I was on my way to sleep, listening to the radiator, when…

Juli Kearns Everyday Stories 3 Comments

I was lying there late last night listening to how the radiator goes click click gumph gumph gurgle gurgle as it starts up.

As far as I knew I was still awake, meditating on the click click gumph gumph gurgle gurgle, playing with it in my head, when I was suddenly, something to do with William F. Buckley’s death, maybe something about the way he talked, maybe the gumph, I don’t know, anyway, there we were, whomever and I, in the back room and we were pulling out these thin cardboard, oblong boxes, about 18 inches long, and opening the ends of them and sliding out these lightweight headdresses that unfolded like fans into elaborate headgear that was a cross between a Samurai helmet, a Darth Vader helmet and something vaguely Brian Blessed Flash Gordon, mostly very sci fi with a nod to some ancient time in Japan when, it seemed, the bulk of a helmet was the neck-protecting beadwork, translated into the now with a made in China gleam to the molded plastic parts. And though Buckley was quite dead he was standing erect and talking and they put one of these helmets on his head. My mind was rushing on wonderingly over the fact we had these marvelous boxes with this headgear and I was thinking boy will H.o.p. be excited about this, I need to dig them out rather than letting them lie around back there. At which point rational brain nudged me to let me know that I should think twice on whether or not this was in reality happening and to reconsider whether or not we had these helmets, and I brought myself back around and tried to remember just how this had started. How did my brain go from click click gumph gumph gurgle gurgle to samurai helmets and William F. Buckley, Jr.

His manner and speech fascinated me when I was a child and saw him on television, he seeming built from tip of toe to top of head for Sunday morning political shows, sneeringly erudite in an unpleasant way that made his words seem like spitballs lobbed by his bored uvula through disdaining clenched teeth, spitballs which passing his lips were so fatigued by contact with non-rarefied air that they willfully self-detonated, trusting in the wind to convey their essence, every single particle of them wafting delirious in the wonder they were the greatest thing since French mustard.

Sometimes he said things that sounded sensible and humane. Which made it all the worse rather than better. I don’t remember what those things were because I learned to ignore them in the way a dog ignores a biscuit it knows will be closely followed by a kick.

I have no clue why my mind, on its way to nod, paired him up with a samurai helmet much like one of the ones we saw on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art surrounded by other shogun ghosts.

Comments 3

  1. Wow! This is so interesting. When I saw the William Buckley had died I had told Steve (and I felt a little embarrassed to admit it)that when I was a child I had liked William Buckley!!! I think I understood even then that he was pretty conservative but there was something, yes, about his voice, and his manner, and that smile that seemed to hover around his mouth…He seemed so cocksure. When I think of it now I think what I was finding somehow attractive in my childhood way was that he was arrogant!!! Why did I find that attractive? That’s so weird that you found him fascinating and that I also felt drawn to him as a child. He’s not the kind of person that would leap to mind as appealing to children. I’m so glad you wrote this, because I’ve felt a little embarrassed to admit to anyone that I had actually felt drawn to the man. So in some small way, I noted his passing with, if not sadness then at least an acknowledgement of his presence in my life in some kind of way when I was a child.

  2. How funny. Maybe Buckley’s style was for the naive and innocent, such as children, an intellectual arrogance designed to come across as absolutely reassuringly confident, however condescending. Perhaps he designed that style of speech for himself when he was a youngster, just like some 10 to 12 year old girls start doing very self conscious flourishes in their handwriting (I remember some friends doing this) and I’m sure some boys do the same, intentionally modifying their handwriting to communicate an extra something.

  3. ..Loved Buckley, hated his politics…I’m sure if he had ever worn a helmet, he would have chosen the one you describe …perhaps he was a poser, but whatever he was, I shall miss his countenance and commentary…he did make me laugh…and sometimes, (from a different direction) think…

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