ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By
Joseph Walker

I’M GOOD

There are serious disadvantages to living with someone who writes for a living.

For one thing, it isn’t much of a living unless your name happens to be Dave Barry or Tom Clancy or J.K. Rowling or Garrison Keillor or Stephen King or... well, OK – it isn’t much of a living for me.  For another, there’s that nagging understanding that if you ever say or do anything remotely interesting, clever, funny or dumb, it will probably end up on newspaper pages around the county.  With your name spelled correctly.

Like the time I wrote that our youngest son, Jon (note: no “h”), is at that awkward, in-between age: one minute he’s watching cartoons, and the next minute he’s online looking at pictures of Poppy Montgomery.

What?  I didn’t write that column yet?

Oops.

The other thing is, sometimes stuff like this happens: the other night we went out for dinner and the waitress stopped by our table to ask if anyone wanted a soda refill.

“I’m good,” Beth said.

I looked at Beth.  Evidently this is a look Beth has come to know and dread during the nearly 17 years she has been our youngest daughter.  She rolled her eyes and started bracing herself for what she knew was coming.

“That’s right, Beth,” I said.  “You’re good.  We’re very proud of that.  You are a good girl, and I’m sure the waitress is pleased to know that.  But perhaps you should . . .”

“No, thank you,” Beth said pointedly, smiling at the waitress and then glaring at me.

“Well, I just think it’s good to be good,” I said, suddenly feeling the need to justify my appreciation for words and their meaning.  “You should be proud of being good, and you shouldn’t diminish it by saying ‘I’m good’ when you really mean ‘No, thank you.’”

“But everybody says it today, Dad,” Beth said, continuing her ongoing struggle to drag her father kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. “It’s just the way people talk.”

“Which is all the more reason to fight to protect the integrity of certain words,” I said, warming to the subject.  “I don’t want just anyone saying ‘I’m good.’  This is not a phrase you should be allowed to use unless you ARE good. I don’t want to go to some restaurant in Constantinople and overhear Osama bin Laden telling a waitress ‘I’m good.’  He’s NOT good, for Pete’s sake!  He’s Osama bin freaking Laden!”

“Joe,” my wife Anita said, calmly, “people are beginning to stare.”

“Besides, Dad,” Beth added, “there’s no such place as Constantinople anymore.  It’s Istanbul.  And as much as you hate to travel, the only way you’re going to overhear Osama bin Laden saying anything is if you bump into him getting a Slurpee at 7-11.”

“Hey, as long as he doesn’t say ‘I’m good,’” I said, “I’m good.”

Journalistic ethics (yes, I still have a few around here somewhere) require that I point out that I may have taken some artistic liberties within the last four paragraphs.  In other words, I pretty much made them up.  And I should probably give credit to They Might Be Giants for the Istanbul-Constantinople bit. I didn’t intentionally steal it from their song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” – which, truth be told, was actually not theirs, but was written by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon and recorded by The Four Lads in 1953.  But I’ve always liked that song and it was probably lurking somewhere in the back of my mind when I wrote that.

There.  I feel better.  Cleaner.  Worthier.  More virtuous.

You know . . . good.

Even though it probably doesn’t help my kids feel any better about living with a writer.

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— © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.