Wednesday, October 29, 2008


By Jim Heffernan

There once was a Palin named Sarah,
Who fiddled a lot with her hair-ah,
Sometimes she wore bangs,
Above her sharp fangs,
Just like she did as a mayor-ah.

Now the Palin named Sarah is Gov.,
Of a state every hunter can love,
She shot down a moose,
Then cooked her own goose,
Asking for help from above.

Sarah Palin is always dressed nicely
In duds she’ll discuss only icily,
Preferring instead,
To lip-gloss the head,
Of a bulldog, speaking precisely.

Monday, October 27, 2008


By Jim Heffernan

Hey, Joe Sixpack here. You remember me, don’tcha? I usta be the forgotten man but not no more. This presidential election seen to that.

Trouble is, I’m actually extinct. Kaput. That Palin woman running for vice president thinks I’m still around but I ain’t. Not by a long shot. Take it from a beer veteran: No self-respectin’, beer drinkin’, football watchin’, pickup truck drivin’, deer huntin’, red-white-and-true-blue hard workin’ guy buys beer by the six pack any more. This ain’t the Depression, you know. Not yet anyways. Maybe next week though.

Oh, the stores stock six packs, but nobody buys ‘em. I’d say the 12-pack is by far the most popular beer package, followed by the case. I’m a case man myself. Heck, any decent Green Bay or Vikings fan can put away 12 beers by halftime, after which he takes the standard trip to the you-know-what room to get ready for the second half.

By the way, even though I’m extinct, I still got feelings, for crying out loud. I got my pride. I mean, Joe Sixpack reigned supreme for decades as the symbol for the average hard-workin’, bread winnin’, blue collar wearin’ Joe.

So who’s this “Joe the Plumber” character they keep bringin’ up lately? Liketa make everybody forget about Joe Sixpack. What a faker. He ain’t even got a plumbing license so he can hug toilets legally. That’d be like my old lady’s beautician not having a cosmology license and still dyin’ hair. It’s un-American, I say.

Well I gotta get goin’ pretty soon here, but before I do I wanna state once and for all that that Governor Palin is one sharp cookie, and not a bad dish, even if she don’t know the difference between a six pack, 12 pack, case or a pony keg. I know alotta hockey moms, but Governor Palin ain’t a bit like the ones I know. For one thing, she don’t dress like a hockey mom, ceptin’ for a few doctors’ wives.

But havin’ a hockey mom in the White House could do wonders for the game. Say President McCain (if he gets elected) goes into sudden-death overtime, there she’d be right down the hall ready to step into the big job, already knowing when the skater is off side, what icing is, the difference between the red line and the blue lines, what forechecking is, when high-sticking is going on – just like in her campaign. Granted, she’s a little weak in the neutral zone.

She can catch up on the other stuff like foreign crap and the economy OJT. Stands for “on the job training,” sorta like Joe the Un-Plumber plumbing. Worked for President Bush, didn’t it?

Friday, October 17, 2008


By Jim Heffernan
Looks like the Northland won’t be visited by either of the major party candidates for president this time around. Too bad. It’s always fun when they include Duluth-Superior in their campaigns.

Most of us remember that four years ago both President George W. Bush and John Kerry touched down here or close by. Bush, recall, put on a rally at the DECC; Kerry held one in Cloquet.

Not quite so many of us remember other campaign visits by presidents or would-be presidents, especially looking back more than a half-century, but I do.

President Harry S. Truman campaigned in Duluth and Superior in 1948, arriving in Superior by train, and then motoring to Duluth for a parade along Superior Street downtown. I was there, quite young, but the occasion remains a vivid memory for me because it was the first president I’d ever seen in person.

I was in fourth grade at Duluth’s Lincoln Elementary that election year. The Truman visit in 1948 illustrates some stark differences between that era of presidential politicking and today (other than getting around by train).

The arrival of the president was so eagerly anticipated that it was announced in schools across the city that any student who wanted to see the president would be excused for a half day if parents sent a note. If memory serves (and it isn’t always precise), all of the kids in my fourth grade class brought notes. One girl’s parents insisted she be released earlier than the set time, bringing out the wrath of our teacher.

We were Democrats around our house – my father being a strong union man. And while my folks weren’t politically active, they knew they were for Truman in his race against Republican New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey, whom everybody believed was going to win.

With my mother, I stood on the corner of First Avenue East and Superior Street, in front of the Hayes Block, on that exciting afternoon. My father worked in that building. Large crowds lined Superior Street for blocks and some people even positioned themselves on rooftops of buildings for a better view of the president.

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon, as I recall it, and right on schedule we could see the Truman motorcade approaching from west to east. Truman sat alone on the lowered top of a big dark-colored convertible, his feet on the back seat. He wore a light suit and smiled and waved as he was slowly driven through the city’s main business district. A group of teenage boys on the roof of a building across the street from us yelled “Phooey on Dewey,” which is about as rough as the campaign got in those pre-TV (at least here) days.

In what used to be called a nonce, the grey-haired president had passed us, as his motorcade (I don’t actually recall other vehicles, but I suppose there were some) completed its slow procession through downtown Duluth.

The logistics for the day called for him to speak from the back of his train in Superior before being driven to Duluth for the Superior Street promenade.

As a 9-year-old Democrat (because my father was), I was thrilled to see this Democratic president. Not so thrilled were my closest friends at the time, the children of a strongly Republican family.

One of the kids in the family, curious to see Truman in spite of everything, walked from their West End home to the intersection of Garfield Avenue and Superior Street in hopes of catching a glimpse of Truman as he was driven from Superior to Duluth for the parade. It turns out the family’s dog was Republican, too. A notorious car-chaser in those pre-leash law days, the dog had followed the boy to Garfield, and, true to form, went after the car containing the president, viciously biting at its tires.

Unfortunately for our Republican friends, though, the president survived their dog’s attack and went on to defeat Dewey in the election.

So there is justice, after all.

Friday, October 10, 2008


by Jim Heffernan

When Sen. John McCain referred to Sen. Barack Obama as “that one” during their presidential debate on Oct. 7, it jolted me back to a time years ago when I shared a restaurant dinner table with a newlywed couple still experiencing the glow of early marital bliss.

Yes, bliss, but they’d been married long enough so that the minor stresses and strains of getting used to each other living under the same roof -- sharing the same breakfast table, sharing the same clothes hamper, sharing the same sinks and other plumbing fixtures -- were starting to show, ever so slightly.

These niggling little frustrations appeared to be affecting the Bride (we’ll call her the Bride and her new hubby the Groom to keep them straight) more than the happy Groom, who affected a benign smile throughout, not saying much, nodding quite a bit.

But the Bride, ah, she was ebullient and eager to tell the one other woman at the table all about her new husband’s odd … well, if not odd, different, if not different, strange, if not strange, bizarre, if not bizarre, perhaps unconventional, ways and habits.

In relating these homey details of the couple’s first months of marriage, the Bride continually referred to the Groom as “this one.” Sound familiar?

This one squeezes the toothpaste funny. This one doesn’t hang up his clothes. This one turns the stereo way up with boring classical music. This one leaves his shoes on when he comes in from outside, soiling the carpet. This one holds his silverware European peasant style. This one eats soft-boiled eggs out of a shot glass. This one snores like a walrus.

“This one” (aka the Groom) continued to smile benignly as his Bride prattled on listing what she regarded as his peculiar characteristics and habits, many of which I recognized in the guy who looks back at me in mirrors. Still single at the time, it made me wonder if I would ever qualify as a hubby myself; if I could pass the muster of a bride someday.

I never forgot the conversation – actually the Bride’s monologue -- as she went on and on describing her husband’s traits to the other woman, as the Groom and I affably listened, guilty-as-charged looks on our faces, sipping adult beverages. Somehow, though, the Bride repeatedly referring to her new husband as “this one” so early in the marriage, or at any time for that matter, struck me as a little impersonal, even strange, and I never forgot it.

It all came back during the McCain-Obama debate when McCain looked at the audience and referred to his opponent as “that one.” Of course, they’re not a happy couple of newlyweds, so what’s the diff?

And what of the happy couple? They’re no longer married, so what’s the diff?

Thursday, October 2, 2008


By Jim Heffernan

When Minnesota Public Radio contacted Sen. Amy Klobuchar this week to ask which way she’d vote on the bailout bill, she said she’d vote “yes,” but implied great reluctance.


“Because I’m (rhymes with kissed, but involves a different part of the human anatomy) off and the people are (same rhyme) off,” is a pretty fair quote drawn from memory. MPR broadcast the brief interview on Wednesday, Oct. 1, on “All Things Considered.”

Seldom do we hear politicians invoke vulgar phrases in public, much less for broadcast. I’m so accustomed to writing for a “family newspaper” (most newspapers consider themselves family newspapers, like restaurants that don’t allow dancing are family eateries) I feel I must write around or insert rhyming words or euphemisms for harmless vulgarities even here on the Internet.

A brief history of the phrase she used: As a youngster, I thought we made it up -- we being my peer group at the time. When I got into the wider world, I realized that the term, meaning “very angry”, was universal in English. I’m not sure what they say in France -- don’t know much about the French I took.

But the words were filed in our young brains along with other, mostly scatological, terms like bull (what the farmer hauled another load of) and son of a (rhymes with ditch), harmless enough but not qualified for use around adults without risking the threat of soap in the mouth.

Who’d have thought a United States senator would someday utter this vulgar term for “very angry” on the radio, for heaven’s sake. Well, maybe not heaven’s sake, but it least it doesn’t take anybody’s name in vain.

There are also sexism implications here. In my experience, going way, way back, women were not expected to “swear” as much as men, and I think that still is the case to some extent, although it’s fading fast in the 21st century. When I was a child, my family knew a widow woman who smoked and “swore like a trooper,” and she was a subject of great dinner table controversy. She was the only woman anybody knew who could swear and smoke at the same time.

Moving on once again to the 21st century, on the same day that Sen. Klobuchar so frankly described her anger at the need to bail out Wall Street in alley-above-Main Street language, the New York Times reported on a similar somewhat vulgar utterance from the lip-glossed mouth of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican choice for vice president.

Oh, I know some might say, “yeah, that’s the liberal New York Times again,” but the quote was pretty well authenticated after the reporter viewed a video recording of a Palin debate when she was running for governor of Alaska against two men (a Democrat and an Independent).

Having survived a primary in her own party, Palin responded to a charge from a general election opponent that she hadn’t attended enough debates by pointing out that she’d been running for more than a year, and adding: “You know, you’ve got to have the (English for cojones) to take it on in the early part of a campaign, and not just go right to the big show.”

An avowedly religious candidate, Palin must have been referring to the Biblical great cojones of fire, don’t you think? Of course, I don’t know much about the Spanish I took either.