Quote of the Day:
“Where do you want it?” –Billy Joe Shaver
TB’s come to a conclusion, gradually I guess, over the last thirty years or so. Moma, Daddy, Teacher, Coach, Preacher and even my ARB’s were wrong about something important. Tryin’ to be cool is alright. In fact, that’s exactly what all of us ought to be doin’ a lot more. What they really meant, whether they knew it or not, was “don’t try to be cool and fail.”
I wrote about this before awhile back, but a strange confluence of contacts today has me cogitatin’ on the subject again. The first thing I saw on Facebook this morning was a Paul Newman quote, seems today’s his birthday. Newman is the cat that inspired my old post. The guy that honored his birthday is an old friend and classmate. He was running marathons last spring, then by summer he was hairless and wan, attacked by cancer. All fall and winter he posted a daily update about the challenges in his life and treatment. Many of the posts showcased an intact sense of humor and all of his messages revealed an amazing sense of optimism. Very cool. Then he got the word he was cancer-free. Even better.
Then at lunch today I heard a song by Whitey Morgan and the 78’s called “Where Do You Want It.” It’s a re-telling of Billy Joe Shaver’s 2007 shooting incident in Waco, Texas. Seems Billy Joe was being harassed by a man in a bar and at some point he got threatened with a knife. Billy Joe responded by pulling a handgun and asking his assailant, “Where do you want it?” Now that’s cool. Then he shot the dude in the face. Questionable, that decision, but a jury in 2010 saw it as self-defense.
My mind wandered during the 78’s satellite performance to other examples of cool. I thought about a friend who used play in a popular touring band but then decided to settle down to family life, raise a couple of boys and now he records music designed more for the soul than the sale. I thought about a girl who has traveled the world in service to others and now teaches school. She still travels to far-flung ports, but gets to do it for fun now. I thought about a conversation I once had with BW Buzz.
We were still in high school and at a party. Buzz had some girl interested in him but he was blowing the deal acting a little too goofy. Just a little case of nerves, no different than anyone else, but it was coming out all wrong. For some reason he came to me because he knew he was in trouble and asked what he needed to do. “Damn, Buzz, just be cool.” Sage advice, even if I didn’t really know what in the hell I was talkin’ about. Worked too, she kissed him. And then he went right back to bein’ goofy, ’cause, well, that’s who he was. I don’t know why that little vignette has stuck with me all these years. But upon reflection, maybe it’s because that’s how ol’ Buzz was cool–just bein’ himself. Another thing about Buzz, he’ll laugh first and most heartily at a story told at his expense. And that’s pretty cool too.
Back in the 1960’s Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart remarked that while he could not precisely define pornography, “I know it when I see it.” “Cool” is like that too. It is best defined by knowing it when you see it, of that I’m sure. Even so, I think I’ll take a stab at something more suitable for Webster’s next edition.* Cool is when somebody handles a situation better than the observer believes he could himself. And it’s a status to which I continually aspire, in spite of lots of well-meaning advice to the contrary.
*Webster’s defines “cool” as “being fashionably attractive or impressive.” I guess they thought that sounded better than “we know it when we see it.”