An Unnamed State of Tennessee Official
Dear Quasi-Literate Readers,
Le sigh. It grows tedious to, over and again, explain such rudiments. Do you believe that every car mechanic you meet must be related, as they all share a certain skill set and distinctive odor? Do you believe that Willie Nelson and the much-mourned David Nelson must be kin, for they share a surname? Or that George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush simply must be some sort of kin, what with their nymmic and career self-similarity?
(As an Aside: How many Bush presidencies could possibly have been executed in our history by non-sequential men named Bush who were not related to one another? You would be quite surprised. Please review my tract, The Vicious Infinite Regress of Zachary Hayes, our Twentysometeenth President, and its Impact on Contemporary Mathematics. When you enumerate the presidencies upon a number line, you must always remember to include the irrational numbers and iterate all presidential sets over ℵ0, ℵ1, ℵ2 . . . ℵℵ, etc.)
Am I related to Cecil Adams? Perhaps I have been insufficiently clear in the past, but as the title of this very column might imply, I am a noble Architeuthis dux. Meanwhile, the vast bulk of advice columnist popular among you gruntchimps and googlers—including, but far from limited to, Ann Landers, Dear Abbie, Dr. Science, and Mr. Cecil Adams himself—are marmots (specifically, Mr. Adams is the self-same yellow-bellied marmot featured above-the-fold in the species's Wikipedia featurette.
I had long taken a professional interest in Cecil's work, both for its brevity—that being the soul of wit—and for his keen capacity to casually inform without straying into either the overly dry faux-authority of the faux-scientist, nor the faux-folksy grandiloquence of the faux-populist—these being the dexter and sinister pitfalls of advice columnists like ourselves; in fact, I will freely admit that, in this regard, I had grown to think of myself and Cecil as spiritual frères d'plume together walking that thin razor-wire over the self-aggrandizing abyss that forever threatens to gaze into and devour opinion-editorial writers of all stripes—an impressive feat for a squid and a big-boned ground squirrel, in my opinion.
(A Second Aside: Brevity is the soul of wit, but Grandiloquence is Wit's Gristle.)
But, I had also noted over time, a veiled anti-squid sentiment wending through many of his columns. Although this disturbed me, I shunned the matter from my thoughts until I came across the following balderdash he permitted to be run in his column in late 2001, regarding the mystery of the Mary Celeste:
Around the turn of the century some suggested that the Celeste had been attacked by a giant squid or some other huge water beast—apparently some people had been reading a bit too much Verne. But even supposing a giant squid or a kraken had attacked the ship, why would it have picked up the ship's papers as well? Was it a literate kraken? Did it have too much time on its hands and want to read the captain's navigational notes? And why, when the ship was being attacked by a giant sea-monster, did no one grab the sword on the ship? It was still found inside of its sheath—some say bloodied, but the court of inquiry found the red stains to be rust.
Was it a literate kraken? Yes, clearly so! Did it have too much time on its hands? Hardly, since I am not cursed with knobby little hands, but with great and wonderful arms and tentacles! And I can hardly fathom why the crew failed to grab the sword, although I imagine it was because they were too busy gibbering and soiling their breeches to even answer my quite reasonable and rudimentary questions about some of their rigging decisions, let alone to actually human-up and attempt to wrack a little well-intentioned violence (as does seem to be oft the human strong suit). In any event, I ultimately feel that I did the crew—apart from the captain's wife and little girl, who rowed to points unknown quite ably upon the life boat, the child tinkling away at the parlor melodeon they had arduously loaded aboard—quite a service by dismembering and pickling them. They were, without doubt, lousy seamen. I found the nautical guides and ships logs far more informative than their company.
In any event, it was galling to be called out so publicly, and by a writer who I had not personally wronged (to the best of my knowledge). For several weeks I plotted to journey to Chicago-land, visit him in his office during the appointed business hours, scoop him from off of his rodential keyboard whilst he chattered and clattered and wiggled his nose, and give him a firm, retributive shake. But then I moved my offices from Cincinnati to Detroit, there were staffing changes to manage, new training and orientation, and the slight rather slipped my mind—that is, until your letter, for which I thank you. As I complete this column's draft, my head mechanic Devo readies my velocitational land-walking suit, and my occasional assistant Rob endeavors to ship me by rail as freight to your Ever-Winded Second City.
All of that said, Cecil and I are, coincidentally, cousins by way of King Edward I (from whom he is descended, and of whom I did own briefly in 1299-1303, the consequence of an especially fortunate run at backgammon, which was then new to England. I had the advantage of having started playing the game during a short stint spent in Persia, just prior to being called away to consult on the construction of the First Temple, which had run significantly over-budget—such a shanda! In any event, the English nobility, with their rash playing style, were little match for my sagacity in experience.) Genealogists will note that this line of descent/ownership actually makes both Cecil and I similarly cousins to George W. Bush (and all previous and non-integer Bushes, though by different routes too numerous to name or even to imagine) and Colin Powell. Much the pity.
Your Giant Squid
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