Thursday, October 26, 2006

Found Him: The Most Powerful Man In Binghamton!

If you know me, you know that I have a knack for sniffing out the influential people in the organization. This came in handy when I was lobbying. For example, one of the most powerful people in Los Angeles City Hall, at least as far as the lobbyists were concerned, was Louie the parking lot attendant. "Parking lot attendant" is really not adquate to describe him; he is literally a gatekeeper, in his post at the guard shack at the entrance to the parking lot inside the bowels of the City Hall building itself.

Having an "in" with Louie, and the few coveted parking spots he guarded for the Mayor, the City Council members, and a few lucky others meant the difference between leaving your car in climate-controlled, covered comfort, and walking literally 2 steps into the building . . . or parking in one of the far-flung lots that have sprung up to inconveniently accomodate cars in the modern era (in 1928 when L.A. City Hall was built, they didn't plan for these things too well).

At my old job, we literally paid Louie off: gift certificates at Christmastime, I think we even sponsored some advertisement or something on his uncle's local access TV show or some craziness like that. It all sounded sleazy to me, paying off a public servant for the use of public space, but I admit that I looked the other way because it was worth it, whatever the price.

So you can imagine my sense of accomplishment when I finally zeroed in on him: The Most Powerful Man in Binghamton. His name is Gary. He doesn't need a last name. He is . . . the guy in charge of maintaining the lanes at the Binghamton Club's private bowling alley.

I immediately caught on to Gary's magical powers when I sat with John's new bowling buddies on the first night of the bowling season a few weeks ago. The half-dozen guys sitting around the table were all relative big-shots around here, but the conversation focused not on business or even sports, but on Gary and their predictions about how he was going to oil the lanes next week, and the next.

Would it be "extra oily," in which case the ball gets less traction, spins less and therefore curves less? Or not-so-oily, in which case the ball will roll with more of an arc, which must be compensated for by the bowler? Enquiring minds wanted to know! And speculate. And, knowing these guys, most likely take bets on it.

At the end of the day, Gary the somewhat-mentally-challenged guy in charge of lane maintenance at the Binghamton Club wields more power than he could possibly know.

But I know!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Those wild and crazy turkey parties . . .

Below is an actual listing from this weekend's Press & Sun Bulletin. It left me extremely curious about what goes on at these so-called "Turkey Parties" that they are expressly barring minors from them. For the $2.50 fee, it can't be free booze, can it?

The mind conjures up disturbing images of naked turkey revelers in some sort of Bacchanalian feast, ladling cranberry sauce on each other or throwing stuffing-balls across the room in an Animal House-style food fight.

OK, I know, I need to get out more, but I can't make this stuff up. Here it is:

Annual October Turkey Party
West Colesville Fire Company
1305 Colesville Road, Binghamton
Doantion at the door $2.50, per person
Doors open at 6:30pm,
Turkey party starts at 7:00pm.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Majoring in Combating Terrorism, Minoring in Cosmetic Mule-Ass Shaving

Last weekend, I drove the 150 miles to West Point to meet up with my brother's family for a football game. The drive was gorgeous on a crisp fall morning, and the West Point campus is ridiculously beautiful. As we got a guided campus tour from Eric's buddy, we noticed a few indicators that this was not your normal college campus. My favorite was the sign for the building that offered classes both in English and in Combating Terrorism, both of which, I'm sure, are majors offered there.

The whole campus seems very student-run: one assumes, for example, that the public restrooms are cleaned with toothbrushes by "plebes" working off their demerits, for example. So later in the day, when we were at the game, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw that the school mascot, the "Fighting Mule," had a lovely "A" embossed in its hindquarters quite artfully and expertly: a big patch of hair was shaved almost to the skin, then hair in the shape of an "A" was allowed to grow back extra-long, then the "A" was carefully died blonde, for added contrast.
It left me to assume that a student had performed this feat of equine coiffing, and I wondered, does someone from West Point "minor" in something like Cosmetic Mule-Ass Shaving? It's certainly an important job, since everyone looks at it and it's a source of school pride, so whoever performs the task certainly has it on their resume somewhere.

But how is it worded? The military has such funny ways of describing stuff, is it called something important-sounding, like Veterinary Honor Guard Command Operations? I'm not feeling creative this morning, but I bet there's no end of fancy ways to describe the job of shaving and highlighting the hair on a mule's ass, and no matter how you describe it, it's probably not what the guy was envisioning when he signed up to be an army vet.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Columbus Day is a holiday: who knew??

In all my 33 years, I do not ever remember Columbus Day being anything other than an excuse for a sale at Wicke's Furniture or something. I honestly was shocked when I came to work this morning and saw that Court Street outside my office window had been transformed into a parade route.

Apparently Columbus, in addition to discovering the New World on this day in history, must have been a big fan of really bad high school marching bands, because Columbus Day seems to have transformed into an excuse for small town Battle of the Bands all over the country.

Upon further thought, I am pretty certain that I haven't heard a peep about Columbus Day in recent memory because it is not considered politically correct to memorialize the white European male who came to America, spread his syphilis to the natives, and ushered in an era of total European domination over the dark-skinned locals. In fact, I'm POSITIVE that's why I haven't heard of Columbus Day being acknowledged when I lived in L.A.

That said, I am well aware of Cesar Chavez Day, MLK Day, and, my personal favorite, Mexican Independence Day, which I am pretty certain is a holiday for the City of L.A. because my old boss used to rant and rave about that. I also am aware that the Big Jewish Holidays, Yom Kippur and/or Rosh Hashana, fall in September because I always thought it really funny that USC Law School had the Jewish holidays off, but USC Business School, the next-door building, did not.

When I am President of the Universe, I cannot wait to pick my own holidays: Date of Invention of Frozen Yogurt, Birthday of Guy Who Discovered Mascara, My Birthday, my old dog Daisy's Birthday, etc.

p.s. I spoke with my smart, 50+ year-old secretary after writing the above. I commented that I thought maybe Columbus Day wasn't so politically correct in California, but that we certainly had Cesar Chavez day off. She asked me, "What's a cesar chavez?"

Yes, that's right, yet another example of California being so far out of step with the rest of the country that it gives an entire state holiday to a man that probably 95% of the country could not identify. All because politicians are too chicken to vote "no" on the creation of more holidays, out of fear of looking racist. Ugh.