Feb 032014
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20100710 - our yard - oil spill from Carolyn's...

Image by Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL) via Flickr

I guess I can’t blame Justin for this weeks topic- unless he subscribes to the Chicago school of voting and stuffs the ballot box. I have to blame the readers for the ridiculous choice of oil stains as  this month’s topic. My personal choice was Bat guano, principally because of the mellifluous way it flows off the tongue although I certainly appreciate the boost it gives my garden. Readers, it seems, have minds of their own and this month, our readers demand oil stains. So be it.  As I see it, oil stains cover the range of life experience and are an unsightly but necessary part of life.

Early oil stains

As a kid, I was blissfully ignorant of oil stains and the problems they create for a housewife and mother like my Mom. In general the way to avoid problems around the house was to wear ‘work clothes’ doing anything messy. So long as I had clothes that didn’t need to look immaculate – meaning oil and paint stains among other things and I wore them doing messy things, my mother was cool. What drove her crazy was my pillow cases.

Keeping my carefully maintained ducktail took lots of heavy duty hair creme– a polite term for the grease that kept my locks shiny and in place through an active teen aged day. We didn’t have the high tech goo that kids today use to make their hair into lethal weapons. We had grease. It worked well but the downside was the big oil spot on my pillow case. It didn’t bother me. What did I care about a greasy spot on a pillow case that nobody would see. For my mother, however, it was a challenge to her housekeeping prowess. At first she tried to get those stains out but eventually she gave up since there was an endless supply of grease. In the end I got my own dedicated pillow case, easily identified by the big oil stain where my head rested each night and my mother made sure that a bedspread always covered the offensive pillow case during the day.

But there are bigger oil stains!

Beyond my own personal oil stain experience, the demands of modern civilization have produced oil stains of much bigger impact- I’m talking about oil spills. Most of these involve accidents with oil tankers spilling immense quantities of crude oil into the ocean and the subsequent staining of adjacent beaches. Entire industries developed to deal with the environmental damage from theses spills boosting the local economies wherever these accidents occur. The most recent staining event was the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last summer. Although the blow out finally stopped, the cleanup efforts are still under way. The Gulf spill was the biggest one yet, we have had some doozies over the years,  as this summary of the largest oil spills in history will show.

But there are more examples of oil stains

But there is yet another kind of oil stain which may be even harder to remove than crude oil or bryllcream. That stain is produced by the oil from the democratic process in action. Good old oil of vitriol. Like we saw in the marble halls of the state house in Wisconsin this past week. There was a lot of the old oil of vitriol flowing there  and it doesn’t seem ready to stop. Oil stains in marble aren’t easy to remove but since vitriol is essential to political dialogue, statehouse cleaning crews are always ready to meet the challenge.

Unsightly but necessary.

Oil stains, it seems, are a unavoidable in modern life, whether on a personal basis, economic basis or a political basis. Life gets messy and one of the consequences is oil stains, We could probably create a world where oil stains don’t happen but it might be a pretty unpleasant experience. It would be a world without the modern conveniences we know and love like the automobile. We might have to shave our heads to ensure that no unruly locks are out of place. Finally we might have to accept that democracy and the freedom to express our thoughts and feelings is just too untidy so we need a dictator to keep everything clean and neat with no oil of vitriol staining our public places.

Yeah, this coot doesn’t like oil stains but he has learned to put up with them because freedom is worth way more than perfect cleanliness.



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Ralph is the inspiration for Cantankerous Old Coots and is our Grand Duke of Cantankerousness

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  2 Responses to “This Coot’s Perspective on Oil Stains”

  1. Ah yes…Brylcreem and all that greasy kid stuff. I used Butch Wax for my crew-cuts. Simpler times? what with oil spills and now nuclear meltdowns in Japan. I agree with ya on the need to keep democracy well lubricated, or else you end up with a huge totalitarian cum stain like we had in Europe in the early part of the last century.

    • Heck Hansi, Europe now doesn’t look so good either. But I’m glad to see that good old American vitriol is flowing again. If we could just break up all the congealed oil in Sacramento then maybe we could get California golden again.

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