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I pondered some more (having brought it up once before) on the fact that -- Peter Principle--like -- I rather don't belong in what could be construed as the position of a regular-Joe voice, blue- collar, working stiff with an oppressive job, working for the man every night and day. I only have 800--1200 words once a week to plead the case for my proletariat brothers and sisters. You know -- Barton Fink as real-life playwright Clifford Odets, a ham-fisted champion of the noble but, I guess, lumpen hordes that make up the world's brotherhood of workers. Living in a large family, I was always trying to shed a sister here or brother there; I always seemed to have a surplus, and others seemed more in need. So I never really took to the brotherhood thing in unions (like the musicians, the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, retail workers, Book of the Month Club, and a couple others).The same principle went into play when communes became the big thing during the Age of Aquarius. I was always trying to weasel out of "Ooh bla dee, Ooh bla dah, life goes on!" at the dinner table piled with brown rice and mashed twigs.

But there is another reason why I feel the irony. That would be my workaday week: staring out the window, taking long showers, and thinking up ideas for that moment when I face, as Hemingway called it, the 'White Bull,' a blank sheet of paper, when the true test began between hombre escritor and that chimera of untamed language. This is hardly something to express gratitude about to the deity in regard to its cessation.

To put it less tortuously (and who couldn't?), my job just isn't that tough. When I finish this column, a few inches from now, I am not likely to sigh in relief, "Thank God: another hideous week of collecting noun after verb after preposition has come to an end. I've strung them together with canny insight, pithy observation, rakish humor, heartfelt poignancy, and universality for the ages. What a bitch!"

The naked fact is (my father, by the way, my only writing teacher, would tell me to throw the word "naked" into the text here and there. It didn't really matter where. You could say naked greed or naked tomato or even, "the naked joy of a child's Christmas," whatever)...the naked fact is, I love my job. So to say that, in my case, "Saturday morning is my Friday night, and thank God it's Friday!" would be less than sincere. Saturday morning I'm already looking around for the next thing to write about, or better yet, complain about.

Years ago the column started out with the general idea of documenting things people do or could do, might do, thought of doing, or didn't do on Friday. And then before long it became the Andy Rooney spin-off where each week I'd begin, more or less, "Ever notice how you can never get just one plastic bag off the rack at the produce section in your supermarket?" Or: "Is it just me, or does it seem like the more expensive a perfume you might get for your wife after weeks of hinting, the more it smells like some kind of insecticide?"

That was a fun period for me and the column, until my friends actually started calling me Andy Rooney, and I, in fact, developed wild and maverick white eye-brow tentacles that chuckled at wire-cutters and finally responded only to curling irons. This accounts for the cosmetic or hirsute Brezhnev effect I seem to be stuck with. How a writing style can affect one's physical appearance, I don't know. But take that guy who wrote The Bridges of Madison County. His prose seems a direct by-product of his countenance, to me. And what about guys like Harry Crews? He's not that famous, really, but is certainly a solid cult-type novelist. And if you know who I mean: could he look much less the way you might have expected? I don't like to bring up Bukowski too much, but...

Then there is the voice of the other columnist -- treating them somewhat as multiple personalities. And why not? No one else is ever going to mythologize my life. I feel it's damn well up to me. Yeah, there's the hard-bitten, seen-it-all, crusty but benevolent guy with the long view, plays the house odds, no stranger to whiskey, lipstick, shadows, and the Grim Reaper, like a wanna-be buddy always dogging his heels. Yeah, picture me with a butt dangling from my lips against the hard truths out there, but not really because of the emphysema. No stranger to pain, but not afraid to show his feminine, yeah, sure, even sissy playground side when it comes to that. I've had my heart cut open (for real, babe), sliced up four ways to Sunday (although the bypass might have been on a Monday), and did you hear me whining about it? Maybe for 36 hours or a few weeks in columns (but the intensive-care nurses said the average was about 41 hours and about 10 weeks of cardio-therapy exercises), and then I clammed up. So, yeah, I'm one of you, okay? Like Clinton, I feel your pain (hey, maybe he really does); and if I say I did not have sex with that woman, the odds are really enormous that I didn't, and I don't need to come up with cheap lies about it.

I'm here for you, and when I say "Thank God it's Friday," I mean -- without exactly blubbering in any noticeable way, I hope -- I'm still here, alive. You too?

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