Quiet Desperation

If you try to be cool, you’re getting colder


Whenever I am facing something I am unable to resolve on my own, I ask, “What would Lincoln do?”

Abraham Lincoln is my guidepost, my lighthouse, my lodestar.

“The Springfield Redbird” is what I call him.

This time, I had a question about ball caps.

Would Lincoln wear a ball cap backwards?

From beyond the grave, and in a deep, authoritative voice, Abe said, “No, sir, I would not.”

He continued: “Only two people wear ball caps backwards, Mr. Smith, and only one of them should.”

“I’m listening.”

“Ball players and cool cats. And I am neither.”

“What’s a `cool cat’?”

He said, “Someone who is trying to look cool. It’s been my experience that someone who tries to look cool, well, isn’t.”

While I was at it I asked him about sunglasses that are propped on the top of someone’s head, instead of someone’s nose.

He chuckled.

“We didn’t have sunglasses back then, but if we did, that’s wrong too.”

I said, “It gets worse. There’s a guy on television who wears his sunglasses, indoors, on the back of his head.”

“I’ve heard about him. Schmuck.”

“Thanks again, Mr. Lincoln.”

Being cool and trying to be cool are two different things.

Whatever I have to say on this may be of no moment or consequence, because I am about as cool as an antimacassar.

However, that is not going to stop me.

Some people always were and will be cool, and some people grow into it.

Cary Grant always was and always will be.

I don’t think about Einstein the way I think about Grant, but is there anyone truly as cool as Einstein?

Aging improves perception. Or it should.

When I was in high school, quarterbacks and cheerleaders were cool. Maybe now, kids who accomplish things out of the spotlight are appreciated more than they were when I was in school.

If he were a newcomer in 2018, would anyone listen to Bob Dylan?

Maybe not.

His lyrics would be wasted. Unless a producer came in and made his songs dance, dance, danceable.

“Bobby, let’s change costumes every 20 minutes. Try this: Grab the front of your pants, and, oh, pretend to walk backwards.”

Was Stephen Hawking cool? You bet.

Is Wolf Blitzer cool? Probably not. But his name is. I wish “Wolf Blitzer” were my name.

Some names are cooler than others. Cary Grant was born Archibald Leach.

Someone got cute with the name and gave most of it to John Cleese’s character in “A Fish Called Wanda.”

Many of the stars you know by one name — Judy Garland — weren’t born that way. Studios provided cooler names.

Frances Ethel Gumm sang “Over the Rainbow.”

Cool gets rearranged about every 10 years. I was there in the 1960s and the 1970s, and they were not cool. You can have them.

Fashion was rag-tagged, tie-dyed, shoulder-padded, big-collared, and bellbottomed.

I still see some of that at the airport and wonder if there is an ABBA concert on the drift.

I have used the word “cool” here very reluctantly. I never use the word otherwise, unless it’s in reference to the weather. I had no choice.

There is no suitable synonym.

“Cool” is ubiquitous and unavoidable.

It has become a one-word statement, as if it says it all.

Note: It doesn’t.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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