Fun With Inaugurations (No, not THIS inauguration!)

 This originally went up on the 4 County Mall website (although without the photos) here:


This is inauguration month. You probably didn’t realize this, unless you’re one of the few people who followed the 2016 Presidential election. I mean, who paid attention to that?

It was the single nastiest election since I ran for high school student council in 1979, and came in fourteenth out of thirteen. (I was beaten by “none of the above”.) But I’m a humor writer, and humor writers are fearless, so I’m absolutely going to not write about that election because I’m not stupid. And not one of those other twelve student council candidates can deny that, not even the one who ran on the platform of banning shop class, which I voted for him.

Here in Indiana we’d much rather talk about basketball and the weather than politics. That includes me, and I hate basketball. Hoosiers only follow politics because of our belief that politicians are like dogs: They might do some things for you, but if you stop paying attention to them they’ll chew up everything and spread crap all over the place.

Mostly people here in the Middle would just like to be left alone to lead our lives, but if someone riles us up … well, that’s a different story. After all, this is a state where the governor once sent the American army to attack a political convention, in the state capital.

It was called the Battle of Pogue’s Run, and I devoted a whole section to it in my book Hoosier Hysterical because I thought it was—well—hysterical. (Look me up and I’ll sell you a copy for just ten bucks, or less if you’ve got one of those newfangled electronic do-dads.) Although there were no injuries, Pogue’s Run had all the makings of an epic story: rebellion against authority, a cavalry charge, cannons pitted against trains, pistols hidden in petticoats … you can’t make up stuff like that.

This is what people did for fun in Indianapolis, before the Colts arrived.

Pogue's Run. Some sports team plays in that building in the background.

As all fifteen of my regular readers know, I write these things early, so for me it’s three weeks before the 2017 presidential inauguration. Maybe we’ll have a repeat of 2009, when Chief Justice John Roberts mixed up his words while giving Barrack Obama the oath of office. People were so worried about it turning into a legal issue that Obama was sworn in again the next day—and that was over just 35 words.

Apparently no one took issue to Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice-presidential oath, in which he was supposed to say “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion”, and instead said “without any mental reservation whatever”. Hey, we’ve all been there.

Anyway, in part of my ongoing effort to have something to write about—I mean, to educate the public—let’s see how things have gone wrong in past presidential inaugurations.

I’ve already written about William Henry Harrison, who gave the longest presidential inauguration speech ever, then promptly died. He should have taken note of George Washington’s speech, the shortest ever. Still, maybe it wasn’t the time so much as Harrison’s refusal to wear a coat: In 1937 Franklin D. Roosevelt watched the inauguration parade for an hour and a half during the rainiest inauguration day in history, and survived. Not only that, but he watched the whole thing while standing—and FDR couldn’t stand, without assistance.

President Harrison is feeling a little under the weather ...

In 1909 ten inches of snow fell on William H. Taft. Luckily he was a big, big guy, who just plowed through his speech.

In the inauguration of 1865 Abe Lincoln had a brand new vice-president, Andrew Johnson—who showed up drunk for his own speech. The story is that Johnson was feeling under the weather, and alcohol was the preferred treatment for a lot of ailments back then. I suppose alcohol’s also the preferred treatment for stage fright.

The most expensive inauguration was Obama’s, which cost more than $150 million—but about two thirds of that was paid for by private donors, an idea I can get behind. Crowd source the government!

John Quincy Adams did something truly shocking at his inauguration: He wore pants. Up until then, all the new presidents wore knee breeches. Perhaps ironically, Adams was also known to go skinny-dipping in the Potomac River.

Adams was also the first president to be photographed, so you can see why he was no peeping prize. But one day a female reporter named Ann Royall, who’d been refused an interview, simply sat on his clothes and refused to let him out of the water … and became the first female reporter to interview a U.S. President.

Who wouldn't want to see this handsome guy skinny dipping in the Potomac?

On a less happy note, in 1857 thirty-six people celebrating James Buchanan’s inauguration caught the “National Hotel disease” and died. Buchanan got it too but recovered, and I assume didn’t dine at that hotel again.

JFK had a hot time at his inauguration parade, as in the podium caught fire. A Cardinal was delivering the invocation at the time—think what you will of that.

Then there was the inauguration of Andrew Jackson. Twenty thousand people gathered outside the Capitol, a huge crowd for 1829, and Jackson was so happy that he said: “Ya’ll come on over and visit us at the White House!”

So they did.

Jackson had to escape out the back while the drunken mob smashed stuff and generally turned the White House into a wreck, which also happened when Hillary started throwing bric-a-brac at Bill during the Affair Affair. The party organizers were only able to clear the building by putting free booze out on the White House lawn.

But here’s my favorite of all: In 1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the reviewing stand for the inauguration parade when a cowboy rode up to him on a horse … and lassoed him.

Of course, that had to have been planned in advance. The cowboy, Montie Montana (I assume that’s his real name) … survived.

"Not sure why them fellas in the suits seem all upset."

50 Authors from 50 States: Renee Rose and Alexis Alvarez of Arizona—Something...

50 Authors from 50 States: Renee Rose and Alexis Alvarez of Arizona—Something...: Hi! I’m Renee Rose (Tucson, AZ) and I paired up with fellow Arizona author Alexis Alvarez (Phoenix, AZ) to bring you the flavor of ou...

Duck, duck ...

Confused geese at Sand Lake in Chain O Lakes State Park, where water is on top of ice that's on top of water.

Not the best photo--they were way out in the middle of the lake, and no way was I going to get closer. That's the beach house in the distance, on the other side of the lake.

25 Years of Talking

In all the fuss that this winter has been so far, I haven't mentioned the fact that December 13th was the 25th anniversary of my employment at the Noble County Sheriff Department.

I started out as a jail officer, and after a few years moved to dispatch: first on second shift, then on a swing, and finally to thirds, where I've worked ever since. In fact, I've worked there for so long that in a few years I'm qualified to retire at full pension; although that's not going to happen until I'm selling enough books to pay the difference (and insurance). In fact, I've actually done this job for longer than anything else in my life, except parenting, firefighting, and breathing.

They gave me a really nice certificate, which will go on my office wall:

That's me in the middle. All three of us in the photo are volunteer firefighters in addition to being members of Noble County Communications. On the right is my direct supervisor, John Urso. If we had a ladder truck he'd be a truckie: tall and hard headed. He's so tough, Chuck Norris goes across the street to avoid him. His glare has made dispatch trainees literally melt. And guess who has to clean it up? Yep: me. Third shift vacuums.

On the left is Mitch Fiandt, who's been there so long his employee number starts with a minus. When Mitch started dispatching, he had to alert the police by ringing the nearest church bell. He'd call out the fire department by starting a signal fire, which if you think about it is pretty ironic. On the fire department his area of expertise is apparatus operation, but he's had trouble getting used to those newfangled internal combustion engines.

I know what you're thinking: "Mark, can you make fun of age after hitting the big two five?" Well, at my age it's all I can do. All I can say is that when I started out, we didn't have computers in dispatch or in fire trucks. Now I've got a computer in my pocket, and it even makes phone calls.

Other people have on occasion suggested I write a book about my experiences in the emergency communications.


Not while I'm still employed.

TV Review: Oz reimagined again … and again … and again …

         Fans of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books often have mixed reactions to new Oz related projects. We want them to be faithful to the books, at a time when many people think Oz started four decades later with the MGM Judy Garland movie. On the other hand, we’re often happy to have any kind of Ozzie entertainment, even when we’re up in arms about how very un-Oz it can be.

So when Wicked comes along, or Oz: The Great and Powerful, or when the characters pop up on “Once Upon a Time” or “Supernatural”, we hold our breath and hope the creators get it right. Usually they don’t. (Dorothy is blonde, darn it!)

Blonde Dorothy. See? I don't make this crap up.

If they don’t get it right in our minds, the next question is to they get it right in spirit? (After all, Dorothy wasn’t blonde in the first Oz book.) And failing that, did they at least give us an entertaining project that keeps Oz in people’s minds?

Along comes “Emerald City”. The first thing I heard about the project was that it would be a “darker, edgier” look at Oz, at which point I began screaming and tearing my hair out, and believe me, I don’t have hair to waste.

But having said that, Baum himself often made Oz a dark place. In the first book Dorothy and the gang kill two witches, two forest beasts that are intent on eating them, and the Scarecrow even murders a murder of crows. In the second book an army invades the Emerald City and takes over, and in the third a princess decides to have Dorothy’s head cut off—to add to her collection. Come to think of it, in the fourth (spoiler alert!) the Wizard burns down an entire country, and cuts another guy in half, with a sword! Okay, the other guy was literally a vegetable, but still.

So yeah, maybe not such a leap. “Emerald City” was a pleasant surprise, although that might be partially because I went in with low expectations.

There were plenty of shout-outs for the book fans, starting right from the beginning when one of the most important non-Dorothy characters show up—sort of. (Spoilers!) Still, when they said “darker”, they weren’t kidding around.

Dorothy starts out in Kansas with her aunt and uncle as in the book, but she’s grown up and working in a hospital—and stealing drugs for her ailing Uncle Henry. But in this version her mother is alive and has returned, living nearby but out of contact with her daughter. When they finally meet again it’s in the midst of both a tornado and a murder; Dorothy dives into a police car for safety from both and finds herself—and the officer’s K-9—lifted through some kind of space warp into a snowy wasteland where she promptly runs someone down. Come on—you know who that someone is.

Things just go downhill from there, as Dorothy immediately finds herself in the middle of political intrigue and danger from all sides. At least the dog (In Oz dogs are called “Toto”) likes her, as does the brainless straw-covered Christ-figure she saves from crucifixion. Yeah, you heard that right—he’s even got a wound in his side.

Sure enough, Dorothy is on her way down the Yellow Brick Road, although in Mountainous terrain full of death and destruction and people wanting to kill her. Meanwhile the Wizard has taken control of Oz despite the hatred of the only two witches left, there’s a frozen giant poised to destroy the witches’ temple, Dorothy may have signed a death warrant for the little boy she “rescued”, and it’s all very steampunk. It was about as far from the Oz books as you could get, and yet, in a strange way, not.

I mean, steampunk? Baum had an entire city that mechanically sank beneath a lake for defense, and a mechanical man who literally had to be wound up to work.

Overall, I liked it way more than I thought I would. The writers kept the pace moving, the actors did great, and there was plenty of mystery and intrigue to go around. Although the look was nothing like the Oz I’d imagine, the Spanish scenery was certainly spectacular, as were the effects. Not a big fan of that much darkness, though: I have a feeling we’ll see little or no of Baum’s humor in this version.

There were also hints that there are more secrets behind Dorothy than even she knows, and I assume that’s going to come around again. I like that she was more like the book Dorothy: not only caring but imaginative, determined, and not willing to take crap.

Still not blonde. But I liked the actress too much to care.

Radio Red Now Up For e-book Pre-Order

The e-book version of my new novel, Radio Red, is now up and available for pre-order! I know, I was surprised too: Nobody told me it was happening, I just stumbled across it. I thought pre-order was what the big-time authors did. (The actual release date is March 7.)

I was also surprised to find my name listed as R. Mark Hunter. That's now been corrected, and we're up and running in such places as:

(That's Simon and Schuster, one of the big name publishers, listing four of my titles!)
(You've heard of Amazon? Probably.)

(Kobo. You know, Kobo.)

(Google Play. Yeah, you've heard of Google.)

(Barnes and Noble. It's nice to see my books up there, even if they can't be found (yet) in their brick and mortar stores.)

Those are the places I'm aware of so far. It's being priced at $3.99, which is pretty good for a full-length novel. Getting enough pre-orders might result in a bit more promotion, and those things tend to feed on themselves; so please consider checking it out! Also, look for the print version coming soon.

The Creeping Crud and Puny Dogs

This creeping crud sickness crap is getting really old. It's been a double whammy: We got sick, thought we were getting better, then got sick again. After a month most of the symptoms are gone except for the sinus drainage stuff and headaches, but we've been exhausted: The other day we went shopping for one hour, and were barely able to drag ourselves back to the car, which is where I would have left the groceries if not the the single digit weather. Maybe I should have just left the frozen stuff there?

We've been avoiding going out as much as possible, on the off chance that we're still contagious. Even the dog got sick ... but in that case, it was everything he ate. (He's fine now!)

Okay, enough whining--lots of people are sicker than we were. Besides, it's January; it's not like I want to go out, anyway. I've been working on writing and preparing for the Radio Red book launch ... and maybe that's what I would have been doing anyway!

"I can't believe I ate the whole 2016."

It's a little Chile for a UFO

I'm one of those people who "wants to believe", but carries a big ol' grain of salt for stuff like this. Just the same, the Chilean authorities seem to have done their due diligence and were willing to admit that they just don't know, which is impressive for any government. The upshot: Reliable witnesses saw and filmed ... something real. By the time you read this, they may have already found an explanation.

I'm just sayin'

A Misplaced Middle Name

I got a sneak peek at how my new novel will look when it's up for sale: Radio Red, by R. Mark Hunter.

The problem being that my pen name is Mark R. Hunter.

I checked with the publisher, and we all agreed that with this being my tenth book, it was a little late to change my name, so the correction should be made by Monday. I do remember, back when I was convinced I'd be on the bestseller list by age 21, toying with what my author name should be: M.R. Hunter and M. Richard Hunter were my favorites. They seemed like a good idea when I was a teenager. Instead I added my middle initial, mostly because I Googled my name and there were some 1,400,000 Mark Hunters online.

Now, with the R, I share my name only with the CEO of Molson Coors Brewing Company, a risk management expert from Salt Lake City, a building contractor in Alabama ... and another author, who at least doesn't write in any of my genres. Yet.

New Review of The No-Campfire Girls

Authors live off reviews—we sure can’t live off our writer’s income!—and I got a really nice one of The No-Campfire Girls, to usher in the new year:

This novel, along with Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights, are our books that support good causes beyond my retirement fund. You can, of course, find them in places such as:

Remember, every time you leave a book review, an angel gets his wings … then he flies away and no longer leaves a carbon footprint. Save the planet: Leave a review.