Monday, April 27, 2009

Today a local denizen of the streets inquired of me, as I entered my caffeination station, whether I had any change so he could obtain "a donut". Oddly, he smelled strongly of fresh, unsmoked pipe tobacco, which I doubt he had on his person, being less of the gent class and more of the literal crackhead class. I noted this olfactory puzzle but moved on, prompting the hungry seeker to scream "COLD-HEARTED BITCH!" at my back. Nothing notable there, since around here such an outburst is as remarkable as a pigeon crossing one's path. Tough life they've got, the Oakland baseheads. I'd be a bit of a crank myself, perhaps, were I in their flapping-soled shoes.

But . . . was it possible he'd said not "cold-hearted" but "coal-hearted"? Because as it happens - well, I'll just tell you what I told him. "Did you happen to say 'coal-hearted'? I just ask because in the last couple weeks I've grown interested in what leads one to choose a metaphor of burnedness vs. coldness to describe someone's figurative 'heart', i.e., does the speaker mean the accused party at some point had a soul and lost it, or that the accused was emotionally defective from birth? They're both such persistent tropes in verse and song, from Chaucer's time right up to contemporary Nashville junk-country. It compels me, this question."

Seemingly without a strong opinion on the subject, the donut-hungry interloper had wandered away as I mused. So what's the punchline? It's: got any spare change for grad school?