Speaking of Misdeeds…

In our last episode, I was trying to feed bird seed to a wooden bird without any apparent success. The duck just sat there.

“Duck-duck-goose!” I kept shouting, an admonition from some sort of children’s game I never understood. I only half pay attention to children anyway. If you pay full attention, your mind will explode. I know. Happened to me once.

I’ve since given up on the wooden duck, though I am considering snatching it off that porch. The house is empty, between owners, and they’re starting to tear it down.

The sellers left the wooden bird behind, probably because half the head had cleaved off. I thought I’d “borrow” it as a metaphor for me.  They’re everywhere, of course, metaphors for me: discarded toys, broken garden tools. But I really like this wooden duck. I’m thinking it might attract other wooden ducks. That’s just how I think.

Fooled again. This duck/goose turned out to be a decoy.

I’ve always had a problem distinguishing fantasy from reality … inanimate objects from living things.

“I once said ‘excuse me’ to a trash can at Disneyland,” one reader commented, hoping to make me feel better.

“I once watered a plastic plant for a month,” said another.

I so get that. I once dated a tennis player. Love meant nothing to her.

That last one has nothing to do with anything. But it’s true.

Listen to me, channeling Bob Saget.

By the way, what are you doing for Mardi Gras? Want to get together? We’ll throw a parade, fling some beads, wobble gently down Bourbon Street with a plastic coconut and a straw…live a little?

No? Good answer. Hardly blame you.

I used to have a French-Canadian buddy in New Orleans named Benoit, pronounced Ben-WHAAA, like a baby crying. Ben-WHAAA liked to stay out till Mardi Gras ended at midnight, when dozens of police on horses pushed down Bourbon Street, a military maneuver to drive the drunks home.

“MARDI GRAS IS OVER. TIME TO GO,” they’d say over loud speakers.

They were followed by a giant street sweeper that would scoop up the cups, the beads, the bras that were all left in the curb. It was almost poetic, this transition from total filth to cleanliness.

The next day, it was as if Mardi Gras hadn’t happened at all. Other than the beads in the tree branches, New Orleans showed no signs of a million-person party. How Catholic is that, sweeping away your misdeeds so quickly?

That’s OK. All institutions do that.

Speaking of misdeeds, we had a situation in town the other day. As I have explained in the past, I live in a twisted little suburb with remarkable schools and almost no bars, 28 dry cleaners, and not a single pool table. No bait shops, no juke boxes.

How I ended up here is a complete mystery to almost everyone. Such a bad fit. As if I were dating a beautiful movie queen, or something, which I sort of am. Nobody understands how I end up with such remarkable women. Friends speculate that I have more money than I actually do, or that I’m secretly witty, warm and interesting.

Trust me, none of that is even remotely true.

Anyway, in this little village, the tightly wound one with 28 dry cleaners and no bars, a resident had grown tired of neighbors dropping their dog poo bags in her trash can. So she ordered a sticker that said, “Please, Do Not Put Poop Bags in My Trash Bin.” A little militant maybe. But OK, sure.

Not only are we a dull and enlightened little town, we’re generally very polite. If four cars pull up to an intersection simultaneously, every driver will insist that the other drivers go first. But the other drivers insist that the other drivers go, so there’s all this frantic waving.

These standoffs – these paralyzing outbreaks of over-courtesy — can go on for days.

You go, no you go, no I insist…

Finally, they all go at once.

So, all is well with the sticker on the trash can – no biggie — till someone takes offense and smears the sign with actual dog doodle, obviously to make a point about something: dogs, waste management, fascism, pushy moms, suburban ennui, the limits of free speech, take your pick.

The owner of the soiled trash can was furious, of course. She posted a photo, warned of security cameras everywhere and threatened legal action when she identified the poo perp. Some folks responded with unwavering support. Others thought she had the doggy doodle coming.

“Ya kinda asked for it,” said one Facebook follower.

The issue broke mostly along gender lines. Those who responded in support of the homeowner were generally women; the ones who thought she had it coming were mostly men.

Note that one side has amazing superpowers of smell, the other side smells virtually nothing at all.

“Pick your battles,” was the general consensus among the dads. “Is this really all you have to worry about?”

Some people speculated that it was the work of teenagers, which gives you a general idea of how teenagers are viewed – as subversives, as jokers, as misfits who question authority and mock the status quo.

Somebody has to. Go teenagers!

This is the biggest scandal in our little town since someone posted a phony building permit indicating a Hooters restaurant was moving in.

When eagle-eyed activists spotted the Hooters building permit on the storefront, they took to the media – mostly Facebook – to vent. You can imagine the outrage. A Hooters – all those chicken wings, all those breasts!!!

Sex has been outlawed in our town for more than 15 years. I mean, even the mere hint of it.

When injustice is tolerated, misfits like this will thrive.

So a grand jury was soon formed, an inquest was held. The permit was soon identified as an elaborate prank.

Sadly, the Hooters perpetrators were never found and brought to justice, though I happen to know who they are, a couple of known wise guys…beer-slurping dads, not teenagers. Subversives just the same. Misfits. Jokers. One used to run a major investment fund.

Obviously, this is serious stuff. I think what the doggy doodle incident shows is that if authorities turn a blind eye to misbehavior and ridicule, that misbehavior and ridicule are bound to flourish, even thrive, as in some sort of Ivan Reitman film.

But with some aggressive policing – and tons of cameras, and vigilant super-motivated neighbors — society can become a wintry Russian novel where it seems only the bitter cold survives.

And love means nothing.

As you know, there is no charge for these twice-weekly posts. But I’d like to take a moment to promote a cause that celebrates my late wife and son. Our local church has a remarkable parent-education program, and there is a fund that supports families through that. It was Posh’s favorite charity. Click here to donate. The Erskine Fund is under “TICKETS, ”the 10th item down. Or email me for more information. On behalf of the family, thank you for considering this.

18 thoughts on “Speaking of Misdeeds…

  1. Donation on its way today! Thanks for bringing this very serious issue to light as well: Many people are not aware of the growing crime wave on our neighborhood streets, with sealed bags of waste being placed in waste bins! When will law and order be restored? Stay safe, everyone.

  2. You had me at “cleaved,” a beautiful word I haven’t seen in print since I read Beowulf in…10th grade? Some day you’ll have to tell me where you stand on the lady with the “no pop bags, please” sign.

    1. SP, you actually read Beowulf? If so, you know he was more influential in many respects than Shakespeare. That’s all I remember from 10th grade English…that influential part. Found both of them indecipherable, tbh. As you know, I learned to write from watching Johnny Carson monologues. That’s my only literary influence.

  3. Donated! My accountant will be happy because he thinks I only donate to animals. He asks me every year why I don’t like humans. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I have two dogs so my trash always has dog poop in it anyway so have at it. Just make sure to tie the bags up, please. Take the goose/duck! He/she needs a new home and I think you were meant to be together.

    1. Thanks Pam. Went to snatch the duck this morning, and the site was fenced off and locked due to the construction. From what I could see through the gaps, the duck had flown away. So a happy ending after all.

  4. Very happy to be able to donate to Posh’s favorite charity! It’s the least I can do for all of the enjoyment you bring me with your amazing ability of finding the humor in the chaos! AND – we have something in common! We are both members of the very worthy organization of caring individuals – the Animal Statue Rescue! In my case (and defense), it was a real good likeness of a black Lab sitting on the front lawn of a really nice home and the day was leaning on dusk, so the light was not good. 🙂

  5. Just donated. I work in Parent Education/Home Visiting for a large school district in the far western suburbs supervising a team and managing a small caseload of at-risk families with kiddos ages birth-3 (teens, immigrants, those in deep poverty, trauma…there are various criteria) so believe me…I know how valuable this work is! It takes a village. Very worthwhile cause!

    1. Bonnie, you’ve always been such a good supporter of the column, and now you’ve risen to MVP status. Thank you for your donation, and all the work you do yourself. Gratefully, Chris

  6. …”as if I were dating a beautiful movie queen or something, which I sort of am”…I have always loved the unspoken, unwritten, unerring focus of the subconscious on the elephant in the room, elegant pump about to slip the foot, the hidden in plain sigh that seems like the L.A. haze in a Friday’ afternoon fantasy that wakes you on a Suzanne Saturday Morning—a clean, clear, dry gunpowder blue Southern California winter day… like today, exploding into mind and eye, the air turning sunlight here into daytime starlight. And then, like some light-radiant transformation you can only see on a day like this, it becomes part of the luminous history of a love affair, illuminating all that follows. Talk about movies: this is a big screen day, just right for a movie queen’s light-up-the-sky entrance onto the set of one’s life, ready for the closeups that blind the darkened heart of theater and create lifetime fans.

    My first real girlfriend was named Suzanne. I was seventeen, late to the game, fuzzy cheeked and misty eyed, understood little and knew less; which is still true. She taught me much, one crucial thing being that a meaningful relationship is founded on the multi-faceted growth and development of the participants. Such thrilling and vital exchange is the basis for many long term—even life long—love affairs. You simply find each other more absorbing, more interesting, than others. And of course interwoven in all this is the romance—biological literal heat, passion—and the thousand little nuances of desire and release that never quite complete. In the end, both aspects somehow mysteriously come together, if it’s the real thing. I am a big fan of “Better Living Through Chemistry”.
    Who can deny that DuPont at least got that right.(along with nylons). This is what I wish for you on this quintessential L.A. Saturday. What follows in the next post is apropos of this…

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