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Culture

The Midwestern Touch

Abraham Lincoln and son Tad (Library of Congress)

Jaywalking is a mélange, like Impromptus. (Indeed, Jaywalking is an audio version of Impromptus, with added touches, chiefly music.) In my latest episode, I have Putin, Erdogan, Trump, and others on the world stage. Musically, I have a song called “The Lady from Siberia.”

“One day when in Tallinn, she said, ‘I don’t love Stalin,’ and she was seized and quickly sent away.” Yup. That was SOP (standard operating procedure).

I also have a song by America’s double-elled treasure, Meredith Willson. This is “Iowa Stubborn,” from The Music Man. I thought of it when quoting Charles Grassley, the senior senator from Iowa. Not that he’s stubborn. It’s just that he’s plainspoken. (There was once a biography of Truman, Plain Speaking.)

Years ago, I was an intern in the office of Senator Bob Dole, another Midwesterner, usually plainspoken. The receptionist in the office thought a lot of Senator Grassley. Why? Because he’d call and say, “Hello, my name is Chuck Grassley. I’m a senator from Iowa. Is Senator Dole there?” She was impressed by his humility. (She was used to dealing with other types of senator.)

Grassley has always impressed me as a commonsensical and competent sort, and I can see why Iowans keep returning him to office.

By the way, I’ve thought of Lincoln, because of the way I referred to Meredith Willson (and his double ell). Lincoln was a friend of John H. Addams, the father of Jane Addams. Mr. Addams was an Illinoisian: a businessman, banker, and politician — also a founder of the Republican party. Lincoln would address letters to him, “My Dear Double D’ed Addams.”

He loved words and wordplay, Lincoln did. Remember what he said about his (future) in-laws? “One ‘d’ was good enough for God, but not for the Todds.”

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