Crack Of Dawn

This morning I’m up and out the door on my way to Cleveland.  I’ve got to pick up a colleague and get up to The Best Location in the Nation by 9 a.m. or so — which means getting up and hitting the road early.

IMG_1613Typically people express sympathy when this occurs, but I don’t mind rising during the wee hours and getting started on the day.  I’ve  been an early bird for as long as I can remember.  I take after my grandmother, who said with a chuckle that she liked getting up at the “crack of dawn.”  (I always enjoyed that phrase, too, but Tom Waits kind of ruined it when he said, in the bass-driven intro to the classic album Nighthawks at the Diner, that he was “so horny that the crack of dawn better be careful around me.”)  When UJ and I spent the night at her house, she and I inevitably would get up by 6 a.m. and have our breakfast, while UJ and Grampa Neal slept in.

We’ve all got our unique circadian rhythms, and there is no right or wrong way.  Winston Churchill stayed up until all hours and stayed in bed until late morning but was incredibly productive nevertheless.  For me, “sleeping in” means staying in bed until 7 a.m., and if I tried to sleep later than that I’d just end up with a groggy and unpleasant headache.  I feel sharp and energetic in the morning, and I want to get up and get going.  When your body is telling you its time to rise and shine, why not just reconcile yourself to the inevitable and do the best with it?

So by the time most of you read this I’ll have been up for hours, whistling and listening to the radio and piloting my car on my way north on the familiar trip up I-71.  Doze on, sleepyheads!  This early bird likes the crack of dawn, Tom Waits notwithstanding.

Hitting The Double-Nickel

Today I turn 55.  I’ve reached the mid-point of my sixth decade on the planet.  As Dad would have said, it beats the alternative.

55 is not a bad number.  It’s a speed limit, sure, but other than that it’s a number I’ve always liked.  It’s a good round number that looks good on a sign.  It has the benefit of alliteration and fricatives. It’s fun to say.

It’s the number Russell wore when he played high school football, and I enjoyed watching number 55 out on the gridiron for the Vikings, making his blocks and leading runners downfield.

It’s also the number that features prominently in Ol’ 55, a song written by Tom Waits that, as performed by the Eagles, is one of my favorites.  And, in fact, the lyrics to that tune are apt today:

Well, my time went so quickly
I went lickety-splitly out to my ol’ fifty-five
As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy
God knows I was feeling alive

 

Vegetable Week: The Cultural Impact

Another way to assess the value of vegetables versus meats is to look at their impact on our culture. In that regard, vegetables fare very poorly indeed. Many of our holidays revolve around preparing and eating a traditional meat dish, such as the Thanksgiving turkey. If you go to a baseball game, you have a hot dog. The characters in American Graffiti keep returning to a particular hamburger stand that is the locus of their cruising activities. In America, there is an entire genre of restaurants — the steakhouse — that celebrates meat consumption by featuring particular cuts of beef and, typically, oversized portions. There is, of course, nothing comparable on vegetable side. People don’t eat a beet at a hockey game, or feast on the broccoli casserole at Christmas, or hang out at the fava bean palace on a Friday night.

Of course, another way to measure cultural impact is to consider poetry, and literature, and song. In these categories, too, meat blows vegetables out of the water. Consider:

But man is a carnivorous production
And must have meals – at least once a day;
He cannot live, like woodcocks, upon suction,
But, like the shark and tiger, must have prey.

Lord Byron (1788-1824)
‘Don Juan’ (1821)

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Robert Burns

And then there is Shakespeare:

‘Brutus’ will start a spirit as soon as ‘Caesar’
Now in the names of all the gods at once,
Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed,
That he is grown so great?

Julius Caesar, Act I, sc. 2, l. 146

And, as to song, I give you Tom Waits: