by B. Elwin Sherman
RIDING DOWN THE UPSTATE STAATS
by B. Elwin Sherman
I have to do this right this minute. It's been bothering me all week, and it's possible an entire humor column could come out of it. I just won't know until I get in here.
It was something Herman Staats said.
Seems Herman was driving along in his pickup truck in upstate New York.
By the way, New York is the only state in the Union with a region so-designated. Think about it. Ever been to upstate Mississippi? When's the last time you packed the anklebiters into the Wagoneer for a relaxing weekend in upstate California? And, California has more of a rubbernecking right to boast an "upstate" than New York.
Heah in Vermont, upstate New York is just "futher on."
But, I'm missing my point. We're not here to discuss the finer lines of geo-tourism or compass headings. We're here to get a week-long pebble out of my shoe and discover whether or not I can squeeze an entire humor column out of Herman Staat's unfortunate explication.
So, there was Herman, driving along in northern New York in his truck ...
This is how Emily Farache put it, writing a newsbit for E! Online. Mr. Staats "was driving along in his truck." I like this phrase, because it denotes a kind of hapless meandering without launch or destination, an activity I subscribe to and unreservedly recommend.
We have enough times in our lives when we've purposefully left a place to decidedly get somewhere, only to find ourselves reluctantly departing and miserably getting back.
Well, I have, anyway.
The part we seem to miss -- the best part -- if we're able to sidetrack our departure and pooh-pooh our ingression, is simply driving along in our trucks.
Kudos to Ms. Farache, for not burdening us with Herman's beginning and ending on the day in question: "Mr. Staats, having left his job in an upstate mattress factory, was overdue at the Staats Family Annual Pigroast in Vermont, already underway at a farmhouse situated next to the impassable driveway of B. Elwin Sherman, the ever-reclusive backwoods humorist and nitpicker."
Nay, Herm was just driving along in his truck when he came upon the scene that prompted him to utter what has nagged me worse than a neighboring melange of sotted alfrescans stumbling around an inningless game of meadow muffin softball and bellowing pastural harmonies of Syracusian fight songs from their upstate gridiron glory days, sending my dog into a howling series of sympathetic discords and me further into reclusion.
Yep, there was Hermie, just driving along futher up in the Empire State, when he "spotted the crumpled actor lying next to the road."
The recumbently bent thespian in question was Liam "Schindler's List" Neeson, an Oscar-nominated trouper who's made his cinematic bones by maintaining the physical presence of a man beset with but unwilling to adjust a wedgie, and sporting the perpetual mug and clipped undertones of all the deadpanned and suppressed frenzy of a Presidential press secretary.
Mr. Neeson had been riding his Harley, struck a deer and been sent a'crumpling, roadside. Again, my compliments, Ms. Farache, for allowing Mr. Neeson to have just been "riding his Harley," and not weighing us down with his hither and yon.
Besides, I've had the pleasure of striking a critter on my Harley and assuming the butt-over-bandbox heap o' crumple beneath same. True enough, at that precise moment -- with gasoline streaming into your helmet and a footpeg burrowing into the family toolkit -- where you were and where you were headed are way down on the list of significae.
Point is, (and yes, it does look like a humor column was indeed waiting patiently here all week) what Herman Staats told USA Today, and I'm quoting what Ms. Farache said they said he said. Hey, can't accuse me of shoddy humorism.
When asked what he'd found at the scene, Mr. Staats replied:
'He managed to crawl his way up back to the road. He wanted me to drive him back to his house right up the road, but I could tell his hips were bothering him.'
My thanks, Herman, for providing the ride through this week's offering. I don't know from whence you departed on that fateful afternoon. I will safely assume it wasn't from having just received your Doctorate in Orthopedics.
And, we'll just try not to think of how the world now knows where you were going -- the eternal passerby, just riding along in his truck, who shouldn't have stopped for his Warholian fifteen minutes only to have himself now and forever celebrated as the man who equated crawling with hip problems.
Forgive me, but I have to be somewhere. If I can't get back here from there, and you spot me crawling along the road, don't bother to stop. It's just me -- looking up the state of next week's Staats.
B. Elwin Sherman
© 2000 -- B. Elwin Sherman -- All Rights Reserved
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