absurdly cheap wrap-around in a "used but usable" shop. Have a mug of java at the "mission" and swap yarns with the regulars. Try checkers with a lively old codger.
On Aug. 4 (five days is about enough) take the milk train to Philadelphia, then the bus to New York.
Visit a gas station on 121st Street -- the guys are friendly and will suggest good lodging, the kind real people stay in, well away from the Pierre. s
Try crab Newburg at Zoroaster's, right there in the neighborhood, for $2.95. Three days later hitch with your wife to Atlantic City. Who needs a Boardwalk? There are delicious little places three or four blocks off, where you miss only the high hotel rates. Try your hand at chemin de fer. Hitch back to Olney. Get the dog sprung, from the vet's with your favorite credit card. You've had 10 great days for the two of you for $1,000 or a third what the same thing would cost at Porto Helpo, Grut Pfeifferdam of Felice des Maures. Some sights, and your gizzard will thank you.
Q. I have rebuilt the carburetor of my foreign car and after two years it's working all right, but the thing is I have seven pieces left over, and wonder if these were critical.
A. You merely improved the design. The pieces were not critical. They were in the original assembly only to abrade the working parts and make them wear out in 12 months and two weeks. You are well rid of them.
Q. Old age is awful. Thank god we only go through it once. But really there is no help for it.
A. Good soul, we do what we can and endure what we must. We assign meaning if we find none. We live because we were born alive. Stay that way. m
Q. Sometimes it's just too much.
A. Or else not enought. Join the rest of us. Prosper freedom, Noel, Noel, and Happy New Year.