Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Down The River

This is a cautionary tale about watching your children.

I was enjoying a swanky party on board the Palmerwood paddle-wheel steamboat, the "Palmerwood Queen." I hold these parties every so often--it's a lovely and leisurely venue for entertaining.

I simply adore the river. I really do. I like to look at it, and think to myself, "You know, if I just sailed by luxurious paddlewheel steamer, the 'Palmerwood Queen,' all the way down, eventually, I'd hit salt water and the Caribbean." Here's a picture of me and Agreeable Louis J. on board.

Which is precisely what my younger sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., decided to do.

I was so engrossed in my conversation with Kanye West as Mrs. West fended off the advances of former President Clinton that I completely lost sight of what those irrepressible scamps were up to. The lads had, apparently, swiped my side-arm--a Walther PPK--and hijacked the tugboat.

"Grab sky, Popeye," Agreeable Louis J. snarled at the tug's surprised captain, "or you'll look like you
just got back from a Jason Aldean concert."

"Oh, for Pete's sakes, Louis," said Assertive Emmanuel J., leaping down from the "Palmerwood Queen"'s promenading-deck to join his brother. "I appreciate a good wisecrack as much as anyone, but too soon, pal. Too soon."

"Nothing's ever too soon," growled Agreeable Louis J. "Especially ditching our imbecile father's stupid swanky river-boat party with a bunch of B-listers. Time to make our escape. You hear me, Captain Ahab? Downriver. Fast. Avanti, putz, avanti!!!!"

My youngest sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., are quick studies. By the time the tugboat they'd hijacked reached Cairo, IL, the sporting young hounds figured they could handle it without aid (Assertive Emmanuel J. had to stand on a few phone books to reach the wheel, but he managed).

"Hope you can swim, Commodore," said Agreeable Louis J. "Because we no longer require your services."

"You're a couple of right little sons of b*&$%es," growled the tugboat captain, as he leaped overboard.

"You're lucky we don't plug you full of lead for that," Assertive Emmanuel J. said, smiling, but steely-eyed. "Our mother's a saint. Longest-suffering woman in Christendom. Our father's the real sack full of calabashes. He's dumb, too."

"Enough with the witty banter with the help, Manny," said Agreeable Louis J. "Set a course for the Big Easy. I've got a hankerin' for some jambalaya and a Sazerac."

My youngest sons, the Junior Partners, can be pardoned if they were feeling a bit self-congratulatory. They'd effected a daring escape and were now some distance downriver from St. Louis.

"By the time that low-watt loser Dad even notices we're missing, we'll be in New Orleans," chortled Assertive Emmanuel J. "Good call on grabbing a bottle of MacAllen 25 before we jumped ship."

"It always tastes better out of a plastic sippy-cup, doesn't it?" Agreeable Louis J. mused. "Manny Boy, our troubles are over. By this time next week, we should be in New Orleans. And then..."

"Then the real fun begins," smiled Assertive Emmanuel J. sinisterly. "Two years of planning, but it's all coming to fruition."

They were, however, to meet a snag or two on the way.

My youngest sons, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J. are but two. Their reading-list thus far hasn't taken them beyond the usual Palmer kiddie-fare: "Curious George," "Where the Wild Things Are," and "Lady Chatterley's Lover." So it is not to be wondered at that the lads had not yet stumbled upon that marvelous passage in Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi:"

"Piloting becomes another matter when you apply it to vast streams like the Mississippi, whose alluvial banks cave and change constantly, whose snags are always hunting up new quarters, whose channels are forever dodging and shirking..."

Had the lads known of the fickle old river's ever-changing nature, they may perhaps have been a little more cautious about sand-bars. But they weren't. Consequently, they ran aground in Mississippi.

"Well, there's a cluster#$%@ worthy of Dad," grumbled Agreeable Louis J.

"No use crying over spilled breast-milk," sighed Assertive Emmanuel J. "Looks like we're not too far from Natchez. Still got the old boy's platinum card?"

"Don't leave home without it," said Agreeable Louis J. "On we go."

The Junior Partners may be vicious, ruthless little bandits, but they ARE Palmers, and like all their breed, possessed of superb taste, aristocratic tendencies, and insufferable elitism.

Predictably, they are a little disappointed by Natchez.

"What a sty," grumbles Agreeable Louis J. as a couple of Natchians guffaw and point, yelling, "AW, LOOKIT THEM LIL' SAILOR SUITS! THEM'S REAL CUTE LIL' SAILOR SUITS, BOYS! HAW HAW HAW!"

"Think I should kill them?" Agreeable Louis J. wonders idly. "I mean, I'd probably feel bad afterwards, because if I did, I don't know who their sisters would f--"

"They might have a point, Lou," Assertive Emmanuel J. says. "Maybe matching sailor-suits aren't nearly as badass as Dad told us they are. But we're in luck! Look, there's a haberdashery called 'The Natty Young Gentleman,' and they're having a sale! C'mon, we can deal with Zeke and Earl later. Let's go get duded up.

Now, I own something in the vicinity of 1200 shirts, 500 suits, and God only knows how many ties. And I keep a personal tailor, Sal Sapienza, at Palmerwood. Sal's 92. He has the Parkinson's something awful, but he's still a dab hand at making me look good. Damn good. Really damn good, if I do say so myself.

Anyhow, this isn't just idle vanity. Not entirely. One's turnout frequently determines how people react to one, as the Junior Partners learned when they sidled into the Natchez Saloon, all duded up like dudes, with blood in their eyes.

"Lord a mercy," breathes one of the products of incest that mocked the lads' dapper little sailor-suits but mere minutes before. "Looks like we got us a pair o' dangerous 'n' despurt big-time riverboat gamblers in town!"

"Dishy lil' things, ain't they?" purrs the resident saloon-floozy.

"What'll it be, gents? Shot of something?" asks the barkeep nervously. He can smell trouble brewing.

"Yeah, we'll do a shot. Give us two Hillaries," says Assertive Emmanuel J.

"What's a Hillary?" asks the barkeep.

"It's when somebody gives you the best shot in the history of the American presidency and you still blow it," says Agreeable Louis J.

"Never heard tell of such a drink," says the barkeep bewilderedly.

"Fine, then, just give us whatever single-malt's in the well, one rock apiece," says Assertive Emanuel J. "And then let's see if these two rural gentlemen care to join us for a few hands of Go Fish."

My youngest sons, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., may be the most vicious, ruthless two-and-a-half-year-old desperadoes out there, but they're not stupid. They know that, once you've fleeced the locals in a couple of hands of "Go Fish" and a few rounds of "War," then it's high time to turn tail and get out of town.

I'm pretty sure they're gifted.

At any rate, the lads hightail it out of Natchez and skedaddle back toward the river.

"The damn tugboat's probably still stuck on that sandbar, Manny," observes Agreeable Louis J.

"Eh, I was getting bored with it," Assertive Emmanuel J. responds. "If Dad's taught us anything, it's that if you can't travel in style, there's no sense in going. Actually, that's about the only thing he's taught us. It might be the only thing that six-volt simpleton actually knows, come to think of it. Anyhow, Lou, let's get our Trump-sized toddler fingers on a slightly more stylish conveyance.

I was (frequently) described by my father, JP Senior, as "luckier than you are smart." I find no reason to disagree with the old boy's assessment. And much the same can be said of his younger sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J.

The "Memphis Belle" was just getting ready to steam away from the Natchez Landing when the incorrigible young scamps scrambled up thegangplank in the nick of time.

"Pipe us aboard, Bo's'un," Assertive Emmanuel J. said to the rather startled steward. "We'll take the finest suite this tub has to offer."

"We're paying cash," Agreeable Louis J. added.

"Ah do declayuh, Essie May!" declared one of two delightful southern belles just leaving the bar. "If those two ain't jeyust the most adorable big-time rivuhboat gamblers I ever did see..."

"That blond one's like to give me the vapors," purred the other. "Beulah Fay, ask those rakish young gentlemen if they fancy a promenade around the uppah deck aftah suppah."

My youngest sons' new acquaintances, Essie May and Beulah Fay, were more than happy to join the lads for lobster and champagne in the "Memphis Belle's" dining-room. They didn't care that the boys ordered graham-crackers and macaroni and cheese as well, nor did they comment on the fact that the young hounds quaffed their champagne out of sippy-cups.

But the evening went sideways in a hurry when Assertive Emmanuel J. (traveling incognito as "Missouri Manny") leaned in for a quick smooch, and drew back in horror.

"Louie," he whispered urgently, "the mustache..."

"Since when is that a problem?" whispered back Agreeable Louis J. (traveling under the name "Saint Louie Louie"). "We've spent our entire lives around Greek women. It's not like we've never seen a chick with a..."

"No, nebbish, MY mustache," whispered Assertive Emmanuel J. "It got unstuck from me and stuck to her!"

"Mercy sakes!" shrieked Essie May, "that's a FAKE mustache! Why, these dashing and rakish rivuhboat gambluhs are... are... they, they're TODDLUHS!"

"Oh, hell's bells," groaned Agreeable Louis J. "We are so screwed."

Thus, the Junior Partners, found it expeditious to disembark from the "Memphis Belle" as soon as it had been ascertained that they were, in fact, toddlers.

Luckily--for them, anyhow--they were, by this time, in Louisiana, and able to obtain the services of Clement "Mon Dieu, je suis tres gros" Broussard, and his airboat, to take them across Lake Ponchartrain.

"Sure, I be happy a' take you petit boys inna Nawlins," M. Broussard said. "Jes' don' feedem a'gators."

"Are we ever going to make it to New Orleans?" grumbled Agreeable Louis J. disconsolately, feeding the alligators anyhow.

"Oh, cheer up, gloomy," answered Assertive Emmanuel J. "We're almost there. Chin up, Louie! Son of a gun, we'll have big fun down on the Bayou!"

Meanwhile, back at home at my sumptuous, sprawling, historically-significant country-estate of Palmerwood, I was going over some bills as I got my nails did when I noticed some odd charges on the Platinum Card account.

"That's peculiar," I mused. "Why would I spend $800 at 'The Natty Young Gentleman' in Natchez when I already have my own personal tailor, Sal Sapienza?"

That's when I realized my platinum card was missing.

"Good God's urge!" I shrieked (but in, like, a masculine way. Totes masculine). "If my card's gone, it can only mean my younger sons, Assertive Emmanuel J. and Agreeable Louis J., have swiped it! Again. Those rapscallions."

Immediately, I swung into action and called my crack security-team, Messrs. Miller and Dailey, and his pilot and Aviation Librarian Rhodes.

"Gentlemen!" I bawled. "My boys! My sweet little angel-boys! They're missing! Great Zounds, the lads are running up charges like a sailor on shore-leave! Go retrieve the little darlings before something unspeakable happens to them! Why, I can't bear to think of---oooh, that's nice, Cubbings, well done, my cuticles look superb--anything untoward happening to the little chaps!"

"Who was that?" asked Dailey as Miller hung up the sat-phone.

"I think Father of the Year just realized his Platinum Card's missing," sighed Miller. "The kids've been gone for two weeks."

Meanwhile, my youngest boys, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., at long last found themselves at 209 Bourbon Street, the French Quarter, New Orleans--the famed Galatoire's.

"Well, we made it!" Assertive Emmanuel J. exulted. "This is where he said to meet him. Let's go in and see if... what?"

"Something doesn't feel right," Agreeable Louis J. says slowly. "What if it's a trap? Just how much do you trust this guy?"

"Louie, Louie, you worry too much," Assertive Emmanuel J. laughs. "We didn't make it all the way down the Mississippi, fleece rednecks in Natchez, escape from a riverboat after being outed as toddlers, and survive an airboat trip through an alligator-infested bayou to give up now. C'mon, let's just get in there and listen to what the man's got to say."

Reluctantly, Agreeable Louis J. followed his brother inside Galatoire's. He still had misgivings, but damned if that duck and andouille gumbo didn't smell good. So they stepped inside to meet A Mysterious Personage.

Galatoire's was closed--to the general public--but the maitre d' wordlessly ushered the diminutive rapscallions inside, and gestured toward the back of the place, where The Mysterious Personage sits at his usual table. Who, oh who, could my boys be meeting? And to what dark and nefarious purpose?!?

The lads sat themselves at the table of my old friend and fellow Kraken Club member Messire Tim Van Huss, who has thoughtfully asked the maitre d' to bring a couple of high chairs.

"Welcome to New Orleans, gentlemen," he says. "I took the liberty of ordering the oysters rockefeller, the crabmeat maison, the escargot, and the shrimp cocktail."

"Nice," says Agreeable Louis J. "Well, I'll get right to the point. That effete limpwristed limousine liberal of a father of ours tells us you're a libertarian."

"I am," Messire Van Huss answers. "Well, more of a Voluntaryist-Agorist. With tendencies toward An-Cap. Anyhow. Smash the state. Have a nice day."

"Well, we too struggle against an unjust and arbitrary authority system that reduces us to being mere cogs in a machine in service to an unelected elite," Assertive Emmanuel J. says. "We've come to enlist your service in our struggle to overthrow this tyrannical and self-appointed authority."

"And this authority is...?" asks Messire Van Huss.

Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J. exchange exasperated looks. "Haven't you been listening?" Agreeable Louis J. says, sipping his Martini out of a sippy-cup. "That aforementioned effete limpwristed limousine liberal of a father of ours. We want the putz overthrown."

The chaps were not particularly pleased by what they hear next.

"Boys, I'd love to help, I really would," says Tim Van Huss. "Lord knows I hate arbitrary authority as much as the next fella. But your old man is a fellow member of the Kraken Club, and clubmen in good standing don't work against each other's interests."

"We came all the way to New Orleans to get stonewalled?" says Agreeable Louis J. in an ominous growl.

"You don't want to see our dark side," Assertive Emmanuel J. says in an equally threatening tone of voice.

Messire Van Huss quails under the steely gaze of the toddlers. "Gentlemen, I understand your disappointment," he says, "but I could get expelled from the Kraken. Do you know what dues are a year there? A lot, trust me."

"Pay for lunch, Manny," says Agreeable Louis J. to his brother, who obligingly holds out their father's Platinum Card. "Thanks, Mr. Van Huss. Really. A lot. And don't think we'll forget this."

My youngest son, Assertive Emmanuel J., as he holds out my Platinum Card to pay for lunch at Galatoire's, is surprised to feel a hand of steely strength clamp around his tiny wrist.

"Let's assess the situation," the lad muses. "Self-collared striped French-cuffed shirt from Turnbull & Asser, likely custom-made, judging by the perfect fit. Eighteen-carat gold bespoke monogrammed cufflinks. Vintage Ebel Sportwave watch, the '1911' series. Monogrammed signet pinky ring. And the smell of Pinaud's 'Clubman' aftershave, available at Walgreens, and cigars. That's a whole bunch of expensive yet tacky bling that can only indicate one thing."

Sighing, Assertive Emmanuel J. turns to his brother, Agreeable Louis J. "Louie, my boy," Assertive Emmanuel J. says, "it looks like our plans just hit a significant setback."

As my youngest sons, Assertive Emmanuel J. and Agreeable Louis J., stared up at me in terror, I reflected that two and a half is a mighty young age to have to learn the bitterness of betrayal.

Nonetheless, I was quite grateful to Mynheer Van Huss for compromising his principles and letting me know where and when I could apprehend my errant lads. I know what it feels like to have to compromise one's principles. You can't be a neofeudal land baron with well-nigh uncountable gobs of inherited wealth and still be a Bernie supporter without compromising your principles somewhat.

I also knew that I really should discipline those irrepressible young scamps, but they're just so cute. It's almost enough to make me forget they swiped my platinum card, hijacked conveyances at gunpoint, and attempted to conspire to overthrow me.

My youngest sons, Assertive Emmanuel J. and Agreeable Louis J., weren't pleased about being escorted somewhat forcibly out of Galatoire's.

As I dragged the rapscallions outside, I reflected somewhat ruefully that, no matter how massive your rambling, historically significant, ancestral country estate, no matter how debonair your turnout, no matter how glittering your annual Holiday Party's guest list, and no matter how envy-inspiring your lifestyle is, it only takes two screaming children to reduce you to the status of That Guy Whose Children Embarrass Him In A Nice Restaurant.

Now, my boys, Assertive Emmanuel J. and Agreeable Louis J., are somewhat jaded for two-year-olds. It's not every toddler who can swipe their father's platinum card, hijack a tugboat, outgamble a bunch of rednecks, and generally cause mayhem and havoc all the way from St. Louis to New Orleans.

But even they are a little shocked at what's waiting for them outside Galatoire's.

"Look at this, boys!" I cried. "Why, it's Dear Old Nanny Klagg! I never understood why she quit so unexpectedly, but I found her breeding wolfhounds in Romania. Don't worry about what Daddy was doing in Romania. Top-secret, for the moment. But anyhow, considering you two have misbehaved quite badly lately, I thought it would be a good idea to hire her back for a bit."

"How good it is to see the little dears again!" hisses Nanny Klagg. "I've missed you boys... and I've been looking forward to this day for quite some time. Quite some time indeed, boys."

Assertive Emmanuel J. turns to Agreeable Louis J., his face horror-stricken. "Louie," he says, "we might very well be %#$@&ed."

"Language, boys," hisses Dear Old Nanny Klagg. "I see two little mouths that might need to be washed out with soap!"

Well, all's well that ends well. My youngest sons, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., winged their way back home, albeit not in the manner they are accustomed to. Usually they travel in high style aboard the luxurious Palmerwood G-6 private plane.

"And when we get back to the Palmerwood Infantorium, oh, what fun we'll have," creaks Dear Old Nanny Klagg, sipping her tea. "Why, we'll have elocution and deportment lessons from dusk 'til dawn, and lovely snacks of asparagus juice and liver cookies. You little rascals will rue the day you chased me out of there."

"You think you'll last any longer this time around, you old bat?" snarls Assertive Emmanuel J. "You'll have had pedicures that lasted longer than your tenure at Palmerwood'll be. Well, maybe not you. Your pedicures probably take months, what with those claws of YUURRRRK!"

The lad gasps as the claws in question tighten around his midsection.

"Honestly, lady, just drop us off and keep flying," says Agreeable Louis J. "You've met our older siblings, Intrepid Stella A. and Young Leo J.? Well, we're even worse."

"Oooohhh, I remember your older siblings very well," chuckles Dear Old Nanny Klagg, in her creaky, whispery old voice. "And I'm looking forward to seeing them again ever so much as well."

"Well, then," says Assertive Emmanuel J., rubbing his midsection, "if that's your attitude... may the best monsters win."

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Non-Sectarian Midwinter's Holiday Cards in the Tradition Consisted with Your Ethnic, Religious or Cultural Tradition.

We at Palmerwood are somewhat ambivalent about the holiday season. Or at least I am. The children enjoy it. And so do I, to some extent--the feasting, the fellowship, the presents.

Mostly the presents, though.

But holiday-season weather, at least in the Midwest, is a thing of yawning horror. Cold, darkness, snow and ice... all these things bring yetis down from the heavily wooded slopes of the Palmer Mountains in the far northern reaches of the estate in droves.


So, on balance, I'd prefer to dispense with the season altogether and just buy my own presents.

But we make exceptions for the sake of the children, don't we, so each year, I do my best to grin (a horrible skull-like rictus, admittedly, but I DO try) and get into the spirit of things.

Here's a selection of our holiday-cards. As I am not only an artist of heartbreaking talent, but a poet of swoon-inducing gifts as well, I generally include a few lines of season-appropriate doggerel.

Here's from 2016.

And here's from 2017. Notice I've refined my style somewhat.

And here's 2018... 

And 2019. 

Doesn't make the season any more bearable, but it does give a man something to do on those long, dark winter evenings. 

The Annual Great Hunt

Well, back in 2016--after the election but before the Trump presidency began--I was in mind of Peter Hitchens's wonderful line: "In between the catastrophe and the calamity, we may as well have a glass of champagne."

So I figured it was time to turn our minds away from politics and have a little fun: THE 2016 PALMERWOOD GREAT HUNT!!!!!

Our hunting-party included everyone who RSVPed, friends old and new: Madame de la Stafford Thornton, Madame de la Vangel Malek, P Diddy, Rupert Murdoch and the lovely Megyn Kelly, Messire Whipple, Messire Walter Lawrence Weaksauce--what a fetching chain, sir--Messire Guillaume, Messire Hoberman, JP's co-heads of security Messrs. Miller and Dailey, Messire Polk, Agreeable Louis J., Assertive Emmanuel J., JP's gamekeeper Olivier de Baliviere, Young Leo J., Intrepid Stella A., Mlle. Armstrong, Palmerwood mead-master Miller, Prince Salim bin Salman al-Saud, Madame de la Butler Koontz, and finally, Madame de la Agah Potthast, astride one of the Palmerwood polled prize wild boars. She's the only one who requested to be mounted.

Um. Gosh, that was awkward. That is to say, she's the only one who wanted to ride something.

Oh good God's urge, this simply isn't being expressed well.

Well, anyhow. Tally-ho! LET THE GREAT HUNT BEGIN!!!!

Fortunately, I kept a journal of the Great Hunt of '16. Here's my dispatch from Day Two of the 2016 Palmerwood Great Hunt:

"Perhaps we should have warned the guests that the game here at Palmerwood isn't exactly what they're used to. The mammoth's appearance incited panic in Messrs. Polk and Weaksauce, both of whom fled shrieking like six-year-old girls with their pigtails caught in a paper shredder. I take no pleasure in chronicling their pusillanimity, in spite of the fact that both of them have busted my balls unmercifully over the many years of our acquaintance. No pleasure at all. Really. None.

"I am pleased to report that the mammoth didn't rattle Madame de la Stafford Thornton, who kept mixing drinks like a trooper, or Messrs. Hoberman and Guillaume, who combated the beast valiantly, if ineffectively, although it did cause Madame Vangel Malek some consternation. And my boys, Assertive Emmanuel J. and Agreeable Louis J., maintained the cool head and steely eye for which we Palmers are justly famed. 'Gotta defend my godmother, Pop," Assertive Emmanuel J. said. 'She holds my eternal soul in the palm of her hand.'

"Near tragedy struck, however, when the great beast trampled both Rupert Murdoch and the lovely Ms. Megyn Kelly. 'Medic!' I howled. 'The lovely Ms. Megyn Kelly has been trampled by a mammoth! She's got blood coming out of her eyes! Blood coming out of her... wherever!' But the Good Lord and all the saints be praised, it looks like the both of them will pull through."


"Great zounds, but the unexpected arrival of a woolly rhino escalated things quickly. I was just certain my gamekeeper, Oliver DeBaliviere, had cleared the pesky things out of the far northern reaches of the estate, but apparently he missed a few. Well, now he's going to be missing his holiday bonus.

"The great beast burst out of the bosky and immediately thundered after Madame de la Agah Potthast's prize polled Palmerwood wild boar. Apparently woolly rhinos are a little territorial. Thank the good Lord and all the saints I was there to get between them, or we might have lost a fine hog. And Madame de la Agah Potthast, too, very likely. I was glad to be able to do it, but now my tuchus is killing me, and Doctor Pooley insists he's too drunk to apply any Bactine to the afflicted area.

"I was pleased by the bravery of Messrs.Guillaume, Hoberman, and Miller, in spite of the fact that their actions to stop the beast were completely ineffective. And my crack security team, Messrs. Miller and Dailey, went and got themselves snagged by a thunderbird. Seems my doughty gamekeeper missed a few of those, too. And I was a little surprised to see Ms. Armstrong fleeing in terror, although I did overhear her saying, 'Man, do I hate skirts. I coulda run much faster in jeans.'

"Tragically enough, Rupert Murdoch got stomped yet AGAIN by yet ANOTHER massive Pleistocene beast. Twice in one hunt! What are the odds?

"All in all... not our finest hour in the field."

In retrospect, I should have mentioned to Mmes.Vangel Malek, Butler Koontz, and Stafford Thornton that taking a break from the hunt to go strolling through the woods is a bad idea when Pleistocene cave-bears have been spotted in the vicinity.

Were it not for the presence of Intrepid Stella A. and her falcon, JP shudders to think what could have been.

How Intrepid Stella A. managed to dispatch a Pleistocene cave-bear armed only with a falcon JP hasn't quite figured out. Some questions are better left unasked.


"Great zounds, what a day. Some of the gentlemen--Messrs. Whipple, Weaksauce, Miller, Guillaume, and Assertive Emmanuel J.--ventured into the bleak and rugged uplands in the far north-northwest quadrant of the Estate in search of game. Messire Weaksauce decided to don a kilt of Campbell Blackwatch -not sure why) and, so say his comrades' reports, spent most of the day strutting around yelling, 'HEY, EVERYONE! COME SEE HOW GOOD I LOOK!!.' He did look good, I'm bound to admit.

"The gentlemen first encountered a glyptodont--a much larger relative of the armadillo. Messire Miller, well-soused on mead and Boone's Farm, attempted to befriend it, while Messire Guillaume, with his customary valiance, leapt atop the brute and attempted to pummel it to smithereens. I must have a word with him about the advisability of attempting to pummel Pleistocene megafauna to smithereens. It's rarely successful. Particularly if they have shells.

"However, thus distracted, they were unprepared for the appearance of a pair of sabre-tooth cats. Were it not for Assertive Emmanuel J.'s insistence that he be allowed to bring along his rocket-launcher (a birthday present from his grandmother), I shudder to think what may have befallen our brave fellow-hunstmen.

"I am heartened, however, by Assertive Emmanuel J.'s gift for snappy repartee in the face of almost certain doom. I'm informed that, as the great cats snarled and roared, the rascally young hound grinned, said, 'Now there's some pussy worth grabbin'!' and dispatched the brutes. The lad's a chip off the old block."


"Upon hearing that the Serpentine Pheasants were nesting out on the vast and rolling Plains of Palmerwood, some of the chaps headed off to bag some. Had they only checked with my doughty gamekeeper, Oliver de Baliviere, he would have informed them that the adjective 'serpentine' does not refer to the pattern on their plumage. He might also have parlayed the information that nesting always makes the birds a bit tetchy.

"One of them tried to fly off with my co-head of security, Messire Dailey. This is the second time a large bird has tried to make off with him this trip. And my other co-head of security, Messire Miller, dashed off in search of more ammunition (so he said). However, the ever-valiant Messrs. Hoberman and Guillaume once again employed their tag-team strategy of grabbing the creature and attempting to pull it to earth, and leaping astride the beast and attempting to pummel it to smithereens. It's a fine strategy. I'm sure they'll perfect it soon.

"Messire Polk tried staring one of the things down. Interesting approach. Luckily, Doctor Pooley was on hand to patch him up afterward. I'm concerned about the doctor lately. He may be overworked. He's been stumbling over things, slurring his words, and his eyes are quite red, and he keeps mumbling things like, 'These imbeciles make me want to drink myself to death.' Strange sentiment to have on such a joyous outing as the annual Great Hunt. As soon as it's over, I'll send him on a nice vacation. The fourth floor of the southwest wing of the mansion is lovely this time of year."


"Well, it's been magical, but all good things--like 'Mr. Belvedere,' the greatest television program in history--must come to an end, and the Great Hunt is no exception. We gathered in the Great Hall of the Millam Hunting-Lodge in the northern reaches of the estate to reminisce, share stories, and, mostly, drink.

'Messrs. Guillaume and Hoberman continue to practice their tactics, Messire Weaksauce and Mlle.Armstrong, once again clad in her beloved flannel, relaxed on the mission-style sofa, remembering their high-school days, Messire Polk took great pride in showing Messire Diddy the two-headed carnivorous pike he once caught in Palm Lake, Messire Miller and Mme Stafford Thorntondiscussed the brewing and serving of liqueurs; Messrs. Miller and Dailey congratulated themselves on yet another expedition without their boss getting killed, Assertive Emmanuel J. and Agreeable Louis J. enjoyed a leisurely chess-game, and everyone else mostly got tanked.

"I honestly can't recall if we bagged even a single creature this year, but that just means there'll be more to shoot next year. How I love the annual Autumn Great Hunt. We Palmers have been hosting it for 415 years, and I think there were fewer fatalities this year than ever. We haven't located Megyn Kelly yet, but I'm sure she's fine. Meantime, I'm toying with the idea of holding a spring Great Hunt in 2017.

"Well, time to toddle off to bed. Tomorrow, the guests will retire their Palmerwood hunting-tweeds, riding-boots, and ghillie-brogues for the season and will all fly home on the luxurious Palmerwood G-6 private jet, and in any case, I'm soused. Excelsior!"

Well, that was it for the Great Hunt of 2016. We'll report more come 2018, when I plan to hold another gala sporting-event that will, most likely, result in no animal deaths, but a great deal of inebriation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Stories Without Pictures, Chapter 2: A Hilly Comes A-Calling

Here's the second in the installment of Stories Without Pictures. It's a transcript of a recent telephone-call I had...


I was sitting at home in my palatial, oak-paneled library at Palmerwood, sipping Auld MacBlechantochuan, and lingering over the naughtier passages in the "Decameron," when Cubbings approached with the phone.

"Mrs. Clinton, sir," he murmured.

"Oh, good God's urge, tell 'er I'm out. Or dead," I snarled. But Cubbings was adamant.

"She says it's urgent, sir," he said firmly.

"Damn it to heck," I muttered, grabbing the phone. "Remind me to flog you later, Cubbings."

"I live to serve, sir," Cubbings said, and withdrew soundlessly.

I took the phone, and, wincing preemptively, groaned, "Hello?"

Having already braced himself, I was glad I did.

"JIMMEEEEEE!" squawked the phone in tones redolent of something between a foghorn and a crow. "How are you? Did you vote for me? How are your lovely children? Sylvia, Lenny, Maxie, and, uh, Lorax? And your lovely wife, The Armenian?"

I wasn't sure whether I was more repelled by the voice or more nauseated by the blatant insincerity of her inquiries about my family.

"Oh, we're well, Hilly, thanks for asking," I said weakly, casting desperately around for a reason to end the conversation. "How've you been? I know the last few weeks have been rough."

"Oh, you know," blared the phone, "yeah, that was rough. But Huma and I were able to get down to Myrtle Beach for a little R and R."

"Myrtle Beach? Classy. You and Huma?"

"No, Bill."

"You said Huma."

"No I didn't."

"What can I do for you, Hilly?" I asked, gesturing furiously at Cubbings for more Scotch. I had the sinking feeling that this isn't going to be a quick call.

"Well, I'm glad you asked!" the phone cawed. "You and I are old friends, right, Jimmy? I mean, we go way back, don't we?"

"Look, Hilly," I said slowly and cautiously. I know enough to know when I'm about to get shook down, "I was glad to be able to kill Vince FOster for you--I always thought he was a zombie--and of course, I love partying with Marc Rich, but..."

"Good!" she brayed, and then her voice dropped to a conspiratorial rasp. "I knew I could count on you, Jimmy. You're my rock. Now listen, James, I need a favor...."

I gritted my teeth, waiting for Hillary to ask for her "favor."

"JP, Mrs. Clinton rasped, trying to whisper and failing pretty badly, "I'm in need of a swashbuckling, debonair, international daredevil who knows Russia inside and out and who has all kinds of highly-placed connections to perform a top-secret mission for me."

"You've got to be kidding me," I said. "Top secret mission? Hilly, you don't have any official capacity. You're not an elected official anymore. You don't hold any appointed positions. You're unemployed. Go knit something. Or take up gardening. Or ballroom dancing. Just retire already."

"But I'm a Clinton!" she barked. "That's official enough! Just being a Clinton is enough to get anyone to do anything I want! It's like being a Bush! Or a Kennedy! JUST DO THE DAMNED MISSION!"

"Well, it does sound right up my alley," I mused, half-tempted. It had been a while since I'd performed any high-stakes international espionage derring-do, and I was worried about getting rusty. Also, I was getting a little low on my favorite vodka, "Ol' One-Eyed Bolshevik Ivan's Blood of the Imperialist Capitalist Exploiters," and I was wondering if I called my old pal Vlad ahead of time, he couldn't have a couple of cases ready for me at Sheremetevo Airport.

"I'm listening, Hilly," I said. "Precisely what kind of unofficial top-secret mission for me do you have in mind?"

I must admit to being a little surprised when Hillary made her request.

"JP," Mrs. Clinton whispers, "I need you to sneak into Russia and bring back definitive proof that the Russians hacked the election for Trump."

There followed quite a long pause, which I ended by saying, "But there isn't any."

"Sure there is!" she bellowed. "Haven't you been watching the news?"

"Yeah, I've been watching the news," I snapped, grabbing a small marble statuette of Atticus Aristide Palmer, his great-great-great uncle off its pedestal and throwing it at Cubbings. "It's all just a long string of, 'Unnamed Sources Have Strong Reason to Believe,' and 'Intelligence Sources Now Think,' but there's zero proof. It's all just partisan hypothesis and conjecturing and grandstanding, and not one goddamn piece of solid evidence has yet been brought forward. Zero. There's just a bunch of phony outrage in the press. And from you."

"WHAT ABOUT THE CIA??!?" she roared.

"The CIA?" I snickered. "That bunch of geniuses with all their 'definitive proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq'? That bunch of twits who took eleven years to find Bin Laden? Honestly, Google Earth can show me chicks nude-tanning on the roof in Amsterdam, but the CIA can't find a six-foot, five inch Arab on dialysis whose face just happens to be on every milk-carton and hummus-container from Manhattan to Malaysia? Those Keystone Kops? Don't make me laugh. Come on, there are seventeen different intelligence agencies, and not even all of them agree on this. The CIA finds what the president tells them to find. You know it. I know it."

"How do you know about the Google Earth images of naked women sunbathing in Amsterdam?" Hillary asked.

"So I'm told," I said hurriedly, furiously gesturing to Cubbings to clear his search history. I began to sense the conversation going off the rails, so I tried to refocus Hillary.

"So let's recap, Hilly," I sighed. "You want the American people to believe that the Russians wrote a special, secret line of hacking-code that only the Russians or their stooges can use."

"Yes," she brayed.

"And they gave this super-secret code to Guccifer 2.0, a Romanian, and he used it to hack the DNC's servers, your personal email server, and John Podesta's and Colin Powell's personal email accounts."

"That's right," she cawed.

"And then Guccifer 2.0 turns all those juicy emails over to Wikileaks and DC Leaks, so that Julian Assange, another Russian patsy, who just happens to be under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, can make it public."

"Yes," she squawked.

"And Julian Assange does this all at the behest of the shadowy, sinister Vladimir Putin, who, sitting spider-like in his lair at the Kremlin, directs all that is secret and skullduggerous across the planet with well-nigh Godlike omnipotence--all so his BFF Donald Trump can get elected."

"That's right," she honked.

"And that's how the Russians 'hacked' the American election, right?" I groaned. I suddenly had a pain in my lower back and felt a headache coming on. "That and some fake stories on Twitter, right?"

"Bingo," she screeched dulcetly. "And can you also find some proof that James Comey at the FBI is working for the Russians, too? And also Mitch McConnell? And Rex Tillerson, too?"

"Hilly," I said, "you do realize that that is some tinfoil hat-level conspiracy theory, don't you?"

"JUST FIND THE PROOF!!!" she bellowed.

"Good God's urge, Rodham," I snarled, "THERE ISN'T ANY. IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. Listen, do you want to know the real reason you lost? Seriously? Class, race, Russians, coal-miners, James Comey, Pussygate, blah blah blah. You really want to know why you lost the election?"

I took a deep breath, an even deeper gulp of Old MacBlechantochuan, lit another Cohiba, and barreled ahead.

"You really want to know why you lost the election, Hilly?" I said again. "Simple. NOBODY LIKES YOU."

"What are you talking about?" she bleated. "Obama said I was likable enough!"

"Well, he lied," I said flatly. "Look, American politics is a popularity contest. It;s unfortunate, but there it is. It just is. Americans don't really care about policy positions, or personal political philosophy, or character, or qualifications."

"But I went to Yale Law Schoo.."

"Doesn't matter. Americans vote for whom they like. Reagan--brains of a peacock, but he was folksy, avuncular, good with a quip. Mondale, unquestionably smarter and more honest, was as grim as a tombstone. Your husband is likable. Bob Dole came across as the crabby old man trying to send back his meatloaf at the early-bird special at Applebee's because it's too salty."

"But I was Secretary of...."

"Doesn't matter. Dubya couldn't find his ass with both hands, but he presented as the kinda guy you could have a beer with. Gore, unquestionably brighter and more qualified, campaigned like a fresh corpse. Nobody liked him. Even after Dubya got us into two completely pointless wars under false pretenses, he STILL beat John Kerry, who had the face of a horse and the personality of an unlikable horse, in spite of the fact that he was a smarter, better, and far more competent guy."

"But I..."

"DOESN'T MATTER, I keep telling you. Obama had the deck stacked against him--black AND liberal?--but McCain came across as crabby as Dole, only with hemorrhoids. Nobody liked him. Mitt Romney--who doesn't want to punch that smug prick in the kisser? So Obama won again, because he's funny, and cool under fire, and classy."

"But I..."

"And Trump was entertaining as hell. 'Little Marco,' 'Yeah, 'cause you'd be in jail,' 'WRAAAWWWWNNNG,' like it or not, the guy had some great TV moments. That stuff plays in America the Dumb. You just came across as elitist, hectoring, secretive, shrill, and artificial. All your one-liners sounded scripted--most likely by that putz Borowitz--and rehearsed. He sounded off the cuff and genuine. Would you have been the better president? Hell yes. Is he a trainwreck in a suit? No question. But Hilly... NOBODY LIKES YOU. It's just that simple."

I waited, bated breath, for Hillary to respond.

"So you don't think the Russians hacked my campaign?" she finally rasped.

"Nope," I said. "Matter of fact, the only campaign that got sabotaged in 2016 was the Democratic primary, when you screwed Bernie."

Hillary was silent for a long moment. It was one of the sweetest moments of my life.

"So you're not going to sneak into Russia and bring back definitive proof that the Russians hacked my campaign?" she growled.

"I am not," I trilled. "I might go anyhow--it's been a while since I hung out with the Rotenberg brothers at their dacha in Odessa, and that's always a party, but nope, I'm not accepting your mission."

Hillary chewed on this for another long minute.

"So I'm probably not gonna be president?" she gritted.

"Probably not, no," I said.

"Well, can I have a couple million for my Foundation?" she finally got around to asking.

"Will it get you off the phone with me?" I grumbled. It's a small price to pay.

"As soon as you like!"

"I'll have Cubbings drop off the check in the morning," I said wearily. And then I hung up. 

Stories Without Pictures, Chapter 1: The Distress-Call

Drawrin' pictures is hard work, and every so often, I post a Stupid Status Update Serialized Adventure (TM) on the Intersocial Medianet-Webs that doesn't have any illustrations.

There have been a bunch of them, but here's the first. Even without pictures, I still think it's pretty funny.


I had a bad feeling about the distress signal that my pilot received as my luxurious private G-6 winged its way over Central Asia.

This is how irritating adventures generally begin.

Nevertheless, it would be caddish to ignore a cry for help, so I reluctantly gave the order to alter course and see who the hell was in trouble this time.

One makes sacrifices in order to be a Selfless Defender of the Republic.

My pilot informed me that the distress call was coming from Uighur-Abad in Kyrgyzstan.

Uighur-Abad? For some reason, that rang a bell. I hurriedly flipped through the card-file in my Mind-Palace. A wave of the most ominous, shadowy dread washed over my soul. I couldn't remember any halfway decent hotel-bars, restaurants, or tailors in that part of the world.

On the other hand, I thought, there may very well be a hidden stash of my favorite vodka, "Ol' One-Eyed Ivan's Blood of the Imperialist Capitalist Exploiters." They stopped making it in '93, and worldwide stocks are dwindling. But you never know. There might be a case or seven hidden in one of those old Soviet outposts. The trip may not be a total loss.

My luxurious G-6 private plane touched down at Osh Airport in a howling blizzard. I checked my very sophisticated GPS distance satellite-map thingies, and my eagle-eyes narrowed as I looked at all the blinky-blinky lights.

It was ten miles from Osh to Uighurabad, from whence the distress signal emanates.

"Ten miles in this part of the world could take a day or more," I mused to myself, as I lit a hand-rolled Cuban Cohiba with my grandfather's antique sliver lighter, "and that's in optimal driving conditions. I wonder how long it would take me by... another form of transportation."

Having been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of a Kyrgyz fur-trader over a few glasses of "Uncle Genghis's Top-Notch Koumiss" in the airport bar, I was now properly insulated against the Central Asian blizzards. I'd bartered my way into a smashing ensemble: a floor-length coat of snow-leopard fur with matching shapka* and gloves.

"No reason why we can't look good--and, dare I say it, damned good--while answering a distress signal in the wilds of Central Asia," I thought to myself, catching sight of my own reflection in a shop-window, and preening just a tad.

Checking my GPS satellite blinky thing, I clambered atop a Bactrian camel and took a quick mental inventory. "Ten miles to Uighurabad on a camel in a blizzard, three Cohibas, a hip-flask of 'Auld Blechaintoshan,' scotch, a slight buzz from that koumiss, an Amex platinum card, a fully-loaded .44 Magnum Desert Eagle, and I'm wearing sunglasses," I thought. Not optimal, but I've been in worse situations. "Avanti."

But it wasn't long before I found myself in a tight spot.

The raging blizzard through which I was struggling on my way from Osh to Uighurabad suddenly took a turn for the worse. Howling winds whipped the skirts of my newly-acquired floor-length snow-leopard coat... ice and snow rent my flesh like knives.

Tragically, I was forced to go full "Han Solo and the Taun-Taun" on my Bactrian camel, gut the thing, and crawl inside its rib-cage.

Morosely, I fired up a Cohiba, took a swig of "Auld MacBlechaintochan 18-year," peered out from his makeshift dead camel shelter, and wondered, for the thousandth time, who's been sending that distress signal from Uighurabad.

The blizzard blew itself out, and, slightly footsore and smelling vaguely of camel-innards, but still looking absolutely smashing, I sidled into the town of Uighurabad in the former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan, from whence the distress signal came.

It's a mighty depressing place. There are a few Soviet-era concrete monstrosities still clawing the Central Asian sky... a few tired-looking and poorly-stocked shops... a run-down mosque... a few old men huddled around the statue of Josef Stalin shaking hands with Manas, the legendary Kyrgyz national hero, in the town square.

I checked my GPS beepy blinky thing. The distress signal, whoever was sending it, appeared to be coming from behind a low ridge of hills just west of town.

"Off we go," I muttered to myself. "In the service of God, country, and my fellow-man, forward the battalions."

My crack security/extraction-team--an accessory no self-respecting international gentleman of fortune and intrigue should ever be without--seemed unavoidably delayed, so bravely on I forged.

I tracked the distress signal on my beepy blinky GPS thingy out of Uighurabad, over the low ridge of rocky escarpment west of Uighurabad to a jagged crack in the stones. It appeared to lead to a cave.

Cautiously, I stuck my head into the cave. A thick, musty odor of rot and decay filled my nostrils... a sound like muffled weeping tickled his ears. Who--or what--could possibly be inside???

Squinting into the darkness of the cave, I saw a huge, shaggy form curled into the fetal position on the rough stone floor. Its body trembled, racked with sobs. The stench was well-nigh overpowering--my eyes began to water.

Suddenly, the thing, sensing my presence, leapt to its feet and spun around, and I saw its horrible visage:

A hulking, brutish, simian form; a broad, flat face; a feral, snarling mouth; tiny, beady eyes, glittering with tears, under a heavy, jutting brow; a thick coat of shaggy, filthy, matted orange fur.

"Donald?" I said, recognizing my fellow filthy-rich plutocrat. "Good God's urge, this is the first time I've ever been disappointed that it WASN'T a yeti. What in the name of common sense are you doing here?"

I recoiled bit as the Trump-beast lumbered toward me. Don't laugh, you would too. The stench of unwashed Trump could give the average burning landfill a run for its money.

"Donald, what are you doing here?" I repeated, holding my lilac-scented, monogrammed linen handkerchief to my aristocratic nostrils as Trump, sobbing, embraced me. "Aren't you supposed to be blowharding your way through a Republican debate tonight?"

"Yeah, that's why I've been hiding out in a cave in Kyrgyzstan!" the Trump-thing wailed. "I've been hiding out here wishing the whole thing would just... go away! JP, I don't want to be President! I never did! I'm a complete buffoon, and I know it! But it's outta my control now. You gotta help me, man! You gotta figure some way to get me OUT of this thing!"

I reluctantly handed the shaggy, stinking Trump my last Cohiba and my hip-flask. I detest the man, but there's solidarity among One Percenters.

"It started as a gag," Trump muttered. "I was drinking with Barry Diller and David Geffen at the last Palmerwood hunting-party and I got lit up and they dared me to run for President. What the hell, I said. Sounds like a gas.

"But God help me... I started WINNING. JP, I've done everything to get out of it. I've said I'm gonna keep Mexicans out with a giant wall. I said Megyn Kelly was mean to me because she was on her period. I made fun of a handicapped reporter. I made fun of John McCain. I got Sarah Palin to endorse me, for Chryssakes. THAT should have been the kiss of death right there."

He turned to me, desperation in his piggy little eyes.

"But NOTHING WORKS," he moaned. "I keep rising in the polls! America the Stupid just eats up all my kooky with a spoon! The loonier I act, the more of a jerkoff I am, the bigger the total assclown I act like, this stupid country can't get enough of me! Hell, I even said I could shoot somebody and not lose supporters, AND I GOT A FIVE PERCENT BUMP IN IOWA!!!! What the HELL do I have to do to get out of this race, fellate ISIS on 'America's Got Talent'?! I'll do it if you think it'll work. Don't think I won't."

I couldn't help but feel a sneaking sympathy for The Donald.

"I get it," I commiserated. "Good God's urge, the outrageous, offensive stuff I post on Facebook about politics, Ann Coulter, religion, football, you--great zounds, I tick myself off, and I think I've been unfriended twice. And a lot of my friends are from Indiana. Some of them are in the clergy. Many of them are deeply conservative. Trust me, I get it."

"Yeah, good for you," the matted, reeking Trump-beast growled. "But what am I supposed to do?"

I didn't answer. Instead, I pulled out my mobile, opened up the CNN app, and the two of us anxiously watched the results of the Iowa Caucus now coming in.

"So what's happening?" Donald rasped. "What's going on?!?"

"Well, good news and bad news," JP says. "Good news is Bernie's closing the gap on Slick Hilly."

"Did I ever tell you about the threeway I had with Hilly and Donna Shalala?" the Trump beasts mused. "Boy, you talk about feeling like a third wheel. It was almost like they wished I wasn't there. What's the bad news?"

"Bad news is it looks like you might win," JP says. "But I think I have a plan anyhow."

I mulled it over. "You know what..." I said, "Yes.... yes, I think... you know, it's so crazy that it just... might... WORK."

I turned my attention back to the results of the Iowa Caucus coming on my mobile and snorted scornfully as I read the morning's headlines.

"What? What now?" Trump grunted from underneath the layer of crusted grime coating his shaggy bulk. "Did I win?"

"Nope, you came in second to Ted Crazed," I said. "I'm just laughing about this headline: 'Hillary Breathes "Huge Sigh of Relief" After Tie in Iowa.'"

"What's she got to be relieved about?" Trump wondered, scratching his chest absently and dislodging a chunk of calcified filth.

"Presumably, she's relieved at being able to leave Iowa untarred, unfeathered, and not on a rail," I answered. "But hold on.... I'm just about to put my idea into motion."

I tapped on my mobile, hit "send," and smiled up at Trump, who glared back at me.

"What are you doing on that stupid phone, Palmer?" he grunted, and scratched his rump, dislodging the few shreds of his trousers which remained there. "I came in second in Iowa, but I'm still in the race, and Huckabee, Santorum, and Rand Paul all dropped out today! You're supposed to be getting me OUT of this thing, not playing Angry Birds or looking at FoxNewsGirlsGoneWild.com or whatever it is you're doing!"

"Calm yourself, Donald," I replied, in my soothing baritone voice. God, is it soothing, that voice of mine. Feels like someone pouring warm syrup on your bare flesh. Next to me, Barry White sounds like Fran Drescher with emphysema. "Taken care of. You'll be toast in no time."

"What?" Trump bellowed, jumping up and down in a manner oddly redolent of an orangutan having a seizure. "What? How? What did you do???"

"I just nominated you for the Nobel Peace Prize," I grinned, folding my arms in satisfaction. "Texted a few friends in Sweden, called in some favors. It's in. You've been nominated. Heck, you might even win. If Henry Kissinger can win it after wiping Cambodia off the map, you've got a real shot at it."

Trump, dumfounded, suddenly burst out laughing, "You're KIDDING!" he bellows. "It.. it's GENIUS!"

I hate to look immodest, but I had to agree. In a political party whose entire foreign policy boils down to "bomb everything until it stops moving," winning the Nobel Peace Prize could have been the kiss of death for the Donald's campaign.

I checked my beepy-blinky satellite GPS thingy, which had suddenly begun going off like a string of firecrackers. Well, what do you know. My crack security-team had finally shaken off their hangovers, and decided to come looking for me, after a week or so. I resolved to have a stern chat with Mssrs. Dailey and Miller. Once I'd had a few drinks himself. It gets thirsty in Central Asia.

"Coming, Trump-Brute?" I asked. "I'm going to call for my plane and then continue on to Switzerland, which is where I was going when I got your distress signal. I need to drop some watches off at La Chaux-de-Fonds to get serviced. Come on, we'll stop in Monaco, get you cleaned up, pop into Le Saint-Benoit and grab a steak, what do you say? You've been living on raw cave-rats for two weeks now."

"Nah, you go on," the Trump-beast said. "I'm gonna wait until my poll-numbers drop some more. Also I'm gonna sue Cruz for screwing me in Iowa. No way I lost to that jagoff."

My eyes shot open in bewilderment, but I decided not to press the issue. I had done what I could to get Trump out of the race. The rest... was up to fate.

Friday, July 15, 2016

"Palmerwood: The St. Herod's Years." A Chronicle of JP's School-Days.

God knows obtaining a superb education for one's offspring is key to maintaining a dynasty. History is littered with the remains of once-promising dynasties--the Hapsburgs, the Bourbons, the Windsors, etc.--who fell prey to the twin evils that plague hereditary aristocracies: idiocy and inbreeding.

Well. We Palmers of Palmerwood know enough to learn from the lessons of history, and so it was with all the best intentions in the world that I enrolled my younger sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., at The Quimm School.

It was highly recommended, but doing so was not the wisest move.

The Quimm School is a private, "progressive" day school run by a bunch of vegetable juice-drinking old virgins of questionable gender. Students don't learn, they "explore." They aren't disciplined, they're "refocused." They don't compete, they "cooperate." They don't have teachers, they have "guides."

Now, I had my doubts about the whole damned enterprise, but when Agreeable Louis J. sniped, "Pop, are you sure your hatred for Hillary isn't the result of your misogynistic, patriarchal tendencies? Guide Ratchett says you have those," I blew my stack, and I immediately and furiously withdrew the lads from The Quimm School.

The lads turned one on April 1, and I took the opportunity to pack those rapscallions off to boarding school. Specifically, my alma mater, St. Herod's Episcobyterian School for the Scions of the Obscenely Wealthy. 

Enough namby-pamby blather about "sensitivity" and "cooperation." Rugby. Wealth. Privilege. Sailing. Hazing. Latin. Now THAT'S a curriculum that'll toughen these pampered young hounds up. St. Herod's should make men out of them. Mens sana in corpore sanem, boys! 

Here I am sending the lads off to St. Herod's with some paternal advice.

"Fight the biggest one first, boys, and the rest'll fall into line," I said. "And try to keep the wenching and the boozing to a minimum. Noses to the grindstone. Study hard. See you at Parents' Weekend. I'll have Nanny Klagg send you a care package."

"Nanny Klagg quit the day we were born, Pop," growled Agreeable Louis J. 

"Idiot," snarls Assertive Emmanuel J. under his breath.

"Really?" I said. "Oh. Huh. Well, I'll have Cubbings do it."
 As the sleek European mommywagon (which replaced my late, lamented sleek European roadster) whisked Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J. off to boarding-school, I was overcome by a spasm of nostalgia about his own school-days at St. Herod's.

Dear old St. Herod's--cradle of my dreams, incubator of my vast (and let's face it, largely unrealized) potential, and scene of my misspent youth.

As the smoke from my Cuban Cohiba swirled aloft, my memories took shape and form within it, and I begins to reminisce about my school-days: The St. Herod's Years.

I still get a chill when I remember arriving at St. Herod's with all the other first-year boys to be greeted by the glowering countenances of Headmaster Dr. Lupus Whistlebone, D. Litt., and Mathematics Master Grover.

"Welcome to St. Herod's, boys," said Dr. Whistlebone. "I have a few words I'd like to say to you, left to right: Hoberman, get rid of that copy of 'Principles of Accounting.' We use Samuelson's here, nothing but.
"Roash, skateboarding, like all forms of fun, is strictly forbidden. You will leave that ridiculous thing in my office and retrieve it at end of term.
"Koontz, get rid of those sideburns.
"McClellan, wipe that smirk off your face.
"Estesheen-Van Chestertucky, you will leave that bass in my office and you will retrieve it at end of term.
"Dailey, you will wear regulation blue blazer and grey flannels, not camouflage.
"Palmer, extinguish that cigar. You will leave any other forms of tobacco in my office. You will not retrieve them at end of term.
"Polk, fishing, like all forms of fun, is strictly forbidden. Also, if you try fishing in the moat, you're liable to catch something you'll wish you hadn't. You will leave your fishing tackle in my office and retrieve it at end of term.
"Whipple, your mathlete badge impresses neither me nor Maths Master Grover.
"Rhodes, cricket, like all forms of fun, is strictly forbidden. You will leave your bat in my office and retrieve it at end of term.
"Denman, golf, like all forms of fun, is strictly forbidden. You will leave your clubs in my office and retrieve them at end of term.
"DeLawter, just looking at you makes me want to punch you. Maths Master Grover, swat him a few times with that ruler.
"Miller, band tryouts are next Friday at five. Until then, you may leave your trumpet in my office.
"Guillaume, you, like DeLawter, enrage me simply by existing. Maths Master Grover, swat him with that ruler."

Naturally, I wasn't there when the girls' class of St. Herod's was welcomed, but I heard from plenty of reliable sources that Headmistress Klagg was no more warm and welcoming to the girls than Headmaster Whistlebone was to the gentlemen.
"Miss Saltsman, wipe that smirk off your face.
"Miss Baldwin, while I appreciate your use of a time machine to travel back to this point in history, you will not be using it again this term. Furthermore, I do not care what hairstyles look like in the 21st century. While you are at St. Herod's in the 80s, your hair will conform to current standards. Make it bigger. Now.
"Miss Butler, while I am sure you are very proud of your braces, a 'Tin Grins are In' tee shirt is not acceptable wear at St. Herod's.
"Miss Thompson, your donning of a 'Jem' sweatshirt and leg-warmers is not blinding anyone to the fact that you were not born in the 80s.
"Miss Bousman and Miss Agah, my compliments on exceptionally large 80's hair.
"Miss Frank, it is patently obvious to me that you, like Miss Thompson, were not born in the 80s.
"Miss Stafford, I don't like the look of you at all."

St. Herod's was big on discipline. JP remembers thinking, "Why does Maths Master Grover keep a bucket of jagged rocks on the desk?" on the first day of classes.

The reason for the bucket of sharp, jagged rocks became abundantly clear very soon. Here, Professor Grover maintains classroom decorum the St. Herod's way as my fellow classmates looked on in horror.

St. Herod's was also big on physical fitness. "Mens sana in corpore sano," Dr. Whistlebone used to thunder, "A healthy mind in a healthy body, right, boys?" So we were all required to row crew.

It didn't go so hot, especially after that Pooley kid transferred in from Worcestershire-St. Wulfrid's Academy and was made the coxswain. "

JP," confessed my future co-head of estate security Miller, "I don't have a lot of confidence in the new coxswain. He's really not maintaining discipline.Polk's just fishing off the stern. DeLawter and Koontz are having an oar fight, and Koontz has his foot jammed against McClellan's face. Whipple keeps banging his oars into everyone else's, and Denman's trying to row with a nine-iron. And all Pooley's doing is sipping that 'energy drink' of his. It has olives in it and he mixes it in a silver shaker."

St. Herod's Academy, had a top-notch chemistry program. The chemistry-master, Professor Miller, stressed the practical application of subject matter, although students were not at all times precisely sure what the practical application of his tangle of pipes, pipettes, tubes, burners, beakers, tanks, gauges, and other "Breaking Bad"-type apparatus was.

When one of us did work up the gumption to ask what the experiment was supposed to be teaching us, Professor Miller snapped, "What experiment? We're not experimenting. We're brewing liquor. Mead, if you must know." 

Then he proceeded to get shnockered, sang a few bars of a song called "Bully in the Alley," and passed out on the floor.

always enjoyed biology class at St. Herod's. Here, the science-master, Professor Moreau, is teaching the students some of the finer points of gene-splicing and genetic manipulation.

The results weren't always completely what we'd expected. I was quite fond of his lizard-gibbon until it tried to strangle him, Miss Frank's Human-Armed Goose attempted to carry her off, and Messire Rhodes's gecko-vine had a voracious appetite. Miss Butler's Ape-Giraffe was a little too effusive in its affections, and Messire Whipple learned, to his peril, that splicing a python and a millipede wasn't perhaps the hottest idea.

But Messire Dailey took great glee in his Bison-Lobster, Miss Baldwin's tentacled thing was fascinating, and Miss Stafford's bunny-butterfly brought her no end of joy.

Now, I have to admit that I didn't set any land-speed records academically at St. Herod's. I was an indifferent student at best. 

But I did seem to find my niche in the "How to Be A Proper Young Gentleman" class, taught by Lord Reginald Cyril Nigel de Poncey. Lord Reginald was an impoverished and embittered aristocrat who was forced to making a living teaching young Yanks how to dress, walk with walking sticks, and sip tea.

There, in a classroom hung with portraits of the great fops of yesteryear--Henry Waxthiddle Coxcomb, Sir Clement Popinjay, and Lord Clive Needlethread--I experienced the kind of epiphany that strikes one only once in a lifetime.

"Palmer," drawled Lord Reginald, "while I can't stand you any more than I can stand these muddle-fingered maladroits--no, Hoberman, start over...Koontz, yanking furiously at it will not change anything... Guillaume, put your tongue back in your mouth... Roash, I have no idea how you managed to do that. Your tie defies the laws of physics...Dailey, go to the nurse's office and have her cut you loose.. Anyhow, Palmer, you do seem to have a knack for this."

My reminiscences came to an end as I heard the low rumble of the Sleek European Mommywagon drawing up outside Palmerwood, and I rushed outside to welcome my progeny back to their ancestral estate.

"Welcome back, gentlemen!" I greeted the irrepressible young scamps. "I hope your first term was successful? Did you make a lot of new friends? Archenemies? Any homicides? Did you learn a lot?"

A grin the import of which would slightly unsettle a lesser or more intelligent man than I spreads across the cherubic faces of his youngest offspring.

"Oh, yes, Pop," they assured me. "We learned a heck of a lot."