Quiet Desperation

In the war of words, the words are losing


“Lead” not only means “first,” “foremost” and “front,” lead is a heavy metal, hence Led Zeppelin.

An old adage in journalism is “don’t bury the lead.”

Journalists are not supposed to begin a story with details of secondary importance.

However, I am uncertain what my lead is this week. Perhaps by the time I have finished I will know.

Of course, by then it will be too late.

If I had to take a guess, I’d say my lead is the wonderful conundrum of language, as per the following (nonsense).

I read the news today and while I was reading the news I was wearing a red sweater I bought in a store in Redding, California.

There was an article in the paper about a bicycle race that took place in Leadville. The woman who was in the lead most of the way fell back because, she said, “I couldn’t get the lead out.”

As I dwindle and fade, I am fascinated by things I wasn’t when I was younger and had other considerations on my mind, such as the birds, the bees, and how to osculate.

Now, as I swan song my way into the arms of oblivion, it’s often words that fascinate me, and it’s why I am saddened by the abuse of them as I have noted many times before.

Chiefly: the preternatural use of “like,” to qualify, clog and clutter almost everything that is said by almost everyone under the age of 40.

Why? Why? Why?

What if journalists for this publication and for the major dailies were equally lax and leisurely when they reported, oh, let’s say an impeachment hearing?

“There were like all these men and women in this big room and they were like arguing, you know, and this one guy Mitch-something he, uh, boy, was he upset about something.”

I may not know what my lead is, but I know exactly what I am doing.

I am defusing something of great importance with something of little importance. It’s what I do — it’s what we do — in order to survive.

Current national and international news is awful.

Closer to home, if there is an illness or a death in the family, it can be overwhelming and unmanageable.

So something is said about the shirt your husband wears to your son’s funeral.

That’s another one of my film references.

It comes from “Ordinary People,” a movie directed by Robert Redford that stars Mary Tyler Moore who gave the best performance of her career.

She is the controlling matriarch of a family in disrepair after the oldest son died.

She scolds her husband, portrayed by Donald Sutherland, on the day of the funeral because of the color of the shirt he has chosen to wear.

I have isolated that scene numerous times. There’s a lot in it.

It also changed my opinion of Mary Tyler Moore. I didn’t think much of either of her situation comedies.

Redford knew there was more to her than exclaiming “Rob” and “Murray.”

Where was I? The English language.

Raymond Chandler, in response to a proofreader who corrected one of his split infinitives, replied, in part, “Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois, which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and when I split an infinitive, (expletive), I split it so it will remain split.”

Small favors in times of travail.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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