The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

THE GREATNESS OF SNUB POLLARD: We live in a fickle age, of course, where we tend to forget many a good man’s accomplishments almost before new grass grows on the man’s grave. It was always thus, I suppose, especially here in America, where a man’s accomplishments matter for little in this our that was yesterday what have you done for me lately attitude towards life. But this attitude, with its hint of rampant utilitarianism and uncorrected orthography, often cannot adequately describe the impact that a man’s life may have on others. In many cases, you find that the success or failure of a man’s life has little or nothing to do with a personal accomplishment, but in the example that he provides for others, or, sometimes, in the opportunity he provides other to do something of great merit. And so it was with the life of Snub Pollard.

We as a nation do not spend a lot of time thinking about Snub Pollard’s contribution to the commonweal, and perhaps it is best that we do not think about his contribution when we can be thinking of so many other things, like the price of tea in China, whether or not tanks should have kickstands, and why the members of the parking authority of the largest city in this county are a bunch of lying, thieving, semi-dyslexic rat bastards, of which more at another time. But let me ask you: you have, no doubt, at some point in your life, found yourself in a situation you are enjoying immensely, but you know that you have to leave because you have something else that needs doing and it won’t wait. You don’t want to leave, but you need to get a move on, just like Gene Kelly at the end of the Singin’ in the Rain sequence in the eponymous motion picture. The cop has stopped him, Gene sings the final little bit of the song, and then he hurries down the street, stopping only to give his umbrella to a man before the sequence ends and the movie goes to the next scene. The man Gene Kelly gives his umbrella to is none other than our hero, Snub Pollard, a great human being, a patriotic Australian, and the proud possessor of one of the most distinctive mustaches in Hollywood history, not that you would know any of that watching Gene Kelly palm off a used umbrella on the man and then depriving him of a screen credit.

We could all use a Snub Pollard in our lives, no two ways about it. Take my previous screed, for example. There it sits, gleaming electronically out at you, all two thousand and something words of it, sprawled all over your computer screen like an obese blue whale with a bad case of flatulence, gluttonously taking up bandwidth that al-Qaeda could use to advertise the next all-jihadi square dance and goat humping contest. Now, in the sort of pieces we have here at The Passing Parade, the rule of thumb is the shorter the better. This sort of thing ought to weigh in at between 750 and 1,500 words; any longer than that and the audience is going to get antsy and start wondering when this movie is ever going to end. But the previous rant came in at about 2,800 words, a veritable behemoth in this genre. Even if you took out the digressions, and let’s face it, most of these essays are overly digressive to begin with, it’s still way too long. I suppose I could have edited it down a bit, but frankly, I would have been better off if old Snub had shown up in the nick of time and given me an excuse to stop.

Many celebrities and almost all politicians have a Snub Pollard on their staffs. Not the great man himself, of course; Snub Pollard slipped off the banana peel of life back in 1962; but his spiritual descendant, who is usually a short, balding man whose mustache is not nearly as interesting as Snub’s, and whose sole task in life is to look at his watch in with ever-growing worry while the great man enjoys the applause of the appreciative and altogether ungrateful electorate, who will be calling the pol nine different kinds of son of a bitch the next day, which is all right, I guess, since everything our ward-heeling blowhard just said in his stump speech derives in some way from the D’Israelian trinity of lies, damned lies, or statistics, so the people who vote this schnook in will get what’s coming to them. Our Snub wannabe will tear what’s left of his hair out trying to get the solon off the stage and onto the campaign bus for the next round of rubber chicken dinners in Paducah, Podunk, and Poughkeepsie, no easy feat, as you might imagine, since the one thing politicians love more than power is the sound of their own voices.

This leads inevitably, of course…well, maybe you won’t think it’s so inevitable, but while we here at The Passing Parade respect your right to have an opinion about the inevitability of the next sentence, we must point out that we are, in no way, shape, or form, under any obligation to agree with you and your opinion about the next sentence, which should be starting any moment now…any moment now……any second now………very, very shortly…………these silences are always a bit awkward, aren’t they, I must apologize for the delay, I really don’t understand what’s going on here, it’s never really happened before, you know, at least not as long as I’ve been working here with Akaky and the rest of the lads, we’ve been like the Three Musketeers, you see, all for one and one for all and all that sort of thing, so I can’t imagine why the next sentence is not available at the moment to discuss today’s other exciting theme with you, the effect of higher gas prices on the moral fiber of modern American birds of prey, a fascinating topic I’m sure you are all fantastically eager to learn about, I know we here were all fascinated beyond words with the subject matter when the next sentence brought it up at a story meeting last week, and he was very anxious to get going on the subject so as to bring it to you this week, and I’m sure he will, just as soon as he arrives…

[A musical interlude follows]

"...once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tuckerbag
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Up rode the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred
Down came troopers one two three
Whose that jumbuck you've got in the tuckerbag
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong
You'll never catch me alive said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me..."

…I must apologize again for the delay, ladies and gentlemen, this sort of unprofessional behavior is totally unlike the next sentence, totally unlike him, you know, he is usually a solid, reliable, hardworking bit of English prose, a wonderful man once you get to know him, really, he’s just a bit shy at first with new people, as I suppose we all are, but really he is a wonderful man and a joy to work with, there must have been an accident on the train coming up from the city and I am sure he will be ready to go with that report just as soon as he arrives…

[music again]

"...the sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home
'Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom,
While the birds make music all the day;
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor,
All merry, all happy, and bright,
By'n by hard times comes a-knocking at the door,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night;


Weep no more, my lady,
Oh weep no more today,
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home,
For the old Kentucky home far away

They hunt no more for the 'possum and the coon,
On meadow, the hill and the shore,
They sing no more by the glimmer of the moon,
On the bench by that old cabin door;
The day goes by like a shadow o'er the heart,
With sorrow where all was delight;
The time has come when the people have to part,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night...


The head must bow and the back will have to bend,
Wherever the people may go;
A few more days and the trouble all will end
In the field where sugar-canes may grow;
A few more days for to tote the weary load,
No matter, 'twill never be light,
A few more days till we totter on the road,
Then my old Kentucky home, good night..."

…all right, look, I don’t think I am spilling any secrets here when I say that the next sentence is a completely irresponsible idiot who hangs onto his job only because his mother comes from the same village in Ireland as Akaky’s mother, and Akaky would prefer not having to listen to his mother screaming at him for giving the next sentence the metaphorical boot, but that’s just my opinion, you understand; I don’t have to put up with Akaky’s mom the way he and his brothers do, I just work here, after all, I show up, I do my bit, and then I go home to the wife and the kids, not at all like the next sentence, who, you will pardon me for saying so, is a lousy two-timing bastard who cheats on his wife on a regular basis, and I’m not kidding about that, either, just ask the first sentence in the second paragraph of this thing, he came into work an hour or so after closing because he forgot to bring his laptop home with him, and he finds the next sentence in the men’s bathroom humping the receptionist, you heard me right, he’s humping the receptionist and she’s only a couple of years out of high school, if that, I don’t think she can even buy a beer and a pack of smokes legally in this state yet, I mean, what kind of idiot pulls something as stupid as that, and at your place of employment, no less, and you know if the next sentence knocks her up she’s going to sue him and Akaky for every penny they’ve got, and Akaky is not exactly rolling in dough to begin with, you know, and another thing, I really hate the way that creeps sucks up to Akaky; I don’t mind an ass kisser, I really don’t, everyone’s got to kiss some ass these days, there’s no two ways about it, but a brown noser is something else again, and you’d think Akaky would pick up on it, but he’s being his usual obtuse self again, and I could tell you any number of stories about that aspect of working here at The Passing Parade, so the next sentence gets away with his blatant pandering to Akaky’s political and literary prejudices, particularly Akaky’s penchant for Proust and those damn Russians with unpronounceable names and Faulkner and Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, of all people, Thomas Wolfe, I mean, who even reads Thomas Wolfe anymore, that’s what I want to know, but what really makes my skin crawl is listening to the next sentence talk about Proust like he ever cracked open one of those ten ton tomes, I know I couldn’t so I don’t even pretend that I know what the hell the next sentence and Akaky are even talking about when they go on about this character or that one, the next sentence must have read the Classic Comics version of Proust, if there is such a thing, the cheesy bastard, he really is a contemptible swine, if you ask me, I know I wouldn’t loan him a dollar, you’d never see it again, that’s for certain…oh, he’s here, is he, and I trust he’s completely sober, or is that too much to hope for…ah…well, let’s have at it then; here it is, the next sentence (I’m going for a drink, I’ve had enough of this bullshit for one day, I am so outta here).

We live in an age of increased interconnectivity, when the symbiosis between the automotive and the avian is becoming ever more complete, and where such symbiosis causes much consternation and dismay amongst many environmentalists and conservative political activists…umm, why are all of you looking at me like that?


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