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Friday, January 23, 2015

Max Baxter And The History Of Incarceration

                                                 [Wikipedia pic.]

It all began at a retirement tribute to Max Baxter, a superintendent who directed operations at parks and public campuses all over the city. I was in attendance. We'd just been served a politically correct entree which, like all politically correct entrees, was constructed to offend everyone's sense of dietary rectitude. I believe it consisted of guacamole, brown rice, black beans and Portland cement.

The labor foreman stood up to propose a toast: "I just wanted to take this opportunity to say no man has better earned or deserved the respect of those privileged enough to have worked with him. Ladies and gentlemen, let's raise our glasses to Max Bastard!"

Ok, you try saying Max Baxter real fast two or three times. My examination of this mispronunciation has taken me on an historical odyssey of  social gaffes, gaucheries and miscalculations. There was a time, during the ultimacy of class hierarchy, when such human errors were legally actionable. Most people wisely kept their mouths shut and avoided retirement dinners, but there were still incidences.

Over this essay is a mural from Pompeii. It shows a group of seven men in an ancient Greek ΠΟΚI (pokey). They are there for claiming a tyrant and a τύραννος are the same thing so there might as well be democracy. There are no walls or iron bars in their ΠΟΚI. Those are modern inventions. It sufficed back then to simply usher offenders to a sheltered place, give them food and blankets, then glue their sandals to the ground. There were no recorded escapes, but many rumors of guys running home barefoot with new blankets over their heads.

This led to municipal gardeners getting assigned to create and maintain obstacle courses for Law And Equity classes sponsored by the state. High school students would enter these programs to get fit enough to become peace officers. I worked closely with clubs like FPOA (Future Peace Officers of America) and FFA (Future Fugitives of America, which the former chased) to lay out and grade these athletic courses with my tractor. I always made them end in a sheltered place. Max Baxter used to ask me why I did that.

I said, "Well, that's where the pokey goes, Mister Ba...uh."

"Just call me Max."

  

28 comments:

  1. I needed a laugh this morning. Thanks for providing a banquet of laughs generously topped with knowledge. What a breakfast!

    I remember one year at the Academy Awards, when the arrival of the celebrities was being announced.
    "Cary Grant's car has arrived."
    "Lana Turner's car has arrived."
    After seemingly hundreds of arrivals, the announcer was taxed to the limit. He wearily and carelessly said:
    "Alfred Hitchcar's cock has arrived."
    I swear, it's a true story.

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    1. Thanks, Jon, I'll bet Alfred was glad it showed up too.

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  2. Seems to me folks would be trying to get IN that jail as opposed to breaking free lol. As for getting folks names wrong...as Dad would say...just don't call me 'too late for supper' .

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    1. For a long time I don't think the Greeks even had jails. Severe offenses were punished with exile.

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  3. I wondered where the term "being tossed into the pokey" originated. I learn so much from you.

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    1. I promise never to deviate from the facts as I imagine them.

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  4. It’s been a grey and miserably dank and cold day here today. Thank you very much for allowing me to end it with a broad smile.

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  5. Oh, I think you have misinterpreted that mural from Pompeii. The three guys at the center are the two developers of the resort city and their "paid" geologists who is insisting that there is nothing to worry about from the smoking mountain just outside of town and that their investment in property will grow immensely (little did they know he was right as 20 feet of volcanic ash raised the elevation of the town) while burning real estate deeds and saving all of them the expense of a grave site.

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    1. I like your scenario, Sage! I have often been mystified by developer logic.

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  6. It is a measure of his worth that Max would undoubtedly have been one of the first to raise a glass to Mr Bastard...
    Loved the historical slant too. Starting my day with a smile is always a winner.

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  7. Geo
    It's pure delight to read you!
    This truly made me smile.
    Thank you!

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  8. Cheers to Max, but sorry his honor meal was such as it was. Cheers to to the labor foreman who must have by now told that story with a smile and cheers to you for such a delightful post!

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    1. And cheers to you, Tom, for a delightful comment!

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  9. Geo, you will perhaps forgive me if I doubt the verisimilitude of this fascinating account of ancient Greek culture. The reason I am suspicious is that you paint a picture of these miscreants running home, sandal-less. Why home, I ask myself? If they were going home, rather than running off to war, there would have been no need for their wives to have withdrawn certain, shall we call them, favours? And in any case, Max - originating from the word Maximus meaning Big-Ba,,,,,, is a Latin word unknown to Plato, although I see you've come across it in your time-shifted travels.

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    1. Yes, I should clarify. Greek offenders --especially if exiled-- had their property confiscated, so they ran home to pretend to be somebody else, a recent buyer or new husband. Picture I.D.s were crude back then. Also, Plato was a very learned man --it's inconceivable that he would have neglected his Roman history.

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  10. Could it possibly not have been a slip of the tongue?

    Hopefully, both the speaker and Max had a good laugh over it later.

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  11. It would be wise to be on a first-name basis with good ol' Max. Once ya hear a last name screwed up like that, it sticks in the mind forever. Years ago, my hubby's office mate was having trouble remembering the name of one of the supervisors. Smarticus told him to think "Fat Ass"... it was close enough to the real name to spur a reminder. Um, not so much. But he DID remember "Fat Ass"...

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    1. Now there's a coincidence for you. Max Bas...I mean Baxter's brother's name was Fat Ass.

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  12. Dear Geo.,
    so good that I didn't miss this hilarious story! I'm a bit late in commenting: I had to recover my sandal (the tiny one that sticked to a stair when I run that down at midnight)
    As to slips of the tongue, Freudian or not: hilarious, but embarrassing for the slipper. Although I don't have/need glasses, lately I sometimes mis-read headlines - which amuses me a lot, though I keep it to myself.

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    1. Dear Brigitta,
      High praise much appreciated. As an accomplished literary interpreter and polyglot, do you think Freudian and other verbal slips could compose a new sub-field of linguistics?

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    2. A wonderful idea - and I am always open to new fields of research! As an author I see even more possibilities - like dreams, Freudian slips make good stories; as yours in the world of reality, but also as a starting point to see happenings/the world from a different angle. As you use often in such a refreshing way too!

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  13. Geo, witty post, kind sir. I used to be a member of the Future Fugitives of America, but luckily I saw the light :)

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    1. Thanks Keith! As a maintenance and operations worker it was often my job to change the bulb in that light. Glad it was visible when you ran the course!

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