(“The Bar Jester at Work.” Photo by M. Nolan)
ROCK ISLAND The Front Porch ain’t all high seriousness, at least not down on this end, where you can still hear an off-color joke and see an arthritic curmudgeon shaking his newspaper at “those damn kids with their rock ’n roll music.”
So, today, a faithful account of how one Front Porcher maintains a semblance of sanity in the leaning tower of ivory, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
(WARNING: Those of you with sensibilities like my dear sainted mother’s may not wish to proceed; those who do should not impugn my fellow Front Porchers, who are men and women of refined sensibilities, good taste, and impeccable manners—with the exception of Bill Kauffman.)
Satirists propose to improve morals and manners by subjecting them to ridicule. Pursuant to this noble project, I have undertaken a task of high satirical seriousness: to credit my enemies with publications chosen from a vast fund of originals—originals, that is, that have been slightly altered. (These jokes would work better if Christian charity did not forbid my matching the titles with specific oafs and fools, but there’s not much I can do about the stern demands of Christian charity.)
Take, for example, my colleagues whose sedentary “lifestyles” have rendered them a bit more corpulent than perhaps they ought to be. They are an astonishingly productive lot. Their works include Lord of the Pies, The City of Cod, Planet of the Crepes, To Grill a Mockingbird, The House of the Seven Refrigerators, The Ryme of the Ancient Marinade, Lord of the Onion Rings, ’Tis Pity She’s a Cow, Frosting at Midnight, The Gulash Archipelago, The Pound and the Curry, Finnegan’s Cake, Fatness Shrugged, The Pie Who Loved Me, and Lard Times. One colleague who has difficulty getting out of chairs I have honored with The Ton Also Rises.
I have a ruddy gap-toothed colleague who fits the literary type perfectly and has just found a publisher for The Prepuce-Driven Life, which is his sequel to A Handful of Lust, which in turn reminds me of that young single Ph.D. who was blackballed by the Women’s Studies department for publishing A Hard Man is Good Find.
The known tipplers on campus have an impressive array of titles, notwithstanding how rarely sobriety affords them its fleeting moments of productivity. Those titles include, but are not limited to, A Season on the Drink, Gunga Gin, This Lime-Wedge Drink My Prison, and a hiccupping but indefatigably researched biography of Boris Yeltsin: Absolute! Absolute!
There’s the self-serving resume-padding careerist who, notwithstanding an adolescent obsession with Star Wars, thinks he should be at a bigger (that is, better) place. His magnum opus is R1D1 and CVPO, which didn’t land him the job he was bucking for, so he quickly followed it up with The Peckerwood Bible. As I recall he was much-taken by a gossipy trollop, no longer here, who wrote a very stimulating short story titled “The Tell-Tale Tart” and a poem in the mode of the romantic lyric, “The Aeolian Harpy.”
I remember when I was at another institution there was a vertically disparate academic couple. They produced no children but did co-author He Stoops to Conch Her. They were good friends with the head softball coach, who last I knew was writing a memoir titled As I Lay Dining and may in fact have been the cause of the couple’s bitter divorce.
A favorite of mine is that nimble but untalented little nymph who, with the help of successive deans, married her way to tenure and wrote about it in Upward Nubility. One of the power lords she cuddled up to is a veritable slob of a man who once made a small splash with Great Expectorations. For a while he took up with that fragrant unhygienic ornithologist who, in a mad rush of grief-therapy, cranked out an enormous elegy, I Know Why the Caged Bird’s Dead.
So far no chaplain has been caught in a Jimmy Swaggart moment, so I wait in vain for Ministers Do More than Lay People.
Rumor has it that before my time there was a lovers’ quarrel involving a choreographer and that it resulted in a bitterly vindictive and retributive memoir, A Gay in the Life of Ivan, Dennis’s Bitch. But my sources are not entirely credible, nor I would not be regarded as one who is in the grip of an official phobia, so I consider the anecdote apocryphal and mention it only to expose the fraud.
Of course I myself have an impressive dossier to which I’ve recently added Up from Knavery, Beerical Ballads, and For Whom the Belle Rolls. The Bar Jester Chronicles is an ongoing project carried out in various research facilities and field stations in the Midwest, including Bent River Brewery, Mac’s, the Bier Stube (pictured above), and my garage.
Meantime, I hear tell that somewhere an expert on public education is working on One Hundred Years of Consolitude and that there’s a bunny-turned-feminist who at this moment is on a book tour for The Devolution from Within. Dare we hope for something from our redoubtable former president in the vein of Dan Quayle’s You Spell Potato, I Spell Potahtoe? Maybe, given his impressive environmental record, W. will include in his memoirs a chapter titled “The More Gooder Earth.”
So you see there are ways of surviving the company of the over-ejjikated. But don’t anybody steal these titles. They’re going into an academic novel that features a running back by the name of LaTrocious Johnson.