January 3, 2014
The Tao of Durl
All the Durls Fit to Print.
Catching up on my Walking Dead recently, I couldn’t help ruminating on the quintessentially redneck name
Darryl—or, as it is often pronounced in the South and Midwest, Durl.
The Walking Dead’s Durl, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus in real life), is one of those oddball
one-r Daryls, but that is about his only flaw. Otherwise, he’s a kind of Uber-Durl—a semi-educated survivor of an abusive father and zombified brother, a protector of the weak and conqueror of his own misguided upbringing. (Durl and his crew are halfway through their tumultuous supply run in the first half of Season 4 before one even realizes that he recruited not a single Caucasoid for his team.) This is, in short, a far superior species of Durl to, say, your run-of-the-mill Issa-grade Durl.
Still, if there’s a single image conjured by the name Durl, it is white
skin. Durl was the ultimate cracker name when I was growing up in Durl-infested
Midwestern towns through the Sixties and Seventies. Oh, sure, there was
Durl Hall, a “soul” singer who no doubt yearned to be black but in that regard was outflanked even by his own sidekick,
Oates. In those days, I would have predicted that we would have our first
African-American President well before we ever had our first famous African-American
Durl, so you can imagine my astonishment when Durl Strawberry emerged as
a potent, if erratic, presence in baseball in the mid-Eighties.
Even more shocking, that same era brought forth Durl Hannah, a Durl that
a well-mannered youngster could actually masturbate to. None of us saw
that coming, let me tell you. But I digress.
* * *
The preeminent Durl of my personal experience was the younger brother of
my college friend Durward. Fresh out of high school, he arrived on Durward’s
Mankato doorstep one summer evening in the mid-Seventies, up from the prairie
burg of Meldom. But Durward, scheduled to bartend that evening, fobbed
him off on me. Durl accepted this arrangement without complaint, for, like
his Walking Dead counterpart, he had grown up believing his more charismatic older brother
to be infallible.
I had met Squire Durl of Meldom once before but had never exchanged human
language with him, which made our initial attempts at verbal intercourse
awkward. I adopted the only practical solution that suggested itself, which
was Mettler’s, aka Mankato’s premier (lone) strip joint, where Durl could
bathe in the healing aura of Donna James, aka Mettler’s premier (lone)
Durl was not disappointed at the paucity of exotic dancers, as Donna James
single-handedly increased the number of non-related females that he had
glimpsed naked by a factor of infinity. He had a good view, too, as we
had arrived early enough on a weeknight to snag one of the front-row tables
usually monopolized by more seasoned beaver aficionados. And, although he could
not grasp this, he was in the presence of greatness as incarnated by Seventies-vintage
Donna James, and incarnated was just the word to describe her, if you get my drift, heh-heh.*
As Donna was winding up another warmly received set, lo, the Holy Spirit descended upon me, and the Spirit gave me utterance. What I uttered was not “Beaver!” as was customary at that time and place, but rather, “Donna! This is my friend Durl! It’s his birthday today!”
This came as news to Durl, but before he was able to lodge a protest, he
was alarmed to discover a raven-haired nearly-naked lady atop him, grinding
on his right leg and pummeling his face with pleasingly contoured globules
of fatty tissue.
If Durl’s penis was not stiff at that moment, it was the lone holdout in
his anatomy. Apart from the fact that he was sitting, he looked like a
raw recruit standing at attention, cringing away from the encroaching snarl
of a spit-spewing drill sergeant. His body language was screaming (a la
Walking Dead Durl in many a tight spot) “Get this mindless, insatiable creature off
me!” And yet, when she did disembark of her own accord a few seconds later,
he immediately seemed to miss her. Quite possibly, he still does to this
For the rest of the evening, I could do no wrong in young Durl’s eyes.
I was the greatest human who had ever lived. Suck it, Gandhi and Jesus...and
Durward, for that matter.
My next encounter with Durl came some years later, when Durward brought
me to the small house in Meldom that he occupied with his new bride. Though
no Donna James, Mrs. Durl possessed allure in sufficient measure to see
how she could easily have trapped one as callow as Durl.
And "trapped" pretty much nutshelled poor Durl’s predicament.
“DURL!” his putative better half would chide at anything she considered
a lapse of manners, as in “DURL! Let the guests sit on the sofa!” or “DURL!
Leave some dip for our guests!”
You would compliment them on their home, only to learn that “We coulda got a house twice this size for just a little more money down, but DURL wanted this one!” You could thank your hosts for the Doritos and beer, only to be informed that “I mighta fixed somethin’ decent for you if DURL had let me know to expect company!”
She made a four-letter word out of the name, figuratively as well as literally—“Durl
you, you mother-durl-in’ piece-a durl!”—all through which Durl could only
summon a series of shrugs and nervous chortles, like a schoolboy caught
in a dream where he is unable to answer any of his teacher’s math questions
because he is inexplicably naked.
If you proffered something as harmless as “Sure is getting cold these days,” she may well have replied, “Well, we might get us some nice global warmin’ in these parts, if DURL’d get off his butt and move around some, thereby creatin’ friction in the atmosphere.” And so it went, until Durward and I fled the scene in desperate need of ditch-weed and hugs.
Thus, despite our slender acquaintance, I somehow managed to factor into
young Durl’s happiest evening of female companionship and what I dearly
hope was his most wretched one.** And there ends my exceedingly droll Durl anecdote.
Some may have noticed that I have been a truant from this blog for some time. Some people (Mrs. Durl leaps to mind) might demand an excuse for this weird behavior.
I have none. I could fall back on the centuries-old excuse that bloggers
dating back to Samuel Pepys have trotted out to explain long absences:
that I am “working on a book.” Well, it is true enough that I am “working
on a book,” but it is also true that I have not touched or caressed or
otherwise sexually molested that manuscript since mid-September, when I
sent it off to my venerable Test Reader for feedback. (No pressure, Gary,
but the world is waiting…) Anyway, my absence from this site began well
I could borrow from Falstaff’s playbook and simply say, “What, upon compulsion? 'Zounds, an I were at the strappado, or all the racks in the world, I would not tell you on compulsion.” But this would leave the average Muggins-blog buff nonplussed at best.
Things just haven’t been going all that well lately, and age is, admittedly a factor. There may, or may not, be further long blackouts in the coming year. That new book may, or may not, emerge in the coming year. I’m doing my best.
And as our old friend Wolf Blitzer is wont to say, “We’ll have to leave it here.”
| * Inside joke for etymology buffs. Sorry. Won't be trying that again.
| ** Speaking of slender acquaintances, I paid a visit to the family ranch outside Meldom in the late Nineties on the latest occasion I have ever gotten together with Durward and other Mankato-era chums. While there, his mother, whom I had met a few times previous, came home in high spirits from finding every single defendant guilty during a long day of jury duty. (“If they were innocent, they wouldn’t be there in the first place,” she reasoned.)
When my attention drifted to a picture of a sheepish Durl with Mrs. Durl
and their stereotypical 2.5 children, who had not existed at the time of
my previous visit but now seemed to be of junior high school age, the proud
grandma updated me on Durl’s activities in downtown Meldom and the scholastic
achievements of her cuter progeny. Then, turning her attention to the fourth
person in the photo:
“She’s a bitch,” Grandma seethed, quickly adding, “just between you and me,” though somehow
I cannot sense that I’m violating any vow of confidentiality by sharing
her view of her daughter-in-law with all of you.