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My Eleventh Summer

27 May

This Monday was Memorial Day in America, which has traditionally marked the beginning of summer. When I was young, Memorial Day always meant the opening of our city swimming pool, an event which had even the most uncoordinated and physically unappealing kids in our neighbourhood giddy with excitement. Unfortunately, my siblings and I were not allowed to go to the pool, because my mother was afraid we’d get warts and be unable to wear sandals.

Instead, our Memorial Day ritual involved helping my mother move her winter wardrobe into the attic.

That was until my eleventh year, which is when I solved my first crime. It wasn’t a murder or anything like that. But still, it sets that year apart.

c8b7c1860273f5dda0e6a301576d75aaThe night before this Memorial Day, my parents had attended a party at the Flanagans’. Mrs Flanagan wore clogs. Apparently my mother found this unacceptable. There were words and then shouting, and then my parents returned home, where there was more words and shouting and then a cigarette was put out in a gin and tonic. That’s when I decided to get up from the top of the stairs and go to bed. When I woke up in the morning, my father was sleeping on the sofa. I pushed on his shoulder until he woke up. He looked at me and said, “I want crepes.”

Because I was (and still am) his favourite, he and I left before anyone else was awake. We went to our special restaurant where he never took my mother, and he ordered us each some crepes and black coffee. While we were there, a truck pulled up outside and a man who was wearing an undershirt as a shirt came in. He smiled at my father and my father smiled back. Because that’s the kind of man he is.

The rest of the breakfast passed normally. We slowly made our way home, both of us dreading the inevitable appearance of my mother’s clipboard and complicated storage system. Three police cars passed us as we walked.

“I bet they’re arresting that truck man,” I said to my father.

“You’re probably right,” my father said. He laughed a little and then added, “You don’t need to mention him to your mother.”

On the evening news, there was a bulletin saying that a shoe store had been robbed. The guy got away with the safe and five pairs of girls’ saddle shoes. My mother said the man was probably a pervert.

My father winked at me.

 

 

Sour Times

11 Sep

Hooray for Freedom!

4 Jul

Let’s celebrate the Founding Fathers’ commitment to ensuring the freedom of speech and religion of all corporations!

Just Don’t Wear Them Backwards

15 Apr

While I was out in the garden yesterday tending to some suckling clover, I was startled by a bit of a ruckus next door. Without any effort of my own making, I was able to overhear a conversation between the lad next door and his mother.  From what I could decipher, some chores of his had not been done (she had asked him to take the bins out the other night at approximately 5.45 and again at 6.30 yet he had left without doing so to go watch Clash of the Titans with that Liam Williams kid whose mother leaves a lot to be desired in the responsibility department). The lad’s defense was simply that he had not heard her request on either occasion or he would have definitely done his job.  A few mild swears were tossed about (coming from both parties so this gives you a sense of the kind of people I have living next to me). I was just about to abandon my activity when I heard Lady Muck make a comment which upset me terribly.

She said, “And take off that ridiculous cap, you look a right twat.”

Having been keeping tabs on this boy for a number of weeks (he is my prime suspect in the case of bicycle tracks through my tulip bed), I know the cap of which she speaks. It is commonly referred to as a baseball cap, and I feel it is an unfairly maligned article of clothing.

I have already spoken extensively about my love of baseball. The intelligence, bravado, and strength that it takes to be a great player, I feel, means that anyone wearing a hat in any way associated with this great sport always commands a certain amount of respect.

The design of these hats, of course, is based on a specific purpose, which is shielding one’s eyes from the sun. This is why you often see cricket players wearing similar caps, though their brims are just slightly shorter (if you know what I mean). Baseball caps also keep one’s hair out of the way, which could be helpful when one needs to focus on driving or performing keyhole surgery. That’s another feature which shouldn’t be sneezed at.

Because of their width, baseball caps are also useful for publicly stating your support in a team, musical group or cause. They come in so many varieties that they are a comfortable and useful way to advertise your philosophy of life to every Tom, Dick and Harry you pass on your way to the off license.

My shrew of a neighbour therefore was completely disregarding the cap’s historical significance and practical application when she made the above comment. And I know the reason she did this. It’s because the baseball cap is symbolic of America. When Britons aren’t fawning over America, they’re dragging it down. (You’re such a fickle country, you are, but I love you.)

True, America’s got its problems. I’d be first in the queue to admit that (well, actually, I’d probably be second behind Jeremy Clarkson). But it’s outrageous to assume that everything American is bad. That’s just racism. Just because millions of drunk, ignorant, and loud Americans sport baseball caps twenty-four hours a day (many of them even wear them while bathing) it does not mean that the cap itself is the problem. I wish my neighbour would realise that her son has in fact always been a right twat and probably always will be, with or without the baseball cap on his head.

Listen to me, England, you are some of the most compassionate and accepting people I’ve ever known. Don’t blame baseball hats for the idiocy of some who wear them. That’d be like blaming hooded sweatshirts for youth crime, and I know this great nation would never entertain a foolish idea like that. Not only should the lad next door be able to wear his baseball cap, he should do so with pride. And he should do so while reimbursing me for the emotional pain his reckless cycling has caused me and my tulips.

Make A Little Effort Please, People, It’s A Holiday For Christ’s Sake

28 Nov

Dorothy Parker said gratitude is the meanest and most snivelling attribute in the world, and she makes a good point.  In fact, that’s probably the simplest explanation for why I’ve never married: there’s little less appealing than a person who can’t stop telling everyone how thankful he is to have me in his life. Restating the obvious does get tiresome rather quickly.

That said, I think more obnoxious are the people who can’t find a single thing in the world to be grateful for. Right now in America, I don’t doubt there are millions who, having wept over their TV turkey dinners, are watching King Kong and wondering why they are alone and miserable on Thanksgiving Day. The smiling faces of families at the Macy’s Parade, the constant commercials for Black Friday sales they cannot afford to take advantage of and the piles of empties lined up on the kitchen counter only serve as evidence that there is nothing for which they can give thanks.  You know who you are (my guess is if you’re online reading this instead of spending time with loved ones, you are probably one of the saddos of which I speak). Pull yourself together and try a bit harder.

Everyone can find something to be grateful for this holiday, if you really put your mind to it.  Out of the goodness of my heart, let me offer some suggestions to get the ball rolling:

  • Be grateful that fluffy little puppies exist
  • Be grateful that modern dentistry uses anesthesia
  • Be grateful that your hair is still full of bounce (disregard if you are bald)
  • Be grateful that shards of glass aren’t a dietary staple
  • Be grateful that you do not have to have a boil on your eyeball lanced
  • Be grateful that Dina and Michael Lohan are not your parents (disregard if they are)
  • Be grateful that your suicide attempt did not leave you alive but essentially a vegetable

See? With a little effort and imagination, you will be able to find something that makes you can appreciate. If all fails, be thankful I took the time out of my busy schedule to write this thoughtful message. I don’t do this for my health, you know.

The Forgotten Victims of the US Government Shutdown

4 Oct

404 ShutdownWe’re a few days into the US Government shutdown, and quite frankly it’s a wonder there are any Americans still alive at this point.

The shutdown is no joke, people. It’s not for me to say who is to blame for the situation (it’s the Republicans), but every day that it continues, the more bad shit that’s coming America’s way. NBC estimates that the shutdown costs $12.5 million an hour. That’s a brilliant way to solve budget disputes, isn’t it? No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans don’t understand irony!

It’s not just a vague disgrace that’s going on — it’s one that affects many Americans in very real ways. Hundreds of thousands of government employees have been furloughed and are not receiving paychecks. Services like food programs for low income pregnant women and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention flu program aren’t running. National parks are closed; even the National Zoo is affected. Animals can’t even vote yet they’re feeling the pain of the GOP’s childish behaviour.

However, when talking about groups of people (or pandas) affected by the shutdown, we can’t ignore the individuals — the ones who don’t get mentioned in the papers — whose lives are being tragically altered forever.

I’m talking about the children who just a few short days ago saw politics as a high calling, a career path for those who care about and want to help others. Who will explain to the little ones how terribly, terribly American politics has gone wrong?

I’m also talking about the nail technicians, telemarketers and tabloid journalists around the country. They wake up in the morning eager to get started on their life’s work and read that the government has deemed so many of its employees “non-essential.” If working for education or the environment isn’t seen as an essential task, well, that really puts other jobs into perspective, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t surprise me if people started topping themselves left and right. Sadly, this will only lead to more problems since the Federal Department of Suicide Clean Up is currently running on a skeleton staff.

And, of course, I’m talking about all those Americans out there who were taught in elementary school to look towards elected officials as models of responsibility. Those models of responsibility have decided that if they don’t get to play their way, they’re shutting the whole operation down (while still collecting their pay, natch). Why should Lenny over at the liquor store have to pull three late night shifts in a row; why shouldn’t he just lock up early and head home? Steve in an accounting might just up and say screw it and his company will be powerless to conduct business. Who will sponsor the t-shirts for Jerry’s daughter’s softball team then, I ask you? All of these little effects have roll on effects which could, quite frankly, bring the world’s most powerful nation to its knees.

Which would be a shame. Because I’m American and I hate to see this happening to my country.

Land of the Free

4 Jul

Going Postal

6 Feb

You may be aware of the brouhaha regarding the United States Postal Services. They, like so many of you, are in a spot of bother, money-wise. Apparently, more people are not sending post more often than they used to not to, and now the poor postmaster is wringing his hands in despair. I sympathise, I do.  However, I was more than alarmed when I read of his plan to remedy this situation.

No Saturday deliveries.

Did your heart miss a beat when you read that? Mine surely did (when I watched Christopher type it.) It’s clearly a decision that reeks of bigotry (there’s so little Jews can do on the Sabbath, why deny them the pleasure of receiving some post?). Even more disturbing is the plain fact that eliminating Saturday mail delivery goes against everything that great nation stands for.  Postmaster General Donahoe might as well have said he planned to set alight the old Stars and Stripes, because both acts are identical in terms of their anti-American sentiment.

The reason the Post Office is so symbolic of the very nature of American goodness is because of the way it benefits all Americans, even those poor unfortunates. In fact, Benjamin Franklin first laid out the concept of a United States Post Office in 1775 as part of the country’s first truly social service. In his initial proposal, he wrote:

While we hope that starting this war with England will cut down on some of our population declared of unsound mind, I am concerned that we will still be left with some undesirables, loitering the streets and distressing our womenfolk. Let us invent an institution where they can stay busy doing something productive, without us having to engage in any prolonged interaction with them.

And so the Postal Office was born and has been providing work for mentals for well over 200 years. All people, whether rich or poor, black or white, educated or illiterate, could share in the joy of relaxing on a Saturday afternoon while reading one’s post (though admittedly the illiterate probably found it slightly less satisfying).  Saturday delivery told the average American that the government cares about him as an individual; it was if US Mail were saying, “Just because the work week is over, pal, don’t think we’ve forgotten how important your Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is to you, ol’ buddy.” And now not only is the Postmaster going to denying that individual his early Saturday afternoon wank, but he’s also rubbing salt in it by effectively spitting in his eye. Disgusting.

Of course my greatest personal concern about this shocking business is my American fans. As hard as it may be for some of you to imagine, I have a rather colossal following among non-Internet users, including but not limited to geriatrics. Each Tuesday, I send Christopher to the post office to mail off the previous week’s updates in paper form. This allows said fans to receive said paper updates on Saturday afternoons, so that they can peruse them while they are at home waiting for that phone call from the grandchildren that will never come. When the USPS desists Saturday delivery this August, I may have to start sending Christopher out on Mondays, which is the day that he drives me to my Jazzercise class. I can’t believe that I will be required to rearrange my entire life because one selfish government service cannot keep its books in order.

It surprises me that the PO has missed the blaringly obvious solution to this dilemma: eliminate all restrictions on what can be sent through the post BUT add a hefty surcharge to such packages. Think of all the potential revenue. A wedding guest unable to attend would gladly pay a little extra to send a bottle of intoxicating liquor (or a bag of hashish, if that’s their thang) to the bride and groom. An absentee dad in Cali who’d like to send his east coast son a hamster would find no trouble accepting the higher cost to be able to bring a smile to his little boy’s face.  Someone who is really into knives might want to send some knives to someone else who is really into knives. The possibilities are endless.

I don’t doubt this suggestion will be ignored by Patrick R Donohoe, because I hear he likes nothing better than watching fatherless children cry. But I hope he knows just how really, really cross I am with him.

Happy Inauguration, Mister President

21 Jan

An inauguration day is a pretty big thing in the lives of most people.  I’ve never been President of the United States, mind, but when I was young and foolish, I briefly held the presidency of the Anti-Yogurt League and the day of my inauguration was a splendid affair: after we trashed the dairy section of a major supermarket, we partied like it was 1999 (it wasn’t) all night long at the Elks Lodge (I didn’t even care that my dress got ripped).

Obama Official PortraitToday is Barack Obama’s inauguration, and I hope it’s just swell. It’s his second one, of course, and bound to be slightly less exciting, but I’m hoping he and his family enjoy the festivities (though why so-called Lady Gaga had to get involved, I will never understand).

It’s quite nice that this time round the inauguration falls on Martin Luther King Jr Day. It’s hopeful that the US is closer to Dr King’s dream of a nation where people are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character (though it’s still obviously swayed by the size of their wallets).

In fact, even racists should appreciate the timing of the inauguration: they’ll be able to bitch about having a holiday honoring a black man while watching a ceremony honoring another black man. Two black men in one day? Why, that’s surely evidence that the white race is being destroyed, and there’s nothing racists love doing more on their days off work than frothing over conspiracies. Everybody wins!

Even though England doesn’t celebrate MLK Day, I still honor it as a day of service. I’m off this morning to read to some old folks at the community centre and then I’ll nip into the primary school to give a brief lecture on the American Civil Rights movement (don’t worry, I’ll be giving them the G-rated version of my experiences at the Million Man March), but I’ll be home in time to watch the inauguration. Christopher has enthusiastically embraced the spirit of the day himself and has promised to service me later this evening so all in all, 21 January 2013 will be a real celebration of freedom, duty and foot massages—three things that I, as should all good Americans, hold dear.

The Year in Flags: A Review of 2012

30 Dec

Old GloriesSadly, this year, the American flag seems to have spent quite a lot of time at half-mast. In July, it was lowered for the victims of the Aurora shooting; in August, for the victims of the Oak Creek shooting; in September, for the victims of the attack in Libya; and now for the victims in Newtown. Flying the flag at half-mast symbolically honours those who died, but I can’t help thinking that preventing future tragedies might be a more meaningful tribute. Unfortunately, that would require big picture thinking—not always a popular choice as evidenced by this year’s Presidential election. Thankfully, the right man won, but enough voted for Romney to show that many Americans are confused by issues of class. “Middle class” seems to be interpreted as “not homeless” and ultra-rich means “me, not at the moment, of course, but any day now.” One’s actual lifestyle and the reality of how it and the country would be affected were inconsequential. A bit like what’s happening with the current debates on gun control. And on mental health care. And on who should have won The Voice.

Surely, there’s got to have been something positive in America over the last twelve months . . . let me think . . . oh yeah, more states and even the President spoke up in support of marriage equality. Oops, I forgot, it was that which directly led to shooting in Sandy Hook, right, Rev. James Dobson?

Union JacksCloser to home, though, things looked much cheerier: the Union Jack was flying all over the damn place. We waved the flag for the Queen’s Jubilee, for a successful London Olympics and for William’s good work in promptly impregnating the wife. Well done to us all!

Of course, the Tories still want to continue with their obviously-successful-so-far austerity cuts (after all, those Jubilee and Olympic celebrations don’t come cheap, you know), but luckily, this year the BBC taught us that if you close your eyes to the bad stuff, it goes away—never to return. So as long as you’re not young, old, unemployed, working or a Christian woman who wants to serve her church, 2012’s been champion for you!

Now, my dears, I know this sounds quite gloomy and doomy. (Perhaps I should have warned you in advance to delay reading until you’re sober, I apologise.) If you were expecting a bit of harmless fun, I’m afraid you may have confused me with black tar heroin. I’m all about the harsh truth, you know that, so put your seatbelt on, baby, because you’re about to get hit with the harshest truth of all: I’ve still got faith in humanity. You, yes, you, the one sitting on the chair, your continued commitment to keeping my books in circulation bettering yourselves and our world is proof that, despite the bad news, there is goodness out there, my friends.

So together let’s make next year a better one, yeah?

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