My life as an anvil salesman – Pt 1

Yup. Another post beginning Pt. 1. If you are one of my long time readers the “eight loyal readers” you understand that I’ve got a piece of sand under my shell and I’ve got so much I want to write that I can’t possibly get everything off my chest and do the proof reading justice. Oh Well!

The allusion is yet another metaphor this time to the wonderful Meredith Wilson musical, Music Man. If you’ve seen it you will recall that the play’s biggest party pooper was the guy who ratted out the hero who conned a little Iowa town into believing he could teach their children how to play band instruments with the “think system.” No messing around with learning how to read music kids could just think what they needed to play and they’d be playing Sousa in no time. And this was extraordinarily helpful to the “music man” since he happened to sell musical instruments and band uniforms. He was, of course, a fraud but a very charming one. In the musical he sells a little Iowa town on forming a band which will net him a big payday and he will skip town just after the sale is completed and before he has to make the think system work. Everyone falls in love with him and with a couple of twists and turns it has a happy ending no thanks to the anvil salesman.

That anvil salesman is me. In the musical he’s the bitter fellow who sells anvils. Every town needs an anvil because in those horse and buggy days everyone needs a blacksmith. But what a lousy product to pitch. And the worst of it is that wherever he sells his heavy, ungainly anvils he’s right behind the music man who has left disgruntled customers behind to sour their disposition by the time he has to follow up to sell them an anvil.

In this metaphor I’m the guy who has to sell anvils and I’m following the music man, Keith Red Plan Dixon. The guy who was going to make our schools so beautiful that just like in the Music Man when the children in their shiny new band uniforms began showing how they had learned to play using the think system all the parents were to stand up and say “that’s my boy.” Pride would convince them they had made a swell deal and the Music Man could lead them through the town playing Seventy-six Trombones.

Its not easy being an anvil salesman but not impossible. As I lay wide awake thinking tonight at 2AM it occurred to me that Lincoln and Jesus were two very successful anvil salesmen. Those revelations I’ll hold under my hat for later chapters, parts, of this series.

I’m on vacation. I’ve enjoyed rather a lot of vacations in recent years. I’m now retired and living happily on my wife’s retirement income. God knows I’ve contributed little to our finances over the year. I was always too busy selling anvils, or politics in my case, and usually making a hash of it.
This jaunt will end shortly and I’ll return to a frozen landscape that global warming has done little to improve. Little precipitation, a shrinking Lake Superior, a frozen ground with little snow cover that will not soak up any spring rains or snow melt allowing all the moisture to stay out of the ground and keeping it too dry for the sake of agriculture or our forests. OMG. Global Warming is yet another anvil.

On the bright side its given me 80 degree days here in southern Florida and I got to show my grandsons alligators in the Everglades yesterday. Then we stopped and ate alligator and frog legs at a rustic little diner outside the National Park. Not all of Florida is paved over even though it looks like it from the air. A few folks are trying to keep the river of grass from drying up even though the damned boa constrictors are eating everything with four legs up or even two. I think there was story circulating on the news when we arrived about a mother who found a six-footer wrapped around her sleeping baby’s arm.

I can’t complain. When I got into Everglades I was told that by attaining the age of early retirement, 62, I could for the expenditure of a measly ten bucks by a lifetime pass to all our nation’s national parks. Barring accident, knock on wood, I’ll be carrying my new plastic card with me on many future trips.

The Anvil Salesman metaphor came to me a few weeks ago as I pondered whether it was worth it to annoy my dear wife and run for the School Board again. I’ve got little happiness to sell other than the sorry truth that we’re screwed in Duluth. How the hell is someone supposed to win an election with that message? And yet the anvil salesman, had he known it, did have something on his side. The truth. He just didn’t have very nice wrapping paper. That’s what I’ve got to work on.

Long after I got through thinking about Lincoln and Jesus I started mulling over some details of my own life that on first thought any sensible salesman or politician would leave untold. They are anvils of a sort embarrassing stuff, I guess, except that at age 62 and with my frame of mind I mostly find them interesting. Maybe I could sell my anvils based on prurience with a dash of prudence thrown in.

As I was mulling things over it occurred to me that I must have gotten to know a little about at least 50,000 people in my life. That’s a huge number and perhaps all that I ever know about most of them was their name (at one point) and where I was when I met them. There were 454 graduates in my high school class of 1969 and I once prided myself on knowing at least a hair about all of them. That’s almost one half of one percent of that staggering number of 50,000. I also count fictional characters in that number and actors, and celebrities, and historical characters and when you throw them all into the mix 50,000 may be waaay too conservative a figure.

There were even more kids in my high school I new kids older than me and younger. Even my own classmates varied over time. A few kids never graduated. Some new kids showed up halfway through my high school years like Bill. Tough thing getting uprooted in your high school years. I particularly remember Bill because a couple years after high school I met his Mother at the college health center. I had to tell her I’d been exposed to a venereal disease, (I didn’t know which one). I knew the Doctor was Bill’s Mother and I hoped she didn’t know who I was although with my last name she might very well have. My father was the president of the teacher’s union at the college and I was occasionally getting in the student newspaper as a Student Senator. I had also been one of the kids who was nice to her son when he moved to town in the middle of high school. I can’t recall if I had to drop my pants and let her give me a shot in the tush but its quite likely.

My Dad had told me that he had to get a shot (to travel to Europe) and had been given the choice of taking one big one in the butt or two, one in each arm. He chose the two shots. Had I been a little more assertive I might have asked for such an option but I wasn’t feeling all that superior having confessed the consequences of my guilty pleasure. And it was a guilty pleasure; one I told my wife about before marrying her so that she could back out of a wedding if she felt I was not worthy of her. I’m still debating whether I should explain just how heavy an anvil that story is. I suspect I will. Its not so heavy for me at my age and because I really won’t care if the anvil salesman approach costs me getting elected to the School Board again. Our schools are so efffed up I’m not even sure a little truth telling will get us out of Dr. Dixon’s hole.

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