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Bail, Baby, Bail

Oct. 8, 2008
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I’m Art Kumbalek and man oh manischewitz what a world, ain’a? So listen, as a folksy candidate for the presidency of the United States without a pot to pee in, I figured the best thing I could do right now, right here, is to skip writing a weekly essay and rather meet up with my campaign brain trust over by the Uptowner tavern/charm school—except they’re not open yet, so first I’ll swing by my favorite open-24hours Webb’s restaurant where a guy like me can get a jump-start on girding his loins in preparation for the day’s daily shit-storm to follow. Come along if you want but you leave the tip. Let’s get going.

Bea: Hey there, Artie, what’s your pleasure?

Art: Hey Bea, how ’bout a nice cup of the blackest, thickest and cheapest of whatever it is you’re calling plain old American coffee today, thank you very kindly.

Bea: Coming right up, Artie. So what do you hear, what do you know.

Art: I know I heard the vice-presidential debate on the TV the other night. You seen it, Bea?

Bea: Couldn’t afford the time, Artie. I’m a working-three-jobs-a-day-with-no-health-insurance mom.

Art: I’ll tell you, Bea, a lot of guys of a certain age seem to find the Sarah Palin what-the-young-people-call “hot,” that she’s the one politician they’d most like to couple-up-next-to on the sex video that plays on endless loop within their imaginary minds.

Bea: You don’t say, Artie.

Art: I do. And if she’s elected, we’ll be focked all right, you betcha. That will be real, we will be screwed but good.

Bea: So how’s your campaign for president going, Artie?

Art: Could be better, Bea. I could use some dough. Like just the other day, I’m perusing the news and I read a story about $12.5 million in MacArthur Foundation “genius grants” to be dished out to 25 selected geniuses, no strings attached. Twelve million dollars divided by 25, Bea.

Bea: You don’t have to be a genius to know that’s a lot of money, ain’a Artie?

Art: Darn tootin’. I had chanced upon a media story that would give truth to the fabled expression, “news I could use.” How could I not be included on that genius list? My campaign deficit would surely be bailed out. Viva Las Vegas! I sprang from my chair, and away to the refrigerator I flew like a flash while visions of a highfalutin hotsy-totsy lifestyle danced in my head. I cracked open an ice-cold bottled beer and settled back down to take a good gander at the alphabetized list of nouveau-riche recipients to see what line-of-work these other so-called 24 geniuses were hooked up with.

Bea: Did it say anywhere when you’d get your share of the $12 million, Artie?

Art: It did not, Bea. In this lineup of Einsteins were a load of professor-types, a handful of some-kind-of artists and what-not. Cripes, I remember a few years ago they even included a photographer—a photographer for crying out loud. What, you got to be a genius to push a button and say cheese? But nowhere on that list was there someone described as a crusty curmudgeon, cantankerous raconteur and perennial candidate for political office with the initials of A.K. Can you believe it?

Bea: I cannot, Artie.

Art: And here I thought I was finally going to be able to leave you a tip for a change. What a world. So how ’bout another cup of that hair gel you’re calling plain old coffee today.

Bea: Can do, Artie.

Art: You know, Bea, genius isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Bea: I suppose not, Artie.

Art: I’ll tell you something about genius: Here today, gone tomorrow; big focking deal.

Bea: Really, Artie.

Art: Golly gosh darn, Bea. If that ancient Greek Aristotle were to take a seat today in your regular suburban eighth-grade biology class and spout some of his pet theories, the first thing some kid would say is, “Hey, who’s the focking moron?” And another thing Bea, genius, like beauty, is stuck in the eye of the beholder. It’s subjective.

Bea: I didn’t know that.

Art: Absolutely, Bea. In fact, I’ve got a little story to prove it: I knew this butcher. One day a dog runs into his shop, but before he could chase the dog out, he spots a $10 bill and a note in the dog’s mouth. Note says, “Ten lamb chops, please.” Flabbergasted, the butcher takes the money, puts a bag of chops in the dog’s mouth and quickly closes the shop. He follows the dog and watches him wait for a green light, look both ways and trot across the street to a bus stop. Dog sits on a bench, checks a bus schedule. Bus comes, dog checks the route number and then boards. The butcher follows ’cause he can’t believe what he’s seeing.

Bea: And I can’t believe what I’m hearing.

Art: Believe it, Bea. So the bus travels out to the ’burbs and the dog takes in the scenery. Eventually, the dog stands on his hind legs, pulls the “stop” cord and exits. The butcher follows and sees the dog run up to a house and drop the bag of chops on the porch. Dog goes back down the path, takes a big run and throws himself against the door, which he repeats two, three times with no response from inside. Dog walks to the side of the house, jumps up on a wall, beats his head against a window, then runs back to the front door. Some guy opens the door, starts to cursing a blue streak and spanking the dog with a rolled-up newspaper. The butcher screams at the guy, “What the heck are you doing? Stop. That dog’s a genius.” Guy says, “Genius my aching hinder. That’s the third time this week he’s forgotten his keys.”

Bea: Good lord. I had a dog like that once, Artie. I just left the door unlocked.

Art: I got to mosey, Bea, ’cause I got me a presidential election to win. So thanks for the coffee and for letting me bend your ear there, Bea—utiful. See you next time.

Bea: My pleasure, Artie. Always nice getting talked at by you. Take care.


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