Some years ago I was reading a New Yorker
article about folk singer and political activist Pete Seeger
. I'm not particularly interested in Pete Seeger, but I often read about things I'm not interested in in the New Yorker
; the pieces are written and edited in a come-one-come-all fashion that allows the uninitiated or impartial to waltz in and instantly latch onto any random topic. So it was with this article, and the story was moving along at a good clip. It was 1955 and things were heating up for Seeger politically. He and his wife were living in a remote, wooded area 60 miles north of Manhattan when one day a lone man drove up to their log cabin, verbally confirmed Seeger's identity, and handed him an envelope. The envelope contained a summons; Seeger was to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Holding my breath, I read ahead — one sentence, then the next. Wait a minute, where had the summons server gone? Surely that wasn't the last we'd see of him? But yes, he'd vanished, never to return, and I found myself saddened by his exit. There were so many things I wanted to know about him. Had he had trouble finding Seeger's isolated home? Was he forced to ask directions? Had he stopped for pancakes somewhere along the way? Perhaps he'd had a flat tire and skinned his knuckle putting on the three-fourths-bald spare. The tire represented a lack of ambition which had marred his life, and he stared at it awhile, feeling melancholy as he hefted it from his trunk.
I decided he absolutely hated his job — loathed it. He was aware of Seeger's influence but had no opinion about the man and was himself apolitical. He had two-day stubble, gin breath, and a bottle of Pepto Bismol in his glove box. His belt was unbuckled as he drove, the pain in his side a constant. There was static on the radio but he preferred this to silence; he thought it sounded something like rain. His wife, he suspected, was in love with someone else. His son didn't want to play catch with him. The summons server was a very interesting man!
What a sorry business it was, then, how dreary, to return to Seeger's heroic, predictable tale.