Yesterday was a real humdinger of a day, wasn’t it? I’ve never actually heard a real person say humdinger, but through my extensive research which I can accomplish in less than a minute on the internet, I find that “humdinger” is an American word perhaps a blend of “hummer” (something that moves fast) + “dinger” (something outstanding) and was first attested to in a newspaper article in the Daily Enterprise of June 4, 1883, at Livingston Montana. So I attest that humdinger is not only an acceptable but a most appropriate, word to describe the Inauguration day of our new President, a day that for many Americans will go down in history as the day when much of the country breathed a collective sigh of relief.

We were driving back from Brooklyn and listened to it all on the radio, which felt like a humdinger of a way to listen in on such a potentially historic moment, Pearl Harbor, every World Series from 1957 to 1960 (the Mazeroski home run, the first American space flight, the assassination of JFK, were all events that I or my parents before me first heard about on the radio.

The reason for the trip to Brooklyn was that Barbara had received a sudden telephone call from Sloan Kettering late Friday announcing that her request for a Covid shot had been approved and that she should come in as soon as possible for her jab, “how about in a couple of hours?” We couldn’t do that we said. We were in Pittsburgh. “Then how about Tuesday?” And so we did, which was also a good thing because it gave us the chance to get some good Lo mein takeout (almost impossible to find in Pittsburgh) and to dispose of a couple of sandwiches that I had left in the fridge on our last drive-by visit to the city several weeks ago when we were there for another MSK check-in, which once again confirmed that all was well.

The drive also gave us the chance to finish the Audible edition of Slaughterhouse Five which seemed so fresh and new and appropriate to our current national circumstances that it could have been written yesterday as well. As I said before, James Franco does a fine job reading it, as did Tom Hanks in my estimation hosting the Inauguration concert from the Lincoln Memorial. Face it, everybody who had anything to do with the Inauguration yesterday, from Amanda Gorman to Lady Gaga, to Kamala Harris making a self-deprecating joke as she gaveled in the Senate for the first time, to our three former presidents who showed and made a video together, to Mike Pence sitting up there in the bleachers. Everyone did well, except, maybe just one person. And I have a theory about that.

Once again it comes back to radio. I’ve been listening to the Sirius Classic old-Time station a lot, cramming for our upcoming radio version of Mother Courage. Listening to programs like Lux Radio Theatre has become a weekly rehearsal ritual. Terry and Vicky’s knowledge of the old-time stuff and their ability to bring in recorded examples have been invaluable to increasing our knowledge of the medium’s style and technique.

A couple of weeks ago they brought in Angels with Dirty Faces which featured the stars of the Warner Brothers film version Cagney and Pat O’Brien.

In the movie’s climactic scene the Biden-like priest played by O’Brien pays a death row visit to his childhood pal condemned, vicious killer Donald Trump, sorry “Rocky Sullivan.” Rocky’s stated plans are to die proud and ‘spitting in the eyes,’ of the public, conceding nothing and telling his followers and the “Dead End“ kids who look up to him to hang tough and to keep fighting. Biden, …er, I mean Jerry the priest, pleads with Rocky to die cowardly, begging for mercy on his way to the death house, citing the negative influence Rocky has had on Soapy and the gang as his reason. Donald, that is Rocky, refuses, but after being parted from Father Connolly, at the beginning of his last mile walk, starts begging and screaming for mercy as he’s forced to sit in the electric chair, requiring the guards to subdue him and seemingly dying a coward’s death. Later, Soapy and the gang and all his Twitter followers and the seventy million people who voted for him read in the newspapers how Rocky “turned yellow” in the face of his execution and refused to concede he lost the election and slunk off to Mara Lago. The Trump supporters refuse to believe it. Then Biden, the priest, comes in and Soapy asks if it is true that Donald/Rocky had died a coward, and Jerry confirms that it is true. The gang no longer knows what to think about Rocky or the criminal lifestyle, and Jerry then asks them to accompany him to go say a prayer for the criminal.

And maybe, Donald Trump, after spending four years doing everything he could to the contrary, left us with one redeeming gesture by forgoing the responsibilities of his office to skip the inauguration and to slink off to Florida like a slimy slug.

 

Jim Niesen

 

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