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, October 22, 2011

UNCLE PADDY AND THE CRAPPING HAT, AND OTHER ADVENTURES IN THE UNKNOWN: As is well-known, which was something Soviet diplomats used to say just before they said something previously unknown to anyone not paying attention to what Moscow wanted that week, my Uncle Paddy wore a hat whenever he had to move his bowels. It was one of those Irish floppy bucket hats, the kind that the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, God bless him, used to wear all the time, and the hat even had its own peg on the bathroom wall, right there between the toilet paper and the towel rack. The hat never left the bathroom, except when Uncle Paddy went home to Ireland on his annual visit. I assume that the hat never left the bathroom in Ireland either, but I don’t know that for certain. I am also not certain about what the connection between headgear and colorectal activity might be, except to say that there must be one—a man of such stern common sense as Uncle Paddy would hardly wear a hat in such situations simply for the sake of style.

Much of life, it seems, is about the things that people do without some sort of reasonable explanation for why they are doing these things. With Uncle Paddy, and simply as a side note here I should point out that yes, a good many Irish people have uncles named Paddy; some stereotypes are vaguely true, even if you might wish otherwise; the thing was his hat and its alleged psycholaxative effects on his intestines. With other people the thing can be as simple as refusing to make the left turn just two hundred feet ahead of them when they can travel three miles to make a right turn instead, or as complex as collecting twelfth century Mongolian stone merkins for fun and profit. I am still pondering the hows and whys of that particular hobby, especially the whys, since I am not usually one of those people who waste a lot of money I don’t really have on something I don’t really need. For example, the government recently gave millions of dollars to a solar panel company that quickly went bankrupt, and now the government is both upset and surprised at the speed with which this enterprise tripped over the light fantastic and fell flat on its face. For the life of me, I cannot understand the government’s surprise at this; solar energy is a great idea if you live in a place with a lot of sunshine, but the further you get away from the equator you get, the less sunny the planet gets. You’d think that someone would have pointed out this particular fact to the government, a fact that I learned in fourth grade geography class from Sister Mary Agnes, who not only knew the capitals of every country on the planet but drove the school bus on class trips as well and knew how to bypass every pothole, traffic jam, and overly enthusiastic traffic cop in the City of New York, but you would be wrong. That the government could not figure this our from their own experience suggests to me that there are too many Hawaiians and south Floridians working for the Federal government these days and that the civil service would do well to recruit some Minnesotans or Montanans or even the odd North Dakotan or two in order to bring a different perspective to the work at hand. That so many allegedly smart people think that the four seasons is a pricey place to eat in New York or a set of concerti by Antonio Vivaldi implies, to me, a dangerous parochialism that is unbeneficial at best and harmful at worst with understanding the needs of the American people as a whole.

And then there is the question of women getting romantically involved with married men, a subject that has little to do with government waste or collecting twelfth century Mongolian stone merkins, but has something to do with the strange things people will do if you give them half a chance, which seems to have become the theme of this piece. For those of you involved in such a relationship, and you know who you are, you are the living breathing avatar, if that’s the word I want to use here, of Uncle Paddy’s crapping hat and the government loaning money to people who don’t know how to stay in business. The object of your affections is not going to divorce his wife to marry you, simply because the objects of his affections; i.e., the house, the car, the business, etc. etc. etc.; are all in his wife’s name and he’s not going to give up all of that just because you do whatever it is you do better than his wife ever did. Even if through some miracle, and I should point out here that hoping for divine intervention is probably a waste of time, given the Almighty’s clearly stated position on this sort of thing, your paramour actually did divorce his wife and marry you, what makes you think he’ll be any more loyal to you than he was to his first wife? He wouldn’t do that, you say, he loves me too much. Allow me to rain on your parade for a moment—why wouldn’t he do that to you? He loved his first wife too, you know, or at least he did before you convinced him to give her the boot. And he promised not to cheat on her too, and you already know how that promise turned out. You shouldn’t let your beating the astronomical odds in getting this cheating lout to the altar to cloud your judgment; you’re the old ball and chain he’s going to want to get away from now and don’t you ever forget it. Strange how life turns out, isn’t it?

Finally, we come to the question of Oktoberfest, which again doesn’t really have much to do with Uncle Paddy and his laxative headgear. My specific complaint about Oktoberfest arises from the apparent unwillingness of the German police to do anything about the growing tide of lawlessness at the event. I find it beyond monstrous that thieves made off with 150,000 one liter glass beer steins last year from the Oktoberfest fairgrounds, which in the interests of historical and lexicographical accuracy are called the Theresienwiese, after a 19th century Bavarian princess with a pretzel obsession, and the Bavarian police have done nothing to break up what is clearly an organized gang of stein thieves. In the United States, by contrast, the FBI cracked down on a ring of thieves boosting mountains of Styrofoam cups and plastic forks from McDonald’s franchises all over New York and selling their ill-gotten goods to Taco Bells in Connecticut. And only a few years ago, the Chicago Police Department arrested a man for stealing no fewer than nine hundred and sixteen deep dish pans for Chicago-style deep dish pizzas and selling them to a known organized crime associate, who for reasons best known to himself believed the thief’s story that the pans were hubcaps taken from foreign cars on Chicago’s affluent North Shore. But in Germany, a mountain of glass vanishes and no one in a position of authority seems to have noticed that a mountain of glass has vanished nor do these same authorities propose to do anything to prevent further mountains of glass from vanishing. Someone is not taking their job seriously here, folks, no two ways about it.

Could the German police simply not care about what happened to all of those steins? I hardly think this likely; 150,000 one liter glass steins filled, one presumes, with one liter of strong Oktoberfest beer in them amounts to a lot of drunk drivers on the autobahn and a lot of incentive to get rid of the hot glass quickly. I would think that the highways and byways of the Bundesrepublik would fill with crocked stein thieves hurling anathemas and evidence at each other as they competed like NASCAR drivers for the left lane in order to get out of Munich quickly and that the cops would favor a chance to round up these desperadoes in one fell swoop, but that does not seem to be the case.

I know nothing about the history of corruption in German police departments, but it seems to me that this would be a profitable line of inquiry for any ambitious young journalist out to win whatever the German equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize us. Such a malfeasant attitude seems a bit unnatural, at least to me, and I think the good citizens of Bavaria have a right to know whether or not the men and women sworn to protect them from such illegalities are in cahoots with glass thieves and stein smugglers. I can’t imagine why anyone would be in league with such obvious lowlifes, but then I have a hard time imagining why the Red Sox are in any league except the one in Van Diemen’s Land along with the rest of the hoodlums. I suppose that that is just a failure of imagination on my part. And it still doesn’t explain why Uncle Paddy needs to wear a hat in order to evacuate. Remember that? That’s what I was going to write about when I started this thing a few hours ago and I’m still no closer to understanding that than I am about understanding the rest of this stuff. So there.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

DEATH AND SCHOOL TAXES: Well, it's time to pay the school taxes again and once again I find myself wondering just what in the hell my money's going for. I don't suppose I'd object to paying the taxes if they uneducable dolts who infest the school buildings my money provides them actually learned something, but as we all know, the modern American school is simply a place to warehouse the young during the daylight hours so they can conduct their social lives with a minimum of adult interference and the modern American curriculum little more than a warm bath of politically correct verities that no one is allowed to question lest someone ask why aren't the kids getting a real education? Hence, my trepidation at paying for such nonsense. I would not mind paying school taxes if I could choose what schools got the money: I have no objections to paying for parochial schools or for schools of fish or even for schools that trained performing seals. In all of these cases the students actually learn something worth knowing. Parochial school kids learn their 4R's: reading, riting, rithmetic, and religion, although I suppose for the Roman Catholic kids religion and riting go together [yes, I am punning there, so kind of you to notice], as well as how to avoid mean nuns sucker punching you in a lunch line [yes, that hurts, especially when the nun in question wraps her rosary beads around her fist] school fish learn not to bunch together so closely, lest a whale whack them over their collective heads for lunch, and performing seals learn useful skills like balancing a beachball on their noses, which is a skill no one will pay an illegal alien for and guarantees the seal's long term job prospects in an uncertain economy.

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