My Old Kentucky Homesite

The Blues and the Grey

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/03/2009

Once I arrived in Lexington, my wife warned me to expect a lot of grey days during the late fall and winter. She didn’t tell me that before I got here, probably because she was afraid of saying anything that added to the horror of  “Let’s move to Kentucky.”

But she had nothing to fear. Having come directly from Florida, where almost every day is such a bright yellow that you want to go out and kill a canary, I thought: Grey would be nice for a change.

Well, truth to tell, the change is getting tiresome. I don’t miss Florida’s perpetual blowtorch, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the sun once in a while, if only to reconfirm for myself Copernicus’s theory. I don’t know what the weather was like in 16th-century Poland, but if Nicolaus was living in Kentucky today, he’d be postulating that the Earth revolves around clouds. Or maybe, if he were here, he wouldn’t be postulating at all. He’d be too busy thinking about sports and religion.

With the bleakness outside comes a bleakness inside. The climatic conditions in Kentucky may have something to do with the state’s high suicide rate – 13.5 out of every 100,000. (That statistic comes from the American Association of Suicidology, and, yes, it’s a real organization.) Kentucky places 17th in the nation in the number of people per 100K who decide to take their own life. It’s only slightly below Florida, which is 15th. Apparently, the human mind adapts to constant greyness more cheerfully than it does to hellfire, but only by a little bit. [FYI: Alaska is first on the list, but that position may change now that Sarah Palin is no longer governor.]

In case you’re keeping score, New York is 50th, dead last. Out of  every 100,000 New Yorkers, only 6.2 choose to off themselves. That’s a remarkable figure when you consider all the basket cases who live just in Manhattan alone. But if you stop and think about it, it makes sense: Why kill yourself if you can find a decent bagel?

Anyway, with all the greyness outdoors, I decided that I should make an effort to ward off the blues within. So, to cheer myself up, I went back to Joseph Beth Booksellers today. I hadn’t been in the store five minutes when – surprise surprise – an elderly woman actually interrupted my browsing to say, “That’s a good book you got there.”  And, no, I wasn’t looking at the bible. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I was in the process of putting the volume back on the bargain table. The title grabbed my attention, but The Historian turned out to be a chunky novel about vampires.  If I want something fat and blood-curdling, I can wait until Karl Rove’s memoir comes out.

Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say to this well-meaning Kentucky woman something that I would have tossed off to any New Yawker: “Thanks for the recommendation, but if you ever find me reading a 650-page book about vampires you should drive a stake through my heart.” Instead, I told a lie about how I didn’t think my wife would enjoy getting a book that thick for Christmas.

“Not much of a reader, huh?” the woman said.

Suddenly, I felt obliged to uphold my ladylove’s honor. “Well, she really only likes long books if they’re classics,” I said. “She has no patience for epic horror stories.”

“Maybe you’d like it,” the woman persisted.

“Well, let me take another look,” I said, and hoisted the book off the table, while she hovered eagerly. There was no way I was gonna buy that thing, but what could I do? I was trapped, like Dracula caught in the sunlight.

“Perhaps I should put this book on my Chanukah list,” I said.

Even though I have no such list – and if you ever see me with one, feel free to drive a dreydl through my heart – that comment seemed to shut her up. I’m guessing that she never met anybody before who could pronounce “Chanukah.” For whatever reason, she watched me for only a few seconds while I nodded my head in feigned appreciation.  Then she disappeared. Out into the greyness, I assume.

In any case, I hope she didn’t fly home to take an overdose of sleeping pills. I would have been happy to regale her with stories about bagels.

9 Responses to “The Blues and the Grey”

  1. srsny said

    Hey, good news!. I just checked the National Weather Service forecast for Lexington, and it says today and tomorrow will be partly sunny – I guess that’s better than nothing. And Sunday – OH yeah – it says Sunday will be SUNNY – and there’s a graphic showing the sun shining in a technicolor-saturated blue sky and I keep hearing Nanette Fabray singing “New Sun New sky” from the Bandwagon, and I’m thinking about how that will raise Larry’s spirits.

    Oh Wait. Sunday Night: Rain and snow, Monday Snow, Tuesday mostly cloudy. UGH.

    Better get out there on Sunday, Larry, or it’ll be time to commune again with the suicidologists. (Do you think they actually put that on their business cards?)

  2. srsny said

    Or was that Cyd Charisse?

  3. Srsny:
    According to both Wikipedia and IMDB — so it MUST be true — “New Sun in the Sky” was sung by India Adams (although the viewer saw Cyd Charisse lip-synching). If we actually do get a few stray sunbeams in Lexington on Sunday, I promise that I’ll sing the song for myself.

    In the meantime, the only appropriate number from The Band Wagon is “Dancing in the Dark.” Although in my case, perhaps it should be called “Can’t Sing in the Dark.”

  4. the chaplain said

    He’d be too busy thinking about sports and religion.

    Just in case your wife hasn’t warned you yet, if you thought UK football season was bad, just wait until basketball season. UK basketball is Lexington’s religion. That’s the season when Lexingtonians’ two passions merge seamlessly. If the mania overwhelms you, just take two bagels and call me in the morning.

  5. Chappy:
    Yeah, the basketball season has already started, and I’m drowning in my neighbors’ enthusiasm. Fortunately, bagels are shaped like life preservers — but I’ll need a lot more than two to keep me afloat. I’m hoping that they’ll be more effective if I attach some cream cheese and lox.

  6. TinaFCD said

    @ srsny
    Better get out there on Sunday, Larry, or it’ll be time to commune again with the suicidologists. (Do you think they actually put that on their business cards?)

    That was the first laugh of my day!

    Well Larry, at least here in Michigan we have a little sunshine once in awhile.

  7. Tina:
    Well Larry, at least here in Michigan we have a little sunshine once in awhile.

    Yeah, but you also have coney dogs, so I’d be surprised if you don’t try to slather over the sunbeams with meat sauce.

  8. srsny said

    I’m sorry, but every time I see you guys talking about eating coney dogs, I think I’m supposed to slather mustard and sauerkraut onto processed rabbit meat!

    The “coney” in Coney Island comes from the archaic word for rabbit. All little New Yawkers learn this fact, the way we learn about the wall that was on the site of Wall Street (to keep out the Indians), and the Dutch landfill that added vast area around the tip of Manhattan. I’m guessing (even though no one ever told me so) that the Dutch landfillers were responsible for turning Coney’s Island status into its current Peninsularity.

    In any case, before the advent of steeplechase, the parachute jump, and the cyclone, the former Island was supposedly a popular hunting ground – where it never was Duck Season.

  9. Srsny:
    So some old Brooklynites must have said: “Be vewy, vewy quiet.” I’ll bet that didn’t go over too well in New Yawk.

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