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, August 23, 2008

CALIFORNIA SHAKING: I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about a whole lot of things. There are only so many hours in a day and you can only think about so many things in those so many hours before you want to stop thinking and watch television. This seems to be true everywhere; even with the advent of our new postmodern information society, which allows more people to think about more things that most people couldn’t care less about one way or the other than ever before, most people will reach a point of data overload and will start tuning out. This is as true for me as for anybody else, so on the odd occasion when something on the information superhighway comes along and manages to pique my interest, I tend to spend more than the usual amount of time mulling the subject over than most people I know. The recent earthquake in California is a case in point. We all know that there are earthquakes in California; that is not the issue here. I am simply wondering just why it is that all these earthquakes must be San Andrea’s fault and not the fault of some other deserving saint.

As far as I can tell, and I should mention here that I have done absolutely no research on this and so I am entirely ignorant about what I am talking about, the better to hold a strong opinion on the matter unsullied with mere information, San Andrea, the biblical Saint Andrew the Apostle, never, in all of his missionary travels preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the benighted lower classes of the heathenistic Hellenistic world, set foot in California, an equally heathenistic country chock full of benighted lower classes, although with better sanitation, and in all likelihood could not find California on a map of the United States, an ignorance of basic American geography that the blessed saint shares with millions of American schoolchildren. Even if he had known where California was, it would be extremely unlikely that he would ever have gone there, what with his driver’s license expiring early in the year XXI. It does not do for saints to be wandering up and down the Pacific Coast Highway with an expired license; while not a cause for scandal in the theological sense of that much abused word, it does tend to promote bad driving habits and a fundamental disrespect for both canon and traffic law. Driving without a license also jacks up your insurance premiums once the cops pull you over and discover that you can’t legally drive in the Golden State. All around, it is not a good thing to do.

In any case, not much is known about Saint Andrew the Protocletos, which means the First-Called and is not, as I first imagined it to be, the scientific name for a small and not particularly bright species of dinosaur. According to the ancient sources, Andrew was the first called primarily because he was the first person in that area of the Galilee to get a cell phone and unlimited minutes for his calling circle, something that helped keep the Apostles in touch as they wandered around ancient Israel together healing the sick and raising the deadbeats and then calling; you just know when some guys have nothing but a pair of deuces in their hand and are just trying to bluff you out of the pot. This is, in fact, one of the few things we know for certain about Saint Andrew. Most of what we do know comes from the Gospels themselves—we know from the Gospels, for example, that Saint Andrew was the brother of Saint Peter—and from some newly translated documents pulled out of the remains of an old Coptic monastery at the Nag Mefurmoni archaeological site in Egypt. In 1976, a team of archaeologists from Harvard working on a two year project for finding new ways to loot the Harvard endowment discovered, quite by accident, a treasure trove of early Christian documents and Red Sox memorabilia at Nag Mefurmoni, a small desert outpost only a hundred or so miles from Cairo. The stunned archaeologists, who’d spent most of the dig working on their tans, literally stumbled across an ancient library under the spot they were going to park their Port-O-Potty, a library that included, amongst other things, a carbon copy of a hitherto unknown Gospel according to Andrew and Andrew’s Epistle to Saint Barney the Barman, along with Barney’s reply. Barney’s reply contains one of the first complete examples of a Christian catechism ever found, as well as a request that Saint Andrew settle his tab and, in the margins, some professional tips on how to make the perfect Harvey Wallbanger. This epistle never actually reached Saint Andrew, though, as Saint Barney neglected to put a stamp on the envelope and so the epistle never left the Nag Mefurmoni post office; apparently, the post office clerks just tossed the screed into the undeliverable file, along with all those letters kids wrote every year to Santa Zeus. But in all of those documents, however, there is not one mention of California, earthquakes, kids wearing pajamas to school, or why anyone should hold Saint Andrew responsible for these phenomena.

Saint Andrew is not the only saint to have such uncanonizable faults attributed to him. Saint Vitus’ dance, for instance, is a disease in which the sufferer moves, jerks, and makes wild involuntary spastic movements reminiscent of the worst excesses of the acolytes of Isadora Duncan on speed, whereas Saint Vitus himself preferred the minuet and the occasional foxtrot to keep things interesting. Saint Elmo’s fire is not really a fire at all, a fact once explicated on by the American theologian Rob Lowe, and Saint Elmo had no more to do with the eponymous unfire than did Saint Kermit, Saint Oscar the Grouch, and Saint Demi Moore.

So why Saint Andrew? No one knows, as far as I can tell. Theories abound, of course, as they always do, and some of them are more nonsensical than others, as they always are. This is the way of the world; in the wake of any great disaster, someone will have to say that it must be somebody’s, anybody’s, fault, although it actually helps if the someone you’re trying to pin this thing on is either a Jew, a Jesuit, or a Mason. If you can get someone from all three groups and the CIA involved as well, so much the better for your theory. This has actually been going on for quite some time now. For example, the Inquisition blamed the 1755 Lisbon earthquake on the malign influence of heretics and was all gung-ho to give a few of them the permanent hot foot just as soon as they found enough of them to barbeque. The king of Portugal was having none of that, however, and told the inquisitors that he had to feed the living and bury the dead, tasks that left little or no time for pressing people as to whether or not they believed in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Mass executions of apostates, while an edifying and altogether wholesome spectacle for the entire family, would have to wait for another time. The inquisitors left the royal presence deeply annoyed; in every crowd, there’s always one killjoy who spoils the fun for everyone, which is something I’m pretty sure you’ve already noticed by now.

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