by Paul Caputo and Jeffrey Carl
at the General Assembly
Hi. We are Jeff and Paul. We have walked in the Halls of Power, stood on the Steps of Greatness, scuffed our feet on the Carpet of Destiny, and we were bored to tears.
Last week, we examined (“made fun of”) the Big Issues facing the General Assembly this term. This week, we actually went there to see them in “action.” We found that it was around about as much fun as pounding sand with your forehead. This is how it went:
To get to the State Capitol, we walked up a series of terraced steps (identified by a sign that said “Terraced Steps”) that were designed perfectly for the rythmic walking pleasure of every Virginian who is either three or nine feet tall. Inside the Capitol, which Thomas Jefferson built with a Colonial Style Lego™ Set when he was eight years old, there were countless statues of Virginian heroes, ranging from Jefferson “Highway” Davis to John Marshall (famous for being History’s Ugliest Person, Ever) to one we think was Orville Reddenbacher, who was no bathing beauty himself.
The Capitol is elegant, from the tasteful bland carpeting to the stately statues of Famous Dead Guys™, whose expressions made it seem as if constipation had been mandatory until the 20th century. The Official Seal of Virginia was embossed everywhere, including Dick Cranwell’s forehead. We noticed upon close inspection that the woman depicted on the Seal has her toga open. We don’t wish to alarm you, but THERE IS NAKED BOOTY ON THE STATE SEAL. We predict that within months, this grossly immoral influence will lead to teenage pregnancy, “Juggs” magazine becoming a school textbook, and heretofore good citizens taking drugs, dressing up like clowns and eating main courses with the salad fork.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
After minutes of sightseeing (“being lost”), we walked upstairs to the State Senate’s gallery, and sat down in a section marked “Press.” We were ejected when the doorkeeper, whose job it is to hate people, told us that we had to be from a real newspaper to sit there. In fact, when we said we were from The Richmond State, she gave us a look like we had said “the Slothburg (Wisconsin) Times-Hernia” or “USA Today.” So we sat in the section marked “Regular Schmucks,” which was crowded with spectators, excitedly blinking and twitching.
From the spectators’ balcony we could see the whole room, majestic yet very frumpy. The Speaker is seated atop a raised platform, flanked by three or four billion clerks, hurriedly filing Important Documents (“Bill 867.5309: To make Shrimp Newberg the state’s official Zesty Seafood Dish”).
The scene on the floor was just as we had imagined, except that there were no naked dancing girls and the senators did not wear togas. Actually, the Senate comprised entirely old white guys, some of whom were very lifelike. Lieutenant Governor Don “King” Beyer, acting as Speaker, efficiently conducted the proceedings, speaking at such a rapid-fire pace that: 1.) we couldn’t understand what was going on (good), and 2.) we thought we had accidentally wandered into a mannequin auction (bad). In fact, Paul went to scratch his nose and accidentally bought Fairfax County.
The edges of the room were ringed with Senate pages, ranging in age from ten to ten-and-a-half, trying hard not to pick their noses in front of daddy’s friends. Occasionally, a group of them would go off to review legislation or play “Spin the Bottle.” Most of the time, though, the pages waited to take lunch orders of Chinese food and live rodents for the legislators, who were busy discussing (True Fact!) lighting regulations while trying to brush hair onto their bald spots.
The GA had a full day ahead of it: the Senate calendar for the day was several bajillion pages long, filled completely with abstracts of bills that looked like this:
S.B. 193.6 A BILL to amend § 9-6.141 of the Code of Virginia, relating to Improper pH Balances in Fish Tanks.
Patrons – McGargle and Fishbein
Reported from Committee to Help the Little Fishies with amendments (14-Y, 0-N, 3-D — You Sunk My Battleship)
Amendments adopted by Senate January 16, 3 -5 p.m. BYOB
1. Page 4, line 11, after 7B:
2. Page 4, line 19, I before E except after C:
YEAS — Colgan, Saslaw, The Pointer Sisters, Your Mom, Fishburne —7
NAYS — 0
ABSTENTIONS — That Creepy Guy in the Back — 1
Committee Vote: 16Y, 42N, UFO 54-40
Cubs 16W 48L 35GB
20 If A$=“Oatmeal” then goto 40
Neutral-Chaotic Magic User, +20 HP, AC -7
Do Not Back Up; Serious Tire Damage Will Occur
Soilent Green is made from people
...and so on.
We ran into a Well-Known Richmond News Correspondent, who was busy interviewing a senator about a bill on (True Fact!) whether Virginia should require warning labels on marriage licenses (“Warning: Do Not Marry Roseanne Barr.”) After greeting him in the manner of the Secret Brotherhood of Newsguys, (Password: “Why do you all have a liberal bias?” Countersign: “Because we’re all poor.”) we asked him where to find something interesting to write about. He suggested a certain financial committee wherein “pimply-faced Allen appointees” were regularly grilled by committee members, then served over rice in a light wine sauce.
We sat in on the meeting that afternoon, and took our seats expecting a knock-down, drag-out Legislative Tag-Team Grudge Match. What we got was an old guy with no pimples who began droning on interminably about how money was good, or something. The committee members nodded politely and sank into deep comas.
The old guy talked for a while, then began to liven up. He began using sweeping arm gestures and ringing, lyrical phrases to describe Phased Capital Investment. Then he leapt onto the podium and started a musical number, describing Leveraged Interest Rates to the tune of “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” The delegates behind him formed a kickline, using some sizzlingly daring modern jazz choreography; and the number ended with a scantily-clad lady stenographer lowered from the ceiling on a trapeze, juggling chainsaws.
Sorry, that was the dream Jeff had when he fell asleep. Actually what happened was Paul woke Jeff up and we left in the middle to get Chinese food.
After lunch, we paid a visit to the House of Delegates, the busy schedule of which included extending Official Stately Commendations to (True Fact!) the Stonewall Jackson High School Golf Team, (Yet Another True Fact!) the American Automobile Association of Tidewater and (We Couldn’t Make This Up!) the Haunted Crack House, Inc. In fact, the only three people in the state who weren’t commended for something were Jeff, Paul, and you. But check tomorrow’s schedule; you may get lucky. There was also a long list of Memorial Resolutions: so many, in fact, that the schedule read like the Times-Dispatch Obituary Section, except better written.
The business of governing a state is a very dull thing: amending the Endangered Dirt Protection Act, appointing Junior Assistant Vice-Undersecretaries of Irritating Lottery Radio Commercials, and saying “Kudos!” to the field hockey team from the Hampton School for Abnormally-Masculine Girls. If we have learned one thing from this column, and we’re pretty sure we didn’t, it’s the same lesson that’s taught in an old story you’ve probably heard. One day, a father decides his son should learn how to fish. So they went on a trip to the woods, where they were devoured by rabid ferrets. Actually, we’re not sure what the Hell that means.
Maybe it’s this: politics is not all fast cars and fast women. In fact, it’s more like ‘53 DeSotos and Bea Arthur.
Better them than us.