Sausage and Laws

salamiThey say there are two things you should never see being made: sausage and laws.

The truth is, it is almost impossible to see either: slaughterhouses no longer offer tours and politics has become too obtuse to watch. It didn’t use to be that way. I remember an era when politics was as open and unsanitized as garbage on the curb. It was so distasteful that most people would rather tour a slaughterhouses than a city-council chamber but as bad as it was, at least you knew what was going on and why.

My first taste of local politics came after my $50 car lost a $55 tie-rod to a pothole. Admittedly it was my fault. The pothole had been there forever but my thoughts had wandered. I was in love and it cost me a tie-rod. Things didn’t work out with the girl but then I didn’t get the tie-rod replaced either. Instead I developed a passion for old-time politics.

When I called Public Works and told the secretary what the pothole did to my $55 tie-rod, she asked, “Is it a new pothole?”

“No,” I said, “it’s been there forever.”

After a long bored silence, she asked, “So what’s the problem?”

I told her the pothole was the problem and as a tax-payer, I demanded action.

She sighed a long sigh, like a mother preparing to potty train her ninth child. “If you give me your address, I will tell you who to talk to.”

I gave her my address.

“Talk to Rudy,” she said and hung up.

I did not have to ask who Rudy was. Everyone in the state knew the cigar-chomping, back-slapping, flamboyant politician known simply as Rudy. The name was so well known that Minnesota elected a U.S. Senator and a Governor who had the good luck to share the name. The Senator, Rudy Boswitch, simply put one word, RUDY, on billboards and won by a landslide. But that is another story. In this story, I talked to our Rudy.

I found him behind a screen of blue cigar-smoke in the back booth of O’Gara’s bar. He was a big man in many senses of the word. He towered over his cronies who crowded the booth. His hat cast a long shadow across the table and his hands were large enough to hide what he was eating – but when he spoke, he spoke softly, so softly, his cronies leaned in to hear him. It is how he controlled the conversation.

I approached the table and as soon as I opened my mouth , I realized my mistake. Rudy’s cronies turned on me like a pack of ravenous dogs. Apparently, one did not approach the big man directly. But Rudy waved them off.

“You the kid who lost a tie-rod on Dayton Ave at the intersection of Milton?” he asked.

I couldn’t speak. Rudy went on. He knew everything about me. He knew the plumbing outfit my dad worked for. He knew my mother’s maiden name. He even knew I had inhaled frequently despite my denials.

“So you want the pothole fixed?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Okay, I’ll look into that,” he said, “but before I do anything, answer this, what have you done for me?”

The raw political power of the question jarred me harder than the pothole. “I-I-I pay taxes,” I said meekly.

“The kid pays taxes,” Rudy told his cronies. They busted up laughing. Then with a stroke of his hand, Rudy waved them into silence. Reaching up, he put a big paw on my shoulder and drew me into the booth.

“You look like a smart kid,” he said, “so I’ll tell you three things about politics, each more valuable than a fixed pothole.”

Out of his beefy fist, he raised his index finger. “First, there are potholes everywhere in this city, most bigger than yours. Everybody wants theirs fixed. Not only that – but teachers want a raise, librarians want a pension, businesses want a stadium to attract people downtown. Everyone wants something. Kid, there is no end to human desire and everyone thinks that if they get what they want, they will be happy.”

Another finger rose out of his fist. “Second, there is nothing in politics that makes people happy. You fix a pothole, give a raise, grant a pension and build a stadium and what? People will remember you did that all the way to next week. BUT you piss them off once and they will never forget nor forgive. Kid, nothing pisses people off more than someone else getting what they want. So if I fix your pothole, I lose the people who didn’t get theirs fixed and that cost me.”

He laid his hand flat on the table to signal the end of the conversation.

“I thought you said there were three things,” I said.

“Kid,” Rudy roared at me, “I have business with these guys right here,” he said gesturing toward his cronies, “and I took time away from them so I could explain politics to you. So tell me, you ungrateful little snot, what have you done for me?”

“I just thought there were three things,” I repeated.

A third finger shot out of his fist. “Oh yeah,” he said, “that third thing. In politics, everything costs. You have to give something to get something.”

I must have looked confused.

“Talk to Leo here,” Rudy said, pointing to one of his cronies. “He will give you some campaign literature and show you what doors to knock on. When you have done that for me, you come back and we can talk some more.”

Author: Almost Iowa

17 thoughts on “Sausage and Laws”

    1. When I talk to people from other states and countries, I often find myself having to explain our one-time governor, ex-wrestler and full-time loud-mouth Jesse Ventura. Their jaws drop when I say he was the best governor the state had.

      I explain that his chief-of-staff Dean Barkely was a very sharp and very honest political operative, who was able to select some of the best commissioners in our state history. He was able to do this because he owed no political favors.

      It is the governor’s staff and the commissioners who run the state – and Jesse’s were very, very good. Too bad, he was an idiot.

    1. I used to do a lot of door knocking until I got a job in government. Now I am a lot more cynical. Don’t get me wrong, I am not turned-off to the political process – I just look harder at the candidates.

  1. The reason law making is no longer transparent is for three reasons. One, they ain’t making laws anymore. Two, if they are making laws, they don’t want you to know what they are. And three…get back to me after you’ve done something for me and I’ll tell you what number three is.

  2. This is SO well-written! Vivid enough that I was watching a movie, not reading words. Truly one of the best creative non-fiction pieces I’ve read; i hope you consider submitting for contests or publication.

    1. Old time politics was naked and brutal. Back when I worked for the Minneapolis Police Department on the day after an election, the roster changes were four pages long.

      1. I can well remember the ferocity of UK politics when we had a clear line twixt left and right instead of the sticky porridge fed to us by men/woman of weak policy whose only desire is to keep hold of their jobs. As to the police I also remember a couple of occasions when I was dragged off the streets to be stuffed into an identity parade on pain of a beating just so they could make up the numbers and nick the bastard they wanted there and then. On one of those occasions I wasn’t even a look-a-like – I stand six foot and the guy they wanted picked out was a 5 foot 2 inch Italian bloke! Still they got the job done back then even if, as a young bloke I was pissed off at the time!

        1. “sticky porridge” politics is driven by sticky porridge television. Hell, I tried watching the national news last month and couldn’t tell the difference between the reports and the drug side-effect warnings that stood in for the commercials.

          As for the police, I started at the end of an era. The guys who were retiring were hired under a system where candidates were lined up according to size then hired from the left. Those guys were huge and followed one simple rule that summed up their world view, “Not on my beat”. You could do whatever you wanted, as long as it was somewhere else.

          1. I’ve a son in the Metropolitan Police (London) and it amazes me the pussy footing a young copper has to go through these days. Bureaucracy or what. I was a PI for years sometimes working closely with the police and saw the way things changed so as to appease the wave of ‘dogooders’ who seem to care more for the criminal than the victim. As for news at least we have the commercial free, impartial BBC over here so I can’t complain about that – mind it is the only thing I can’t complain about miserable sod that I am!

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