Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stop! Hammer Time!

Yesterday, we were getting ready to go to my greatniece's second birthday party, and while I munched a lunch, I turned on C-SPAN to hear the wacky morning disc jockey Mr Beck bloviate about how holy he is and how the entire nation is in deep, deep trouble and can only be saved by his unctuous nattering and how we deeply need to have our honor restored. We got trouble, my friends...

Do you remember the play and movie "The Music Man," in which Robert Preston played "Professor" Harold Hill, a fast-talking salesman whose racket it was to go from town to town in 1912 Iowa, selling people on the idea of forming a boys' band? He would sell you the instruments and the uniforms and teach the boys to play, don't you see? All you have to do is sign here, ma'am.

Well, before those Iowans were going to open the purse to hand over hard-earned money for all this, they needed to be convinced of the urgent need of having a boys' band in their town. That's when the good Professor went to work. He found that, in one case, the town of River City had just gotten a pool table for the local pool hall, and he told the citizenry that a pool table represented all that was awful in the world. Here are the lyrics to "Ya Got Trouble," which might have been the first rap song on Broadway. It's a little chant that he used to spellbind the locals into opening those purses:

A pool table, don't you understand?
Well, either you're closing your eyes to a situation you do now wish to acknowledge

Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community.

Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Why sure I'm a billiard player,
Certainly mighty proud I say
I'm always mighty proud to say it.
I consider that the hours I spend
With a cue in my hand are golden.
Help you cultivate horse sense
And a cool head and a keen eye.
Ya ever take and try to give
An iron-clad leave to yourself
From a three-rail billiard shot?

But just as I say, it takes judgement, brains, and maturity to score in a balkline game,
I say that any boob can take and shove a ball in a pocket.
And I call that sloth.
The first big step on the road
To the depths of deg-ra-Day--
I say, first, medicinal wine from a teaspoon,
Then beer from a bottle.
An' the next thing ya know, your son is playin' for money in a pinch-back suit.
And list'nin to some big out-a-town Jasper
Hearin' him tell about horse-race gamblin'.
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no!
But a race where they set down right on the horse!
Like to see some stuck-up jockey-boy
Sittin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil?
Well, I should say. Friends, lemme tell you what I mean. Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table.
Pockets that mark the diff'rence between a gentlemen and a bum, with a capital 'B,' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for pool!
And all week long your River City youth'll be fritterin' away, I say your young men'll be fritterin'!
Fritterin' away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too! Get the ball in the pocket, never mind gittin' dandelions pulled or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded.
Never mind pumpin' any water 'til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty on a Saturday night and that's trouble, Oh, yes we got lots and lots a' trouble.
I'm thinkin' of the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school, look, folks! Right here in River City. Trouble with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that

stands for pool!
Now, I know all you folks are the right kinda parents.
I'm gonna be perfectly frank. Would ya like to know what kinda conversation goes on while they're loafin' around that Hall?
They'll be tryin' out Bevo, tryin' out Cubebs,
Tryin' out Tailor-Mades like Cigarette Fiends!
And braggin' all about how they're gonna cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen. One fine night, they leave the pool hall, headin' for the dance at the Arm'ry! Libertine men and Scarlet women! And Rag-time, shameless music that'll grab your son and your daughter with the arms of a jungle animal instinct! Mass-staria! Friends, the idle brain is the devil's playground!

Trouble, oh we got trouble, Right here in River City!
With a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P' and that stands for Pool! That stands for pool.
We've surely got trouble! Right here in River City,
Right here! Gotta figure out a way to keep the young ones moral after school!

Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble...

Mothers of River City! Heed this warning before it's too late! Watch for the tell-tale sign of corruption! The moment your son leaves the house, does he rebuckle his knickerbockers below the knee? Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corn crib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Capt.
Billy's Whiz Bang? Are certain words creeping into his conversation? Words like 'swell?' And 'so's your old man?' Well, if so my friends, Ya got trouble, Right here in River city! With a capital 'T' and that rhymes with 'P'
and that stands for Pool. We've surely got trouble! Right here in River City! Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock and the Golden Rule!

And then, I forgot all about Professor Beck and his calculated speech, calculated to inflame the worries of people who have wonderful lives and shouldn't fret so much about the presence of a pool table in their town. We met as family and friends and kin and had a wonderful time celebrating the second birthday of a little angel, and I say if you live in a country where you can do that, you should not get all in a spin because a disc jockey tells you to. The disc jockey at the party told us to do the hokey pokey and the chicken
dance and not to let any beach balls drop during "You Can't Touch This." I liked that disc jockey better.

No comments: