Friday, March 13, 2009

Spiro and Me

Spiro T. Agnew by William Frederick Behrends

It should be obvious to even the casual reader of Lugubrious Drollery that the author has a tendency to play for laughs, often with rather sorry results. This trait goes way back. One example from my high school days came to mind recently. For reasons that escape me now, the local paper published personal profiles of at least some of the seniors. It was a small class, and they may have featured everyone during the school year. As I recall, there was no interview involved, but rather a form to be filled out with vital facts about interests and extracurricular activities, and so forth. I was, for the most part, truthful until I got to the question about favorite book. In general, I have trouble answering questions about favorites. Color? Don't really care. Food? Key lime pie, perhaps, but then again, what about sweet potatoes, or Jarlsberg cheese, or M&Ms? You have no idea what an effort it was for me to come up with even that short list.

And when it comes to books, well, there are just too many possibilities. So, for my senior profile, I invented a book out of thin air--The Life and Times of Spiro T. Agnew. I guess the local weekly paper didn't have a fact-checking staff, because this little prevarication got published.

Why did Mr. Agnew pop into my head at the crucial moment? It's hard to tell. The name just sounds funny to begin with, he was funny-looking, and he seemed a cariciture of conservatism in an age of social upheaval (1970-71). His attack on the press as "nattering nabobs of negativism" is a classic, whether he wrote it himself or not. As vice president, Agnew became an icon of all that was wrong--and there was so much--with the Nixon administation, not unlike Dick Cheney during the last 8 years. Agnew resigned from office in disgrace before his boss, Tricky Dick Nixon did, setting the stage for Gerald Ford to be named VP and then to rise to the Presidency when Nixon resigned. I must thank Agnew for adding the legal phrase nolo contendere to my vocablulary. In 1972, he pleaded no contest to charges of tax evasion, stemming from his shady activities as governor of Maryland before his terms as vice president.

I recently discovered that despite his legal troubles and subsequent disbarment, a bust of old Spiro is displayed in the Capitol. Back in 1886, the Senate passed a resolution that a marble bust of each vice president should be placed in the Capitol. Considerable foot dragging occurred when it came to commissioning a bust of Agnew, but ultimately, some 22 years after he resigned, Agnew appeared at the unveiling of his bust in 1995.

Agnew was such a cultural icon, that he appeared on a watch, a la Mickey Mouse. I didn't own a Spiro Agnew watch, but I was able to buy a T-shirt with an image of one. I still have this T-shirt and cling to it as symbol of my lost youth, even if I can't fit into it anymore.

Well, as usual, I have strayed far afield from the topic at hand. I started off discussing humor--sort of. Rather than follow the trend of some bloggers and reveal my innermost angst and psychic aberrations (cue Morris Albert singing "Feelings"), I chose to include terms I find amusing in my Blogger profile. I thought I was being fairly original. I should have known better. One of the features of the Blogger profile is that the key words entered there are hyperlinked to other Blogger profiles with the same key words. Thus, when I click on the words I listed as "interests," I find the following numbers of people who used the same words:
Shiny objects: 1000
Concrete: 307
Dust bunnies: 29
Weather Maps: 3
Hockey Pucks: 3
Dietary Fiber: 1
Tropical parasites: 1
Considering the millions and millions of pathetic losers in the blogosphere, I guess coming up with the same phrase as even 1000 other bloggers is relatively original. At least for the time being, I can claim to be unique in my interest in dietary fiber and tropical parasites. And wouldn't the world be a better place if more people joined me?

Link to U.S. Senate Art and History page about Spiro T. Agnew
Link to article about Agnew watch at "I Remember JFK"
Link to my Blogger profile


beardog321 said...

Hi David,
Down in Florida visiting the folks, and getting away from Wyoming for awhile.
My unique connection to Spiro is somewhat weird.
My freshman year of college at Wake Forest University, a gentleman by the name of Congressman Ford was the president of Wake's version of a PTA. My folks received monthly letters from him about college activities, and other things PTA's did. His son was a student at the time, I think a senior, and I was a freshman. This was the fall of 1973. Well, we all know what happened in 1974, and my college PTA president became our US President. And the day Nixon left office, that August of 74, I was at a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young concert at Roosevelt Stadium in New Jersey.
You stirred up some sleeping brain cells.
Thanks for the post.

David C. said...


Thanks for the comment. The closest I ever came to President Ford was seeing him in a motorcade going down Main Street, Evansville, Indiana back in the 70s. I would have been happy to see CSN&Y back in 74, but now, not so much. They've toured through this area a couple times in the last few years, but I'd rather remember them as they were when we all were younger.

Enjoy Florida!



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