Only the Good Die Young

31 January 2011

It’s long been said that only the good die young.  At one time, I just thought it was a bit of mummery — conventional folk wisdom with not a shred of truth to it.  But then. . .

Then I recalled Fred Fisher and Gina Berger.  I met Fred back in the mid-1950s.  Fred was a few years older than me; he was in either high school or middle school while I was in sixth grade.  Fred looked like a cuddly football player — big and burly, but handsome.  However, it was his persona that set Fred above and apart from everyone else.  Fred was universally liked and admired.  There wasn’t anyone who met him who didn’t feel an instant bonding  to him.  And he had all the virtues: Generosity, compassion, charity, and a thoroughgoing courtliness.  Importantly, Fred’s likability was such that it never inspired jealousy.  Your mom and dad could openly sing Fred’s praises and, if you’d met Fred, you’d agree and join in the little pep fest.

Then, well before the end of high school, Fred sickened and died.  His death saddened everyone.  His mom and dad were distraught.

It was then that I first heard the sentiment, Only the Good Die Young.

As the years went by, there were other occasions where someone who was exceptionally decent and likable died early while the shit heads lived on and on and on.

In the mid 2000s, my daughter called with the news that her cousin, Gina Berger, was killed in a car wreck at age nineteen.  The State Patrol said she’d fallen asleep at the wheel, her car went across the median and slammed head-on into a semi.  She died instantly.  My daughter said that Gina’s parents were inconsolable — as was the community of Gina’s relatives and friends.

My daughter and I talked about young Gina.  According to my daughter, Gina had some sort of personal magnetism, a charisma, that almost compelled adoration from those who met her.  She attracted people the way a rose attracts bees.  According to my daughter, Gina was of comely appearance with mesmerizing eyes.  In school, she pulled in “A”s with no apparent effort and was popular without the cruelty so often seen in attractive young women.  Even dull and homely girls could stand next to Gina without making invidious comparisons to themselves.  Gina, so my daughter said, would have “made some guy the happiest man on earth” and been “a wonderful mom.”   “There’s something about her,” people would say of Gina.  “Angelic” was a word often used to describe her.

So what’s with people like Fred and Gina?  And how come such wonderful specimens always seem to die before adulthood?

Well, perhaps they are angels.  Perhaps these angelic creatures have, for one reason or another, chosen to spend some time in our realm.  Even with the brains and bodies of children, their true natures shines through and all who behold them can see it.  By being here, their presence imparts some sort of grace or charm to those about them, a grace those people may need in their lives.

However, were these angelic creatures to remain here into adulthood, with the commensurate body and brain, their radiance might become too much for normal people to deal with.  They might actually become frightening to us.  They might inspire in us, feelings of comparative inferiority such that we might come to hate them.  And that would be unfortunate.

And so Providence gives them limited time.  They leave before we come to feel ashamed and small.  They leave while we can still feel sadness at their leaving, instead of relief.


Two Irritants

9 January 2011

An open letter to Sheriff John Lovick.

I’ve been meaning to write you about two sore subjects and today, as the winter winds blow, I decided it was time.

The first subject of my ire is the Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  Well, maybe not so much the motorcycles themselves as the modifications made to them by the numb-skulls who replace the factory exhaust system with straight pipes.  Not long ago, when the weather was warmer, I was sitting at the light controlling Highway 9 and Lowell-Larimer Road when some poser on his shiny H/D pulled up on my left.  It was some doctor/dentist/lawyer/engineer/programmer/accountant/entrepreneur on his spic-and-span bike and natty leather duds out playing weekend badass.  To conform to the image he wanted to project, he had the afore mentioned straight pipes.  The din was awful.  Despite the beautiful day, I almost put up the window.

Then the light turned green and the s.o.b. opened the throttle.  The motorcycle blasted out an ear-splitting crackle that was truly painful, leaving my left ear to ring for almost an hour.  The biker let out the clutch, turned and went north on Highway 9.  I could still hear that damned motorcycle as I crossed Highway 9 and approached Springetti (sp) Road.

Sheriff Lovick, you and I both know that if I equipped my car with a boom-box subwoofer, or removed its exhaust muffler and replaced it with a straight pipe, I’d get a ticket so fast it would make my head swim — as would the trucker with an unmuffled Jacobs engine brake going down the Highway 9 decline.  So why the special treatment for Harley riders?  Why are they given a free pass on making engine noise when the drivers of cars and trucks get hammered for doing the same thing?  It’s long past the time when such childish and anti-social behavior be left unpunished.  If I have to keep a muffler on my old Toyota, the Harley dude should keep them on his bike.

The second subject if my ire is the jacked-up pickup with headlights so high in the air they truly blind oncoming drivers.  On a rainy night, when it’s hard to see anyway, the dazzling headlights on these mutts’ pickups make it impossible to see the fog line or anything else, including the incautious pedestrian who chooses to wear black and walk on the pavement.  Unless these pickup trucks are lowered back to factory height, someone is going to get killed.

In sum, Sheriff Lovick, your deputies should be writing fit-it tickets to loud motorcycles and jacked-up trucks.  I know, I know: The bikers will howl like banshees and bleat about their freedoms and whine about the money they’ve invested in their rides, but the rest of us will have far more enjoyable — and safer — experiences as we drive around Snohomish County.