Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Utah's Modest(?) Proposal Regarding His Retirement

Dear Friends,

Well, this is it; I finally decided to retire. What normally happens when one retires? Gardening? Eating rubber chicken at the senior lunch? Traditionally, no. Tradition demands a gold pocket watch. I have no expectation of receiving same from any particular individual or organization, since over the years I have worked for so many different people. Therefore I leave it up to you, dear friends, to invent a marvelous yet subtly nuanced campaign to acquire one without being burdensome in the slightest to any single person or organization. Something clever, bordering on, but not invading, bunko. A lottery? A treasure hunt? I just don't know.

Let's establish an outer limit. I do not want--I repeat, I do not want to provoke anything approaching a felony . . . as, for instance, with a Hamilton DTI railroad watch. The Detroit Toledo Irontown was Henry Ford's railroad. His engines and rolling stock were immaculate; his pocket watches, labeled Hamilton DTI, were calibrated once a day and kept overnight in a hermetically sealed cabinet. No, dear friends, lust resides not in my nature. But we shall moderate from there.

So I pass the problem along to you, that together we may eventually wallow in the joy of its solution. Once we have the watch (stem-wind, old, not electric, preferably with cover), I may truly say that I am retired.

Then, and only then, will we have the customary banquet. It will take place in a remote down-at-the-heels Odd Fellows Hall. Its fare will consist of the following: appetizer: limp shrimp floating in a pool of water that once was ice; entree: very ordinary Salisbury steak pommeled to a faretheewell and doused liberally with gravy saltier than the Dead Sea; vegetables: lukewarm canned peas and R.J. Simplot potato flakes reconstituted as maimed potatoes; accompaniment: canned peaches tasting of tin. The meal will be altogether silent save for the persistent clicking of 20 or 30 sets of dentures.

Oh, yes, and I shall be there. I will be in my shabby Sunday best: a simple 40s double-breasted tweed purchased on special at the Salvation Army. When I stand up to be introduced, I will have taken off my jacket, exposing years of ink stains on my galluses. I'll also be wearing sleeve gaiters and elasticized cuff protectors. There is a very good chance I will be sporting the green celluloid eyeshade I have used for nearly half a century, as well as my ancient pearwood pen with its well-worn nib, which will be lodged firmly over my right ear. There will be a smattering of applause as I shamble forward (I can manage a credible shamble when provoked). The watch will be tendered to me. The host will part with a few audible platitudes; I'll respond with a few inaudible ones, shamble back to my chair, and the deed will be done.

Theater matters, yes. But being in command of it matters more!

The plan of action, dear friends, is in your hands. Have fun. Excelsior!

Love and solidarity,


Anonymous said...

Hi Utah,
You neglected to mention that the DTI called the Chicago and Alton in Bloomington to find out what time it was, and then they set their watches!
Greg Koos

Anonymous said...

Dearest Utah,

My parents took me to one of your performances - I had to be only eleven or so . . . I remember them telling me that I should listen because everything you would tell me was important because it was history and important history. I was only eleven or so, surely I couldn't understand the sheer immensity of your stories, but I remember the chills that I had that night. Thirteen years later, I was fortunate to see one of your performances again. Amazing, I had chills again . . . the art of the spoken word . . . especially spoken about such important events in our recent historical past . . . well, it made me want to blow something up (not literally, of course), you know, stand up and do something about everything that just doesn't seem quite right. It reminded me of how complacant we are . . . well . . . and it made me angry and sad and in some way elated. Even though you are retired, you are important and you have an art and talent that will be sorely missed here in Utah . . . yep the state, not the person. I figure it always makes a person feel good to know that they have impacted someone's life . . . and in a good way. Keep on.