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)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ecclesiastes tells us everything we need to know about life, except how to cure the common cold

First, I want to make clear that this is not the piece that I promised to post in the previous post; the material is still fighting me and yes, it is getting more than a little annoying at this point, but things are what they are and when the thing finally gels I will put it up here PDQ, as my grandmother used to say, may she rest in peace. No, this thing is just a screed about adult coloring books. Now, you may not believe this—I know I didn’t when I first heard about them—but adult coloring books are a thing nowadays. I have seen them. They exist. They do; I am not kidding. The adult coloring book is not terribly different from the coloring book we all knew and loved when we were all about five years old and going to kindergarten.  The outlines in the book are a bit more complex than the ones we filled in when we were kids; there are no happy little bunnies or cute little kitty kats in the adult coloring books; and instead of using crayons to fill in the blanks one uses colored pencils (isn’t that racist? Shouldn’t it be pencils of color?), which allow, I would imagine, a much finer degree of control over where the color goes than a crayon or a magic marker can. The principle, however, is the same: it is a coloring book.

In related news, and I will tell you how this news is related in just a moment, the Census Bureau announced recently that the Millennials have finally passed in absolute numbers the great bulge in the American demographic python that is the Baby Boom Generation.  In addition, the number of Generation Xers will pass the Boomers sometime in 2028, proving yet again, as if the fact needed proving, what a bunch of slackers the Gen Xers are.  The Boomers will not go quietly—there will be plenty of kicking and screaming; the one thing that the Boomers could always do well is throw a magnificent tantrum—but The Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes that one generation passeth and another generation cometh, and there will be no exception for the Boomers, no matter how much the spoiled senile delinquents insist on staying.

In short, the Boomers are entering their second childhoods, assuming, of course, that they ever left their first childhoods. With Boomers, this can be hard to tell. One would think that it would be impossible to generalize specific characteristics across an entire generation; some members of the Greatest Generation were not so great, some members of the Silent Generation were not so silent, and not every Millennial is an ill-informed doofus…well, maybe that’s a bad example; but most Boomers (specifically the Boomer I cohort of 1946 to 1955) are self-absorbed, egocentric dolts that never grew up (I blame drugs for this, especially weed). If you are one of these Boomers and you feel that this description does not describe you, that you are a functioning adult that long ago left the 1960’s behind and have moved on into the broad sunlit uplands of adulthood, then I apologize to you for the insulting description and I congratulate you for your acceptance that being a mature human being is not a fate worse than death, but let’s face reality: you’re a freak. 

So, we have adult coloring books and cable channels catering to the Leave it to Beaver nook in every Boomer’s soul and now dating sites on the Internet where the Boomers can go and find other Boomers with whom they can relive the happy years of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out without all the teenaged angst. We must endure commercials for CD collections of the Boomers’ favorite music, followed by equally endless commercials for prescription drugs that promise to keep the Boomers reasonably healthy in their second childhoods. Frankly, it all gets to be a bit much after a while.  Is it too much to ask some people to just grow up already and act their ages?  

Apparently, it is, and I am sure that because it is, somewhere in the deepest recesses of the Census Bureau there is joy abounding and happiness without limit, as the numbers finally show, after more than seventy years, that the most egocentric and annoying of American generations is finally beginning to go away.  I would imagine that the Census Bureau already has several cases of champagne on ice in the basement of its Maryland headquarters, stored there to help their long-overworked staff celebrate the happy day when the last Boomer hops into the celestial VW Bus and heads off towards the empyrean Woodstock with his doobie in hand and Saint Wolfman Jack blasting the Rolling Stones’ Can’t get no satisfaction on the radio.  Then the Census Bureau will party like it’s 2099, or, better yet, like it’s 2199, the latter date guaranteeing that there will be no Boomers left holding out on tropic atolls like stranded Japanese soldiers awaiting the return of the Imperial fleet.  And the girl that Mick is trying to make in Can’t get no satisfaction: she’s probably a grandmother now.  

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

More lies

I am, despite what it looks like, writing something for this blog. The material fought me at first, and frankly, is still resisting a bit, but I think I am within spitting distance of getting this to work. In the meantime, I want to apologize for the delay; it is unconscionable, but I hope to make good on it very shortly. Thank you for your patience. 

Labels: , , , , , ,


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Death, be not proud...

Carla died ten years ago. The words don't really make any sense, as if the reality they describe was simply too odd to be true, but it is reality, nonetheless. The mind rebels against that reality, the mind rebels at the idea that someone as intensely alive as Carla could be dead at all, much less gone for all this time. Some people are like that. When the war photographer Robert Capa died in Indochina in 1954, his friend Ernest Hemingway wrote that Capa was so much alive that it was a long hard day to think of him as dead. Carla was like that. And now it has been ten years.

I hadn’t realized it was the tenth anniversary until a few days afterwards. Time passes and the slow accumulation of days the one after the other goes by so slowly that we pay no real attention to it.  There is always some new thing we must attend to: we must pay the telephone bill or get the car inspected or buy a gallon of milk because the last gallon is almost gone and there won’t be anything to put on our breakfast cereal tomorrow morning.  We worry about getting to work on time or how to get the kids to football practice or whether we can afford a new roof for the house. We wonder where we’ll go on vacation this year or whether to buy one of those big plasma televisions or how much candy to get for the trick or treaters on Halloween or how long to cook the Thanksgiving turkey or what to get the kids for Christmas, and then, before we know it, the New Year is here. And so it goes, one thing after another, one year after another, until it has been ten years since Carla died.

Time heals all wounds.  This is the comforting nostrum we tell ourselves in the wake of any great loss.  If we wait long enough, we tell ourselves, the pain will go away, and perhaps for people like me, the friends of the family, that is true. Time numbs the loss for us, so that we can go on with our lives, so much so that the tenth anniversary can come and go without our realizing the significance of the date.  Carla’s family does not have that. The suddenness of her death, the tragic loss so someone so young, vibrant, and talented as she was leaves a ragged scar on the souls of those who loved her most, the sharp edges of grief keeping the wound from ever completely healing over. 

I have not been to her grave since the funeral. I suppose it just never occurred to me to go. I am sure that everything is now as it was then: the white Dutch Reformed Church and the old graveyard behind the church, with its old and pitted gravestones marking the passing of the generations, the small flags marking the graves of local boys who died in faraway places like Gettysburg, Omaha Beach, and Khe Sanh, the long valley with its neat white farmhouses stretching away towards the sharp rise of the Shawangunk Mountains, all these things will not have changed.  There will be flowers on her grave, in the plot where her paternal grandparents also rest, and maybe a few stones as well, to show that someone came and stopped for a moment before moving on to the next thing, came and stopped and thought of the beautiful girl in the earth below and paid their respects to her. I think that will be my next thing to do, to cross the river and go and put a stone on her grave, and remember the little girl who used to rescue salamanders from the stream that ran by her house and the young artist with so much promise and the lovely young woman who was almost as tall as I am, almost, and who only grew that tall to make me feel old.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Warning: the following is probably not true.

I am working on something, despite the caption above. I will get the thing here as soon as I can. Really. I mean that. In the meantime, I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Labels: , , , , ,


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Aft times gang agley

So the thing of it was, I had plans, big plans, to get another screed done in no time at all and post it, but things have gone awry, as they are wont to do, and I figured I should explain what happened.  This planned screed, which is actually half way done, was not one of the usual pieces that I put up here, a bit of lightweight fluff about nothing very important, but a deep, really deep, think piece about the NFL players in London a few weeks ago kneeling for The Star-Spangled Banner and standing for God Save The Queen.  I had all manner of facts and figures and I was marshalling all sorts of arguments to prove my point—I can do that, you know, it’s a free country—in order to show that the NFL players were historical idiots, but I had other things to do at work and at home that had to get done; I'm sure you know how that is; and so I had to put a hold on proving my point and go do them. It’s all very boring when not actually being tedious, but most of life is boring when not actually being tedious; what can you do?  Having to put the piece off annoyed me no end because they—the NFL guys, I mean—were being historically ignorant, you know. Think of it like this: There were over six hundred thousand slaves in the United States at the time of the 1790 Census, which is only fourteen years after the United States declared its independence, only seven years since the 1783 Treaty of Paris that formalized American independence, and just three years since the United States adopted the current Constitution.  So it makes sense that except for the youngest of the slaves, most of those six hundred thousand people were born here or they or their ancestors were brought here by the people who ran the United States before the United States became the United States.  The people I speak of were, oddly enough, the British, whose flag is apparently not a sign of racism and oppression nowadays despite their being the people who caused America’s problems with racism and oppression in the first place. This is a bit of a conundrum for me, but I guess that I am the only one who feels this way.  The NFL was playing in London that day and criticizing the British role in the American slave trade was not on, if only for reasons of political tact. Personally, I do not see the reason for this sudden reluctance to point out the obvious, unless the NFL players did not know that they were in the presence of America’s original racist oppressors.  This is very possible, given that K-12 education in the places where most NFL players come from tends to be execrable in the extreme and that their college educations consist largely of remedial classes and in-depth studies of underwater African-American lesbian basket weaving.  It may be too much to hope for historical literacy under those circumstances; it is enough that they are literate enough to sign their names at the bottom of their lucrative contracts without using an X.  That can be very embarrassing, or so people tell me.

But I haven’t had a chance to get all of this good stuff down on paper, so I guess I should apologize for that and let everyone know that I am working hard on the piece and that I will put it up here just as soon as I can. And I trust you are all in good health and enjoying the weekend. Good night.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Friday, September 15, 2017

Home on the Gnome, or little people blues

Gnomes infest my home. I realize that this is something that your average American homeowner (like me, for instance) would prefer not to bring up in polite conversation—gnomes really do cause your property values to crater, especially in a tight real estate market—but the problem at my house has become so onerous that I had to do something about it.  Now, I should point out that I am not referring to garden gnomes, those happy little whatever they are that hang around people’s gardens and do not appear to be doing very much other than standing around in people’s gardens not doing very much. I have no problems with them; I am civil to them and they are equally civil to me; and I have no problems with that gnome you see on television all the time advertising travel services either. I seldom travel anywhere so our paths rarely, if ever, cross. Nor do I have any sort of problem with the rest of the little people: trolls, ogres, pixies, leprechauns (except on St. Patrick’s Day), hobbits, fairies, elves, sprites, etc., etc.—I get along with all of them.  Home gnomes, on the other hand, are a malignant bunch of ankle biting bastards and the sooner the pesticide companies come up with a way of removing them permanently from my house, our happy little burg, the Vampire State, and this our Great Republic the better.   

I do not know how home gnomes came to this country. I suppose that it may be the usual tale of immigrants from a foreign land escaping persecution or economic hardship or the ineluctable demand that you eat liver because it’s good for you, that’s why, the sort of story that brings a tear to the eye of every red-blooded American. Or, in an alternative scenario, the home gnomes could be like fire ants, killer bees, or kudzu—another country’s homegrown pain in the ass that somehow landed here and decided that being a pain in the ass back in the old country was not enough for them. America beckoned, and the chance to be a pain in the ass here as well was just too good for them to resist.  However the little bastards got here, they’re here now, and they’re in my house, and it’s driving me up the wall. 

So, you may be asking yourself at this point in this interminable screed, what is wrong with home gnomes?  How can anyone despise them? They are so cute and cuddly, in the adorable way that kitty cats, teddy bears, and hagfish are, surely no one could loathe them as much as I seem to do. My response to this is simple: baloney. Home gnomes, and I don’t think that I should have to keep pointing this out to people, behave one way when they are out in public and quite another when one is stuck with them as houseguests. Frankly, I would rather have a gaggle of gluttonous relatives come visit me over a long holiday weekend than deal with a home gnome, because home gnomes are like relatives you don’t like on steroids.

To begin with, home gnomes do not bathe. At all. Ever.  As a result, home gnomes stink in the same way that the men’s room of a bad Indo-Pak restaurant stinks after a long hot Saturday night in July, which is to say, completely and to the nth degree.  In the nineteenth century, Christian missionaries from New England tried to convince the home gnomes that cleanliness was next to godliness and showed the ungrateful little bastards how to use soap and water. Many a hoary old gnomish (assuming that’s even a word) traditionalist objected to soap and water, claiming that the stuff corrupted the morals of the younger generation and led them into such base and disgusting practices as broccoli farming and selling life insurance, but the protests of the greybeards did nothing to stop the popularity of soap and water, which the youngsters garnished with mint toothpaste and washed down with copious amounts of Listerine.   

I find the soap eating to be particularly revolting. There is almost nothing in this world more annoying than coming home from a long day at work to find six or seven unconscious gnomes fried to the gills on Listerine floating around my living room with their trousers pulled down to their ankles and large hydrogen[i] filled soap bubbles coming out of their rumps. This is, firstly, just plain disgusting—no one in their right mind wants to look at a home gnome’s bare bottom, not even female home gnomes[ii]--and secondly, it is hazardous in the extreme, since sober home gnomes—this has been known to happen[iii]—think that throwing lit matches at their drunken compatriots’ backsides while they hang in midair is in some way funny.  That throwing a lit match at a flatus full of hydrogen is not the best idea anyone could have on any given day—it could cause an explosion, after all, and a big one if there are more than one gnome involved—does not occur to home gnomes, largely because home gnomes are, collectively and individually, dumber than a box of wet rocks.  About twenty years ago, the board of education here in our happy little burg decided that what the home gnomes really needed, other than a good swift kick in the bottom, was an education. The noble experiment[iv] began with the best of intentions, but as most experienced teachers know, educating someone who does not want an education is almost impossible.[v] The gnomes cut all of their classes and spent their school days in the bathrooms drinking the liquid soap out of the dispensers and chasing pretty girls up and down the halls. In the end, the board of education admitted defeat and expelled the home gnomes en masse, but not before the gnomes burned the new high school to the ground.  

So, as you might imagine, I want to get rid of my home gnomes while my house is still undamaged. My mother recently had a deputy sheriff come out to her house to shoot a rabid raccoon in her driveway and I asked the deputy if she could come over to my house and shoot the gnomes as well. The answer was no.  She was very polite about it, but at this time there is no law against being a home gnome and therefore shooting one was out of the question.  She did provide a little hope, however.  The malfeasant peculators who run the Vampire State may not be the greatest supporters of the Second Amendment you could ever hope to find here in this our Great Republic, but if you pay for a license and wait for the proper season, the state will let you kill damn near anything you want to kill.  Well, it seems that home gnomes are an even bigger nuisance upstate than they are hereabouts—it seems that home gnomes are the leading cause of forest fires upstate—and there is now legislation before the Assembly to have a home gnome season run concurrently with deer season.  That’s it then, folks. The minute the governor signs that bill into law, I am going down the street to Don German’s Hair Cut & Hand Grenade Emporium to buy myself a shotgun, yes I am. I’m getting rid of the little bastards one way or the other.

[i] Yes, hydrogen, not methane. They’re gnomes, not people.
[ii] Easily distinguished from their male counterparts by their shorter beards and the red rings on their prehensile noses.
[iii] Really, I’m not kidding.
[iv] Aren’t they always?
[v] I offer my brothers as evidence of this contention.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,