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The Life Of Riley

January 5th, 2013 by Magdalena Tabor
It occurred to me the other day that while many are living the good life and so many others do without, the once oft use phrase “The life of Riley” is rarely, if ever, heard these days. Serendipitously, as is so often the case, it was suddenly mentioned while watching (what else) PBS in which the woman was heard to mutter, “Life of Riley”.  I wondered who this Riley character was and what popularized him and his idyllic lifestyle. What research I came up with sums up the fact that since no direct reference is made to any one particular Riley, the name was chosen merely as a generic one.
The first mention of the phrase appeared in a 1911 Hartford, Connecticut newspaper announcing, “Bullet Ends Life Of Famous Wild Cow”. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a wild cow. In my ignorance I assumed they were all domestic. The cow, it seems, had been living “the life of Riley” after ravaging the fields of farmers the whole year, much to their chagrin as they could not get the animal under control. The fact that Riley is associated with a cow makes perfect sense to me. Think of it. Doesn’t the fact that your boss arrives considerably late each morning, spends the remainder of the day with the door to his private office closed (which causes me to believe he is not working), has his lunch delivered by one of the office staff, who then leaves early and doesn’t bother to come in on fridays (are we done yet), make you think, “Why, he’s living the life of Riley, the cow“. And this is just the working (term used loosely) class. What about the priveleged few?
In the popular PBS series Downton Abbey, cousin Matthew, the newest member of the stinkingly rich Crawley clan, stands to inherit the family fortune. But he’s just a regular guy who came from nothing (don’t let the English accent fool you). At the expansive length of the dining table, he mentions something about his weekend. Elderly aristocratic cousin Violet asks in all innocence,  “What’s a week END?” To go a step further, Violet’s response to another family member’s grumbling to her lot in life is to say, “Don’t do that. It’s so middle class”. So be it. I will grumble because I’m not even living the life of Riley’s long lost third step cousin twice removed three times around the block.
So there you have it (or don’t), the life of Riley in a nutshell with the 18K gold nutcracker.
So…………………whadayathink? Are you living the life of Riley? Is your pasture greener than the one on the far side of the hill? When, not if (I’m cautiously optimistic) I win Mega MIllions, I’m changing my name to (you guessed it) “Riley”.  Somehow “The life of Tabor” just doesn’t have the same zing to it. Although, we could start a whole new trend and put that Riley guy to shame.
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