December 2008

Dearest Santa:

I think we’ve been bad, Santa. Very bad! Now I know it’s not your “thing” to get into punishment, you know, whippings and executions but I really do think public floggings, followed-up with an execution or two would have a salubrious effect on (for) the nation. Maybe we’d have to go with the major media markets. With Orlando being the 21st largest market, we’d hit the top 25 with advertised floggings and hangings in each. Would that work for you, Santa?

I’m sure we’d achieve 90% coverage of the nation using the Top 25 markets. It might even spur a kick to the post-holiday shopping season. January is looking pretty grim, retail wise but public hangings (and all the associated hoop-la) just might be what is needed to jumpstart the economy. Just a thought, Santa.

I thought about writing God but, sigh, I’m losing faith. Really, Santa, I am. His “free will” clause seems to completely let the Big Guy in the Sky off the hook. He exonerates Himself when He trills, “I’m leaving it all up to you-ou-ou,” meaning, “Hey Now! Yea, I know I made the clowns down there but I gave’um the choice to be good and you can see where that’s got me. Hell’s filling up faster than a Florida subdivision during a housing boom. What’s a God ta do?” Whine, whine, whine.

Who does that leave to mete out justice, Santa? We haven’t had a “good” Inquisition, you know, since, well, God knows when. Four, five hundred years? Where’s the Catholic Church when you genuinely need it. You could always count on them for a great “rack” and a really, really fine public burning of the sacrificial. Oh, those were the days, Santa. What better for the nation than to resurrect the roasting confessional, a tried and true extravaganza that lets the crowd (that’s America, Santa) cathartically release its national pent-up anger and frustration.

And since Santa, you’re always claiming to know who has been “naughty or nice” and that you see us even when we are sleeping, well, I think you’re just the guy for the job. I mean, you do whip the reindeer don’t-cha, Santa? Rudolf’s been talking, Santa.

Okay, where to start? Santa, America was lied to. Our leaders got us into an illegal, immoral war. Thousands of our boys have died for a lie, Santa. We sold our national soul and illegally imprisoned and tortured people, Santa. All based on the lie of fear. Our government corrupted itself and we just stood by and watched it happen. We are weak, Santa, cowardly, too.

Our government and courts do nothing to the perpetrators of the lie, of the war, of the torture, of the subversion of our ideals. They do nothing, Santa. Actually, they hand out Medals of Freedom to the thugs and call’um patriotic. I don’t get it, Santa. It’s like Orwell never wrote “1984.” Pretty soon, Santa, all the criminals will leave office and go back to their regular jobs of skimming the government financially. Speaking of which . . .

Santa, you’ll never believe it. America is on the ropes economically. Hard to believe, isn’t it? With all of America’s natural resources, it’s democratic history, it’s ingenious, hardworking people, America still couldn’t stop from eating itself alive. That’s right, Santa. And we might have to flog and hang a common man or two just to be equitable about the whole thing. As much as I hate the idea of flogging a George Bailey, you know, of Bedford Falls, we need to. Sigh. George got greedy and stupid, too.

But Santa, this is where I really need you. So many of our businessmen and women have whored themselves to mammon that America is now at risk of collapse. I kid you not Santa. We are on the ropes. Everywhere you look, there are examples of financial malfeasance and gross corruption. Many of America’s corporations are run by incompetents and hoodlums. Our automobile corporations are run by the biggest “doofusses” imaginable, yet nothing actually happens to them except they collect their bonuses and “Golden Parachutes.”

Worse than the incompetents are the hoodlums that were just “last week” revered as pillars of our communities. Santa, they’ve ravaged and sacked our economy time and time again and nothing happens. Hundreds of thousands (millions) of responsible, hardworking salaried employees are losing their jobs because hoodlums are running our corporations and our government winked and said, “Go for it, boys, bring the fruits of capitalism home!” And boy, did they, Santa! They brought the fruits of capitalism into their homes and pauperized the rest of us.

It is so sad, Santa. America didn’t have to end up like this. We desperately need justice, Santa. But, I can tell you right now, we are not going to get it. Oh, sure, a few hands will be slapped but unbelievably, Santa, the newly elected American President has “hired” an economic team that I would actually investigate and possibly incarcerate, yet, the President-Elect asserts they are going to lead us to economic soundness and viability. Sigh. It sounds like just another Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Rick Wagoner fairy tale to me.

Seriously, Santa. Can we not hang the corrupt, the venal, the incompetent in the name of the greater good? Is there no longer a “greater good?”

Santa, in your big bag of presents pull out the biggest gift you could give America—justice. And, I don’t want justice in another life. And I don’t want one level of justice for the rich and powerful and another for the rest of America.

Hang’um. Hang’um all. Hang’um for the lies. Hang’um for the deaths. Hang’um for the corruption. Hang’um for distorting our ideals. Hang’um for weakening America!

Thanks Santa for listening. You’re the best. And have a great holiday season.

See you soon at the gallows? Do bring Rudolf. And an elf or two. Americans so love a good show.

If The Shoe Fits Dear President

I felt compelled to be honest. “You don’t really write the column for the Observer, do you,” asked the diminutive, sparkling-eyed brunette? Standing before the hors d’oeuvres table, party drink in hand, I was momentarily flummoxed. And then the truth just poured out like a knocked over drink.

“Actually, I don’t,” I said. She nodded knowingly. For over 20 years, I’ve been living a falsehood. It’s a small thing, for some, to embrace the harmless lie. And it always made me inwardly laugh, “If you only knew,” was my secret thought. Occasionally, someone would slap me around, metaphorically speaking, for being unmercifully harsh on “W” or his braindead brotherhood of reactionary retards, better known as the Florida Republican Party. But that was rare. I don’t know why I told the truth last Saturday night but once out, it cannot be rebottled.

I do not personally write this column. It is written by Sanjay Darjeeling, an Indian writer who lives on the outskirts of Mumbai, India. Each week, I forward, via e-mail, an idea or two to Sanjy, as I have come to call him and he creates the essays that have been an Observer mainstay since 1988. An example of the type of prompt I would provide Sanjy would be the recent incident of President Bush deftly ducking a shoe thrown at him while doing last week’s press conference in Iraq. I would have come up with some utterly tasteless lead, such as “If the shoe fits . . . ,” and Sanjy would spin my acidic humor, my bile into timeless prose.

And Sanjay Darjeeling did all the heavy lifting, all the hours over the word processor typing out drafts, sweating the transitions, worrying about verb agreement and such and for what? I am profoundly ashamed to tell you. For $1.25. That’s right. One dollar and twenty-five cents. The disgrace. On my part. But to my credit, he did support his family of seven (and his one-legged mother-in-law, too) with my remittances. Sanjy was always grateful. But for my largesse, as he so generously put it, he did not have to intentionally maim or blind any of his children to make them better beggars. Unlike his “Untouchable” neighbors.

And how did such a reprehensible, despicable arrangement come about in the first place? Pride. Hubris. Arrogance. When I first started with the Observer, the then owner/publisher offered me such low compensation I was taken aback by the effrontery of it. How did this man know I could be “had” for so little? Was I that needy? Was I so apparently shameless, so without pride that I would write for the proverbial “peanuts?” The dregs? The leavings? And, of course, the answer was a resounding, “YES!” We’ve determined what you are, the old joke goes, now let’s decide the price. Oh, my shame.

But, I couldn’t accept that I had become such a cheap, tawdry little whore for the “published” word. But the Roman Goddess, Fortuna smiled on her reprobate of a writer son and delivered one Sanjay Darjeeling. I was on the cutting edge of “outsourcing” years before it became mainstream. Perchance, one casual conversation led to another and the next thing you knew I was in communication with an aspiring Indian lad who would work (write) for “peanuts.” You know the sordid $1.25 details. A thousand plus columns later and I simply could no longer accept the accolades, the glory, the fame. I came clean over a canapé of fresh salmon and cantaloupe. Such is the purity of some moments. In one accidental confession I cleansed my Dorian Gray soul of its 20-year shadow of hypocrisy and dishonesty. And the sun did, indeed, shine brighter the next morn.

That and Sanjay now owns his own company and while he loved every week ripping into the scurrilous and corrupt Republicans, he not only could not afford to do my column, he offered me a two cents a word (that’s right, 2 cents a word) writing job (doing “Visit Sunny Orlando” brochures, no less) but I had only a week to decide. After a week it would be a penny a word. Sigh. Such is modern capitalism. America is now the outsourced.

I leave you now. This is my fond farewell, my swan song of a final column. So, dear, faithful, loyal readers, you will now be left with only Jepson’s pedestrian devices (he insisted I write this last column), his shameless, manipulative writing tricks to amuse and challenge you. I wish you the best. I do.

Regardless of what your American press is now suggesting, when abroad, continue to claim to be Canadian and if you’re every in Mumbai, do look me up. Wear a flak jacket, however.

Yours in a word. If not, deed.
Sanjay Darjeeling.

Best of Winter Park

It’s been too long since my last Best of Winter Park Selections! Periodically I conduct an impartial reader survey of the Best of Winter Park. I will repeat the methodology of the last survey. All submissions should be written on the back of crisp $50 bills and mailed to: Jepson c/o The Winter Park Observer. I really must insist on fresh $50s as old money sometimes makes reading the nominations difficult. Please remember, one nomination per $50 bill.

Here is my personal list of the Best of Winter Park by specific category. Some of these categories, I grant you, are idiosyncratic but they are all first rate.

Best Radio Station in America – This is a no-brainer. 89.9 FM plays superb jazz. It is one of the finest services UCF provides our community. Year in and year out, 89.9 provides the best in jazz. Program your car radio to this station and get with the beat. Indispensible to Central Florida living!

Best Esoteric Garden Art – Bocelli’s at 836 Orange Avenue. I’ve purchased one-of-kind garden art that continues to inspire daily. Constantly changing inventory. Owner, Monte Livermore also consults on garden creations. If you are into quality yard art, Bocelli’s provides.

Best Ceramic Art Tile – Specialty Tile at 838 Orange Avenue. A two-fer! Visit Bocelli’s and walk mere feet and look at superb, unique ceramic tile for home or business. Tile so good, it’ll make you drool.

Best Art on The Avenue – Timothy’s Gallery at 212 N. Park Avenue. With what I have spent at Timothy’s over the years, well, I’ve even purchased display cabinets when they moved to their new location. Ladies, if you cannot walk into Timothy’s and find a gorgeous pair of earrings, you are blind. Great art jewelry and great selection of objects d’art. Wonderful, always friendly staff.

Best Fabric and Furniture Upholstery Store – Decorative Home Interiors at 9205 S. Highway 17-92. First rate service. I’ve had furniture repaired there. Outstanding selections of fabrics. A creative, warm staff.

Best Antiques & Stuff – Elephant Walk Interiors & Antiques at 1427 Alden Road. This is always an evolving class. Much subjectivity. But I throw in fun, too. Walk in this cavernous collection of rooms and I dare you to not find “something” that would complete a room nicely. Or your back porch.

Best Summer Rolls & Vietnamese Food — Little Saigon Restaurant at 1106 East Colonial Dr. I have eaten at this restaurant more times than any other in the past 23 years. The summer rolls are to die for. Consistently excellent. The food is fresh. I recommend the vermicelli noodles and pork. And because you are in the neighborhood, walk around the corner to Colonial Photo & Hobby (on Mills) and look at their great stuff (it’s more a guy place).

Best Barbecue Pork Sandwich – Bubbalous Bodacious Bar-B-Q at 171 Lee Road. Get the fries and cole slaw and a side of beans, too. Consistently first rate.

Best Eggs Benedict & Chocolate Malt Combo – Briarpatch Restaurant at 252 N. Park Avenue. Yes, I do order that. Mmmm-Mmmm good. Great little eatery on the Avenue.

Best Egg Salad & Bean Soup – White Wolf Café at 1829 N. Orange Avenue. Unique establishment. I love the energy of the place. I’m serious about the egg salad (add mustard). Owner, Michael Hennessey is a hands-on proprietor. Energetic and smart as is his place. Do the antiques shops nearby and then eat at White Wolf. Elephant Walk is a couple of blocks away. The area has a delightful assortment of shops.

Best Blue Cheese Burger at a Bar – Hannibal’s on the Square at 511 West New England Ave. Champagne and a Blue Cheese Burger. Who’d a thunk! Great Bar. Great management. Lots of live music (jazz). The place has a presence.

Best Pressed Turkey Sandwich at a Bar – Dexter’s of Winter Park at 558 West New England Ave. First rate drinking establishment and restaurant. Great history in Winter Park. Owner, Adrian Mann runs a tight ship. He’s a wonderful presence. Great, great vibe to the place.

Best Drinks Outside – Houston’s Restaurant at the intersection of Morse Blvd. and Highway 17-92. This restaurant and bar sits on Lake Killarney and is the best place to sip a chardonnay or a whiskey sour outside facing the lake. It’s Gorrrrgeous-George! Good food inside. High marks all the way around.

Best Day Spent – Winter Park, Florida. What do you do with folks who come to visit? The parks? I don’t think so. Here’s a whole day itinerary. Visit the following museums all within walking distance: Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Garden, The Morse Museum of American Art and The Cornell Fine Arts Museum on the Rollins College Campus. During the day, take the Chain of Lakes boat tour (end of Morse Blvd). Shop along the avenue (see Timothy’s above) and eat and drink (several times) along the way. If you have a car, add the Orlando Museum of Art and the Mennello Museum of American Art (five minutes from Park Avenue). This could easily and comfortably (and leisurely) entertain you and your friends for 8-10 hours. I highly recommend such a day.

Alas, that’s about all space allows. Kids, now don’t forget to submit your nominations for the Best of Winter Park. Remember, it’s crisp 50’s that are the approved entry form. IMPORTANT: only one nomination per $50 bill. Oh, please don’t forget to add your name and phone number. We had numerous entries the last time that unfortunately were ruled invalid because of such omissions. It was so sad. I had to go to Timothy’s with the voided ballots. Sigh.

The Long & Short Of It.

A man and his wife went to the chemist to pick up his prescription for Viagra. Seeing the $10 per pill price, the man was astonished - but his wife had a different opinion - “Oh, $40 a year ain’t too bad”. Unattributed Internet Joke (UIJ)

I am not a prude. Bahleeeeeve me, I am not! But is anyone else out there tired, oh, so tired of all the Viagra and Cialis advertisements on television? C’mon, you know you are. You’re sitting there, perhaps a book on your lap, intermittently watching a “Scrubs” re-run and a foot-ta-ball game and up pops (pun intended) yet another shot of the ubiquitous tub’s couple, holding hands, waiting for the “right” moment when Mr. Johnson will show up for duty.

You weren’t even thinking about sex and wham-bam-thank you-Ma’am, you’re drawn into the tragedy, the heartbreak of LNS (Limp Noodle Syndrome). What’s a man to do? Drugs anyone?

Men sometimes get the rap from women, “Is that all you think about?” No, of course not. I think about straightening up the garage. I wonder about Tebow’s chances on repeating. I’m miffed that one of my azalea’s is dying for no apparent reason. Should assault weapons be sold at Walmart? A “Pink” song courses through the back mindground. I don’t care whether the President is black or white, I want all American troops out of Muslimland. Now. I warm to a memory of sharing a Coke with my grandson at the movie, “Bolt.” I think about writing this column on Monday and what’s of interest this moment. Sometimes, my mind just shifts into a stream of consciousness montage and then focus returns. I chop wood carry water. I do.

Every man I know thinks similar yet different thoughts. The emphasis is different because each man is unique. But then you read or hear (urban myth?) that every 45 seconds some sexual fantasy flashes on a man’s graymatter and perhaps ever so briefly, a man’s thoughts turn to . . .

Forty-five seconds. Can that be? Every 45 seconds your average guy’s Mr. Johnson moves ahead of the crowd, to the front and center of what your conscious mind might consider.

That seems biologically unfair to sustained study. So I am dubious of the research that would make such a 45 second claim. Hmmm? But it does beg the question, “Well then, how often does a man have a sexual thought?”

Actually that would make a good book, “The ‘Unexpurged’ Chronicles of A Sexual Thought Counter.” Underwritten by the Ford Foundation, no doubt.

Over the years I’ve seen that number dance around. Every 60 seconds. Every seven minutes (that seems a bit long), to unbelievable lapses of time (An hour! The longest time every recorded by the celebrated, celibate Trappist monk of the renowned Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery). And then you have to take into consideration we are the same guy we were 25,000 years ago. Unk, our distant, distant cousin, these are his numbers, too. Without all the added stimulation provided by our 21st century culture.

American men are surrounded by images of sexuality. That is our condition. It is a by-product, an observation, a transition(?), a comment on our culture today. That can change. Our television and print advertising is a cornucopia of fertility, of provocatively clad maidens in every imaginable environment. In the car. On the sidelines. Under the stairs. Laughing at the bistro. Powerfully strutting bras and panties for Victoria Secret. Drinking beer, fer sure. Always with alcohol. Always associated with good times. And success.

If the good life in America doesn’t have at its core a message of sexuality, well, please consider me out-of-step. How does a car rental company rent its cars? By having the smiling, radiant pleasure-promising temptress offer her man a choice of black or red nighties and off they go. The scene closing with passionate kisses and a fade to hot embraces with his hand deftly slipping the “Do Not Disturb” card through the tightening door. Oh, my. I hope the Overdrive kicks in tonight.

So if we are not thinking about sex enough already, every 45 seconds (Hmmm?) another ad to get men to directly think about Mr. Johnson pops up. Even if you’re not in the market for Viagra or Cialis, who knows when Mr. Johnson might take, you know, a vacation. Or, you’ve read that, “Hey, take it anyway, it, uh, magnifies the experience.” Ha! Better living through chemistry!)

That’s right. The heartbreak of LNS is a medical condition of gigantic proportions. But there’s a pill for “IT!” Oh, gawd, have the Nobel Prizes for Medicine been announced yet?

Aside: If it’s true that insurance companies will cover LNS and the prescriptions, they damn well better be providing birth control for women, no questions asked.

I was at a party Saturday night, actually riding on a pontoon boat on the St. John’s and I asked my assembled boatmates if they weren’t just out and out sick of Viagra ads? To a person we were and then one of the women said, “We were recently watching a TV ad on Viagra and it was going on about, “If you have an erection lasting . . .”

And a young man under 20 sitting with us said, “Lasting longer than four hours? I get four in an hour, what’s with longer than . . . ?”

Sigh. Youth. That’s a true story. Yet, Mr. Johnson shows up for four hours and you’re going to call a medic? Well, there you have it. When Ripley’s should be called, we’re calling 911? Go figure. I jest. I imagine there are worse things that can happen to Mr. Johnson than not showing up?

I could write another 1000 words on this subject but enough already. And fer cryin’ out loud, can Cialis please put the couple in a tub together. And why are the gals in these ads always so much hotter than the men? Is that just my imagination? Oh, I see, it ain’t the women. It’s all about the inscrutable Mr. Johnson! It’s getting BOOOORRRRRING!

I close with (UIJ): “What do you get when you mix chocolate and Viagra?”