Wednesday, October 11, 2006

[Polemic Alert: the following inflammatory rhetoric is perhaps only of local interest. Saint Paul, my adopted home town, recently passed a law banning smoking in bars and restaurants. The mayor, Chris Coleman, and city councilman Dave Thune were vociferous proponents of this law.]

Saint Paul used to be a tough town. Back in the day, it was home to a motley collection of gangsters, molls, henchpeople and gunsels. If, for example, the mayor told Pretty Boy Floyd that he couldn’t smoke at a speakeasy, he might reasonably expect to be fished out of the Mississippi a week later wearing concrete overshoes. If a city councilman said to Machine Gun Kelly that he couldn’t smoke at Nina Clifford’s brothel, it would not be surprising if said councilman developed a severe case of lead poisoning while driving to the store in his Model A. Admittedly, these guys were murderous punks and we’re better off without them, but the fact remains that Saint Paul was a tough, colorful, resilient city -- once.

Alas, no more. Nefarious influences are at work to drain the lifeblood from the city of Saint Paul and replace it with insipid gruel. Welcome to the emasculation of Saint Paul: Chris Coleman and Dave Thune don’t think you’re smart enough to choose between smoking and non-smoking bars, so smoking is no longer allowed in any bar in the city. And you support them.

You, Joe Smug, have now made it safe to take Mrs. Smug and all the little Smuglets to Costello’s and get them arm-waving drunk without fear of later developing lung cancer, heart disease or emphysema.

You, Susie Self-Righteous, with your fancy hyphenated name and your scowl and fake cough as you walk by me while I smoke in front of W. A. Frost, have succeeded in helping to destroy the pernicious capitalism that so cripples the American economy.

Congratulations. You’ve turned Saint Paul into a pallid milksop of a city.

You may come to regret it.

When Central America invades Minnesota, and the streets of Saint Paul are filled with strutting troops from El Salvador and Honduras, it will be too late. When you at last discover that Coleman and Thune are actually Guatemalan stooges sent as an advance party to pre-pacify Saint Paul, it will be too late.

Sure, you’ll shout “Darn you!” at your new oppressors, make faces at them when they’re not looking, and pelt them with organic rice cakes. Then it’s jackboots on the stairs and your family is hauled off to a “detention center” in one of the 15 or 20 new sports stadiums you unwittingly built them. It won’t matter to you then that the bar of soap that they hand you is Neutrogena, or that the towel is plush Egyptian cotton loop, because the shower you’re headed for is definitely not artesian spring water.

That’s when you’ll need strong men, angry men, profane men -- Dakota County men, because that’s where we’ll be after you drive us out of Saint Paul. We’ll be drinking and smoking in Moose Country in Mendota Heights, watching the tanks roll down Rice Street live on CNN up on the big screen. And not a man among us will be drinking soy lattes.

Don’t come crying to us to save you from the ravening hoards. We’ll blow smoke at you and give you emphysema.

- Hulles

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