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, November 20, 2011

OWS IT GOING, AND IT SHOULD GO FASTER: I suppose it had to happen sooner or later, and like all such phenomena bound to happen sooner or later—things like root canal with inadequate anesthesia, an IRS audit with an incompetent accountant, or having a pack of starved hyenas devour your intestines while you watch come immediately to mind—most of us here were hoping that this would happen much, much later rather than sooner. Alas, like all such hopes, it was not to be. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea, let’s go to press: the headline today—THE OCCUPY WALL STREET MOVEMENT HAS COME TO OUR HAPPY LITTLE BURG!!!

None of us is quite sure why these people came here in the first place; our happy little burg is not a center of global capitalism by any stretch of the economic imagination. Neither are we a hub of global political power nor do we have any sites of world-shaking historical importance. In short, nothing has ever happened here that would cause anyone to want to occupy us. Given these facts, most of us here assume that the occupiers tried to shut down the Vampire State’s rail network and wound up on the 9:27am train by mistake. Having gotten here, we think they just decided to occupy whatever was nearby, one place being as good as another. At least, that’s what makes the most sense to us.

At first, no one knew what to make of them; a good many people thought the circus had come to town, while most others paid them no mind at all. The occupiers arrived on the day of the Homecoming Parade and the good folk of our happy little burg have little inclination to listen to the woes of the starving upper classes when there is something as important as high school football going on. But the high school kids, as inclusive a bunch of teens as you’d ever care to meet, God love them, told the occupiers that they could march up Main Street with the rest of the parade. And so it was that the occupying movement came to town, marching behind the flatbed truck with the junior varsity team on it and chanting slogans when they weren’t diving for the candy the JV team and cheerleaders threw to the kids on the sidewalk. The occupiers even tried to shout down the high school’s marching band as they passed the reviewing stand, but that was always going to be an exercise in futility. As is the case with most high school bands, our band does not play well, to put the matter politely, and therefore compensates for their lack of any discernible musical
talent by playing their instruments very loudly, in the hope that volume will cover a multitude of musical sins. It doesn’t, not by a long shot, but everyone pretends not to notice.

And this worked, for the most part, our local gendarmerie reporting only one untoward incident during the Homecoming/Occupy Our Happy Little Burg Parade. The incident occurred as the occupiers marched past Don German’s Hair Cut & Hand Gun Emporium. As the occupiers went by, Don German Martinez Rodriguez, the proprietor of the establishment, started shooting at the occupiers with a 9mm Glock automatic pistol. Apparently, the sight of so many Che Guevara tee-shirts angered Don German no end; Don German is a native of Havana and regards the words Fidel Castro, Satan, Communism, and several words referring to the reproductive and excretory organs of the human body not merely as interchangeable cogs in the great machine of the Spanish language but actually the same thing. Given this background, it is not surprising that Don German has no use for the late Mr. Guevara or any of his tee-shirt wearing acolytes either. The occupiers scattered when the shooting started, scattered at slightly less than light speed according to some people who saw them scattering, most of them convinced, no doubt, that their short sojourn outside the comforting cocoon of blue America had led them into the more unsavory parts of Deliverance, and they all looked a bit sheepish when they realized that the spectators were laughing at them. Don German may have wanted to kill large numbers of godless Communists, but his wife, the always formidable Dona Carmen, always makes sure that her husband’s personal Glock is loaded with blanks. This is something of an open secret hereabouts, with no one telling Don German so as not to offend his sensibilities; even the cops know about the blanks, which is why they did not arrest Don German or do anything to stop the faux fusillade. A man waging his own personal crusade against the forces of communistic evil does not want to think that his own wife is sabotaging his efforts in order to keep him from hurting himself and others; some things are too galling for a proud man to think about and this is one of them.

As the occupiers passed City Hall Park, they veered off in order to get themselves organized, to the extent that a mob of anarchists can call itself organized, and while they were there discussing how to organize themselves someone made the decision to occupy the park and there stage their protest against whatever it is that they are protesting against. I wish I could give a more accurate description of their cause or causes, but most of their demands struck me as a sort of Anarchists for Greater State Control of Damn Near Everything, which causes the same cognitive dissonance in me that watching a fat man about to undergo his fifth quadruple bypass operation celebrate the culinary joys of eating six Big Macs a day with the accompanying supersized order of French fries and a vanilla shake does. It could happen, I suppose; French fries are a good thing, except when the kid at the fryer overcooks them. There are people who enjoy burnt to a crisp fries, but I am not one of them.

The occupiers reached City Hall Park at about 1:30 in the afternoon and began their drumming almost immediately; percussion seems to be a distinguishing characteristic of this generation of revolutionaries manqué; and they kept up the banging until they realized that there was no one around to listen to the banging. For those of you who do not keep up with these dispatches from our happy little burg, let me repeat a point I’ve made before: the crew of wise yet peculating malfeasants who govern this place do not meet in their chambers at City Hall, as the building itself is a local symbol of just how dumb politicians can be if you give them half a chance. No, our local mob of solons meets and governs, if you can call it that, our town from the much more congenial environs of Gallagher’s restaurant five blocks away. The only city employees who use City Hall on a semi-regular basis are the cops, who use the holding cells in the basement when there isn’t enough space for the local criminal element in the men’s room of Dunkin’ Donuts, the police department’s unofficial headquarters on South Chapel Street. As the local criminal element isn’t very big, the cops don’t need those cells very often.

That, I think, is what brought matters to a head in the occupiers’ encampment. They were prepared to endure the oppression of the fascist police and the moral opprobrium of the employable classes, but not the complete indifference of the denizens of our happy little burg. Clearly, they had to do something to shock the citizenry out of our false consciousness and into a more revolutionary mode of thought. To this great end, the general assembly of the Occupy City Hall movement decided that the first step to raising our collective consciousness would be for the movement to leave City Hall Park and occupy Johnston Field instead. For those of you who neither know nor care, Mr. Hastings P. Johnston was a prominent local businessman and former mayor of our happy little burg, and we can skip the rest of the biographical details; he is important here only in that you should know that our high school football team plays its home games at the field named in Mr. Johnston’s honor in 1955.

Having successfully covered the distance between City Hall Park and Johnston Field in the time it took me to write the previous paragraph, even if they did go a block out of their way to avoid Don German’s establishment, the noisome mob of occupiers pushed their way past the front gates and into Johnston Field without paying the three dollars admission, unfurled their banners, and marched past the goal posts in the visitors’ end zone and out into the red zone, chanting ‘we are the 99%’ and ‘whose field…our field!’ Some of their number headed directly for the refreshment stands and demanded free food from the cafeteria ladies, whose cooking at the football games is always much better than it ever was in the school cafeteria, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me again.

This intrusion of the profane into the sacred space of high school football caused the reaction one should expect in all cases where the profane intrudes upon the sacred—there was a long, a very long, moment of stunned silence as the gathered worshippers attempted to process the enormity of the blasphemy the occupiers had committed in front of them, and then let out a prolonged shriek of outrage and horror that did affright the very air of our happy little burg. A moment later the supporters of both teams poured out of the stands in a great raging tsunami and onto the field, there to beat the crap out of those obnoxious little punks.

The lead element of the occupiers had just reached the thirty-five yard line when the first wave of our stout yeomen fell upon them. The results were not, by any standard, pretty. The violent among the occupiers—the anarchists, the black masked communists, the nihilists—a cohort used to dealing with the professional repression of the police, tried to resist as they took the full weight of the assault by flag-bearers, parents, children, Republicans, two chapters of the Knights of Columbus, at least one Elk, football players, the high school marching band, with the sousaphone players doing good service that day, cafeteria ladies, and orthodontically perfect cheerleaders with big breasts and pom-poms, but ultimately failed. Confronted on all sides by symbols of AmeriKKKan imperialism and corporate plutocracy, the occupiers cracked and ran for their lives. I heard that some of these poor benighted wretches didn’t stop until they reached the river and then they tried to swim over to the slough of urban despond directly across the river from our happy little burg. It was a good thing that someone had the common sense to call the Coast Guard and have these dopes picked up out of the river; I don’t think the fish care to have the occupiers in their river, fish having better taste than some people I could mention.

In a related bit of news, there are seven occupiers missing in action, or so the occupiers claim, and they claim that the police are holding them incommunicado. This is not true, as our local constabulary couldn’t find incommunicado on a map if their lives depended on it, and in the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I did see some of the cafeteria ladies dragging some occupiers onto a school bus and then beating them senseless in there. I suspect that these are the same people the occupiers claim the police have stashed incommunicado, although I also suspect that the people involved would rather be in a cell somewhere. I always wondered what the mystery meat in the cafeteria’s meat loaf was when I went to school; the general opinion of the student body at that time was that the gray pulpy stuff under all that ketchup was stray cat, dog, or possibly even rat meat. This generation of high school students will be getting something a little bit different for lunch, I guess.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

WHAT TO DO TILL THE COWS COME HOME, OR OUR BOVINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES: I don’t know about you, but I wonder sometimes where the cows have gone to when someone tells me that I can wait till the cows come home. I never thought of cows as being a particularly adventuresome lot; they strike me as being a sort of homebodyish species, if homebodyish even counts as a word, and not at all given to the sorts of adventures your average American bison might think normal. And I know that cows used to have all sorts of adventures out West; like any American boy of my generation, I grew up watching my share of John Wayne movies and so I saw the Duke and his troop of cowboys move cows from one place to another more times than I can remember right off the top of my head.. But I didn’t really think about where the herd was going and neither, I suppose, did the herd. It’s bad enough to get a bit part in a Hollywood epic when you have bigger plans for yourself; finding out that you and your part, and your parts as well, get smaller and smaller in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle would really be upsetting, especially since the hero of the story isn’t you but some dumb Lithuanian who should have stayed away from Chicago if he didn’t want the forces of inhumane capitalism to oppress the hell out of him in the stockyards. Still, at the beginning and end of the process, you would still get some screen time—first, as one of Wayne’s stampeding herd; no cowboy epic is complete without the cows go wild like girls on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras and run off in all directions for no apparent reason; and second, as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in a McDonald’s commercial; but in the long run it’s probably not much of a consolation one way or the other. Nobody really wants to grow up to be a comestible, no matter how much of an American staple you may be.

In the time between their birth and human digestion, however, the cows must go somewhere or otherwise you wouldn’t have to wait for them to come home. And given that there’s always a bit of a wait involved, those cows must be off doing something interesting while they wait for their number to come up in the abattoir. I haven’t seen any statistics on the rate of bovine tourism recently, but it seems to me that this must be a growth industry, especially for travel agents whose traditional business has suffered so much from the Internet. For travel agents cows are the perfect customers; they prefer to travel everywhere in groups, which means a big commission for the agent, and to date no computer company is offering a keyboard big enough to accommodate hooves, so unlike humans, cows have nowhere to go unless they book with an agent, creating a win-win situation for the agent looking to expand his customer base beyond the usual computer illiterates.

So where do cows go on vacation? As they are herbivores, I like to think that they are drawn to pastoral scenes, to places like Gettysburg, for example, where they can walk the paths of heroes and calmly graze on the vegetation in the Wheat Field and the Peach Orchard and contemplate the sacrifices made for liberty in those hallowed places. Or they might go on genealogical expeditions out to the West, seeking out the places where their ancestors made the long drive north along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Abilene. The movie fans amongst the herd could even point out the points of cinematic interest, the places where John Wayne or Randolph Scott almost lost the herd in a great stampede, or where the Indians or cattle rustlers tried to use the herd as a shield to creep up on the heroes and do them in [this rarely worked, of course; the cows would get nervous and stampede and the only person the bad guys would actually kill would be the cook at the chuck wagon whose food nobody liked, but who would go down defending his lousy beans and grits in a blaze of gunfire and culinary glory like a true American hero]. The calves might even do a re-enactment of a great stampede if they’re in the mood for it, although I imagine that their parents would probably tell them to stop running around like crazy kids before they hurt themselves; parents are like that, you know.

How the cows get from the one place to the other, I couldn’t really tell you; it strikes me that cows are great hikers, so they might choose to walk the distances between the sites of particularly interest to them. Hiking is good exercise, no two ways about it, and cows can eat whatever is growing by the side of the road so they don’t have to factor in the cost of restaurants in their travel budgeting, and let’s face it, nobody likes having to factor in the cost of tips for bad service; it’s one of the really annoying things about any kind of travel planning. Hiking also lets your average herd of cows to get off the interstate highways and really see the country up close and personal, something too few people do nowadays, and lets the herd avoid the embarrassment of having the TSA feel them up at the airports. Cows are sensitive that way.

In the end, I have no objection to cows going off somewhere every now and again. Travel expands one’s horizons, leads to greater understanding of the world and one’s place in it, and for the cows, means putting off the day when they wind up on the ineluctable bun with the side order of French fries. What I do object to is my having to put my life on hold until they get back from their gallivanting about. I see no particular reason why I should have to wait for the cows to come home to do anything I think necessary, nor do I ever remember voting on a proposition that gave cattle the right to be the final arbiter of what I do with my time. I’m sorry, I realize that this is very small-minded of me, but sometimes a person has to be small-minded. If you don’t look after your own interests, no one else will look after them. That’s just the way things are here in this our Great Republic.

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