WARNING: The following contains truths, half-truths, and outlandish points of wild conjecture. Students are therefore urged to not quote any of the below for scholarly research. Unless you do not live in the United States. Then, who cares? Like anyone is gonna know the difference.
This is also kinda long (no sexual double entendre intended) so you may want to pour yourself a cup of coffee with Bailey’s and get comfortable. Enjoy!
Happy Presidents Day!
Until fairly recently (Or not. I’m too lazy to look it up), there was no such thing as “Presidents” Day. Rather, we celebrated “Lincoln’s Birthday” on February 12th and “Washington’s Birthday” on February 22nd. What’s more, these days were one shot deals, instead of the three day weekends we now observe.
I remember feeling gypped whenever they fell on the weekend. So, we were all gladdened when the feds decided to ignore history and insist that George and Abe were born on Mondays. Screw ‘em, I guess they figured. They’re dead anyway.
Like I said, though, we now have Presidents Day instead of two separate holidays. Created to make room for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday holiday (no sense giving mailmen too many days off), Presidents Day was meant to commemorate both our 1st and our 16th presidents. And sales on cars, washing machines, and living room furniture.
So as not to offend either the Washington or Lincoln camps (boy, don’t get those two together in the same room!), Presidents Day was placed in between their birthdays. Or the third Monday in February. Or whichever made for the better three-day weekend.
Like Thanksgiving, this made it pretty easy to plan for, as a quick inspection of a calendar would quickly identify when it was. This is in stark contrast to Easter. Besides knowing that it’s on a Sunday, I have no idea from year to year when it will happen. Something to do with the lunar cycle and first day of spring. During leap year. When Jupiter aligns with Mars. And the Pope consults his Magic 8-Ball. Or something like that.
As time wore on, it transformed into a day to celebrate all of our nation’s chief executives, even the sucky ones.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION: I absolutely love the Martin Luther King holiday. Not only does it recognize a great man, but it comes on the heels of the post-Christmas/New Years goofing off hangover. Having a three-day weekend in the middle of January is sweet. No sense going cold turkey with time off.
We now return to my decidedly unscholarly diatribe...
We now return to my decidedly unscholarly diatribe...
As the concept of Presidents Day caught on, my family tried to come up with a dignified way to recognize the men who guided our nation’s ship of state.
I have to admit, it was pretty difficult to get all jazzed up for a holiday sandwiched between the saccharine-sweet chocolate debauchery of Valentines Day and the inebriated bacchanalian excesses of St. Patrick’s Day.
We finally decided on a “Dress as Your Favorite President Day.” That way, we could most suitably honor who it was we most admired as the leader of our country. And, even though my powdered wig and breeches got a lot of stares at the Home Depot, I felt it was the noble thing to do.
This practice worked quite well for a number of years. That is until my brother, dressed as Bill Clinton, got arrested at the Playboy mansion for goosing Miss February.
To avoid possible litigation, we then decided to pick a president who was not so well-known. I mean, how likely would it be that a descendant of Martin Van Buren would call us before Judge Judy for saying their great-great-great-great-grandfather’s head looked like a beachball with feathers? Not terribly likely.
To be sure, there are plenty of obscure stiffs from which to choose, guys who could be genuine stumpers in Trivial Pursuit. In fact, were it not for their bosses catching cold at inauguration, having one heck of a tummyache, being assassinated, dropping dead from a stroke, or resigning, we probably would never have heard of Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Coolidge, or Ford.
Bad enough we had Jimmy Carter.
Hoping to stand out with my unknown president, I chose a man who was legendary in the Republican Party. A man who put the needs of his fellow citizens before his own. A man whose hard work paid off handsomely. A man who had the fortune of being Vice-President when James Garfield was assassinated in 1881: Chester Alan Arthur, 21st President of the United States.
Known primarily for his facial hair and uncanny ability to remain innocuous, Arthur had the fortune of being Chief Executive during the Gunfight at the OK Corral when Kurt Russell, starring as Wyatt Earp, defeated the Clanton gang with the help of his brothers, Doc Holliday, and a killer moustache.
Arthur became president the year Alexander Graham Bell perfected the first metal detector. This was a step up for the beleaguered Bell who previously invented the machine used to try to locate the bullet lodged in Garfield’s (the president, not the cat) body.
With the result that Chester Arthur and his whiskers became president.
President Arthur was especially opposed to the Spoils System. This was even after he was informed by his cabinet that it had nothing to do with milk being left out overnight.
A champion of Civil Service reform, because he wanted to avoid “another Civil War” at all costs, Arthur is regarded as the “Father of the Civil Service and the Guaranteed Ten Minute Coffee Break.”
Not content with remaining somnambulant on the domestic front, he furthered his nation’s outreach beyond Washington. D.C. During his administration, the United States established formal diplomatic relations with Korea (thus discovering Ping Pong), organized the Alaskan territory (it was a mess), and continued the process by which land was stolen from Native-Americans and millions of buffalo were slaughtered by gangs of drunks hanging from the windows of passing trains.
Shockingly, he was denied nomination of his party for the presidential election of 1884. Evidently, party bigwigs weren’t terribly impressed with neither his record nor his campaign slogan of “At Least I’m Not Millard Fillmore.”
Instead, they gave the nomination to someone whose name escapes me, but, honestly, who cares? Whoever he was, he was defeated by the Democrat candidate for the presidency.
Yes, Grover Cleveland became the 22nd President of the United States primarily on the strength of HIS slogan: “I May Be Fat as a House, But I Ain’t Chester Arthur.”
Hmm, maybe next year I’ll choose Benjamin Harrison.