Wednesday, June 13, 2012
"A tall ship and a star
to steer her by..."
Twenty five years ago yesterday.
BONUS. A Parthian shot before we hit the hay at our usual disgustingly early hour.
My granddad, the WWI vet, had a sign in his basement workshop which I somehow remember even though the walls were mostly papered with topless 'Esquire' girls. The sign said, "Too soon old and too late smart."
I loved those Esquire girls, whom my mother laughed off when I asked about them and didn't even tell me not to look, but the sign has stayed with me longer, along with the the murderous trench knife I inherited from him and still keep close to my bed.
Old men know things young men don't. Old men who are bad know that nothing matters but their own ambitions and appetites. Old men who are good know that you have to keep pursuing the same goals all your life, win or lose.
I'm not sure why but we're suddenly getting a lot of George H. W. Bush this week. He's 88. His son Jeb is pontificating about how we need more politicians like dad, who was something like Ronald Reagan.
Uh, No. He wasn't. I like 41. I think he's a good man. But he was nothing like Ronald Reagan. He got himself elected by nerving himself up to a promise he did not keep.
The clip above is quintessential Reagan. But it's not just a rhetorical flourish. It's a fulfillment of a lifetime conviction that never wavered. Here's the proof. This is the speech that launched Reagan's political career. The exact same guy that stood at the Brandenburg Gate three decades later. Why they call it "The Speech."
Who he was, who he remained, and how he prevailed.
Why all the political pundit talk about packaging and imaging and repackaging and reimaging is pure bullshit. Truth is, you always are what you were when you first chose a star in the heavens to follow.
Young men are fooled by adroit star switching. Old men know better. Or they should. If they don't they never had a star in the first place.
I know the stars I've followed. They haven't changed. How about you?
The title? From a poem by John Masefield:
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
Forget it. You know. It's old folk stuff...