Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Drollster (Calvin Trillin) Turns Thurberesque In The May 5, 2018 Issue Of The New Yorker

When this blogger encountered today's contribution from The Drollster (Calvin Trillin), it brought the late James Thurber to mind. Thurber was the master of drollery in the stories and cartoons that he contributed to The New Yorker (1927-1961). Thurber's story, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," came to mind when Trillin used the device of a remembered dream in describing a monumental traffic jam in Washington, DC. The dream included a "friend" named "Duane" who was collecting all of the folk sayings related to "He/She is so dumb that... _(fill the blank)_." In the Trillin-dream, the presidential parade is on a collision course with an EPA motorcade coming in the opposite direction and suddenly the Secretary of the Interior appears on horseback (with frequent asides to dumbness folk sayings). If this is (fair & balanced) whimsical humor, so be it.

[x New Yorker]
Memories Of The Historic Trump-Pruitt Traffic Jam
By The Drollster (Calvin Trillin)

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created at TagCrowd.com

Unless I’m imagining this, I was there when Donald Trump’s military parade collided with Scott Pruitt’s security detail and started that historic pileup.

I’m pretty sure that my friend Duane and I, having just emerged from lunch at a coffee shop two or three blocks from the White House, were chatting on the sidewalk when I saw the collision coming. I specifically remember that Duane was talking about his latest obsession—collecting folk sayings that could express the intelligence level of Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer. The way Duane explained it, sooner or later everyone is going to run out of ways to say how dumb Cohen is, and Duane will have cornered the supply of phrases. What, exactly, he would do with them he didn’t say. Duane’s like that.

“How about ‘not the sharpest knife in the drawer?’ ” I said, trying to be helpful.

“Oh, I’ve had that one for a long time,” Duane said. “That’s so common that it’s almost not collectible—pretty close to ‘not the sharpest tool in the shed.’ This morning I remembered ‘dumb as a box of rocks.’ Then, when I was talking with some colleagues at the office—we were discussing our bozo of a boss—someone said, ‘His driveway doesn’t go all the way to the street.’ That’s one of my favorites.”

It was right around then, if I remember correctly, that we heard the sound of a marching band. Trump’s military parade—the parade that the President insisted would take the title of the largest military parade in history away from the forty-thousand-troop parade held in Berlin, in 1939, to celebrate Hitler’s fiftieth birthday—was approaching.

Duane was saying, “Of course, it’s somewhat similar to ‘his elevator doesn’t go all the way up to the top floor,’ but—”

“Sorry to cut you off,” I said. “Do you hear sirens?” There were definitely sirens approaching from the other direction.

“Then there’s always ‘too dumb to pour piss out of a boot, even if instructions are printed on the heel,’ ” Duane said.

The sirens grew closer. “Sounds like Pruitt,” I said. There was a time, not so long ago, when the sound of a siren brought to mind an ambulance or a police emergency. Now it’s likely to be the sign of a Cabinet secretary barrelling through the streets, with flashing lights and a security escort, on his way to dinner with a coal-industry lobbyist.

Sure enough, in the distance, we could see the flashing lights of an armor-plated SUV. It was flanked by a dozen security men on motorcycles. The SUV was followed by three armored personnel carriers. An attack helicopter hovered above, accompanied by two drones that kept maneuvering in a way that suggested Scott Pruitt’s initials.

“I think of ‘dumb as a bag of hammers’ as an oldie but goodie,” Duane was saying.

The military music, growing louder all the time, made it obvious that the military parade was approaching the same intersection as the SUV.

“I’m afraid Pruitt won’t hear the band soon enough to stop his motorcade,” I said. “I’m told that he has a second soundproof phone booth inside the SUV.”

At that point, I heard, faintly, some rhythmic chanting from a third direction. As it grew louder, I could make out the words:

It’s no jive, and there’s no doubt
We can keep those rapists out.
Sound off! One, two.
Sound off! Three, four.
Sound off! One, two, three, four.

“Listen to that chanting,” I said. “It sounds like the sendoff ceremony for the National Guard troops Trump is deploying to the Mexican border, and it’s coming this way.”

“Speaking of Mexico,” Duane said, “what do you think of ‘two tacos short of a combination plate?’ ”

Then I noticed a line of people approaching the same intersection from the direction of the White House. They were carrying cardboard boxes, and I realized that they were all the people who had cleaned out their desks at the White House that day, after having resigned or been fired.

“I still sort of like ‘not playing with a full deck,’ ” Duane said.

“Jesus!” I said. “Is that Zinke on his horse?” Indeed, the Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, was cantering toward the same intersection.

“Duane!” I shouted. “We have to do something. They’re all going to collide at the intersection.”

“Of course, the best of all might be what Molly Ivins wrote about a member of the Texas legislature,” Duane said. “ ‘If his I.Q. falls any further, they’ll have to water him twice a day.’ ”

“Duane!” I shouted. “Duane!”

Too late. # # #

[Calvin Trillin began his career as a writer for Time magazine. Since July 2, 1990, as a columnist at The Nation, Trillin has written his weekly "Deadline Poet" column: humorous poems about current events. Trillin has written considerably more pieces for The Nation than any other single person. Trillin also has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker since 1963, when the magazine published “An Education in Georgia,” his account of the desegregation of the University of Georgia. More than three hundred of Trillin’s pieces have appeared in The New Yorker. His most recent book is Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff (2012). A native of Kansas City, MO, Trillin received his BA (English) from Yale College in 1957. He served in the army, and then joined Time.]

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