posted on December 10, 2011 by fractalbob
I have excellent knife skills and a great set of knives, so I spent a lot of time right after the Nov. 8 election in the kitchen with my mother preparing food for the private celebrations The Powers That Be threw for its slate zombie winners.
Two Thirds Huntsville was riding high. There was just one problem, and it became known to me in the weeks between the election and the first meeting of the New City Council. One of the zombies had already broken free. Mr. Ronald Allen.
They didn’t like Mr. Allen’s refusal to properly celebrate with the rest of the slate, but I don’t know details. My mother was adamant that I stay away from these shindigs since what I think often rolls down the chute from my brain and out of my mouth before my mother has time to fix it. On the bright side, my anonymous kitchen work was much admired. Even Jane Monday said so.
My mother had to wing it as TPTB prepared for the finale — the Tuesday evening public reception for the New City Council — because I had come down with a bad cold, my father, too. I did overhear my mother’s side of catty phone conversations with the other Club Ladies who were both fretting and rejoicing over the evening’s plans. Rejoicing at the public comeuppance they would deliver to the rustic, unschooled J. Turner Administration with their glittering and elegant pre-Council reception. Fretting over late word that Allen & Co. planned to shit on the festivities by shoving the show of unity up their tidy asses.
The male members of TPTB worried all along that, despite the inclusion of Allen’s campaign signs with the rest of the slate’s in the “right” yards in Wards 1, 2 and 4, he might break from the fold after the election. Don the Don Johnson had already warned them that keeping Crazy Ron on the tether was going to be tough.
In anticipation of this, the female members of TPTB pinned the blame on Allen’s wife, Patricia, who, rumor has it, once felt the need to call out her boss on his City Hall flirtations with a former city employee named Tish Humphrey.
Then word reached TPTB ears that Allen had made his first move — he would eschew the official swearing-in ceremonies, the intended climax of Tuesday evening’s Council take-over celebration, for a private swearing-in at a Ward 3 stronghold administered by none other than Chamber public enemy No. 1, State District Judge Ken Keeling.
Allen’s first shot across the bow caused members of the Old Mayors Club to burn their first batch of reception cookies. My kitchen knife was not in play, and I slept through the grapevine discussion of what to make of this and what to do about it, but I do know that my mother didn’t miss a beat in carrying out Mrs. Monday’s explicit instructions.
Tuesday night, Dad and I, in our bathrobes, shuffled into the den upstairs to see if the Council meeting would be televised. We had no single malt scotch to ease us through the boring stretches of dump truck talk because Mom didn’t want us mixing it with our codeine-flavored cough syrup.
“Hey, look at that,” I said after flipping the channel to 7 where fuzzy beings flitted around the Council dais. “I really expected a dark screen.”
“I didn’t.” Then my father quoted the Wicked Witch’s line to flying monkeys eager to get their paws on Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. “These things must be done del-i-cate-ly.” Or something to that effect.
There were two schools of thought among those in the highest echelons of TPTB, my father said, one is that without Jack’s City Council Theater to hold their interest, citizens will just stop watching. They won’t even notice when the live video and Internet streaming are cut. The other school wants to pull the plug now, right now, and weather the short-lived hue and cry from a few marginalized malcontents.
“Mac wants to keep the cameras for now,” my father said. “And you can imagine where Jane Monday comes down. But she’s going to let Mac have it his way for now.”
The Council meeting started on a conciliatory note — Mayor Mac almost tearfully thanking Turner for his service with the nicest thing he was permitted to say about him, the one thing to which we can all agree —Turner, like the rest of us, does love Huntsville. Turner looked a little confused about how to take this back-handed praise, maybe because Mac seemed to fully believe that he had just said something both generous and sincere.
And not long after, Allen fired his second shot. After staying seated while County Judge Danny Pierce swore in the new Council members and after Don the Don was nominated for Mayor Pro Tem, Allen nominated Don the Don’s foil, James Fitch. His motion got the silent but deadly on the Council dais but was seconded by the iPhones in the audience.
Ronald “the Honey Badger” Allen didn’t give a shit either way.
Almost immediately, my father fell asleep in the recliner next to me. He slept through Tush Humphrey’s cryptic comments on an item she had pulled on the Council’s consent agenda. As dangerous as a bowl of cold oatmeal, this ordinance would update the city’s existing records retention rules to comply with state rules and it included the permanent archiving of video and audio files. Mayor Mac himself had endorsed the measure on its first reading before the Nov. 8 election.
Tush was either reminding Mayor Mac of Mrs. Monday’s wishes, or she had been assigned this incremental piece of statecraft. (These things must be done del-i-cate-ly.) The entire Council, Allen and Fitch included, unanimously agreed to put this bowl of oatmeal back on the shelf.
The rest of the meeting unfolded like it was supposed to or at least as it was expected to. Bill Baine’s City Manager’s Report lulled me into a congested sleep until I woke up to classical music. The TV screen said Council was in executive session. They were off in private discussing the greatest upset of the Turner administration, the city-chamber lawsuit. My heart raced. I felt like the cop on stake-out who had been taking a leak while his suspects sneaked off behind his back.
My mother got home while Council was still in executive session, and she hurried upstairs to tell her two sick boys how lovely the evening at City Hall had been.
“Did Tish Humphrey and Clyde Loll recuse themselves from executive session?” I said, but my mother’s smile never drooped and her rosy cheeks never paled. She dismissed my question with a wave.
“George Russell was there, and I just knew he was going to cause trouble, but he didn’t,” Mom said. “Even George Russell gets it.”
“That we’re all sick of the fighting, that we’re all ready to move on.”
“We are?” I said.
My mother put a cool hand on my forehead. “I thought you were feeling better.”
“You’re indulging in vintage female fantasy,” I told my mother.
All the naughty boys have been sent home with their homely, raw-boned girlfriends, the right people are once again in control of the ballroom, and the party can continue.
“Jane Monday has petticoated the whole town,” I said.
“Are you trying to suggest something disgusting about Jane Monday?” my mother said with a warning sneer that used to mean she was about to pinch the fire out of me.
“No,” I said quickly, though I would have enjoyed conjuring in her mind the picture of ex-Mayor Bill Green in a lace collar and velvet breeches, eyebrows curled to match his long locks, posing as Little Lord Fauntleroy.
“Pretty impressive considering just a generation ago the women of this town were under the same thumb as the poor, the cloth-coated middle-class, the blacks, Mexicans, convicts and the bleeding hearts. I mean, 40 years ago could you imagine the Old Mayors Club baking fucking cookies?”
“You sound like Jack Wagamon,” my mother said. “Or George Russell.”
“No, mother, George would have gone in a totally different direction with that petticoat thing, and even I don’t want to think about it.”
“Well, at least there’s that,” she said, hitting me in the eye with the fringe of her woolen scarf as she removed her coat.
A day or two later, campus Democrat Kendall Scudder published a letter in the Houstonian admonishing Bearkat voters to keep an open mind about the new City Council. The talking points of TPTB resonated beyond the ring of fair-minded, good sense advice to the do-or-die supporters of the resistance.
I heard both the first knell and the echo. Resistance man Rich Heiland did not. On Facebook, he took Scudder to task, urging him to step out of the petticoat, no matter how fashionable it’s become. I myself would like to do as Kendall suggested, take the high road for as long as we can. I liked the fact that George Russell sat quietly at the last Council meeting and let TPTB have their day. But Kendall and I may one day get shoved off the high road and onto the rocks below. And I for one will take it hard. I always do.
I hope Rich will take Kendall out for a manly beer or two once that happens. I’d like to go, too, but I’m not allowed out in these curls and short pants.