A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.
I have an edifying idea to advance, but first, we must digress, as it seems one of those "street people" is loose again, stumbling through downtown, panhandling and scaring children.
We’ll call him Irv, and he's on a Mission from God.
The Lord hath said to Irv, go forth and put an end to the evil ways of those wretched, sinful ass-umers wandering naked and frenzied right out in the street where the blessed ordained semis ought to be navigating freely on government subsidized tarmac.
Irv: Hold on, can you repeat that, God? The part about those ass-umers?
Deity: (jeeebus -- can anyone down there follow simple instructions?) YES, Irv, the ass-umers. They ass-ume too much, and when they do, it makes an ass out of you and me. Well, more you than me.
As Irv placed the Celestial Phone back on its cradle, his brow was noticeably furrowed. How might a simple country boy of humble origins living the good life way up in Silver Hills possibly keep city streets running one way when the specter of Speckism was all around, tempting those ignorant tattooed youngsters with promises to snatch valuable lane width away from noble trucking magnates to give to trendy bistros with $25 entrees?
Get thee away, Speck ... and yet, God, hadn’t Irv done enough already?
Twice he’d patiently read voters his resume, over and over, clause by clause, each repetition as dry and wooden as the last, and both times they’d somehow rejected him at the ballot box.
Well, THAT sure wouldn't happen again.
What’s more, Irv was a Lifetime Achievement award recipient at the Erectile Metaphor Association (Steeple Chaser Division) annual banquet, and still no plaque on the amphitheater.
Deity: (sigh) I’ve tried telling Irv that hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on church buildings doesn’t feed the poor in times of social injustice, but he just keeps prattling on about appearances. Sometimes I just don't know.
Verily, Irv had done everything humanly possible to perpetuate the notion of cosmetic flourishes as preferable to fundamental reality; he’d even planted flowers in giant black ashtrays so passing cars (all of them observing the speed limit) could admire the arrangements via their rear view mirrors.
And all these efforts -- all the years cultivating an aura of stolid respectability -- couldn’t stave off the ultimate indignity. It was that commoner, that ruffian -- GAHAN!
Gahan had cruelly robbed Irv of the mayor’s office, even after King England III (The Tipsy) handed the keys right to him fair and square after those back alley deals – even after Irv pretended to be a Democrat!
Gahan even swiped Irv’s bedecked curbside ashtrays. Worst of all, Gahan’s lackeys at the Board of Works kept laughing at Irv, and this made him angriest of all, because so did the prissy progressives.
Who’d have thought that disrespect for Irv was the only thing Gahan and the progressives could agree on? Their chortling was shameful, but what did they know?
God wasn’t on their side, after all. There still was time to keep NA one way. The temporal fix may have been in place, and the Speckanic two-way street plan was moving forward, and yet ... His truth kept marching on!
No, not God’s -- Padgett’s.
Irv smiled. All those whippersnapper heathens would be no match for fully erect industrial cranes, and cold hard steel, and the gentle caress of fully lubricated internal combustion machines. Those fools would feel the sting of Stumler metal, and the paybacks would be merciless.
Irv lapsed into tumescent reverie. Richard Nixon, Charlton Heston, Strom Thurmond ... those dreamboats from way back when. Where did the time go, anyway? I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill, and Rocky Top would always be home sweet home to me … to me … I me … I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All through the day, I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Bystander: Hey – who invited that Tiger Trucking guy into this heavenly dialogue?
All right, enough of the introductory satire, because as Bluegill presciently notes,
As I and many others have repeatedly pointed out, all the evidence anyone has ever collected pertaining to a particular issue is irrelevant. You either blithely accept Stumler's self-appointed role as ultimate arbiter of good and evil or you're wrong. It's a combination of ego and spite that might well make someone a mainstream front runner for the presidency but one that doesn't serve legitimate community development efforts well at all.
Accordingly, like clockwork (orange), Irv's donned his street person regalia again, having commenced another shakedown expedition through downtown, and just as predictably, I’m once again hearing about it from various merchants and downtown stakeholders.
They’re all telling essentially the same story, and the déjà vu is palpable, because we’ve all been here before – 2015, to be precise.
Irv’s browbeaten methodology is to corral someone on duty at a downtown business and berate the poor unfortunate until he walks away with the scalp of another two-way streets "opponent."
Naturally, Irv doesn’t care who he speaks with, just so long as the person in question can be in any vague way connected to the business. Janitor, manager, dishwasher, Fed Ex dude making a delivery; it doesn’t matter one jot. You can almost hear Irv’s sales pitch:
Hello, I’m a powerful man taking a survey about two way streets. Do you like the marvelous fast moving one-way streets we have now, or would you rather have two-way streets that have been proven to cause Zika, refugees, flooding, AIDS, impotence, Black Lives Matter and those stupid hipsters? Well, c’mon, what’s your vote? One-way the HIGH way, right? Good. Thank you for your opinion.
Of course, for some of these interviewees, being mercilessly badgered to state an opinion makes them feel highly uncomfortable. Not only does Irv present himself as an establishment figure of wealth and importance, but he claims to represent others of the same lofty status (read: folks who might spend money in shops and eateries).
What’s a lowly prep cook supposed to say to this seemingly important fellow in a suit? Moreover, why should he or she be put in such a position in the first place?
Of course, Irv’s magical mystery boor is utterly contrived and filled with head-scratching drivel. After last year’s pleasure cruise to Fantasy Island, he triumphantly reported poll results of 45 votes in favor of one-way streets, 2 undecided, and not a single instance of a bludgeoned victim preferring two-way streets.
Gee, I wonder why?
If we’re to classify “undecided” as “no,” that’s a 96% tally, which grandly approaches the prevailing 98.5% approval rate in most totalitarian coronations, although Irv might want to consider both blades of the sword; in places like North Korea, bureaucrats may face dire consequences when failing to get the remaining 2.5%.
If we could only be so lucky.
Last year in the aftermath of Irv’s fevered canvassing, one restaurant manager described to me how his arm was twisted.
I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t let me be. The lunch rush was coming, and there were already a few tables. The customers were starting to look at us funny, and the only way I could make him go away was to agree with him.
So much for a fair ballot, though Irv already knows what happens when the voting is conducted in privacy. However, the restaurant manager’s conclusion is the saddest part.
I couldn’t help feeling bad for him. He embarrassed himself so awfully, but he didn’t even seem to notice. Not at all. It was like he was being possessed.
Of course, self-possession is what Missions from God are all about. Just imagine what Irv might be able to accomplish from a standpoint of balance, but no, it’s 2016, and he's at it again, and yes, perhaps the best course would be to suggest sans snark that someone who cares about the man's mental health should organize an immediate intervention.
However, as someone in favor of two-way streets, allow me to observe that as it stands now, with Irv’s increasingly crazed public demeanor producing titters and guffaws all over town, he’s currently the single best asset two-way street advocates possess.
Even so, I feel like spinning the wheel. Kindly indulge me as I advance this modest proposal. It’s a quid pro quo, "good faith" offering – a friendly gambit, a sporting challenge, and a two-pronged gift to the community.
You know me. I’m Roger, the loudest and most strident proponent of two-way streets.
He’s Irv, the persistent spokesman for sad sack one-way status quo.
Consequently, I propose that together, Irv and I bow out of this civic debate, completely and totally, and by doing so allow others to enter the game.
The Board of Works will cast the deciding vote at some point between now and mid-November, and so we’ll phrase the period of non-engagement as the moment of my offer's acceptance through November 15, or when a final vote on two way streets occurs – whichever comes first.
Apologies, but let me be openly vulgar as a means of perfectly sincere clarity in establishing the simple parameters of my modest proposal.
Both of us, Roger and Irv, must shut the fuck up about streets.
No talking, no writing, no dog whistles ... no nothing. Perhaps I'm just as overbearing as Irv, so let's make room for new participants. I'm confident my peeps can carry the ball forward without me.
What about Irv? Can his troops muster a coherent argument? Rather than glowering from the back of the room, can the likes of Mark Seabrook actually speak aloud for himself?
Inquiring minds want to know.
What’s more, let’s posit a friendly wager. If Irv fails to hold his tongue during lockdown, he must donate $500 to a charity of my choice, with the scenario reversed if I fold. Verily, in the iPhone Era, plenty of folks will be tailing both of us in hopes of amassing video and audio evidence.
I'm tanned, rested and ready. Bring it on, Irv. Let's give the long-suffering citizenry a well-deserved break from ourselves, shall we?
Oh, and I almost forgot: Two Way Streets Now.
September 15: ON THE AVENUES Now for my next amazing conversion trick (KABOOM!!!) – look at those pretty windows on Schmitt Furniture.
September 8: ON THE AVENUES: It no longer keeps me waiting.
September 1: ON THE AVENUES: Complete ventriloquism, or the stagecraft of "throwing" your two-way streets.
August 25: ON THE AVENUES: You won't believe what happens next.