07:53:42 pm on
Thursday 17 Jun 2021

Hank, Rod and Kris
David Simmonds

The pandemic created some odd arrangements. No longer are separated spouses sharing the same apartment and dividing the fridge shelves considered an odd arrangement. Take our household.

Jeremy returns home with new ideas.

For the past year or so, our son, Jeremy, has lived with us as he teleworks in Ottawa. His entertainment proclivities have become my entertainment activities. He has introduced and re-introduced me to three interesting characters along the way.

The first is not a person, but a cartoon character in a television program called King of the Hill, which ran for thirteen seasons between 1997 and 2010. Call me an elitist if you want, but I knew nothing of the show before my son introduced me to it. I’m glad he did.

Hank Hill, the star of the show, is a wonderful character that almost gives conservatism a good name. He is stuck for a lifetime in Arlen, Texas, where he is the assistant manager of a store selling propane and propane accessories. Hank loves to drive his ride-on mower and barbecue, but never with charcoal.

Hank dreams he could have played for the Dallas Cowboys and is embarrassed to talk of feelings. With his slow Texas draw and Buddy Holly glasses, he could easily be merely another cartoon stereotype. As he is put through his ever more ridiculous paces by his family, friends and well meaning but hopelessly weedy liberals, his basic decency comes to the fore. 

The second character is Rodman Edward Serling, popularly know as Rod Serling; he originated The Twilight Zone, which aired from 1959 and 1964, in the era of black and white television. A related show, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, ran on colour television from 1969 to 1973. Several follow-up versions, of the original show, were broadcast. Serling also wrote scripts for television, including Requiem for a Heavyweight, and film, including Planet of the Apes (1968).

His recurring theme is the operation of a force, somewhere in the passage between life and death, that calls into account all the unpunished sins of a lifetime, morality, perhaps. Many of his topics, such as cloning and genetic sequencing, were foreign in his time and cutting edge. His screenplays poke at the conventional life that is not open to other possibilities.

Serling was an hyper-productive.

The work of Serling is not to my taste. I admire his dogged pursuit and dogged hard work, his selection of an interesting niche for himself, his prodigious output, his ability to presage current controversies and his willingness to go head-to-head against television studios over artistic control of his creations. It's remarkable how a chain smoking, five-foot-four dynamo, with a superb, mind can produce in just a few years; Serling died at age fifty.

The third person Jeremy introduced me to is the musician and songwriter Kris Kristofferson. He is a real person, but a larger than life; he was a Rhodes scholar, joined the US military and literally swept the floors of music studios and churches, in Nashville, until his songs eventually caught on. After taking the country music world by storm, he went on to act in movies such as A Star Is Born and Heaven’s Gate. The latter, unfortunately, is generally considered the worst movie ever made. Kristofferson retired to Hawaii last year, in his early 80s. 

As many people, I have always considered Kristofferson the architect of a disproportionate number of the best country songs of all time. The list includes “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Why Me Lord,” “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “For the Good Times.” My exposure to Kristofferson was limited to his early work.

It’s been a treat to reconnect with Kris Kristofferson and his partners in The Highwaymen, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, through the lens of someone, my son Jeremy, from a different generation. I’ve found songs, sch as “Here Comes That Rainbow Again,” that I missed the first time around. 

An up-side to the pandemic.

There you have my influences from the pandemic period; Hank Hill, Rod Serling and Kris Kristofferson. Thank you, Jeremy, for sharing them with us. Who says entertaining your parents must be boring?

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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