More States Allow Concealed Carry Notary Publics

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.  The school year starts in less than two weeks, which means the Mall of New England here is crawling with boys and girls and their mothers, shopping for clothing and, in the case of the kids, scouting each other out.  “Mom, I’m going down to the food court, can I have five dollars?” asks Ethan Swardski, a “rising” seventh grader at Pumpsie Green Junior High School in Natick, one town over.

“All right,” his mother Ellen says, “I’ll swing by in say–forty-five minutes.”

“Okay, see ya,” Ethan says, as he bolts down the wide concourse, grabs two slices of pizza and heads over to a table where Mindy Bolton, who the smart money says will be the school’s head cheerleader, is sitting.

Last year Ethan wouldn’t have stood a chance with Mindy, but over the summer he ordered a home study course titled “How to Get Girls to Like You!” and studied it assiduously.  “The guy who wrote it says you can pick up a girl every time you go out,” he tells this reporter.  “All you have to do is buy them stuff, look in their eyes and promise you really like them, and pretty soon you’re feeling them up.”


“911?  Can you send a notary public to the mall between The Gap and Chico’s?”

 

Ethan takes a seat and begins to chat Mindy up, not realizing that he’s being observed from the Panda Express “Pick Up Order Here” station by Furman Boul, a middle-aged man whose hand is plunged deep into his right pants pocket, even though he’s already paid for his food.  Boul’s order arrives and he sits down at an unoccupied table, but he doesn’t pick up his plastic fork to dig into his pork fried rice.  “I don’t like the looks of that kid,” he says as he tears open a plastic packet of duck sauce.

Boul sees Ethan pleading his case with Mindy, and after he has her giggling from this season’s vogue jokes, the boy slowly inches his fingers across the table and takes her hand in his.  “Mindy,” he says, “if you’ll be my girlfriend this year I’ll write all your book reports.”

“You will?”

“Yes.”

“That . . . that is so sweet,” she says, her eyes tearing up.  “Because I hate to read so much!”

Ethan squeezes her hand and is about to lean over for a kiss when Boul arrives to interrupt the blooming dream of young love.

“Hold it right there, Romeo,” Boul growls, his face a map of rough terrain with deep lines formed by years of hard-won skepticism.

“What?” the boy asks, confused and more than a bit miffed that his campaign of woo has been halted in its tracks.

“I think you’d better get that promise in writing,” Boul says to the girl as he withdraws a notary public stamp and seal from his pocket.

 


“I’ll need to see a valid, state-issued ID.”

 

“Why?” the ingénue asks, genuinely ingenuous.

“Suppose you sprain your ankle and don’t make the cheerleading squad?  You think this grifter is still going to come through for you?”

The girl looks at the boy and, when he says nothing, asks “Well?”

“Sure I would Cindy–I mean Mindy.”

“Hear that?” Boul asks.  “Doesn’t sound too committed to me.”


“There–NOW it’s official!”

 

“Gosh,” the girl says.  “Maybe you’re right.”

“You’re darned right I’m right,” Boul says, as pulls a form affidavit off a pad he keeps in his backpack and begins to fill in blanks.  “I hereby promise to write no less than four (4) book reports for . . . what’s your name, dear?”

“MINDY,” the girl says with emphasis.  “Mindy Bolton.  And make that five, not four.”

When the formalities of stamping and sealing the impromptu legal document are done, Boul takes his leave, waiving his customary $2 notarization fee and wishing Mindy luck.  “Don’t let the mean girls get you down,” he says as heads back to eat his by-now-cold Chinese food.

Boul is one of a new breed of vigilante, a concealed carry notary public known in popular parlance as a “good guy with a notary seal,” who swoop in to prevent catastrophes both major and minor.  “A regular desk-bound notary can’t be everywhere,” says Framingham Chief of Police Nolan Squiersdorf.  “The main problem is you need to get movers to lug your big desk around, so guys like Furman are filling a gap that chintzy taxpayers are too cheap to pay for.”

Concealed carry notaries aren’t limited to romantic intervention, as is evident down Concourse B at Thoreau Books, where shopper Emily Nostrand has been imposing on sales clerk Dagmar Connolly for the better part of a half hour to find her the perfect book to take on vacation.  “I think you’ll like ‘Love’s Stifled Impulse,'” Connolly says as she tries to close the sale.

“I’m going to go over to Starbucks and get a coffee, I’ll come right back to buy it,” Nostrand says, as she discreetly taps the amazon Prime app on her phone in an effort to save $2.39 off the price at the brick and mortar bookstore.

“Why don’t we just memorialize that promise before you go,” says Emma Gillett Harkins, a seventh-generation descendant of Emma Gillett, America’s first female notary, as she pulls a stamp and seal from her purse.

“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary,” Nostrand says airily as she stuffs her phone in her purse, but Gillett grabs her by the wrist and presents the evidence of perfidy to the store’s security guard, who escorts the stingy shopper to the cash register.

“Thank you so much,” Connolly says.  “Is there anything we can do to repay you?”

“Well,” Gillett says as she rubs her chin, “my ink pad could use freshening up.”

 

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Egypt Demands Return of Sam the Sham & Pharoahs Albums

CAIRO.  They are, according to neutral experts, monuments to bad taste that will endure forever.  “The people of Egypt have suffered enough,” says Amir Hulstead, professor of archaeology at the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk.  “The rightful home of these precious works is back in the cradle of civilization, where they could have been strangled in their infancy.”


“Wooly Bully!”

 

Hulstead is referring to the movement to return recorded music by Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs, the greatest rock band ever produced by this ancient nation, to its rightful home here on the Nile River from American basements and garages.  “Who owns cultural artifacts is one of the hottest debates in international affairs,” says Abdel Maboudi, Assistant Minister of Culture here.  “Those cassettes belong to the third world.  The first world took them, the second world  may also have some good stuff.”


Ancient hieroglyphs found on first album.

 

Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs ruled during the thirty-second dynasty, from approximately 1965 to 1985, A.D.  They ushered in their reign with “Wooly Bully,” a cryptic paean to a supernatural being with “two big horns and a wooly jaw.”  “I’ve searched all the pyramids I could find, including the Food Pyramid,” says Hulstead, who plans to return to Egypt for further exploration.  “Unless they’re referring to the Sphinx, I have no idea what they’re singing about.”


Gettin’ down like a deity!

 

The theft of relics has historically gone unchecked despite complaints that Western nations are misappropriating artifacts that are central to the cultures of undeveloped nations for use by museums and private collectors.  “I don’t know why hipsters covet our long-playing vinyl records and 45’s,” says Sedkhi Malab, a street vendor.  “You can get all the Pharoahs’ music you need on their two-CD Greatest Hits set.”

 

I Don’t Want to Hear About It

There are certain things in life that I haven’t heard yet
that I don’t want to learn about, not even on a bet.
Like your blonde second wife, member of the jet set,
the one who you met on the internet.

I’m sure she’s charming, and quite the looker,
but it’s the world-wide web—she could be a hooker
who’ll empty your accounts at your local bank,
please reconsider, you’ll have me to thank.

About your dreams, I truly couldn’t care less.
You have one every night, is my educated guess.
I don’t want to hear about the terrible mess
you got into that time you forgot your French test

and showed up late, in your underwear,
causing well-prepared students to stop and stare.
You woke up, it’s fine, spare me the details–
I don’t want to hear about it—wholesale or retail.

And now, sadly, we come to your spawn,
a topic that inevitably makes me yawn.

How exactly is that kid of yours doin’?
At your last report, there was no trouble brewin’–
from the police report I read, he’s headed for trouble
if he hasn’t dropped out, he’s on the bubble.

No, I think you trimmed the tale you told,
this prevarication on your part, it’s getting rather old.
I’ve listened to your stories, I suspect that you’re lyin’,
but as long as you’re here, let me tell you some of mine.

The Precocious Infants of Papua New Guinea

          The first words uttered by a child in Gapun, Papua New Guinea, are not typically “mama” and “papa” but some variation on the phrase “I’m sick of it, I’m leaving.”

Review of “To Hear a Dying Tongue” by Don Kulick, The Wall Street Journal

I have come to the village of Gapun, Papua New Guinea, not to lord it over the 130 primitive people who live here, but instead to learn.  I have read in the great Journal of Wall Street, “The Daily Diary of the American Dream,” that here babies are born as fully-developed adolescents, already mouthing off to their parents, while children in America do not begin to form complete sentences until they are two years old!  What are the Papua New Guineans doing right, and what are we doing wrong?


“I am so . . . freaking . . . bored!”

 

In the wealthiest nation on earth, it takes a girl nearly thirteen years to develop the cognitive whining skills to tell her parents on an expensive vacation “I’m sick of it, I’m leaving.”  In Papua New Guinea, these are the very first words a child speaks!

Parents in upscale suburbs in my native country spend thousands of dollars on tutoring, full-immersion Mandarin Chinese, horseback riding, squash lessons, braces and college coaches in the hope that someday their child will repay them by totaling an American-made “starter car” and insisting on a BMW i8 “hybrid” sports roadster because at $147,500 it’s “better for the environment.”


BMW i8:  Vroom, vroom–in an environmentally sensitive way.

 

No, those Papua New Guinea kids have got their priorities straight.  If you don’t train your parents when you’re young, they’ll be impossible to control when you’re an adolescent.  Spare the complaining and spoil the adult, I always say.

I approach a nursing woman hesitantly, not wanting to disturb the blissful mother-child scene I see before me–and try saying that five times fast.  It’s right up there with “She sells sea shells by the sea shore.”


“Who says there’s nothing to do?  You can play chase the pig.”

 

As an anthropologist, it is my job to ask primitive people nosy questions so I can get tenure and foundation grants back home.  The woman looks up at me, the child stops sucking and begins to bawl.  “What,” I ask in one of the island nation’s 600 languages, “is the matter?”

The woman shakes her head in exasperation.  “He wants chocolate milk, I only have plain.”

“Ah,” I say, and think back to the rich country that I come from.  “In America, the Nesquik Bunny roams the streets freely and distributes samples . . .”

” . . . of the delicious and nutritious chocolate milk products that help you take on the day?” she asks, finishing my sentence before I can.

“On the nosy,” I reply.  Truly, we underestimate the ability of indigenous peoples to absorb and re-purpose our mass-marketing wizardry for their own ends.  She has transformed a simple advertising mascot into a figure of myth.


Nesquik Bunny: The early years.

 

I pull one of the company’s signature stuffed rabbits from my backpack and hold it out to the baby.  “Why don’t we use the Nesquik Bunny as a ‘trickster’ and scare the bejabbers out of your annoying kid?” I ask, trying to bring the benefits of Western Civilization to this poor nation, where the people are so undernourished they must pass a place twice to make a shadow.

“How will we do that?” the woman asks.

“I don’t know.  Shake it, make random ‘ooga-booga’ noises–that sort of thing.”

“Wasn’t there some kind of scandal about Nestle baby formula at some point?” she asks with concern.

“This is Nesquik–totally different.  My kids used to chug the stuff, it was good practice for when they went to college and joined fraternities.”

“So–no adverse consequences?” she asks warily.

“Depends.  Do you consider a D+ in biology a bad thing?”

Money Laundering With the Girl Scouts

          A man praised on social media for buying all of a Girl Scout’s cookies has pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a prosecutor and witnesses.  Police seized heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and about $1 million in cash from him.

Associated Press


“Here’s your ‘dime bag,’ mister!”

 

In my business–which is really not a traditional line of commerce so much as a criminal enterprise–you’ve got to have strong links at every point in your supply chain.  It’s not enough that you have the best product, or the highest level of equity capital, or the most talented employees.  It’s not even that important to have an outstanding image on social media, although God knows that’s important among Gen X, Y and Z and the rest of the letters in the last quarter of the alphabet.

No, it’s just as important to have vendors and trading partners you can count on in a pinch, like the young ladies of Girl Scout Troop 3746.  Their motto–actually, it’s the motto of all Girl Scouts across the country–is “Skills today.  Success tomorrow,” and boy have they come through for me, time and again.


“Yes we have a million dollars worth of cookies to sell!”

 

Every time I move a lot of product and need to, shall we say, “recycle” my ill-gotten gains through a legitimate business, the Girl Scouts have been there for me.  Too much unexplained cash on hand because you dumped a pallet load of cocaine in LA?  A few kilos of heroin in New York?  A shipment of non-prescription fentanyl–which is not, like it sounds, a flowering plant that can be used as a garnish or an herb–that’s fennel.  Talk to the Scoutmaster, she’ll find a couple hundred spare boxes of Tagalongs or Do-Si-Dos to make you appear as pure as the driven snow.  Quicko-presto-change-o, what was formerly “fruit of the poisonous tree“–if some over-zealous prosecutor happened to grab it without a search warrant–is now mouth-watering confections from “the preeminent leadership development organization for girls.”


“The Thin Mints are $500,000 a box.”

 

I sidle up to the folding table outside the Nomar Garciaparra Elementary School and begin to nod and wink at Emily Pennybaker, whom I’ve used to “fence” contraband before.  A stolen Barbie or Midge doll, a Little Mermaid lunch box, a 48-color box of Crayola Crayons–small-ticket items but hey, a guy’s gotta keep busy.

“Do you have Tourette’s or something?” she says in a reserved tone.  I’m caught off-guard at first, then I realize she’s “playing the game” in case there are truant officers or hall monitors lurking nearby to entrap us.

“Huh?  Oh, yeah, yeah.  Got it bad.  Liable to blurt out some obscenity at any moment–‘fishstick,’ ‘nimmynot,’ ‘doody-head’–so, if you don’t mind, I’d like to buy some cookies, fast.”

“You mean ‘quickly.’  ‘Fast’ is an adjective, which modifies a noun.  ‘Quickly’ modifies the verb ‘buy,’ it tells me how you want to buy them.”

I got to say, the kid’s a pro.  She’s got the goody-goody grammar school pose down pat.  “Oh, thanks.  I, uh, stand corrected.”

“What kind do you want?”

“Well, uh, the Thin Mints are my favorites.”

“They’re everybody’s favorite.  How many boxes do you want?”

“How many can I get for”–at this point I fish in my Toy Story tri-fold wallet and act like I’m seein’ how much discretionary income I got–“a million dollars?”

“Let’s see,” Emily says, as she scans down her price list.  “For a million dollars, you can get . . . two boxes.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“That’s armed robbery!” I say, my voice shaking. “Girl Scout cookies are sold for $2.50 to $4.00 per box, depending on the troop’s location, to cover both the current cost of cookies and the realities of providing Girl Scout activities in an ever-changing economic environment. Check the website.”

“I’m quoting you the ‘street’ value.  You don’t like it, go buy yourself a box of crappy Keebler Fudge Shoppe Grasshopper Mint Cookies.  There’s a 7-11 right around the corner.”

She’s got me by the short hairs.  I open up my billfold and start to count off 10,000 $100 bills.  That’s enough Benjamins to stock a lot of alt-rock bands, overpriced espresso joints and English faculty lounges, all of which abound with Benjamins and Christians and Jareds, so if you want, take a break and come back when I’m done.

(. . .)

Several hours later, the bills are stacked high in front of Emily, and she forks over my cookies.  “Pleasure doing business with you,” she says.  The feeling isn’t mutual, but at least I’ve converted my cash into a highly-portable commodity that won’t draw the attention of the Goody Two-Shoes at the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the National Football League or any of the other forty-eleven agencies with overlapping jurisdiction to fight money laundering.  I just need to find somebody to re-sell these things to at a fair price so I can recoup some small fraction of my investment and my criminal dignity.

I’m not optimistic, but just as I’ve hit full mope mode who do I see coming down the street but George B. Minot, III, heir to the Minot Envelope-Licking Machine fortune.  He’s straight out of a Richie Rich comic book–if any kid in the neighborhood is walking around with a million dollars to spare, it’s him.

“Hey Gay-org,” I call out to him, using the European pronunciation his mater prefers.

“Hullo,” he replies, subtly disguising the fact that he doesn’t remember my name, or for that matter give a hamster’s ass who I am.

“You interested in a couple boxes of heirloom Girl Scout Cookies?”

“Heirloom you say?”

“Right–like the tomatoes.  Handed down from rich ancestors–should be right up your alley!”

He takes a look at my stash and sniffs the sniff of a boy who hasn’t bought anything in so long that his credit cards are starting to throb.  “All right–how much do you want?”

I hesitate for a moment.  I don’t want to blow the sale, but I don’t want to lose my shirt, either.  It’s nice, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “throwback” model, with pre-distressed armpit holes.

“I dunno, I was hoping to get . . . nine hundred-fifty thousand.”

“Fine.  I’ve got ten hundred thousand dollar bills–can you break one?”

I never would taken Georgie-Boy for a counterfeiter, but I got him dead to rights.  The U.S. hasn’t had a bill that big since 1936, when Woodrow Wilson, the “progressive” Democrat who re-segregated the federal government, got his mug on pieces of paper money.

“You must think I just fell off a turnip truck,” I say with heavy sarcasm.  “Those disappeared a long time ago, and anyway they were only used for transactions between Federal Reserve Banks.”

He laughs a mirthless laugh, one that is full of money, like the voice of Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan.  “Yes, I suppose I do think that of you.”

“Why’s that?”

“How do you think I control the economy if I don’t have a Federal Reserve Bank of my own?”

Shoppin’ Like a WASP

Wanna shop like a WASP?
Let me give you directions:
Walk the length of the counter
before you make your selection,

then, with a look
both concerned and pensive
ask the puzzled sales clerk
“Don’t you have something more expensive?”

 

If you see something you like, grab eight or nine!
Then politely take your place in line.
When the cashier gives you a startled face,
explain you need one for each vacation place.

Pick out clothing in pinks and greens
that in a state of nature are never seen.
Don’t haggle over the price,
that’s really not nice,
only done in bazaars
on continents afar.

Shopkeepers love to see them come in the door,
even though their small talk is quite a bore.
No, the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant consumer
doesn’t use coupons, according to rumor.

As they say in the rag trade,
about this detail,
“Why did God make WASPs?
Someone has to pay retail.”

Among the Anglican Mini-Golfers

          A mini-golf course has been installed inside Britain’s Rochester Cathedral.  It is intended to teach young people about engineering and also has spiritual overtones.

          Associated Press

I have come to London, a reverse commute of sorts, to play with my English co-religionists the game of Miniature Golf, the last, best hope of old-line WASP Christianity to end its decades-long slide into statistical irrelevance.  And what better way to combat irrelevance than mini-golf, a/k/a “putt-putt”?

High church Protestantism is on life support in both the U.S. and the U.K.  Dwindling congregations, loss of mission, yellow waxy build-up, heartbreak of psoriasis–you name the problem, the UUs and UCCs and other non-evangelical sects have it.  For years they’ve been wandering in the desert while Baptists and Catholics picked off their members, crushing their top-line revenue like a kid with an overbite chewing a communion wafer.  Finally, finally!–someone hit upon mini-golf, the inexpensive, fun, family-oriented pastime as the tool by which to rebuild the withering offshoots of Henry VIII’s nasty divorce.

I’ve come here the hard way, making the cut for the Indoor British Miniature Establishment Religious Open not through an exemption but by a hard slog through qualifying tournaments.  I’ve putted through windmill holes, hippo holes, alligator mouths, you name it.  All winter long I practiced on my home indoor glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course, on Linden Street in Wellesley, Mass.  I hired a trainer to get me in tip-bottom shape, shrinking my upper torso and arms to keep my drives from flying past the chutes-and-ladder hole.

But mini-golf, as Yogi Berra might say, is 90% physical and the other half is mental.  I’ve also done daily readings in the Book of Common Prayer, terra incognita to me since I was raised a Catholic.  It hasn’t been easy, what with all the “thee’s” and “thou’s” drying out my tongue, but I’m finally here, on the threshold of my first “major” mini-golf triumph–if that’s not an oxymoron.

I make my way into the vestibule, where I’m greeted by the Rev. Wystan Huber, the church’s Canon for Outreach and Cheesy Amusements.  He has an anguished look on his face, perhaps because the cathedral has come under fire from spoilsports such as the religious commentator for the Daily Telegraph, who called the indoor course “an act of desecration.”

“Hullo,” I say, extending a friendly hand–my right one, the left one is a sullen introvert.

“You’re not from the press, are you?” Huber says, his forehead wrinkled with parallel lines that make it look like a well-plowed field.

“No, I’m a player,” I say, then, realizing that makes me sound like some sort of swag-bedizened rapper, decide to edit my remark and say “I’m a golfer.”

“Whew, good to hear,” the benefice says.  “We’re getting a lot of flack, people saying mixing religion and miniature golf is harmful.”

I digest this for a moment; it’s a serious charge that I take seriously, and I can see the pain it’s causing the beadle.  After due consideration, I try to reassure him.  “I don’t think that’s true.”

“You don’t?”

“No, I think mini-golf will survive an association with religion, its dignity intact.”

Relieved, he escorts me to the starter’s hut, where I pay my registration fee and take in the beauty, the majesty of the eighteen holes of artificial grass.  “How do you keep it looking so lush?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“We don’t use natural fertilizer,” Huber says, shielding his eyes from the bright fluorescent bulbs overhead.  “Nothing but pure, unadulterated green spray paint.”

“I love the smell of that stuff when it comes out of the can–don’t you?”

“Makes you glad to be alive on God’s great earth,” he says, waxing rhapsodic.  When’s he’s finished with the waxer, his eyes narrow to little slits, like mail slots in a college dorm.  “We built this to give our kids a sense of spirituality they don’t get looking at their phones and Instagram all day.”

“And how’s it going?”

“I’m not sure.”  He points towards one of the nine holes designed like a bridge.  “We want them to reflect on the bridges they need to build in their lives and in the world today, but I think they’re missing the message.”

“How so?”

“Look over there,” he says, and he points to two boys who are hitting balls under the bridges, apparently oblivious to the intended symbolism of the structures.

“Well,” I say philosophically, as only a former philosophy major can, “you have to help them along a bit.”

“How?”

“You should try what they do at my home course.”

“Where’s that?”

“Golf on the Village Green, in my new home town of Natick, Mass.”

“What do they do there?”

“It’s a Revolutionary War-themed course.  They have loudspeakers on each hole that broadcast a recitation of an Article of the U.S. Constitution.”

He looks at me with a wild surmise, like Cortez’s men after they viewed the Pacific Ocean as described by John Keats in “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer.”  “That’s a great idea.”

“You better believe it.  Drop a couple of Biblical verse tracks on a playlist, and you’ll have those kids feeling the force of the sacred before you can say ‘St. Teresa of Avila.'”

He gives me a puzzled look, like the dog in the old RCA Victor ads who hears his master’s voice on the phonograph.  “Why,” he says with perfect Protestant obtuseness, “would I say that?”

“You’re getting mocked for building a miniature golf course in a church, she’s the patron saint of those who are ridiculed for their piety.”

“That’s a rather obscure connection,” he says, and I can see his point.

“I understand, but for some reason, there’s no patron saint of mini-golf.”