Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly, Molly, Molly

The once rollicking Molly Ivins died yesterday at her home in Austin. She was 62.

A few years ago, at the 2005 Democracy Fest in Austin, I got to speak briefly with Molly. We were crowded into what I'll call the backyard at Stubb's Bar-B-Que on Red River, just a few blocks from the capitol, awaiting the big speakers of the evening, including Molly, of course, early on, and late in the evening Howard Dean, that other perhaps less prickly but even stickier thorn in the side of the establishment.

Late June in Austin, Texas: hotter'n hell, really, a might uncomfortable, a big crowd rustling around like the cattle of flower children, but it's summer in Texas, so, rather dusty and disheveled, you know, grassroots types. And a bit parched, too, so the beer flowed. Molly milled around the crowd a bit, holding her own plastic cup of beer, a beverage she proffered a handy lubricant for facing our life and times. She liked square on, but she liked tipsy, too.

Molly was so much taller than I expected, and thinner, and despite the heat, she was dressed in a long solid black dress, which set off in a startling way her straight silver hair, flimsy from chemo. I gave her a bit of a hard time for wearing black in the late afternoon Texas sun, she ought to know better, and she sort of rolled her eyes with a dramatic pant and said, "yeah, what was I thinking?"

Well, maybe her mind was elsewhere. She'd lost weight and color, but I thought she might make it to old age. I mean, she already looked older than 60, but therein lay the ticking clock of cancer.

On stage, Molly had the crowd. As opposed to some of the other speakers, no matter how compelling in their own ways, she was not running for anything or from anything. She launched into some Texas talk, a mix of her own compassion and the unduly elected crooks she loved to skewer. Amiable yet rabble rousing, playing up the sway of her twang, yet steely eyed on the prize. She comforted us, the crowd, for being the salmon swimming upstream. And her camaraderie, her "audacity of hope" was the real thing.

Here is the essential, most admired and most valuable aspect of Molly's punditry: she realized that power is admired, especially in throwback, oversized, good ol' boy Texas, this most boastful of bass ackward states. Power is admired, no matter how you get it: rogues and wildcatters rule. So rather than build up a good ol' boy's own bluster by trying to overpower him, better to call the spade a fool. Better to make the back room boys out to be nothing more than juvenile delinquents. Molly said, "make the ridiculous look ridiculous," and therein lay her best voice and best advice.

Texas is a big state, at the top full of pomp and power. Wheeling and dealing here is big enough to be a danger to the world, but Molly helped make our political fortunes (or lack thereof) seem sillier and more beatable. With a now famous and still rare sort of swooning and loving sarcasm, she toyed with the selfish and the shrewd. She could turn a backyard bar-b-que into a global issue. She could make a campaign to rule the world seem like the Keystone Cops. Molly Ivins was our Mark Twain and our Dorothy Parker.

We needed her, and now we need a few more like her.

The Texas Observer was Molly's home in print. You can link to the Observer's eulogy via the great website Alternet here.


At 2/01/2007 10:46 AM, Anonymous mommytoast said...

A fine tribute to a fine lady. You caught her essence in just a few words. We will all miss her and what she so unflinchingly represented.

At 2/01/2007 11:09 AM, Anonymous RFruth said...

Democracy Now did a nice piece about her

At 2/04/2007 3:30 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Apparently Paul Krugman wrote a fine eulogy to Molly in this weekend's NY Times, so fine that Garrison Keillor recommended it specifically on "A Prairie Home Companion" Saturday. But you have to be an NY Times Select paying member to access it, so somebody please cut and paste it to me. Thanks. And meanwhile, I'm thinking maybe it would be better to change over to satire full time here at ABN. All this pitiably earnest seriousness is, as you may well know, so heavy handed and righteous it wears one out, whether author or audience. So SATIRE, sink or swim???


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