Tuesday, August 13, 2013

`Cheap and Vulgar'

Without peeking, tell me who made this abject mea culpa: “I have drank tea and coffee and made myself cheap and vulgar.” 

If only that were all it took, though my standards for depravity have evolved over the decades. The last time I felt cheap and vulgar it involved pepperoni pizza and too many episodes of The Walking Dead. I went thirty-nine hours without food in preparation for a certain medical procedure Monday morning, twenty-nine hours without coffee, and thirteen without liquids. The need for food was less fierce than for caffeine, which was starting to look like a sacrament. The wretch quoted above is Thoreau in his journal for Aug. 13, 1854:

“I remember only with a pang the past spring and summer thus far. I have not been an early riser. Society seems to have invaded and overrun me. I have drank tea and coffee and made myself cheap and vulgar. My days have been all noontides, without sacred mornings and evenings. I desire to rise early henceforth, to associate with those whose influence is elevating, to have such dreams and waking thoughts that my diet may not be indifferent to me.”

My diet has never been a matter indifference to me. Boswell reports Johnson saying: "Some people have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind anything else."

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