Indoor outdoor…

Picture it… a semi-lit auditorium fills nearly to capacity, the public address system crackles to life, and a hush falls over the 600 gathered seat-fillers. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please,” the disembodied voice implores. “Today’s ceremony is an outdoor event being held indoors.”

And that’s the point where they lost me. The longer my career runs, you see, the more I come to realize it’s largely been a series of ridiculous propositions. As a writer I recognize that words are powerful. They are precise and have meaning. In the best tradition of the bureaucracy, however, the actual meaning of the words has little to no applicability to how we chose to use – or abuse – them on a daily basis.

By nothing more than an announcement from the podium, all of us in a partially filled auditorium collectively accepted that for all official purposes we were sitting outdoors. The sun was officially shining. The colors were officially fluttering in the breeze. They were decidedly not hanging limp and sodden from their staff. There absolutely was not official mud on the sidewalks from having bleachers towed into position during a driving rainstorm. Mud, droopy flags, and indoor ceremonies, you may know, never officially exist. They’re simply a figment of our collective, unofficial, imagination and a blatant violation of policy.

Why, you ask, perform the linguistic gymnastics of engaging in an indoor outdoor ceremony? As best I can tell it’s so the small group assembled on stage didn’t have to take off their hats. When you make the case thusly, how can it make anything other than absolutely perfect sense.

Experience has taught me that it helps dramatically if you’re willing to completely suspend disbelief for at least eight hours daily. On the other hand, if you you’re unwilling, it’s the kind of thing that might just drive a man to drink.

Wild Kingdom…

Back when I was growing up and dinosaurs roamed the earth, we got 12 television channels. We were a stage past turning the selector knob (although there were still one or two of those old sets in the house). It feels archaic in retrospect, but it was perfectly normal back then.

I don’t remember the channel number, but where that TV landed more often than not was the local Maryland Public Television station. At the time, it fired up the transmitters at around 5AM and signed off with the national anthem around midnight. Public broadcasting was my first exposure to a lot of programming that I consider formative and central to who I am today – most walmartnotably shows that taught me to appreciate the British sense of humor. But grainy Monty Python episodes aren’t what made me think about public television today. That distinction belongs to seemingly inexhaustible variety of “animal shows” they were fond of running back in the early 1980s.

While it doesn’t have the quiet, authoritative dignity of Wild Kingdom or a Jacques Cousteau special, there’s something of a flavor of these shows in my regular trip to Walmart. After pulling in on Saturday morning to see half the not insubstantial parking lot occupied by a car show, I knew I was in for something special. All I can tell you is Walmart didn’t disappoint.

The very next thing I saw after the visions of chrome was a geriatric man pushing his easily 600 pound wife/significant other/pet wildebeest and a fully loaded basket of groceries out of the store seated on one of those carts built to have multiple small children strapped to it. I’ll admit it, I was transfixed. My only regret is that I already passed the scene before realizing I should really have taken a picture (so it would last longer). Now, I’m not a small man in any sense of the world. I don’t make a point of mocking the obese, because by any legitimate standards I am one of them. But I still manage to walk my fat ass into and out of the grocery store without requiring a two man lift and a push cart to make it happen. Honest to God, it took me a good five to ten seconds to process and come to terms with what I was seeing.

You’d think it might be over once I got parked far, far away from the door with at least once side of the truck protected by a curb, but no, there’s more. Saturday at Walmart was the gift that kept on giving. Near the front door were three cars all attempting to occupy the same bit of the space-time continuum at once. As I drew near, I heard the unmistakable sound of the deeply inbreed female redneck screeching three kinds of hell in the general direction of the (most likely) equally inbred male redneck who had stopped his Clampett-mobile in the middle of the travel lane to let his female companion take the wheel. This was just seconds before the older, female Alpha Redneck leapt from her car with the agility surprising for a woman of her age and apparent state of drunkenness. And then she took a swing at the male driver for daring to block her way. This all led to three full sets of paired North American Rednecks swearing and threatening each other in full plume. Honest to the little baby Jesus the only thing missing was a banjo player.

At this point all parties turn to look at the guy who was holding his chest and laughing his damned fool head off while walking past the commotion and staring at the shambles of six utterly wasted human lives as they further shattered on the hot asphalt of Walmart’s parking lot. It was truly one of the most monumental displays of redneckery I have ever seen in person… and had you grown up where I did, you’d know that’s really setting the bar quite high.

So there you have it, my friends. I hope it’s clear now how we got from basic cable in the 80s, to public television, and back around to how Walmart is possibly the 5th circle of hell. Like the African savanna, it’s an interesting place to observe wild creatures in their natural environment, but the moment we start interacting with them, we’ve endangered them as well as ourselves. The best and safest course of action is for all of us to avoid contact and allow this devolution to run its course, hoping that in time these roving bands will slaughter each other into a state of relative equilibrium allowing those who have more than a handful of firing neurons to complete further field studies.

Conceding defeat…


I come before you this evening with a heavy heart. A few moments ago, I sent a tweet to Pope Francis, congratulating him on his election as your next Pope in Rome. Your support of my candidacy for these past few days has been a source of strength for me, but tonight we must come together behind the victor and accept that my dark horse candidacy was, at best, a long shot.

I have no intention of letting this sound electoral defeat drive me out of the arena… and if asked, I would happily serve as Vice Pope or in any other position that didn’t necessarily require poverty and chastity as conditions of employment. Unfortunately, tonight was simply not my time to step up to the big chair. It’s a fair bet that we’ll get another chance at the job since the Sacred College has once again chosen someone old enough to be my grandfather (and an actual Catholic) for the job. I do, however, find it suspicious that the ballots were all destroyed before they could be independently validated and the formal announcement was made before appeals could be filed with the court, but I digress.

So in conclusion: Congratulations, Your Holiness. We’ll see how things turn out next time around.

With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan…

Last week, I mentioned something on Facebook about Gilbert and Sullivan. That turned into a whole discussion, and then you end up with what we have here… and very, very badly rhymed example of what happens when your brain spends too much time churning on something that was said two weeks ago. Before I change my mind and burry this far, far out of sight, here’s, what I cam up with…

I am the very model of a modern Civil Service Slug,
I’ve information lesser men than me could barely ascertain.
I know regulations and can quote from all them quite at length,
From AR 1 dash 1 and on – this isn’t metaphorical.

I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters operational,
I understand OPORDERS, both the easy and fanatical,
About the latest memos I am teeming with a lot o’ news,
With many dull ass facts about the Old Man’s squirrely views.

I’m very good at email and at taking margin notes;
I know the acronyms of systems thought to be far too arcane,
In short, in matters questionable, marginal, and edible,
I am the very model of a modern Civil Service Slug.

I know our mythic history, Al Myer’s and Saint Mercury;
I’ll answer random questions and have no shame using PowerPoint,
I quote lengthy orders from the peckers in the Pentagon,
In a comic flaw of short attention span;

I can tell unfounded lies from grand plans and strategies,
I know the gasping sound of interns drug down to their knees!
Then I can make a note of stupid things that we already tried before,
And feel myself trapped in that infernal nonsense Pinafore.

I can draft a contract longhand using not a single form,
And tell you every minor fact of current civil service law.
In short, in matters questionable, marginal, and edible,
I am the very model of a modern Civil Service Slug.

In fact, when I know what is meant by “empowered” and “process flow”
When I can tell at sight a Gantt chart from a cover sheet,
When such affairs as taskers and surprises I’m more troubled at,
And when I know precisely what the bosses mean by “new format.”

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern management,
When I know more of theory than an intern stuck at old Fort Lee–
In short, when I’ve a smattering of elemental banditry-
You’ll say a better Civil Service Slug has never mocked drily.

For my breadth of knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
It’s only been brought up since around two thousand three;
But still, in matters questionable, marginal, and edible,
I am the very model of a modern Civil Service Slug.


I don’t know how I’ve been missing out on this, but everyone within reading distance of this blog needs to go here. Great hearty fits of laughter are few and far between, but at the moment the dogs think I’ve lost my bloody mind. It’s awful… I can’t stop watching these damned things… and every time I open a new one, I’m off to the races on another fit of laughter and watering eyes. I won’t dwell on details. Go. Do it now.