Hominy & Hash
WINE FOR THE ESCORT, BEER FOR THE CAT
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Just briefly last week, the world focused its attention on a little lost cat. If it weren't for its identifying tag, it would have been accepted as any old stray, a domestic alley cat looking like many I've known through the years. The cat is gray and black tiger striped looking exactly like any other of the mixed breed lately known as "domestic shorthair," rather than alley cat - a term not suitable to an animal so regal it strolls the halls of castles and cathedrals, and has done so for millions of years.
That story was one of survival. The cat's name is Emily and she went missing two months ago from her home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was found skinny and thirsty in a laminating company in Nancy, France. As they retraced her steps from the United States to France they found she wandered into a paper company's distribution center near her home, crawled into paper bales and went by truck to Chicago, by ship to Belgium and then ventured out into the strange land.
The workers no doubt coaxed her close enough with "Here Kitty Kitty (kissing sound, kissing sound) which is about the same in any language and so Emily's tags were read, and contacts were made, Continental Airlines carried her home with an employee as escort and the story ending happily with the expected joyous reunion - on the part of her owners; however, Emily was subdued.
Anyone watching the report would hold their smile a little longer than normally when watching the Headline News on CNN any given morning. Anchor Soledad O'Brien was very taken with it and continued smiling as she introduced the Weather Report, saying to meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras: "Emily was looking out the window. She had a great time. And she's back home snuggling with her owners."
Now, my story begins here: Then Jeras tossed off a line before facing the weather maps, "She probably got tired of the beer and bowling."
Oh, Soledad. What has Jacqui done? I was holding my breath. Oh, dear. Now the Mayor of Milwaukee will demand an apology, it will become a big deal, the brewers, the bowling alleys will also demand apologies. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth! Then, with Soledad looking down at her papers quite seriously Jeras smiled and said , "Oh, by the way, I'm from Milwaukee, so I can say that." Oh, so okay, I started breathing again. Good save. I like Soledad O'Brien; I didn't want her in a position of guilt by association. She's being considered replacement to Katie Couric on The Today Show. I'd hate Jeras' near gaff squelch the deal.
But, really - why are any of us in those situations? Just because a place, anyplace, is trying hard to live-down a long-held reputation, doesn't mean we can't have a little fun at their expense, does it? Yes, unfortunately, it does. Someone could take you to court and they would win.
I miss the days of laughter, laughter at our own expense; especially, laughter at our own expense. Here on St. Simons Island you might see a sign or a bumper sticker proclaiming to one and all, ST. SIMONS, A DRINKING ISLAND WITH A GOLFING PROBLEM. We laugh. Tourists are amused because that's exactly why they vacation here; to drink a little and golf a lot.
As a New Yorker, and I'll qualify all I say by acknowledging that, there is nothing you could say that would rile me up. The first instinct is to laugh. If someone says the subway platform during rush hour smells like peanuts and gefilte fish, I can laugh - because it does. Toss in a little garlic and salami and you've got a New York morning underground. How could it be different? Not every ethnic group eats bland corn flakes for breakfast and their foods are, shall we say, heady, even pungent, in the confines of a long, hot and dark tunnel. It is what it is. So, I laugh and acknowledge I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
There was a time when all the ethnic groups walking around this country did their level best to "fit in." They wanted to be American and be accepted as an American. We could call each other mocking names because we all came from somewhere else but now we're Americans, the mocking is not about us.
No matter where we were, we were on solid ground. Now, we're walking on the proverbial eggshells. We're not those open, bold-faced Americans we once were - unafraid of hurting someone's feelings. We would never deliberately hurt someone. It was fun. Then someone "assumed" that someone "might" take offense so our enjoying those bonding times were over. No longer could we greet a friend with a fast laugh. "What do you call 100 white guys following a black guy." Answer: "The PGA." That's one of the Island's golf jokes. Or, "How many Mexicans are in that convenience store?" "I don't know but you can count the Pintos in the parking lot and multiply by 15."
I couldn't and wouldn't tell those jokes today. It's because those fast lines are extremely exaggerated that the joke is there at all. And, it's in the speck of truth that the listener finds humor. He might say, "hey, last week I actually saw some workers being picked up for a ride home and, maybe not 15, but at least seven fit in the small car. Yeah, that joke was funny.
I heard it, too, and laughed, but I won't repeat it. Although the jokes were amusing, and the conversations were relaxed and innocent, there is the chance that someone would take offense. It seems to take a little longer to feel the bonds of being American. Yes, I do miss the fun of the old days but the new found sensitivity we all share has to be worth holding on to as well.
I forget the comedian who said, "If I've offended anyone with my comments, it was purely intentional." That was his line, not mine. Offending someone is just not in good taste and, although I laughed at the idea that Emily the cat must have had her fill of beer and bowling, it was fine with me that Jacqui Jeras was really laughing at herself.
My closing line here will ask this: Is there anyone among us whose ears don't perk up at: "Did you hear the one about... ?"