I gave a speech last Friday at a luncheon of the Cogswell Society in Washington. This is a group of guys who meet once a month to denounce temperance and everything for which is stands. Several of the members gave humorous presentations at the start of the meeting and I was astounded at the high quality of their wit & delivery – a rarity inside the District of Columbia. PBS Comedian Mark Russell is one of the founders of the group, and the current members are upholding his high standards. It’s been a long time since I went to a semi-formal D.C. event that had pitchers of good beer on the table. (Here’s some background on the group from a City Paper profile in 1992; a Cogswell fountain – designed to sway people to drink water instead of booze – is shown at the left.)
I was invited to speak there by Cogswell member and well-known Brooklyn wit Sam Kazman. Here’s the text – or at least most of it:
“I’ve known Sam for decades – he gave me the title for my favorite book, Lost Rights. I didn’t know much about this group so I was pumping Sam about a suitable topic for my spiel. “Should I go with philosophy or [redacted]?” I asked him.
“Go with [redacted],” Sam said.
*** At this point, I told them the old story about the New Jersey traveling salesman and a West Virginia rabbit and haystack, etc. That vignette concluded: “I’ve been accused of a lot of things since I started throwing rocks at the government but I’m proud that I’ve never been accused of bestiality by a traveling salesman.”
I then launched into the story of the “Lawnmower Lady” from Blacksburg High School and the mirror-image predicament – the “Sistine Chapel Syndrome.” Unfortunately, none of that is fit for a family-friendly blog.
Back to the speech text:
“If I’m going to be honest, I’ll admit that I learned most of what I know about women from truck drivers. I did a lot of hitchhiking in the mid late 1970s – and 18 wheelers were often my best bet for a long haul.
I was hustling at a truck stop along Interstate 81 to catch a lift towards Boston in early 1978. Finally snared a ride with this scrawny Arkansas guy who had a single bushy eyebrow that seemed to stretched from ear to ear.
I could tell from the moment I saddled into the shotgun side of his rig that he was suffering big time. His twang was thicker than a barrel of frozen molasses – I had a helluva time understanding anything he said. He kept talking about something he’d lost – something precious taken from him most unfairly.
After a few minutes, I figured out that some other trucker had done this guy dirty.
I tried to offer up sympathy, but the story was missing a noun. Despite trying my damndest, I couldn’t make hide nor hair what he was talking about.
I eventually figured out that the subject had a specific gender. And then it became clear that this female had been riding along with him. Oh! Someone STOLE MY BAAAATTTCH. (I had never before heard the word “bitch” seemingly pronounced with four syllables.)
A few weeks earlier, a floozy had attached herself and logged a few thousand miles with him, putting all expenses on her pelvic charge card. I sensed that her exit damaged his ego more than his heart.
He wasn’t the most sentimental person I ever met. Discussing another tart he’d transported for a few days, he explained: [totally damn redacted]…
In the following years, I sometimes used that particular anecdote and [redacted punchline] as an icebreaker when I was hitting on feminists. It didn’t work very well but sometimes getting people riled up is even more fun than getting [redacted].
I lived in Boston for awhile in the late 1970s – and the women up there were a whole different species compared to the lasses in Virginia. Seemed like there were only three types of women in Boston – pre-lesbian, post-lesbian, and homicidal.
I was serving my monthly volunteer time at the Boston Food Coop when I met a short, dark haired woman – Rachel was a sculptor – and she was cute in a bottled lightning way. At that point in my life, I was biased in favor of women who seemed intense. She invited me to her group house for dinner the following evening. I showed up the next eve and entering her flat, I was struck by a row of five bald head sculptures with sagging jowls and tormented eyes on the mantle overlooking the dining table. They looked like supporting cast for Dante’s Inferno.
“That’s unique,” I told the artist.
“Thanks!” Rachel beamed.
After dinner, she asked if I wanted to see where she did her sculpting – so we headed into the bedroom.
Things progressed, temperatures rose, and then… at a certain point, Rachel was just too quirky. I recalled the old saying – “Never sleep with anyone crazier than yourself” – and signaled I would go no further.
I expected she might be perturbed by my change in signals but was surprised when she scooped up a 7 inch knife from the floor besides the mattress and became screaming and waving the blade in the air.
Rachel uncorked an eruption that covered everything in a quarter-mile radius with verbal molten lava. She was mad as hell about men – her height – society – life. Rachel may have also denounced the Boston subway, but I forget. I started to wonder if she had some anger issues. She was especially pissed because she had not had the chance to test-drive the IUD she got six months earlier.
I sat on her mattress and appeared to listen sympathetically while thinking – “watch the knife – watch the knife” – and thanking my stars for my long arms. When she finally put the blade down – I grabbed my boots and bolted like a bat out of hell.
But I learned my lesson. If visiting a lass for the first time, I always did a quick check for bedside butcher knives.
Here’s one other recollection that might be Cogswell-worthy. I did some jaunts to the East Bloc in the years before the Iron Curtain fell. My trips there were almost always illegal, since I used a tourist visa but was working as a journalist. In late 1987, I arrived in Bucharest – one of the most depressing cities on earth at that point – everything was falling apart – the people looked half-starved and their eyes were full of fear.
But there was one tiny oasis of apparent prosperity – the Hotel Intercontinental – which, was the only place that westerners were allowed to stay. As soon as I checked in, a chunky 30ish woman with bad eye makeup came flat-footing up. She asked in a gravely, three-pack-a-day voice: “Would you like to have some company?”
“Would you like some company – in your room?” She smiled and pointed upstairs.
“Uh… no, I’m doing fine.”
“Why are you here in Bucharest?” She cooed gutturally.
“I’m a tourist.”
“But it is so cold outside. Let’s stay inside. Aren’t you lonely?”
There were several reasons I demurred, including my strict rule to never tussle with any woman who had a better mustache than I did.
The Romanian government was known for using intelligence agents as prostitutes. Instead of a simple honest hooker, she was probably a spook-whore. Seeing how badly everything else in that country functioned, I had no itch to learn the Romanian standard for “good enough for government work” boink….
[Photo at top via Cliff on Flickr]
For the non-redacted version of some of the vignettes, check out Public Policy Hooligan –