There are lies, damned lies and statistics. Lies, damned lies and public relations. Lies, damned lies and politics.
Then there are simply lies.
Like the ones told by the best liar I have ever known, a newspaper reporter named Jim Cook. We worked at The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, across the Colorado River, which always flows – unlike the Hassayampa River, up north in the Arizona hills where I’m from.
Mostly, the Hassayampa was dry. At one time, Jim said, it was full of rare fish, called sand trout. “A flash flood killed the last school.”
As a journalist, Jim prided himself on accuracy, until he realized it had drawbacks. Most often, he said, the plain truth was – well, plain.
He moved to a town called Wickenburg and founded the Institute for Factual Diversity. He appointed himself the official state liar and published a newsletter, the Journal of Prevarication. He also wrote books: Arizona Liar’s Journal, The Arizona Liar’s Almanac and Dry Humor: Tales of Arizona Weather.
When he was growing up, many Arizona crossroads, like Wickenburg, were so small, he wrote, that “the town limit signs were on opposite sides of the same post.” In one place, the Fourth of July parade was so short it had “to go around the block and come back through downtown to make it look longer.”
Jim said Arizona was so dry that when Noah built his ark the state got less than two inches of rain. “It was dry that year,” he said. “Lord, it was dry. You had to spit three times to hit the ground.”
He wrote about his older brother, Big Jake, who “was the first lumberjack in the Petrified Forest.” Jake’s goal in life was to establish the Arizona Dust Storm National Park. Mudslides are rare in Arizona, Jim said, “and very dusty.” Jim also wrote about boogie bushes (meanderos adios), which move from place to place looking for wetter places to extend their roots.
Arizona is dry because it’s warm. One summer in Phoenix, Jim wrote, the sidewalks got so hot that “my shadow got up and walked alongside me. . . . Even the nights are hot. We have to use moon block if we go out.”
Arizona’s heat, of course, comes from an abundance of sunshine. There is so much, Jim said, that sundials run 30 minutes fast.
The state doesn’t switch to Daylight Saving Time. It tried one year during the 1960s, “and the daylight we saved that year is still stored in big warehouses on the desert near Yuma.”
But up in the hills, it can get cold. “I have seen a cup of coffee freeze so fast,” Jim said, “that when we thawed it out, it was still hot.”
And the wind blows. “Winslow is the windiest town in Arizona. [It is] the only place where the Weather Service rain gauge is mounted horizontally. . . .
“Once it got so cold in Winslow that a lawyer was seen with his hands in his own pockets.”
Jim Cook turned lying into an art. “One dismal day I caught myself telling the truth, but managed to lie my way out of it. . . . ”
Arizonans appreciated him. Californians are different. They never lie.
After I crossed the Colorado River to work at the Los Angeles Times, I wrote about Jim Cook.
I quoted some of these things that he said and wrote.
A reader accused me of inventing him.
Nope. No lie.
The Last Laugh:
“MOSCOW (The Borowitz Report) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that he was “saddened and hurt” that Donald J. Trump had asked a different foreign country to meddle in a U.S. election. “I thought when it came to election meddling that Donald and I were exclusive,” an emotional Putin told reporters. “This feels like a betrayal.”
– From The New Yorker
Meyer is the senior editor of Blueprint. He has been a White House correspondent and national news features writer for the Associated Press and a roving national correspondent and editor of long-form narratives at the Los Angeles Times.