Friday, January 29, 2010


Bitter cold, the weatherman said about today, and by the sound of that wind out there, howling through the cracks, I can imagine why. It's a Shingebiss wind, like the North wind that bedeviled the plucky little merganser in the Ojibwe tale that's set in the winter dark of Lake Superior. But Shingebiss was nice and warm in his lodge, infuriating the wind, who came to a bad end, I forget what. Or maybe just stormed off, bitterly.

Bitter cold. A bitter wind. Hard done by, frowning that bitter frown. January has reason to be bitter. Shaking its head like a guy fighting old battles. All those high hopes and resolutions undone. The bird feeder not erected. The upstairs room still as chaotic as it was last month. And today, or yesterday, dammit, J.D. Salinger dies. What the hell?

Some people make a bigger minus. I mean, I'll read the obit tomorrow having accommodated myself to the news. But when I first heard, and saw his young-old face next to a copy of Catcher in the Rye (with the carousel horse on the cover) on Lehrer, it was: aw, no, not you. You're supposed to be immortal, like a slender mythic type, a weathered wind god. You're not supposed to die. Maybe turn into a tree. But, no, it turns out he was 91, getting quite old, and maybe he'd also had enough.

NO, wind, you can't come in, said Shingebiss, taking out his kazoo and further infuriating the wind. Thursday, it seems, was Kazoo Day. As a wind instrument, the kazoo is something of an insult, which makes it the perfect choice. Ready?

Be kind to your web-footed friends,
for a duck may be somebody's mother.
They live in the swamps and the woods,
where the weather is cold and damp.
You may think that this is the end. Well, it is.


  1. Funny, my brother and I used to sing that little ditty when we were kids!

  2. ... Cuz we can't go on forever!
    My sister and I used to sing that little ditty too!
    Hank, It's the warmest winter on record in Vancouver (and the Winter OWE-lympics starts in two weeks ... and they're trucking in snow at Cypress ... Meanwhile, the crocuses are blooming. In January!)
    I'm wondering if J.D. has a dozen great novels in his alleged safe ... Potentially lots of royalties for his heirs!
    The kazoo might be a "wind instrument," but remember, just blowing doesn't make any noise with a kazoo.You have to hum.
    xo Pen

  3. just re-read a Perfect Day for Bananafish - the first of JD's writings I could put my hands on. It all came rushing back. Sixteen years old, reading Catcher...knowing that we shared the same feelings about the idiocy of EVERYONE ELSE. A easy it is to flash back to those times. Almost 50 years ago. xxx, H

  4. Wow, 3 comments! I think that's a first. And you three together in the same room, as it were. How great is that?

    J.D. is having a pretty deep effect on people, it seems. Reminiscent of John Lennon's death. Kind of for similar reasons: an enigmatic but authentic spokesman taken away from his constituency before they were ready.

    And I've already doubled my average yearly queries about whether I am, or am related to, Harold Ober Associates, JD's agent. (That HO died in 1959, and he's no relation.)