A NEW WORD leaped off the front page at me this week, “tranche,” which I’d never seen before. This is exciting when you’re 77, like being approached by a platypus on the street wearing a sign, “Look before you leap.”
I’ve seen a platypus before but not a platitudinous one.
“Tranche” means a portion of something, and it’s used in finance, so that’s why I don’t know it. The New York Times said Congress had subpoenaed Secretary Pompeo, “demanding that he promptly produce a tranche of documents.” I imagine the Times said “tranche” rather than “portion” because it sounds more important: “portion,” to me, means two small potatoes, a cup of peas, and one slice of meatloaf.
“Impeachment” I am familiar with, and the other words — emoluments, misdemeanors, betrayal, corrupt, mendacious, and so forth — but “tranche” was a complete surprise. I imagine that, among the White House regulars, there is a tranche of them who wish to continue their careers when the Boy President goes to the Next Stop, and I expect they are thinking hard this week.
The smiling Vice President Pence
Must be thinking about his defense.
Was his iPhone lost?
Were his fingers crossed?
Was he deaf or blind?
Was he out of his mind
Or just what we used to call “dense”?
Sometimes I almost think I sort of understand Trump. I go out to dinner at a Madagascan restaurant in the part of town that used to be woolen mills and now is little shops and condos. The menus come, strange dishes, but my companions are all enthused and ask — how were the ferns prepared? What sort of glaze on the bream? Was it blanched or marinated? Is it French turmeric or Spanish?
I grew up with ground beef baked with Heinz tomato sauce and served over Uncle Ben’s rice. I still feel that food is about nourishment and that dinner is a social occasion more than an aesthetic experience. But the others are excited about the food they’ve ordered and they reminisce about memorable meals they’ve enjoyed in Santa Fe and San Francisco, the south of France, and Sofia, Bulgaria, and I remember the mac and cheese in Sioux Falls.
The food is brought and is exclaimed over and dinner goes on, and someone tells about a fascinating book he is reading, a biography of the famous oceanographer Earl Krause, who lived with sperm whales and learned their language of squeaks and squeals and low moans and from their complicated social structure he developed his theory of transferent famility. I don’t understand a word of it and now Krause’s story reminds someone of the book she is reading and she talks about that. And so the dinner goes. It’s a book club in which each member enjoys a moment of lording it over the others. It’s a parade of drum majors. No music but very impressive strutting and baton thrusting.
As I, the ignorant peasant, sit through three hours of this and my face turns to wood, I feel an urge toward revenge. I hope that someone buys the lot across the street from the Krause reader’s house and builds a 14-story parking ramp. A man with large orange hair combed into a ducktail who believes in the gospel of cheating and lying.
He is glorious revenge against all the over-educated snobs I know.
But then I go home to my lovely wife and wake up in the morning, it’s October, the summerish September is done and we feel Saskatchewan in the air and perk up our ears and realize there’s work to be done. It’s time to dig potatoes.
Somebody said that it shouldn’t be done
But he with a smile replied
That maybe it shouldn’t but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he tried.
They said it’s insane but he called up Ukraine
And asked for some dirt on Joe Biden.
“Otherwise, Jack, we’ll take our dough back,
And I ain’t just whistling Haydn.”
And quick as a thistle a man blew a whistle
And sent an epistle to Barr
And the Post got nosy and Nancy Pelosi
Revved up the impeachment car
Aimed toward the cliff as old Adam Schiff
Gassed it up and that’s where we are.
Ivanka is sad to see her poor dad
In trouble. These things annoy her.
Giuliani is nuts. It’s time to kick butts,
And he needs Roy Cohn for a lawyer.
© Garrison Keillor, 10.1.2019