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)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

WHERE THERE'S A WILL: Well, all things being equal, I can now die happy, I’m told, for I have, after much intense familial pestering, made out and signed my last will and testament. The family has been after me for years to make out a will, for reasons I’m sure I don’t want to think about at the moment, and for years I’ve put them off with the same story about not caring about what happens to my stuff after I’m gone; I’ll be dead, what difference will it make to me one way or the other? I always thought that this was a reasonable position, because let’s face reality, a will does absolutely nothing for the person making it out. You can hardly leave all your earthly goods to yourself, even assuming the Hindus and the Buddhists are right about reincarnation, and even if they are, do you really think your relatives would give you your stuff back once they get their hands on it? And don’t even think about your relatives’ complaints about having to pay your death tax; this is most definitely not your problem, if you give the matter any thought; you’ll be dead—it’s not like the taxman can dig you up and go through your pockets looking for the money, can he? And if he does, will you care?

So I have given in to the ceaseless nagging about my not having a will and made one up. Yes, I can now rest in peace assured that the court-appointed legal jackals of the Vampire State will not divvy all my worldly goods and chattels (I did not know I had chattels until I got involved in this whole will business, but apparently I have a whole herd of the things, and me without a Stetson or a six-shooter anywhere on the premises) amongst themselves, leaving my poor family in the streets to beg passersby to take pity on their poverty and give them a pittance for their daily bread. Now if there was some way of making sure my family couldn’t have my stuff either, I’d be a really happy corpse. But there is a benefit to having a will, of course; if nothing else, your will is the last chance you’ll ever have to let those nearest and dearest to you know what lousy bastards you think they are.

Yes indeed, once you’ve passed over to the other side, you don’t have to keep your opinion to yourself for the sake of family peace; you can finally sound off about those mooching deadbeats and get even with them, too. For years they’ve fawned all over you to your face and stabbed you in the back whenever they could, and now, there’s nothing they can do to you except hope that you didn’t find out about them bringing up your unnatural craving for eating loganberries while wearing purple socks all over town. Yes, suck up won’t help them at all now, will it?

Still, I don’t have a lot to give away in the first place. There are my cameras, which are junk, mostly, my car, which is eight years old now, and my house, which I left to the two brothers who don’t want it. On the one hand, though, is the brother who does not want the house but who will not sell it because the house is our childhood home, and on the other hand is the brother who will try to turn the house into a down payment on a Mercedes-Benz before I start to rot in the coffin. This should prove interesting, as well as more than a little gruesome, I think, something like a Eugene O’Neill epic of family dysfunction crossed with a steel cage match starring pro wrestlers and Teamster union organizers with bowie knives and flamethrowers. I’ll be sorry to miss the fireworks, or I would be, if I weren’t already dead when the festivities commence.

For all the equanimity we can bring to family nagging once we are dead, however, for the living, nagging is a never ending annoyance and we must, like caribou diving into lakes of ice water to escape the mosquitoes, do something, anything to get the relatives off of our backs and to buy some psychic peace of mind. So a few weeks ago I hied me hence therefore to the family lawyer’s office here in our happy little burg, there to apportion out my worldly goods. As I mentioned previously, there’s not a whole lot to apportion, but I liked sitting the lawyer’s meeting room for the while I was there. It was a classic lawyer’s meeting room, with the long table and the legal pads and the walls lined with shelves of law books, all of it designed to give the person frightened about giving their collection of priceless 17th century left-handed Albanian accordions, the product of a lifetime of ceaseless work and worry, to their feckless grandchildren confidence in the power and majesty of the law. Then you look at the name of the state on those books, realize that the proscriptions contained within are the product of your very own state legislature, a collection of some of the most incredibly venal and warped minds any state could produce in a year of Sundays, and then you bid good day to one and all, go home, and smash all of your accordions to bits before you let your idiot grandchildren or their moronic lawyers get anywhere near them.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any accordions, Albanian or otherwise, in my house; all I have is the house, which I can hardly burn down with all my stuff and my mother still inside. I suppose I could take the stuff out, but Mom doesn’t want to go, not when she can stay and bug me about my not finding a nice Irish girl and getting married. I thought that the nagging would end once I signed the will, which I did today for the price of three hundred dollars, or a hundred dollars per page, which is more than I’ve ever gotten for writing three pages of anything, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards now; the pestering has simply moved on to another subject. There ought to be a law against moving pestering from one topic to another, and maybe there is, for all I know, but I don’t think I can afford another three hundred bucks just to get the thing enforced. Life is like that sometimes…maybe I’ll feel differently about it all when I’m dead. I can only hope.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A GREAT DAY FOR THE IRISH: Saint Patrick’s Day has come and gone for yet another year, as it is wont to do at about this time, and the cause of Irish liberty from the tyranny of the knuckleheads continued unabated this year as it has for the past I don’t know how many years. I went down to the parade in the great metropolis, there to photograph the goings on, or so I told myself. I don’t often get to the metropolis; I think this was the third time in eight years—Midtown is a place I go, on the rare times I do go, in order to cultivate and indulge my inordinate fear of heights. I went with my sister in law and her brood of nieces and nephews, none of whom I sold for organ transplants. I think very highly of myself for not selling them off for spare parts, given their repeated provocations. They are children, or so people keep telling me, and therefore we must make allowances for their behavior. The next time this happens, though, I’m selling them, if not for organ transplants, then for hot dogs. There’s plenty of those dirty water dog salesmen who’d be more than happy to take the little wretches off my hands.

But I digress. St. Patrick, for those of you who may not have heard, was a British boy kidnapped by Irish pirates in the fifth century, escaped from them after six years of watching their sheep, an unattractive job given that sheep, as a rule, tend to be lousy conversationalists and smell bad to boot, and returned home, there to become a priest and eventually a bishop. But he never forgot Ireland and the Irish, much as he might have tried, and he soon he received a call from God to return to Ireland and convert them to Christianity; whether the Almighty chose to use Sprint or Verizon for the call is lost to history. That the Irish had no burning desire to be Christians at that time did not trouble the Lord or Patrick one whit; if converting the heathen depended on what the heathen wanted at any given moment, nobody would be a Christian or a Democrat today and large numbers of cannibal tribes all over the world would have starved for want of a juicy missionary (preferably Southern Baptist or Assemblies of Christ—for reasons that do not bear examination they taste the best, while Dutch Reformed and Presbyterians taste the worst. There’s something about Calvinism in all its guises—one suspects the malign influence of predestination—that adversely affects the taste of the missionary) to tide them over the rough economic patches.

But be that as it may, Patrick did return to Ireland, and in one of the greatest works of conversion in history, managed to convert most of the population before he died on 17th March 493. In all of that time, though, most historians agree that St. Patrick never wore a funny hat, unless you count a bishop’s miter as a funny hat and, let’s face it, many people do, and he certainly never wore a tall green hat that said Let’s Saint Party Dudes or Erin Go Braless, which, while certainly ecumenical in their spirit, do not really embody the Christian message of faith and salvation that Patrick was trying to impart to the Irish. As with these young dopes, Patrick was not always completely successful in getting the Irish to understand the fine theological points of the Christian faith. There was, for example, one tribal king who boasted that he had killed one man every day of the week for many years until his conversion to Christianity, whereupon he killed one man on every day of the week and then two on Saturday, so as to avoid profaning the Sabbath. Clearly, cultural lag was a problem that Patrick had to deal with, but what is remarkable about the man is that he did what he set out to do and he did it without the use of force. Patrick did not have an army to enforce the Irish to comply with Christian doctrine; he had to convince them that Christianity was a better idea than their old ways.

And so he did, not that this mattered to the young dolt found on the station platform here in our happy little burg with beer in a bottle of Pepsi. There is something a bit unseemly about anyone so young drinking beer before nine in the morning, I think, and only someone so young and already three sheets to the wind would try to convince a cop that he was, in fact, drinking a Pepsi. In a sober state, the young man would have realized that while Budweiser and Pepsi are both liquids meant for human consumption, they do not share a common color, a fact known to a good many policemen. In short, in order for this subterfuge to work, our young bacchanalian should not have tried to transport Budweiser in a clear bottle of Pepsi. The Metro-North police officer, no doubt a man much acquainted with beer in all its guises, did not believe the young simpleton’s story for a New York minute and the beer made its probably predestined way from the bottle unto the train tracks, to the great consternation of the young man and his friends.

I did not see this young man again, but I did see thousands more like him. I also watched the beginning of the parade, or rather, I watched the backs of the heads of people watching the backs of the heads of the people watching the backs of the heads of the people actually watching the parade. And I certainly heard the beginning of the parade, with its pomp and circumstance, bagpipers and drums; no one except the profoundly deaf could have missed the opening. But even after the crowd thinned just enough to let me get up to the front, I did not stay for long. Watching uniformed pedestrians only has so much in the way of entertainment value, even if you toss in the baton twirlers and the bagpipers, and I think it says a lot about a culture that thinks an instrument that does a credible impression of a hog screaming in pain is in some way musical. There are no Mozart concertos for the saxophone, you know, primarily because there were no saxophones when Mozart lived; Antoine Sax hadn’t invented his eponymous horn yet; but the bagpipe did exist when Mozart was alive and for a long time before and after he was alive too, and there are no Mozart concertos for the bagpipe, either. There’s a reason for that, I think. People neither need nor want musicians to remind them of how their sausages get that way.

So eventually we wondered away from Fifth Avenue, in order to provide sustenance for the horde of related only by marriage munchkins and to watch the hordes of green-clad knuckleheads who’d come into the city to get drunk. Many had already succeeded, like the dolt behind me that insisted on shouting, St Patrick’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, over and over again in my ear while I was trying to buy myself a pretzel, as if the rest of us didn’t own a calendar or couldn’t figure out for ourselves why a lot of fat guys in skirts and funny hats were causing a racket while walking down the middle of Fifth Avenue.

After buying the mob of not really related to me kids hotdogs and sodas, we all toddled off to Bryant Park to consume them, where the littler ones the sis-in-law put on the carousel while I tried to keep the bigger ones from drowning each other in the fountain. They stopped long enough to watch two Chinese guys scream at each other at the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue. This lasted about ten minutes or so and drew the attention of most of the people in that area of the park. To be honest, I was hoping that the two guys would start beating each other’s brains out; I am easily entertained. But they didn’t; either they weren’t interested in pursuing the argument or they wanted to go march in the parade, but after a bit they decided to go their separate ways without letting anyone know what the contretemps was all about in the first place.

All good things must come to an end, however, and eventually we returned to Grand Central, there to return to our happy little burg. The knuckleheads had not arrived in force, but there were enough of them, including one so totally wasted he couldn’t get off the train under his own power and whose friends were going to leave him on the train. He staggered forward at the last moment and tripped and fell on nothing at all, a problem many intoxicated people face. A young woman in an NYPD Police Academy uniform had to keep him standing upright for long enough for her to get the dummy off the train. As we pulled out of the station, everyone onboard the train got to see this young dolt laying face down on the platform with his friends standing around him laughing like crazy at his predicament. For all I know, he and they are probably still there and this was only around five in the evening. I don’t really want to think about the kind of night the conductors had when the rolling tide of intoxicated adolescents showed up later that evening in full puke mode.

And so it went, the great day for the Irish. I suppose you know your ethnic group has made it in America when you can indulge grotesque ethnic stereotypes in public and no one bats an eye about it, even in these politically correct times. It was a bit of a disappointment too; I really wanted to see those Chinese guys beat the crap out of one another. You can’t have everything, I guess.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

AND THE WINNER IS...: My apologies for the prolonged absence; I have had to endure a spasm of work-related activity these past couple of weeks. In addition to that, I am having an allergic reaction to something in my house; the rash is gone now, for the most part, and the hives have gone from being the size of baseballs to the size of dimes. They itch about the same, though.

In any case, I haven’t had much time to think about anything profound these past two weeks or so, so let me go out on a limb and engage in political prophecy. Come the Democratic convention in Denver in August, the junior Senator from New York is going to offer the junior Senator from Illinois the vice-presidential nomination. At this point, I don’t see either of the two candidates going to the convention with a majority of the delegates, which means that the super-delegates and the Florida and Michigan delegates will provide the margin for victory. The problem with the junior Senator for New York’s winning with these folks is this: the supers are party insiders, and the Florida / Michigan delegates don’t count, at least as the rules stand now. Those two states moved their primaries to an earlier point in the calendar in violation of Democratic Party rules and both campaigns promised to honor those rules. Indeed, the junior Senator from Illinois’ name did not appear on the ballot in those states. But his opponent needs those states to win now, and as those of us who have been watching the lady and her husband’s careers for some time now know, they will do anything to win, even if it means changing the rules in the middle of the game.

The problem with winning this way is this: it alienates the young, the more affluent, and, most importantly, the black vote. If the lady chooses to win in this manner, then there is no way she or any of her supporters in the African American political elites can explain her victory to the vast majority of black voters as anything other than a white woman using her position as a party insider to rig the vote and so steal the election from a black man. This, after the hopes raised by her opponent’s powerful rhetoric, will lead to an inevitable letdown, if not outright anger. Black voters may not vote for the senior Senator from Arizona, but they may decide to sit this election cycle out and not vote at all, which amounts to the same thing. In our 50/50 nation, any large disaffected group can sway an election one way or the other, and the gentle lady from New York cannot have any swaying in any of her core constituencies if she is to have any chance of winning. The only way to inoculate herself from the charge that she got the nomination in a backhanded fashion is to have the junior Senator from Illinois on the ballot with her. And that is my prediction for this month, boys and girls. Come back next month when I intend to do the Bible Code and Nostradamus one better by predicting the outcome of the Olympic water-polo event using the December 1956 edition of the Reader’s Digest as the basis of my prophecy. Now I will go into a trance, the better to divine the future and to ignore that damn rash. OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

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