We're packing up, getting ready to go -- even though there hasn't been the slightest hint of frost. When I loaded the metal sculptures into the bed of the truck, I realized that it would be a good idea to cover them with a tarpaulin. So down I drove to Main Street and to the recently enlarged Aubuchon. "Where do you keep your tarpaulins?" I asked the young clerk. "What is a tarpaulin? I've never heard of it?" "Never heard of a tarpaulin," I replied, taken aback, "you use them to cover boats or cargo or the backs of trucks." "Oh," he said, brightening, "a tarp," and he took me right there where the shelves were loaded with blue "polytarps" -- canvas being virtually extinct, at least in our part of the landlocked world.
The young feller didn't know the world "tarpaulin" and looked at me as if I were some sort of pretentious snob. But "tarpaulin" goes right back to my childhood -- it might be the first three-syllable word I ever learned. Not that I was nautical, not in any sense a "tar." But when it rained at Ebbets Field, the ground crew would roll out the infield tarpaulin and then we'd all sit and listen while Red Barber and Connie Desmond chatted for an hour or so until either play resumed or the game was postponed. "Tarpaulin" is not a hard or obscure word -- certainly not to baseball fans who can remember when fields didn't have roofs. But the big linguistic question is -- will the word tarpaulin survive in all its glory or will it be truncated into a pathetic apocopic monosyllablic shadow of itself? Or will it be confused with the TARP, which is a horse of another acronymic color --. Troubled (or more accurately, Toxic) Asset Relief Program.
Well, I bought the "tarp" -- not at the Aubuchon, which didn't have the right size --but down at the Farm-Way. So now we're one step closer to shoving off for DC and then back home. I'm overwhelmed with pre-nostalgia.