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MARTHA SEZ: ‘The very details upon which the best stories devolve tend to be fabrications, even outright lies’

August 16, 2019
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

People sometimes ask, "Isn't it hard coming up with a subject for a column every week?"

It can be stressful.

I appreciate the compliments I occasionally receive from kind and insightful readers who say they like what I write.

Then there are the others.

"Quit writing about insects!" they urge. "What was all that about hagfish? As far as possums are concerned, a little knowledge goes a long way. By the way, we know that jackalopes are not real." Or, "You are wasting your life relating your personal views on earwigs."

I must say, I have never cared much for criticism, constructive or destructive or deconstructive or instructive-any kind of structive. Not everybody is interested in the same things, for goodness sake.

The stress of trying to be interesting is intense.

Scientists have known about the physiological effects of stress for quite some time. Take, for example, the following excerpt from "the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide:"

"During the late 1950s, Dr. Selye subjected experimental animals to a variety of stressors, such as starvation, extreme heat and cold, or surgery. In each case, he noticed the same syndrome: A reaction of alarm, followed by an adaptation phase and, if the stress continues, eventual exhaustion and death.

"'No living organism,' he wrote, 'can live continuously in a state of alarm.'"

Other people, many of them with no science background to speak of, have realized all of this since the dawn of time, without having to resort to the torture of caged animals to find it out. To me, Dr. Selye sounds just the teensiest bit cold-blooded. Couldn't he have gone into something else? Cannabis research. Chill out, man. Or maybe dentistry.

Because I cannot live in a continuous state of alarm-Dr. Selye says-although I seem to-today I am going to try harder to find topics of interest for those readers who complain about my subject matter, in hopes that they will get off my back.

Let's see. I know that a lot of people like sports. I grew up with the sound of my father's radio crackling in the background. "A swing and a miss!" the sportscaster would shout, and the crowd would erupt with a noise like a great ocean wave breaking on the beach. Dad could listen to this kind of thing for hours. Here is a quote from Eric Rolfe Greenberg I found in the beautifully illustrated and thoughtful book, "Baseball," by artist and sports enthusiast Vince Scilla: "Baseball is all clean lines and clean decisions...Wouldn't life be far easier if it consisted of a series of definitive calls: safe or out, fair or foul, strike or ball. Oh, for a life like that, where every day produces a clear winner and an equally clear loser, and back to the next day with the slate wiped clean and the teams starting out equal."

Golf is also interesting to a surprising number of people. Did you know that at one time many fine golf courses in England were closed due to mad cow disease? I don't know what the connection could possibly be between mad cow disease and golf, but I overheard this from a reliable source seated at a nearby table at the Keene Valley Ausable Inn.

The president of the U.S. presently owns golf courses in Ireland and Scotland which are not, so far as I know, threatened at this juncture by mad cow, but are in danger of losing turf to rising sea levels. While President Donald Trump has referred to global climate change as "a Chinese hoax," he is nevertheless petitioning the Irish government to build a wall-a sea wall-to protect his Doonberg, Ireland, golf course from the deleterious effects of global warming.

Speaking of overheard conversations, local gossip is interesting to everyone, including me, but it is dangerous to write about for those who live in a small town and who want to keep living there. For one thing, almost none of it is true, if you want to get all finicky about it. I have noticed that the very details upon which the best stories devolve tend to be fabrications, even outright lies. Even if I were to invent a story with made-up names and fictitious characters, people would see themselves or their blood relatives in it, and bingo! More stressful criticism.

I hope that I have covered all the bases here-to use a baseball quote.

Have a good week.

 
 
 

 

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