I'm not saying this is fair. I'm saying it's a metaphor for a lot of
what I'm feeling right now. We all start from various points of local
chauvinism, and we all have a bunch of those points, which entail
multiple layers of personal experience, some of them almost too subtle
to recognize. So this is an exercise in personal revelation. Make of it
what you will.
I've been listening to WIP SportsTalk in Philadelphia all morning. The
Philadelphia Eagles have a season-critical game with the Chicago Bears
tonight, but the morning guys spent 80 percent of the time talking about
Penn State. The mid-day guys took over at 10 am and promised
all-Eagles, all show. Except that the only thing they and their callers
have talked about for two and a quarter hours thus far is Penn State
and Joe Paterno. It makes me prouder than usual of Philadelphia sports
fans. What's happening in Happy Valley is far more important than
what's happening tonight at the Link. Why is it so important? All the
answers to this question are personal. Some -- hardly most -- of the
callers are prepared to defend Joe Paterno to the last codicil and
semicolon of his carefully crafted statement of non-responsibility. I'm
not. Why I'm sharing my
reasons for feeling the way I do. Some basic background...
I've probably been rooting for Penn State football for more than 40
years. When they were an independent (like Notre Dame, Army, Navy, and virtually no
one else) building contending teams, they were the Boise State of their
generation. The big-time traditional football factories automatically
received more respect, and even some spectacular, high-profile bowl
wins failed to earn them the national championship they once or twice
seemed to deserve. They were the perpetual underdog whose discipline
and focus, exemplified by their minimalist uniforms, made me admire
Importantly, though, that fan loyalty wasn't strictly geographical. I
regarded Penn State as the heir to an older tradition that had been, to
some extent, honorably abrogated. Which is a self-serving way of
admitting that I was in those days the Ivy League snob I was raised to
be. The majority of states have two large state universities, one
called "The University of [Whoever]" and the other called "[Whoever]
State University". Generally, in terms of prestige, the "University of"
outranked "State" because the latter were subsequent land-grant
creations designed to teach more technical disciplines than the liberal
arts curricula of the older schools. That ranking still obtains to this
day. The University of Michigan famously committed a public relations
error in recent years by referring to Michigan State as "Little
Brother." This differential has no greater degree of distinction in the
nation than in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where The University
of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League institution founded by Benjamin
Franklin, and Pennsylvania State University is an afterthought located
in the hinterlands famous mostly for, well, football.
Still, for the willing, there was an argument for Penn State as a
species of guerrilla avenger. The University
of Pennsylvania had been a national football power in its own right
once upon a time, until it voluntarily deemphasized the game as a
threat to its academic integrity with the formation in 1956 of a formal "Ivy League" conference
that awarded no athletic scholarships and banned spring practice. I should also reveal that my paternal grandfather was a Penn
graduate and his son was an alumnus of Penn's inveterate and still
season-ending rival Cornell
(the only university in the nation which can boast a 2-0 record against the
Ohio State Buckeyes AND which voluntarily surrendered
a national championship via an act of honorable sportsmanship.)
There was a sense in which Penn State was picking up this fallen
Penn's home stadium Franklin Field is not
only the oldest stadium in football but holds many other records as
well. It is the site of the oldest stadium scoreboard (1895), the
"original horseshoe" (1903), the first college football radio broadcast
(1922 on WIP-AM), the first double-decker football
stadium (1925), the largest stadium in the country (1925 to 1926), the
first college football television broadcast (1940 on KYW-TV)
and the first FCS stadium to host ESPN's College Gameday
Seven national championships
beats Paterno's two (over how many years?), but the sense of continuity
was reinforced for snobs like me by the fact that "Joe Pa" originally
went to Ivy League Brown University and professed a devotion to the
education and graduation of his players that contrasted sharply with
other images of the time. As the son and grandson of three Ohio State
Buckeyes, I can still remember seeing a dismaying parade of no-necked
plug-uglies from Ohio State and Michigan in the 1970s announcing their
majors as "Phys Ed" before various Big Games. It felt almost seditious
to root for the Nittany Lions of Penn State.
So I liked Paterno for reasons other than those of the National Press,
who heard his accent as blue collar. I thought he had higher values
than his coaching peers. But my regard for Penn State, and Joe Pa, has
deteriorated over the years, more and more of late. Here's why, In no
Gradually, the home of Penn State -- i.e., State College, PA -- has
come to be called "Happy Valley." Wiki cites no source for this name.
But there is a source,
in Nairobi Kenya:
The Happy Valley set was a group of
privileged British colonials living in the Happy Valley region of the
Wanjohi Valley, near the Aberdare mountain range, in the colonies of
Kenya and Uganda during the 1920s - 1940s. The elite social group
became notorious for stories of drug use and promiscuous sexual
The area around Naivasha, Kenya was one of the first to be settled by
white people and one of the hunting grounds of the hedonistic Happy
Valley set. The colonial town of Nyeri, Kenya, to the east of the
Aberdare Range, was the center of Happy Valley settlers.
You may think it anomalous. But I had lived in Ohio. I had a
straitlaced Roman Catholic (albeit union-loving MIT graduate)
consulting partner there who warned me about the isolated towns like
Lima and Findlay along our customary route to Detroit, where so much of
our work lay and where I once came close to being stranded by a broken
rental car. He said a few years back he'd had an assignment in Findlay,
which has no neighbors for fifty miles in any direction, and he was
shocked by the activities he was offered to participate in. Nairobi?
Findlay? State College? No accounting for where affluent boredom will
turn into something else.
I mean, you think rural locations in the middle of nowhere would be
safe places to send your daughters to school, right? Traditional
values, football the chief entertainment, yeah! Until I read about Penn State'sHappy
Empowering to some, offensive to
others, Cuntfest arrives at Penn State this Saturday.
The all-day festival, sponsored by
Womyn's Concerns and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, is
inspired by Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, a book by Inga
Muscio. Muscio feels the word, which once had positive connotations,
should be reclaimed by women.
In her book, Muscio says 'cunt' stems
from words that were either titles of respect for women, priestesses
and witches, or derivatives of goddesses' names.
"Cunt originally started off as a good
word," said Michelle Yates (junior-women's studies), who initiated the
event. "And it got transformed into one of the worst words you can call
The word's negative connotation was not
lost on Penn State Police Services, who received a number of complaints
Wednesday about a Cuntfest banner on the Osmond building.
"It didn't take long for people to get
offended by it," said Bruce Kline, assistant director of Penn State
The police removed the banner less than
half an hour after Yates hung it, Yates said. Soon after, she told the
police she had written permission to hang the banner, and they hung it
back up within several hours.
Our beloved mother tongue contains a
certain number of words that are designated as "bad" or "obscene." One
might wonder just how bad a word can be: picture it robbing convenience
stores or dumping toxic waste into the watershed.
Like Harley mechanics, the bad words of
English are a happy, useful group. Rich in Anglo-Saxon percussiveness,
full both of definite meaning and allusive complexity, they are capable
of turning vague everyday blah-blah into stuff that pisses off the
If that was the intention of the Womyn's
Concerns group at Penn State when they organized the Cunt Fest! and
then the Sex Faire, they certainly succeeded. The first of these events
was a feminist art fair; the second was an attempt to educate students
about sexually transmitted diseases, rape, the concept of consent, and
Now if you've ever tried to get the
attention of college students off beer and basketball long enough to
ponder something like feminism even for a moment, you will understand
the marketing strategy of Womyn's Concerns, who wanted to make their
events - in themselves fairly tame - sound sexy. They tried to wrap
their informational content in the black leather of bad words so that
people would show up.
State Representative John Lawless from
Montgomery County, our very own Jesse Helms, was also provoked into
attendance, and now demands that Governor Ridge suspend funding to the
Penn State system. It is not perfectly clear how much in the way of
taxpayer funds were used for these events, though it appears to be a
fairly small amount; most of the money came from student fees.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger got hold of the
story last week and lent her angelic contralto to the choiring whine of
outrage. I think it's fair to say that, like Womyn's Concerns, Lawless
and Schlessinger are pursuing the marketing strategy of provocation.
One thing we absolutely do not have to
worry about is the defunding of Penn State; if Ridge tried that he'd be
tarred, feathered, and run out to Cherry Hill on a rail. Indeed the
deepest concrete risk is that we will be seeing Lawless continually on
CNN and listening to Dr. Laura's weedeater voice into the indefinite
Perhaps the most controversial element
of the Sex Faire was the "Tent of Consent" in which students who
volunteered could disappear behind a curtain for two minutes of
consensual, or perhaps merely conceptual, activity. I do not for a
moment minimize what can happen in two minutes, but I suspect that
there was more bashful aversion than orgiastic groping. Indeed this is
a version of the pre-adolescent party game known as "seven minutes in
heaven," which in my experience of parenting twelve-year-olds turns out
to mean nothing at all.
campuses such as Penn State University Park are themselves tents of
consent, little spheres of post-adolescent experimentation, in which
the wild temptations of freedom suggest themselves but
internalized conservatism originating in the students' parents almost
always wins out in the end. Future accountants fight ineffectually for
the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal; recovering high school cheerleaders
pierce their noses. [boldface added]
As long as the nose's owner consents,
what, we may ask, the heck? Or the f**k, for that matter? Soon these
same people will be our state legislators, and then they and Lawless
can be outraged together.
Which begins to seem much more ominous than semiotic feminism when you
factor in Penn State's stratospheric ranking as a top 2011 party
Students in Happy Valley
can raise a glass because they are being recognized for partying with
the best of them.
Penn State is No. 2 on
Playboy’s 2011 Top 10 Party Schools in North America.
Playboy Magazine got
“input from students, fans of Playboy’s social media pages, alumni,
feedback from Playboy campus representatives at schools across the
country, and interviews with countless others,” they said.
Other factors like
male-female ratios, winning sports teams (go Nittany Lions), proximity
to the mountains, beaches and lively music scenes also played a role in
picking the Top 10, Playboy said.
The only school that beat
PSU on Playboy’s list was the University of Colorado at Boulder, which
like Penn State boasts ski slopes, a great bar scene and a lively music
But, Boulder doesn’t have
JoePa or the Gingerbread Man or the Dark Horse or the Deli.
We are! Penn State!
Why am I making a big deal out of the doings at a mediocre state
university that has never produced much? Penn State never belonged in
the Big Ten. They have nothing like the record of graduates produced by
Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, or even
Ohio State. And much as I hate to admit it, my old snobbery is rising
to the surface. In the Ivies, only Princeton is consistently,
permanently juvenile, holding class reunions for every class every
year. Penn State is the public version of that neurosis.
My final point. I won't claim serendicity again, but I'll at least
propose it. Lady Laird and I went to the Link earlier this year to cheer for the underdog Owls in
the Penn State-Temple game. Before Lady Laird adopted Temple as one of her teams, I used to root for Penn State
unless they were opposing my mother's Buckeyes. The missus even rooted
for the Nittany Lions (secretly) against the Buckeyes. No more.
She still won't admit it, but she's been rooting against Penn State
ever since. You see, the black players of Penn State are Nittany Lions,
while all the players of Temple are ghetto monkeys who need to have
racial imprecations shouted at them by drunken louts in "white-out" Penn State
jerseys. Kewl? No.
Doesn't all this come together somehow? Is there such a thing as
illiterate narcissism that can infect thousands of otherwise civilized
people, so that the Nittany Nitwit identity of their half-assed
consciousness blinds them to the simplest and deepest of moral
responsibilities? I don't expect Princetonians to be anything but
egotistical turds. But Penn Staters don't have the excuse of high board
scores. And they really do have a responsibility to explain a cosmology in
which Linebacker U. trumps human decency, geographic jingoism,
sliver-like icons half-dead in an upstairs booth (God nodding off above it all?), and the obligation to cry rape when a child is, uh, raped.
Joe Paterno is a shit. He's let down everything. As an Ivy-Leaguer,
he's just a dumb jock. As a coach, he''s a company man. As a
generational example, he's an empty shell, a fake.
Which is where we've landed. There's no one left to admire. Why I'm so
disgusted. Why we're (in my opinion today) doomed. The only person I
admire anymore is my wife.
Apart from these electronic friendships, I have no respect for anybody.
And no hope for us.
Because there's some Penn State in all of us. The program is the
program and I'll serve the program because the program is the program
and Michelle tells me this is my legacy. Whether it kills you or not.
Isn't that where we are now? Everyone and everything corrupt? I just
want to throw up. Me, I'm seeking the comparative Galahad-like purity
of Ohio State players who traded championship rings for tattooes. Where
can I get a tattoo that separates me from the countless whores who are
destroying our nation?
Done, done, done.
But think of the red Terminator eye. It goes out. But then it reignites.
Wait. I'm sure it will reignite. Sometime.
propose a pool. Pick a date and time when Joe Paterno will join Jim
Tressel as a disgraced ex-coach. The prize for the winner is a
(relevant) framed graphic from Shuteye
Town 1999. (but only if we get ten entries or more... although you can enter more than once.)
one would you trust to look out for your
I mean, yeah, I know, it's awful to think of. Tressel knowingly allowed several of his
players to make as much as $250 on merchandise their university was
making millions from. Whereas Joe Paterno is an icon in an upstairs
booth on the verge of ascending straight to the right hand of the
Football Father. Almost unearthly at this point. How dare we question him? Disgraceful times we live
Friday, November 04, 2011
Hockey Stick when you need it?
SPEAKS.A little while ago, Robert reeled out a little line and
hooked me with his "Your Turn" post, as he knew he would. I don't
have much interest in Tebow, and while the debate over Herman Cain
definitely grabs me, it was the new twist on the Global Warming issue
that really got me. I've been following the debate for years at the
citizen-scientist level: I've done a lot of reading to be able to
understand the data and the issues, and I've learned who to trust
(e.g., guys like Steve
McIntyre at ClimateAudit) and who to hold in permanent suspicion
(e.g., any climate scientist who was part of the ClimateGate emails).
Once the Instapunk post kickstarted me, I dove back into the data
and recent research and found that big changes are afoot. Not with the
climate, mind you (because that's always changing!), but
with the attitudes and views of the scientists at the heart of it. Some
of those that were so firmly entrenched in their alarmist AGW views
have recently had to face an uncomfortable question.
Before this question was raised, they had their hopes pinned on a
study out of Berkeley called BEST, proctored by one Rich Muller. When
the results came out, the press went into action as they've been
trained to do, drafting pieces like this in WAPO, originally linked here. The funny
thing is, this time the scientists who collect this data didn't
cheerlead. They issued remarks like, "As far as the basic science goes,
the results could not have been less surprising if the press release
had said “Man Finds Sun Rises At Dawn.”; "This must have been
something of a disappointment for anyone hoping for something
else...."; and "World is Warming. Pope Catholic."
What gives? Wouldn't they be pleased that another study bore out
their claims that global temperature is increasing right along with CO2
production, and therefore we're to blame? Why were they unimpressed?
Well, it turns out that they were hoping that a certain part of the
study wouldn't get much press -- the last little bit of the graph. Take
No warming in the
last 10 years... oh, the humanity.
If you zoom in on the last little bit of the graph, the results
are clear: warming has stalled for the last 10 years. But CO2
production hasn't stalled a bit. So this is no longer a possible case
of correlation without causation. There's simply no correlation. CO2 is
a trace gas, and while humans sure do produce a lot of it, it's a small
part (if any) of the real reason that a massively complex and global
set of properties called climate might possibly change. A ten year
study from a group at CERN found that our tenths-of-a-degree warming
might actually be caused by particles from distant supernovae (exploded
millions or billions of years ago, far from Al Gore's jurisdiction)
causing an increase in water vapor.
That's it. This coffin has had several dozen nails pounded into
it, but this recent result is a railroad spike. Some of the biggest
alarmist scientists have been polled about this, including several that
are found in those Climategate emails. They were asked this simple
question point blank by science reporter Paul Voosen: "Why, despite
steadily accumulating greenhouse gases, did the rise of the planet’s
temperature stall for the past decade?" Their responses are mainly
waffling, and many of them appeal to uncertainties about sensitivities
and feedbacks, the very song that skeptics (we deniers) have
been singing for years. Read about it here.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the green movement
genie is out of the bottle at all levels of world governments. I'd give
the US a fighting chance at undoing the damaging policies before
billions more dollars are wasted. It might be too late, however, for
the UK and Australia, where politicians and local government have
started using mob tactics that destroy businesses and people's lives in
the name of reducing CO2 production by an unmeasurably small amount.
Much like the Earth's climate, the future is definitely uncertain.
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Modest. And GREAT.
GIVE IT A CHANCE. I've
always hated American
Idol. A bunch of Whitney Houston impersonators adding endless
notes to pedestrian songs. But I decided to look in on X-Factor because I suspected Simon
Cowell wasn't wholly a monster based on his discoveries of middle-aged
diamonds in the rough like Paul Potts and Susan Boyle. I
know it's been a slow starter in the ratings race, but there are
several ways it's significantly better than Idol. There is no age limit, the
format of the show is designed to provide maximum exposure for a
handful of acts that are truly talented, whether they win the grand
prize or not, and the judges are not there to scorn the pretenders but
to mentor and promote talents they have invested their own time and
production skills in. On this show the judges are advocates, not assassins. It makes
you feel good.
I convinced my extremely reluctant wife to watch and she was blown
away. The contestants aren't all superstars, but they're far superior
to the drek of American Idol.
Just a kid. And he dominated that audience.
Each judge has a category of performers. And they'll be responsible for
sending somebody home on a regular basis. It doesn't please them
because they like what they're seeing.
fourteen. Like country or not, she's a force to be reckoned with.
That's all I have to say. I wouldn't have said this much except that my
wife suggested it. That's the real miracle here.
. People don't understand the riches of web resources
like YouTube and Google. The amount of available stuff is nearly
infinite. I've tried in the past to show you what YouTube contains.
Today it's Google's turn.
I executed a search for "the most beautiful." Here's the result.
Assemblage A gathering.
Beleaguer To exhaust with attacks.
Brood To think alone.
Bucolic In a lovely rural setting.
Bungalow A small, cozy cottage.
Chatoyant Like a cat's eye.
Conflate To blend together.
Cynosure A focal point of admiration.
Dalliance A brief love affair.
Demesne Dominion, territory.
Demure Shy and reserved.
Denouement The resolution of a mystery.
Desultory Slow, sluggish.
Dulcet Sweet, sugary.
Ebullience Bubbling enthusiasm.
Efflorescence Flowering, blooming.
Elision Dropping a sound or syllable in a word.
Elixir A good potion.
Eloquence Beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation Rubbing on a lotion.
Emollient A softener.
Epiphany A sudden revelation.
Erstwhile At one time, for a time.
Ethereal Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short
Forbearance Withholding response to provocation.
Furtive Shifty, sneaky.
Gambol To skip or leap about joyfully.
Gossamer The finest piece of thread, a spider's silk
Halcyon Happy, sunny, care-free.
Harbinger Messenger with news of the future.
Imbrication Overlapping and forming a regular
Imbroglio An altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue To infuse, instill.
Incipient Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable Unutterable, inexpressible.
Ingénue A naïve young woman.
Inglenook A cozy nook by the hearth.
Insouciance Blithe nonchalance.
Inure To become jaded.
Labyrinthine Twisting and turning.
Lagniappe A special kind of gift.
Lagoon A small gulf or inlet.
Languor Listlessness, inactivity.
Lassitude Weariness, listlessness.
Leisure Free time.
Lilt To move musically or lively.
Lissome Slender and graceful.
Lithe Slender and flexible.
Love Deep affection.
Mellifluous Sweet sounding.
Moiety One of two equal parts.
Mondegreen A slip of the ear.
Nemesis An unconquerable archenemy.
Offing The sea between the horizon and the offshore.
Onomatopoeia A word that sounds like its meaning.
Opulent Lush, luxuriant.
Palimpsest A manuscript written over earlier ones.
Panacea A solution for all problems
Panoply A complete set.
Pastiche An art work combining materials from
Penumbra A half-shadow.
Petrichor The smell of earth after rain.
Plethora A large quantity.
Propinquity An inclination.
Pyrrhic Successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential Most essential.
Ratatouille A spicy French stew.
Ravel To knit or unknit.
Riparian By the bank of a stream.
Ripple A very small wave.
Scintilla A spark or very small thing.
Seraglio Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem.
Serendipity Finding something nice while looking for
Summery Light, delicate or warm and sunny.
Sumptuous Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious Secretive, sneaky.
Susquehanna A river in Pennsylvania.
Susurrous Whispering, hissing.
Talisman A good luck charm.
Umbrella Protection from sun or rain.
Untoward Unseemly, inappropriate.
Vestigial In trace amounts.
Wherewithal The means.
Woebegone Sorrowful, downcast.
Sure I can disagree. But truthfully, there are a lot of beautiful words
on the list.
. What it is to be old and soft. I had thought
that maybe Michelle was the silver lining of this abominable
administration, that her duties as First Lady were exposing her to a
real America that refuted her Princeton fantasy of an evil slave state.
I guess I was wrong
about that. Read the whole thing.
angry first lady
Michelle’s back, and she’s madder than ever. She was already pretty
angry, seemingly unhappy with just about everything. As her husband
wrapped up the Democratic nomination in 2008, she let fly her real
feelings: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of
my country.” A few months into her job as first lady, her French
counterpart asked how she liked the gig: “Don’t ask!” she reportedly
spat. “It’s hell. I can’t stand it!”
She even seems to be mad at her silver-tongued husband. When the two
were to set off on a luxurious 10-day vacation to Martha’s Vineyard,
she left early - four hours early - and flew up alone. And those
private vacations. She’s traveled to some of the world’s most plush
resorts, taking 42 days off in the past year - that’d be eight weeks of
vacay time if she held down a normal job.
Now, she is ready to spew her bilious disgust with America on the
campaign trail. A dignified, transcendent first lady? No chance.
Michelle is going to break with a hundred years of tradition and play
the role of attack dog, heaping derision on her husband’s political
opponents like no other first lady before her.
And it’s already begun. Mad Michelle this week popped down to Davis
Island, Fla., to hobnob with the very people her husband despises - the
1 percent. At a massive mansion on the bay, filled with the wealthiest
of the wealthy, America’s first lady launched into a tirade about
“them” - the Republicans.
“Let’s not forget about what it meant when my husband appointed two
brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history,
our daughters - and our sons - watched three women take their seats on
our nation’s highest court. But more importantly, let’s not forget the
impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come - on
our privacy and our security, on whether we can speak freely, worship
openly and love whomever we choose. That is what’s at stake here,” she
said to applause.
Yes, Republicans hope to regain the White House so they can install
Supreme Court justices who will trample Americans’ privacy, ignore the
nation’s security, crush free speech and persecute the religious...
This is the person Barack Obama goes home to. It makes me more worried
. I've been away from the site for more than a few days,
which doesn't normally occur, and I feel obliged to offer an
explanation to assure you it's not going to be a trend.
Lady Laird and I have been to Pittsburgh for a long weekend. We were on
a mission. Our granddaughter Pippa attends college there and it became
necessary for us to say "Hi, Andy" to a portrait of Andrew Mellon
so his ghost wouldn't trip her when she passed through the lobby of the
administration building on her way to class. All the underclassmen
swear this is a constant threat.
We were happy to assist. My helpmeet made the hotel reservations,
arranged for the rental vehicle, scoped out the route via the GPS
function on her iPhone, and conducted the intense negotiations required
to get a veterinary clinic to house all three of our dogs for nigh on
72 hours. (People think Hillary is a tough bargainer. At the end they
weren't even surly when they agreed to the king's ransom times two she
had kept as her diplomatic ace in the hole.)
I did my part as well. I fell ill with a severe respiratory complaint
that should have made it impossible to leave my computer for any reason
whatsoever, barring the noble altruism of a man who also prefers not to
live in total spousal silence for the next three months, and when
tears, tantrums, special pleadings, and brilliantly ingenious excuses
by the dozen availed nought, I went out to the TrueValue and purchased
two timers to fool the burglars prepared to pounce on our house when
the sighthounds and I were no longer sleeping on our sentinel couches.
Then I somehow managed to extract the high tech timer devices from
their senior-proof packaging and, with the aid of my immense intellect
and a magnifying glass, deciphered the instructions on their
installation and activation. Several false starts later, they actually
worked. You know. Man stuff.
It's easy for you youngsters to say, "So what? You got in a car, drove
there and back, and now you want a medal?" Of course I want a medal.
This one will do:
With an "Escape"
and a "Hi, Andy" chevron.
You have no idea what it's like for a civilized homebody to burst
suddenly out of his small world into the wild west that exists slightly
left of the Main Line. There be horses and buggies out yonder,
starting as early as the Lancaster exit of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Amishers. At every mile marker
afterward you wonder, will the roads be paved? Will we fall headfirst
into a godawful Kevin Costner movie involving deerskins and subliminal
Thus, Friday morning found me piloting a bright red Ford Escape stuffed
with dogs and luggage to the first checkpoint, where Lady Laird began
the intricate process of canine-ransom exchange by leading a 13-pound
pug into the office of the commissar, who like all communist
apparatchiks everywhere, had no record of the intended transaction and
needed all new paperwork. When she returned, hours later, to give me
the okay to bring the other two, I was filled with admiration -- until
I beheld the face of the functionary in charge when she saw a greyhound
and a deerhound.
"I thought you meant three pugs," she said. "This changes everything."
To this day, people -- generally younger, dumber people -- ask me why I
hang onto my grandfather's WWI .45 sidearm and why I added the 16-bullet clip. What can you say to such
people? The dogs got their due digs.
Then the great odyssey got truly underway. I drove all 12,000 miles of
it, because the alternative would have been to surrender the steering
wheel to women who were fighting over which channel of eighties music
was going to prevail on the radio until we fell off the western edge of
the earth. No thank you. And, yes, there was more than one woman on
board. Do you begin to understand my medal claim?
I know I've tested your narrative patience past its limit. Permit me to
share the observations of a couch potato dynamited out of his happy
zone into the realities of life on the 21st century road. The following
are non sequiturs, but I'm convinced that epigrammatists like Pascal
and La Rochefoucauld would approve, perhaps even with some envy:
Why do they call it the Ford "Escape"?
You can't get away from a bleak and barren landscape. Somebody said,
during the 6,000 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, "I love it. This
looks just like Canada." All I could think was, "Exactly. Why I never
go there. Eighty billion square miles of barren nothingness. And no way
I'd like to (want to) buy a Ford. But I don't. I grew up in the days
when we fell in love with cars. Nobody falls in love with a thing that
aims for passing grades and achieves exactly that. The kindest thing I
can say is that I didn't get a back-ache. Probably not what Romeo said
There's nothing like an old, small, women-only college. Too bad the
[redacted] academics have to [redacted] it up with [redacted] [redacted]
like [redacted], [redacted], [redacted], and especially [redacted],
which actually makes me [redacted]. But the campus, the buildings, and
the trees and gardens were astonishingly beautiful. These alone make me
hopeful. The warm light of the past may yet outshine the politically
correct haz-mat lightbulbs of the present.
If you're a couple who loves the Olive Garden, like Lady Laird and me, you don't have to wait in line for a great
meal. You can wait for two seats to open up at the bar and eat
there. The menu is the same, the service is swift, and you feel like
you've won the lottery. Kewl.
In the hands of a master (er, missus), the iPhone can do anything. Find
the way to the hotel, find the weather back home, remind you not to
call the pet gulag to check on Eloise, and tell you where the nearest
restaurant is that's serving food in a snowstorm when your own hotel
keeps boutique hours for continental breakfast and early supper.
Granddaughters are lovely, touching beings. You want to protect them
from all the things that would enable them to have adult human
conversations with you. And when they've finally suffered enough to have adult human conversations
with, you wish -- like a maiden aunt fixated on Tinkerbelle -- that
they might remember all the way back to who they were then and unravel
some of its mystery for you.
McDonald's does a pretty good job with its Bacon, Egg & Cheese
Bagel. I'm old enough to have some authority on this point. But it's
pernicious the way they put the loose change on top of the bills and
the slippery receipt. And evil the way they say "Sorry" when it cascades to
the pavement after your one-handed balancing act fails.
Starbucks has entirely ruined the coffee industry. Even on the Turnpike
you can't get a plain cup of coffee that isn't overpriced, overcooked,
syrupy with yuppie pretension, and not (no way) drinkable to the end of
a good cigarette.
Pittsburgh is a fine fine city. Like so many American cities are.
Unique in history, architecture, cultural riches (Pippa has already
studied Faberge treaures at the Frick), neighborhoods, and ethnic
identity. I love this country. Wherever you go, there is beauty, stores
of knowledge and art, and the people make you welcome and proud to be
American. Even in the appalling moral cesspool that is the headquarters
of Stiller (Steeler) fans.
The ghost of Andy can be placated with a certain firmness. I did so,
protecting Pippa in her hour of need and narrowly averting a tripping
incident with my lefthanded wife as she was taking his photograph, she
who sometimes trips even in the absence of a starchy autocrat wraith.
The secret? I didn't say, "Hi, Andy." I said, "How do you do, Andrew.
You look exactly like my own holier-than-thou great-grandfather. Be a
gentlemen to the women of of my family or I'll horsewhip you on the
steps of your club." He didn't say a word. The carpet edge reaching for
my wife's shoe summarily retreated. Breeding will tell.
If you ever do suddenly leave home, you won't get away with it
scot-free. For example, you could take a nice fall trip to see the
pretty leaves and learn on the news channels that your home has been
instantaneously inundated with a monstrous snowstorm that has plunged
your friends and neighbors into darkness. When this happens to you,
remember not to panic while you're panicking and putting cold cloths on
your head and texting all the people who don't have electricity anyway.
It's pretty much the way life is. Get used to it.
Even seniors can survive road trips. We're home. The house is fine,
thanks to my timers. The cats survived their three day Cat Party. The
dogs are home. (Molly has stopped shaking.) The Ford has escaped
back to Hertz. And all is right with the world.
No way I'm not feeling proud of myself. This morning, just one day
after the 18,000 mile round-trip, I superintended the return of
electrical power to our
manse (well, I woke up when the lights came back on), then I organized and managed the return of the Escape, the
rescue of the dogs, and the replacement of a flat tire on Lady Laird's
chariot of fire.
I confidently await the awarding of my medal. Because I'm an old-fashioned hero, nothing if not a legend in his own mind. And after a weekend of higher learning, I'm sold on the self-esteem
thing. Bring it on. Back on my couch, I'm entirely comfortable with the
idea of being celebrated just for showing up. Maybe it's the progessive
Or maybe I already have my medal. Pippa hugged me when we left and Lady Laird
laughed when I read her this post. She's already planning a repeat
trip next year. I'm not afraid. I'll drive the whole 24,000 miles. Man
. Deja deja
vue. Haven't we been here before? Now it's the Democrats who are
concerned about politicians who hit on women. Excuse me, the media.
Excuse me again, same thing.
Wouldn't bother with this at all, except to point out that we dealt
with it nearly a decade ago at Shuteye
Nation. Point? The question is old as the hills and interesting
only in its salacious details. Even women are bored by the so-called
news that prominent men are inclined to hit on attractive younger
women. Does the name Bill Clinton ring a bell? Aren't we past the whole
"lying about sex" wheeze?
Of course we are. Unless he's a Republican. Or one of those negroes who
can't keep his thing in his pants. Or he says something exciting and
then keeps his thing in his pants. Which upsets liberal women in
particular, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court. Unless he's
pro-choice. In which case, you know. Regardless, with the copletely
singular exception of Bill Clinton, no man who aspires to be president
can be a sexual rogue. Explanation? We'll get back to you on that by
In the interim, a flashback to Shuteye
Nation, Year 2000:
Presdent Woody Willson never removed his pince-nez,
relished the company of a young lady named Ebony Flame, who started
her Wishington career as a stenographer but soon graduated to taxi
When the Presdent caught sight of her ankle as she was trying to hail a
bus near the Capitol Building, he was instantly smitten. The Society
many 'propinquities' between Woody and Ebony during his two terms,
the Presdent's illness and general decline at the end of his second
called a halt to pleasure. As required under Society by-laws, Ebony
details of their meetings in the OOPS journal, which may be published
by Smithtonian at a later date, provided that necessary funding
be procured (preferably through the National Archives, but if need be,
via executive order). One racy
tidbit may serve to tantalize: Willson's pet name for Ebony was "my
FDR liked them young, according to Society
Destiny LaTour. He also liked them short-haired, boyish in figure, and
"dressed to the nines in a birthday suit." There are four portraits of
Ameria's longest serving Presdent in the OOPS Gallery, one for each of
his terms, although Ms. LaTour makes it plain there were many more than
four women involved in Franklin
Rosevelt's "propinquities." Even at the end of his life, when he
barely utter a coherent sentence, he was still calling on the Society
a week or more for company. The young
shown above is Amber Borgia, an Ittalian by birth, who visited the Oval
Office on many occasions during the first term, but returned to her
land for political reasons when relations became strained between the
and Benito Mussoloni, Ittaly's fascist
dictator. Her entries in the Society Journal are in Ittalian, but
to Ms. LaTour, that's not all that's exotic about them.
James K. Poke was Presdent of the United
the drive to fulfill Manifest Destiny, a time of unprecedented western
migration and national enthusiasm. Poke was an appropriate choice for
country's highest office. He was energetic, flamboyant, and a bit
When he first delivered his propinquity specifications to the Society,
he minced no words in telling them he was "fond of flank steak—the
bigger the rump the better." The young lady shown in the Poke portrait
was his favorite of dozens who made visits to him in the Oval Office.
name was Fanny deBoeuf (a nom de guerre obviously,
translated as hind end of the beef), but not much else is known of her.
Ms. LaTour asserts that she used to sneak into the White House dressed
in the merest scrap of a shift: Presdent Poke didn't like to waste time
Presdent William Howard Tafft was a big man,
330 pounds, and it should be no surprise that he also liked his women
During the interregnum between Theodore
Rosevelt and Tafft, the Society had to replace virtually all of its
"propinquitors," since Teddy always preferred women to be slim and
The sheer amplitude of the Society's women during the Tafft term is
Some of them weighed nearly as much as the Presdent and had to be
into the Oval Office in huge wardrobes, which gave Tafft the reputation
of being a spendthrift on suits. One might suppose that the
were therefore sedate and sedentary occasions, but Ms. LaTour claims
Society annals record the replacement of four broken desks in the Oval
Office during the Tafft term. The details, alas, must await the
of the Society's closely guarded journal.
As the successor to Thomas Jeffersen, whose preferences
are well known, James Madison Munroe set many of the precedents
that became Society traditions. As a Vagina
gentleman, he was punctilious about conducting all his Society business
with politesse and grace. Indeed, on many occasions he spoke French,
it the language of courtly love, and reverted to his native tongue only
when it became clear he was not being understood. Always adaptable, the
Society began acquiring its propinquitors from Franch,
including the young lady shown in this official portrait, who resigned
the Parish ballet to dance for Presdent
Munroe—and sometimes on Presdent Munroe—in
the Oval Office. Her name was Ophelie de Pieds, and her entries in the
Society Journal will make fascinating reading for the general public
day. Apparently, Ameria's fourth Presdent liked feet.
*The Oval Office Propinquity
As anyone can see, Herman Cain needs to get a great deal naughtier.
More importantly, it seems unlikely Mitt Romney can even get to the
starting gate. Maybe Newt knows what he's doing after all.