Monday, February 15, 2016

Presidents Daze

Parts of this post have appeared previously on Stonekettle Station.  In fact, parts of this post appear every year on this date.


So, Presidents Day.

President’s Day.

Or is it Presidents’ Day?

I can never remember where to put the apostrophe.

We should call today what it is, Just Another Random Reason To Close the Post Office Day.

Whose dumb idea was this anyway?

No, really, considering the sheer level of contempt most Americans have for their government these days, not to mention specifically and in particular the president, we’re really going to celebrate something called president’s day? Presidents Day? Seriously?

What are the Presidents Day traditions? Do we burn down our garages while deep frying a turkey full of firecrackers? Is there animal sacrifice involved? Do we put up colored lights? Gift wrap fudgesickles? Paint eggs? Shoot guns into the air and light our farts? (that would be my choice, just saying). Should we maybe nail some guy to a cross and poke him with sticks? Burn witches and dress up in costumes based on the latest Spielberg movie? Is there a corned beef and leprechauns involved? Shouldn’t there be some kind of sporting event and a parade in New York? What? I’m a little hazy on what this day is supposed to be about. Does Hallmark even make a card for President’s Day?  Would it be like The holiday season? You know, Christmas cards for right thinking true actual Americans, Chanukah cards for the Jews, Generic Festivus Card for the non-believers, money orders for the Scientologists, and like that? 

Are there Liberal and Conservative President’s Day cards? If not, somebody is seriously missing out on a lucrative business opportunity. 

Like The holidays, do people get pissy if you don’t call it after their particular thing? Xidents Day? Ooooh, I’m so offended! Offended, I tell you! This is the day that we celebrate the magical virgin birth of little baby George Washington who was delivered unto America in a cloud of sparkly Angel wings by Jesus! By God, this day isn’t about celebrating Lincoln. It’s not about Taft. It’s not Grover Cleveland day! It’s Washington! George Reagan Jefferson Washington! Why has [insert generic political object of derision] declared war on little baby George Washington? Why?!

What’s the greeting? Every holiday has a salutation of some kind. Merry Christmas, Kiss Me I’m Irish lets go back to my place and have drunken leprechaun sex, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Easter (or as it’s known around here, Yikes! Zombies!).  What’s the salutation for Presidents’ Day?

Presidents Day. How can this be a real holiday?

Folks, think about it, there isn’t a even a pie

That’s right, all real American holidays worth closing the Post Office for come with pie.  Presidents Day? No pie.

I think I’ve made my point here.

Presidents Day, it’s ridiculous.

Now, of course, originally, we celebrated George Washington’s birthday and that was okay. No pie, but okay.

Because, Americans being Americans, they declared their independence from England, told the Crown to shove off, spit on the idea of aristocracy and royalty and the divine right of kings, and made all men equal – and then immediately set about elevating their own set of icons to worship.

Starting with George.

I guess I can dig that.  George Washington was the father of the United States, born in Texas, he was a personal friend of Jesus, he threw a hundred dollar bill across the Mississippi, he wrestled a polar bear when he was only three wearing nothing but a coonskin cap and freed the slaves at the Alamo, and then he fought off the Nazis after they bombed Pearl Harbor – or something. 

OK, I’m not sure exactly what George did, but he’s Sarah Palin’s hero and that’s good enough for me.

But that wasn’t good enough for everybody else, oh no.

Pretty soon, people wanted the day off for their favorite President too.

So then we had Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. That was fun, people dressed up in stovepipe hats and went to see a play…

But before you knew it, Americans were talking about taking the day off for Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday too.

And then there was Benjamin Franklin’s birthday - he was never the President, but he’s on the money and that confused a lot of people and besides he discovered electricity and Pop Tarts and that ought to be worth a couple days of drinking and tailgating and some kind of bowl game. 

Pretty soon folks were talking about taking Grover Cleveland’s wedding anniversary off and going up to Big Bear for a four day weekend.

Then somebody came up with the idea of Vice President’s day, and Speaker of the House Day, and Take Your Press Secretary To Lunch Day, and Spend A Night In The Motel 6 With Your Congressional Page Day.

By the end of the 1960’s, things were totally out of hand – there were so many holidays that the 60’s seemed like one long party. That’s where hippies and venereal disease came from. The 60’s were not, in fact, a cultural revolution, it just seemed that way because everybody had been basically drunk for a decade – which, come to think of it, also explains the hygiene issues.

So around about 1971, Congress sobered up long enough to create Presidents Day.

Technically, it’s supposed to be Washington’s Birthday but saying that out loud started the whole “what about my president!” thing all over again.  So we just call it Presidents Day. Or President’s Day. Or maybe Presidents’ Day – nobody is really sure what to do about that stupid apostrophe.

The problem with “Presidents Day” is that it is supposed to be a day we all take off and ruminate on the greatness of our leaders here in the US.  And sure, that sounds terrific in principle, but in reality there were some real duds in the ol’ Presidential line up.

Take Marty Van Buren:


Give this guy a red rubber nose and we’re talking Bozo the Clown here.  And that’s how a lot of people felt about him.  In the 1830’s there was basically no federal banking regulation and Wall Street just sort of did whatever it pleased – including handing out huge loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, ever.  A massive financial crisis resulted.  Marty was a rich elitist and liked to live the highlife, you can imagine what the average voter thought of him by the end of his first term. 

Fortunately, thanks to Congress and modern laws, nothing like that can happen these days.

Or how about John Tyler:


Tyler ended up in the White House by default.  President William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech in history – in the pouring rain, in freezing temperatures, without a coat or a hat. As a result he had the shortest presidency of all time when he died from pneumonia less than a month later. 

Hey, I’m all about term limits, but that seems a little extreme.

John Tyler, who was Harrison’s Vice President, was sworn in as the booby prize.  Tyler was so widely despised that he is often confused for George W. Bush by historians.  His entire cabinet resigned in protest of his policies. The House tried to impeach him and he was actually thrown unceremoniously out of his own party.  After he was eventually evicted from the Oval Office, he joined the Confederacy and died during the Civil War as a Representative of the CSA House. 

Personally, I think the guy missed his calling, he could have made a killing as the “before” picture for any number of laxative manufacturers.

And do we really want to celebrate James Buchanan?


It’s creepy uncle Fester! 

What? Nobody owned a comb back in the 1800’s?

Buchanan, besides being the inspiration for Donald Trump’s hair stylist, basically caused the Civil War.

No doubt they’ll be raising a few glasses in his memory down South today.

How about Rutherford B. Hayes?


The only President with a more sissified first name than Millard Fillmore (seriously, Millard? Were his parents just trying to get him beat up every single day of his life?).

Hayes lost the popular vote, but won the Presidency in court – thank God that kind of shit doesn’t go on any more. 

His inauguration was actually held in secret, for fear that he’d be assassinated if he appeared in public for his swearing in.  You know, I’m not a superstitious man, but I’d consider that a somewhat less than auspicious start to any administration.

Wait, it gets better, his wife was known as Lemonade Lucy because she banned alcohol from the White House – funny, but you’d think she’d drink pretty much continuously if she had to sleep with this guy. C’mon, Lucy, give The Beard some sugar!

Then there’s Warren Harding:


Widely regarded as “The Lost Munster,” Harding is considered by most American historians as probably the only US president who can’t look at George W. Bush and say, “Well, at least I didn’t suck as much as that guy.”

He was easily corrupted, a serial adulterer, an astoundingly horrible leader, and a worse public speaker – in fact, this guy was so bad at talking out loud, that he made Dan Quayle look like the president of Toastmasters.

Also, he was the guy behind the Teapot Dome scandal.

He died in office and the only reason anybody even noticed was because things started getting better.

How about this guy?


I’m going to be honest with you here, I think William Jefferson Clinton is the perfect role model for an American holiday.

No, seriously.

Frankly I don’t think it gets any more American than this guy.  Left, Right, independent, c’mon there isn’t a male in all of America that doesn’t secretly fantasize about getting a hummer from an amply cushioned cute intern in the Oval Office. I mean if you’re not getting free gratuitous sex, what’s the point of being President in the first place? It’s not like there’s pie.

Now, it is true that I hate Bill Clinton. It’s personal. He’s the guy who caused my conservative 80 year old mother to use the word “blowjob” in a sentence, at dinner. Folks, that’ll put you off sex, and dinner, for a while. Thanks, Bill.

But really, what better way to celebrate President’s day than we watch the game, we eat junk food and swap stories of our sexual conquests that may or may not be true. And later on we’ll have a cigar and not have sex with that woman (wink wink). Twice.

Now that’s a holiday tradition most Americans could get behind (or in front of, depending on your fancy, but I digress). That’s a damned holiday. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stuff the turkey with firecrackers before putting it in the deep fryer.

Happy George Washington’s Birthday, folks.


  1. Washington's Birthday was usually celebrated with cherry pie.

    1. Cherry pie...it does seem to always circle back to Clinton, doesn't it.

    2. My father's favorite pie was cherry, and he was born on Washington's birthday, hmmm, wonder if there is a story there. Jim Wright, you are my favorite blog, would vote for vote you in an instance if ever you ran for President.

    3. If cherry pie isn't your thing, you can always fall back on Martha Washington's famous cake -- if i remember correctly, it calls for something like 20 eggs.

  2. Now, of course, originally, we celebrated George Washington’s birthday and that was okay. No pie, but okay.---Cherry Pie. Problem solved.

  3. Warren Harding was the Donald Trump of the last century. Once of the only business leaders to achieve political notoriety.

  4. "...caused my 80-year-old conservative mother to use the word 'blowjob in a sentence, at dinner."

    Damn near pissed myself over that one. My 81-year-old grandmother did the same thing. With the same effect.

    1. Yep, those 80 year-old mothers: Mine declared that upon turning 80. she now had "Fool's Freedom". At that point I was 50 and told her I would not wait that long. I have not regretted my resolve and look back at the past quarter of a century with contentment, as I have found many diplomatic ways to help others accept that concept. And Yes, there are times when more direct language is required. So Be It!

    2. I'm not quite 80 but my kids nearly passed out when I said he should learn to keep his pecker in his pants.

  5. I believe it was the Firesign Theater who pointed out that Ben Franklin was the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States. Glad you noticed this as well.

  6. I would speak more about cherry pie, but let's be real. My handle here is sheblooms, so I won't.
    Great read.

  7. I love this essay every time I read it. Great writing, sir. I laughed all the way through it. love it.

  8. If you work for the City of Charlottesville or the County of Albemarle, Virginia, you DO get Jefferson's birthday off (April 13 or the nearest weekday). One year it fell on Good Friday, so I felt like it was an Easter break.

    Remember to give ShopKat some of that turkey.

    1. Thomas Jefferson or Jefferson Davis?

  9. Well, you were right about George Washington being born in Texas. But then George chopped down the pecan tree and when his daddy asked who did it, George of course said, "I cannot tell a lie," whereupon his father immediately moved the family to Virginia because there'd be no room for George in Texas politics with an attitude like that.

  10. Federally speaking, the holiday is still Washington's Birthday. There's never been a federal Lincoln's Birthday holiday, and I think we probably can guess why.
    What I find amusing is that Washington's actual birthday falls on Monday this year, but because the federal definition of the holiday is "the third Monday in February", the holiday will never actually fall on Washington's birthday.

  11. Bill Clinton put me off cigars.

  12. Cherry pie for Washington's birthday? Wait a minute. Wasn't it ol' Georgie who chopped down that cherry tree? Where are those pie cherries supposed to come from? Or are cherry trees nationwide celebrating his demise? I mean, really!

  13. I'm sorry but I laughed out loud at your reason for hating Bill Clinton.
    My mother was a life-long conservative Republican. She probably would not have used the term blow job in a sentence. Certainly never at dinner. But on her 80th birthday she did get a tattoo. So who knows? :)

  14. Jim: This is by far, one of the most hilarious and yet on spot post from you. Yes, the damn PO was closed today, but what the hell, it was also a day when all the crazy Scalia conspiracies came to light. If it was a Bill Clinton day, the dry cleaners could have a special on removing stains.
    Thank you for the laughs!

  15. True story, I was born on Washington's birthday and my sister on Lincoln's. When we were kids, this was awesomesauce because we NEVER HAD TO GO TO SCHOOL ON OUR BIRTHDAYS. Sweet! Doesn't get any better than that! Then came Richard Fuckin' Nixon and that bastard not only comglomerated both holidays into one but put it on a Monday along with all the others so we got completely screwed out of our special days. Burn in hell, Nixon, and since I'm not getting my special day back then to hell with stupid President's Day too. Bad cess to the lot of it! *flips vigorous double bird*

    1. Yes! My birthday was the day before Washington's and I thought of it as my special day off. After Nixon consolidated the presidents, my granny called me the day before the recalendared P Day. She figured if they were moving the presidents, I should move my birthday every year too. Nope.

  16. Back in the day we had two holidays, Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday. Two holidays less than two weeks apart. Well, the corporate types sure didn't like this, having to give workers two paid holidays in that short space in time, so they got the Congressional folks to consolidate the two holidays into one, saving them a huge amount of money paid to workers for not working. Once again, the people who do the work get screwed.

  17. We used to get a big kick out of calling it George Birthington's Wash Day, and plan celebrations that involved putting other people's underpinnings out on the clothesline to freeze.

  18. I've always referred to it as Linkington's Washday.

  19. i think we should have a "the guy who lost to the president but would have made a better presidents (') day" we could metaphorically call it al gore day and all go out on the back porch, breathe and re-invent the internet. pie would be optional.

  20. Hey, one of my favorite uncles was named Millard, I'll have you know. Of course, nobody called him that after we little 'uns started calling him "Uncle Mokie." If you want to know the story, let me know. ;-)

  21. OH God, did I cry - laughing. Terrific piece. Thanks for reminding my that we must keep our Sense of humor through this election season, or loose our wits completely.
    YES! A pie. We need a pie for this day. I'm thinking Mincemeat Pie. That would be the perfect pie for "President(s' or 's - Whatever) Day. I remember when it was Washington's B'day, and Lincoln's B'day, and we didn't get out of school for either. I think Washington's Birthday won the toss, because the South was still butthurt over Lincoln and wouldn't agree to ANYTHING that might show homage to THAT guy.

    I really think that WH Harrison should have the honor, though. He did less to damage while the office than any of the others. That has to mean something, these days.

  22. I was an admirer until you dissed the Arkansas boy. Other than flying around in Air Force One, the limo, and hosting the media & press for a dinner once a year where they make fun of you, what better reason is there for being president?
    Another of my favorite presidents was President Kennedy. Great president and certainly a ladies man! The reason that I would post as Anonymous is I do not qualify for the other choices. I normally post as Captain Dan.

  23. Beautifully (and hilariously) done. Thank you, again.

  24. Mr. Wright
    Growing up in the middle-class haven of the "sixties", I was thrilled to have two holidays in February, the same birth month as mine. After all what else was there to celebrate about February? Having them combined into one would have impacted my childhood, making me think February was a waste of a month.
    In reality, there's a reason it's the shortest month. It's the month best forgotten. Losing one of our Presidents was the price to pay for being born in the God-forsaken month of February.
    Were I still a government servant,I would mourn the loss.
    As a child born in February, I miss the recognition.

  25. The day is over and not one mattress did I buy!

  26. Wonderful essay!!! Thank you for the much needed perspective during the presidential election.

  27. I humbly submit the following Presidents(') Day salutation for consideration. A snarky
    "THANKS, Obama"

  28. I don't know about you, but when I was a boy we had cherry pie (or cherry cake with pink icing) on George Birthington's Wash Day...

    Dr. Phil

  29. Who painted that Clinton portrait? I want one.

  30. You forgot one of the worst things about President Hayes - that as his bribe to the Southern Democrats for allowing him to steal the presidential election, he withdrew federal troops from the former Confederacy, thereby surrendering in peace what the Civil War had won: any hope of civil rights protection for freed slaves. And thus was the Jim Crow Era (with all its attendant horrors) born.

    Thanks, Rutherford.

  31. What about the grand tradition of buying furniture on Presidents day during the big sales? What better way to commemorate all of our presidents, both past and present by buying a pfluerg from IKEA?


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