wineka column

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It has come to my attention that last Sunday’s column, in this same spot, ended abruptly in mid sentence and left some people hanging.
There was no jump to an inside page. And no, it wasn’t meant to be a fill-in-the-blank exercise or even a test to determine whether anyone had read that far.
Somehow technology just chopped off the last two words, and no one caught it before the paper went to press.
The last sentence should have read, “I can’t argue with a good year.” I’ve italicized the words that were left out and are probably still floating around in midair. Call me if you see them.
You’ll have to go back and read last week’s column to understand the context.
A teaser: It dealt with tattoos, toilet paper and the Red Sox.
The whole episode got me to thinking about words (and names) that I committed to memory long ago, sure that I would never leave them behind.
I speak of things such as childhood rhymes; the words to Christmas carols, rock songs and movie dialogue; and the names of friends, actors, baseball players and relatives twice removed.
They became established in my brain when it was more like a sponge and less like today’s trampoline.
There was a time when I could summon Curt Blefary’s name on first recall and took for granted that this 1960s left fielder for the Baltimore Orioles ó and all those other important words and names in my life ó would always be there for immediate retrieval, trapped in steel.
Of course, I was wrong.
Last week in church was Scout Sunday, and our sending hymn was “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.”
There was a day, I believe, when I knew the second and third verses to this song, thanks to all the times we sang it in school. In church, I breezed through the first verse in full voice and without looking at the hymnal.
But the second and third verses were a mystery. The only phrase that seemed familiar, other than the refrain, was the line about “alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.” I love the word “alabaster.”
Later in the week, I wondered to myself whether I could still summon up all the words to the national anthem.
I realize I’m coming close to heresy. Forget “The Star Spangled Banner?” The national anthem is something an American hears and sings at least a thousand times in his life, but did there come a point after 50 when I stopped hearing it and quit remembering it?
I apologize if you were waiting at a stoplight in recent days and heard an out-of-tune tenor in a beat-up van singing about the rockets’ red glare. I also hope no one passed the house and heard me belting out “bombs bursting in air” from the shower.
But I had to know.
I’m happy to report that my brain still holds the words to “The Star Spangled Banner,” though at my age putting the phrases “at the twilight’s last gleaming” and “were so gallantly streaming” where they belong can be challenging.
I checked out the official lyrics online, and I passed. I am now committing to memory the three other verses of the national anthem, written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. That must have been a good year, too.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or