Tuesday, January 30, 2007

illegal smiles

And if you see me tonight with an illegal smile
It don't cost very much, and it lasts a long while
Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone,
No, I'm just tryin' to have me some fun.

Words and music by John Prine

I had an illegal smile today. It happened about four miles north of work after I'd slipped out early to pick up Mr. Attitude from daycare so The Hermit could get home from a meeting on time to start up the fire in the house and warm us all up. This time of year, leaving the house for any length of time takes planning.

Anyway, you may ask yourself, what is an "illegal smile"? Well, I got to know the term belatedly from a circa 1970's John Prine song of the same name. Many assumed he was talking about a smile elicited from illegal substances. Prine defended himself on numerous occasions, saying the smile he mentioned was obtainable by legal as well as illegal means. I'll side with Prine.

I have come to think of an "illegal smile" as any personal pleasure that comes from means that are not commercially controlled, or that are largely ignored by most of the population. That is, if I laugh at a line from an NBC TV show, that is "normal". If I laugh at something I discover on my own, that is what is known as an illegal smile.

So I had a great illegal smile today. On my way home from work I had just gotten over seeing a red tailed hawk. Suddenly, there was a flock of brown blobs getting up from the right side of the road, heading towards the left. Sharp tailed grouse. I'm glad one didn't hit my windshield, they were that close. There were four of them.

The rush I got from that experience was incredible. Which led me to thinking, how much is a personal encounter with a bird worth? To me, a lot. And, to anyone who doesn't gain a thing from a bird encounter, I suggest you need to lighten up. A lot.

Every time I encounter a bird, I have an illegal smile. That is, I don't smile based upon what the entertainment technology of my age has produced. I smile because I see something that makes me happy.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I do not understand the logic here. Illegal smile from seeing a bird? That seems a lot more legal than smiling due to something you see or hear from a box.

I smile every morning when I see my partner, when I see our cat, and I have to laugh out loud almost every morning when I see how happy our dog is to see me. Yes the antics of the chickadees make me smile, and just thinking of the wild turkeys that roam on our property makes me smile. Illegal? Not in my mind! Just the natural joy of being alive and seeing other living things enjoying being alive.

MN Justin said...

I heard JP defend the Illegal Smile just a couple months ago (on NPR I think). I think it'd be okay if it were in fact the result of an illegal substance... but legal is good too, as you write here.

I really like that song, and I really like those smiles!

Deb said...

OW- I guess for those of us who do appreciate the simple, free pleasures, "illegal" may seem like an odd description. But what I'm trying to get at is how I was breaking the laws of "normal" in today's fast paced society. I'd expand on that now, but I think I'll save that for a future post.

MN Justin- "Ah, but fortunately I have the key to escape reality!" And there's nothing wrong with that.

Anonymous said...

Deb- I understand what you're saying. I think it's just the word illegal that causes pause. I get an illegal smile from things I see in the natural world- birds especially.

the dharma bum said...

deb - i love it and I think I know exactly what you mean. And that too makes me smile.

Department Of Smile Enforcement said...

Allright young lady, there'll be no more of this nefarious ILLEGAL smiling.
You will only smile when the laugh track prompts you...

Deb said...

lynne- Yeah, illegal is a strange description, but for some reason the first thing I thought of after realizing how things like seeing sharp tailed grouse affected me, was that crazy song title. So I went with it!

dharma bum- It makes me smile knowing there are people out there, whom I have yet to meet in person, that I think are on the same wavelength. By the way, thanks for putting a link on your blog to that well written editorial about motorized and non motorized recreation being incompatible. I've been thinking a lot about motorized recreation lately, and...well, there's a post or two in the works.

Dep't of Smile Enforcement- You're baiting me into a more serious offense...I'm LAUGHING OUT LOUD! :) Now go back to your time machine, "Salvatore". ;)