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..." "...it 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) akakyakakyevich@gmail.com

Sunday, October 01, 2006

NOTHING REALLY: We all have our vices—these failings are simply part of the human condition, I fear—and the worst of mine is an intense laziness ready to manifest itself at any time of the day and night. If there is a way of getting out of doing something, I will try to find it, and if I cannot find a way then I will use a tremendous amount of mental and moral energy inventing a new way of avoiding whatever it is that I don’t want to do this week. I dislike this part of my personality; sloth is not the most attractive quality you can have in our overscheduled, hyperactive, always up and at them modern American society, nor in any other time or place, either. It also leads to my always having things that need finished not getting done at all, or getting done at the last minute, when the hastiness of the result is evident to all and sundry. So it was with my 600th post here to The Passing Parade. I’ve already cut back on the number of original posts I do to almost one a week, and this past week I couldn’t even sit down at the desk long enough to bat something new out. I spent a good part of the week wondering what excuse I could give everyone for not posting something new when the Pope, God bless him, riled the always risible Islamic hornet’s nest and gave me an excuse to pull some old material out of the electronic graveyard. Serving leftovers all the time, however, is not a good idea; people will begin thinking of The Passing Parade as the rerun channel, and this is not a good thing for the long-term health of any blog.

In my defense, though, I must say that things have been singularly quiet here in our happy little burg, so there hasn’t been a lot to write about. This past week the city conducted its annual homage to the awesome power of Gina DiNapoli’s breasts* and the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for a pittance found itself at the center of a very small-scale art scandal. One of our local shockers of the bourgeoisie managed to do just that by hanging an American flag in our front window. This work came complete with a CD player wherein the observer could look upon the flag while listening to someone recite Walt Whitman’s I hear America singing, a poem written before the advent of American Idol and cell phones, and today, unfortunately, there is no one of Whitman’s stature to write the modern response, I wish to Christ I heard America shutting the hell up, for crying out loud. Most people did not know about the existence of the CD player, as that would necessitate actually coming into the building, and chose to base their perceptions on the flag itself, which the artist chose to reimagine in heavy plastic with green and clear stripes and a pink canton. This change in hue upset a good many local veterans, or at least a good many local veterans’ groups, which is not the same thing, who held that if red, white, and blue was good enough for them it ought to be good enough for everyone. So there was a fair amount of wrapping oneself in Old Glory this past week and some overheated rhetoric in the letters to the editor column of the local weekly, and as a result the flag now resides in a window down the street that does not depend on the taxpaying public for its bread and butter. I have no real opinion about this matter one way or the other, although this particular work hung in the reference room window for a couple of weeks. I did notice, however, that if you stared at the flag for a while, and then looked away quickly, you could see the Stars and Stripes in its original colors for a moment on your retina. As to the kerfuffle, well, a little patriotic outrage now and again isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and wrapping lame duck in a plastic flag will keep it fresher than wrapping it in tin foil will, so I guess we can all be thankful for the free cooking advice.

In other not so terribly important news, the director now has a pair of parakeets in her office. They are very nice looking birds, if you like parakeets, and they will form a very nice complement to the pigeons, sparrows, and finches that live in various parts of this place’s roof and façade. I don’t know if it is possible, but if our budget goes down next year as well, we could always investigate the possibility of reopening the library as a legally protected bird sanctuary. I suppose if we went whole hog on this thing, we could use some of our regular patrons as the wildlife and conduct photographic safaris for the tourists into the exotic and vibrant ecosystem we maintain here on Main Street, which would do wonders for our bottom line, I think. Nothing will come of this idea, of course; it would require the civil service to think outside the box, and if there’s anything that civil servants will not willingly do, not if their lives depended on it, is think outside the box. Ah well, it was a nice idea while it lasted.

*Since all attempts to actually make this link work have failed miserably, I am posting the piece about Gina and her most prominent features in the Blogger comments section. No one ever uses the thing and putting the piece there is more convenient for readers and for me as well.
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1 Comments:

  • At 10:28 AM, Blogger Akaky said…

    Well, this is just my opinion, of course, but I think that most commentators have not spent enough time noting the role of breasts in American civic life. Our local civic holiday is a good example of this. It is a day of parades and fun and food and music of all kinds; there is nothing quite as funny, I think, as watching Indian dancers trying to move in time with traditional Irish music, but they were good sports about the mix-up. The purpose of the day is to foster civic pride in our happy little burg, to put behind us the ugly racial tension that gave rise to the holiday back in the 1970’s, and to bring all of us together in a spirit of municipal brotherhood. The problem is, the official story about how that racial tension started (an argument about who paid to get on a carnival ride that got out of control, the argument, I mean, not the ride) is a lot of baloney. I was there, folks, and the racial tension mentioned had nothing to do with race and everything to do with Gina DiNapoli’s* breasts.

    The story begins in Catholic school, where Gina was a grade ahead of me. She was a tall, willowy girl, thin as the metaphorical rail, and something of a grind. Today’s kids would probably call her a nerd, I think, unless there’s a new word around that means the same thing. She studied hard, paid attention to everything the nuns had to say, and was always on the honor roll. Everyone liked her; she was always pleasant, but very frankly the more popular girls in the school didn’t even bother to give her a second thought; she was no competition. We parted company in the eighth grade; she went on to the local Catholic high school twenty miles away in the county seat, and I went to the local public high school, where, due to the concept of social promotion, they enrolled me despite my failing the eighth grade. And that, in the ordinary course of affairs, would have been that; I can count on the fingers on one hand the number of times I’ve met the people I went to junior high with since we left the place back in 1972. Gina’s case was not going to be ordinary, however.

    Gina got into the local Catholic high school because her grades were high and her parents could afford the tuition; even then, having a nun yell at you as your hormones raged was a bit pricey; and for the first year, or so I am told, there was nothing about Gina that would excite the least amount of interest from anyone. She did what she always did: she studied, she worked at her father’s store, she did her homework, she was quiet and respectful to the nuns, etc. etc. And then, in the summer after her freshman year, her father sent her to visit the relatives in Aci Castello, a small town on the outskirts of Catania in Sicily. She went there the tall, willowy girl I have previously described; she returned having put on a lot of weight. In short, she filled out and the history of our happy little burg would never be the same again.

    Now, the thing to remember is this: Gina was never an ugly girl—this is not an ugly duckling story at all. She was always attractive, but she was always one of those girls whose attractiveness has to grow on men because men, like the grotesque leering swine that we are, do not always appreciate brainy girls. As Dorothy Parker famously put it, “men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” When she returned from Italy, she was one of those girls whose attractiveness men appreciate instantaneously, grotesque leering swine that we are, and no one cared about her glasses. No one was looking at her eyes.

    I realize that sounds terrible, but the truth is that even with the best will in the world, even with the absolute determination that you were going to look straight into her eyes (and she had very nice eyes, too) and appreciate her as a highly intelligent young woman, you couldn’t help noticing that neither her eyes nor her intelligence were not the first things you noticed about her, her most prominent features being, as it were, extremely prominent. And Gina now realized that she didn’t have to play second fiddle to all those girls who’d been the queen bees in junior high anymore. I’m pretty sure they cut her to little pieces in smoking bouts in the girls’ room between American History and Pre-Calculus class, and a more insecure girl would have crumpled under the weight of the bitchy sarcasm, I’m sure, but Gina didn’t; she knew she’d hit the biological equivalent of the Megamillions jackpot and she didn’t need their good opinion anymore. She knew that all she had to do was crook her little finger and all of their boyfriends would come a-running after her like your friendly neighborhood loan shark after a deadbeat two months behind in his payments; men are fairly predictable that way.

    And so it came to pass that the Catholic high school sent its football team south to play our football team, which always poses something of a problem for the local kids who go to the Catholic high school; our local high school bears the name of our happy little burg, so the kids who go to the Catholic school must root against a team full of their friends and neighbors, opening them to serious charges of divided municipal loyalties. We lost that game, 21-7; we just weren’t that good that year; and we also lost our quarterback, Tommy Schmidt. Tommy spotted Gina in the stands and it was love at first and second sight.

    The problem was that Tommy already had a girl friend; he was the personal property of Kelly Myers, who was the homecoming queen and student president and a host of other things worth mentioning, but who was not, despite being a very pretty and pleasant girl, in Gina’s league at all. So the fight was definitely unfair, leading inexorably to a preordained conclusion: Kelly was out and she was not happy about it, but there was precious little she could do about it; Gina wanted a football hero and she got one. She could have gotten the quarterback on the Catholic school team, of course, but he was taken, and the girl who had him was one of Gina’s best friends, so he was off limits; whatever else you could say about her, Gina was loyal to her pals, especially the ones who’d been her friends before hormones had had their way with her. Everyone else’s boyfriend, on the other hand, was fair game.

    Watching Tommy those few weeks was something of a riot, since he was a guy’s guy, a real macho type, and seeing Gina lead him around by the nose was a major league hoot (all right, so it wasn’t his nose she was leading him by; the actual organ in question is not the point of the metaphor—get your mind out of the gutter, would you?). All good things, however, must come to an end, and after a while, Tommy started hearing the jokes his fellow jocks were telling about whipped guys and decided he didn’t like them much, so that began to poison the relationship. I think Gina was getting tired of him too; Tommy’s conversation didn’t veer much from football and cars; Gina liked both subjects, (she once changed a tire on my mother’s station wagon in the parking lot of our church, and did it better and a lot faster than I could have) but she had other interests as well. So, they were both looking to dump each other; it was only a question of who would do the dumping. The honeymoon was definitely almost over except for the shouting.

    Matters came to a head at the carnival aforementioned. Tommy was already going behind Gina’s back, trying to return to Kelly’s good graces, and somehow or other Gina found out about it. So one fall afternoon, they went to this carnival and while Tommy was off doing something else, I’m not sure what, Gina struck up a conversation with Shawn Jones, the captain of the basketball team. Well, the thing of it is, definitely almost over is not the same as absolutely definitely over, not by a long shot, and Tommy hit the roof and then hit Shawn, who’d come to the carnival with some of his friends, and one thing led to another and before you knew it our happy little burg had itself a nice little race riot going on. The cops broke it up, but at school the next day, the aggrieved parties decided they still had some pent up hostility to work off and went at it again. This time the principal called in the local cops and the state police to restore order in the halls. The state troopers came in, cracked some skulls and sent some kids to the hospital, and Gina DiNapoli’s ego got a pleasant stroking that week. The local TV news reported the thing in gory detail, although they left Gina out of it, since they couldn’t know that she was the cause of the whole thing.

    And so the stupidities of adolescence change, with time, into a civic holiday. The local do-gooder community, shocked by the racial violence, which was, in fact, just your usual youthful male testosteronic violence, implored the City Council to institute a holiday celebrating the diversity of cultures here in our happy little burg. They did, and from that day to this the people of our town join together and hold a parade and wander aimlessly from one end of Main Street to the other, buying a wide range of ethnic foods and listening to music from all over the world. For some unknown reason, the kids like to buy shaving cream on this day of days and spray each other until they look like mobile snowmen and Main Street smells like it just needs some hot water and a good aftershave to be ready for a great night on the town. I see Tommy sometimes; he didn’t marry Kelly but some girl he met while he was in the Air Force. I haven’t seen Gina in about ten years, so I can’t really say what happened to her. But we still celebrate the holiday she and her most prominent features started, and what more can anyone ask than that?


    *Names, but not ethnicities, have been changed to keep me from getting my ass kicked; some of the original people mentioned still live here.

    Originally posted 11/7/2005

     

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