25 November 2008

What a Shocking Bad Hat!

"What a shocking bad hat!" was the phrase that was next in vogue. No sooner had it become universal, than thousands of idle but sharp eyes were on the watch for the passenger whose hat shewed any signs, however slight, of ancicnt service. Immediately the cry arose, and, like the war whoop of the Indians, was repeated by a hundred discordant throats. He was a wise man who, finding himself under these circumstances "the observed of all observers," bore his honours meekly. He who shewed symptoms of ill feeling at the imputations cast upon his hat, only brought upon himself redoubled notice. The mob soon perceive whether a man is irritable, and, if of their own class, they love to make sport of him. When such a man, and with such a hat, passed in those days through a crowded neighbourhood, he might think himself fortunate if his annoyances were confined to the shouts and cries of the populace. The obnoxious hat was often snatched from his head and thrown into the gutter by some practical joker, and then raised, covered with mud, upon the end of a stick, for the admiration of the spectators, who held their sides with laughter, and exclaimed in the pauses of their mirth, "Oh, what a shocking bad hat!" "What a shocking bad hat!" Many a nervous poor man, whose purse could but ill spare the outlay, doubtless purchased a new hat before the time, in order to avoid exposure in this manner.

— Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds By Charles Mackay

15 November 2008

Young Black Man in a Burgundy Windbreaker

I was leaving the building where I work the day after the election in 2006 at about 6PM and I could see a black guy waiting at the door. You know how it is — guy standing there with his hand on the door, like he’s expecting to be buzzed in at any moment, but really he’s just waiting for someone to exit so that he can sneak in. This guy was tall, and skinny, in a burgundy red windbreaker and jeans, but it was dark out and I couldn’t see much more. So, I’m coming up from the basement, I can see him right from the bottom of the stairs, and, if he had any business in the building, by the time I got to the top he should have been buzzed in. Now I figure I’m going to have to be an ass-hole, not let him in, and insist that he try the intercom again. Things like this can get ugly, because the first thing a guy like that will say is: “You’d let me in if I was white!” There’s no answer for that. It’s half true, but you’d also let him in if he were dressed nicer, or if he were a woman, or if he had gray hair — you know, it’s a judgment call and you base it on the fact that most 20-something black guys probably don’t belong in your building ...

So, I figure I’ll go up and open the door real slow and careful and ask who he’s there to see, and if he can answer, then I might just let him by. But when I push the door just a bit, this guy pulls it wide and tries to slip by me real quick. I was about to object, when I notice he has really big ears, and I say “I think I recognize you!”

“I guess you do!” Caught dead-to-rights trying to sneak past me, Barack Obama stops, turns around and shakes my hand.

“You had a good night last night, didn’t you?”

“I guess, but let’s see what we can do with it.” Then he got in the elevator and headed up to the offices of political consultant David Axelrod.

08 November 2008

Stinky Goat

Almost thirty years ago, in 1978, I was at the Billy Goat Bar and Grill (made famous by SNL a few years later) with my girlfriend when who should show up, but Dick the Bruiser and wrasling promoter Bob Luce with a camera crew. It seems they were going to film a promo for their upcoming card at the Coliseum where Dick was going to fight that rascal, Nick Botwinkle! For good luck, the Bruiser was going to kiss Sam Sianis’ goat! So the cameras started rolling. To the left was the Bruiser, to the right was Sam holding the stinky goat, and in the middle was Bob Luce waxing hysterical about the upcoming grudge matches at the coliseum. Not only was Billy Robinson dying to get back at Mad Dog Vachon (who had bit him last time out), but the Bruiser finally had a chance to pay back that dastardly Nick Botwinkle after he had been knocked out by Beautiful Buddy Wolf with a folding chair during their last match. So, without further a due, the Bruiser will now kiss the goat ... BUT WAIT! The door burst open and in rushed Nick Botwinkle! He wasn’t going to let the Bruiser kiss the goat. So there they were, struggling, the Bruiser trying to kiss the goat while Nick Botwinkle tried to keep them separate, Bob Luce’s voice hitting the very peak level of hysteria possible before cardiac arrest became inevitable, and poor Sam Sianis trying to keep the goat from being hurt. CUT! The cameras stopped rolling, the blood enemies stopped dead in their tracks, everybody had a beer, and then they decided to try it again. Hey lined up the Bruiser, Luce, and the goat, Botwinkle went back out to the alley.

Just then my girlfriend insisted that we go before they started in again because “I can’t stand the smell!”

“Of the Goat?”

“No — of the Bruiser!”