New Discovery Reveals T.S. Eliot’s First Love Was Bowling

ST. LOUIS, Mo. T.S. Eliot was a poetic giant whose masterpiece “The Waste Land” was described by fellow poet William Carlos Williams as “an atom bomb” that wiped out everything that came before it, but newly-discovered letters reveal a more down-to-earth side of the Nobel Prize winner.


Eliot: “I’ll bet you a Cherry Coke and a Nutty Buddy I can make that 7-10 split.”

 

“Eliot was very much a product of St. Louis, where he was born,” notes biographer Robert Clairborne. “During the early twentieth century, St. Louis was locked in a titanic struggle with Milwaukee to become the bowling capital of America, and young boys and girls who contracted ‘bowling fever’ often died until a vaccine was developed.”


Eliot’s parents, who competed in Scotch mixed doubles leagues.

 

Charlotte, Eliot’s mother, encouraged young Tom to continue his youthful interest in the sport after he left Missouri to attend Harvard and moved to Massachusetts, where slimmer “candlepins” result in lower scores than “ten-pins,” even though players are allowed to roll a third ball.


Murder at the Cathedral of Bowling, Sammy White’s Brighton Bowl

 

“You will find candlepins more difficult, but more gratifying than tenpins,” his mother wrote after Eliot expressed frustration at an abysmal outing at Sammy White’s Brighton Bowl on Soldier’s Field Road in Brighton, Mass., a favorite haunt of local college students. Her son demurred in rhymed couplets that echoed Walt Whitman:

I bowled, and my ball came in on the Brooklyn,
scarce upending a single pin.
I recall that ‘Make That Spare’ was taped in Paramus, New Jersey,
but these little balls, they are sans merci.

When four employees of the bowling alley were brutally murdered on the premises, Eliot used the incident as inspiration for his “Murder in the Cathedral,” a verse drama that depicts the finals of the 1665 Tru-Value Invitational Tournament in Sheboygan, Michigan, between Archbishop Thomas Becket and King Henry II.


“Our runner-up will receive sainthood for eternity and an AMF leatherette bowling ball bag.”

 

In Eliot’s re-telling of the familiar tale of conflict between church and state, the King is miffed when his clerical rival makes a 7-10 split in the tenth frame to win the match.

You called on the Almighty to make that spare–
Frankly, Tom, I don’t think that’s fair.
I watched you pray while you used the hand-dryer–
Don’t say you didn’t, you sniveling liar.

City fathers say the letters will be put on display at Washington University in St. Louis, where Eliot’s connection to the school is memorialized by a plaque in a hallway leading to a broom closet.

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

“It’s Just Breakfast” Fills Dating Service Niche

BOSTON.  Linda Giljemi is a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” having started, built and sold two dating services before she turned 35.  “I just love bringing people together” she says with the warm smile that endears her to customers.  “I love making money, too,” she adds, “but after a while I realized it wasn’t everything.”


“Don’t make fart noises on my neck–it tickles!”

And so Linda sold her interest in “It’s Only Lunch,” a low-key, no-pressure service that brought unattached men and women together over lunch dates, and started planning her latest venture, which she will launch next week–“It’s Just Breakfast.”

Image result for pajama couple
“Umm–old pajama smell!”

“I became concerned that too many people were presenting themselves in a false light on lunch dates,” she says.  “The power ties on the men, the come-you-know-what-me pumps on the women–that’s not what married life is all about.”


“So he didn’t tell you that he scratched himself before you got married?”

Giljemi’s concerns were born out by standard industry metrics, which showed that 78% of “It’s Only Lunch” couples divorced within two years, with 13% of women having affairs with tennis pros and 27% of men running off with aerobics instructors.  “I decided that I didn’t want to live a lie,” she says.  “A fib, maybe, but an outright falsehood, no.”


“Has anyone ever told you that you have dog breath in the morning?”

The concept of “It’s Just Breakfast” is to put prospective mates together in a setting where they can see each other without the benefit of make-up, contact lenses or expensive clothing, and get to experience their future wife or husband as he or she will appear every bleeping morning for the rest of their natural life.


Mix and match

“I learned a lot about Scott through It’s Just Breakfast,’” says Emily Hersum of Brookline, Mass., about her breakfast date.  “I found it interesting how he mixed Count Chocula with Lucky Charms to make what he called Lucky Count Chocularms.”

Giljemi says the jury is still out on her new concept, although she’s had fewer complaints about marriages that went bad than was formerly the case.  “On the other hand,” she notes as she checks a computer print out, “We don’t seem to be getting any marriages at all.”

IRS Turns to Eunuchs for Tough Tax Cases

News item: Officials in India have used eunuchs to collect unpaid taxes.

HAZARD, Kentucky. Ray Bob Suggins, a career revenue officer for the Internal Revenue Service in this small town at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, thought he had seen it all in his thirty years collecting taxes for Uncle Sam.


Hazard, Kentucky

“I’ve seized a family’s satellite dish, I’ve put a lien on a guy’s blue tick hound–everything,” he says with a laugh. But his face clouds up with the latest directive from what he refers to sarcastically as “headquarters”–the national office of the IRS in Washington, D.C.


“Hey–don’t take that! ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ is on tonight!”

“Those guys sitting in their offices back east don’t know the people of Kentucky,” he says with emphasis. “Where they come up with some of their ideas I’ll never know.”

The idea that has Suggins’ dander up is Rev. Proc. 06-137, which will require IRS regional offices to implement “Project Eunuch,” an attempt to replicate in the U.S. the success Indian officials have had using eunuchs–castrated males who dress as women–to collect taxes.


Eunuchs in India.

“You can’t argue with the numbers,” says former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Hijras“–as eunuchs are referred to in India–”have produced remarkable results through the use of embarrassment, a tactic we have overlooked in the past.” And indeed in Patna, an Indian city with a population of nearly a half million where only about 2,000 citizens pay their property taxes on time, local officials report that eunuchs collected 425,000 rupees ($9,240) in their first day on the job.


Shulman: “They do this cool dance, sort of like this.”

In India hijras accost taxpayers on the street–taunting, cursing or touching their hair and cheeks–or set up outside a residence where they chant and dance loudly until a deadbeat relents and pays up. The eunuchs, who for the most part live in poverty because of their status as sexual outsiders, are paid a commission on what they collect. “We did a cost-benefit analysis,” says Shulman, “and eunuchs produce better results than boring techniques like putting a lien on somebody’s house and waiting for them to sell. Plus a lot of them are very attractive with all that makeup they wear.”


Before.

So Suggins agreed to be a “guinea pig,” subjecting himself to castration at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Louisville in exchange for two years’ extra credit towards his pension. “I should be able to retire at age 60,” he says as he squirms in his chair due to the discomfort that persists following the operation. “I figger it’s worth it if I live that long.”


After

As painful as it was to lose what he refers to as “the family jewels,” what comes next is even harder in his view. “I got to dress up like an Indian woman and go door-to-door and jingle my bells” to make delinquent taxpayers pay up. “That ain’t gonna be easy.”


Coffee Pot Cafe: First refill is free.

After Suggins applies cheap rouge, powder and lipstick, he heads over to the Coffee Pot Café where he know Lyle Oehrke will be sitting with his buddies at their regular table, sipping coffee before he heads out to work–or not–as a used car salesman at O’Connor Chevrolet-Buick on South Highway 65. “Lyle spends most of his paycheck every Friday at the Golden Palomino,” a “gentlemen’s club” just outside the city limits where he is generous with tips for the “pole dancers” and strippers who work there.


Where Lyle works–sort of.

Suggins appears at the entrance to the Coffee Pot, spies Oehrke over in the corner, and goes into his carefully-rehearsed “song and dance,” a tribute to the Indian god Krishna in the form of Mohini, a beautiful woman who is a central figure in the culture of the hijras. “Hey, hey, hey,” he chants as he claps rhythmically, swinging his sari back and forth. “I’m really gonna make your day.”

Oehrke is at first surprised, then dismissive. “Well look who’s here,” he says with a knowing grin. “If it ain’t Sweetie Pie Suggins, lookin’ for a date.” He laughs and his friends join him, although their nervous tension is apparent.


“Pay up now, or I’ll have a cow!”

“I’m from the IRS, and I’m gonna lift up my dress, dress, dress–unless”-Suggins stops for dramatic effect-“you clean up your overdue taxes, penalties and interest mess!”


“I wish I could wear me somethin’ like that!”

Nae Ann Wingersheek, long-time waitress at “The Pot” as locals here refer to the restaurant, comes to the table for a last round of refills and to present the check. “You all gonna sit here all day or go out and earn a livin’?” she says with a good-natured jab at the group’s indifferent work habits. “Hey, Ray,” she says to Suggins when she notices the tax collector, his arms above his head as he rings his finger cymbals.

“Hi Nae Ann,” Ray replies as he scoots back a step to allow her to get by.

“I like that outfit,” she says, referring to the saffron sari that he flirtatiously lifts from time to time, threatening to expose himself but pulling back in the hope that the full range of tax collection remedies permitted by the new IRS procedure won’t be necessary.

“You don’t think it makes me look fat?” Ray asks.

She studies him for a moment. “From the front, no. From the back, it looks like two hogs fightin’ under a sheet!”

The table bursts out in laughter, which Suggins joins in with good spirits. “I walked right into that one,” he says with a grin.

The table of regulars starts to pony up and, when Suggins sees Oehrke pull his wallet from his back pocket, he pounces.


Krishna says “Pony up.”

“Lord Krishna, all-powerful, crush this deadbeat like a grasshopper beneath your heel–he is about to pay for his meal!”

“C’mon, Ray,” Oehrke pleads. “You know I got alimony to pay.”

“Alimony, palimony-don’t indulge in matrimony!”

“And I need my car to get to work.”

“Why should I worry about your work, when you treat your fellow taxpayers like a jerk?”

Everyone in the restaurant is watching now; Oehrke’s friends have ponied up, and tax collector and deadbeat stare each other down, mano a former-mano.

“All right, goddamn it,” Oehrke says with disgust. “Here,” he says as he pulls a roll of bills out of his back pocket and counts off two hundred dollars in twenties.

“The IRS Commissioner thanks you very much,” Suggins chants as he picks up his haul, “but I’ll tell him for the record you were not a soft touch.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Death, Taxes and More Taxes.”

When Puppet Shows Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Puppet Shows

Libertarian activists are protesting restrictive New Hampshire state laws by staging unlicensed puppet shows.

The Boston Globe


“Spot”

A cynic’s definition of a libertarian is a Republican who smokes pot, but that is a half-truth. A libertarian is someone whose tattooed ferret smokes pot. And owns a puppet. The libertarian, that is, not the ferret.

I came by my puppet, whom I call “Spot,” through the turbulence of creative destruction that free-market types welcome; Spot is the former star of Pets.com commercials, and when the dot-com boom ended, my wife picked him up as a present for me for a song.

Ever since, we’ve been working on a medley of Chet Baker tunes to which he lip-synchs, casting an eerie spell as he channels Baker’s ethereal boppish voice.


Chet Baker: If you close your eyes, you can’t tell them apart.

 

It was after a late-night rehearsal–actually, I guess one doesn’t really rehearse lip synching–that Spot floated a crazy, off-the-wall idea.

“You know, lip-synching is fine,” he said, “but I feel it’s limiting my career.”

“How so?” I asked.

He turned from his perch on the end of my finger and looked me straight in the eye. “I want to sing–for real,” he said.

I considered for a moment what that would entail. “If you want to sing,” I said as the unseasoned music business pro that I am, “you’re going to have to work a lot harder.”

“No you’re going to have to work a lot harder,” he shot back at me.

“Why me?”

“Because I’m just a puppet. You need to work on your ventriloquism.”

He was right about that. I’ve been fooling around with “throwing my voice” ever since Tommy Racunas used to take home a prize, year after year, in the Sacred Heart Grade School Spring Talent Show with his dummy “Charlie” back in the 60s. For weeks afterwards, he’d have Carolyn Stretz, Trudy Espinosa and Candace Mitzel eating out of the palm of his hand. Then he’d run out of sunflower seeds, and things would return to normal.

“You’re right,” I said. “If we’re going to take our show on the road, we need to get better, and start at the bottom.”

“Someplace like Hampton Beach, New Hampshire,” Spot opined.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I almost got to play with Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy of ‘Blues Brothers’ fame in Hampton Beach when my roommate’s bass player showed up a half-hour . . .”

“Only about a million times.”


Matt “Guitar” Murphy: I came thisclose to playing with him!

 

“Right. I remember now.” I was humbled. No man is a hero to his sock puppet. “There’s just one problem with your idea,” I said after I’d recovered my self-esteem.

“What’s that?” Spot asked.

“Unlicensed puppet shows are illegal in New Hampshire.”

You could have knocked Spot over with a feather–if he hadn’t been attached to my arm. “You’re kidding,” he said. “The ‘Live Free or Die’ state?”

“The same.”


“You make me feel so young–you make me feel that spring has sprung!”

 

He turned away, then angrily slammed his little paw against the wall.

“Ow,” I said.

“What are you crying about–it’s my paw,” he snorted.

“You’re an inanimate object,” I replied. “I’m the one who can feel pain.”

“Oh, right. Anyway, I still can’t believe it. Doesn’t anyone read John Milton anymore?” he asked.


John Milton–or Dan Fogelberg?

 

“No,” I replied. “And if they did, what difference would it make?”

He was fired up now. “Because if they did, they might have learned a thing or two from Areopagitica.

A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing?”

“On the nosey. For my money, it’s still one of the greatest defenses of free speech.”

“You don’t have any money,” I reminded him. “What would people learn if they read it?” I asked, a bit skeptical.

He went to the bookshelf, pulled down his little thumbnail-sized edition of The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Milton, and flipped to page 720.

“They would know that licensing–a requirement of prior approval–’is but weaknes and cowardise in the wars of Truth,’” he declaimed, warming to his topic. “We arrive at truth by permitting a diversity of ideas.”

“Except for Catholicism–right?”


“Talk to the hand.”

 

“Well, yeah. Milton did have a blind spot about that.”

We sat there in silence, thinking about the never-ending struggle to keep speech and puppet shows free.

“So are we gonna do something about it?” he asked after a moment.

“What can one man and one puppet do?” I asked.

He gave me a look of cold, pitiless contempt. “I can’t believe you,” he said. “You sit there all day with your finger up my butt, while our precious freedoms are frittered away.”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t help–I just have to know what I’m in for.”

He got right up in my face. “We’re going to New Hampshire–tonight!”

“I’m kind of tired,” I said.

“I’ll drive,” he snapped. “You can sleep ’til we get there. In the morning, we’ll hit the streets, and put on the baddest unlicensed puppet show New Hampshire’s ever seen!”

I had to admire his courage. “Okay–I’m in,” I said.

“All right!” He gave me a high five, or actually a high one, since he doesn’t have reticulated digits on his paws.

“Just promise me one thing,” I said, slowing him down for a moment.

“What’s that?”

”You’ll give me plenty of warning if you have to pee.”

“A Patch of Pink–or Green” Tells Sad Story of the Colorblind

NEW YORK.  With tickets to the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival set to go on sale in four days, the early buzz from critics emerging from previews is that “A Patch of Pink–or Green” is the entrant most likely to achieve both artistic and commercial success when it is released later this year.


Sundance Film Festival

“I was in tears from the opening credits until I got up to get a box of Jujubes,” said Jenelle Bridges, a film student at the University of Southern California who saw the film earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.  “Then as soon as I got back, I started bawling like a baby all over again.”

Image result for woman crying movie
Bridges:  “That was so–freaking–sad!”

“Pink or Green” as festival-goers affectionately refer to it, is the story of Evan Jamison, a color-blind boy who overcomes his handicap to become chief mens’ clothes buyer at Filene’s, the defunct Boston department store.


Cahiers du Cinema:  If you can’t understand this, take it to someone who can.

“It’s got everything going for it,” said Antoine Ste. Joan, who is covering the festival for Cahiers du Cinema, the high-brow French film magazine.  “A sad story line, lots of ambiguous sexuality and the demise of a petit bourgeois American commercial enterprise.”


Ste. Joan:  “Eet ees not as good as a Jerry Lewis film, but then what is?”

The film describes Jamison’s journey from a young boy whose classmates taunt him for the mismatched color schemes he wears to class at a rough-and-tumble public school in Newton, Massachusetts, to necktie counter clerk at a small men’s store, and finally to the pinnacle of the retail clothing industry–a position as chief buyer of a major department store chain.

Jamison’s color-blindness is discovered in a dramatic scene in which his principal competitor, a cold and calculating female buyer, places two tie-shirt combos in front of him in an attempt to embarass him before top executives.  When he incorrectly places a pink tie on a green shirt and vice versa, his disability is exposed, leading to a reassignment to Filene’s Basement, the store’s cut-rate discount outlet.


Filene’s:  The basement is downstairs.

Jamison fights back, risking everything by purchasing unsold pink oxford-cloth shirts from Brooks Brothers that he believes are green.  When pink shirts become fashionable, he is able to sell the inventory at a significant mark-up, and is promoted over his rival.  The store is ultimately forced to close when Jamison places a substantial order for peach-colored shirts that he believes are blue, but he vows to continue his struggle at a factory outlet store in New Hampshire.


“Bobby–put down that baseball bat.  You can realize your dream of becoming an interior decorator!”

Color-blindness is primarily a male affliction, striking about 6% of boys but only .5% of girls.  Parents of color-blind boys say the film has given them new hope that their sons can overcome their handicap.  “We always told our son that if he worked hard and played by the rules he could realize his dream of becoming an interior decorator, but we were lying,” says Tom Childress of Utica, New York.  “Maybe this movie will prove us wrong.”

 

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “I Hear America Whining.”

Tax Code Found to Be Safe Yet Potent Aphrodisiac

WASHINGTON, D.C. It’s getting close to tax time, and across the nation women are nursing two-month-old babies they delivered in January.


“You are the cutest widdle $3,200 deduction from ordinary income mommy’s ever seen!”

 

Demographers have noticed that a disproportionate number of the nation’s children are born during the first month of the year, and the Internal Revenue Service believes it has discovered why.


Shulman: “The tax code has always been a tremendous turn-on for me personally.”

“Our nation’s tax code, while complex, can be a safe but potent means of increasing the libido of married couples who file joint returns,” said former IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman. “There’s the fighting over ‘Why don’t you make more money?’ and then–the make-up sex.”


Looking at naughty forms on the IRS website helps couples get in the mood.

Taxpayers seem to agree with Stiff’s analysis. Linda Barnes of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, says tax time is a period of increased intimacy with her husband Duane, who prepares their taxes using off-the-shelf software. “Just say it real slow and sultry-like–‘Turbotax–Turbotax’. It kinda gets to you.”


Church ice cream social: “Lloyd, is that an ice cream cone in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

Others say they use the stimulus of tax preparation to avoid the side effects of other erectile dysfunction remedies. “My husband Lloyd thought he was going blind from Viagra,” says Cindi Kennon of Hoxie, Arkansas, “and with Cialis he’d walk around all weekend with a lump in his pants–not good for a Sunday night ice cream social,” at the Bethany Baptist Church where the Kennons worship. “On the other hand, alcohol is like prunes–is two beers enough? Is six too many? You never know.”


Muu-Muus: Also available in men’s sizes.

There are even couples who use tax-based role playing to add an extra kick to the Internal Revenue Code’s 9,545 pages of erotic stimulus. “We introduce cross-dressing into our love-making routine during April,” says Anna Simon of Grosse Point, Michigan. “I buy my husband Jim some plus-size panty hose and a muu-muu, and he plays the poor, pitiful housewife while I pretend I’m an IRS auditor.” After scolding him for improper deductions of commuting expenses from W-2 wages, Mrs. Simon spanks her husband and allows him to file an amended return correcting his error.


“All of our private suites are booked right now, but I can put you on the table in the conference room.”

Tax-preparation giant H&R Block says it will add private “consultation” rooms to its offices to handle the needs of couples whose personal tastes include exhibitionism. “The guys come in here and want to show me how big their mortgage interest deductions are,” said branch manager Herb Webb of the firm’s Council Bluffs, Iowa office. “Frankly, they don’t pay me enough to watch that kind of sicko stuff.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Death, Taxes and More Taxes.”

Moi et La Vache Qui Rit

I have generally found that, if you are in quest of some certain escape from Philistines of whatsoever class—sheriff-officers, bores, no matter what—the surest refuge is to be found amongst hedgerows and fields, amongst cows.

                    De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

Image result for la vache qui rit

I first encountered La Vache Qui Rit in a little neighborhood grocery store in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.  She was, in a word, irrepressible.  “Look,” she said to all and sundry, including those over in the sundries section.  “‘Cheese flavored food product,'” she read from a package of American “cheese,” breaking out in laughter.  “It isn’t cheese, it’s a ‘cheese-flavored food product.'”

To say that I fell in love with The Laughing Cow at first sight would not be an understatement; she was “La vache qui rit quand je ne peux pax,” viz., “The cow who laughs when I can’t.”  Burdened as I was by hours of freshman homework in the humanities, social studies, the physical sciences, phys ed and of course French, I had neither the time nor the energy to laugh–I needed a bovine friend with little cheese wheel earrings to do my laughing for me.

It was Charles-Andre-Joseph-Marie de Gaulle, the first president of the Fifth Republic, the man named after quadruplets who cracked “How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”  “Je ne sais pas,” as I used to say when Dr. Bell or Madame Cooney or Mademoiselle Quintana or Monsieur Isacharoff, the four pedagogues who tried unsuccessfully to drum French into my head, would ask me a question.  En Anglais: “I don’t know,” because the only cheese I ever needed was La Vache Qui Rit.

Image result for hitchcock hall chicago
Ye olde dorm.

I took her home, or more precisely to my dorm room, in her most popular format, the “spreadable wedge.”  What followed was an orgy of cheap pleasure that surpassed anything I’d previously experienced with Velveeta, my cheesy “If you’re lookin’ at me, you’re lookin’ at country” girlfriend back in Missouri.  After we were done dusting the cracker crumbs out of my bed, it occurred to me that there was more to life than oral gratification.  “You know, Vache . . .”

“Oui?”

“I was wondering–do you think you could help me fend off a few bores?”

“What kind?”

“A varied assortment.  Academic, artistic–”

Image result for siegel schwall
Siegel-Schwall Band:  They may be bad, but they’re also boring.

 

“You mean The Siegel-Schwall Band?”

“Well, yeah.”

“They’re awful,” she laughed.  She was, after all, La Vache Qui Rit.  “White guys imitating white guys imitating black guys.”

“Like somebody making hand puppets in Plato’s cave.”

“Anybody else?”

“Wegener–the professor of something or other who can’t make it in the English Department and can’t make it in the Philosophy Department so he latches on to a scholar . . .”

“McKeon?”

“. . . on the nosey, who’s too big for any one department, and becomes his acolyte.”

“I don’t know,” she said, her fescue-sweetened breath blowing my way.  “That’s two tall orders.  Anybody else?”

“Well there’s this guy who’s in my dorm . . .”

“Um hmm . . .”

“It’s like he’s already become an old fart at the tender age of eighteen.”

“How so?”

“Smokes a pipe.  Has elbow patches on his sweaters.  Says things like ‘I’m in the mood to read a really good epic poem.'”

“Ouch,” she said.  “Were his parents . . .”

“Professors?  You got it.  He brought his own file cabinets to school with him.”

Image result for laughing cow

“I think a case like that is probably incurable.  You can’t help somebody who’s the product of inbreeding.”

I figured she was right on that score.  “So what can you do for me?”

She looked off into the distance, as if yearning for the peace and contentment of her home in the former French province of Bresse.  “I can give you the tools,” she said with a distracted air.  “What you do with them is up to you.”

I gulped in recognition of the challenge that lay before me.  “Okay,” I said solemnly.  “Let’s do it.”

“Follow me,” she said.

“Where are we going?”

“To class.  Let’s start you out easy with a feckless academic.  They’re easier to cow.”  She said this with a glint in her eye, seeing if I caught her play on words.

“I’m right behind you.”

“Watch out for bovine flatulence.”  So earthy!

We made our way to the building where the Department of the History and Philosophy of History and Philosophy was housed, and made our way to the fourth floor, where an eager retinue of acolytes sat waiting for the entrance of the semi-great professor.  I sat down at one of the rectangular tables, each with an ashtray that said “No smoking” on it.  I looked around, but didn’t see any bottles that said “No drinking” on them.

Image result for french cows
French cows: “Mieux!”

At the stroke of the hour he entered; the fraud, the con man, the second fiddle, the guy who’d parlayed a symbiotic (if not parasitic) relationship with the great translator of Aristotle into a cushy position with tenure; two courses a semester, a sabbatical every seven years, three months off in the summer.  Nobody ever went into academics looking for hard work.

Image result for university of chicago class
“I thought we’d have class outside today so you wouldn’t be stifled by my hot air.”

“What’s this guy’s game?” Vache whispered to me as he sat down.

“He’s the Professor Irwin Corey of academia.  Talks a bunch of nonsense but makes it complicated so you think it’s your problem if you don’t understand.”

“It is your problem–he’s handing out the grades.”

Image result for irwin corey
“Did I say teleology of hermeneutics?  My bad–I meant hermeneutics of teleology.”

 

The prof gave everybody a poop-eating grin, the way Oprah or a Tonight Show host looks out on an audience that’s been warmed up for them.  “Let’s dive right into Lucretius!” he said, but everyone knew that was a head-fake.  He wouldn’t stay with the Roman poet-philosopher long enough to make a cogent argument; he’d be off to the races, comparing him to Rousseau, Marcel Duchamp, Neil Young and Shemp, the Fourth Three Stooge.
Image result for lucretius
Lucretius:  “What’s with the No Smoking ash trays?”

 

The neophyte intellectuals were scribbing away, except for one particularly devoted devotee named Eliot–figures–who had brought a tape recorder.  He didn’t want to miss a word while writing, which would also detract from his ability to fawn.

The prof was going a mile a minute and almost missed the exit for Sartre, and so had to slam on the brakes and double back.  La Vache seen her opportunity and took it, like Tammany Hall boss George Washington Plunkitt.  “Excuse me,” she said after swallowing the cud she’d been chewing.  “Is this little bout of logorrhea going anywhere?”

The academic was caught off guard by Vache’s no-nonsense air.  He was used to having his ass kissed, not kicked.

“Well, uh, yes, of course.  It leads to Giambattista Vico, and from there to Marx, and . . .”

“Yogi Berra?”

Image result for yogi berra
Berra:  “There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

 

“Excuse me?” the prof said.  “You’re introducing a lowly baseball player into a colloquy about the greatest minds of Western Civilization?”

“He’s the second most quoted person in history after Lewis Carroll,” Vache said.  “As Casey Stengel used to say, ‘You could look it up.'”

The professor had been knocked off his balance, but he regained his footing on the firmer ground of academic bureaucracy.  “I don’t believe I’ve seen you in this class before,” he said blandly.  “You know you can’t audit a course without the registrar’s permission.”

“I’m a visiting faculty member in the French department,” she said.  “I’ve come to America to see how we can improve on our academic inefficiency.”

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