By RALPH HARDIN
Evening Times Editor T here’s a country song from the late 1990’s called “I’m Alright” by Jo Dee Messina that was a relatively big hit. Appropriately enough, it wasn’t a super smash or a flop. Just kind of a radio-friendly tune One of the verses opens with: “Been singing for my rent and singing for my supper. I’m above the below and below the upper … I’m stuck in the middle where money gets tight, but I guess I’m doing alright.”
I’ve always appreciated those lyrics. That song came out right about the time my second son was born. At the time, I was working at Southland Greyhound Park and my wife was going to college and working as a waitress at Bonanza on weekends to help make ends meet – and they didn’t always meet, but we made it through. I guess we were, in fact, doing alright.
That line about being “above the below and below the upper” is the one that I think best encapsulates my mindset, here even now as we’ve only got one kid left living at home and our first grandchild on the way. This August will mark 13 years that I’ve been working here at the Evening Times, and for more than a decade I’ve been writing editorials.
When I first started at the paper, this particular column was the stomping grounds of my old boss Michael Coulter. Back then it was called “Our View,” and I didn’t like that very much because quite often “our view” was really just “his view” and it definitely wasn’t “my view,” but he signed the checks so I never complained too much.
But for a few years, every other Friday I was tasked with writing a column of my own for the opinion page. All good columns need a title, so mine was “Somewhere in the Middle,” because that was (and still is) very often where I find myself in virtually any circumstance. Whether it’s politics, religion, social class, the issues of the day or whatever, I’m often able to see both sides or find myself squarely in the middle of the crowd.
I think that’s (mostly) a good thing. More than once I have seen some variation of a quote that says, “If you’re under 40 and aren’t liberal you have no heart. If you’re over 40 and aren’t conservative you have no brain.” I’m sure the first time I read that I probably snickered and scoffed but I have definitely gotten more liberal in some ways and more conservative in some ways over the years. That’s why I usually say I’m “somewhere in the middle” on politics. Here’s a crazy thought: Maybe there are good ideas on both sides of the political spectrum? I’ll pause while you take some time to wrap your head around this concept.
Same with money. I have at times had more money than I needed (at the time anyway) and I have at times gotten home to find a shut-off notice from the electric company hanging from the front doorknob. We were like that growing up too. We didn’t have much in the way of disposable income but we never went without. We didn’t get a lot of stuff throughout the year but we always had big Christmas and birthdays. I suppose we were on the lower end of middle-class, and today as an adult we have probably moved all the way up… to the upper end of middle-class.
Fortunately, I don’t typically have to worry about coming home to a house with no electricity, but we’re not flying off to the Caribbean on the weekends or anything either. I think we’ll be OK in the longterm barring any disasters but the kids will not be fighting over the inheritance when we’re gone.
I suppose there can be a time and place for extremes but I’m not really the guy for that. In baseball, there’s a “sweet spot” that hitters look for when the pitcher makes his offering. It’s called “middle-middle” – meaning not too high or low and not too far inside or outside. If you think of the strike zone as a tic-tac-toe board, the “middle-middle” is that center square that most folks who get to go first will put an “X” in (and if you don’t do that, you’re a crazy person. It’s the only way to get that “two-way” three-in-a-row thing set up).
And I like that analogy. I’m “middle-middle” and/ or in the “sweet spot” in life. I’m not poor but I’m certainly not rich. I can pay my bills, put gas in my truck, not get caught up in any extreme political or social debates and enjoy my life. While I don’t have to sing for my rent or sing for my supper, I guess I really am “doing alright” right now.
And I hope you are too.