To be simple is the best thing in the world.
— G.K. Chesterton
That’s what I heard Saturday afternoon when I stepped out on the back porch between football games.
Not just one, either, all around.
I guess the Storm of the (Pick one) Month/ Year/ Century/ Millennium had messed up trees everywhere.
Then I also smelled smoke, and if I looked closely, I could see it … faint and gray in the air.
Someone in the neighborhood, several someones it seems, was cutting up fallen trees and limbs and burning them.
Such is September … when we pause to remember.
I, for example, recall my youth when people burned stuff outside all the time. In fall, it was leaves, but eventually that practice became frowned upon. Then criticized. Then forbidden.
Now we have sensitive noses and smoke alarms us.
You know what I mean. You’re walking around the neighborhood, maybe after supper, and suddenly you smell cigarette.
You don’t know where it’s coming from, but you can smell it and you know a smoker, perhaps relaxing on his back patio behind a nearby house, is enjoying a drag, as they used to say.
In that youth I just mentioned, you smelled cigarettes all the time because it seemed everyone smoked. You just never thought much about it. Second-hand smoke? What about fourth- or fifth-hand?
When I first walked into The Chronicle newsroom 40-plus years ago, I would guess that 70 percent of the reporters and editors had a cigarette burning in an ashtray on their desks.
You didn’t think it odd. And the smell of cigarette smoke went unnoticed.
Now it doesn’t.
Times change, I guess, just like the seasons.
TODAY’S JOKE: A rural lad stopped by the general store one day in preparation for a trip.
“I’m on my way to New York City,” he told the shopkeeper.
“Imagine that,” the woman behind the counter said. “Years ago, my boy John Dunn went to New York and I haven’t seen him since.”
“Well,” the young man said, “if I see him, “I’ll be sure to tell him.”
The next morning he set out and in a few days he was driving into New York City. Looking about at the tall buildings in the financial district he saw a sign that read, “Dunn & Bradstreet.”
“That must be where the boy works,” he said to himself.
He parked his car and marched in the front door.
“Pardon me, ma’am,” he said to the receptionist seated at a big desk, “do you have a John here?”
“Of course,” she said, “Right down that hall. First door on the left.”
The traveler strode down the hall, stopped at a small door and tried to open it, only to find it locked.
He thought, a moment, then knocked and asked, “Are you Dunn?”
A rather surprised voice on the other side, answered, “Uhh … yeah.”
“Okay,” the farm boy said, “call your mother.”
Reach Bill Kirby at firstname.lastname@example.org.