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 16, 2016

Since we spoke last...

The trouble is that I don’t really feel like writing anything at the moment. Now, I’ll grant you that this moment has lasted for well over a month at this point, but what is a month in the larger scheme of things? In the long history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present moment, a month counts for less than a nanosecond, and why should we privilege a terrestrial month over a Jovian month, or a month, assuming they have months, of some hitherto unknown xenocivilization who were just wandering by minding their own business before we ambushed them and inflicted our Babylonian system of measuring time on them. We shouldn’t do this: this is both racist and xenophobic and whatever other –ist and –phobia we can throw at it—we can work out what the correct Greek prefix for aliens not from Mexico is at a later date. So let’s stop doing this right now before we give our planet a reputation for being the galaxy’s equivalent of Jim Crow Mississippi or apartheid South Africa. It’s just wrong.

I did go to Virginia for my vacation last month and I did have a great time, thank you very much for asking. I hung out with my cool photographer friends—it was a photography festival, obviously—and I watched them engage in behavior that I would never indulge in myself. I did, however, get a ride home with them when they were all both legally drunk and illegally stoned at the same time, and yes, I know better than to do that, but there were four people in the car, two music photographers (including one of Marilyn Manson’s tour photographers), a museum curator, and me, a harmless bureaucratic drudge unused to hanging out till four o’clock in the morning; and I really wanted to get some sleep. The car we went back to my hotel in was a BMW convertible, which is why I agreed to get in the car with them in the first place. I figured that if I had to shuffle off this mortal coil in a faux James Dean death and glory ride, I might as well shuffle off in style, and I liked the idea of everyone here in our happy little burg wondering at my funeral, we’ve known him all his life; he was a conservative Republican who never did anything interesting in all the time we knew him, so how did he know those other people in the car with him?  One of life’s great mysteries, I think. Thankfully, fate spared me from having to provide an answer to the question.

In other news, in October I will receive a Public Service Award from the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The announcement came as something of a surprise to me, as I am not aware that I have done anything special to advance the cause of colored people here in our happy little burg (isn’t people of color the current euphemism for the descendants of African slaves in this country? Or is colored people kosher so long as it’s the NAACP saying colored people? I am not sure and I really do not want to cause offense by asking).  I strongly suspect that what is at work here is that everyone in town knows that I have working here at the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread for twenty-nine years now and the NAACP is simply recognizing my extraordinary persistence in hanging onto my paycheck.  The noted American social philosopher and well-known putz Allan Konigsberg (N.B.: dude, you got to keep your hands off your wife’s adopted kids—I mean, do you really need to have someone explain that to you? Like, duh, as my niece feels the need to say whenever she is in the presence of the self-evident) once said that eighty percent of success is just showing up. Apparently, if you show up often enough, you get a prize. I have shown up often enough and therefore I am getting the prize. I didn’t expect, however, that I was going to get the prize from the NAACP. I’m not going to turn the award down; it was nice of them to think of me, and having the award and the small amount of recognition that comes with it will be nice to remember on June 9th of next year, when the full horror of having spent thirty years working in this place finally dawns on me and renders me completely suicidal, if not vaguely annoyed at myself.  Still, if I don’t count the dead guy in the bathroom or the dumbass who likes to defecate in his Dunkin Donuts cup and then leave the cup near where kids will find it, I suppose it hasn’t been all that bad, if you know what I mean. 

PS: For those of you going to Charlottesville, I can recommend the meat loaf sandwich at The Nook, and the hamburger and the chicken jambalaya at Miller's. Eat outside under the shade of the trees and if you're at Miller's, sit somewhere near that water fountain thing so Brianna will be your waitress. She is great and she is also way cooler that you will ever be. Just saying, people.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Back from Dixie!!!

Yes, I am back from Old Virginny--I was on vacation--and I am even now thinking of things to put here. I have not, as yet, come up with anything profound, but I am still trying to get back into the groove after a very nice week away from the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread, our happy little burg, and almost everything else bearing any resemblance to my normal bland and unexciting life. So, back to the grind, and I will see you all again shortly.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Post # 1,000 (it's less than that if you exclude the apologies for not writing more)

First off, I want to point out that today is a sort of dual anniversary for me. This is my 1,000th post to The Passing Parade and today marks the 29th year I’ve been working here in the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread. I’ve been trying to process the idea that babies born on the day this dump hired me are now adults with children of their own. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but the time seems to have gone by without my noticing. Lots of things do that, but time is a biggie and something you’d think I wouldn’t miss at all. But I did. I should have realized that when I noticed my beard turning gray and white without my having to dye it, but like I just said, I fail to realize lots of things, especially when they’re right in front of me.
As to the 1,000th post, I’d like to thank Tat, Dick, Snoop, and everyone else that comes here looking for a new post, and usually not finding one.  It’s nice to know people will keep coming back even during my dry spells or during one of my many violent attacks of sloth. I do appreciate it.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Post 999 of 12

“I want a roast beef sandwich, but without the roast beef. I’m a vegetarian.”  I’ve heard my share of very odd requests at The Horny Toad, the bar where I spend many of my off the clock hours, but this one seemed odder than usual. There is, to my knowledge, no substitute for roast beef in a roast beef sandwich, the roast beef and the salt, pepper, and other sundry condiments being the whole point of the roast beef sandwich. There is a word for a roast beef sandwich without the roast beef, yes there is, and that word is bread.  I suppose that somewhere there may be an acceptable substitute for the roast beef in a roast beef sandwich, but I do not believe that any of these substitutes would be acceptable to a vegetarian.  Roast pork, roast goat, roast lamb, roast choose any four-legged protein source you want, no vegetarian will surrender the smug attitude of moral superiority that comes with saying, I don’t eat meat, just so that they can have a roast beef sandwich without the roast beef.  Our bovine craving veggie eater could use a nice bit of fried eggplant on her sandwich, but for your average vegetarian frying anything other than a Republican is a most evil and wicked practice, comparable to bashing cute little kitty cats over the head with a baseball bat and then drinking their blood, and therefore is not a practice that any decent person who believes in the sanctity of both the human body and cute little kitty cats would choose to engage in.  

And then there is tuna fish, although it is difficult, if not impossible, to see how anyone could mistake a tuna fish sandwich for a roast beef sandwich; doing so would truly be a victory of mind over matter. In addition, it is also difficult for me to see the moral difference between eating a cow and eating a fish, unless the genetic accident of having fins instead of feet permits the peckish plant enthusiast to indulge a perverse proclivity for protein while simultaneously salving a guilty conscience. I can see no moral reason why vegetarians should consider the footless and fancy free tuna to be a legitimate source of dinner, whereas they would protect the cow from the dinner plate with the religious intensity of Hindus. This hardly seems fair to the fish and privileges a terrestrial creature over a maritime one, which is the sort of rank specieist discrimination I think we can all agree has no place in modern American life. So the next time you feel like a roast beef sandwich without the roast beef, eat the bread instead. But make sure that it’s wheat bread and filled with gluten. You can hate gluten these days and I’m sure it has done something to deserve its fate.

PS This is my 999th post here. I kept trying to think of something outstanding for the post but nothing came, so you are stuck with this. Sorry.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

World Naked Gardening, I am not kidding

I see that World Naked Gardening Day is upon us yet again (how the time does fly, doesn’t it? It seems like only yesterday that we were all talking about this and now here it is again). Now I understand that there are many events in this world where the reasoning behind the event is a bit obscure to anyone not actually involved in the event. Soccer games and Grateful Dead concerts come immediately to mind, and I know that there is an annual bathtub race in Nome, Alaska, for another example, and there is a Garlic Festival held every year about 45 miles up the river from our happy little burg, but the reasoning behind nude gardening in the first place and celebrating nude gardening in the second place is proving particularly elusive to me. I can see no advantages to gardening in the nude and there appears to be no end of disadvantages. Gardening in the nude increases the amount of skin affected by a chance encounter with poison ivy, an always unpleasant encounter leading to an even more unpleasant experience, and gives many insects--bees and wasps, for instance--a much broader area to make their displeasure with the gardener's disturbing their natural habitat known. And unless you are Daniel Craig or Kate Upton, your neighbors will use the opportunity presented by you puttering around in your garden in the altogether to mock you openly, mockery, if you will please forgive me for pointing this out, you will have earned. So please, on May 7th, do not garden in the nude. Pay no attention to the pleas of those who want you to do this and who will then laugh at you when you do. Just say no. Put on some old trousers and an old shirt and a straw hat and go forth to do battle with the weeds. The weeds will respect you more as well.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

More whiny excuses for not writing. You'd think I'd get tired of writing these things.

I should write more often, I suppose; I have plenty of time, in a sideways sort of fashion, and no real excuse not to write, so I should do it more than I do.  I can’t even use Dorothy Parker’s excuse for not writing: the pencil was broken. I have boxes of pencils in my desk and a new pencil sharpener (a manual) that I like very much, so the breaking of a pencil is a non-issue for me.  And I am sure that you’ve read some of my paeans to sloth and writer’s block and procrastination, none of which is really applicable in this particular case. So why am I not writing more? I don’t know. I don’t have too many ideas at the moment, but that’s never stopped me before, which is not really true but it does make me sound like the little red engine that could, a story I loved when I was a kid, With an election going on, one would think that there would be veritable scads of things to write about, given that the citizenry of this our Great Republic can choose this year between an unqualified carnival barker and a felonious oligarch whose main qualification for the highest office in the land appear to be her reproductive organs. In any normal society, the only job for which possession of reproductive organs are an absolute requirement is that of porn star, but we do not appear to be living in a normal society at the moment. Frankly, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with reality anymore.

No, I’d say that the reason that I haven’t written anything in a while is that I just don’t want to write anything.  As an excuse, this smacks of a certain willfulness—it’s the sort of excuse that a child gives for not wanting to eat her Brussels sprouts and is usually the first stop on the way to a first class temper tantrum. But why should she eat her Brussels sprouts? Brussels sprouts are revolting; not as disgusting as Lima beans or asparagus or calf’s liver, mind you, but still pretty disgusting in their own right, and the parental pretext that Brussels sprouts are good for a growing child hardly seems an adequate reason to eat the damn things. Many things are good for you, like root canal work and colonoscopies, but no one recommends that children endure them on a regular basis. So let’s stop with the Brussels sprouts already, okay? As the prominent American social philosopher J. H. Marx once pointed out, the world would be a better place if the parents had to eat the broccoli.

And why should I write? A Sumerian tax collector invented writing so that he could remember how much he was gouging honest, hardworking Sumerian and Akkadian entrepreneurs. The abomination of taxation that began then has continued unto this very day. As I sit here in this dingy watering hole contemplating the unfairness of a world where that smug creep drinking whiskey sours down at the end of the bar has a chance with the hot blonde who just came in and I don’t, the tax code in this country is now just over seventy thousand pages long. Think about that for a minute: you could probably fit every book worth reading in the English language and throw in ten years’ worth of the Manhattan White Pages and maybe a copy of the Talmud as well inside of seventy thousand pages, and all of that stuff put together would have a more interesting plot than the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986. So why write? After seventy thousand pages, what more is there to say, assuming there was anything from the IRS worth saying in the first place? O, will this too too solid flesh melt and resolve itself into a dew, preferably the diet kind: the Dew with the sugar is too sweet for me, even if there’s enough caffeine in it to keep me awake for most of the day.

All right, I am drifting here; I know that when I am purposefully quoting Shakespeare. Quoting Shakespeare will let you get away with a lot of things, especially when you are whining and want to make the whine sound vaguely distinguished. This doesn’t really work, but I like to think that it does, so I keep doing it. This is better than beating up old people in the street, I think, or writing cookbooks for tarantulas, so I will keep at it.  And I won’t eat my Brussels sprouts or write until I feel like it. So there, take that.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

And Eliza says...

The[1] rain[2] in[3] Spain[4] stays[5] mainly[6] in[7] the[8] plain.[9]

[1]English’s definite article, the word that says that the word after it is the one you are talking about and not some other word that may or may not mean the same thing. The is in direct contrast with a or an, which are English’s indefinite articles, which do not describe specific things but rather members of a class of the same thing. For example, the rock refers to a specific rock that I may or may not throw at your front window as the fancy strikes me, and if the fancy does strikes me you can bet your bottom dollar that I will throw the rock—I am no turn the other cheek advocate, not by a long shot, guys, and if you think you can chuck a fancy at me without me chucking something right back at you then you are seriously deluding yourself. On the other hand, a rock refers to any rock that I may have at hand to accomplish this purpose. An is a’s little brother and is used in front of words that begin with a vowel. English objects to the idea of naked vowels at the beginning of a word for some reason and so insists that a consonant precedes them. This sort of Victorian prudery went out the door during the 1960’s, of course, and normal people don’t insist on this sort of rubbish anymore, but the grammar police still demand that words beginning in a vowel have a consonant chaperone, lest the neighbors start talking and give the word a bad reputation. All words would like to have a good reputation, except for the swear words, for obvious reasons, and ain’t, which has been disreputable for so long that it has a hard time imagining itself as a reputable member of lexicographical society. It keeps on trying, God love it, and who knows, maybe someday ain’t will be respectable. As Noah Cross says in Roman Polanski’s film, Chinatown, ‘politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.’ The same process might occur for ain’t; we can only hope. Ain’t deserves some respect, I think, if only for hanging on for so long against the power of the grammar Nazis.
       So to reiterate, the is the definite English article and a or an is the indefinite English article. Some languages, like Russian and Chinese, do not have articles at all and do not seem to care, whereas other languages, like French or German, can have three or more. This seems to be a matter of linguistic taste, along with anchovies on pizza or mayonnaise on French fries, both habits that are more than a little nauseating and which good parents should endeavor to discourage in their children.

[2] A natural phenomenon best known for its ability to ruin parades. I am not sure why rain hates parades so much; the frequency with which rain will go out of its way to ruin a parade suggests that the animosity is personal, which in turn suggests that this is some kind of childhood trauma or perhaps the result of a love affair gone horribly wrong, but science does know that parades invite rain the way a white shirt invites spatters of spaghetti sauce. Given these facts, one should always go to a parade with an umbrella and galoshes. Rain that does not fall on a parade or anywhere else is called virga. This really doesn’t have anything to do with anything we are discussing here, but it is the sort of meteorological fun fact that you can impress your friends with at the Fourth of July parade and fireworks show while you are waiting for the rain to end.

[3] An uninteresting word, well-known for its Bolshevistic tendencies. In its youth, in was a Trotskyite with Bukharinist overtones, but after the Moscow show trials began in began its full-throated support of Stalinism and demanded that the security organs destroy all kulaks, class enemies, and wreckers. A lot of this went on in those days and the people who had been Stalinists all along could not help but notice that in was a little late to the game. In noticed that the Stalinists noticed and, being a highly intelligent article as articles go, decided to get himself out of the worker’s paradise before the inevitable meeting with Vasili Blokhin occurred.  So in the summer of 1937, in had himself smuggled out of the Soviet Union disguised as a bottle of cheap vodka. After the tumult of the October Revolution and the Civil War and all the other crises that made early 20th century Russia a bad place to sell life insurance, in decided that he wanted a quiet, well-ordered existence where he would be safe from the Chekhists. He found this existence inside the Oxford English Dictionary, where in resides to this day. He is very old now, of course, but he is very happy that he outlived all the other Old Bolsheviks and everyone who remembered the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (for those of you interested in such things, the Cubs last won the Series in 1908).

[4] A place. It rains there, or so I’ve heard.

[5] What you can count on relatives to do whether you want them to or not.  Free room and board will attract lots of people that you only want to see on the Christmas holidays, and not even then, to be perfectly honest. They are very nice people in their native habitat, wherever that may be, and you wish they would go back there as quickly as possible. In the meantime, they are eating you out of house and home, and expect you to do their laundry and drive them to the mall whenever the urge to commit commerce strikes them. I understand that family feeling should count for something in this day and age, but frankly, I don’t remember when I started to think that opening  a not for profit hotel was a good idea and I wish to get out of the business as soon as possible.

[6] An adverb, which is just a verb without full time employment. Please don’t start on me; I know that the economy is hurting and that the competition for full-time employment is intense. No one wants to hire English verbs anymore, not when they can get a Mexican verb to do the same job for less than minimum wage, but most adverbs are just not trying hard enough. If they had stayed in school like their parents told them instead of hanging out in the boy’s bathroom smoking marijuana and listening to that damn heavy metal music, they’d all have good paying jobs now instead of living in their parents’ basement playing video games to all hours of the night.  Am I right or what? Adverbs today are just a generation of slackers that just don’t want to grow up. Annoying, and probably not politically correct to say so, but true is still true whether you like it or not.

[7] Cf. Note 3. Not going there again, folks. Been there, done that, got the revolutionary t-shirt to prove it.

[8] Cf. Note 1. Ditto.

[9] Yogurt without the stale fruit on the bottom. I am not sure why anyone eats yogurt in the first place. Eating something with the look and consistency of snot seems to be a complete repudiation of what our mothers told us not to do in kindergarten, but I seem to be alone in this opinion. Every year dairy farmers turn millions of gallons of milk into yogurt and someone must eat the stuff because it disappears off the store shelves with great regularity.  I can’t explain why anyone would want to eat yogurt, in much the same way I can’t explain why anyone would think voting for a Democrat is a good idea, but someone must want to; they keep turning up on the ballot like termites in an old house.  It’s just another of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

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