Bad news: Gene's not ready for Prine time
Me: One of my favorite lines is, "Sam Stone was alone / when he popped his last balloon / Climbin' walls while sittin' in a chair."
Over the years I have written about this line, which I consider deep and rich and brilliantly concise, expressing the man's excruciating frustration at his plight while, simultaneously, suggesting something that you do not otherwise directly say: that Sam is in a wheelchair, yet another physical casualty of a dreadful war.
When I recently mentioned this to friends, they actually contended I was wrong, that there is no such implication. I told them I would call you and if I was wrong, I would gnaw off one of my pinkie fingers.
John: You told them that?
John: You're gonna have to get out some Worcestershire sauce and pepper.
John: He was in a chair. People sit in chairs.
Me: Okay, wait (yes, I am actually about to attempt to convince John Prine he is wrong about his own song) , what about popping the balloon? As a Viet vet yourself, surely you recall that this was a term for accidentally overfilling a urine bag until it burst.
John: I totally hope you didn't bet the other pinkie.
Me: Oh no.
John: I meant a balloon. Like at a kid's birthday party. Last balloon, the end of Sam's joy. Also, I was drafted in '67, but I never went to Vietnam. They gave us an aptitude test, and it came out I was a mechanical genius, so they sent me to Germany to work on heavy equipment, even though I didn't know one end of a monkey wrench from the other. I spent the war drinking German beer.
So that's it, readers. My Marshall McLuhan moment!
Join me next week when I get Carly Simon to admit "You're So Vain" was actually about Rodney Dangerfield.
Gene Weingarten can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.
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