Truth is overrated.
Most of the time, it's boring. "The wind blew." So what?
"It blew so hard I saw a chicken lay the same egg twice." Really?
Sometimes telling the truth is necessary, but most of the time the plain truth is just that: plain. It is better to lie.
I was reminded of this the other day when I came upon an obituary, published nearly two years ago, for someone I admired. His name was Jim Cook. He worked at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, where I landed my first newspaper job.
Jim was a gentlemanly, painstaking reporter who wrote with the grace of a slumming angel. He was bulletproof accurate. Finally, however, he began to realize that veracity had limitations. He left Phoenix for the town of Wickenburg and founded the Institute for Factual Diversity.
Its purpose was to shed the shackles of fact and expand the truth.
Jim Cook appointed himself the official state liar.
His legacy is a trove of essays about Arizona, a place he loved. Jim's words are worth reading. They offer insight into his state and its humor for people here in California, just across the Colorado River, but as different from Arizonans as bourbon is from creme de menthe. For one thing, Californians never lie.
Jim published a newsletter, the Journal of Prevarication, and several books, including "Arizona Liar's Journal," "Arizona Liar's Almanac" and "Dry Humor: Tales of Arizona Weather."
"When I was a kid," he wrote, "the Painted Desert was still white sand with numbers on it." His family was broke. In fact, he said, "we were so poor that our pancakes only had one side." The Cooks lived in a house trailer. It was so cramped, "we had to go outside to turn around."
"I spent most of my youth alternating between Phoenix, which was then a small city, and much smaller places," he said. "In one place, the town limits signs were on opposite sides of the same post." The Independence Day parade was so short it had "to go around the block and come back through downtown to make it look longer."
When Jim moved to Wickenburg, he lived not far from a dry river called the Hassayampa. ("Legend says he who drinks from the Hassayampa will never tell the truth again.") One day, he said, an Arizonan returned from a visit to New York. A friend asked what he thought of the Hudson River. "'Couldn't tell much about it,'" the Arizonan said. 'It was full of water the whole time.'"
The Hassayampa was once the habitat of a rare fish, the sand trout. "Successful fishermen often used water for bait," Jim said. The sand trout became extinct in 1947. "A flash flood drowned the last school."
Arizona is so dry that when Noah built his ark, the state got only 1.75 inches of rain. "It was dry that year," Jim said. "Lord, it was dry. You had to spit three times to hit the ground."
The state is parched because of its extraordinary warmth. "During recent summers in Phoenix, the paving was so hot that my shadow frequently got up and walked alongside me."
"Even the nights are hot. We have to use moon block if we go out."
Yuma is the worst — "hotter than $2 brake pads."
"Did you know that our dairy cows give evaporated milk?"
In Yuma, "Baptists give out rain checks for total immersion."