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NGO_Vleeptron (aka "Bob from Massachusetts") recently featured LIVE on BBC WORLD SERVICE, heard briefly by Gazillions!!!

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Location: Great Boreal Deciduous Hardwood Forest, New England, United States

old dude, all hair, swell new teeth

01 May 2005

here forever, gone tomorrow

As you skateboard through this Vale of Tears
, have you perchance noticed that everything rots, fades, corrupts, breaks, the goddam zipper on these blue jeans don't work anymore and can't be fixed, and even Jennifer Lopez begins to accumulate irreversible cellulite on her gorgeous downy thighs starting around age 17 no matter how she and her personal trainer Lars fight it?

The Ancient Greek philosophers noticed that and thought it sucks. They probably noticed it quicker than we do, because they had neither refrigerators nor food preservatives. They would go to the pantry to eat a leftover spanakopita that was perfectly delicious just yesterday, and now it's just totally gross and yucky.

I mention this because of The Old Man of the Mountain.

I don't know how local a phenom he was, I don't know if people crossing the Bridge over the Rio Tejo know about him, or if everybody in Thun says, "The Old Man of the Mountain! Yes! I have seen many hand-tinted postcards and stereopticon 3-dimensional panoramas of him!"

Or if everybody in Eurasia, Africa, Mesoamerica and Antarctica just says: "Huh?"

Okay, click here: This is what the Old Man of the Mountain used to look like.

Forever. Always. From time immemorial.

When I was a little kid -- and you would be shocked to know how long ago that was -- and I used to go to this summer camp (Takajo, and NO!!! Takajo boys do NOT take bubble baths like the kids at the other camps around the lake used to sing about us), they used to stick us on the bus and drive us to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and stop the bus and we would get out in the Scenic Parking Lot and our camp counselor would point up to the top of the mountain and say, "There it is, the Old Man of the Mountain. Look at it. Who has to go to the bathroom?"

But TOMotM was a lot older than that. His famous profile was on a gazillion things in New Hampshire, he was the official state symbol of New Hampshire Forever. Toujours. Siempre. Why?

Because the Old Man of the Mountain was PERMANENT. He never changed. He had always been there. And he would always be there.

And that was enormously reassuring. Our thighs and our asses were drooping and starting to look like cottage cheese, our boobs (those of us who had boobs) were drooping, our hair was falling out, our teeth were falling out, we were constantly having to put new batteries in the Walkman, the loaf of Wonder Bread (loaded with chemical preservatives) we were sure we bought perfectly fresh just this week had developed big gross blue-green spots, we were getting near-sighted and needed reading glasses.

But the Old Man of the Mountain had always been there. And the Old Man of the Mountain would always be there.


Daniel Webster, a very famous and important American political gasbag of the 19th Century, said:

"Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."

See? See? GOD HIMSELF put TOMotM up there!

It ain't there no more, by the way.

When the sun went down on the White Mountains on Friday 2 May 2003, he was there. As Always.

But when the sun came up on Saturday 3 May 2003, and people driving by looked up like they did every morning, uh-oh.

That sucker was gone.

Maybe he'd just gone to visit his sister in South Carolina and forgot to leave a note, but he'd be back soon. As Always.

Well, it's been exactly two years, and he ain't come back yet. As he used to be a few hundred thousand tons of rock and stone and granite, most of which ended up in that Scenic Parking Lot at the bottom of the mountain, a Special Committee of Geologists, after months of careful research and study, have concluded that The Old Man of the Mountain is probably not coming back.


Just like Ancient Greek spanakopita. Just like last month's halvah. Just like J-Lo's thighs.

Just before he vanished, the United States Mint decided to jazz up the quarter, the 25-cent coin. Thomas Jefferson would remain on one side.

But the other side (the obverse -- cool word, huh?) would have fifty different symbols, one for each of the fifty states of the USA.

Choosing the symbol to stick on the new coin for New Hampshire was a no-brainer: The Old Man of the Mountain!

The Mint issued the new New Hampshire coin, with the Old Man of the Mountain on the obverse, on 7 August 2000. They banged out 1,169,016,000 of them. That's U$292,254,000 worth of OMotM quarters, which is not chopped liver. They distributed them to banks, and people all over the USA have been using them ever since to buy Coca-Colas and Sprite and YooHoo Chocolate Soda and Mountain Dew and Fanta from Coke machines, and to buy newspapers and one hour's parking on Main Street in downtown Qualityoflifeville.

They might as well have put the picture of the turkey I eventually ate for Thanksgiving on it, that's how Forever that symbol was. But TOMotM got lucky! He's gone forever, but those coins will be around for thousands of years!

That's how we know what all the Roman Emperors looked like! They got their faces on coins! You can pull down all the statues, but these guys were on the coins! And people lost the coins in toilets and streams and down the crack in the back of the sofa!

Penguin publishes an edition of Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars," translated by Robert Graves, and there's all kinds of gossip and nasty smut about the following psychopathic homicidal coprophiliac paranoid troilist momzers: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. And each chapter begins with an image of that emperor, from an actual coin minted during his reign.

Nero is surprising -- his face is pudgy and puffy and he has a sickly ugly complexion. Obviously, for all his other sins and perversions, he wasn't vain, and told the very nervous sculptor to chisel him the way he saw him.

Franklin D. Roosevelt ran for and was elected president four times. No previous president had ever served more than two four-year terms. FDR died early in his fourth term. Most living people couldn't remember a president before him. First he got the USA through the Great Depression, and then World War II came along, and he got the USA almost to victory in Europe and the Pacific.

By the time he died, he was as close as a president had ever got to being a Roman Emperor, as close as a president ever got to Absolute Power. (I think he only had one mistress, and he'd had that relationship almost as long as he'd been married to Eleanor. He was with his mistress when he had his stroke and died, they hustled her out of there real fast.)

His longevity in office and his political power scared the crap out of everybody, Republicans and Democrats. They really didn't want America ever again to have a President-for-Life. (Turkmenistan has one of those now, it's official, President-for-Life Suparmurat Niyazov, but he says maybe he'll stop being President-for-Life in 2009.)
Early in the 1950s, Congress cranked out a new Constitutional Amendment: Maximum two 4-year terms for any president, eight years is all you can get, no matter how much the folks love you, or no matter how much you think the folks love you.

And then the Republicans used all their political power for an odd thing: All the time I was growing up, there was no statue to Franklin Delano Roosevelt anywhere in Washington DC. Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Grant are all over the place. But no FDR.

He died in 1945.

He finally got his statue in 1997.

But like the Old Man of the Mountain, FDR got the last laugh. No statue anywhere in the capital city for 52 years. But you can always topple a statue. Statues are as permanent as halvah.

But they put his face on the dime, the ten-cent coin. And they've minted a gazillion of those suckers. I have one or two of them in my pocket right now. And lots have dropped into the sofa. And into the mud and the river and the outhouse in the woods.

Two millennia from now, three millennia, four millennia, everybody will still know what Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked like. That's about as close as any of us can ever hope to get to Forever.


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