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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Geese and Ducks according to #Marx by John von Daler

    I used to have a special rapport with my
mother, who was a little nuttier than your
ordinary fruitcake.
In the middle of conversations she habitually and abruptly switched tracks for reasons that only she and I understood, often turning what should have been a polite dialogue into an embarrassing and slightly absurd monologue.
    She was a Southern woman, bred in a tradition of politeness. Silences just did not happen when she entertained company. So when everybody else lost the thread, she would just keep going on and on with her own little wild goose chase.
    She and I both loved the Marx Brothers,
probably because they legitimized loony
language and cuckoo antics. If Groucho can, why
can't we?
    In our favorite scene Groucho is giving directions to Chico. On his coming walk Chico must make some turns and then cross a viaduct. As Groucho metes out the instructions little by little, Chico repeats them. Every time he gets to the crossing of the viaduct, he asks Groucho, "But why a duck?"
    In early adulthood I gained enough confidence to believe that now I might be able to help
my mother out of her dilemnas. Every time she
approached the crossover between normal talk
and the theater of the absurd, I broke in with
what to the rest of the company must have
seemed like a mystifying question : "But Mom,
why a duck?" That was our signal for her to
right herself up, pull herself together and steer
herself back onto the path of ordinary, polite
    What with the geese and the duck and the
Marx, in the face of chaos Scarlet O'hara could
not have been more poised.

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