Thursday, February 24, 2022

What the Junior Partners Have Been Up To

 I make no secret of the fact that, when it comes to the Ukraine crisis, that I'm on Team Putin. For a number of reasons: 

1. The West, in the forms of the EU and its military arm, NATO, has been poking at him for years. We provoked him openly when, at the NATO conference in Bucharest, we openly blabbed about both Georgia and Ukraine becoming part of NATO. 

Not a smart move. 

2. We removed his stooge, Yanukovich, in a coup romanticized in the West as the "Orange Revolution" and replaced him with our stooge, Yushchenko. Up til then, Russia had been just fine with Ukraine, but removing a friendly leader and replacing him with one overly aligned toward the West, both economically and strategically, was a provocation. The French have a proverb, "It's a vicious animal that attacks when cornered." Can't blame a man for brinksmanship when you push him to the brink. 

Now, imagine that China deposed U.S.-friendly regimes in Canada and Mexico and replaced those leaders with China-friendly ones, bound Canada and Mexico together in a web of economic and strategic agreements, and then installed a military presence in both Canada and Mexico. Which is precisely what we did to Russia. How well do you think the U.S. would respond to it? 

3. Even if he does mount a full-scale invasion, he won't stay. He was around for Russia's turn in the barrel in Afghanistan, and he's smart enough to have watched the U.S.'s misadventures in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya to know that getting bogged down in a war of occupation when people don't want you there is a really, really bad idea. He'll shoot up the place and wreck it from the inside, but he won't stay. He didn't stay in Georgia, either. He declared war, invaded, and left after making sure Georgia wouldn't be joining NATO anytime soon. 

4. I like the Russians, anyhow. I like the fact that they didn't welcome the Nazis with bread and salt as the Ukes did during World War II (granted, they had extremely good reason to hate the Soviets, I'll give them that) and I like the fact that Putin isn't a raging anti-Semite, as is an uncomfortably large percentage of the Western-aligned Ukrainians. I also dislike the fact that the West has been systematically screwing them over since 1849. 

5. There's no earthly reason for us to give a damn about what happens in Putin's backyard any more than there's any reason for him to give a damn about what's happening in ours.

6. Purely pragmatically, I'm more worried about the Chinese than I am the Russians, and I just can't see the logic of driving him into their arms. 

Anyhow, practically alone of everyone I know, I'm pulling for Russia in this one. I won't debate for an instant that Vladimir Putin is a sinister tyrant, an enemy of liberal democracy, a louse, a wretch, an assassin, and an all-around miserable son of a bitch. But unlike most Americans, I can keep two ideas in my head at the same time. It's difficult, but doable. Try it. 

And, as a wise man once wrote, "Give me a rogue so long as he be a barefaced rogue." Putin's never pretended to be anything other than what he is, or to want anything other than what he wants, and I can dig that. 

So anyhow, as far as things go, I'm pretty pro-Russian and not shy about saying it. But even I was surprised when a few old fellow-carousers from the intelligence services sent me, via diplomatic courier, this photo in answer to a few inquiries about where my younger sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., had been for a couple of weeks prior to the fun we're enjoying in Ukraine right now... 



Those irrepressible scamps. They appear to enjoying a vecherinka with some old acquaintances of mine--a group of unofficial advisors to M. Putin and members in good standing of the elite club of Russian oligarchs: Vyecheslav Ivanovich Nogudnikov, Lev Khaim-Abramovich Faynshmekler, Armen Anastovich Kapilian and Nugzar Timurovich Badgaiashvili. 

Can't say as I approve completely of the company the lads have been keeping, but travel is so broadening and it's useful to have good contacts abroad. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A Very 2020 Yule

 Deepest apologies for the time it took to post this adventure, but as we all know, it's been a challenging year. 

Well, for the rest of you. For me, it's been more or less rusticating at my vast, rambling, historically significant, luxurious yet unfortunately named country estate of Palmerwood. Can't imagine why anyone would want to be anywhere else. Although I will own that doing battle with the implacable enemies of the Republic over Zoom is a bit tiresome. 

Anyhow, last Christmas, things got a tad stressful--a time of tribulation and testing belied by the bucolic simplicity of 2020's Official Palmerwood Nonsectarian Midwinter's Holiday in the Religious And/Or Cultural Tradition of Your Choice or Background Card: 


Accompanied, as always, by a short poem: 

                                

Well, anyhow, the preparations were being made, my youngest sons, the Junior Partners, Agreeable Louis J. and Assertive Emmanuel J., were plotting to kill me, and the hols, as they call them in Britain, were progressing apace. Nothing out of the ordinary. 

Until, one day, while I was enjoying a brisk, tweed-clad midwinter's stroll through the northern reaches of the Estate, as is my wont, when... 



I'd been out stomping over the vast estate, Palmerwood, like the well-heeled country-squire I am, when I stumbled across a suspicious patch of trodden-down grass littered with suggestive traces: empty "Bartles & Jaymes" bottles. Crumpled Benson & Hedges packs. A "KC and the Sunshine Band" CD.

"Great zounds!" I shrieked (but in a decidedly masculine fashion. Like, totes masculine). "Yeti-spoor, or I've never seen the like!"

My heart chilled by the onset of the great, lumbering, shaggy, nouveau-riche Arctic hominids, I began dashing across hill and dale in hopes of reaching my mansion before the Yetis did.

Leaping like a gazelle (but like a decidedly masculine gazelle. Like, totes butch), I heard behind me the roar of engines. MGs. IROC-Zs. Trans-Ams. Yeti conveyances.

"Must... reach... vast and luxurious manor-house... before... Yetis do," I panted. "They always... come... empty-handed. They'll... never... leave and they'll drink up... all... the good... liquor." 

I burst through the massive oaken doors of the mansion like gangbusters, startling my dimwitted but devoted manservant, Cubbings, so badly that he dropped the ancient, priceless Assyrian vase he was polishing, which drops to the floor and shatters.

"CUBBINGS!!!" I shrieked (but in a masculine fashion. Like, totes masculine). "THEY'RE HERE. THEY'RE HERE!!!"

"Who, sir?" Cubbings trembled. "The IRS auditors?"

"No, the... wait, what?" I demanded. "What auditors? What have you heard?"

"Never mind, sir," Cubbings said. "Who?"

"WHO?!? WHO?!?" I howled, sounding remarkably like Attorney General William Barr. "WHO ALWAYS SHOWS UP THIS TIME OF YEAR? WHO ALWAYS COMES LUMBERING DOWN FROM THE FAR ARCTIC MOUNTAINOUS REACHES OF THE ESTATE, STAY TOO LONG, DRINK UP ALL THE GOOD LIQUOR, GET SHNOCKERED AND INSIST ON SINGING CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT THE TOPS OF THEIR LUNGS, AND ALWAYS COME EMPTY-HANDED EVEN THOUGH THEY KNOW DAMN WELL THAT ENTENMANN'S CRUMBLE-TOP COFFEE CAKE IS MY FAVORITE?!?"

"Gracious Heavenly Days," Cubbings gasped. "The Yetis!"

"QUICK, CUBBINGS!" I shouted. "I'm not entertaining them THIS year. READY THE HEAVY-DUTY EXCUSES!!!!" 


Suddenly, I had an epiphany--one which is bext expressed in verse. 

"How I Planned to Get Out of Hosting the Yetis for the Nonsectarian Midwinter's Holiday." 

A poem by JP. 

With abject apologies to ol' Dr. Seuss,The yetis were coming and I had no excuse.The yetis were coming for a big Yuletide fest,And I had no way to dodge unwelcome guests.
"And they'll drink all the liquor! They'll eat all the food!They'll stay way too late, which is terribly rude!Why, for fifty long years I've put up with it now!I must stop these yetis from coming! But how?"
Then I got an idea! An awful idea!I got a wonderful, awful idea!
"It's the year 2020! I've got my way out!And it's sitting here waiting, just under my snout!It just hit me as hard as those bulls in Pamplona:I'll tell those damn yetis I've come down with the 'Rona!"

"Terrible houseguests," I moaned. "Horrific classless nouveau-riche bounders. Always come empty-handed. If they MUST descend upon me, would it kill them to bring an Entenmann's Crumble-Top Coffee Cake, which they know damn well is my favorite?"

But the idea to dodge the holiday obligations by faking COVID-19 had burst like Pallas Athene full-grown from the skull of Zeus, and with a good will, I leapt wholeheartedly into the charade. 

Now, decked out in my burgundy velvet double-breasted smoking jacket, my 1200-count Egyptian cotton pj's, my slippers, and an ice-pack for my phony fever, I felt ready.

"Let the momzers come," I growled around the Rothschild-sized Cuban Cohiba clenched between my full and sensuous lips. "Cast wide the magnificent oaken doors, Cubbings." 


Now, although I am, probably, the most fearless person you know, I still tremble at the thought of having to entertain the Yetis each winter when the hulking brutes lumber forth from the far northern reaches of the estate and besiege, without invitation or encouragement, my obscenely luxurious mansion.

Plus, they always come empty-handed, even though they know damn well that Entenmann's crumble-top coffee-cake is my favorite.

Nevertheless, I was pretty confident that this year's tactic of faking the 'Rona will work. I adjusted the ice-pack on his head, straightened his lapels, and practiced a dry, hacking cough. Sounds good.

My feeble-minded but devoted manservant, Cubbings, trepidatiously threw open the vast oaken doors.

"And so it begins," I growled around the Rothschild-sized Cuban Cohiba clenched between my preternaturally white and even teeth (no braces. Ever. Good genes). "Showtime."



I steeled myself as the yeti horde, in a swirl of Oleg Cassini sport-coats, clouds of Paco Rabanne cologne, Benson & Hedges smoke, and Geoffrey Beene overcoats bustled through the foyer and into the South-Southwestern Gallery, where I customarily greet visitors to Palmerwood. Boy, you wouldn't believe some of the names who've been through here. You really wouldn't.

"What a pleasure to see you," I lied through his teeth. "Pity I'm slightly under the weather with this dry, hacking cough and low-grade fever. Also, I seem not to be able to taste anything. Which is odd."

"GAAAHHAHHAHHAHH!" howled the lead yeti, coming to a screeching halt. (I believe his name is Clyde. Or Warren. Maybe it's Ted, come to think of it. They all look alike, these hulking hirsute hominid holdovers from the Holocene. JP can't be expected to keep them all straight.) "HE'S GOT THE 'ROOOOOOONA!!!"

"No, no," I said in a weak and sickly voice (took a lot of practice, that weak and sickly voice. Usually my voice is the kind of stentorian baritone that inspires men to feats of heroism and melts women to quivering heaps of amorous jelly). "I'm fine. Probably just a head-cold. Here, get within six feet of me and let me breathe on you."


It must be admitted, I looked upon the hurried exodus of the yetis with no small satisfaction. Gosh all hemlock, did those rascals scamper like a possel of scalded cats.

"Cubbings," I drawled languidly to my dull-witted but steadfast manservant, "I call that a good day's work. It looks to be a merry non-sectarian midwinter's holiday after all. Be so good as to pour me a dram of Auld MacBlechaintochuan of 25 years."


I find, at times, minions, mere prose inadequate to express my feelings at certain intervals. It is in those moments when I turn to the immortal medium of poetry. 

So, with apologies not only to Dr. Seuss but to Clement Clark Moore, the author of "The Night Before Christmas, I proffer my second poem of this installment of "Tales of Palmerwood": 

"The Night Before the Nonsectarian Midwinter's Holiday of Your Religious or Cultural Background or Choosing." 

A second poem by JP. 
I was right pleased that, all through my house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
I'd faked the 'Rona, with coughing and hacking,
And successfully sent the damn yetis a-packing.
Smugly, I'd sucked down a whiskey night-cap
And was just settling in for a long winter's nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear
But something that clenched up my kishkes with fear.
All my good feelings were instantly gone
WHEN I SAW ALL THE YETIS A-GROUPED ON MY LAWN!!!!!!

"We're sorry, JP, you're in plague-quarantine,
But we'll give you the best holiday you've ever seen!
Since in terror we from your house went a-barreling,
We'll make it up to you with lots of loud caroling!
We'll stand outside your window and bellow in song,
AND WE'LL KEEP UP OUR CAROLING ALL WINTER LONG!!
Now, Warren! Now, Clyde! Now, Ted, and now Eddie!
LET'S GET THOSE WINDPIPES AND CAROLS ALL READY!"

"Oh God," I groaned, "this did NOT go as planned,
If under my window all winter they'll stand,
Belting out carols and harshing my mellow...
How COULD I have been such a dimwitted fellow?!"



I hadn't truly realized the depths of the horror of my predicament--yetis caroling outside my window--until I recalled this passage from "A Field Guide to Furry Hominids and Other Near-Human Species" (by Augustus Frotts, Ph.D. Paskudnyak & Sons Publishing Co. Waukepetonsett: 1967):

"One of the most singular, and, frankly, disturbing characteristics of Homo Annoyicus, the Common Yeti, is that, although they adore Christmas, they only know one Christmas song. That song is 'Silver Bells.' Perhaps even more irritating is that they only know two words of 'Silver Bells.' Those two words are 'silver bells.' Experienced travelers in the Himalayas or in the northern wooded reaches of a certain region in the Mississippi Valley of the lower Midwest know that, if they should hear the words 'silver bells' repeated over and over on a winter's night, and off-key, their single-malt Scotch whiskey and other luxuries are in grave danger."

Ladies and gentlemen, I was in a mighty tight spot.


Well, there was nothing to be done about it. The brutes were encamped beneath my window, and, buoyed by holiday cheer and lots of whiskey, there they'd stay all... season... long.

Morosely, I reflected on the perils of faking illness to get out of social engagements and entertaining. That's not to say I learned anything. Most likely, I'll try it again, because I'm a slow learner, but for the moment, I just had to cope with a chorus of yetis bellowing "Silver Bells" outside my window until the season lurched to a weary end.

"If only... if only," I sniffled to himself, "if only they'd been thoughtful enough to bring... an Entenmann's Crumble-Top coffee cake. Which they know damn well is my favorite."

Here's hoping your holidays ended on a more upbeat note than mine, minions!

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Great Hunt 2021

Well, minions, no one can deny it's been a rough couple of years. The 'Rona, incipient fascism, an attack on the Capitol of the United States of America... yes, we live in trying times. 

Which is why I felt it especially incumbent upon myself to host an event which is a Palmerwood tradition dating back... oh, I can't rightly say, but some centuries, at least... to raise the morale of my fellow filthy-rich oligarchs. Even those for whom I don't particularly care. There must be solidarity among the .00001%ers. The ravening working-class hordes are at the gate, so to speak, and it's important we keep up a united front. 

And so it was that I made preparations for... THE PALMERWOOD GREAT HUNT of 2021. 


Here's a shot of me completing the review of my rugged yet luxurious-to-the-point-of- decadence Millam Hunting-Lodge (named for my old pal, the sinister and shadowy railroad magnate, Darren Millam) in preparation for the PALMERWOOD GREAT HUNT of 2021. I was so excited I could hardly stand it. It takes a lot to get a jaded gazillionaire giddy with glee, but this does the trick. 

"Looks swell," I said with satisfaction, turning to my gamekeeper, Olivier de Baliviere and estate physician Pooley. "Trophies of dead animals dusted, firearms ammo'ed up, plenty of Bactine in the medicine cabinet, fresh sheets on all the beds, adequate stash of fire-wood, kitchen stocked, guest tweeds pressed, and all the missing liquor replaced. Wonder whose leather appointment-book with the initials EFB under the couch that was. Wonder if there's a connection between it and the missing liquor. Well, top-drawer work. I can hardly wait until the guests arrive. It's gonna be the best Palmerwood Great Hunt EVER!!!!"

Head Estate Physician Pooley looked doubtful, and Gamekeeper De Baliviere looked frankly terrified, but I was so darn chipper I hardly noticed. 

"BLAM BANG BLAM," I squealed like a delighted six-year-old. "BANG BOOM BLAM BANG BANG RATTATATATTATATATT."

"Oh God," groaned Pooley in agony. "He's making gun-noises."


Naturally, I was just delighted to begin welcoming the first visitors to the 2021 Palmerwood Great Hunt! Why, here comes the repulsive old reptile Rupert Murdoch, closely followed by my old school-chum from St. Herod's Episcobyterian Academy and fellow Latin aficionado Jason Hoberman!

And what's pulling into the station? Why, it's a lovingly restored vintage 19th-century locomotive pulling the "Wayward Son," the private rail-car of JP's old pal, the saturnine and secretive railway magnate Darren Millam! This is gonna be some hunt!

"Howdy!" I chirped. "Ignore the gloomy faces on my gamekeeper, Olivier de Baliviere, Head Estate Physician Pooley and my feeble-minded but devoted manservant Cubbings! Let's get this shootin' match underway!" 


And here's yet more intrepid outdoorsy types arriving for the Palmerwood Great Hunt of 2021! Why, coming up the walkway are my old pals Andrea Butler Koontz, Karen Stafford Thornton, and Sada Garcia Lindsey!


I chuckled somewhat patriarchally at the mountain of luggage they've shlepped along with them. Girls will be girls. Luckily, Cubbings is in fighting fettle, as always.

I was less delighted to see the delightful Mrs. Lindsey's sweater--I'd thought it consigned to the flames years ago--but, ghastly cardigan or no, he's still delighted to see her.

[On a related wardrobe note: I made a sacred and unbreakable vow years before never to draw Mrs. Thornton in anything but a bikini. I apologize for it, but sacred vows are sacred vows, and I don't feel like testing the malevolent demonic beings in whose unspeakable names I made those vows. But in deference to the season, I've thoughtfully drawn her in a tweed bikini. One does what one can.] 



Here's me tickled pink to welcome yet MORE rugged outdoorsy types to the Hunting-Lodge in preparation for the 2021 Palmerwood Great Hunt! Why, here come his pals Messire Dennis Beaty with his trusty rocket-launcher--good call, Mr. Beaty, I hear tell it's rutting-season for the woolly-rhinos--Messire McGinnis, his eyes filled with chupacabra-killing blood-lust, and the renowned herpetologist James Williams, Sr., author of "My Year Among the Komodo Dragons," "The Anthrophagous Gecko of Borneo, Myths and Misconceptions," and "Care and Feeding of the Roseate Iguana" and star of The Learning Channel's "Deadliest Herpetarium" reality show!

"What are those pet carrying-cages, Messire Williams?" I asked. "Did you bring animals with you?"

"Nope," Williams says. "Hoping to bring a few back."

And there, pulling up in one of the estate-jeeps, are the Palmerwood Security Detail, the homicidal maniacs Miller and Dailey. It's said the devil lives in the details, and if those chaps don't prove that adage, JP doesn't know what does.

Doctor Pooley, meanwhile, seems to be down to the dregs of his fourth bottle of Montrachet Grand Cru '12 since lunch. The poor fella just can't get into the spirit of things.

"Look, Doctor," I said reasonably, "if you just assume ahead of time limbs will be lost, you'll enjoy the hunt a lot more. Works for me every year!" 

Here's me welcoming a few more guests. I was damned pleased to see my old pal and fellow Kraken Club member Messire Whipple, Esq.

I was less pleased to see that Madame de la Sieckmann has joined the hunt as Official Photographer. Some occurrences on past Great Hunts have been better left unphotographed.

And I was REALLY worried about seeing Messire Brad Sisk show up. For one thing, Il Signore Sisk has, on more than one occasion, threatened to pants me for wearing pleats. For another, Signore Sisk, a professional opera singer, appears to have brought along the entire score of "Rigoletto." I wasn't sure how the vast and dangerous Pleistocene beasts of North Palmerwood will react to opera.

And while I'm always happy to see his old pal Messire Paul Mopps, I saw with some trepidation that Messire Mopps had, in fact, brought along his cats, as threatened.

(It did not escape my eagle-eye that Madame de la Frank von Bensky is trying to sneak in like she just arrived, when I know full well she's been camping out in the lodge and cadging the good liquor since October. But I'm far too discreet to say anything). 



What a motley crew of drifters, grifters, two-bit hustlers, crooks, shnooks, nogoodniks, cultural figures, .0001%ers, beloved figures of Western folklore, fellow members of the ultra-exclusive all-male Kraken Club, and general lowlifes is launched upon the northern reaches of Palmerwood this year in search of adventure, trophies, and hangovers. Even a few Yetis and the odd zombie have joined in the fun this year.

Avanti! Gonna be some hunt this time around! 

Dispatches from the Field, Palmerwood Great Hunt of 2021, Day #1:

"The weather in the Midwest being rather capricious, we were unprepared for a squallish nor'-nor'-wester of a blizzard. Messire Whipple rather touchingly but ineffectively attempted to stave off the blast with his umbrella. The only members of the expedition to enjoy themselves were two Yetis (Clive and Stewart, I believe, although all the bounders look alike to me). One of them--Clive or maybe Phil, not sure--thwacked Palmerwood Crack Security Detail Member Miller but good in the gourd with a snowball. Miller, incensed, wanted to shoot him in in retribution, and it was all I could do to convince him not to and save us the embarrassment of an international incident.

"Meanwhile, Docteur Pooley is muttering imprecations from under his snowy sarcophagus that sound suspiciously like 'Monsieur le Grand Batard de Marquis de Palmerwood,' and our party seems to have become separated in the driving snow. Things begin to look... less than optimal." 


Dispatches from the field, Palmerwood Great Hunt 2021, Day 1.5:

"While some of our party endure blizzard conditions, we hear that other factions fare equally poorly. In the southern reaches of the Northwest Quadrant, Il Signore Sisk, we are informed, decided that now was a perfect time to belt out the Overture to 'Die Zauberflote.' Apparently, no one informed him of the effect that Mozart has on Pleistocene megafauna, and now the mastodons are impassioned. Or maybe the mammoths. I can never keep them straight. They all look alike to me.

"Meanwhile, rations run low and I am reduced to recycling sight-gags from the last Great Hunt, viz. Security Palmerwood Security Detail member Dailey being carried off by a Harpy Eagle (I'm sure he'll be okay), Hoberman clinging for dear life to some critter's appendage, and Rupert Murdoch being stomped to smithereens by a large animal.

"While there is supposed to be a certain esprit de corps among us members of the .00001%, I must admit, I do take some small satisfaction in the latter." 


Dispatches from the Field, Palmerwood Great Hunt 2021, Day #2:

"Well, that was an interesting day. We surprised a small herd of Woolly Hippopomplemousse grazing in the tall grass. A notably bellicose species, one of them took great exception to Mrs. Lindsey ‘scardigan sweater, and, enraged, charged her (bowling me over in the process). Mrs. Lindsey was forced to relinquish the ghastly thing.

"The valiant-souled Messire Beaty immediately shouldered his trusty rocket-launcher, intending to blast the offending hippopomplemousse into next week, but the withered old reptile Rupert Murdoch was in the way and took the rocket square to the kisser. Tragically, but for a thick coating of soot, he appears unharmed. Messire Beaty assures me it was an accident, and I for one believe him, sorta. Not really.

"Meanwhile, a mammoth or mastodon or mastitis or whatever it is continues to chase Il Signore Sisk across the northern reaches of the Estate, which are now littered with libretti from Verdi to Rossetti--oohhhh, that's a clever rhyme I'll have to work into something or other later on down the pike--and we still haven't seen hide nor hair of Crack Security Detail Officer Dailey for a while." 


Dispatches from the Field, Palmerwood Great Hunt 2021:

"Exciting news from the as-yet un-blizzarded southern borderlands of the northern reaches of the Estate! Renowned herpetologist Williams informs us he's found that rarest of all species, the Woolly Arctic Snapping-Turtle (megachelonys hirsuticus frigidii). My old pal Mcginnis, I'm told, has unearthed a lair of Great Northern Chupacabras and will soon put paid to the pesky beasts. I certainly hope someone told him that the northern variant of this particular strain of varmint is somewhat larger than the Arizona specimens he's used to. And my fellow oligarch, the sinister and saturnine railway-magnate and Beloved Character of Western Folklore Darren Millam, is engaging in staring-contests with sabre-toothed cats. By all accounts, he's doing well.

"Meanwhile, Official Great Hunt Photographer Sieckmann is beginning to have grave doubts about wildlife photography and is contemplating going back to taking pictures of flowers." 

Dispatches from the Field, Palmerwood Great Hunt 2021, Day Whatever, because he quit counting:

"Great Zounds, what a day! Madame de la Butler Koontz ran across a Palmerwood Climbing Orchid (plantus horribilus palmerensis) and decided she'd be cute and pluck the thing. Some unpleasantness ensued. Madame Eve Bensky attempted heroically, if unsuccessfully, to intervene. My doughty groundskeeper, Olivier de Baliviere, came dashing up with a pair of garden-shears, but only succeeded in chopping off half his beard, the dumb nebbish.

"I dread to think of what might have happened if Mrs. Stafford-Thornton hadn't leapt, Xena-Warrior-Princess-like, into the fray with her combination katana-morning star things. Where she conceals them in that tweed bikini of hers I haven't a clue, and I daren't ask. As Walter Bagehot said of the Windsors, 'We must not let in daylight upon magic.'

"I worry for Doctor Pooley.When I mentioned that Mrs. Koontz was in some difficulty vis-a-vis a plant, he muttered in a sort of slurring fashion, 'Just rub some Calamine on it.' And Mrs. Sieckmann, who quit wildlife photography for botanical photography, is now questioning that decision as well.

"Meanwhile, the distant trumpeting of mammoths or mastodons or whatever is heard from the foothills, and we still can't seem to find Crack Security Detail Officer Dailey, but I'm sure he's fine." 


Dispatches from the Field, Palmerwood Great Hunt 2021, Day Whatever It Is Because He Stopped Counting:

"Messire Mopps inadvertently set in motion a chain of events which could have been disastrous. He attempted to cuddle a Woolly Rhinoceros (his excuse being, 'I miss my cats'), and naturally, the thing flipped him onto its back and went berserk, trampling poor Rupert Murdoch.

"Two members of the Hunt sprang into quick action: Messire Hoberman grabbed it by the horn and was spun around like a rag doll. Not sure what he was attempting to do, but good God's urge, it sure looked heroic.

"Messire Whipple grabbed an AK-47 and attempted to perforate the damned rhino. He's a fine mathlete, he ain't no marksman. A hail of bullets sang through the air, narrowly missing everything except a Harpy Eagle, which, unbeknownst to us, had been carrying Crack Security Detail Officer Dailey around for well nigh on to a week now. The thing squawked its last and expired in mid-air, and Dailey went plummeting some 100 feet to the earth, bounced a few times, and then stood up somewhat shakily and announced, 'I'm okay! I'm okay! Just need to walk it off!' The man's a real trouper." 



Dispatches from the Field":

"Well, I think it's no reflection on our party's outdoorsmanship to say that we've encountered a spate of ill-luck.

"We ran into a small flock of Dinornis, more commonly known as 'Terror Birds': an apt description if ever I heard it. One of them attempted to swallow Mr. Mopps. Came mighty close, too. Another decided I was a toothsome morsel, and no doubt I should have been devoured, had it not been for Mr. Hoberman's and Mr. Beaty's spirited defense.

"Meanwhile, Mr. Williams Sr. ‘s attempts to commune with the Arctic Snapping Turtle are not proceeding quite as smoothly as that eminent herpetologist might have wished, and Mr. Mcginnis’s battles with the Northern Chupacabra have presented their own challenges.

"All told... not our finest hour in the Great Outdoors." 



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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."