These Stories are dedicated to:
My wife Marci and my three children Saundra, Jessica, and Jimmy – Thank you for believing in me!
And to the rest of my chosen family – may they learn to recognize the truth in all that I write!
Probity Probes and Politicians
It’s the silly season again. No I don’t mean Christmas, or Halloween, or even Valentine’s Day – oh boy, Valentine’s day – the one holiday I never get right. For example, Skinny sold me a box of chocolates he’d ordered from France for Sassy. He realized, too late of course, that Sassy doesn’t like milk chocolate. I guess I’m not the only one who fails to measure up to the unforgiving standards of society every year. Anyway, I gave them to my wife instead. Turns out it was an assortment of chocolate covered escargot and grasshoppers. Just my rotten luck she doesn’t read French and took a bite before realizing what was causing the box to wiggle and bounce so much! Ugh. Another failure!
Anyway, by “Silly Season” I’m talking about the upcoming election; though this particular silly season started over two years ago. Why is it that electioneering begins the day after the last election ends? I mean, these politicians never do any work, unless work means campaigning for re-election, or figuring some way to vote for a pay raise. It’s a good thing there has to be an intervening election before a pay raise can go into effect. Otherwise, they’d vote for a raise every couple of months. I tried voting for a pay raise once with my boss. Since I was writing humor for the magazine, I almost got one too. The boss said he hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. Between gasps for air he’d told me to go write about it, so here I am.
But, I’ll tell you this – I’m really looking forward to this election cycle. “Why you ask?” Simple, I secured an interview with my two favorite “anti-everything but hunting, fishing, guns, religion, and goofing off” relatives and the last candidates remaining in the race. It was an event as important as a root canal; it has to be done, but it’s always a painful experience. Pain is good right?
A month ago, on July 1st 2016 to be exact, I arranged to have Skinny and Fuzz go with me to Washington D.C. for a fun-filled weekend of sightseeing, museum visiting, people watching and politician baiting. My goal was to have Skinny and Fuzz talk to our legislators in an environment where the politicians would feel safe in meeting with them, and where no firearms were in sight. At least Skinny and Fuzz weren’t packing. The politicians, of course, are either armed to the teeth, or have body-guards and secret service surrounding them, while standing on the steps of the capitol building lamenting firearm availability for the rest of us. That’s fair right? I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t want Skinny and Fuzz providing security for their important event? Or maybe Mom? She’s a dang Calamity Jane and Buffalo Bill all rolled into one – I might hire her to keep all my adoring fans at bay!
Look, I am not choosing sides on any particular issue; I just happen to believe that whatever is good for the goose is good for the gander! In fact, I like water fowl hunting so much that I want to shoot the goose and eat the gander. But I digress.
Anyway, our trip began with a short drive to the Idaho Falls airport. Folks, please know that this airport is not impressive. There are only two or three flights a day, on a busy day, and those are always late. Calling them flights might be a stretch, if truth be told. I could have sworn I saw a pilot coming in for a landing flapping his arms wildly and the single passenger climbing out on the wing root with a parachute strapped to her back. She was only about eight or nine years old – wise beyond her years I’d have to say.
Speaking of the airport, Sassy used to work there, and one day I asked why the flights were always late. She said “the pilots do that on purpose. They think that if they were to set a good precedent by being on time, then it would result in passengers feeling disappointed every time they used a larger airport, and were always late” – so it’s a psychological thing – set low expectations and never exceed them. It explains so much about our society these days.
Let me set the stage. It’s July, and we’re in Idaho Falls, which is only about two hours from the North Pole. So it’s only thirty or forty degrees out, even though my thermometer is reading seventy five. I think my electrical system fried the darn thing. Anyhow, I showed up at Fuzz’s house to pick him up and he’s wearing an extra-extra-extra Large T-Shirt with “Fix America” written in magic marker on the front and “Give DC BACK to Britain” on the back. He had on a pair of camouflaged shorts, hunting boots, matching socks, and sporting mirrored sun glasses like the secret service are fond of wearing. Bean stepped out to say hi, saw how we were dressed, and went back inside muttering something that sounded like “oh my gosh” I had to agree with her, Fuzz was quite a sight. Since I was slightly cold, I was wearing a long sleeved flannel shirt, snow pants over my jeans, and my bunny boots.
Fuzz and I looked at each other and fell over laughing. After a couple of minutes rolling around on the ground, we dusted the dirt and pine needles off our high fashion designer clothing and loaded up. For some reason my heater quit working again, so I had to dig through my luggage to find a jacket. But, I was prepared for my heater to quit working again, and had placed my portable unit on the floor in the back seat of the truck. Fuzz sat there with the window down and his head sticking out. Have you ever seen a large, hairy, slobbery dog stick its head out of a car window? It looked just like that. He said it’s hotter in the truck than it is in Hades. I could argue the facts of the matter, but Fuzz didn’t look to be in a good mood. In any case, I had my window up and the heater running full blast.
Any my teeth were still chattering, ok!
I’m from Phoenix, so I have thin skin, ok!
After steam started flowing out of Fuzz’s ears, whether from him being mad at me, or the fact that hot air exhaust (which Fuzz has a lot of) turns to vapor when meeting arctic air, I finally relented on turning the air conditioner to AC mode, on his side of the cab only. I did so because he agreed to pay for the car wash to get the slobber off the side of my truck.
We arrived at Skinny’s house, and Sassy came out to have a look at us through her camera lens. I guess Bean called her and asked for some pictures of us starting our historic journey to the nation’s capital. I thought Fuzz looked a little too informal, but not to be outdone, Skinny had us both beat. He was wearing shorts too, with cowboy boots, an identical T-Shirt to Fuzz’s, but with “Support Johnson” written in Magic Marker on the front and “Because Trump doesn’t want the job and neither does Bill” written on the back. To top it all off, Skinny had a huge Stetson cowboy hat perched precariously on his head. Classy!
Skinny threw his bag in the back of the truck with Fuzz’s and climbed aboard. Somehow my heater went missing, which I didn’t realize until I heard a sickening crunch under my truck as I backed out. Skinny smiled, Fuzz smiled, Sassy Smiled, and I, well, I smiled too. I’d get even with the bugger.
On the way to the airport we passed dozens of people standing on the side of the road chanting “Give’em Hell Boys!” Some were holding young children on their shoulders to get a good look at us.
Ok, ok – it was my wife and kids and all my nieces and nephews, but who cares. It was a nice send off!
We arrived at the airport, found parking in the front row, and unloaded our luggage. Now, let me tell you about parking in the country. Those parking spots are made for trucks. In the city, you can barely fit one of them Priuses between the painted lines on the asphalt. As it turns out though, my GPS had somehow directed me through the back gate at the airfield and I was parked next to the runway. I thought the security guys over-reacted a bit, but either way, we found a nice spot an hour later in the correct parking lot. Good thing I insisted we leave two hours early now wasn’t it?
We managed to get through security with only one probity-probe finding its way into an un-named region. This wasn’t too bad as I usually get selected for extra screening, and have to endure two or three probity-probes. Turns out the security guys on the tarmac had radioed ahead and let them know how well they do their jobs when aroused. So they went easy on us.
We sat at the gate waiting for something or other to get fixed on our aircraft before we could board. This gave the local newspaper reporter enough time to finish her Spanish inquisition regarding the purpose for our trip, and the photographer only snapped a few dozen pictures. The ticketing agent, slash flight attendant, slash pilot, slash pizza delivery driver, slash UBER driver, announced our flight “Allllll Aboooaaarrrddd, next stop – Never Never Land”
– oh this was going to be a great flight. I took the time to ask the pilot on my way by what the problem was with the aircraft. She said “there was some guy driving his truck on the tarmac when we got in an hour ago, and we sat at the end of the runway while security cleared things up. Sitting there without good airflow caused the engine to overheat a bit. There’s nothing to worry about though – as long as I wind the rubber bands really tight we won’t have any problems.”
And you thought I was the sarcastic one!
She continued “Though, I heard the guy driving the truck is walking a little funny now after all the probity-probes he was subjected to by the airfield quick reaction force.”
Ha Ha – Everyone’s a comedian nowadays! But I tried to walk a little straighter as I wended my way to the aircraft.
Skinny and Fuzz were already having fun, which should not surprise anyone. They’d met a guy going to Washington to become an intern for Idaho’s newest Senator. They asked him to rearrange the Senator’s schedule to ensure he had Dr.’s appointments on the days he was supposed to vote, and send him to the office on days the Senate was adjourned. In return they offered to take him to Bear Lake for a Snowmobile trip next winter.
See – they really do understand politics.
Turns out our newest Senator had angered Skinny and Fuzz, which is never a good thing to do, because he didn’t like hunting or guns. How he’d gotten elected in Idaho is beyond me. They’d also asked the “flight attendant” how she managed to serve beverages while steering the airplane. She replied “I usually have some nice Idaho boy do it for me!”
Both Skinny and Fuzz volunteered.
Now, you should know they don’t drink, honestly they don’t need to, but they sure don’t mind helping others consume their fair share. So this was an interesting flight. It took us eight hours to get to Washington, mainly because the pilot had to keep landing to let intoxicated passengers off, mostly first class passengers since their booze is free. After our third stop, this time in Philadelphia, there were no more passengers sitting in what passed for first class on the flight – actually the first two rows of the aircraft – so Skinny and Fuzz had commandeered those seats and had taken all the pillows out of the overhead and made a nice bed for themselves to sleep on. Talk about being rested when arriving at your destination.
We were also well fed, but the plane had no more food left when we arrived, and somehow the flight attendant volunteers didn’t collect any money from the passengers for drinks or food service. Since it was my bright idea to bring the two freeloaders on the trip, guess who got to settle the bill?
Anyway, about half way through the flight, Skinny offered to steer while the pilot visited the restroom, but the copilot objected to having a Stetson over his eyes while trying to fly, and insisted Fuzz quit hitting buttons on the instrument panel “to see what they do.” Skinny was actually disappointed! He might have argued with the co-pilot if she’d been older than twelve. I think it was the little girl wearing the parachute from the earlier flight.
Like I said, it took us eight hours to get to Washington, and by the time we’d landed, gotten through the airport, and into our hotel, we only had time for a couple of attractions. So, we went to see the tomb of the unknown soldier, the World-War-II monument, the Marine Barracks retreat parade (which is something that would make any pacifist cry), and walked down Pennsylvania avenue waving to the crowd like Harry Truman himself. My goal was to show these two some of the best aspects of Washington D.C. before I showed them the worst aspects. I’d planned a trip to the ghetto but without any weapons I thought that might be a bad place to take a couple of country looking country boys.
That night we had a great meal in the Lobby of the Bookfinder’s restaurant (or whatever it’s called – darn spell check/auto-correct function on my cell phone where I am writing this won’t leave me alone).
“This is where the term “Lobbyist” came from” Skinny said.
I wasn’t too sure about his facts, but didn’t argue with him. Wikipedia never lies according to Skinny. We turned in early, hoping to get a fresh start in the morning. I think now would be an appropriate time to tell you my dirty little secret. I AM a night owl. I am NOT a morning person! So when Skinny and Fuzz were up and ready to go at six a.m., I was still deep in the arms of REM sleep.
I protested loudly, while pulling the covers back over my freezing body, that nothing opened until noon “after all, this is a government run town ya know” but Fuzz wanted breakfast and wouldn’t be dissuaded.
Naturally, I rolled over to continue my dream that Skinny and Fuzz had been elected to congress and were voting to make the opening day of hunting season a national holiday when the threat of a bucket of ice water finally penetrated the haze and persuaded me to “get up and get moving!”
I ignored that threat once and barely lived to regret it. Needless to say, probity probes and snow banks are not really pleasant ways to wake up.
Since our trip was so well publicized, our Congressman met us in the lobby of the hotel and suggested we eat in the congressional cafeteria. Fuzz asked if that was anything like the library of congress, but our congressman didn’t take the bait.
On the way to the cafeteria in the congressman’s car, run by Uber, Skinny asked the driver “Hey, did you know Congress has a cafeteria, medical clinic, gymnasium, and a library for their members?” The driver said “Of course. I use them all the time in exchange for driving the Congressman around for free!”
I was disgusted.
The congressman on the other hand, quickly explained that “Washington DC is one of the most expensive places in the country to live. Shoot, several freshmen Congressman choose to live in their offices instead of paying rent on the local economy, and eat for free in the cafeteria, because they can’t afford to live or eat anywhere else.”
Fuzz asked “Why don’t they just resign and go home, or get some lobbyist to pay for it,” Which the Congressman chose to ignore.
Skinny suggested anyone unable to afford to survive on their congressional pay should apply for public housing in the ghetto, which the Congressman also, wisely, chose to ignore.
Breakfast was pretty good, even though I got stuck with the bill because the Congressman said “it wouldn’t seem proper for him to feed us and not the other Idaho visitors!”
What other Idaho visitors? The state is so small, in terms of human population that is, that thirty-three percent of the state’s residents were sitting at this very table.
“Come’on McCityboy, pay up” said Fuzz.
After Breakfast we went to our scheduled meeting with the candidates – whom I’ll name “Him and Her” (to prevent lawsuits). It turns out we flew all the way to Washington DC for nothing. We were supposed to meet with the candidates in person, but were ushered into a congressional studio for a live interview between the candidates and us via Congressional News Outlet. We were on camera, and the candidates decided to call in to the network instead of appearing in person. What a fiasco. I wanted to see their faces, not stock photos, while asking questions. Had they shown up things might have turned out differently.
I guess the way we were dressed wasn’t quite right, because a nice, pretty, elegant, and MEAN lady approached all three of us with neckties. We begged off saying it constricts our right to vote. Next came the makeup guy. I laughed the whole time while the guy tried to comb Fuzz’s beard and get rid of the camouflage paint on Skinny’s face, neck and ears. The guy then turned and smacked the top of my head with a powder ball of some kind. I’ll have to ask my wife what that thing was later. Anyways – a big cloud of powder encircled the room for a few minutes, while the guy finished blending it in to my hair line. Skinny and Fuzz fell out of their chairs when the guy said the shine of my forehead was interfering with the lighting.
Hardi-har-har-har – everyone’s a critic!
The cameraman started his five finger countdown and all the makeup and wardrobe technicians scattered like deer on the opening day of hunting season.
When the cameraman got down to 3-2-1 then pointed at the anchor, the man introduced his guests “Welcome back to the show, I’m Harris Holmby, and today we have a special treat for you. We are pleased to introduce our guests, all the way from Idaho Falls, Idaho – Mr. Bobby and Donny Balker, and their biographer slash ghost-writer Johnny McDunn. Our guests are infamous celebrities in Idaho and neighboring states for their antics on political correctness mixed with hunting and having fun. Welcome all, or should I say “Skinny, Fuzz, and McCiiiityBoy?” he said with a giggle.
“Thank you” I said, “we’re happy to be here and to have this opportunity to speak with our Presidential candidates.”
The anchor nodded while Skinny spoke up “and you got our last names wrong too Homey!” “What school did you say you graduated from?”
Fuzz snickered and warmed to the subject saying “We aren’t infamous for political antics either, but for having fun skewering city boys and girls like you and our candidates, which is why we came to your fair city.”
“My apologies” muttered Mr. Holmby. “Now, given your tendencies to “skewer” city dwellers, what kind of questions do you have for our candidates today?”
In order to cut off Skinny’s reply I quickly interjected “Well Harris, we have requested that each of us be allowed two questions of each candidate. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll save them for the candidates. However, I know that Fuzz has a question for you and your network. Are you willing to answer the question posed?”
Apparently the anchor had been warned about this possibility, but he thought an Ivy League educated and skilled interviewer such as himself, could outwit the country boys at their own game, so he replied in the affirmative. Ooops!
“Thank you” I said, and turned to Fuzz “Fire away”
Fuzz smiled and asked “Mr. Homey, given that you have some pretty naïve country boys sitting in front of you, we won’t count McCityBoy, how long do you think it will take for your network to cut the live feed when I show you proof that a third party candidate is going to win this year’s election?”
Mr. Holmby replied wittily “I might laugh you off the set right now”
Skinny replied, “Ok McCityBoy, give him the picture! Mr. Homey, maybe you can explain what THAT is?”
I reached into my suit pocket and handed over a large glossy photograph showing the two candidates and the CEO of the network wearing …”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve just been informed that the feed to the candidates is experiencing technical difficulties and we will have to take a break while we work to resolve the problem. Our apologies to the audience and our guests for the inconvenience this has caused. Unfortunately, these things happen in live television. We’ll be right back!”
Needless to say, our trip back to Idaho was in a far larger aircraft than we arrived in. No one had to flap their arms, and there weren’t any parachutes in sight. Though the Secret Service did confirm they were using Skinny, Fuzz, and McCityBoy for our code names. We didn’t even have to pay our hotel bill. They whisked us right from the studio to the airport, and I got to bypass the probity probes for the first time in my life. Man am I good or what?