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, July 05, 2014


And so the monsoon came to town yesterday, complete with intense flashes of lightning and downpours so tremendous that one could forgive an impartial observer for wondering if Noah and the Ark would be floating down Main Street any time soon, and, if so, would they stop at Subway’s to pick up some sandwiches for the wife and the kids and the two of every sort of creature that walketh or creepeth upon the face of the Earth as they headed off towards the mountains of Ararat?  The wind howled in a suitably gruesome manner and the sky turned black in the middle of the day and all the denizens of our happy little burg trembled under the fury of the storm.  And then, of course, there were the people who braved the wrath of nature and went forth into the storm in order to get a gallon of milk or a pound of ground chuck at the supermarket, brave men and women who refused to bow down before dictates of nature but who wandered out, umbrellas in hand, leaving this observer to wonder just how much of a dumbass do you have to be to go outside in a thunderstorm holding a metal spike in the air?  First, when the winds are lashing around at about sixty miles an hour your umbrella is not going to help you; it will not even make an adequate sail, should you find yourself in a situation where you need an adequate sail.  I’m not saying that will ever happen in real life, you understand, but it might, and an umbrella that the wind has turned inside out is worse than useless.  It won’t keep the rain out of your face and it certainly won’t help shield you from the rest of the elements, which, I have noticed, tend to be fairly nasty during these meteorological temper tantrums.  Sec0nd, during the aforementioned meteorological temper tantrums the abundant lightning whips about striking both willy and nilly, deep frying them to a golden toasty brown. Given this, I repeat my previous question: why are these dolts going outside holding a metal spike in the air?  To me, this appears to be almost suicidal behavior, almost as if these poor saps were volunteering to have Nature in all her mystery and majesty remove their clearly bargain basement chromosomes from the gene pool in as expeditious a manner as possible.   While I am all for improving humanity and its morals, this appears to me to be a very short-sighted, if not more than vaguely painful way of accomplishing this altogether laudatory goal.  Wouldn’t all of these people be much better off if they simply stayed indoors until the storm blows by and then go out for a gallon of milk?

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pot shot

"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.." The former junior senator from Illinois, bloviating on January 21.

Why not, I wonder?  He does it all the time and he seems to be doing quite well with the strategy, unless, of course, this is not a strategy but rather an example of what the psychologists call projection, wherein one imputes one's own faults and shortcomings on to someone else. In either case, it hardly seems fair that He gets to project stuff and the GOP does not, and since fairness is the great mantra of the Illinois Messiah and His minions one would expect that conservatives would sue this maladministration for violating our equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment. I don't think it will happen, though; the trial lawyers are on His side. Such is life, I fear.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mr. Wilson, call your office, or let's kill young Dennis the Menace

Well, the weather outside is frightful, just like the song says, and it is Christmas time here in our happy little burg and it’s warm and cozy in the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread. Yes, mothers and their little kids are coming into this dump and the kids are happy and red-cheeked and it’s all really enough to make you want to puke, especially when people who are old enough to know better bid me a good morning.  You’ll pardon me for pointing this out, but it is not a good morning, unless you’re a penguin or one of that increasingly small group of people who think that contracting pneumonia is a fun way to spend your free time.  I don’t mean to sound snappish, he said, lying through his teeth, but people who wish me a good morning when it is clearly not a good morning have a way of getting on my nerves, but I assume you’ve already surmised this.  I also think that I should not have to point out to people who are old enough to know better that their spawn, who are clearly not old enough to know better, cannot use this already more than vaguely annoying workspace to scream, shout, throw stuff, and hit each other over the head with heavy objects until the blood flows and stains the carpeting.  I know that these kids are too young to go to school, but I think that it is incumbent on parents to let their small children know that if they want to do this sort of thing in public then they will have to wait until they are old enough to go to school, where such activities are not only allowed, but in the current educational climate, actually encouraged.  Until then, my desk is not the infield of a pre-K track meet nor is anyone trapped in this place by economic necessity interested in hearing little Johnny’s imitation of a fire alarm.  Tell the kid to can it, dammit!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Something to think about

Maybe it’s just me, or maybe I’m just not being cynical enough, which is always a possibility these days, but I assume everyone has noticed that while Mr. Akin has clearly shown that he is an idiot, he was, until recently, a relatively obscure Congressman running for the Senate in a state that most media types do not pay much attention to.  On the other hand, Mr. Biden has also clearly shown that he is an idiot, but the disapprobation does not seem nearly as severe or the media focus as intense, and yet he is only a heartbeat away from becoming the President of the United States.  Given the relative importance of the positions the two men are running for, one would think that the media would give more weight to Mr. Biden’s remarks than Mr. Akin’s.  After all, should the voters raise Mr. Akin to the office of United States Senator, he will merely be one idiot among many, whereas Mr. Biden will still be only a heartbeat away from the Presidency.  Something to think about, isn’t it?

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

It is the day after St. Patrick's Day, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, shaking, or otherwise mixing drinks of any kind, for all the little drunks are now too hung over for words to describe. This is a good thing, I think, primarily because young persons do not learn anything unless the anything involved hits them very hard on their incredibly obtuse skulls. This is a lesson that most educators do not grasp fully. Your average teacher still believes that he or she is preparing young minds for the future, whereas your average American high school is simply a very large warehouse where civil servants can collect large paychecks and where the hormonally engorged can conduct their social lives away from their parents' supervision; if someone actually does learn something every once in a while, this is nice, to be sure, but not terribly germane. For this crowd, this is why St. Patrick's Day, or St. Paddy's Day, as they prefer to call it, exists. The day exists so that they may leave their suburban warrens and descend upon the great metropolis, eager to suck up any alcohol they can get their hands on, sit on the big rocks in Central Park, and smoke pot, if alcohol is not immediately available. They won't spend any time, if they can help it, actually watching the parade, although in their defense, I must say that watching oddly dressed pedestrians strolling down the street amidst a self-generated megadecibel cacophony loses interest after a while; said cacophony also damages your eardrums. But they don't forget the patron of the day, the reason that they are wandering around the streets of the metropolis in a drunken stupor. No indeed, scarce five minutes went by yesterday without at least one of these bright young cretins shouting, "St. Paddy's Day! St. Paddy's Day!" This announcement of what everyone already knows was almost inevitably followed by the pronouncement, "I am so totally fucking wasted!", which was also something everyone else could figure out for themselves. It has been a while since I attended Catholic school, and no, I am not going to give a specific figure for just how long a while it has been, but as I remember it, the importance of Patrick came from his conversion of the Irish from paganism to Christianity. I am sure if the central tenet of Irish Christianity was "Let's get hammered" one of the nuns would have told me so. Or maybe I was just sick that day and missed the class. That's always a possibility, I suppose.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

TAUTOLOGY RUN RAMPANT: Americans are stupid. I know this because Bill Maher tells me so and if Bill Maher tells me so then it must be true. Why are Americans stupid? I don’t know, but Bill Maher is a wealthy man and reached this happy state by telling Americans how stupid they were and if Americans are willing to pay Bill Maher good money for telling them how stupid they are, then Americans really must be stupid, as otherwise all those stupid Americans would be ignoring Bill Maher entirely and he would have to do something else for a living, like peddling hot dogs on the streets of New York or selling life insurance to jihadis and their families.

UPDATE: Something new tomorrow, folks, I promise.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: All right, I lied. I am trying to get this thing typed and just as soon as it is, I will post it. I promise, sideways, sort of.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

WHY I DO NOT DRINK: Many of you have read the first part of this screed about a year or so ago, when I posted this here in a different form. I was recently asked, however, how come I do not go to church as often as I might; that part of this screed is an attempt to answer that question, so for those of you familiar with part one may want to skip down to the part you haven't seen yet. Enjoy your holiday!

There are, I suppose, a good many reasons to avoid both drinking and churches. One might be a teetotalling atheist, for example, although the problem I have always had with atheists, whether they are teetotalling or positively blotto six days a week and twice on Sunday, is that I can find no credible proof of their actual existence. There are plenty of atheists on television these days; one can hardly turn on the TV nowadays without someone or other peddling their newest atheistical tome and proudly proclaiming their disbelief, daring the Almighty to strike them down with a well-placed thunderbolt for their blasphemy, but you only see these people on the television, and I hesitate to point out that I also see Lucy Ricardo on my television and I know that she’s not real, either. If they want me to believe in their untelevised reality then they will have to come up with some better philosophical argument than their saying that they exist. The Bible says that God exists too, and you can see how much ice that argument is cutting. The other problem with TV atheists is that all they want to talk about is God. If I wanted to talk about God as much as they do, I would just go to church and listen to an expert on the subject. I mean, really, whose medical advice do you trust, Hawkeye Pierce’s or your family doctor’s? No, the reason I avoid churches is that bad things happen to me in churches. It has always been that way; on my next birthday, I’ll turn 50, and yet for large numbers of my friends and relations, I will always be the boy at the wedding.

Now, you must understand that I do not remember this incident at all; it happened when I was three or four years old and like a lot of stuff that happens to you at that age, it has long since vanished from the conscious memory. My parents went to a wedding with two of my brothers and me; the youngest two brothers hadn’t arrived yet. The wedding was a pretty standard one, as weddings go, or so people keep telling me. It was hot that day and, in that era before the ubiquity of air conditioning, the front doors of the church were open to catch the breeze, if there were any breezes available to catch. The happy couple were up at the altar getting ready to exchange vows when the youngest brother at the time, the Navy lifer, although at this time the Navy was still a future prospect and not something he was actively seeking out, rolled his big red fire truck up the main aisle of the church. My mother was embarrassed at this behavior, as you might imagine, went up the aisle to retrieve the brother.

The brother did not wish to return to the hard pew or be quiet; small children are uniformly uncooperative in such matters; and when presented with a physical attempt to remove them from where they want to be, they squirm like grafting pols caught red-handed in mid-peculation on 60 Minutes. He also did not want to leave his fire truck in the middle of the church’s main aisle lest some grown-up decide to appropriate the toy for himself. Small children regard all adults except their own mothers as untrustworthy at best and potential felons at worst, and the brother decided that he wanted his fire-truck back before some larcenous adult made off with it. The brother squirmed for all he was worth; he did not want to leave that fire-truck; and suddenly broke free. He ran down the main aisle, with my mother in hot pursuit. He grabbed the truck, stared wide-eyed towards the back of the church, and loudly announced before God and the assembled congregation, “Look, Mommy, Akaky wee-wee.” At this stunning piece of news the congregation, the wedding party, the bride and groom, and the priest all looked to the back of the church to see just what was going on back there.

What was going on is fairly simple to describe, since people have been telling me this story for most of my life. While my mother went up to collect my brother the Navy lifer and my father talked politics with the person sitting next to us in the pew I had taken the opportunity to wander outside and was, at that very moment and purely in a spirit of theological and scientific inquiry, urinating on a statue of the Blessed Virgin and trying to see how high I could get the stream to go. I was about to inundate the Holy Mother’s knees when my mother grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me off to one side of the church so no one could see her not spare the rod on my backside.

The story lives on, of course, and if everyone who has ever told me over the years that they were in the church that day had actually been in the church, the place would have to be the size of Yankee Stadium. I don’t remember any of this at all, neither my excretory assault on the statue nor the spanking afterwards. I am told that it caused a huge sensation in the church followed by waves of hysterical laughter, so much so that the priest held the wedding up for fifteen minutes so the bride could go into the sacristy and redo her makeup. Apparently she cried so hard her mascara ran down her face and she needed to clean up so as to look presentable in the wedding pictures.

As for the not drinking, well, that happened a few years later, when I was about twelve or so and on the cusp of adolescence, an always precarious place to be. At that age you want to try new things, experience new sensations, and one of the best ways of doing both, I found, was to raid my father’s liquor cabinet when no one else was around. It was Easter Saturday when disaster finally caught up with me. My father brought the brothers and me to church so that we could go to Confession, and when we were done confessing our sins and saying our penitential prayers my father brought us all home, whereupon they all disappeared like wallets at a pickpocket convention, leaving me with the unenviable task of clearing out the gutters. I did not want to clean gutters, but my mother was going shopping and she wanted the gutters cleared by the time she got back and she made it plain that she would brook no opposition to her desire for cleared gutters. So, I went and did it. Clearing gutters is not fun at the best of times, but clearing gutters when the leaves in the gutters are wet, sticky, and both loathsome and noisome to behold is just disgusting, and I was incredibly happy when I tossed the last of that vile-smelling gunk over into our neighbor’s heavily wooded back yard. Then I went inside, where Nemesis awaited me.

At first I resisted the siren’s call; I wanted to clean myself up first, but the impulse to taste some of my father’s brandy got the better of me and so I hied me hence to the liquor cabinet, where I took a sip of his good brandy straight out of the bottle. Then I took another sip…and another…and another…and another…until I had sipped about half the bottle away. Realizing the sudden fall in the brandy level might cause some consternation should someone notice it, I immediately raised the level to its pre-binge point by pouring grape soda into the bottle, which I reasoned was, like brandy, made out of something reasonably grapish and so would cause no notice should someone decide to have a brandy that day, which was not likely. My father was not a drinker and he only opened the liquor cabinet for St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s, so I had about eight months to come up with a convincing story explaining how come his good brandy tasted like grape soda. After I covered my tracks, I went into the living room and flopped down on the couch to read the local paper. They were running a story on the dangers of teenage drug abuse, especially, as I remember it, barbiturates, and I read the story with great interest.

It was at this point that my mother came in from shopping. We said hello, and she told me later that I appeared fine to her at that point. She went into the kitchen and asked if anyone had called and I said not a soul called, not even my aunt Ellen, who telephones complete strangers at all hours of the day and night and keeps them on the phone for hours at a time while she complains about her health and how her evil guttersnipe children (they’re actually very nice, for relatives, that is; it’s just that she really is that much of a pain) were driving her to the poorhouse, and then my mother asked me to put the toilet paper in the bathroom. I said okay; I always try to be accommodating; and started into the kitchen.

The reader will have to take this next part on faith, since I don’t remember any of this at all, given the total blackout I was then operating in. I remember getting up, and then the veil descended. It appears that I staggered into the kitchen, took the toilet paper, and then staggered again into the bathroom, where I promptly fell face-first into the bathtub. My mother, frightened by this unexpected turn of events, came into the bathroom and asked if I was all right. I said I was, and then attempted to tell her what I’d just read in the paper about the dangers of barbiturates; what I actually said was Reds…reds…reds... Apparently, I was not clear in my explanation, because once my mother deduced that I was not talking about the threat from the international Communist conspiracy or the eponymous Cincinnati baseball team, which, for those of you who don’t follow such things, is the oldest professional baseball team in the United States, beginning its first season in 1876, she thought I had actually taken some barbiturates and immediately called for an ambulance. I was not happy about this and I must say now that I am glad that the only thing I hit with my Little League Louisville Slugger was the kitchen table and the living room wall and that no emergency medical technicians were injured trying to get me into the ambulance. They succeeded, of course, without too much bother; I was having gravity and balance issues at the time and so posed no real threat to anyone except myself.

Upon arrival at the hospital, the doctors pumped my stomach, something I would have preferred them not to do, as it revealed the full extent of my crime to all and sundry, including my waiting and anxious parents, who, afraid that they had a drug overdose on their hands, found to their chagrin just another drunken Irish-American roaring boy and therefore nothing to get really worried about. My brothers tell me it was incredible the way the emphasis shifted from anxiety about my health to outright anger about how much my little hospital jaunt was going to cost them. Parents can be like that, I hear.

And so the conquering debauchee returned home, draped over his father’s shoulder while this very same father announced to the entire neighborhood his son’s transgressions (Neighbor: Barney, how is the boy? Father: the little son of a bitch is drunk, that’s all; nothing wrong with him otherwise). And then I was washed in cold water like colors and then in hot like whites, none of which made any impression, and then I was parked in a chair and left to sleep it off.

The veil ascended and the fog cleared in the middle of the Mary Tyler Moor Show. I came to with a splitting headache and more than a little surprised that my hair, which had been dirty, was now clean; it’s strange the things that stick in your mind, isn’t it? The other thing that sticks in the mind is the reproachful glares of my mother and the snickering of my brothers. My response to both glare and snickers was to deny I was or had ever been drunk. It’s not much of an excuse, I know, but I didn’t know about my stomach being pumped at that time and so total denial of everything seemed a good idea until I could figure out what the hell was going on. Much of life, I’ve found since then, is just making it up as you go along and denying everything is usually a smart idea, except, of course, if you haven’t had your stomach pumped first.

The next day was Easter Sunday and I spent the first few hours of the most important day in the Christian year kneeling in peristaltic penance before the toilet, convinced that there were large groups of malicious people inside my head trying to get out and using whatever power tools were at hand to accomplish just that. It amazed me then, as it does now, that I was able to think at all, much less that there was still anything in my system to spew forth, given the pumping I’d gotten the day before, but the proof of the pumping was in the bowl. At the same time, I now reeked like the Bowery was my home address, the sour stench of alcohol exuding from every pore no matter how hard I tried to wash it off. I tried to get out of going to Easter Mass, telling my parents that I was too sick to go, but I noticed that my father was controlling his temper and I quickly backed away from what I still feel was a reasonable request. My father’s reaction, though, convinced me that this was probably not the best time to bring the subject up. My father seldom controlled his temper; displays of wrath were fairly common when I was growing up; and so we knew that when he controlled his temper it was because he was mad enough to put his fist through one of our heads. As much as I wanted the people inside my head at the time to stop banging, I didn’t want it that much.

My father’s one concession to me that day was his letting me sit in the back of the church, on a folding chair next to the table of the guy who handed out the church bulletins. That way I had a clear run at the bathroom, if I needed to use it. I remember that Easter Mass primarily as a horror of heat and the heavy scent of flowers. The church was packed with people and the closeness and the smell of the flowers and the heat made me incredibly nauseous and caused the sweat to pour off like I’d sprung a million little leaky beer taps; even with the smell of the flowers I can still remember the people standing in the back behind the pews sniffing and then looking at me strangely. After the passage of several years, during which time neither the Yankees nor the Cubs won the World Series, the destiny of man on earth was not affected in any way by the rise and fall of the price of tea in China, and tone deaf dwarves played Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen backwards using kazoos and whoopee cushions, the Mass finally arrived at Communion, which for most of the parishioners means the end of Mass, since the partaking of the Body of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was and still is, I’m told, followed by a hundred yard dash to get to the parking lot and on the road before the inevitable traffic jam begins. Religion should be inspirational, I think, and there’s nothing more inspirational than beating the traffic.

I just want to say, at this point, that going up to Communion was not my idea; my father made me do it. All I wanted to do was to get out of the church and into the fresh air as soon as possible, but the sight of my father looking at me like Abraham getting ready to sacrifice Isaac (or Ishmael, if you prefer) and not at all keen to take up the Lord’s offer of a free ram instead of the son convinced me to head up to the altar rail. I remember people looking at me oddly in my sweat-soaked blue suit and my distillery stench, and I remember Monsignor Riordan look at me even more oddly, as if he couldn’t make up his mind to give me Communion or not, but he did and moved on, casting a frown my way as he went down the altar rail. I blessed myself and stood up, and then foundered in a tsunami of nausea. I realized, to my horror, that I had no time to stand on ceremony, and so I bolted down the main aisle, almost knocking some of my classmates over as they waited on line for the Sacrament. I had to get to the bathroom, there was no denying the urge, I had to get there, I had to make it, I had to make it…

I didn’t make it—I threw up in the baptismal font in the back of the church, heaving the transubstantiated Body of Christ into the holy water as if He was in a huge hurry to get out of such a low rent personage as myself. This was an especially poor choice of receptacle, as a young couple was standing next to the font waiting to have their first-born, a boy, baptized, the mother reacting to my defiling the holy water with a loud scream. I felt the outraged young man punch me in the ribs, which knocked the breath out of me for a moment, and then he tried to pry me away from the font; I still remember him holding me by my shirt collar and my choking because he’d cut off my windpipe. Then my father, as he was wont to do in situations like this, knocked the guy on his ass and dragged me out of the church. I don’t remember how my mother and brothers got home from church that day; I was too busy getting my ass kicked from one end of the house to the other and back again. Pop wasn’t happy that day, not at all.

Since that day, then, I have avoided strong drink and churches, the first because I don’t like the feeling of not being in control of myself, and the second because embarrassing things happen to me on a regular basis in churches and I would just as soon avoid these situations whenever possible. I do resent the fact that my brothers, who have found themselves in the drink taken more than once since then, will bring this discreditable tale up whenever they need a good laugh, even though that was the last time I ever got drunk, but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about this now except live with it. It happened and they’re never going to let me forget it. Having brothers can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes. I did go to my father’s funeral Mass, which was in the same church as my misadventure all those years before and I managed to get through the Mass without embarrassing myself. I noticed on the way out that the baptismal font still has a big spot where my stomach acid ate away the finish on the stone. I don’t know why seeing that spot cheered me up; just a reminder of my father in the good old days, I guess. And I occasionally see that young couple whose son’s baptism I so rudely interrupted; I think they’re Presbyterians now.

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