Curmudgeon Report


Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Intolerance at the Capitol”


… usually don’t talk religion with my parrot; Socrates got his own opinion an’ I got mine. However, we both had a good laugh over uh editorial in the Star Trib the other day under the title: Intolerance at the Capitol.

Seems the Minnesota legis late ive House, in the spirit uh keepin’ church an’ state separate, starts off each session with a prayer from a visitin’ holy man or their own chaplain. An’, on the occasion in question, the invited pastor invoked the name uh his particular deity who, he intimated, our President didn’t acknowledge. Ohmahgosh! Our lawmakin’ body went inta full Tizzy Mode, the Speaker “took immediate responsibility,” “apologized to his colleagues,” an’ asked for their “forgiveness.”

What’d they think a preacher was gonna pray about, canned tomatoes? An’ if he did, it’d sure be about his own brand.

However, it seems legis late tive contrition ain’t good enough fer the Trib editorial writer who opined, “a similar incident could happen again without effective vetting. … a quick background check would have uncovered Dean’s [the pastor] controversial radio remarks.”  Holy haranguing an’ sanctimonious speechifyin’! They ought uh knowed better than get a prayin’ man that committed uh “controversial” re-mark – just proves how intolerant he is. You gotta vet them “controversial” guys real careful on account of them sneakin’ in some sort uh in-tolerance, which, reading between the lines, must mean something legis late tors or editorial writers disagree with.

Come t’ think, some uh that in-tolerance stuff musta snuck outta the Capitol an’ found its way t’ the Trib’s editorial department.



Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Got chocolate milk? No longer”


Socrates got hisself in uh real stew when I read ’im the article entitled Got chocolate milk? No longer. He simmered down when I explained he could still have chocolate milk with his crackers, it was just the Minneapolis schools what put the kibosh on the blend of moo and cacao as a student beverage.

The school district’s director of nutrition services quote was offered as justification: “Consuming chocolate milk every day can train a child’s palate toward sweetened foods.” Criminy! Let’s feed infants switch grass or alfalfa. Train them ignorant palates t’ like somethin’ friendly t’ the environment – and cheap. Sugar plantations could be burned over, the owners imprisoned an’ the space used to set up schools for food commissars or farms for switch grass and alfalfa. Any students askin’ for something sweet would have t’ spend their summer vacations workin’ the farms. Boy! That ud train them little palates.


Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Some Minneapolis cops could get pension of $64,000 a year”


I’m a mite nervous about big guys in blue uniforms – even readin’ about um – ever since Uncle Morton got smacked silly by a riot baton. Bein’ an activist an’ all, he was rallyin’ fer some darn cause er another while wearing a Richard Nixon face mask. Ya could tell the policeman weren’t no Nixon fan because the last thing Mort remembered ’bout the whole in c dent was the cop sayin’, “Next time wear a monkey mask.” Smacko! Which is real unfair, ’cause Mort’s mask come pretty close t’ one.

Well, nervous er not, Socrates wants me t’ read the papers before I put um in his cage; he sets up a ruckus if them stories ain’t t’ his likin’. Mighty dang fussy for a parrot. Come t’ think on it though, I’ve had my own indecisions between Scotts or Charmin.

Headline on the paper said Some Minneapolis cops could get pensions of $64,000 a year. Wow! That’s about one-an’-uh-half times Minnesota’s median income – which ain’t alfalfa. But then, the article went on t’ say that if the city paid them cops the sixty-four grand uh year pension that Minneapolis would save $34 million over the next 20 years. Criminy, that’s a bundle uh savin’s. But I gotta suggestion: why not pay them policemen $128,000 a year and save the city $68 million over twenty years? With that much savin’ you’d think they could balance their budget and have enough left over t’ get a few more uh them fancy hundred-thousand-dollars-a-crack drinkin’ fountains.


Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Seat belt law, tax on mileage called excessive”


I don’t know how I got t’ such a silly state. I s’pose on account uh readin’ the “StarTrib” pages just before puttin’ um in Socrates cage. Anyhow, nowadays, he often pouts if I don’t read ’im the articles before they line his cage bottom. Socrates is sorta like my ex-wife, ya can’t win; he started poutin’ soon’s I read ’im uh article: Seat belt law, tax on mileage called excessive – thought he should have a seat belt on his swing. Even crackers couldn’t crack his funk … wasn’t til I asked him if he wanted cops to bust in here, every time he forgot t’ buckle-up, and haul his feathered backside off t’ jail, that he quit his sulkin’.

I could do a lotta sulkin’ too – but about that tax on mileage some uh them legis late your folks is suggestin.’ Some “Big Brothers” would be keeping track uh practically everywhere I drove. What if wasn’ t’ their likin?’ Like visitin’ Uncle Morton at his rifle camp out t’ his farm. Would we get called a corn-spiracy and throwed in jail fer plottin’ t’ overthrow the Minnesota Gophers? Criminy, next thing ya know is a tax on walkin’. Take a Sunday afternoon stroll around Lake Harriet for fifteen cents – just uh nickel uh mile. But you know how that goes, somethin’ like property taxes. It’ud be a nickel this year and just a few cents more next year, an’ then watch out! In a few years the lake would be near deserted; only rich folks could afford t walk around it. An’ then, I suppose, somebody like a big department store millionaire would be uh lobbin’ t’ make um pay extra. People ud quit walkin’, an’ the shoe sellers ud be up-in-arms. Antiperspirant sales ud fall. All them unintended con-se-quences ud come home t’ roost. Mileage tax could re-duce tire sales. Service stations might go outta business an’ their suppliers suffer as a re-zult of uh mileage tax – plenty uh unin tended con-se-quences there.

On top uh that, accordin’ t’ the article, some MnDOT o fish shill wants t’ continue studyin’ on the tax per mile proposal on account uh they already got a bunch uh money in-vested in the study – he claims they should in-vest (guess that means spend) more t’ finish up their studyin’. That’s throwin’ good money after bad money. Probably don’t seem like real money t’ them beer cratic boys what’s in the Highway Department. S’pose, to them it’s not real money, just tax dollars – which is only real t’ folks like me … the ones payin’ it. The more I think on this, the more I’m gonna take a tip from Socrates. Votin’ don’t seem t’ help none. Like caged parrots, sulkin’ is about all us poor taxpayers is got left.


Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Legacy funds and fat paychecks”


I ain’t even gonna stick that editorial, about our wonderful new Legacy Fund, inta Socrates cage, on account he’d laugh himself sick, an his vet bill is big enough already.

Editor what wrote if opines that “evaluation will determine whether there are ‘clear standards and effective processes in place’ to guard against fiscal mismanagement.” Criminy, I hope them evaluators is smarter than some uh the folks spending the money. That there Legacy Fund was sorta uh boondoggle t’ begin with. Was the former legislature’s idea uh duckin’ its responsibility on decidin’ how t’ spend money so’s they dressed up a tax for art and pretty damned subjective environmental spending as money for the huntin’ and fishin crowd, which they was pretty sure would get a pass when put t’ a vote.

Now we tax payers are saddled with a twenty-five year tax to pay for stuff like hiring “artists” t’ lecture a group uh “library patrons” (about ninety of um, I hear) for a little stipend of an ordinary guy’s yearly wages – actual amount was $45,000 dollars.

Seems like ya oughta get something for a years sweat besides hot air. But the editorial defended the speaker as a ”best-selling author, screenwriter and film director.” Heck, that might even describe somebody makin’ porno films, but I hasten to add that’s just my opinion. After all, art is in the eye uh the beholder. In defense uh the library folks what made the decision t’ hire that $45,000 speaker – I s’pose they get t’ behold so much art that their eyes get plum stuffed up; then, they can’t see much of anything. Good thing they didn’t lose their sense of smell … for them freebe tax dollars.


Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Voter ID-card bill clears House”


There sure as heck has been a lot of hoo-haw lately, about voter identification cards. The faction against um wants anyone off the street to walk inta a polling place an’ vote – no questions asked – makes no difference he’s wearin’ a sheik’s outfit an’ carryin’ uh Uzi. The Pro faction don’t want their vote watered down none – in their view – by a bunch uh in-e-legibles.

Think both camps oughta grow up an recognize there’s more‘n one point uh view on nearly any issue … especially politics. They could use me as uh egg-zample. Time was, when I though there could only be one answer t’ any question, I just wasn’t as tolerant as I am now. But experience’s mellowed me.

Nowadays I recognize there’s always at least uh couple points uh view; there’s mine, an’ then there’s all them other damn fools that’s wrong.


Headline of a local newspaper article:

“Xcel’s N. D. bird fight may be over”


Saturday morning, as I was startin’ to change StarTribunes in Socrates’ cage bottom, I just naturally put the ringing phone on the speaker. That was mistake number one; number two was leavin’ it on, which resulted in a lot of extra and very messy work for me.

The caller was our family “activist,” Uncle Morton. “You read yesterday’s paper yet,” he demanded?”

“Well, I …”

“ … article on a wind project, business section, you’ve got to ….” At that point, I heard but a word here or a phrase there as Uncle Morton’s voice was largely preempted by laughter. Ya wouldn’t believe uh parrot could make that much noise.

“Pipe down, Socrates!”

The parrot gyrated madly on the big swinging perch near the top of his cage.

“Bonehead … bonehead,” he squawked. “Nutcase, nutcase.”

I should stop right here and explain a couple of things about my parrot. First, according to the vet, he’s got uh condition … real fancy name to it an’ no medicine t’ cure it. I took him in about six months after I bought ’im offun my neighbor, Dr. Lehrenfalsch, uh biology professor who moved t’ Harvard. Darn bird got t’ sulkin’ in the bottom uh his cage and swearin’ at me – kept repeating, “ontology recapitulates phylogeny.” S’pose them’s German cuss words.

Anyways, Doc Cecil kept Socrates at his clinic fer uh couple uh weeks before he called me back in.

“You got yourself a pretty smart bird, Mudg. Fact is, he’s so smart he looks down on most people.”

“You sayin’ I gotta lower his cage?”

“No. Giving you a reason for his condition.”

“Which is?”

“In a nutshell, Mudg, I’d say pomposity compounded by hauteur.”

“… uh  pompadour cause by … hey, he don’t wear no hats!”

“That’s not exactly … what I said was, pomposity compounded by hauteur.”

“They got uh antic biotic for that?”

“… there was, Mudg, we’d cure the world.”

“I didn’t bring the world in here, Cecil, just my parrot … You can’t do nothing for ‘im?”

“…’fraid not. In my opinion, like many caged creatures, he needs mental stimulation.”

“Fer gosh sakes, Cecil, He’s got me t’ talk to all day.

Cecil didn’t say nothing right away, just stared at me. Finally he says, “Get ’im a TV, Mudge.”

Well, that’s the first thing. Second is, I gotta explain about the “bonehead-nutcase” thing. It was uh moment I forgot the darn parrot’s big ears, during a phone conversation with my weeping daughter; I referred t’ Uncle Morton as a “bonehead nutcase.” In one of his “Global Warming Modes”, he’d told my daughter she was an “irresponsible, solipsistic desecrator.” Her “desecration” was using her fireplace, which, accordin’ to Uncle Morton, released unnecessary calories into an already overheated atmosphere. Only thing overheated is Uncle Mort’s brain, but that’s not the point, it’s my brainy bird.

Socrates must have elephant blood; he never forgets. Anyway, he’s never forgotten my characterization, and anytime Uncle Morton is mentioned, or heaven forfend, visits, we’re treated to uh litany of “bonehead … nutcase.”

But Saturday morning, in between a “bonehead” and uh “nutcase,” Uncle Morton muttered something about the newspaper article an’ uh hundred million; money always gets my notice. Uh hundred mil gets my full attention.

“Shut up,” I hissed, as Socrates paused for breath.

“Whattaya mean, ‘shut up,’ that any way t’ treat a national emergency?”

“I was tryin’ t’ quiet Socrates … what ‘national emergency?’ ”

“All them birds the wind farm is going to chop up, that’s what. And all the while Ill bet the gol dang power company’s just worried about them whooping cranes upchucking on their propellers an’ getting them dirty … but I can fix that.”

“How?” Instantly, I realized I shouldn’t uh asked.

“Make little bird barf bags for the cranes … collect the stuff … good fertilizer … real green idea.”

I could tell he’d really thought this through; Uncle Morton was in “Full Environmental Mode with Birdwatcher Tendencies.”

“… as for the piping plovers suffering bent pipes from hitting on the wind mills … tell me that isn’t a national emergency! Those Washington bureaucrats won’t take action, so I must. All we have to do is catch the little fellows with the bent pipes and bend them back. … why I called. Need the name of that electrician who did the fancy bending in your cabin … anyone knows about pipe bending, be him.”

“I’ll get his number and call ya back.” As I pressed the speaker button to disconnect, I realized my parrot was silent – silent but not still. Socrates rolled on his back in the cage bottom, wings aflutter, feet thrashing, sopping up a viscous mixture of parrot poop and sodden newspaper. The mess he hadn’t absorbed decorated the carpet. Socrates gasped for breath, between fits of laughter.

Living the true meaning of the expression, “dirty bird.” I spent the rest uh the morning cleaning cage mess from Socrates’ feathers and then the carpet, which got me t’ thinking. That’s the trouble with activists. I suppose they’re well meaning, but too often, they just make a mess for the rest of us.