Of poems and those I-5 signs

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



I like the ladies.

I like the poems.

I like the ladies who write the poems.

But — doggone it — we just aren’t in the poetry publishing business.

In large part, this has to do with all of us — and I mean every one of us — thinking we’re a poet. Heck, I’ve written a few myself:

In 1999 I say

That basketball will see the day

When it shall not exist and then

The world shall rejoice again.

As a high school gymnast, I had felt basketball was getting too much attention, so I penned this poem (that was only the beginning of it) for the school newspaper. Yes, it landed me in some deep dung.

So when my newfound friend, 78-year-old Violet Rosalie Thom, called me about her poem … well, I had empathy for her.

“I want to know if I can send a political poem about our president? I don’t like him. I don’t like what he’s doing to older people.

“Anyway I wrote this poem and sent it to the White House and I didn’t get an answer. I don’t think he liked it.

“I didn’t use any bad words. I just told him what I thought of him. And his ideas. But I did not cuss.”

Violet said she wasn’t going to send it to me unless she knew I’d use it. She wasn’t going to waste the money on a stamp.

Things really are that tight for many residents.

o o o

I told her the odds were against us printing her poem but did ask her to read it to me:

“What happened to the American dream?

“It has gotten so horrible I could scream.

“One time it used to be,

“Buying a house was security.

“Now owning it is a burden for me.”

There was more, of course, but you get the idea. She’s not a big fan of President Obama. But she says she’s a Democrat. I guess she’s drifted away from the flock just a bit.

Violet, you hang in there, you hear? And keep an eye on that mailbox. Ya never know when the White House might write back.

Get it right, see

Like many of us, I drive I-5 to and from work every day. And every day, I see and read those electronic signs the state has put up all over the place.

I suspect there are occasions when they might put these things to good use, but for the most part, not so much.

Lately, one of the messages brought back memories of the late, great actor Edward G. Robinson. And it was mostly because the writer of the message had what we in the news business call a bad headline break.

A bad headline break means you have this thought, but you can only fit so many words on the first line, so the rest of the thought ends up on the second line. And not always with great results. That’s what happened with this I-5 sign message. It read:

“It’s the law, see.”

Now anyone who remembers Robinson knows his distinctive voice and how he often delivered his lines. And he loved putting the word “see” after what he said.

As in this movie line:

“I’m coming, and I’m gonna put one in your dirty hide for every lying crack that you made about me, see?”

The full message from the state is: “It’s the law, see flashing lights, pull over or slow down.”

They have since corrected this bad headline break, but every time I see it, I still go into my Robinson impersonation.


Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.

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