In which Bill Donohue provides an example which is both illustrative and apt

A couple of years ago, I went on a church excursion to New Orleans for three days at Mardi Gras time. There are benefits to being on church committees.

This was before Keith turned up his clogs in 2004. I mean that literally, by the way. He was wearing clogs one night for some unknowable reason and decided to go down into the basement and ended up spilling what little brains he had left all over the concrete floor.

It was a lovely funeral.

Anyway, the excursion was quite pleasant. During the day, we visited the sights. We saw some lovely mansions and churches and rode on a streetcar and sipped the odd mint julep. Then we’d all be tucked up in bed at our hotel by 8pm.

After a refreshing nap, Gloria Peters, Sandra Frazer and I sneaked out of the hotel to decry the hedonism and sin. I personally admonished three sinners, apparently convinced at least one young Brazilian gentleman that “o Deus” did exist, and collected 17 strands of beads, which isn’t bad for an skinny 85 year old with a dicky hip. I credit it to my Catherine Zeta Jones wig, the Balenciaga strapless and 75 years of careful moisturizing. The last time I saw Gloria and Sandra that night, they were leaving on the arms of twin Kenyan marathon runners, which I thought was a bit random.

I am wending my way to a point, somewhere, by the way.

I’m old. Fuck off if you don’t like it.

The next day, Sunday, we were going to go to mass at St. Augustine’s Church. We were all gathered in the lobby of the hotel, when Bill Donohue walked through the door with his niece, who seemed to be a young Puerto Rican lady.

He seemed surprised to see me. We know each other from La Roche College. Oh, the stories I could tell.

No, not that. That’s disgusting. You have a filthy mind.

It being Sunday morning, we immediately asked him and his niece to come to church with us, even though she was not, frankly, dressed for the occasion. They accepted, although Bill seemed slightly distracted, and we all piled onto the bus. I sat Bill next to Marge Albrechtson. She was blissed-out on her anti-psychotics that day but still, with the chronic incontinence and the burbling about how much she hates squirrels, accompanied by stabbing motions with her elbows, Marge is not anyone’s first choice of traveling companion.

I sat with the young lady. Her name, I discovered, was Nina. She was nervous about her dress, so we found her a nice shell-pink cardigan and used one of Sandra’s huge Dior scarves as a skirt, and she looked just darling. She was a lovely girl who was working her way through a business degree at night school, while looking after two of the most adorable little brown children you have even seen. She said she hadn’t been to church for three years, and I told her that it was like pole dancing. Once you’ve learned how to do it, you never forget.

She also knew how to score some pretty good e, which was a bonus as Gloria had snaffled my entire stash the night before.

At the church, we all sat in a pew in the middle, with Bill on one side of me and Nina on the other. Nina really belted those hymns when it was needed. She had a beautiful singing voice. Really top class. What that girl can do to “Deep River” would make your heart melt.

In front of us there was a young black lady with three little girls and no wedding ring. All four of them were dressed up fine, each as pretty as a princess with two glass shoes and a pumpkin coach. The youngest was probably six months old, and she gave Nina’s kids a run for their money. Her mother was holding her in her arms and she peeped over her mom’s shoulder and Gloria and I both went “awww” out loud at the same time. It was the little pink bow in her hair that did it.

Gloria and Sandra and I cooed at her for a while, as is the right of any old lady, even wicked old ones. She giggled a bit and then let out a long chuckle of joy when Gloria brought out a little stuffed lion she uses to torment her own grandchildren. This made all three of us laugh, and the laugh spread for a while. Before we knew it, the hymn was finished and half the church was having a little chuckle to themselves but with no idea why.

Gloria handed over the lion and the kiddy said “ta” and then propped herself up on her mother’s shoulder to examine it. After a while, her attention wavered and she spotted chunky Bill’s old frog-like mug, and immediately pulled a face like Sarah Palin gutting a moose off-camera.

The next hymn started.

“We’ve come a long way, Lord, a mighty long way
We’ve borne our burdens in the heat of the day
But we know the Lord has made the way
We’ve come a long way, Lord, a mighty long way

I’ve been in the valley and prayed night and day

And I know the Lord has made the way …”

At about this point, the baby started blowing raspberries to the beat. Just little innocent ones, like she was enjoying the music and wanted to join in.

“I’ve hard trials each and ev’ry day

But I know the Lord has made the way

Wish I was in heaven sitting down.

Wish I was in Heaven sitting down.”

She got a little excited and started singing along to every second word, with a little raspberry on every other beat. Her mother tried to settle her but she was so excited and happy she just got louder. By this point, most of the church was laughing or wondering why the hell everyone else was laughing.

The organist was oblivious and the song just kept winding on, as we all tried our best to sing the words, and over us all the sound of a little girl singing at the top of her voice and making little farting noises.

Bill, of course, looked outraged at this offense against decorum and good taste, and started to glower. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Bill get angry, but I can tell you that the top of his head gets red and the red filters down till his whole head is like a sweaty beetroot. It’s kind of like watching someone pour raspberry syrup onto shaved ice, only without the promise of a nice cooling treat at the end.

“O, Mary, O, Martha

Wish I was in heaven sitting down.”

Suddenly the baby got off a few good old fashioned meaty razberries, which made her mother laugh, which set Sandra and me off again as well.

“Wouldn’t get tired no more, tired no more

Wouldn’t have nothing to do, nothing to do

Try on my long white robe, long white robe
Sit at my Jesus’ feet, my Jesus’ feet.”

Then the song ended and there was silence, broken only by some muted guffawing and the sound of Bill spluttering as he attained his most beet-like state, and then the little baby shed an enormous load of poo into its nappy, with a thunderous noise and a stench like Rush Limbaugh’s secret basement on hosing-out day.

The priest had to sit down until he could stop laughing. The poor mother was mortified and blushing and laughing all at the same time, and she hustled her kiddies out as quickly and quietly as she could, and Gloria and Sandra and Nina and I hustled out behind her to see if we could help and get in some more cooing, leaving everyone else to recover as they wished.

As I was leaving, Bill hissed in my ear, “Some people are no better than they should be.”

The nice black lady was called Wanda, and her little children had lovely names. I forget what they were as I immediately exercised an old lady’s discretion to forget and call them all “sweetie” for the rest of time. Wanda turned out to be the niece of Father Williams, the priest who had said mass. An actual niece this time, for those who are keeping score.

She was still horribly embarrassed, so we all told her not to be silly, and that it was the best laugh we had had since Father Flarety got his pants caught in a mangle at the last bring-and-buy. Then we shooed her and Nina off to organize coffee and cake for morning tea, while we faffed around with nappies (see above re: how to do things, the never forgetting of) and dandled the baby and taught the older girls card tricks. I had a sneaky bottle of whiskey in my bag, so all the adults had Irish.

When no one was looking I slipped a couple of Marge’s special laxatives into a slice of fruit cake. Underneath the fondant icing is best because if they chew it they just think it’s a lump of sugar.

Mass ended and people started filtering in. I “helped” with the coffee. Bill barged in with Father Williams in tow. Bill was sounding off about the declining morals of the young and the very young. I handed him his slice of cake and he munched away. No Irish coffee for him, I promise you. He kept ranting about how young children these days were not taught about the proper fear of God, waving his hands in the air, until he spotted the little baby. At that point, he pointed one of his porcine fingers right at her, saying “Like that child making farting noises at me in mass.”

Father Williams looked embarrassed and stammered that baby was his grand-niece, but that if she had been rude he was truly sorry.

At that instant, there was a gurgling from Donohue’s stomach that sounded like Cerberus on a busy night in Hades. Then there was a very long and very still silence, broken eventually by a grunt and a tiny little groan, then another long still silence, during which Bill did his raspberry ice trick again, except this time in a sort of unpleasant lime colour.

One more groan, a little whimper and then were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, as Bill shat himself forcefully and repeatedly, making a noise that had resonance, had timbre, had (dare I say it?) guts, and then fell to the floor like a stone at a church-parking-lot stoning.

As I stepped over him to get at the sandwich buffet, I said, “Some people are no better than they are.”

We still stay in touch with Nina and Wanda. All their kiddies are doing well at school. Wanda has started her own business making wedding cakes. Nina graduated last year and her first album comes out in August. It’s very good. Timbaland owed me a favor. Don’t ask.

Last week, Wanda sent us a photo of them all at the community market garden that they set up after Katrina. Father Williams has his arm around Nina’s shoulder, and the five kiddies are all in a line in height order, leaning on their shovels and grinning. The little one is sticking out her little pink tongue and laughing like Hayley Barbour at an all-you-can-eat-shrimp-and-hooker buffet. The sun is shining, and the corn is waving in the wind. Nina and Wanda are looking at each other with a look I can only describe as love.

Some people are better than they should be.

Pass the humiliation and the pink Himalayan salt, please

Megan McArdle by David Shankbone

Gloria Vanderbilt once invited Megan McArdle to a dinner party. I told Van I couldn’t imagine why she was inviting that, and she said, “Well, dear, Andrew Sullivan is coming as well, and we have to give him the chance to act superior to someone at the table.”

On the night, McArdle arrived half an hour early, which would be unforgivable enough had she not come toting a bottle of Vin de Footsquasher 2007 and a bunch of half-dead gerberas. Van’s wonderful old butler, Thomas, stuck her in the waiting room for 45 minutes, so by the time he went and got her we were all already sitting down, onto our first glass and our second line, and hoeing into the sevruga.

Anyhow, when Thomas fetched Megan, she trundled after him, clutching her flowers and bottle. As they made their way along the corridor, she started to let out a little whine, which gradually got more high pitched and then burst out into a litany of complaints against poor Thomas. It was a little like this: “mmmmmmmmmmmoooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEE. Why? Why did you make me sit there all alone. Do you know who I am? I sat there without a drink for aaaaaaaages. Blah. Blah. Whinycakes.”

Thomas ignored her and kept going. He rounded the corner, threw open the door, and because McMegan was so wrapped up in her whinge, she had flung the words “It’s just not good enough!” at Thomas before she realized that she was in the dining room and twenty people were staring at her.

Anderson couldn’t help but let out a guffaw, but everyone else was just staring at her openmouthed. Jonathan Franzen started whispering to me to try to find out “who the hell that lank haired harridan” was.

Gloria stood up like the perfect hostess, although even I will admit she was swaying a bit, and managed to focus her eyes on McArdle. She reached out and graciously took the bottle that Megan was clutching, peered at it, and said “No, it’s really not good enough to show up with a bottle of cat piss, but don’t beat yourself up too much.”

Then she walked back to the table, but over her shoulder she said, “And we don’t talk to the servants like they are dogs, dear, not unless we want them to shit in the soup.”

From memory Megan sat at the table the rest of the night, clutching her gerberas and not saying a word. She did, however, manage to bogart the joint, then ran from the room looking green, and spent the rest of the night vomiting in the spare bathroom.

It was a dud of an evening for the most part. Andrew Sullivan had a discussion with Congressman Paul Ryan about the congressman’s proposal that all gays had to wear a pink triangle, be branded on the forehead, and eventually be shipped off to camps in Alaska. Andrew kept saying that he thought it was a bracing idea and evidence that the debate on gay marriage could move on to more earnest grounds, but that he wondered whether he might get an exemption, being a “conservative” and all.

Ryan laughed at him and told him that “conservative” gays were the worst of all, and there would be compulsory castration for them as well, at which point Andrew threw his support behind the idea entirely as “being in the true spirit of Oakeshottianism”.

We managed to get rid of Sullivan and McArdle fairly early, thank god. There was no way the wife-swapping section of the evening was going to work with those two in the room.

Image by David Shankbone, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons