Paris Goodnight: Puff really was a magic dragon

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2022

When I was younger and heard the song about a little boy and his friend Puff the magic dragon, it was as if the tale was about me and some of my imaginary characters. I could pretend to be little Jackie and get along with all the strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff that I’d find to play with.

Later on, when I heard people tell tales of what the song was really about, I tended to disagree and not believe any such nonsense. To this day, if you ask me, the song is about what it says it is and I’ll stick with the way I originally heard it and disregard the other options even if they make perfect sense too.

It reminds me a little of the unfortunate NASCAR driver Brandon Brown, who through no fault of his own, got tagged with a slogan that he neither wanted nor could get away from. When you hear “Let’s go Brandon,” does it make you think of cheering on a young driver who is still trying to scratch out a living and make it to the top ranks of the racing world? Or does it make you think of politics and all that’s gone wrong with how we take such things these days?

I imagine it’s not easy to rustle up sponsors when you have a divisive issue hanging over you at every turn.

Sometimes around here we have readers who check in and threaten to cancel their subscription to the Post because someone wrote something on our Opinion page that they don’t agree with or a story was included in the paper that they think shouldn’t have been. When I wrote a story about a new tattoo parlor that opened in town many years ago, one of the first calls I got after it ran was a woman asking, “What was the purpose of that article? What were you trying to promote?”

I had a hard time explaining that we can’t pick and choose every side of every story to make all our readers happy with each story that gets published, and it seemed to me a new business in town was worth a story, or at least it was to the editor who assigned it to me. We try to put the best local news we can find in the paper and carry on each day without taking sides or looking to promote some agenda when we’re often doing our best just to meet the next deadline that always seems to be approaching faster than expected.

If I had a magical way to get people to see things in the best possible light, instead of the worst, that’s what I’d spend my time on. That reminds me of what a former photographer at the Post convinced me to do when we were discussing some off-color lyrics being played on the radio back in the day. One in particular had caught my ear, but he cut me to the core when he reminded me that listening to it the way it was meant to be heard had nothing sinister about it at all, but I had let other darker possibilities sneak into my mind and then run wild. And that was nothing like what you might hear in popular music lyrics that youngers folks are listening to these days.

So if you want to think Jackie Paper was something you could puff on, that’s fine with me but I’ll continue to hum the song and wish the poor dragon wasn’t left in tears when his little friend came to play no more. And if I hear “Let’s Go Brandon” or see that on a sticker somewhere, I’m going to think of a driver who should get a few extra cheers the next time he makes an appearance, or if he would show up to race at Millbridge Speedway some evening and give some of our other local racing crews something else to cheer about.

Paris Goodnight is interim editor of the Salisbury Post.