Sausage and Laws

salamiThey say there are two things one 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 weird 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 slaughterhouse than a city-council chamber but as bad as it was, at least you knew what was happening 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 were elsewhere.

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 muttered, “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 in Minnesota that the state elected a U.S. Senator and a Governor who both 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 every sense of the word.

His frame towered over the cronies who crowded his booth and his large hands almost hid his entire meal.  Even his hat cast an all encompassing shadow across the table.  – but when he spoke, he spoke softly, so softly that his cronies had to lean 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 Laurel 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 an 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 will 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

www.almostiowa.com

36 thoughts on “Sausage and Laws”

  1. 😊 this unfortunately is politics; especially with Rudy’s listings of thinks needing attention. Question then is how are the priorities set? And who sets them?
    I bet that there are more potholes in San Francisco than Minnesota.

  2. Surely you’ve heard the true story about the guy somewhere who dealt with his potholes by planting Christmas trees in each one. It garnered some attention, and probably more than a few imitators. Houston’s mayor concerns himself with traffic justice for bike riders and the wheel-chair bound, but ignores the potholes. There are primary streets in Houston I avoid at all costs, for the sake of my tie-rods.

    Now, sausage? That’s a warm memory. Every Christmas I’d help my Swedish grandmother make potatis korv: potato sausage. It was delicious. I’ve never had the courage to order some online, since I’d hate for it to fail to measure up to my memories.

  3. That is so true! And politics are still this way, only all the deals are done behind closed doors by politicians and their toadies who all pretend to be noble beings doing noble things for the common good. Like you, I preferred it when politics were more straight-forward. And honest.

    1. The primary difference between politics then and now is that today political parties are dominated by “activist” groups who are all led by the loudest and most shrill of voices.

    1. Few of my stories are true, the rest are truthy.

      What is mostly true is that I spent a lot of time at the late and great O’Gara’s.

      [True story]

      Once I needed a cop, like right now, so rather than calling 911, I sprinted over to O’Gara’s and burst into the kitchen.

      “Hey, you want to bust up a domestic?”

      The cop, who was reliably there, looked to his sandwich for advice.

      “It’s pretty bad,” I told him.

      The sandwich replied, “I’ll still be here when you get back.”

  4. Quite the lesson. I remember many such lessons by the men who would talk around the tables at our business. Politicians, businessmen and the odd criminal. In all cases, nothing is free, and, in addition to “what have you done for me?” is “what have you done for me lately?”

    1. The worst thing that was ever done in Minnesota was done in the name of reform. For some misguided reason, the legislature ordained that lobbyists could not buy representatives meals or drinks.

      In the old days, they would all gather together at McGowan’s to drink and cut deals. Without anyone to pick up the tab, they stopped hanging out and started hating each other.

  5. I have to go back to sausage because back in the day my in-laws use to get together and make it. I can’t say I liked watching it, but it sure tasted good down the road after I had those visions out of my head. 🙂 As to politics, you’re right. I guess what’s been bothering me these days is we use to be Americans first and affiliated with a particular party way down the list after family, friends, neighbors, etc. Today, it seems like red or blue is more front and center than anything else. I’m pretty sure that’s not a good thing long term. You take care and have a good Christmas.

    1. I used to play with a black kid named Reginald back in kindergarten. My parents had no problem with his race – then they learned he was Baptist.

      His parents were equally shocked to learn I was Catholic.

      That ended that.

      Religion used to be the Great Divider. Now politics has become religion, so the bitter divisions have come roaring back.

    1. We, the smucks, should just stop paying taxes

      My brother is a huge fan of NYT columnist and Nobel Laurite Paul Krugman. I am not. In my mind Paul is always wrong and never in doubt.

      One day my brother showed me a NYT column where Mr. Krugman suggested the government mint a trillion dollar coin to get around the debt ceiling. He went on to suggest that “money is a social contrivance”.

      Without arguing the economics of it, I simply suggested to my brother that if we could print all the money we wanted without consequence, why do we have to pay taxes?

    1. Oh yeah…..

      And from someone who spent a decade in Minneapolis City Hall, I noticed the changes from the sudden influx of politicians from Chicago in the wake of the Daly machine demise.

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