(Whatever You Do, Don’t) Ask Doug! #2

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[Editor’s note: A full year ago, Doug McKelvey debuted his (probably fictional?) advice column “(Whatever You Do, Don’t) Ask Doug!”. In it, he began to trace the curious and entirely improbable tale of Paul Harvey, complete with extensive and dubious footnotes. Well, fret not, for the tale continues. Read on for the next installment in this far-flung adventure, and stay tuned to see what happens next.]

Dear Ask Doug Or Not!1,

I’m a little embarrassed to ask this, but I actually need some romantic advice. There’s a girl I’ve known for a long time. Well, technically I’ve only known of her—but I’ve done that for a really long time. And by that, I mean that I’ve been aware of girls—generally speaking—as a genre, though not necessarily of this particular girl. But now I am. Aware of her in particular, I mean. Kind of.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m going to be a contestant on a reality show this Fall, and 23 other guys will be vying for my woman’s hand. Technically, we haven’t met. But I already know she’s the one for me. How? My palms feel tingly when I think about her. So I’ve got physical science on my side. And also possibly magic.

And if our connection is already this amazing when we haven’t even met yet, think how heartbroken I’ll be if she accidentally chooses one of the wrong guys just because he’s smarter, richer, wittier, more fun and handsome and romantic, and a better listener than me! 

Is there anything you can do to help me win this? I guess what I’m really Ask-Doug-ing2 is “Do you know any of the producers on the show, and if so, do you have any dirt on them that I could use for leverage?”

Signed,

A Lot to Chew On in Chattanooga.


Dear Chattanooga Chew-Chew3,

I’m sorry, but do I frequently interrupt you when you’re talking? 

No? 

Then pray tell why are you interrupting me? 

If you read my most recent4 Ask Doug! column, you would know that I’m still in the middle of telling a story about the golden age of radio—and not about reality dating shows. And if you didn’t read my previous column, how did you even know to write to me with such an off-topic query? Stand down, sir. You are out of order. No, you are out of order! 

When last I checked, this column was still devoted to the exploration of sundry things Paul Harvey-ish—namely his popularity as a ruby-throated5 radio star, and the trouble brewing as his research staff grew increasingly lazy and began to feed poor Mr. Harvey less-than-entirely-factual facts for his most successful syndicated show “The Rest of the Story.”

I had only just mentioned, in fact, Mr. Harvey’s small Spanish goat6, and how I was probably not going to write any more about it. So we will begin there, taking special care never to mention the goat again.7

If you really want a sensationalist advice column about torrid reality dating shows, I suggest you either contact Chuck Woolery or pen it yourself. Now please, dear readers, I sincerely beg you to cease these relentless interruptions and allow me to move forward with our story…

Who Was This Paul Harvey 
& Why Should You Care 
About Part 2 of 
Who Was This Paul Harvey and Why Should You Care?

Emboldened by the success of their initial subterfuge, and probably high on cheap adrenaline8, Harvey’s staff grew ever lazier and sloppier in their labors. Having introduced a few story compounds that were a scant 2% false and a walloping 98% true, they now began to experiment with broadcast stories that were 10%, 20%, or even 40% fabrications.9 This steady decline in “reality congruence”10 went on for six years—a time referred to now as “The Half-Score Affront To Honesty In Human Relationships, Specifically In the Area of Broadcasting and as Pertaining to the Question of Trust Between a Broadcaster and His Listeners, More Specifically When that Broadcaster Happens to be Paul Harvey, Good Day!™”11.

Such a gross web of prevarication could not last though. In the spring of 1977 Paul Harvey signed on to the airwaves from his kobold-proof, diamond-studded booth,12 and delivered the following address, having no foreknowledge that his well-enunciated words—uttered in utter innocence and without sibilance—were destined not only to shock an already flabbergasted nation, but to threaten Harvey’s own seemingly impenetrable popularity, shaking both the one, and then the other, to their very foundations. 

The episode told a simple story about an obscure chapter in the life of one of America’s most popular presidents. But the ratio of truth-to-falsehood had been increased to a volatile mix. The story that aired that day was simultaneously 48% TRUE, and 73% FALSE, an unstable super-capacity formula that every mathematician worth his or her salt can tell you will “in igneous fervor combust most roundly and robustly”13 with even the slightest spark. 

And Paul Harvey was a chain smoker.14

ORIGINAL Script for PAUL HARVEY’S 
September 27, 1977 
“The Rest of the Story” RADIO BROADCAST

PAUL, CLEAR YOUR THROAT BEFORE TURNING THE MIC ON. NO, DON’T READ THIS PART OUT LOUD! THIS IS JUST SUPPOSED TO BE A NOTE OF INSTRUCTION BEFORE YOU BEGIN. PAUL! STOP READING THIS PART ON AIR! OH, NEVER MIND. JUST GO ON TO THE NEXT PART—

Hello listeners, I’m Paul Harvey, and this… [COUNT SLOWLY TO 46 BEFORE COMPLETING THIS SENTENCE]15 …is the rest of the story!

BOOM! The first blow lands on the man’s nose, like a hurtling meteor intent on extincting16 all dinosaur life on earth, if earth were represented by the man’s nose on which the blow had just landed. A second uppercut follows with lightning speed, catching the base of the jaw and turning the hapless fellow’s knees to jelly, as if part of his legs were jars, or maybe all of his legs were jars, and it just so happened that the jars that just so happened to be where his knees ought to have been just so happened to be jars that contained a fruity jelly, some of which just so happened to have spilled out because the jars just so happened to have cracked and shattered, so that they no longer retained any rigid structure with which to support the man’s imbalanced weight.17 The assailant steps back, hopping lightly on the balls of his feet. He is unusually agile for such a tall, wiry fellow. His fists are split and bloodied, but he continues to dance around, hoping for more. 

“Come on, Mr. Davis, you rascal!” he cries, exhilarated by the rapture of the battle, “Come at me like a man and I’ll drive those Dixie Scouts of yours through the back of your head!”

“Wha..? Dixie scouts?” The man is clearly confused. “I thought they changed their name to ‘The Chicks.18’”

“Obviously I’m talking about your front teeth, buddy. Come on, get up!”

But the man addressed as Mr. Davis has been hopelessly felled by the blows that came so suddenly, raining down on him in the cold darkness of the alley, as if those blows were a hail storm, only instead of ice clods, the hail just so happened to be made of iron daggers, daggers that just so happened to hit a man much like a fist. I don’t mean that it was the man who was much like a fist, but that the fists that hit the man were like a raining hail, a hail which just so happened to be like sharp, metal daggers, and what’s more, those daggers just so happened to be of the sort that tend to hit a man much like a fist. Which, again, isn’t to say that it was the man who was much like a fist… 

(NOTE TO EXALTED GRAMMARIAN & C.B.: Can you fix this? When Harvey reads this script on air it’s going to sound really confusing if you don’t. Thanks. P.S. I am also filling out the appropriate paperwork requesting that you brew a new pot of “Jolly Joe.” I know this will sound weird, but I think this six-day-old thick, silty stuff in my Harvey Flask™ tastes of wrath and resentment and also possibly of a dark desire to destroy this and perhaps also many other worlds.  Thanks much! —Jimmy.19)

The forlorn and dagger-like-hail-fist-pummeled man whispers wearily to himself “Can’t an underemployed minor philosopher find gentle solitude and peace of mind anywhere?” His head is swimming with “donkey whiz” swilled earlier at one of D.C.’s public gin tanks20, and now throbbing from the beating. His lip is swollen, and his nose thrown out of alignment21. He hears one of Schopenhauer’s chants reverberating in his head as he feels about existentially22 on the cobblestones for his glasses, but cannot find them. “What kind of a person would accost and harry a minor philosopher” he wonders, “seeing as how we do so much good for humankind?”23 Warily he raises his eyes and squints at his assailant. 

The apparition flitting before him in the lamplight would rival Ichabod Crane for general lankiness. Yet there is something so familiar about the fellow… if only he would hold still. That beard… that stovepipe hat… The victim’s numbed mind struggles to pull the picture together.

“On your feet, General Lee! Or have you had enough of my ‘fists o’ thunder’?” The ominous scarecrow bellows at him a second time.

Suddenly it all comes clear. This man is… is… no, it can’t be! But it is!24

“Oh Captain!” the tipsy philosopher cries mournfully, “My captain!”

PAUSE HERE FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT, PAUL, BEFORE LAUNCHING INTO THE MAIN NARRATIVE. NO, PAUL, DON’T READ THIS PART ALOUD! THIS IS JUST A NOTE FOR YOU. STOP READING IT OUT LOUD! JUST MOVE ON TO THE NEXT PART! SHEESH!

The summer of 1885 struck hard and fast, like a golfball slammed home down the windpipe, in a scenario where the golfball represents momentous events and the windpipe represents pretty much everything else. Rumors of war were in the air (and soil), and the Swedish Tobacco Crisis was causing shockwaves on Wall Street that threatened to shutter every last two-dollar mom-and-pop dime store in the country. The country had been too preoccupied to remember to vote, so President Lincoln was enjoying the onset of an unprecedented fifth term in office, when the news reached him over the Pinkerton Telegraph: The South had agreed to unconditional surrender on the basis of one condition—that they be allowed to permanently secede from the Union, and that they receive double compensation for the seventeen potato cruisers torpedoed by the North in the Battle of the Pleiades25, four months prior. Nevermind that the potato boats belonged to the North26 and were destroyed as part of Lincoln’s premature ‘scorched earth’ policy. 

Lincoln, whose temper was never a secret, ripped the telegraph wire out of the wall, mildly electrocuting himself in the process.27 Feeling “a great desire to exact some serious vengeance, no bones about it, people,” he then ordered that the entire telegraph line the message had traveled over be felled and burned pole-by-pole, from Washington to Chicago. Then he sent for Pinkerton and had him pilloried and publicly ridiculed, placing upon “his moist and squalid brow” a one-hundred-twenty-pound butternut squash, cultivated specifically for that purpose of “most incogitable and loathsome obloquy28.” These actions, though carried out in a fit of anger, were actually calculated to strike terror in the hearts of Southerners, for, as Lincoln himself said, “If we will not hesitate to so humiliate our truest friends, how much more terrible must be the ponderous and vengeful gourds we shall deposit upon the noggins of our enemies!”29

The South, however, responded with a bizarre string of proactive, preemptive attacks upon their own people, punitively perching ponderous prize pumpkins30 atop the heads of more than two hundred local mayors and mayoral hopefuls31. The state of South Carolina was so devastated by this cannibalistic infighting that she actually surrendered in confusion to the Southern government “like a whipped puppy with its tailward parts tucked neatly ‘neath,” to quote then Georgia Senator Ombudsman “Baconwrap” Montgomery.32

Lincoln, sensing a window of opportunity in this odd turn of events, disguised himself, first as Jefferson Davis, then as Davis’ wife Begonia Cleopatra Happenstance Elizabeth33, and set out by rail for a clandestine tour of South Carolina, hoping to win the beleaguered populace back to the fold of the Union. This may have given rise to the historical myth that Davis’ wife was a tall, gangly, bearded woman.34

Though easily explained in light of Lincoln’s charades, this curious myth still persists, finding its way into numerous history books, movies, and epic poems about Jefferson Davis. In reality, President Davis was an advanced polygamist (LVL 17) who had fifty-five wives, twelve of whom were numbered amongst the “Virginia sharpshooters” that fell in the assault on Sherman’s forces at Appomatox.35

Though enemies never succeeded in identifying and unmasking the well-disguised Lincoln, he was able to effect little in the way of swaying public sentiment. After a two-week bout with the “Carolina Malaria36,” he returned to Washington, D.C., broken, humbled, and deeply frustrated, “like a man with his hindermost parts where his head should have been,” remarked acting Secretary of State John “Cookie-Heart” Admantle. 

White House aids silently adopted the “fifty foot” rule, refusing to approach any nearer the chief executive out of fear for their own safety. Those who accidentally violated this dictum more often than not found themselves immobilized in a vicious bear hug, headlock, or full nelson, grappling with the president, who would not release his victims till other staffers came and pried his arms and legs loose from the hapless target, at which point Abe would immediately ensare one of the would-be rescuers. 

“A president never lets go!” he would shout.37

This exhausting cycle sometimes repeated for up to six hours before the president tired of the game and fell asleep in a crumpled heap on the floor.

Within a matter of days, Lincoln’s mood had turned even more morose, sullen and angry. He was often overheard muttering his dark thoughts aloud. Even his wife, Mary Toad38 found herself powerless to “pull the tall man” from the icy depths of self.

Abey is scarce himself, she wrote in her diary dated March 17, 1885. He takes his breakfast in the tub, submerging his scrambled eggs for several minutes before consuming them, as he has known the raccoons to do, and he does not sing when his back is scrubbed with the bristle brush, as he used. Even the light tickling of his feet brings scarcely a smile, and once he even rebuked me for my pains. I fear for the Union, and most of all for the minor philosophers.

Mary always feared for the minor philosophers.39

The next evening, Mary Toad, along with Colonel “High-Steppin’” Wilhelm and Vice President Eliazer “Immortal-Biscuit-Mix” York40, cornered Lincoln in his study and bolted the doors behind them. There is no record of what was said in that fateful meeting that lasted less than five minutes, but eyewitnesses report that when the doors were unlocked, Lincoln burst out “like a man stuffed full of angry ants all half-drunk on rancid linseed oil,” ripping off his shirt so that “fiyve buttons did flye moste erratically and did stryke a gentle page upon hyne41 orb of eye.” 

The president then rushed from the White House and into the street, where he bellowed an ululating, open-throated cry, hailing one of D.C.’s  storied and infamous moose-drawn cabs.

Prickly knees! Sticky knees! Dry, scaley, scabby knees! Say, friends, are your knees too often unsightly and imperfect? Do you dread summer, when your friends and co-workers pressure you to wear shorts, and then you have to walk bent over double with your hands covering your knees, just so random strangers won’t heap deep shame upon you? Well fear no more! There’s a product that can make those unsightly knees glow like yine orb of eye: Uncle Dorsey’s Premium Knee Shine & Polish. Just three applications is all it takes. Wipe it on. Lie motionless in bed for a debtor’s week42, and wipe it off. Repeat, and repeat again. It’s as easy as that! Uncle Dorsey’s Premium Knee Shine & Polish—available wherever Uncle Dorsey’s Premium Knee Shine & Polish is sold!


And at that commercial break, dear reader, we shall also momentarily leave off lest this, our second installment of “Don’t Ask Doug!” expand to an unwieldy length. Here we shall resume and complete our narrative when next we convene. Till then, may you each remain undisputed champions of whatever spheres and realms you inhabit.

Cordially, and with utmost haste, I remain, 

Ask Doug.

  1. Frustrated poets, take note. While the letter-writer has utterly failed in their lone opportunity to correctly name this column, they have nonetheless offered up a passable near-rhyme for “Tear-gassed Juggernaut,” a phrase long-considered the gordian knot of theoretical poetry problems. For similar, unsolved academic poetry puzzles, see campho-phenique stromboli and Fargus’ argyle tourniquet nougat. The latter is a six-centuries-old “unrhymed spinster” phrase that famously stumped and frustrated as formidable a genius as Lord Byron at the height of his powers. It stands to this day as a poetic theorist’s perpetual nightmare.
  2. No. We are not going to verb the column title. Please don’t do this again.
  3. Never be ashamed to go for the low-hanging fruit, dear readers. That’s why it’s there.
  4. See March 27, 2020. This is proof that good writing takes time, people.
  5. Not to be confused with the Eastern Indigo Harvey which winters in Miami Beach, the Ruby Throated Harvey is considered to be non-migratory, though it will sometimes get out on a Saturday night for dinner and a movie.
  6. Nonexistent, but nonetheless necessary to our tale.
  7. Notwithstanding the two brief non-mentions above which were entirely necessary but also never happened.
  8. An avian variant harvested from the suction-pockets of Nebraska scarecrows, often heavily diluted with corn and corn byproducts, and kept under guard in a secret chamber of the Nebraska Corn Palace which one may enter only after lisping the 50-syllable password to the wary gift shop attendant, and then successfully answering a series of 88 Corn Riddles (also known as Husk-Crackers). Any wrong answer will lead to permanent imprisonment in the fetid dungeons beneath the Corn Palace. Those who correctly answer the riddles must then, armed only with a rusty hoe, defeat the malevolent and hideous Corn Dragon in deadly combat. Most people simply don’t consider a cheap, ineffective, diluted, off-brand of bird-based adrenaline to be worth so much mortal risk and trouble, but Paul Harvey’s research staff apparently did. Alternately, it’s also possible that they weren’t high on cheap adrenaline at the time. If you reread the footnoted sentence above, you will note that I did specify probably, though perhaps I should have written it as probably not instead. They were probably not high on cheap adrenaline. Either way it works out to pretty much the same thing: That we simply cannot know, and so we are left with no option other than wild speculation. In a 24 hour news cycle, even respected journalists have come increasingly to rely on this approach, and if you are comfortable with it, then so am I, dear reader, so am I.
  9. These stories made such bold claims as the following: 1) A hapless Richard Nixon had pushed China to the brink of nuclear war when, grossly misunderstanding what was culturally appropriate, he playfully nibbled the knees of the Chinese premiere without permission. 2) Andrew Jackson’s visage on the $20 bill first appeared 80 years before his birth! 3) Dolphins are made entirely of sugar. Each of these stories contained at least a grain of truth. Nixon did bite the Chinese premiere, but it was on the left elbow, and only because he became confused at the buffet. (Nixon, his aides reported, always became confused at buffets.) Jackson’s visage did spontaneously appear on the $20 bill, but it was only a scant 20 years before his birth (and triggered by an internal accounting error at the Office of Prophecy & Currency). And dolphins, science now tells us, are actually made of equal parts sucrose, glitter, oil slicks and cheap adrenaline.
  10. Your words, not mine.
  11. It is now referred to in this way, but in general it is not referred to very often. In fact, this might be the first officially documented use of the term—though that in no way diminishes the truthfulness of the statement.
  12. Rumored to be 20 levels deep beneath the Seattle Space Needle. Though this may, in fact, not be true at all. It could be more than 30 levels deep for all we know. At any rate, it has never been discovered, possibly due to the aura of glamourie surrounding the small, Spanish goat we have so often promised never to speak of again. Let us now finally make good on our word, at last never speaking of it again.
  13. Again, those were your words, dear reader, not mine. Personally, I think you could have phrased it less archaically.
  14. I mean this metaphorically. I don’t know what the man’s actual vices were—only that people loved him for them. Including the metaphorical ones. Which is why I mention the chain-smoking in the first place. In a literal sense it was probably untrue. And that’s why people just couldn’t get enough of it. In Harvey’s own words: “An insecure smoker yearns to be seen smoking often to prop up his own fragile ego. But a true smoker never has to light up at all. Such is their absolute mastery of those terrible powers.” Okay, can we please just go on now?
  15. This premeditated interlude of Harvey’s was awarded the coveted “Most Dramatic Recurring Pause in Talk Radio and/or TV News Broadcasting” Award at the 1976 “Talkies & Hosties” Awards Ceremony. The first-runner-up that year was Walter Cronkite’s garbled but nevertheless iconic nightly news broadcast sign off “And that just am how we done… on today.” Industry insiders later leaked internal documents suggesting Cronkite had won the secret academy vote by a landslide, but was quietly disqualified after Harvey’s legal team threatened to sue on the grounds that Cronkite did not maintain strict silence during his pauses, but usually passed those seconds “mumbling softly to his thumbs like a baby.” Cronkite glossed over this incident in his NYT best-selling memoir “How Am I Done So Far?” but his friends reported that his unresolved resentment of Harvey only became greater with time, poisoning even his ability to enjoy the semi-private, weekly celebrations he referred to as “Dairy Thursdays.”
  16. True Story: Not only had Harvey’s staff grown lazy about fact-checking, but they had by this point actually locked Harvey’s “Exalted Grammarian & Coffee Boy” in the broom closet for publicly questioning the existence of the Small, Spanish Goat that all understood they were never to mention, even as we also now understand that we are similarly forbidden to do. The end result was that Harvey’s previously-immaculate scripts were now riddled with grammatical errors, embarrassing typos, feral nouns, dangle-bobbed verbs, forbidden clauses, and redundant, superfluous, gratuitous, excessive, and overabundant modifiers. This unjust imprisonment also meant that Harvey’s staff were now imbibing their caffeine in the form of “a week-old witch’s brew” that most resembled an unfiltered, industrial sludge and that, by this time, was probably sentient.
  17. See previous footnote. It’s hard to put a price on the services of a good grammarian. Or a good coffee boy. Though four dollars an hour is probably a good starting point.
  18. Historians have long been baffled by this reference, able to make neither heads nor tails of it. There are some who now claim it is a sort of “minor prophecy,” while others contest the reliability of that portion of the manuscript altogether, owing to the many eraser smudges and seemingly-sentient coffee stains that obscure portions of the page. The small, Spanish goat is said to have taken the issue under consideration a decade ago, but has yet to rule on the matter and so we should probably not even speak of it. The goat, I mean. We shouldn’t speak of the goat. I thought I had already made that clear. You really shouldn’t need me to keep telling you this.
  19. Many historians cite the presence of this so-called “Jimmy Fragment” in the final script as proof that Jimmy was not involved in the capture and containment of the “Exalted Grammarian & Coffee Boy,” and that he must have had no knowledge of the kidnapping. Others, however, have pointed out that this note first appeared 80 years before Andrew Jackson’s birth and was only—well after the Harvey Scandal hit—cut and pasted into this script. There is probably no one alive today who knows the entire truth, except perhaps the Small, Spanish Goat, sequestered far beneath the Space Needle (perhaps even in the alien-invasion-response-center 600 levels down) but now unmentionable and sworn to secrecy and also possibly nonexistent. The larger issue in play is that historians have never been able to identify with any certainty which “Jimmy” penned this note. Was it Jimmy Toledo in ad sales,  Jimmy Grigsby in publicity, Jimmy Shankle the antennae tech, or the enigmatic Elfen Jimmy whose spontaneous appearance every three years with a shiny silver tureen of golden Idaho potatoes frightened and unsettled Harvey’s entire staff?
  20. More of a trough, really, as the tanks had no tops. But they did have government-subsidized, super-long crazy straws so a fellow didn’t have to dunk his entire head in order to “suck a swig or swill!” Oh, to have lived in that wilder, more innocent time, dear reader, when the Western territories were yet a volcanic wasteland ruled by the mighty triceratops, the U.S. Senate was populated by wizards and alchemists rather than lawyers and future lobbyists, and even the most infamous of outlaws were delightfully flamboyant and roguishly lovable characters, exactly as depicted in song and film!
  21. This misalignment meant that he would forever-after misinterpret astringent, turpentinic odors instead as notes of dark chocolate and dried cherry, with hints of hickory, chikory, and licorice. Roses, on the other hand, would smell to him like wet gopher.
  22. This is always the adjective that best describes how philosophers feel.
  23. “Or intend to, at some point…” he adds quietly to himself, after another moment of reflection.
  24. Even if it can be, it still is anyway. Some things are just that way, and a philosopher, of all people, should be okay with that. But this one apparently wasn’t.
  25. Out near the moons of Orion. Right across from “Cecil’s Rib Shack” if you know where that is.
  26. But, as Jeb “Hootenberger” Hootenberger, the official spokesman and apologist for the Confederacy, was quick to point out, “If we had won the war then those would have become our potato boats, so technically, from our standpoint, vis-à-vis the way we see things, not as they are, but in a truer sense as they should have been, those boats were most definitely ours. So despite losing the war, we nonetheless demand our moral and rightful compensation, up to and including the construction of a new Gibbon Exhibit for the Charleston Zoo… Wait, who added that line to the press release? I thought we had agreed no pork barrel projects attached to this bill. Guys, can I just get a do-over on this press conference and start again? No? Dang. I was afraid you’d say that.”
  27. Some say this only increased his inhuman powers. But others say that No, it was irradiated beef, not electricity, from which Lincoln—unlike Harding (who actually used to sleep in a convection oven that he might be in constant contact with the electrical coils)—drew his unnatural strength.
  28. Once again, dear reader, your words and not mine. Though I must say in this instance it begins to seem as if you’re simply putting on aires,  rifling through your thesaurus a bit too heavy-handedly and, might I add, transparently?
  29. Abe’s predilection toward unprovoked vengeance is also likely why the seventeen elder Lincoln brothers quietly vanished during the years leading up to Lincoln’s presidency, slipping away while they still could in homebuilt “Madison Flyers” to establish a secret mining enclave in the Kuyper belt, in the end leaving only “Baby Abey” to assume the terrestrial throne.
  30. Keven Q. Beadles, Harvey’s Chief Alliterationist on staff, had not yet been outed and imprisoned for daring to proclaim the existence of the small, Spanish g–t, and so at the time, Harvey was still the beneficiary of some amazing phrases like this one in his radio scripts. “There’s nothing more emotionally powerful than the bold repetition of the popping P! Agree, or disagree?” Harvey would often blurt, whenever a conversation grew stalled or awkward.
  31. This term means something very different nowadays from what it did in Lincoln’s time. Back then, a mayoral hopeful was a utopianist who believed that the Mayors were beings who sprung spontaneously from the organic, indigenous forces “latent in rock and spring,” and that, “owing to their magical origins” would soon reshape the natural world, gathering all peoples in to “a bright, shining village built of a fine and glorious mud, in which king and commoner alike would frolic and enjoy abundance of sweet, clotted cream and sauces of vinegar and many pickled fishes perhaps not every day but no less than once per week.” It is easy now to chuckle at the quaint beliefs of the Mayoral Hopefuls, but keep in mind that in their day more than 38% of the population of the U.S. subscribed to such cultic dogmas, and Mayors were often revered and worshipped as demigods. What we would today consider a bribe actually has its roots in the sacrifices and tributes of skylark feathers, lumps of tin, and industrial patents offered in hopes of pacifying the wrath, or attaining the blessing, of those early mayors.
  32. “We might not have technically beat the North, but we definitely proved that Georgians are superior to South Carolinians,” he went on to say, slapping his eight, bristly-haired, spidery fingers upon the senatorial lectern (long ago forged in ancient darkness from the mysterious transmutation of antarctic meteorites), “and to my reckoning, that should be credited to us as total victory. Now about reparations for those potato boats…”
  33. In those days, all women “of substance and standing” took four names, so that if one were sullied by gossip or hearsay, they would still have three others to fall back on.
  34. A myth that, while most likely untrue, still communicates a greater historical truth. i.e. that Davis’ wife probably did actually exist, else how could she have been so convincingly impersonated by Lincoln? And in fact, there is increasing historical evidence that it was fashionable at the time for a ladies of “exceedingly particular distinction” to wear fake beards “wove of scraps scraped soft of otter and marmot,” and to adopt the “swaggering walk of a lumberjack,” whilst still speaking in “demure and childish tones, as befits any woman of standing well-bred and buttered.”
  35. I’m never sure how that’s spelled.
  36. See also adrenaline-induced corn blindness. See also LVL 5 Mayoral Curses and Their Known Cures.
  37. Which obviously isn’t true, but Abe seemed to believe it well enough at the time.
  38. Often intentionally misprinted as “Mary Todd” to obfuscate the embarrassing fact that our nation’s first lady was once, quite literally, a large, magical toad.
  39. This is actually the second most common fear reported amongst all species of giant toads. The first being the repeated horror of waking each morning to realize once again that one is still a giant toad.
  40. Colorful nicknames have always been part of the pageantry of the Executive Administration, but never more so than during the reign of Lincoln. At least in his circles though, all of the nicknames were earned. Eliazer York had indeed developed a biscuit-mix recipe that might confer immortality on all who consumed the product. Unfortunately the vice-presidential test kitchen burned to the ground “in mesmerizing conflagration of suspicious azure flame” an hour before the entire Lincoln administration were scheduled to assemble and consume that inaugural batch of immortal biscuits, and neither the prepared batter, nor the hand-scrawled recipe, escaped that uncanny inferno. York was never-after able to accurately recreate that potent mix. Eight years later he claimed to have succeeded in scraping together an “apple pan dowdy” that might “add a day or so” to a person’s life, but as this was virtually impossible to prove, “Life-giving Yorky Dowdy” never caught on.
  41. An early colonial form of the masculine, possessive pronoun.
  42. A once-common term meaning “about a week-and-a-half,” the idea being that a debtor would have to pay interest, even on the number of days of the week, so that what was originally 7 days might have quickly compounded to 10 or 11. As debtor’s prisons were gradually abolished, the term eventually gave way to the now-common phrase “a week with Henry.” i.e. “I know we’ve only been stranded in this evil desert accosted by fiery scorpions and malevolent ghosts for two fell nights, but it already feels more like a week with Henry.”

Doug participated in the early work of Charlie Peacock’s Art House Foundation, an organization dedicated to a shared exploration of faith and the arts. In the decades since, he has worked as an author, song lyricist, scriptwriter, and video director. He has penned more than 350 lyrics recorded by a variety of artists including Switchfoot, Kenny Rogers, Sanctus Real, and Jason Gray. His newest book is Every Moment Holy (Rabbit Room Press). His other works include The Angel Knew Papa and the Dog (illustrated by Zach Franzen), The Wishes of the Fish King (illustrated by Jamin Still), Subjects with Objects (with Jonathan Richter), and Stories We Shared: A Family Book Journal (with Jamin Still).


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