Thursday, January 18, 2018

Incident in the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens: A Story of Retributive Justice Gone Wrong

Incident in the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens:
A Story of Retributive Justice Gone Wrong
Loren Logsdon

            Back in the 1950s, before the word party changed from a noun to a verb, before the term peer pressure became a convenient explanation for human conduct, and before people were marginalized and had to be empowered, college students had two main complaints. No matter the institution, a small liberal arts college or a large state university, students would gripe about the food in the cafeteria and the lack of anything to do on weekends. “There's nothing to do here but go to the bars on the weekend” became a rallying cry among many young people seeking an education in the hallowed halls of academe.  In the 1980s the cry was changed to “You only go around once in life and you have to grab for all the gusto you can get.” Sadly, gusto could be obtained only in certain places. But this story takes place on the Heliotrope University campus back in the 1950s.      
At this time, Weeder's Clump, the home of Heliotrope University, was a “dry” town, so the students were denied convenient sources of gusto. If you were a male student and you didn't have a motor vehicle or a steady main squeeze, then entertainment on weekends could be a problem despite the fact that the university had athletic events, theater and musical performances, a library, and a student center with a variety of activities. But for the men of Hunter Hall, entertainment was not a problem. Among their number was a young man named Bulgar Hillsboro, who created entertainment by playing tricks on people and telling the scariest ghost stories you would ever hear. Bulgar had played football in high school, but he decided college football was a level beyond his ability. Bulgar was a big lad but not monolithic by any means.
            Bulgar would tease the college girls by giving them nicknames. He dubbed one girl “Diamond Lil” because she reminded him of a dance hall girl in a Gun Smoke show. He called another girl “Shotgun” because she seemed determined to get married and would use any strategy she could. He seemed to delight in teasing the sorority girls. But all girls had to watch themselves at all times when Bulgar was around. No one could rest easy in his presence. He was unpredictable and as sex-starved as a hibernating grizzly.
            This was the time when Robin Hood was a popular early evening TV show. There was a Korean student named Kim Wong who loved that show. After the evening meal he would go to the lounge and watch his hero outsmart the sheriff of Nottingham. Bulgar decided to play a trick on the likeable Korean youth. Bulgar drafted two freshmen to accompany him and set up an ambush for Kim. Their plan was to hide in Kim’s room and frighten him when he came in.
            After watching TV following the evening meal, as was his wont, Kim came to his room singing

                                                Robin Hood, Robin Hood
                                                Riding through the glen
                                                Robin Hood, Robin Hood
                                                With his band of men.

When Kim entered his room, Bulgar and his thugs shouted and leaped upon Kim, pretending to attack him. Kim thought his life was in danger so he responded with karate and judo. He could have done serious damage, but finally the three miscreants made him aware that it was a prank. It was a close call, for Kim could have seriously injured Bulgar with his martial arts expertise. But it did not stop Bulgar from playing tricks on people.
            One Friday evening Bulgar and three friends from Hunter Hall—Tyler McCoy, Scott Sellers, and Brad Clugston--decided to take in the movie in the town’s only theater, a black and white film called The Wolf Man. The theater was crowded, but the four friends found seats behind a row of junior high school kids.
            In the movie a man named Duncan Marsh suffers a minor injury in an automobile accident and is taken to a doctor for treatment. The doctor is actually a mad scientist who injects Duncan, without his knowledge, with a serum that will turn him into a wolf. As a human Duncan is chased up a mountain. As he runs through the snow he makes tracks of an ordinary human. Then he dodges behind a pine tree. And when he sticks his head out, he has been transformed into a snarling, ferocious wolf man, a terrifying sight.
            It was at this moment that Bulgar reached forward and grabbed the kid in front of him around the neck. The poor kid was so terrified he rose two feet in the air out of sheer fright. Then he turned around to face Bulgar and delivered a stream of curse words that would have impressed a pirate or a construction worker. It was the most appropriate use of foul language the college lads would ever hear.
Tyler McCoy, a pre-Law major, was offended by Bulgar’s frightening the junior high kid, who was not bothering anyone, just enjoying the movie with his friends. To Tyler, what Bulgar did was completely uncalled for, an act of gratuitous cruelty, and he had to be punished for it. So Tyler talked Scott and Brad into helping him devise a payback for Bulgar’s trashy behavior. .
There was to be a partial eclipse of the moon in two weeks, and Tyler organized his revenge plan around that event. He, Scott, and Brad talked up the event to Bulgar.  Tyler explained that they could get the best view of the eclipse at a vantage point in the south end of the Bide A Wee Memory Gardens, Weeder’s Clump’s famous graveyard.
Those who have not visited Heliotrope University need to know that the Bide a Wee Memory Gardens is just south of the campus. The cemetery has a north entrance and a south entrance. Mom’s Family Restaurant is located near the south entrance, and a college fraternity house is a block farther beyond Mom’s. College students going from campus to Mom’s would walk through the cemetery as would fraternity members going to and from the campus. The road through the cemetery was the most direct route for the students and the safest because there were no sidewalks along Route 117, a main thoroughfare that parallels the Bide A Wee.
So Bulgar was not suspicious when Tyler announced they would view the eclipse from the southern part of the cemetery at about 10:00 o’clock on Thursday night. Bulgar would never have gone there alone, but he was not afraid if friends were with him. Brad was planning to lie in wait about midway in the cemetery and then do something to terrify Bulgar and pay him back for scaring the kid at the movie..
As the three friends entered the cemetery Tyler joked around with Bulgar and asked him if he knew that 30 years ago a college student had fallen into an empty grave in the Bide A Wee one night and, unable to climb out of the grave, was found the next morning, changed by fear into a raving lunatic. Over the years people who lived near the Bide A Wee reported hearing blood curdling screams from time to time. Police were summoned to investigate but found nothing to account for the screams.
Tyler’s story made Bulgar uneasy because he did believe in ghosts, vampires, and werewolves. When the three friends had reached the bottom of the hill, in the darkest part of the Bide A Wee, where the caretaker’s building was situated, suddenly a dark figure staggered out from behind a large tombstone onto the road and uttered a loud, piercing scream, followed by an insane laugh.
Brad’s act was so convincing that Tyler and Scott, even though they knew something was coming, were momentarily paralyzed with fear. Bulgar was so terrified he ran in pure panic off the road among the tombstones. He literally crashed into tombstones and bounced off others in his wild effort to escape. Finally he made it back to the road and raced out of the cemetery. But instead of turning right and going back to campus, he turned left and ran toward Route 117, and then he turned south, heading for Mom’s. Tyler and Scott had never seen anyone as terrified as Bulgar was that night.
“Catch him or we’re in trouble,” Tyler shouted to Scott. Although Scott had lettered in track in high school, he could not catch Bulgar, illustrating the truth that fear can outrun track stars any time.
Unfortunately for the pranksters, Bumpus Badger, the city policeman, was having coffee at Mom’s when the terrified Bulgar burst into the restaurant. By the time Scott arrived, Bulgar was gesturing wildly and speaking gibberish to the policeman.
When Tyler and Brad arrived at Mom’s, it was too late. Bumpus Badger decided that he was going to take the boys to the police station and book them.
“On what charges?” Tyler, the pre-Law student, asked.
“Disturbing the peace,” Bumpus announced gleefully, enjoying the situation because he had given Bulgar a ticket a month earlier for passing in a no passing zone, and he bragged about harassing college students.
“You can’t disturb the peace in a cemetery; it’s impossible,” Tyler argued.
Bumpus Badger was crestfallen, “Your point is well taken. Ok, then! How about vandalism?” Bumpus was not about to let this delicious opportunity go by.
“But it was a prank, a college prank. We were just trying to give this 200-pound, sand-kicking bully a taste of his own medicine. We didn’t destroy any property or vandalize anything,” Tyler replied, hoping that Bulgar had not dislodged any tombstones in his mad flight to flee the cemetery.  
Bumpass Badger ended up by phoning Dr. Scully Beatty, the President of Heliotrope University, and reporting the incident. Dr. Beatty promptly called Dean Forcas, who arrived at Mom’s and glared at the four miscreants like Charles Laughton in Mutiny on the Bounty,  then grinned wickedly, and said, “Be in my office at 8:00 tomorrow morning.”
The next morning, at 7:45, the four worried college students waited for the dean to arrive. But he was already there, ready to dispense justice. He began by expressing deep sympathy to Bulgar, whom he clearly saw as the innocent victim in this cruel affair. He denounced the other three for a prank that could have caused poor Bulgar to have a heart attack or suffer crippling injuries in his frightened condition.  He demanded that Tyler, Scott, and Brad apologize to Bulgar. And they did.
Then the good dean launched into a stern warning that the university would not tolerate any further deeds of a similar nature. He went on and on about the need for mature behavior and consideration for other people.
Then, trying his best to scowl like Charles Laughton, Dean Forcas concluded his diatribe, “If  you three are ever one inch out of line in the future, you will find yourselves wishing you had never set foot on this campus. I will place you on social probation.”
Tyler McCoy, the pre-Law student, asked for clarification. “Social probation is not mentioned in the college catalog, not in the student handbook, and not in the faculty handbook. What does social probation mean?”
Dean Forcas smiled happily at Tyler and said, “It means whatever I want it to mean. You gentlemen have a good day now.”
            Moral of this cautionary tale: In the words of Grant Clements, attorney at law, “Retributive justice is sweet, but you should never take the law into your own hands to make it happen.”       


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Unique Approach to Happiness

A Unique Approach to Happiness
 Loren Logsdon

            One of my favorite books in the 21st century is The 7 Habits of Highly Miserable People by Dr. Mark Borup, M.D. I have found this book valuable because it opens my eyes in a thought-provoking and fascinating way. Dr. Borup writes about happiness from a perspective which I suspect not many people have ever considered.
            Happiness itself is such a complicated  and often fragile matter that we do well to heed the wisdom of Sophocles at the conclusion of  Oedipus Rex, when the chorus tells us, in essence, let no man count himself happy until the last moment of his life. 
            Before I get to specific points, I need to acknowledge that the advice about happiness in Dr. Borup’s book is based on the idea that people have some autonomy to make choices. Sometimes  happiness can be severely limited by a tragedy such as being seriously injured or losing loved ones in an encounter with a drunk driver. Some people are afflicted by a crippling disease or a lingering illness. Some people have a traumatic experience that leaves a deep, invisible emotional scar, making happiness seem like a cruel chimera. Then, sometimes autonomy can be destroyed by drug addiction, turning people into real life versions of TV’s walking dead.
            Fortunately, most of us are able to make intelligent choices throughout our life. We can take measures to help ourselves. With that understood, Borup writes with wit and humor to alert us to some truth about human beings. Self-help books abound in our world, but Borup’s approach is unique and, I think, truly helpful.
            Why are so many people today unhappy or even downright miserable? We can blame the times in which we live. We can say that the times are bad, and there is certainly plenty of evidence to support that conclusion: widespread terrorism, abuse of women, drug addiction, the opioid crisis, poverty, AIDS, child abuse, crazed killers, and on and on. There are so many things that are obstacles to happiness today.  But these are the only times we have. We have to live in the midst of events and human actions that do not speak in favor of human beings. We read in the newspapers about incomprehensible cruelty in the world. Since we do not have a time machine to transport us to a better world, we must do our best to find a home for ourselves and our children in this time and this place. Again, to repeat the obvious: These are the only times we have.
To provide some historical perspective, Borup cites Henry David Thoreau's famous observation in his day that “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” Thoreau's remark is still true today except for the quiet part. Ours is an age of noise, constant noise, the louder the better. “Noise today, Miracle Ear tomorrow” seems to be the chief mantra of present-day American culture. But even if we do “let it all hang out at the top of our voice,” like John McEnroe objecting to what he thinks is a bad call against him on the tennis court, people are still unhappy. Why? Human beings don't start out to be unhappy, so what happens? Why do we fail to find happiness?
            Borup has found a unique way to answer this question. He discovered the theosophist philosopher Krishnamurti, who suggests that indirect approach to wisdom is the best way to become wise. For example, one's quest for wisdom should begin by focusing on one's ignorance, on what one doesn't know.  According to Krishnamurti, “wisdom is elusive if attacked straight on or by direct assault, but best gained by dealing with its polar opposite.”
            Thus Borup seeks to understand happiness by focusing on its opposite—misery. He finds seven habits which are guaranteed to make people miserable. These are valuable to know in detail, but I will list them with a minimum of explanation. I hope to tempt people to read Borup's book to appreciate fully his imagination, wit, and specific examples.
            Here are the seven habits of highly miserable people:
            First: Make yourself the center of the universe. “What we're after here is total self-centeredness, total self-absorption, total narcissism.” We see this phenomenon in movie stars, wealthy rock musicians, professional athletes, some political leaders and other celebrities. In fact, Christopher Lasch, as early as 1978, claimed in his book The Culture of Narcissism that the pathological narcissist is the dominant personality type in American culture.
            Second: “Concentrate on things you cannot control.” Make a list of things you can control—your attitude, your thoughts, your treatment of other people, and the words you say to others. Then list all those things you cannot control. Then avoid the things you can control because if you fail in those you are the only one to blame. Instead, focus on those things you cannot control. That way you can blame other people for what is wrong in the world and not have to deal with your own failures.
            Third:  “Accumulate and covet material possessions.” Define happiness exclusively in terms of the latest and finest gadgets. Advertising will tell us what we need to be happy by promising us new and improved miracle products to solve any problem, as well as free gifts and fun-filled, all-expense-paid vacations to “faraway places with strange sounding names, faraway over the sea.”
            Fourth: “Be paranoid about everything.” Become preoccupied with what you fear. This habit will make us really miserable because there are so many things to fear. Be paranoid about natural disasters, political corruption, religious fanaticism, AIDS, Mad Cow disease, SARS, Legionnaire's disease, bird flu, space alien abductions, West Nile disease, global warming, government spying on private citizens, tyranny of the IRS, and many others. It doesn't matter if these fears are validated by reality; we can conjure them up in our minds to be as dangerous as we want them to be.
            Fifth: “Discover the Inner Victim in You.” Actually there are several potential inner victims in each of us, and they defy any stereotypical model. Cultivate all of them to the extreme.
            Sixth: “Take personally the unfairness of the world and resent it mightily. Dwell on it and make the offenders pay.” In fact, we can turn our own failures into financial profit by following the example of the woman who sued McDonalds when she spilled the hot coffee on herself, a clear testimony that common sense went out with Tom Paine.  
            Seventh: “Live in the past and the future as much as possible and, above all, avoid the present.” The past and the future are things we cannot control, so this habit connects nicely with Habit # 2. More importantly, though, is that only in the present can we experience happiness because, as Thoreau points out, “The past is memory and the future is dreaming.”
            For those who doubt the truth of Borup's book, I suggest watching the Court Channel or “Forensic Files” on television for about two weeks, if you can stand it that long. There the lives of highly miserable people are documented for all to see. Like Oedipus Rex, Reality TV can be a useful cautionary tale.
            Yes, TV can be helpful. It is not entirely the “vast wasteland” that Newton Minnow warned us about. Several years ago I watched a TV program on marriage. One segment featured an elderly couple who had been married almost 60 years. They both proclaimed that they were happy and still deeply in love. When asked to reveal the secret of such a happy and enduring marriage, the wife explained that they were married during the Great Depression. Times were bad. They didn’t have much in the way of worldly goods and they didn’t expect much, but they did have each other. So they tried to live by the Golden Rule and work together. They were pleasantly surprised. In their sunset years they found themselves rewarded with happiness they never expected when they began married life
            Thus, if we seek to be happy we can follow Borup's advice and avoid the 7 Habits of Highly Miserable People. Then perhaps we can experience a measure of happiness. Perhaps we can even say of our life, “This is good. I can’t think of anything better than this.” Such is the wisdom of Mark Borup, who writes about a complicated subject with clarity, insight, humor, and wisdom. Further, this remarkable book offers some good and much-needed common sense, and that is something rare in this loud, confusing, and violent postmodern world we live in.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Professor Markem’s TV Advertising’s Hall of Fame Mythic Heroes and Heroines, II

Professor Markem’s TV Advertising’s Hall of Fame
Mythic Heroes and Heroines, II
Loren Logsdon

            Welcome to the second half of the TV Advertising Hall of Fame. The first half consisted of the following legendary figures: Dr. Pillow, the Menards Man, Progressive Flo, Sasquatch, and Professor Farmer. What a powerful lineup those characters provide to promote our consumer culture. Again, to remind the reader, these characters are selected because of their mythic qualities. They are tributes to Madison Avenue’s creativity. The advertisers have discovered the value of using stories to sell the products which their clients have produced. Professor Markem believes the stories found in commercials are far more interesting than the regular programs, the talk shows, the music shows, and the athletic events that TV offers. Without further fanfare or hoopla, let’s look at the next five characters in Markem’s Hall of Fame.

            Number Six: Colonel Sanders. This mythic figure has been around for many years, and his image has undergone a rather drastic change in recent times. The early Colonel Sanders was portrayed as a kindly, elderly, soft-spoken, sophisticated gentleman; a grandfather figure, who has discovered a secret recipe of herbs and spices to make his fried chicken a toothsome viand fit for a king and queen as well as for the ordinary folk. There was a nice balance between Colonel Sanders the man and his secret recipe.
The current Colonel Sanders has been made much younger and sports a sun tan, suggesting that he is a swinger who would be at home on the beach challenging the 200 pound, sand-kicking bully. Indeed one commercial shows multiple images of Colonel Sanders popping up out of the sand and yelling “Crispy! Crispy! Crispy!  The new commercials do not even hint at the secret recipe, but focus on a younger Sanders who can still cut the mustard. The new Colonel Sanders leaves much to be desired. He strikes one as being a loud bugbear most people would cross the street to avoid meeting. Give us the old Colonel Sanders, the one who was once photographed with Alice Cooper. That moment has to be a chicken’s worst nightmare.

            Number Seven: The Feldco Man. The Feldco Man probably should rank higher on this list because the Feldco commercials are good in using interesting situations as well as an excellent spokesman to persuade consumers to purchase “windows, siding, and doors.” The special appeal is “two for the price of one,” but one of the commercials backfired when a pregnant woman answers the phone and exclaims “Two? Two? ” Her husband thinks she is receiving official word they are having twins and he has a startled look on his face. Some consumers found this commercial in bad taste, and it did not run very long. But the idea itself is clever.  
The success of the Feldco commercials is in large part due to the choice of a spokesman. The Feldco Man is the very picture of youth, health, and good will. He is handsome and well groomed with a smooth voice. Unlike the Menards Man, he does not rant and rave about the product and services; rather, he invites us to “Call Now” in a most charming and soothing way. On several occasions Professor Markem has actually found himself reaching for the phone to respond to his invitation.
In one commercial the Feldco workers are housed in a fire station and get the call to install windows. The Feldco Man acts like the fire chief in rousing the workers to rise from their beds and respond to the emergency. He drives the Feldco truck to the house that needs windows, and he reminds the viewers that they can get windows “two for the price of one” if they call now.
No doubt about it, the Feldco Man is good. If I wasn’t an old geezer and actually needed new windows, I would be drawn to Feldco rather than Menards because two for the price of one seems like saving more big money than the Menards rebate.  Thank goodness I am living in a retirement place because The Feldco Man could sell me a sky hook and a left-handed monkey wrench, the Brooklyn Bridge, swamp land in Florida, and even the idea that democracy is working in Illinois.
            Number Eight: Mr. Clean. Mr. Clean is in the hall of fame mainly because he has been around a long time. No one can quarrel with the success of the bald fellow who has sold the American consumer a product that is truly good. I realize that by endorsing the product I am going against my guidelines at the beginning of this essay, but, frankly, and I don’t like to say this, Mr. Clean is boring. I can’t imagine spending any amount of fun time with him. However, to be fair to him, he wouldn’t enjoy spending time with me either. He seeks the companionship and the praise of the helpless housewife. He is a Momma’s Boy, Little Rollo, and Little Lord Fauntleroy all rolled into one.
But I do not despise Mr. Clean the way the counter culture people in the 1960s did, for I consider him to be dependable, honest, efficient, and trustworthy.  These are values we need to respect in our fallen world. And his lack of facial and body hair does not bother me the way it would some people. But I get the idea that Mr. Clean has the imagination of a three-day-old dead toad. The current efforts to transform him into a rock star are absurd. Mr. Clean cannot be made into a hero in the world of entertainment. Work? Yes. He is an All Star, a Most Valuable Player, a cleanup hitter who always comes through.  But no amount of body piercings, tattoos, rock music, slogans, or even a nation-wide contest to give him a first name can make him into a fun person. But he might be a useful bodyguard if you took your main squeeze to the beach. 

            Number Nine:  Enzyte’s Smilin’ Bob is the central figure in some of the cleverest, funniest commercials ever made. To advertise male enhancement on television would seem an impossibility because they can’t show the new and improved thingamabob, but Enzyte managed to create effective commercials by selecting the perfect character to advertise the product. “Here’s Bob” in a before and after situation. The focus is on Bob’s face, especially his smugness after using Enzyte. His success is also shown by the facial expressions of others in the commercials. In one ad Bob is at the swimming pool. He dives in and his trunks come off in the water, He emerges from the pool, not realizing he is sans trunks. The camera focuses on the shocked faces of the people around the pool and on the proud, satisfied look on his wife’s face. There is no need to show his thingy.
I will admit I have a personal reason for liking Smilin’ Bob. He reminds me of a college administrator I once knew who had a unique ability to play tricks on people. This man had developed the ability to release silent farts. He would go into an office where people had gathered and release a silent fart and then slip out quietly with a smile. People would look at each other and wonder who the culprit was, not even suspecting that he had been there and gone. My administrator friend actually resembled Bob, and I thought it was actually my friend when I saw the first commercial.

            Number 10: The young announcer in the Title Max Ads. He is a true Barnum and Bailey example of that old razzmatazz, lacking only the mantra “Pachyderms, Pulchritude, and Prestidigitation.” This young man is the closest we have these days to the Menards Man. He gets under my skin because he is so deliciously happy. No person should be that happy in this fallen, postmodern world we live in. His smile freezes my blood because it makes me think of the smiles on the faces of the Heaven’s Gate people. Perhaps he is an alien from outer space whose mission is to infect our value system with psychic contamination and absurd ideas. He reminds me of fellow human beings who believe that if you say something loud enough it must be true and people will believe you.  

            Honorable Mentions:

            What’s in your Wallet: This series of commercials has used several different personalities. My first choice is Samuel L. Jackson because he is one of my favorite actors. I will never forget the line he has in one of the Django movies, but I’d rather not repeat it here. I like Samuel L. Jackson’s strong voice and stern demeanor. He’s a no-nonsense person, a slender version of James Earl Jones. And you had better not confuse Samuel with the actor in the Sprint commercial or Samuel will verbally turn you into meat on the street.

            Let Invent Help: George Foreman is one of my heroes. Although he complains gently that people are asking him all the time about what to do with their inventions, he comes across as a friendly person who has a welcoming demeanor, which is amazing considering he was a famous professional boxer. In the commercial he is not loud and obnoxious, only mildly concerned. He doesn’t toot his own horn or promise you the moon and then leave you stranded in Levittown. He simply offers to help you, and he admits that all he can give you is advice--you need to let Invent Help.  Lately, Invent Help has removed George from their commercials, a bad move, but they didn’t ask me.

            The Media Com Lassie. Here is a character with infinite possibilities. “Sometimes I talk to myself” is good introduction to this young woman. The only problem with her commercials is that she has such good common sense. She strikes me as being the pulchritudinous female counterpart to Mr. Clean: calm, determined, and serious, with no time for any hanky-panky. She is slightly out of step; our postmodern world looks down upon common sense as something that went out with Thomas Paine.

            Toyota’s Jan. She used to appear in all of the Toyota ads, and we looked forward to seeing what new problem she would have to deal with. Jan provided an on-going story that made us want to follow the Toyota ads. Recently we seldom see her. Perhaps Jan’s image prevents her from making the top ten. She is just too wholesome, the kind of young woman a guy would be proud to take home to meet his mother, the kind of woman one would not dare take to the beach and risk losing to the 200 pound bully. I know if I were a young man fortunate enough to win Jan’s heart, we would go nowhere near any beach

            The Geico Gecko, McGruff the Crime Dog, Woodsy the Anti-Pollution Owl, Charlie the Tuna, the Car Fox, the Progressive’s Talking Box, the Charmin Bears, and Other Critters. All of these characters are cute, but I’m not into anthropormorphism in advertising. I’m not in favor of serving Charlie the Tuna on a chafing dish; I just don’t want him in a commercial.

Write on! Madison Avenue. Continue to send us your mythic characters and their stories. I take my hat off to your creativity and sense of humor. .




Monday, January 15, 2018

Professor Markem’s TV Advertising’s Hall of Fame: Mythic Heroes and Heroines, Part I

Professor Markem’s TV Advertising’s Hall of Fame:
Mythic Heroes and Heroines, Part I
Loren Logsdon

            Americans have a hall of fame for practically everything, so now it is time for someone to show some appreciation for the impressive creativity of those geniuses from Madison Avenue who have entertained us while persuading us to purchase their clients’ products. The following list of the top TV personalities is offered as merely the beginning to honor Madison Avenue. Although a good friend listed the Charles Atlas magazine advertisements as the number one commercial of all time, we have to limit the hall of fame members to TV advertising.
            A word of explanation is necessary at this point. The criteria for determining this list have little to do with the quality of the product being advertised. The personalities on this list are there because of the creativity of the ads in terms of imagination, humor, sense of the absurd, imagery, symbolism, choice of spokesperson, and story line.

            Number One: The Pillow Guy. The My Pillow commercials are hands down winners. They feature an enthusiastic spokesman who has a wonderful secret to share with consumers. He is a messenger from the land of Morpheus, who is confident we will enjoy a good night’s sleep if we purchase his pillow. As such, he joins other mythical figures associated with sleep: Rip Van Winkle, Sleeping Beauty, the Tooth Fairy, Dagwood Bumstead, Major Hoople, and Wynkyn, Blynkyn, and Nod. The gentleman in the My Pillow commercials, a handsome man with an impressive moustache, is shown hugging his pillow. Such affection cannot be gainsaid and reminds one of the purity of the boy and his dog stories. As we watch the commercials, we realize that Pillow Guy is genuine in his desire to help people with sleeping problems. His enthusiasm is energetic but not oppressively loud, and he expresses gratitude to consumers who have purchased My Pillow.  He seems the kind of person who would be a good conversationalist. What My Pillow ads could use are off-the-wall testimonials:
            A man in a white lab coat saying, “Studies at a leading Midwestern university have shown that people using My Pillow are more rested, happier and more successful than those who didn’t use it”
            A smiling woman who says, “Before I started using My Pillow I felt completely marginalized by life. After two weeks of sleeping with My Pillow I feel so empowered that I am beginning to show some real signs of leadership. Thanks to Pillow Guy now I’ve got the power.”
            A smiling husband who says, “Ever since my wife has been using My Pillow she has ideas the instant she awakens.”
            And the best endorsement of all: “Heliotrope University has announced that it has invited the My Pillow Guy to deliver the commencement address at its mid-year graduation ceremony, at which time he will be awarded an honorary doctorate and henceforth be known as Dr. Pillow.”
            An even greater possibility: Governor Bruce Rauner should persuade Dr. Pillow to move his enterprise from Minnesota to Illinois in an effort to save our state from the financial ignominy we find ourselves in.   
            Number Two: The Menards Man. The early Menards commercials featured the Menards Man or The Menards Guy. These commercials were outstanding because of several reasons. First, they defied advertising formula by not choosing a beautiful woman or a handsome man to represent the company. The Menards Man was elderly and came across as a fanatic or a wild man. He was so good and sensational that he succeeded in making Menards a household name. The combination of the Menards Man and the Menards jingle “Save big money at Menards” resulted in one of the most amazing campaigns in the history of TV advertising. The Menards Man convinced us to get excited about a hammer, a bucket of paint, and deck stain. He called our attention to Menards with such enthusiasm that people stampeded the store to save big money. Then, sadly, someone made a major decision at Menards. The company's image had to be changed to something more respectable. People might begin to wonder about shopping at a store represented by a wild man.The new Menards Man became only a voice; he was never seen, and he addressed potential customers in a restrained and sophisticated manner. No more wild exhortations! Menards wisely kept the jingle because it works, but the Menards Man lost his job. I miss him and the suspense of his commercials. I always wondered what the next item at Menards would inspire his wild, unrestrained enthusiasm.

            Number Three: Progressive’s Flo.  Progressive Insurance's Flo is probably a distant relative of the Menards Man because, like him, she is truly unique in her fanatic dedication to protect consumers against accidents. Dressed all in white and wearing an excessive application of bright red lipstick, Flo is an angel who hovers benevolently over mankind. Flo is not exactly the kind of girl a young man would take home to meet mother or invite to spend the day with him at the beach. But she certainly is perky.
The first Progressive Flo commercials were the best. I like the story based on the “Three Bears.” Then there was the story of Flobot, a robot that bore an uncanny resemblance to Flo. Recently, Progressive has added a character named Jamie, who appears to be the male counterpart of Flo. In one commercial Flo and Jamie approach a door and assume that it is to be opened by voice command. In seeking the “Open Sesame,” they run through an interesting series of possibilities: Flo says “triceratops” and “tapioca,” vainly trying to guess the operative word. Then another employee simply opens the door and walks in.
Flo seems to be disappearing in recent commercials. She has a speaking role in the brilliant Susan Lucci commercial, but she is completely absent in the one where Jamie thinks he has found his twin. The young woman in that commercial who says, “You really think he looks like you?” is outstanding. I hope she has a future in the Progressive ads. But Progressive needs to get rid of the talking box and the ad where the two salesmen are having lunch and discussing Flo. It is nearly impossible to give a talking box human qualities and make it as appealing as Flo, Jamie, and Susan Lucci.

            Number Four: The Beef Jerky “Messing with Sasquatch” commercials, at least the first ones, are outstanding in the stories they tell. Those first commercials portray a believable Sasquatch. He actually looks like that hairy, humanoid that has managed to survive the encroachments of civilization and technology. The success of the commercials is in their presenting Sasquatch not as a monster to be feared but as a lonely figure, an Other, who wants to join the main stream. This Sasquatch realizes that we only go around once in life, and we should grab for all the gusto we can get. Thus he is drawn to young people having fun.
In every commercial the Sasquatch is the object of pranks by the so-called civilized young people. And in every commercial Sasquatch is able to turn the tables on his tormentors. The pie in the face has been one of the standard routines of slap stick comedy. My favorite Beef Jerky is the one where they shove his face into a cake. Sasquatch’s revenge is something to behold. Another very good one features a group of young people gathered around a camp fire. They see Sasquatch lurking in the shadows and invite him to join them. He is offered a seat, and as he sits down a young woman slips a whoopee cushion under him. The young people laugh at the noise he makes. Sasquatch then backs up to the fire and releases a blast of flatus so powerful it nearly extinguishes the flames.
Americans seem to cheer for the underdog, and we love it when the trickster is tricked. There is a motif in American folklore in which the city slicker always gets the better of the country bumpkin, but the early Beef Jerky commercials turn the tables and the Sasquatch as the bumpkin wins.
            Number Five: Professor Farmer in the Farmers Insurance commercials reminds me of the Professor in Gilligan’s Island, an uncle on my mother’s side, and a professor I had in a doctoral seminar. Professor Farmer is presented as an authority figure who can be counted on because he knows his business. As he reminds us in each unusual story, Farmers Insurance can handle every problem because they have “seen a thing or two.” I realize that Professor Farmer can rub people the wrong way because he is insufferably smug like some people I know.  Actually, he has seen so many things that he is entitled to be smug in assuring the consumers that the company can protect them from everything.
Professor Farmer reminds me of my uncle because he looks like one of my uncles. Actually, my uncle had a problem that I don’t think Farmers could have helped him with unless they could protect him against lawsuits by people whose clothing had been damaged by a dog who couldn’t distinguish between a tree and a human leg. Maybe Farmers could use that idea in a new commercial.
Now that I come to think about it, Professor Farmer is not at all like the professor I had in the doctoral seminar. I like the man in the Farmers commercials. Aside from his smugness, I would enjoy spending time with him because he has seen a thing or two that I might be able to use for my stories. The professor in the doctoral seminar was a bugbear who was mean and sneaky, and I tried to avoid him as much as possible.
            To be continued



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Heroic Moment at Eureka College’s Burgess Hall: The Fire that Never Happened

Heroic Moment at Eureka College’s Burgess Hall:
The Fire that Never Happened
Loren Logsdon

            People who have not been to campus recently will be delighted to know that portraits of famous EC graduates are being displayed at strategic places ‘neath the Elms. A stroll around campus will enable you to see the visages of such distinguished persons as Stephen Binkley, Annette Dyer Sherman, Leo Traister, Thomas Vaughn, Mary Ann Finch, Ralph McKinzie, Brad Sutton, Janelle Miller Reents, and others. There is, however, one other person whose portrait should be displayed near Burgess Hall because he literally saved our beloved college: Les O'Neal, class of 1959, prevented Burgess Hall from burning down one winter night in 1957. Like the Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the dike and saved his community, Les O'Neal acted propitiously to prevent a fire from burning down Burgess Hall and ending the life of Eureka College in the 102nd year of its existence. 
            To appreciate the significance of this heroic act, we need to return to Eureka College in the decade of the 1950s. The key to this story is the Eureka College Theater Department, which was at that time housed on the third floor of Burgess Hall, where the Art Department is at present. On the first floor of Burgess was the college library. Classrooms were on the second floor, and the restrooms, the only ones on campus other than those in Pritchard Gymnasium, were in the basement at the south end of the building. Burgess Hall was a real center of college life in those days.
            Professor Ivan Sparling was in charge of theater from 1950-1955, and Professor Gene Holmes from 1955 until 1960. Traditionally, the Theater Department offered three plays each year: in late fall, in mid-winter, and late spring. During Professor Sparling's tenure, the theater and music departments combined to present Finian's Rainbow in the Rinker Outdoor Theater in the spring of 1954 and again in 1955. Being in the cast of that play was a wonderful highlight of my freshman year. But staging Finian’s Rainbow in the Rinker Outdoor Theater was an exception to the rule: All the other plays except for The Admirable Crichton were performed on the third floor of Burgess Hall.
            This story begs to name the students who were prominent in theater productions during my time in that decade. I mention their names here as if reading an honor roll or writing nominations on the scroll for a Hall of Fame for Eureka College Theater: John Ripka, Norma Ioder, Shirley Standerfer, John Knox, Patricia Marshall, Bob Stoddard, Dave Weiman, Barbara Lair, Donald Attig, Rosie Bittner, Marvin Neuhaus, Charlene Mencer, Mary Jo Lynn, Jim Finch, Joyce McCoy, Sue Selders, David Goss, Tom Vaughn, Fred Harrell, Patricia Langton, Evelyn Hale, Ethel Ann Cole, Warren Hallock, Norm O’Dell, and, most important for this story, Les O'Neal (and please forgive me for missing a few from the early 1950’s, before my time).
            Now for any young EC alums reading this story, I need to describe the Burgess Hall Theater. The supporting posts in the theater itself posed a problem for any play that was chosen. I think I was in only three plays that used the traditional stage. Most plays were performed as theater in the round. That was the best way to accommodate the actors and the audience. Talk to Professor Bill Davis if you don't believe me.
            The other two important large rooms on the third floor were the makeup-costume room and the storage room. Both were cluttered with a gallimaufry of highly combustible detritus. The storage room was full of old lumber, props, wooden and cardboard signs, sofas, chairs, a bed, wooden spears and swords, old programs, paint cans, boxes, paintings, cardboard animals, bolts of cloth, canvas, top hats, wigs, books, and magazines. I think it was John Ripka who told the story of a freshman who was sent into the storage room to search for material for a costume and disappeared, never to be seen again. I don't think anything had been thrown out since long before the days of Ronald Reagan.
            In truth, the third floor of Burgess was a fire trap. Now there was another serious problem because some of the plays we performed called for the actors to smoke on stage. I had to learn to smoke for two plays: The Glass Menagerie and Country Girl. Smoking was essential to the character in each play. Any kind of fire on the third floor posed a safety hazard, and Gene Holmes had a mantra which I recall hearing him say a million times: “One little spark and poof.” I suspect he had nightmares about a fire breaking out on the third floor.
            But it wasn't just the third floor that posed a problem; the entire building was a fire trap. The electric wiring was ancient, the wood was as dry as a woodpecker's lunch, and there were no fire alarms, not to mention a sprinkler system. Burgess was also home to bats, bumblebees, wasps, raccoons, rats, squirrels, and a wide assortment of creepy crawlers. Professor Bill Davis, directing plays in the Burgess Theater in the 1970s, has the best story of the unseen inhabitants roaming around in the attic. He tells of actors being spooked by sounds of creatures scurrying above their heads during rehearsals. One time a squirrel fell through the ceiling onto the stage, stunned, causing a panic until the arboreal rodent regained its senses and dashed off to the safety of the storage room. The attic of Burgess Hall had a complex system of non-human life, a universe unto itself with all kinds of “critters,” to use Professor Mike Toliver’s favorite word.  
            All that said, we are now ready for the Les O'Neal heroic moment.  It was the mid-winter play in 1957. Les O'Neal and I had just visited the restroom at intermission and were returning to the third floor, when Les pointed emphatically and said, “Look!” At first I didn't see what he wanted me to look at, but then I saw a thin whisper of smoke curling up from the wooden post at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the second floor. That post originally had a decorative knob on its top, but the knob had come loose and was missing. The inside of the post was hollow, and people had used it as a receptacle to discard scraps of paper, gum wrappers, Kleenex tissues, and other small bits of trash. On this night some thoughtless person, assuming it was an ashtray, had dropped a lighted cigarette inside the wooden post. It was the most egregious example of the lack of common sense one can imagine, just a wee bit this side of Octomom. Fortunately, however, the cigarette butt was just smoldering and had not yet ignited the paper around it.  
            Les could not reach his hand down far enough to remove the smoldering culprit. Thinking quickly, he said, “Lad, run down to the restroom and see if you can find a container to bring water up here. This could flame up at any moment so move with alacrity.”
            “Move with what?” I asked, recalling Earl Martin's observation that you had to have a dictionary with you if you spent much time with Les.
            “Never mind,” Les said, “Just hurry up. We've got to put this fire out. There’s not a moment to lose”
            I found a bucket in the restroom, filled it with water, ran up the stairs, and handed it to Les. He promptly drenched the cigarette and suggested that I get another bucket of water just in case.
            To explain the seriousness of this incident so that readers will not accuse me of exaggerating, I must emphasize that Les and I were the last persons to return to the theater at the end of the intermission. The library, just a few short feet away, was closed, so the fire would not have been discovered by anyone leaving or going to the library. The usual access to the theater was in the north end of the building. All these conditions were perfect to have allowed the fire enough time to get a good start before anyone noticed it. If Les had not seen the smoke from the smoldering cigarette and extinguished it, Eureka College would have been finished.
            I am not exaggerating! Fortunately, I have cured myself of that reprehensible, obnoxious, egregious, unforgivable, insensitive habit. It is not an exaggeration to say that the library would have been destroyed, and what is a college without a library? I will answer my own question. A college without a library is like a basketball team without a ball, like the Lone Ranger without Tonto, like Tennille without the Captain, like the Beatles without Ringo, like Mika's Bistro without Earl Martin.
            I admit in writing this I feel much like Ishmael at the conclusion of Moby-Dick when he said, “And I only alone have escaped to tell thee.” I am telling you now because this story was not widely known on campus at the time. On the following Monday I informed Leroy Thomas, the campus maintenance man, about the incident. In his efficient, problem-solving way, Leroy said, “I'll fix that.” He found a decorative wooden knob and attached it so firmly to the post that it could be removed only by Superman, Wonder Woman, or Hercules. I did not tell any of the College administrators of the close call and especially not Professor Holmes because he had enough to worry about. I didn’t keep silent because I envied Les or didn’t want him to get credit or because the incident was trivial. On the contrary, this crisis was so real to me that even when I was teaching in Burgess Hall as late as 2016, I would visit the post to see if the decorative knob was still firmly in place. And I have never thought the witch’s line “How about a little fire, Scarecrow?” in The Wizard of Oz was the least bit funny.
             I am telling this story now as a cautionary tale because sometimes in life what doesn’t happen is as important as what does happen. Eureka College alums, trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, and students need to know about the fire that never happened in Burgess Hall on that winter night in 1957, thanks to the vigilance of Les O’Neal, unsung hero and man among men.  

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Cautionary Tale for Young Lovers: What Charles Atlas Didn’t Tell Us

A Cautionary Tale for Young Lovers:
What Charles Atlas Didn’t Tell Us
Loren Logsdon

            Wesley Billings had a problem. He was a skinny, idealistic high school kid who wanted what would appear to most people to be reasonable felicities of life. More than anything in the world, he wanted a best friend in whom he could confide and count on to be there for him, and he wanted a girl to love and share her life with him in matrimonial bliss. Wesley's problem was that he had no self-confidence, he was ordinary and self-effacing, and he considered himself to be the most boring kid in his class.
            Thus he was a loner throughout his first three years of high school. Other boys seemed to have plenty of friends to hang out with and girls who either paid attention to them or dated them. There were cliques formed according to various kinds of peer pressure, but Wesley belonged to none of them. In terms of postmodern thinking, Wesley was the classic case of one who was marginalized by life and in need of empowerment.
What really puzzled Wesley was that the popular boys mistreated girls or bragged about them in the locker room as if they were of easy virtue.  Wesley became angry when one of his classmates would demean a girl to other boys, and he vowed he would never do that. He declared to his dog Fafnir, “I am going to be a gentleman at all times and treat girls with the respect and kindness they deserve.”
            If Fafnir could speak, he would have told Wesley that high school girls don’t give a hoot for respect and kindness. At that age, they want to be worshiped. They want the boys to be like Romeo in Shakespeare’s famous play. They dream of sitting in a balcony, looking down at a handsome lad who is determined to scale the wall to embrace them. Like Rapunzel imprisoned in the tower, they dream of letting down their hair as a rope for the lad to climb and rescue them. They dream of sitting beside the road waiting for the gallant young knight to come riding by on his horse and take them away from all this mundane existence. They dream of the brave space explorer who will take them out of Levittown and transport them to the farthest reaches of the night sky to gather star dust for their hair. Respect and kindness are strictly for the middle-aged people and the geezers.
            One day, early in his senior year, Wesley found a friend, or rather the friend found him. Wesley was especially good at geometry, and this kid named Vincent Karloff, a handsome jock and the son of wealthy parents, approached Wesley at lunch time and asked him, “Can you help me with geometry? I'm flunking the class, and I don't know how I can improve my grade. Mr. Hypotenuse hates me and wants me to flunk because he caught me doing an imitation of him in the john, and I just can’t understand geometry. It's all Greek to me.”
            Wesley was impressed that a popular kid like Vincent would approach him, let alone ask him for help. “Yes, I'll be glad to help you. We can study together, and I'll see what I can do.”
            “Well, I sure hope you can save me. If my beans are burned in geometry, I will be denied admission to San Andreas Fault State University, and my father has made up his mind that I should attend his alma mater,” Vincent confessed.
            The two lads began studying together, and by mid-semester Vincent had, with Wesley’s tutoring, brought his grade up to a B. More important, though, Vincent found Wesley to be an interesting person, likeable even if he didn’t have a high opinion of himself.  They were both into fishing, APBA baseball, movies, and folk music. They became good friends and had many long discussions about the nature of time, the difference between truth and validity, the necessity of identifying logical fallacies in political speeches and advertising, and the possibility of ghosts and other supernatural beings.
            Sooner or later they were bound to get around to discussing girls, and it was Wesley’s turn to ask for help.
            One evening after watching Ann Blyth and Burt Lancaster in the movie Brute Force, Wesley was inspired by the scene where Lancaster declares his love for Ann:

            Ann Blyth: “Why do you love me? I’m crippled. Most people don’t even give me a second look.”
            Burt Lancaster: “I’m not people. I’m Joe Collins. One Man.”

Wesley and Vincent agreed that Lancaster had embodied the profound nobility of love. Wesley went on to say, “There are so many nice girls in our class, and I feel that I could love any one of them and be happy.”  Then he asked, “But what is the secret? How do you approach a girl and begin to love her?”
            Vincent shrugged and said, “I can't explain it. I suppose there are tricks you could use, but I just ask a girl for a date.”
            Wesley shook his head sadly and opined, “Yes, that's easy for you because you are handsome and athletic and have savoir faire.  I would bet every girl in the school has the hots for you. I'm the proverbial 97-pound weakling, the wimp, the returned empty, the classic example of the no-date nerd. I know exactly how Ann Blyth felt. Girls don't give me a second look, and, worse, to most of them I’m invisible.”
            The bonds of friendship are truly miraculous. Genuine friendship is one of life’s most precious gifts. Wesley seemed so pathetic and sad that Vincent took pity and thought maybe he could persuade his shy friend to do something to help himself. He truly wanted to empower Wesley, but he didn’t know how. Grasping at straws, Vincent said, “Have you ever seen the Charles Atlas ads for body building in the magazines?”
            Wesley brightened and said, “No, I haven't even heard of Charles Atlas. Who is he, a circus strong man, a movie star like Victor Mature in Demetrius and the Gladiators?
            “No, he’s a man who has a perfect physical build. He looks like a Greek god. I’ll bring a book tomorrow and show you his ad.”
The ad told the story of a 97-pound weakling who takes his girl to the beach and a 200 pound bully knocks him down, kicks sand in his face, and steals his girl. The weakling goes home, throws a chair against the wall, and orders Charles Atlas’ dynamic tension body building program. The weakling works out religiously and is transformed into a 200 pound muscular specimen of manhood. He goes to the beach, knocks the 200 pound bully down, kicks sand in his face, and reclaims the girl.
“Give it a try. At least it’s something you can do,” Vincent said, patting his skinny friend on the back to encourage him.
The next day Vincent asked, “Well, have you sent off to Charles Atlas for help?”
Wesley shook his head and said, “No, but I have made an important decision. Last night I had a dream in which I obtained Charles Atlas’ booklet, and I worked and worked until I weighed 200 pounds. I looked so good that when I went to school the girls flocked around me and flirted with me. Finally, Sunny Tidings asked me if I would take her to the beach. She asked me! Can you believe that? Sunny asked me! I know it was only a dream, but I felt so good.  As James Cagney said, ‘Top of the world, Ma! Top of the world!’”
Vincent was elated and happy for his friend. “Yes, I know the feeling. It just goes to show that dreams tell us something important, and that dream tells me that you can do something to help yourself. You’re on the right track.”
Wesley held up his hand like a policeman halting traffic so a mother duck and her ducklings could cross a busy street. “But my dream didn’t end there.”
“Well, what else happened?” Vincent asked, curious.
“I took Sunny to the beach and a 300 pound bully knocked me down, kicked sand in my face, and walked away with Sunny clinging to his arm.” .
Vincent knew a crisis when he saw one. “But that was only a dream turned nightmare. You can’t  let that stop you. Go on with it. Stick it out,” Vincent urged.
“Vincent, you don’t understand me. The nightmare enabled me to make an important decision,” Wesley announced with confidence.
“Yeah, what did you decide?” Vincent asked.
“I decided that if God ever does give me a girl to love, I’m never taking her to the beach.”

Note: The Charles Atlas ad had tremendous appeal to 97-pouund weaklings throughout this great land of ours, giving them hope that one day they could take their girl to the beach without fearing they would be knocked down, have sand kicked in their face, and lose their girl to a 200 pound bully. What Charles Atlas didn’t tell us was that his body building secrets would also appeal to 200, 300, 400, and even 500 pound bullies.   

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Case of the Missing Dubloon: A Noir Adventure, VIII

The Case of the Missing Dubloon: A Noir Adventure, VIII

Loren Logsdon

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Robert Frost, “Death of the Hired Man”

            There’s something about home that moves me like a seven-hanky episode of The Waltons. Whether he likes to admit it or not, there’s a little bit of John Boy Walton in every adult Midwestern American male when it comes to thoughts about home and strolls down Memory Lane. Now although I wasn’t coming home to ditch the meadow, I was as desperate as Silas in Frost’s poem, but I knew I would be getting all kinds of warm fuzzies from people who would always be there for me.
When I arrived at the Heliotrope campus, I wanted in the worst way to shoot baskets with Jeem Carter. Nothing else gives me so much confidence and a sense of well being as a couple of hours on the basketball court playing HORSE with Jeem. But time was of the essence, and I had to find Sally Dubloon as quickly as I could. Basketball would have to wait.
            So I went instead to see Prof Green, but I discovered that he had taken his law enforcement class to visit the East Moline Correctional Center and would not be back until early evening. Disappointed, I went to visit Professor Markem only to find that he was working as a member of a North Central Association Accrediting team to evaluate the New Madrid Fault State University’s academic program at Quincy and would be off campus for two days.
            I still had two good friends to visit, and I went off to Saul Pioe’s office. Ah, Saul Pioe, brilliant teacher and accomplished singer-songwriter, a man of many talents and a master of one-liners. But I found that apparently he had moved because Janie Wilson’s name was on the door instead of Saul’s. I opened the door and went in anyway. I found Janie Wilson sitting at the desk writing a poem. “Do you know where I can find Saul Pioe?” I asked.
            Janie Wilson looked up from her poem and said, “He’s gone to join the upper crust.”
            “Thanks, but what does that mean in non-poetic language?” I asked.”I’m not a Deconstructionist, but I could play one at an MLA national convention.”
            “It means that he left his teaching position to take an administrative job at the university. His office is on the third floor of Herman Hall, but he is probably out in the field advising non-traditional students or singing his latest song in Bev’s Kitchen,” she said. “Then again he might be over at Lake Helen, the university pond, watching the nubile female sunbathers lying on the greensward and soaking up some rays,” she added.
            I thanked Janie Wilson and hurried off to pay my last visit. If Mooker G.Tondouri wasn’t there, I didn’t know what I would do. Yes, I knew exactly what I would do. I would get as melancholy as Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon.  
Mooker wasn’t in his office, but his office mate, Ann Forrest, told me that Mooker was presenting a lecture on Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Buber’s I and Thou Relationship to a group of visiting Japanese businessmen. She assured me that Mooker would be back in an hour.
            “Thank goodness. Now I don’t have to get melancholy,” I said with a sigh of relief.
            Ann Forrest offered me a cup of tea, but I could see that she had a huge stack of papers to grade, so I declined. I told her that I would wander about campus and that Mooker could find me in the vicinity of the university football field. I especially wanted to visit Colonel Rock, the statue of a bulldog that was the mascot for the university’s athletic teams.
            As I drew near the statue, I saw a young woman who appeared to be weeping. Now I can cope with anything except a woman’s tears. “May I be of service?” I asked. I could swear that I had seen her somewhere before.
            She turned to me with the saddest pair of eyes I have ever seen and said, “Oh, I certainly hope so. Do you happen to know Sir William Balderdash? He promised that one day he would come back and marry me.”
            “I’m afraid Billy won’t be coming back for you. He was drowned in Lake Michigan.”
            Hearing those words, she broke down completely, and I was at a total loss as to what to do. Fortunately, Mooker G.Tondouri came up at that moment, and I explained the situation to him.
            “My dear,” Mooker said in a gentle voice, “You got your beans burned this time, but if you can imagine yourself strolling by the Ganges and looking at the lotus blossoms as they float on the waters, your heart will be healed. It is true that you suffer now, but you have the resiliency of youth on your side. And you are indeed beautiful, a human lotus blossom. Dry your tears and observe the bright sun, the blue sky, and that majestic statue of a bulldog over there.”
            Mooker’s words worked a miracle on the young woman, who told us her name was Sally Dubloon.
“Speak of miracles! Sacre bleu! I have been searching for you all over the country. The Deconstructionists are right and true. Instead of searching for you, I should have concentrated on the presence of absence or the absence of presence; then I could have found you right away instead of wasting so much precious time. Have no fear, my dear. I will escort you to the bosom of your family. Your problems are over,” I said.
Although Sally told me I didn’t need to escort her to her home, I assured her I wanted to go to the Windy City to pray for the Cubs and report back to my home office.
As I was leaving, Mooker G. Tondouri asked me, “Do you know what the elephant said to the prostitute?”
“I wouldn’t touch that one with a ten-foot pole,” I replied to Mooker, “and what’s more, I am not even going to ask you for the answer. I don’t want to know the answer.”
Mooker beamed with delight and said, “That is exactly right. The elephant said, ’I wouldn’t touch that one with a ten-foot pole.’”
Sally and I drove to the Windy City, and I left her with her family. They were so happy to have her back they offered me a huge bonus. Sally’s father, a notorious alderman, even promised to get me elected governor of Illinois, but I told him I had been in jail once before and didn’t care for the experience. Besides, my code ethic would not allow me to accept special favors.
 “The very worst thing a PI can do is to violate his code ethic,” I said.
“In that case, I am afraid you would probably not be a good governor for Illinois,” Mr. Dubloon guffawed, as he tried to stuff a wad of cash in my pocket.
After saying goodbye to the Dubloons, I drove to Wrigley Field, the world’s most beautiful ballpark, to say a prayer for the Cubs. I saw a fat little fellow with a crazed look in his eyes. He pointed a stubby finger at the field and exclaimed, “May their pitchers all develop rotator cuff problems and their long fly balls curve foul at the last instant and a billy goat eat all of the ivy from their outfield walls.”
“Saints preserve us! It’s Don Zimmer. May I have your autograph, Sir?” I asked with the utmost respect.
I wanted to stay at Wrigley Field and soak up the ambiance of the place, but I knew I should report to Chief Hunter and hope he would give me another assignment. I pulled up in front of the Searchlight Agency’s headquarters and started to get out. However, I stumbled and fell to the pavement. I heard a loud explosion and felt a sharp pain in my side. I realized that I had just shot myself with my own Swiss Army Knife.
 Clutching my side, I hobbled up the steps to the office. When I opened the door, I saw Chief Hunter, his faithful secretary Valvolene, and Hortense Keller there also. I lurched awkwardly to the computer work station where Valvolene keeps the emergency first aid equipment. Valvolene got big-eyed when she saw the fallout from the eighty caliber slug spread across my shirt.
Valvolene said in a husky voice, aquiver with passion, “My God, Gort, you’ve been shot … with a howitzer, it looks like.”
“Just an occupational hazard,” I grunted. “Blew away a couple of ribs. I’ve got more.”
I fumbled in the drawer under the printer. I was starting to see black streaks in the air. “Your mascara’s running, Valvolene,” I said.
I hauled a couple of band aids and a fifth of Scotch out of the drawer. When I got my trench coat off, there was blood everywhere. Valvolene fainted. I asked Hortense Keller to look at my back and see if there was an exit wound there.
Hortense lifted the fragments of my shirt and told me there was an exit wound, a rather large one. I handed her the cork from the fifth of Scotch and told her to plug the wound with it. She did as I asked, but she expected me to scream in pain. When I didn’t do that, she gave me a long, deep kiss. I could see that her eyes were full of worship and adoration.
Then she said those words I longed to hear. “My God, Gort, you’re a man among men.””

The end