London 2012 Parade of Nations: A frantic fashion review

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This is what I wrote during last night’s Parade of Nations. Colombia and possibly some other countries were ignored by the US TV coverage. I paused occasionally but couldn’t pause for long because the DVR only saves 30 minutes of HD programming. I don’t know the names of things and didn’t have time to look them up.

Pictures of some of the most interesting outfits are attached at the end.

* * *

Greece: vivacious, relaxed striped shirts, open collar, blazers

Afghanistan: sharp suits, shiny blue ties with crowns

Albania: Ugly red jackets, white open-collar shirts

Algeria: crisp track suits, white top, green pants

American Samoa: Garb from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, tropical shirts, all brown, fang necklaces

Andorra: red polo shirts, black … hoodies? Surprisingly slovenly

Angola: gingham dirndls

Antigua and Barbuda: Very sharp black suits, yellow shirts, some have ties some don’t

Argentina: ugly blue tracksuits with circa-1990 Umbro pattern

Armenia: look like they’re going to perform a Jewish wedding ceremony or something. Shawls? Linen pants?

Aruba: Lou Bega

Australia: hunter green blazers. Women have nice silk neckerchiefs.

Austria: ugly four-button blazer/jackets. ugly patches. face paint another negative

Azerbaijan: Stewardesses

Bahamas: I don’t like the light blue-white combination but it’s their flag colors. More scruffy blazers. Mostly-female team – runners?

Bahrain – everyone’s red/yellow robe looks different. too busy

Bangladesh: Love these ones. Grey blazers, charcoal pants, green ties. Only one woman? Red dress and grey blazer, a bit odd

Barbados: same shirts as Antigua, same blazers as Azerbaijan, Dockers

Belarus, extreme flag-color fixation with red shirt, green tie, but then entirely covered by white suit and pimp hat

In 2011 Denisse van Lamoen was voted “Chile’s Athlete of the Year” after winning at the 2011 World Archery Championships.

Belgium: Women have red blazers, men have red vests and black suits, look very wealthy, great.

Belize: Carnival barkers. Women in … bonnets? Ribbon looks like ribbon candy

Benin: opposite color scheme to Bahamas. Light blue good color for headwraps

Bermuda: red shorts? high black socks? Stewardesses x10

Bhutan: Giant cuffs, multiple silk outfits, not sure what to think

Bolivia: subtle shirt stripes, yellow ties not tied tight enough, Dockers, blah

Bosnia: Navy suits. Random businessmen. Flag waver is a doof

Botswana: I like the Montsho white suit. Men more sharp businessmen. Black suits, blue tie, flag colors good

Brazil: Those scarfs look stupid. Is that Mourinho? Some with green skirts, some yellow

B.V.I. tan suits. I like the green scarfs.

Brunei: Nice hijab and grey ensemble. Men look generic.

Bulgaria: No flag colors at all. Ecru blazers, berets. Can’t tell if solid color or stripes. Cabanawear

Burkina faso: A little on the nose. Red/yellow/green AND too baggy. Sneakers? Nice straw hats

Burundi: Went ALL OUT with robes. And walking sticks. Fabulous

Cambodia: Tan blazers, navy pants? You’re backwards.

Cameroon: Beuatiful embroiderd Robes that make everyone look 250 pounds. Beautiful and complicated hats

Canada: CANADA windbreakers. White shirt, red tie. Pants too thin. Sikh guy

Cape Verde: Windbreakers, seemingly no uniform under windbreakers. Blah Nice flag

Caymans: nice straw hats. green tie. more carnival blazers with huge lapels. green cuffs very nice touch

C.A.R.: ties with woolen jackets? Weird.

Chad: Same shirts and ties as C.A.R., with actual jackets this time. Still not great

Chile: red and blue striped ties? nothing special. Why don’t they all wear the archery lady’s hat?

China: white Dockers, red blazers, gold trim a nice touch

Comors: Those hats are weird. I like the baggy pants because they match the shirt

Congo: Average businesspeople. Nice blue/blue/white ties I guess

Cook Islands: Wow Hawaiian stereotype galore, green color scheme

Costa Rica: hat, jackets, pants three different shades of beige. Interesting look

Cote d’Ivoire: These robes are promising. Didn’t see details.

Croatia: Wow lots of people! Way too relaxed, tracksuits, I see midriff

Cuba: Love the ties. Shirts oddly small collar. Yellow blazers not so nice, look like NFL commentators

Cyprus: By far the nicest windbreakers so far. Is orange a Cyprus color?

Czech: Blazers and shorts? Women look like they’re going from work to Zumba class. What are those, umbrellas? Galoshes? Covered with sparkles? WTF

DPRK: Look like poor but studious boarding-schoolers. ties and scarves askew

Dr. Congo: Yellow polo shirts. First polo shirts of the day.

Denmark: Women wearing 1940s-era blouses? Women look great. Men need to tuck in shirts, blazers too shiny,Dockers too baggy

Djibouti – I love the flag bearer. What is this other women have over her eyes?

Dominica: Men with matching ties and vests, TARTAN. Woman has green poncho reminischent of parrot on flag. GREAT

Dom. Republic : Ribbon on cowboy hat exactly lik eBelize. Men in guayaberas with strange stripes.

Ecuador: Tracksuits, saggy but nice colors, yellow yellow, but look bad next to people in suits

Egypt: Love the grey shirts with same-color-grey-but-black-striped ties. Nice grey hijab. Red scarfs getting too common

El Salvador: Wow. Gradients from white to navy. Certainly ambiious but … They look a bit embarrassed. Who’s the fat guy?

Equatorial Guinea: generic dark suits, red ties

Eritrea: gray suits, nice I guess. Look like something Larry Sanders would wear

Estonia: those shirts are shiny. How is the name attached? ARE those shirts?

Ethiopia: white. no time

Fiji: look like senior citizens, blue bocce ball wear

Finland: Umbro-pattern greyscale shirts – sweatsuit tops? white bottoms. Sneakers, not good

FYROMacedonia, very lightweight garb but long sleeved. Red pants snappy

France: I guess the ties are the shade of blue on the flag but I was surprised somehow. Not interesting. Designed for looking OK in groups?

Gabon – grene scarves look familiar. white cowboy hats nice ribbons

“The wily Bongo”

Gambia: Robes look like rain slickers. Great cuffs / collar

Georgia: Look like Canada but chic. Lot of old guys

Germany: This is a huge mess. Pastels? Same hats as Gabon? Bright blue? PINK? Scarves, blah blah

Ghana – Understated black things with ridiculous gold-lettered scarves ostentatious

Grenada – Good outfits – yellow-green shirts, dark green suits, ties striped, rhythm

Guam – not quite as stereotyped as other Pacific islands

Guatemala – I just don’t like this light blue color. espeically for blazers

Guinea: robes look like somthing someone would actually wear, nice mixed greys

Guinea-Bissau: Like Eq. Guinea but … women are wearing dark gray suits like men, only difference is white pants? Odd decision

Guyana: Red shirts, yellow suits. Yellow is the right shade but This is a bit much. Women inverted.

Haiti: Tracksuits.

Honduras – look sharp, navy jackets and lighter pants. Nothing between HA and HO?

Hong Kong: very pale tan blazers and blue pants. Again, this is backwards. nice straw hats

Hungary: Women unflattering red dresses. Men unflattering rodeo waiter outfits.

Iceland: Flagbearer looks like model. Oh, so does she. So do all the men. monotone blue windbreakers, good I guess. Crisp. team of androids from PROMETHEUS

India: Yellow turbans look like radish sculptures. Nothing else is clear

Indonesia: Nehru jackets are red. Women wearing three layers of leg covering? Like the black fezzers

Iran striped shirts, open collars, grey suits, Ahmadinjad look but striped

Iraq: tracksuits. Surprising! In national colors but look like the’re from Foot Locker

Ireland: that shade of green is always good but the zippered jackets are not.

Israel: What is that guy’s hair – nice shade of blue. More cabanawear. Pants PURE WHITE

Italy: These women’s scarves are the nicest? blue and white stripes. Men TINY ties. Understated

Jamaica – Yellow is too bright. Green is not good for tight pants. Uncordinated. Is that terrycloth? Wow, only team with apantyhose

Japan: same as China? Without the gold trim. I like the big collar points on the women

Jordan: women lovely flowers and/or stripes on robes. No men?

Kazakhstan: They look bizarre. Baseball caps? Blonde women? Jackets like Mubarak with name KAZAKHSTAN repeated. Scarves look actually warm

Kenya – Long red shirts, love the black buttons

Kiribati – outfit is flag. Nice wreaths. VERY nice wreaths.

South korea – whtite fedoras. lanyards obscure details. more white pants, sailor jackets

Kuwait: some in full dishdasha, some in jeans: Do not understand

Kyrgyzstan: Main guy’s hat even worse than Kazakh hat. I want to see fur hats not these polygons

Laos: Most generic-businessmen yet. Few even wearing techy glasses.

Latvia: Can’t go wrong with those colors. Well you can, but they used cream instead of pure white.

Levanon: Red is too orangey. Men and women have NOTHINg in common.

Lesotho: More gradient, this time not all the way to navy. gThey mock the Chinese with their conical hats

Liberia: Hideous

Libya: One guy in a nice suit.

Liechtenstein: are those jeans? Idle rich, blech

Lithuania – birght shirts, big collars, white jackets. Doesn’t quite work. Kevin Kline looks proud to be there.

Luxembourg: more idle rich.

Madagascar: Mulberry colord pants. Sleeves longuitudinal stripes. Straw Hats biggest brims yet. chaos but good

Malawi – like the combo of red and VERY DARK BLUE-GREEN and black suits

Malaysia – Oh god. Tiger-striped hammer pants? Red and white sneakers? Tiger-striped papal miters?

Mali – nice uniform white robe look. Keita great earrings

Malta – open shirts boring

Marshall islands – those wreaths and weird shawls all look like they were bought at Marshall’s

Mauritania – rival Mali in nice robes, this time blue.

Mauritius – those shirts should NOT be tucked in but they are. They should ALL have the four-color scarfs

Mexico – these outfits were all designed by Jorge Campos and made by Oaxacan woodcarvers. Everyone is different MY EYES

Micronesia – tropical shirts but don’t look stupid.

Moldova – exactly my low expectations. Grey shirts look too tight for men, men in dressup clothes and WOMEN ONLY in tracksuits?  How does that make sense

Monaco – Classy rich, not idle, up thwere with Gelbium

Mongolia – only sawflagbearer. He’s a time traveler

Montenegro – HOW ARE THIS MANY? Montegro like 400,000 people, 4,000 are Olympianms. Handball and water polo teams? Look like suede suits. Many buttoned only top button of 3 and look sleepy.

Mozambique – I like these shirts – burgundy. Black pants. Tan jackets. Nice actually.

Myanmar – nice grey suits.

Namibia – nice loose brown outfits. First to be BROWN rather than tan or beige

Nauru –  All I see is 1 big sumo guy

Nepal – women in fake-looking dresses. Men in cool black hats.

Netherlands – Michael Phelps carries the flag. Again these people have too many outfits. Orange is limited but still too much.

New Zealand – those shirts are fabulous. Black with small patterns AND fern thing

Nicaragua:  standard blue suits

Niger: white robes not as big as mali’s, like the orange hats and the green things

Nigeria: These robes are too big. The hats are too big. Like the Celtic knot

Norway: Idle rich. “N” logo looks like baseball team from the 40s

Oman – I LOVE these guys’ headwraps. They look worn! Except the idiot in the baseball cap

Pakistan – second people in vests without jackets. Vests oddly cut straight across the bottom

Still not the most flamboyant Rodman

Palau – these look like corduroys. Flag bearer is wearing Patrick Henry-style wig.

Palestine – nice scarf. Silvery. Peace signs

Papua New Guinea – ED HARDY

Paraguay – more straw hats with ribbons. More white pants. Woman in stewardess red dres

Peru – too baggy

Philippines – Nice shirt pleats

Poland – white blazers and white shirts, women have short blazers, skirts are great. Stirped shirts stereotype red-white obsession

Portugal – SOCCER SCARVES. Light blue shirts, white collars, navy jackets, dockers .. but GREEN BERETS tres schic

Puerto Rico – Lou Bega. Tourist insignia on fedoras

Qatar – dishdashas – women all in black  – oh, that woman is in a Qatar-colored tracksuits

Romania – mustard-yellow balzer? White shirt and white scarf? Something’s missing

Russia – straw hats? Of all the countries to have straw hats. Men have great scarves. Sharapova seems to be the only woman, oh there’s some more. Look like real clothes, except the silly hats

Rwanda – White Shirt buttoned up but no tie or jacket. ASCETIC

St. Lucia – black sneakers?

St. Vincent and Grenadines – same ugly green pants as Jamaica. Tops are unique and go well with flag .

Samoa – flowers in hair.

San Marino – Rich rich rich Blueblue blue

Sao Tome and Principe – Men like Rwarnda, women in nice muumuus

Saudi Arabia – as you’d expect

Senegal – Love the yellow robes. Men’s are loose, women’s are tight. Hmmmm. Woman is waving like The Queen

Serbia – jackets with rounded lapels on women, look bad. Men in sweaters? Or is that just Djovokic. All red and white. Men much better than women

Seychelles – nice cream colors and striped ties

Sierra Leone – not robes! Flowing white crinkly shirts, nice green yokes.

Singapore – terrible except the pastel scarves

Slovakia – Hats of scenesters. Women have striped tracsuit tops, men have non-striped tracksuit tops. Terrible

Slovenia – men in grey suits over blue zip-ups? Women same but green zip-ups? Better than it sounds. no wasted fabric

Satanic Manic Panic in the Pacific Tropics

Solomon Islands – they look embarrassed by those getups. What’s that guy done to his beard?

Somalia – Sky blue looks good for hijabs. Men’s scarves with stars look chintzy.

South Africa – Colors all over the place. Would look good on one person, not a crowd.

Spain – Gasol looks like MCConaughey in that hat. Scarves look great. Women too much yellow, men not enough but great paisley? ties

Sri Lanka – great outfits, stripes on one side but not the other. Muted colors but many colors

Sudan – robes too big. Women in giant napkins, sorry to say it

Suriname – maybe best tracksuits yet. Mostly green. Nice flag crets too

Swaziland – Nothing to say here, suit and tie

Sweden – Back to 1978 for these. Kristy McNichol and Charlene Tilton

Switzerland – red sweatervests, grey suits, men and women are the same but men’s is pullover and women’s is zipper? looks sharp

Syria – Ties too shiny. Ties too big. Suits too polyester. I see a wealthy fatcat

Taiwan – Striped jackets are hard on the eyes en masse, but also look bad with the non-striped pants. Lack of effort, D-minus

Tajikistan – That woman is in a nice silk pattern – Men in crazy blue-green shiny blazers. I just saw that guy for Syria, now he’s Tajik

Tanzania – women have nice flag-based scarves. Men look like elderly businessmen

Thailand – understated and attractive suits. Women in same suits as men but without ties.

Timor-leste – again nice flag scarves. Not much else.

Togo – Those shirts are too much clashing. Baseball cap never good either. THEY ALL HAVE BASEBALL CAPS. White guy in neck brace, what:

Tonga- – Plaid-ish ties are good. Everyone has a DIFFERENT grass-skirt thing. Ties are very good.

Trinidad / Tobago – nice combo of red and black. Women have what look like sashes but are part of the dress, great idea. Men should have ties but don’t, just black shirts

Tunisia – no ties. All unbuttoned in exact Same way. Hijab looks elastic, not great

Turkey – Nice shade of beige, same shade for both jacket and tie – circular badge slapped on  lazily

Turkmenistan – WOW. Velvet jackets. Satin? I forget which is which. Great hats but just for women!8-pointed stars! Blue! Green!

Tuvalu – face paint. Dumb tracksuits. Unique color scheme, blue and orange but not bright.

Uganda – men have off-white shirt things with great collars. Women have matronly robes.

Ukraine – Finally, A Furry Hat! only on flag bearer. Everyone else, barf

UAE – I see no theme here at all. Negative points and more negative points for baseball cap

USA – Nice flag scarves. Berets look good. All have badge right at front of hat, kind of unnerving. Look like prep school ties. Rounded collar points, brass buttons. Nice white skirts

Uruguay – light blue is nice. Hey where are they? USA again, USA USA

Uzbekistan – brown! All wearing same brown outfit. Businessmen

Vanuatu – red, yellow, green, black, blurry

Venezuela – all white. Never good.

Vietnam – cream jackets, dark tan pants. Snappy.

Virgin Islands – US ones? Most rustic straw hats yet. Nice blue summer shirts.

Yemen – that guy looks really wealthy. Jackets too shiny for black jackets.

Zambia – hunter green jackets, light green ties. I guess I always like that.

Zimbabwe – prep school outfits,

Team GB – crinkly gold trim on white outfits? Look like Sgt. Pepper’s Abba band. Pretty ostentatious. Who are those girls in the peasant petticoats? Anticlimax for real

* * *

There are not many photos out there of the costumes. I couldn’t find Madagascar or Malawi or Niger, some of the best African ones.

Anyway, some of the good:

Burundi

Dominica

Denmark

Turkmenistan

Georgia

Trinidad and Tobago

Costa Rica

* * *

the bad:

Ukraine

Togo

Kazakhstan

Czech Republic

Germany

Ecuador

Liberia

* * *

and the weird:

Estonia

El Salvador

Malaysia

Gambia

Cook Islands

Bermuda

* * *

Your thoughts?

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Five reasons to watch COME AND GET IT (1936)

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North country girl: Frances Farmer wonders whether to slip Edward Arnold a mickey, in COME AND GET IT (Hawks/Wyler, 1936).

1. The first 40 minutes. This is a boisterous depiction of hard-scrabble life in a lumber camp. Drinking, eating, hard-driving bosses, footage (stock, maybe) of trees being cut, logs being rolled around with giant tongs, fifty-foot piles of logs, giant sluice gates opening, rivers of logs being transported down V-shaped wooden channels and natural streams and rivers. Tough lumberman Barney Glasgow (Edward Arnold, perhaps the James Gandolfini of his day) works his men hard but treats them to the occasional smorgasbord and all-you-can-drink saloon bash. One ends in an all-out furniture-smashing donnybrook in which Barney, his Swede best pal Swan, and hard-luck torch singer Lotte are overcome by laughter as they whizz copper serving trays around to break all the glass in the house.

Then twenty years pass in a second and we resume in a world where  has become a titan of industry, one of Wisconsin’s most powerful men, complaining about Roosevelt and his damned trust-busting. The writing is good but the things that happen at home and at the office are far from captivating. His ensuing love triangle is half-hearted, and it’s strange how little time by comparison is given to his cutie-pie daughter Ewie and her modern style of socks [Andrea Leeds of Stage Door fame]. I was sure her quips about her rich dud fiance would pay off, but no.

2. Frances Farmer as Lotte Morgan. Her performance here puts flesh on the bones of her legend. I don’t know anything about acting techniques, but for the 20 minutes or so that she’s on screen as Lotta, recipient of a million “How’d a classy lady like you wind up in a place like this?” remarks, she seems more alive than everyone else. Edward Arnold reacts with his face, then he says his line, then he does some physical transition into someone else’s line. Frances Farmer does all those things at once.

Sadly she spends the last 60 minutes as Lotte’s eponymous daughter, gazing prettily and following a basic “1. Resigned to gold-digging. 2. Wait, a happy ending is possible!” character arc. I don’t like the “One actor plays two roles, and other characters are amazed at how similar they look” maneuver under any circumstances; this movie is a damned sight better than The Legend of Lylah Clare, but come on. This isn’t a fairy tale. Identical twins can’t be born 20 years apart.

3. Walter Brennan in a serious, non-Western role as the emotional anchor of the movie, Swan [was “Sven” really americanized as “Swan”?]. Brennan is 41 here and Arnold is 45. Brennan seems 25 years older than Arnold when they’re both young men, and 15 years older than Arnold in the later scenes. It’s a paradoxical performance. By throwing himself fully into the El Brendel yumpin-yiminy accent he gives the yes-man character vitality, and he has a stooped posture that makes him look more dignified. He’s a pathetic figure in the sense that he feels he’d go from a king to a peasant if he leaves rural Wisconsin. He’s strong and sharp but knows he can be taken advantage of.

4. Mady Christians’ owl hat.

5. It’s a good sign when a formulaic-looking movie is based on a popular novel [in this case by Looney Tunes favorite Edna Ferber]. This is a standard titan-of-industry family melodrama, but individual scenes are just a little more unpredictable for being adapted from idiosyncratic source material. [Of course I haven’t read the book and this might just be what Wikipedia means by “cluttered with Hawks-like improvised bits of business”.]

One crucial conversation is interrupted by a boiling candy spill and resumes during a comforting, semi-erotic bout of taffy pulling. Another major conversation takes place while two people are playing with one of those proto-yo-yo toys where a wooden doorknob-spool-thing spins on an outstretched cat’s-cradle. One of the few things we know about Barney Glasgow’s inner life is that he really enjoys the behaviour of his daughter Ewie. A real firebrand, she calls him by his first name even though her mother doesn’t, she wants to marry a Bohunk machine operator, she abhors all silence. He has three children and this is the one he likes. But still he’s an autocrat. His son is just another employee to be manipulated and ignored. (Joel McCrea bounds around like a young Dick Van Dyke in the role but has little to do other than the candy-making scene and a little bit where he invents the disposable paper cup, in an eerie presage of Sturges’s The Great Moment.)

However, the second part of Come And Get It really rushes to its climax. Scenes at the family house, either Barney’s mansion or Swan’s comfortable cabin, proceed thoughtfully and carefully at the risk of claustrophobia. Then they finally get to an aristocratic social gathering with fancy outfits, in other words a ball, there’s a brief glimpse of dancing and dining, and then confrontation after confrontation in the space of minutes 91 to 99, then sudden forgiveness and the banging of the great dinner gong.

Some stark differences in emphasis between scenes set in different places make evident the film’s tortuous construction process. There’s one exhange in which Lotte Jr. tears into her cheerfully provincial aunt, giving in the whole “I’m too ambitious for this two-horse town, you and Pop can stay here but I’m headed for better things, this 50-year-old millionaire is my ticket out of here and he’s already wrapped around my finger, just you wait.” In every subsequent scene, including another private dialogue with he aunt, Lotte Jr. is wide-eyed and either conflicted or simply naive about the nature of Barney Glasgow’s interest in her. Either she’s under very deep cover, such that she’s actively trying to dispute the aunt’s recollection of their earlier argument, or the earlier scene was some hideous miscommunication between writers, directors and actors, left in because otherwise the emotional pitch of the last 60 minutes would be barely a whisper compared to the first 40.

Bugle transcript: The Congressman’s Penis

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Though no longer listed on his Wikipedia page, John Grisham’s controversial debut novella The Congressman’s Penis was serialized in Bugle issues 157, 158, 159, 161, 170, and 178; is available at an exclusive mezzanine tranche of bookshops; and is presented here for the first time in downloadable form.

* * *

1.

It was 4:30 AM. The sound of a dog barking rent the Philadelphia skies. Mickey Stantanio opened a resentment-filled eye. “F***ing dog,” he spat, stretching his arms and throwing his novelty doggie alarm clock at the wall.

The dog barked again. Balls, frouted Stantonio. That was actually a real dog. I’m gonna have to buy myself another alarm clock. Stantonio stood up on his bed and bounced up and down, shouting “Weehee!” until he fell awake.  That’s better, he chundled. Good morning, Mickey Stantanio, P.I., he greeted himself, hugging himself like the long-lost friend he was to himself.

He looked at his bed, his empty, empty bed. “Oh my god, where’s Janet?” he whispered to himself. Oh yeah, he remembered, she left me 12 years ago and emigrated to Namibia.  Stantonio removed and incinerated his pajamas, bedsheets, and teddy bear. No trace of him would be left in this one-star boutique motel.

He put the kettle on; took it off again; and chuckled to himself. That putting-the-kettle-on-my-head joke really works better when someone else has said “put the kettle on” before I put the kettle on my head, he admitted, drinking a cup of cold and unbrewed tea.

Just then he saw something in the middle of the table. He approached it cautiously. “Shit,” he said. “What the f*** is this?” It’s wooden, flat, seemingly with no writing or distinguishing marks on it. No, hang on, that is the middle of the table. But hang on, what’s on it?!

Stantanio, the 48-year-old private investigator, table-tennis aficionado, and erstwhile owner of a five-foot-long iguana, reached out to pick up the unexpectable parcel. “What the f*** is this?” he repeated. He opened the box. His eyes widened each other with amazement at what lay within. “shit on a pineapple tree,” he growled. “It can’t be — can it? It can! It’s a congressman’s penis! But,” he growled, “which congressman? And which of his penises? I’d better take this down to the lab and have it checked out.”

20 minutes later, Mickey Stantanio, P.I., was siting in his favorite cafe. Menopausal Brenda’s, on 13th and Gooch. Before him on the table sat two coffees — and a penis. “So, Mr. Penis — what’s your story?” opened Stantanio, casually flicking a bacon rasher into his mouth. The penis lay motionless on the table.

Stantanio thumped an eggy fist on the dispassionately Formica surface. “That’s your game, is it, penis? I want to know whose penis you are, why you’re not on that person anymore, and how you came to be in my hotel room!”

There was a timbre of desperation in Stantanio’s voice that morning. 48, divorced, broke, lonely, and with a congressman’s penis staring him the face over a plate of grits. This wasn’t the life he signed up for when he joined the force back in ’58. And the last thing he needed, today of all days, was to have to take fingerprints off a congressman’s penis. He finished his breakfast, leaving his solitary sausage understandably untouched on the side of his plate. He had his flaws as a man, did Mickey Stantanio, but he also had a sensitivity to the feelings of his dining companions.

“Come on, penis! We’re gonna get to the bottom of this!” Stantanio winked a flirtatious kiss at the chef, apologized, explained that he thought the waitress was still at the till, and promised it would never happen again. He picked up the penis, and he was just about to put it back in his glasses case when –

“Wait!” said the penis. “There’s something you should know.”

“I’m all ears,” said Stantanio, instantly realizing the biological inaccuracy of his claim, even as the words were still warm and wriggling in his mouth. The penis took a deep breath.

“What I’m about to tell you is gonna make Watergate look like a f***ing Taiwanese kids’ nativity play.”

“Awesome!” said Stantanio. “Wait till I tell Brenda about this. She’s gonna come crawling back to me like a slice of cheese.”

The penis fixed Stantanio in the eye. “I’m not just any congressman’s penis. I’m the penis of Congressman -”

And at that moment, a shot rang out. Stantanio jumped behind the coffee machine and held his hands together to form an imaginary pistol, and prepared to return pretend fire.

Another shot! A door slammed. A car revved. Stantanio emerged. “Kapow! Katwang! Kapow!” he shouted as he gave himself covering fire whilst running back to his table. But the penis – the congressman’s penis – had gone.

“Man, that is seriously annoying!” he said. “Someone knew that penis was here, and they wanted it back. Why?”

* * *

2. The Crotch of Despair

Mickey Stantanio ran out of Menopausal Brenda’s onto the intersection of 13th and Gooch. There was no sign of the congressman’s penis — not so much as a single stray foreskin. “Hey, lady!” he shouted at a passing man. “F*** you, schmuck!” replied the man., “I’m sorry,” apologated Stantanio, “I – I … I just had breakfast?” “That’s no excuse, you mongrel-screwing balstraing,” said the man.

“Fair point,” said Stantanio. “But you are wearing a dress, and you’ve got a cracking set of -”

“Hey, have some respect for a dame!” said the man.

“Sorry, sir. I’m Mickey Stantanio, private investigator. What’s your name?”

“Bridget Paranovskaya.”

“That’s a funny name for a guy ’round these parts.”

“Who says I’m a guy?”

“You did.”

“Oh yeah, I’m always getting them mixed up. No, I’m a gal. That’s the one, gal. You were right the first time. Man, has that little confusion got me into some scrapes.”

Mickey Stantanio, P.I., felt a surge of confidence coursing through his detectives’ veins. He still had it! It might only have been a small thing like telling a guy from a girl, but he still had it. “That’s the old Mickey,” he cuddled himself. “I’m gonna find that penis. And reattach it to the right congressman.”

“What did you say?” asked Bridget, sultrily sucking on a pickled herring.

“Did I say that out loud?” asked Mickey.

“You did. Loud as a fluorescent chicken in a farmyard full of grey ducks. Care to explain?”

“Maybe you’d like to care to explain, lady!” exploded Stantanio. His old confidence had not just come back – it had put its slippers on, helped itself to a beer from the refrigerator, and resoundingly broken wind on the sofa. It had come home to stay. “Lady, tell me straight. Have you seen a congressman’s penis?”

“Why, sure I have.”

“Where was it? Who was it with? Where did it go?”

“I’ll answer those questions in turn,” she said. “One: It was on a congressman. Two: It was with the congressman. And three: Do you want me to draw you a f***ing diagram?”

“Er, no need, lady. I think we might be talking about different congressmen’s penises here. I need to find that penis. I’m gonna split, Miss Paranovskaya. Paranovskaya – what is that? Venezuelan?”

“Russian.”

“Okay. Suremissparanovskayawhatisthat?venezuelan?”

There was an awkward pause in that Philadelphian air.

“Ahem, sorry.” said Mickey Stantanio. “So, the penis. Long story. You got a smoke?”

“Yeah, I got smoke,” said Bridget. “I got this canister of the stuff from a fire at a rubber factory. I was taking it over to my mother’s hospice. She loves the smell of burning tire.”

“Who doesn’t?” said Mickey, breathing in the fumes.  “Apart from old Joey Struber, of course. The late old Joey Struber.”

“Joey Struber’s dead?” asked Bridget.

“Yeah, did you know him?”

“No.”

“Why did you ask if he was dead?”

“Er … in case I ever meet him. How did he die?”

“Well, he was working undercover as the wheel on an illegal dump truck. Driver tried to speed away from the cops at a junction. Wheelspin. Left Joeymarks all over the road. Still, it’s the way he would have wanted to go.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Beats the crap out of being eaten by a Communist in a crocodile outfit. And Joey saw it as an either-or. So he died with a smile on his face.”

“Sounds like he died with a dump truck on his face.”

“That too, sweetcakes. That too. So! The penis. I found it this morning,” said Mickey. It’s a congressman’s penis – no doubt about it.”

“How do you know?” asked the lady, kicking her Wellington boots against a nearby tramp to wear them in for a hard winter’s booting.

“When you’ve been in this game as long as I have,” said Mickey, “you just know. You just know. So lady, where do you think we might find a congressman’s penis round here?”

“I got a suggestion for you,” grunted the lady, extricating her leg from the mouth of an irate tramp. “You ain’t gonna find a penis that small in a city this big. You need to do this by a process of elimination. To work out who is and who isn’t missing a penis, you need to see as many congressman in as trouserless a state as possible.”

“What, you mean go to Idaho? And hang around at bus stops?”

“No, I mean go to congress.”

“I like your thinking, sizzly lips,” he guzzled, arrogantly flicking the ash from her cigarette before her face caught fire again. “But a congressman with no penis – isn’t that just a congresswoman?”

“Um … not necessarily, Mickey Stantanio,” she said. “Not necessarily.”

Anyway, three days and one very long donkey ride later, Mickey Stantanio and Bridget rode into Washington, hotly pursued by an angry donkey-rental salesman shouting, “You only booked it for a f***ing hour, you pair of thieving shitbags!”

“You know more than you’re letting on, don’t you, lady,” said Mickey, realizing he was conversationally remortgaging himself but unsure about the interest rate.

“Sure I do, Mickey. I got a degree in 17th-century French literature. I could tell you all about Moliere, but I didn’t think you’d be interested, so I didn’t let on. Anyway, this can wait. We gotta break into congress and start looking at some penises, or that congressman’s penis is gonna be little more than an unpastried sausage roll for the rest of its life.”

* * *

3.

Mickey Stantonio stood in the vestibule of the congress building, dressed in his athletics kit. “And that, ladies and gentlemen,” he announced to the watching company, “is how you do the triple jump.”

The congressmen and congresswomen nodded their political heads; uttered platitudes to each other about taking the hop phase on board and moving forward to a more holistic approach to triple jumping; and scattered to order some new research sand pits.

“Phew,” extrapoloded Mickey. “Talking my way into congress by claiming I had to do a presentation on triple jumping was high-risk, but it worked – and I managed to set a new U.S. indoor triple jump record in the process, breaking Mike Conley’s long-standing and extremely patriotic distance of 17 meters 76. I just hope they don’t make me take a piss test. I’ve been eating nothing but kangaroo steaks for months to make myself boingier.”

Stantanio knew this was his chance to get into the congress shower block and check out some groins. “I’ve gotta get in there. By the sounds of it, Bridget has been pretty successful at disguising herself as the congress speaker and making inflammatory marks during a debate about the legalization of women, causing a mass wrestle on the congress floor. They’re all going to need to freshen up in the showers after that.”

Stantanio put on his lab coat; picked up his clipboard; and claimed to be a Nobel Prize-winning scientific research assistant from the International Institute of Wangology. He started questioning the congressmen as they filed in to shower.

“Congressman Lambredio, I’m Stantanio from the IIW. Have you got a penis?”

“Sure I have, Mickey, it’s right here in my wallet.”

“Okay,” noted Mickey academically. “Now you, Congressman Platch. Have you got a penis?”

“I sure do. Do you need it now? It’s just I left it in the glove compartment of my car this morning. I didn’t think I’d need it today.”

“Okay, no problem, Congressman,” said Mickey, scratching himself at the implication. It seems, he said internally, that all congressmen have removable penises. That penis that’s on the loose somewhere in the USA could be anyone’s.

Just then Congressman Polcrutchet strode in, in his wrestling kit. “Congressman, Mickey Stantanio, IIW. You got a penis?”

“Yeah … I got one of those. I keep it in a safety deposit box on my ranch. Do you want the code?”

“Wouldn’t that defeat the object of keeping it in a safety deposit box? said Mickey.

“Good point. Anyway, it’s 354175. Man, no wonder it keeps going missing.”

“Did you say it keeps going missing?” said Mickey.

“Sure it does,” said Polcrutchet.

“Congressman,” said Mickey. “When did you last see your penis?”

“Ah – er – oh, I’m not sure. Let me think. I took it out for dinner on our anniversary; that’s my birthday, the same thing really. Since then … I don’t know, I’d say two weeks? Two weeks at least.”

“Congressman,” said Mickey.  “Have you got any enemies? For example, anyone who might want to take your penis hostage?”

Congressman Polcrutchet gulped.

“I knew this day would come. For me — and for my penis. Sit down, Stantanio. We gotta talk.”

* * *

4.

Senator Polcrutchet had dropped a bombshell. And it had landed on his own foot. “Ouch,” he thought. “That would’ve blown my toe off if it hadn’t been metaphorical. The bombshell, not the toe. If my toe had been metaphorical, would the bombshell still have metaphorically blown it off? I guess I’ll leave that kind of philosophy to Malcolm Gladwell,” he chuckled, metaphorically rubbing a soothing mayonnaise balm onto his actual toe just in case.

Mickey Stantanio finished what had become a very physical disagreement with a coffee machine about what constitutes a cappuccino. In which, for the first time in his career as a professional life as a cop, P.I., and freelance trapeze artist, he had uttered the words “That’s just bubbly f***in’ brown milk.”

Anyway, he sat down with his notepad as Senator Polcrutchet prepared to spill the most refried of all possible beans.

“Okay, Senator. Fire away,” said Mickey.

The Senator took a gulp of water, sipped in the air as if he wanted to eat his own destiny with a side order of self-analysis. “So anyway, Mr. Stantanio, I was speaking to Maureen this morning and she said that Deirdre’s been told she can’t do any gardening anymore, what with her back, and of course Dennis is not long for this world anymore, and her Bridget’s been having an affair with the vicar, and it’s not good for her heart, what with him being an escaped Sudanese war criminal, and his wife being a man. And then there’s Enid. Well, if she will joust at her age, she’s going to get hurt. Mind you, if she must do it, she should at least do it on a horse, not a 750cc motorbike, and at the very least put some clothes on as well. And as for Morag, well, I’ve told her cesium and water don’t go together. But would she listen to me? Of course she f***ing wouldn’t. I’ll tell you who I blame for it. Heston Blumenthal and his fancy recipes. And anyway, my Albert’s dead again — that resurrection really didn’t go according to plan. Mind you, it probably wouldn’t’ve worked out for Jesus either, if he’d died with a garden spade smashed into his skull. Might’ve made the iconography a little bit more interesting, mind. And did I tell you about our Abdul? Yeah, he’s got an internship with Hezbollah. We’re ever so proud of him. But his Angela isn’t too happy about it, what with them having just bought a house in the Orkney Islands and her being a Mossad agent and all — very awkward it is, I give them six months. And poor old Agnes can’t walk these days, and she’s worried sick about the Greek economy, and the Americans looking into the Kennedy assassination again, well, that can’t end well for her, can it?

“And did I tell you about my kidneys? Oh, in a terrible state they are. Guess I’m going to have to get some new ones. Completely overcooked, they were. Mind you, the steak and the rest of the pie were first class.”

Mickey carefully took Senator Polcrutchet in a headlock.

“Senator. Can you please get to the f***ing point? Where is your penis? And why?”

* * *

5.

Mickey Stantanio, the man who never prided himself on his ability to slice bread evenly,  but was nonetheless quite good at that underrated skill, stared Senator Polcrutchet in the eyes. He thought to himself, “I need a wee-wee. But before that … Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest, hot dickety dang! No, focus, Mickey. Focus. Ya gotta find that penis before it ends up in the wrong hands! Or in Mexico! Or in an extremely distressing and quite disappointing foot-long hot dog!”

But at that moment he felt something cudgel him in the back of the head.

It was a cudgel.

Mickey Stantanio woke up. His hands were tied behind his back. He was blindfolded and his mouth was taped over.

“Bollocks!” he said. Although it sounded like “Rt-rwrft”.

He pulled at the restraints around his oh-so-American wrists. They came loose and fell to the floor. “No use,” he mumbled disconsolately.

“Hang on. On reflection, some use. Those restraints came off quite easily. Almost like … spaghetti!” He shook the blindfold from his face. It was a large slide of taleggio cheese. He bit into the tape around his lower face. It melted into his mouth.

“Mmm! Parma ham! Nice touch. Mmm-mmm, that’s the good stuff too, not some supermarket muck. Mmm, so tasty it’s become kosher. Oh yeah!

“But why? But this has all the hallmarks … of an Italian restaurant!”

Mickey ate through the rest of the ties that bound him, including a couple of unaccountable mozzarella testicles. He muttered, “What’s a guy gotta do to get a glass of Barolo around here?”

He sneaked up to the door. “I wonder what Italian restaurant this could be?” Just then, a familiar voice boomed around the corner.

“Mickey boy! Nice ta see ya!”

“Uncle Vittorio! But … but … have you got the congressman’s penis?”

“Wot mate?” said Uncle Vittorio. “No penis ’round here, other than the regulation ones. All above board, I assure you. Just like everything else in this operation. Right, Franco, Giuseppi, Roberto, Vittorio, Salvatore, Gianluca, and Walter?”

“Right, boss,” said the men.

“Uncle Vittorio!” said Mickey. “Why are you implying members of the 1990 Italian football World Cup squad? And if you don’t have the congressman’s penis, why did you kidnap me like that?”

“Well, I just hadn’t seen you in a while, and you weren’t answering your calls.”

“Man, you are seriously annoying sometimes, Uncle Vittorio. You’ve just wasted a whole f***ing chapter of this book! And you might’ve let the congressman’s penis escape the country! If we’re not careful, there could be an American congressman’s penis out there in whatever the rest of the world is called collectively. Do you realize the instability that could cause? That could spark a third world war!”

“Third?” said Uncle Vittorio. “Don’t you mean second?”

“No, Uncle Vittorio, I mean third. You’re gonna have to start stopping describing your last years in the late thirties and early forties as ‘one hell of a fancy-dress party’.”

“Potayto, potahto.”

“”You were Benito Mussolini’s personal assistant!”

“Officially I still am,” said Uncle Vittorio. “He never actually fired me.”

“It’s pretty f***in’ hard to fire someone when you’re hangin’ upside down from a meat hook!” said Mickey.

“That’s hearsay!” said Uncle Vittorio.

“There’s photographic and video evidence!”

“Potayto, potahto.”

“Quit saying that!”

“Oh, it’s just a new dish we’ve started selling. We just had an order from Table 14.”

“Aw, shit it!” said Mickey. “This trail has gone cold. This was supposed to be the last chapter, Uncle Vittorio.”

“Oh well, it’s very nice to see you too, Mickey.”

“Any chance of some tiramisu before I go?”

“Go f*** yourself!”

* * *

6.

Mickey Stantanio woke up in his all-too-familiar bed. “Home shit home,” he thought, regretting having drunk that flagon of unbranded meths the night before.

“I feel like a slice of lemon in the wrong woman’s gin,” he growled to his own self. “What the f*** am I doin’ with my life? Sure, being a private investigator beats being a professional pig breeder, but is it really so different?”

Just then there was a knock on his door. It was a courier. “Package for Stantanio!” said the courier.

“What is it?” said Mickey Stantanio, rubbing a peanut out of his eye. Another burst pillowcase, he thought to himself. Maybe I should try using a conventional one instead of a packet of peanuts.

The courier replied, “I dunno, but it’s postmarked U.S. Congress.”

Stantanio grabbed the package and incapacitated the courier with a suffocating neck hold. That probably wasn’t necessary, he said to himself. Probably doesn’t mean definitely in this game. If life was a game of probablies, I’d be living in a cave in Delaware and eating snakes.

He carefully opened the package.

There, staring at him like a disappointingly unfinished toy cyclops, was a penis.

“Could this be?” he said to his long-departed wife. She didn’t reply. At that moment she was meeting her friend Lorraine for coffee in a cafe in Portland, Oregon, having left Stantanio several years before, after an unusually contentious game of scissors-paper-stone. “Damn lady. She used to read me like a big-print Mills & Boon,” he recalled.

Stantanio looked the penis in the eye.

“So, my long-lost friend. We meet again. Whose penis are you and why?”

He donned his baseball gloves. Never handle a piece of evidence without gloves, he remembered being taught at cop school.  Along with “Don’t be too obviously corrupt,” and “Evidence is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Which congressman’s penis are you?”

Suddenly the penis sat up in his baseball mitt.

“I’m Newt Gingrich’s penis. Look at the f***ing tattoo. It says so on the … you should have looked at that in Chapter One, you f***ing idiot! You could have saved everyone a lot of heartache.”

Fair point, Li’l Newt, thought Mickey.

“Can you send me back to Mr. Gingrich, please? He thinks the Soviets have got me. Just like they got Lyndon Johnson’s penis.”

“The Soviets have Lyndon Johnson’s penis?” Mickey Stantanio gasped. “Then what the f*** was that thing in my lunch yesterday?”

The end.