Sunday, November 22, 2015

295. Clarity

His name is Furlough Thompson—Mayor Furlough Thompson. He was born in November of 1943 while his dad was in the United States Army, which may explain the unusual first name. He governs the small town of Potluck, Arkansas (population 1,236) and he delights in comforting me when I am afflicted and afflicting me when I am comfortable, as they say.

Actually, “he” is the Alien C.W. in one of his favorite shapes. He remains fascinated by the thought of my profession as an urban planner and delights in showing up as the Mayor on occasion to torment me, or as he terms it, “To hep yuh better understand thangs of an urban nature.”

At least that’s the way he explained his sudden appearance this week. When I questioned his assumption that a Mayor of a city of less than 2,000 souls was the place to start understanding urban issues, he had a quick response.

“Assumptions,” he said, leaning back in his chair. He is a tall man in his 70s, still maintaining a full head of brown hair. He ran a hand through it and repeated, “Assumptions,” he said. “Now you just take the first three letters of that word and think of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter.”

“Beyoncé?” I began to mouth the letters he had specified.

“As in, some are better’n others,” he said.

I stopped and didn’t say anything more.

“Now,” he said, “You have to understand that, as we say in in Potluck, ‘If a hound dog couldn’t howl, he might as well be a pig.’”

What could I say to that? You are correct, so I just listened.

“If you’re fixing to (editor’s note: i.e. if you plan to) be a consultant on urban thangs in the South, you’re a gonna have to work on your u-fer-isms.”
“My what?”

“Your u-fer-isms. Your,” here his expression changed, “use of a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.”

That stumped me for a minute. Then understanding settled on me like peace on an Arkansas family that had just enjoyed a good “bate” of turnip greens.

“Do you mean euphemisms?”

“Ain’t that what I said?’

“Okay,” I said. “So give me an example.”

“You can’t keep telling folks they can’t have this or that ‘cause they don’t have the money and they might have to raise taxes.”

I just stared.

“You remember what happened last time?”

“Getaway cars are nice,” I said.

I simply love the way that your so-called
conservatives explain economics. - C.W.
“Revenue neutral,” he said. “That’s what you tell them. It has to be revenue neutral. That’s what your Governor says when he proposes something that the state can’t pay for and he won’t say you have to raise taxes to have it.”

“Revenue neutral. And that means?” I asked.

“That they can’t have it, somebody’s ox is fixin’ to get gored, or somebody's gonna have to crap money.”

“Hush,” I said. “My wife is in the next room.”

“And,” he said, “you can’t keep telling folks that their city won’t grow because their schools have too many n…”

“Stop it,” I said. “We don’t use that word here.”

“Non-whites attending classes,” he said, ignoring me again.

“So what must I say?”

“That it is a necessity these days to have a ‘good school system’ in order to grow your population.”

“A good school system,” I repeated.

“Yep,” he said. “Everybody knows what that means. And,” he said, “drop terms like neighborhood of concentrated sociological problems.”

“For what?”

“Inner city. They’ll understand, and know who you’re talkin’ about.”

“What about white flight?”

“Forced busing,” he said.
“Income inequality?”

“Takers and givers.”

“Ambivalence toward urban problems?”

“States’ rights.”

“Vestiges of past slavery?”

“Benefits of our national guest worker programs.”

I laid a trap. “Undocumented aliens?”

“I have papers,” he said. “Want to see them?”

I gave up. “I’ll bet,” I said, “you could find a term for child and spousal abuse.”

He didn’t miss a beat. “Do you mean a return to traditional family values?”

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