Monday, November 3, 2008

No Smoking, No Drinking, No Candy

I was looking the other day for the lyrics to a song I wanted to sing to my son. I sing a lot. It is a prophylactic against talking to myself. I still talk to myself, but lately it looks as though I am talking to my baby. Babies are fabulous listeners - you can tell them anything.

Here are the lyrics to the song I like. It is the version recorded by Harry McClintock:

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

There is a satisfying irony to singing this song while engaged in manual labor like doing the dishes or pegging nappies. It's the knee-slapping, Yeehaw! lilt to this song that I adore, as well as the wonderfully evocative lyrics.
Rufus loves it.

Of course if I followed the advice on the web page where I found these lyrics, I would first sit down with my son and remind him of the terrible moral and physiological dangers of drinking. Also I would impress upon him that smoking is a filthy habit with potentially troublesome consequences such as death from cancer. I would remind him that being itinerant actually isn't fun at all, instruct him on the pitfalls of vagrancy and show him the linked website where we could both learn about homelessness. Perhaps while we were looking at the website on vagrants I would gently tell him about foot hygiene and the importance of changing ones socks every day so as to avoid tinea. Lastly I would lecture him on obesity, diabetes, tooth cavities and on the disadvantages of eating foods low in nutritional value.

I grew up reading Roald Dahl - an author who inspired in me confidence that nasty adults and greedy children would get their comeuppance and who instilled in me a taste for healthy mischief. Life in Dahl's books was not always fair but it was always fairly lively.
'Charlie and the Whole Wheat Salad Sandwich Factory' just doesn't cut it for me - excuse the pun.

I have imbibed many unwholesome substances in my time from lollies and chewing gum to good whiskey, the occasional hand-rolled stogie and potions and powders of the less than legal variety. Yes, there were potentially dangerous dalliances - but none of them inspired by books or songs!

When did we become such killjoys?

Perhaps when people got so greedy they ate franchise hamburgers and fries until their arteries burst.

Perhaps when cigarette companies decided to make fags filled with carcinogens and market them as image enhancers and health products endorsed by doctors. Smoking has always been a vice - and is portrayed as such in novels from the early 20th century. At least then nobody was kidding themselves that smoking soothed your throat.

Booze - the regurgitation rite of passage for every teen in Christendom. Teenagers will drink.
To me that is a reliably comforting fact and frankly much less frightening than the spectre I see of brain-addled children on the train home from school inhaling chrome from plastic bags.

Young people who run away from home are escaping crushing poverty, neglect and emotional and physical abuse. I used to work for a youth centre for the homeless. None of those young people left home for a lark because they had romantic notions about riding the rails or sleeping out under stars.

What can I say?
I'm a clean living girl now. My days of mind expanding substances are behind me. I swim laps.
I haven't had a cigarette for what seems like an age. Breastfeeding has limited my alcohol consumption to homeopathic quantities.

Please, don't take away my candy.

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