Other Voices: The Merchants of Venice Boulevard

country squireBy the MUG Man

“It’s been said of me over the years that I sometimes kick my dog, bathe my children in ice cold water, eat a clove of garlic before every town meeting, drive an old Ford Country Squire around town just for the sympathy vote and that I was the guy that threw the snowball that hit Santa. None of it is true…hand ta GOD!”  – Mayor Pagoda 1966-78.

Chapter Five

It’s election time in New Lamberts, and the candidates that are vying for the three slots on the Borough Council are just beginning to spread out and meet their neighbors and let it be known that they are or aren’t for this or that.  The big issues of the day are mean ass dogs, the school board, yoga pants and the Chambers of Commerce…of course! It’s a well-known fact that the head person of any organization in the town is bound to be loved by at least a third of the populace; pilloried by another third and the last third don’t know who he or she is and don’t care. They just love it here for all the crazies that surround them every day.

The town across the river from New Lambert at some point last year decided that they wanted the New Lambert vibe so they added it to their own name and became The Greater Taylorsville and New Lambert Chamber of Commerce and Business Alliance, or the ”TGT&NLCOC&BA” for short. They bought themselves a man that had no business experience to run it and paid him more money than ever was raised by anyone running for anything in New Lambert, including Mayor Patrick.

There was plenty of conversation on both sides of the river and lots of people jumped river banks to join the other guy.  New Lambert was quickly being out gunned by the utter size of Taylorville’s operating budget, but they seemed to be reorganizing well, under sound leadership and sheer luck. The one event that the New Lambert Chamber of Commerce, or the NLCOC, for short, had going for it, and providing 90% of its budget, was the Annual New Lambert Music and Art Festival and Drag Race, or the “ANLM&AF&DR,” for short.  Unfortunately, this year they withdrew their event for the benefit of the NLCOC and gave it to the TGT&NLCOC&BA, which meant, of course, that the NLCOC lost almost all their money and had to resort to a bagel and muffin-top sidewalk sale to bring the year in under budget.

Everyone was looking forward to this upcoming Christmas Season too because the TGT&NLCOC&BA has secured the rights to New Lambert’s Christmas Tree Lighting Fest and promised a gala of lights and music unseen and unheard of for many years. Just a slight bit of acrimony from the NLCOC resulted when the TGT&NLCOC&BA told them “they could keep their cookies and opinions, and we’ll run Christmas the way we want!” But it’s the holiday season we’re talking about and nobody holds grudges very long. “And oh, by the way, you guys can bag your own parking meters!” said the TGT&NLCOC&BA President.

Outside the local coffee house, down on Main Street, a couple locals had gathered to discuss and solve town issues.

“I heard that Hank Sullivan was running as a Republican this year! Can you believe that guy?” said John Toliver, the owner of the finest clothing shop in town. “He switches parties every time they get a new flavor of the month at Captain Jack’s.”

Across the small coffee table from John sat Toby Gillis, an old timer in town and one of the most knowledgeable and opinionated of the old guard.  “I think with the way things are in town this year that you have to be insane to run for Council.” said Toby. “Even my dog’s hairdresser thinks they’re all a bunch of do-nothing whiners!”

John thought for a moment then asked, “Do you think that?  Do you think that what we do all morning is just sit here, drink coffee and complain?  We sometimes find solutions, ya know!” John was English from England and even after 20 years in this country he still spoke with a slight accent.  “All I know of Hank is that he’s one of these guys that hates the businesses, and does everything he can to make it more difficult for us to do business here in town.”

“I heard that too.” Toby replied.  “His last idea was that he thought all the buildings in the downtown that cater to tourist should have their doorsteps inspected every year, so that visitors won’t be tripping into these old stores and suing the town.  Is that insane, or what?” He added, “And he wants to charge everyone $100 to do it.”

That’s crazy!” said John. “I redid my front step just two years ago. Why should I have to pay every year? And who’s gonna do the inspecting? What’ll that guy get paid?”

“I guess, like always, it’s the tourists that’ll get stuck with the bill.  They’ll just vote to increase parking tickets or meter rates and voila, the budget fits.” chortled Toby. “Don’t want to lose any voters when we can stick it to the tourists.” Just then Nick Francis came out of the swinging doors of the coffee shop, saw the two guys sitting down on the end of the porch and approached the table.

“Hey fellas, how’s life kickin’ ya?” said Nick as he pulled up another chair and turned it to face the sidewalk so he could watch for cute women and short skirts coming off the bridge from Taylorsville. “I was thinkin’ about running for council on the platform of making it mandatory that all girls have to wear yoga pants all year long…what’cha think?”

A woman in a plaid shirt and hammer-looped jeans at the next table glared at Nick and flicked her cigarette butt into the street, shaking her head in obvious repugnance. The butt unfortunately flew inside one of those new $2,000 Winnebago Baby Strollers, and bounced off the sleeping child’s insect netting and landed safely on the curbside. Since the mother appeared to be texting someone from France on her 16 megabyte cell phone at the time she didn’t notice the toss or the butt and unsuspectingly stepped off the curb into the intersection just as the light turned red.

The store owner laughed, and said, “I like the idea, but I doubt you’ll get the LGBT vote!”

Nick put his hands behind his head and leaned against the red brick wall of the coffee shop and said, “I’m not too sure about that.  Just yesterday down on Venice Boulevard I saw two girls holding hands and they were lookers, boy!” he continued with a sharp little whistle. “I think they were heading into one of those tattoo places there.”

“Say Nick, doesn’t your wife have a tattoo on her ankle?” asked Toby. “Seems to me, even, that I saw one on both ankles.  Is that true?”

Without moving his gaze from the street, he replied, “Yea that’s right.  She got a heart on the one and a fish of some kind on the other. Don’t ask me what they mean either, ‘cuz I have no idea!” He went on, “Says she got ‘em with an old boyfriend before me and they had something to do with camping.”

There was a slight pause in the caffeinated conversation because the new teller from the Bank of New Lambert, behind the coffee shop, strolled past the three gentlemen. She was new in town and ogled by every straight guy in the north end of town.

“Hey Hank!” she said. “I thought we were meeting for drinks after work yesterday.”

Hank kicked forward in his chair and stood up in front of the curvaceous young thing; looked her straight in the eyes and lied through his teeth. “Hey, I’m so sorry baby; I finally got hooked into this new trainer up at the Step and Sweat and I just had to complete the new regimen she made for me. You get that don’t-cha?”  He put his arm around her waist and opened the coffee shop door for her and eased in behind her like a dog on a scent and left his friends at the table with a fast little wink of the eye.

“Ah, livin’ the dream.” said Toby as he tossed his empty paper cup into the trash can nearby. ‘That guy just married his third wife,” jerking his thumb at the closing door, “and he’s already after number four!”

The two men sat there for another few minutes talking away before John had to cross the street and open up for the day.But this was the way things actually got done in New Lambert, and it was guys like John and Toby and other all over town sitting and talking and solving problems that fixed the problems of the times and made the town “work.” The folks that got elected merely played the “Hammer the Squirrel” game, slapping down issues when their heads rose above the table. Elections happened and voters voted and new people got a chance to do things and old people got a chance to retire and say they did things, but New Lambert was a town of conversation and discussion and that’s much better than an election.

Not to mention that there are a lot of great-looking people walkin’ around town in yoga pants on weekends…whooHOO!

(The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Free Press. Any resemblance between the characters and events, and what we know as our shared reality, is purely coincidental.)

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  • This is just another example of how f up this town is and this column. Is this story supposed to be funny. It’s so pitiful that a 65 year old man who is on our zoning board wrote this. Mug Man has no idea what is going on. He and his buddies sit out there eating peanuts and having discussions about how to tear this town apart. He doesn’t care about New Hope, he just likes to stir things up and he is 2 faced to top it off. His “good friend” John Donahur festers out there with him trying to figure out why they are so fat and lonely and why the town isn’t like it was in the 70s, when they had hair and where probably getting laid which we know they aren’t now. It’s time they found a nice retirement home where they can eat peanuts and reminisce about a time when they may have mattered and made a difference in this town. Time to move over and let some light in you are all dark and really don’t care about this town and all you do is try to blame a group of individuals who are really paying no attention to you but are making a difference. DOn’t you see that you don’t matter and that no one is listening to you because if they were then you wouldn’t be so desperate and lonely and vengeful and full of hate John Donahur. Go away already!!!

    • Lighten up Jack! Can’t we all just get along? and if you are gonna trash John so vehemently get his name right so he can use it in his resume…it’s important to know exactly whom you are defaming..Its Danaher with 2 a’s and an e! And as for me I have at least 4 faces.

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