Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Personal Aside: There’s Amos `n Andy…and Roland Burris, God Help Us!...Also, the Website of an Artist Named…Guess?


Amos, Andy and Good Ol` Rol.

At a time when the nation has an ultra-cool black president and the nation a coterie of cool, very cool, black film stars and a collection of black CEOs like the head of “Time-Warner,” Illinois has courageously remembered the past by serving up a black U. S. senator who comes closest to recalling the exaggerations and hilarity of the two white minstrels who played Amos ‘n Andy…especially Andy the 1920s-`30s blusterer bursting with unwarranted, hyper-inflated self-confidence. The way the Democratic majority has allowed him to flounder around on Capitol Hill without guidance is, my informants tell me, a rib-tickler…reminiscent of the most scathing plot ever written or cast by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

That, of course, would be our guy, Roland Burris. As he circled around the Senate office buildings all but alone, it was reminiscent, I am told, of the cast of the “Mystic Knights of the Sea” headed by George (The Kingfish) Stevens, Henry Van Porter the pompous insurance hustler—all who had the tireless services of the inestimable lawyer Algonquin J. Calhoun who used to say when someone put their male hands improperly on a young lady, wait until he puts his foot on her and then Calhoun would see he get booked for trespassing.
Nor is this comedy purely hearsay. The “Tribune” story yesterday by Jill Zuckerman, properly cleaned up for political correctness, shows a senator heading toward the House when he means to go to the Senate, arriving at his Senate office at 8:30 a.m., rather late for Senate offices to open (most are going at 7 a.m.) only to find no one there so that he has to dig around in his pocket for a key. No staff, no secretary, no adviser, Burris finally landed an expert chief-of-staff from that great Senate legend Harry Reid (who tried to slam the door in Burris’ face).

As one who has known Burris for 30 years, I don’t have to be introduced to him by Zuckerman—but the story was highly entertaining nonetheless. I can just see him now in the Senate. He called me up one time when he was attorney general of the state of Illinois by God and I was at Quaker Oats and our PAC has just given to Jim Ryan…and the Honorable Roland Burris, then the attorney general by God of the state of Illinois barked, “Ro-e-s-e-r! Whazza idea of you givin’ money without rememberin’ old Rolland?” Absolutely elegant taste. Fitted right in with Sapphire Stevens, Madam Queen and Lightnin’. Now nobody among you liberal journalists say I’m racist by writing this or I’ll have more to say—and you know a lot of stories yourselves so shut up.

Let Jill Zuckerman, a proper white liberal lady, tell it. You’ve been wondering about that famous Burris tombstone where his name is chiseled (good word for it) on granite under the heading TRAIL BLAZER? Well, turns out, it wasn’t his doing at all. Not at all. He chafes that somehow the word has gotten out that he’s egomaniacal—although he told a priest friend of mine some years ago that Almighty God had ordained that he, Burris, become governor. God was wrong. Almighty God ordained that he, Burris, ingratiate himself with a pal of Rod Blagojevich, the weirdest governor in state history…and that the dumbest Senate majority leader in U.S. history, Reid call Blago and tell him that three blacks were unacceptable in his (Reid’s) Senate since it was obvious they couldn’t get elected in Illinois in 2010.
With that, Almighty God sent Blagojevich into a mighty swoon of anger and he named ol’ Roland to the spot…whereupon Harry Reid the Dumb had Burris stand outside in the rain under an umbrella facing a closed door. Then Almighty God moved California senator Diana Feinstein who has at least a modicum of sense to let Roland in…after which tubby hustler Dickie Durbin said yes-yes-yes let Roland in from the rain. That’s how Almighty God worked it that Roland Burris is our senator who can’t find a staff and almost couldn’t find a key to open his office door.

But first Burris has to answer that terrible rumor that he is an egotist. I don’t know where that started but it probably gained some acceleration when at the City Club Christmas party he told me he had a definite calling…a definite calling—but his cell phone hadn’t rung yet from Blago.
Anyhow, this is what he told Zuckerman about that terrible canard that since his tomb is engraved with all his jobs including bank examiner, he is a bit high on himself. He said, “The cemetery in Oak Woods [sic] insisted when I went out to plan my estate that my resume be put on it.” Yes, cemeteries do make that insistence although the only thing a cemetery ever told me was when I was burying my father and the Catholic cemetery said, “you got enough money to bury him on the Sacred Heart side of the lawn?” And I said how much and the Catholic cemetery reeled off an impressive figure. I was just about to pony it up when my mother interrupted and said my father always had a great devotion to Saint Margaret Mary and how much did it cost to have a plot on that side of the lawn?

The cemetery said it would sit down and figure and the cemetery did—just like a car dealer does when you make an offer. And then the cemetery called in its director and both he and the cemetery decided that yes, Saint Margaret Mary would go for such-and-such amount.
That was the second to the last time a cemetery talked to me. The last time was when my mother died and the cemetery said it figured she would want to be buried on the Saint Margaret Mary side of the lawn as well and I said yes. Whereupon the cemetery said okay and that was that. I assume when it’s my time, the cemetery will have something more to say to my survivors. Let me save them some dough and say that I too have a great devotion to Saint Margaret Mary.
Now that was the only times a cemetery talked to me but evidently it told Roland he should push himself more. He was too modest. The cemetery told Burris that he should deserve the same kind of burial Harold Washington had but unfortunately Burris couldn’t afford the scratch—so, apparently, the cemetery felt this way according to what Burris told Zuckerman: “Mr. Burris, your accomplishments are too many to let them not be known to young people. And he convinced my wife and I [sic] that that’s what should be done. I questioned it. My wife questioned it. And we knew there would be that type of reaction but we said we would be willing to overcome the cynicism of the press in order to let it be known for future generations.” And of course that empty space for future honors is—the news media “just dreaming up stuff” so that “people are laughing at me.”
“I had nothing to do with who designed that or who left the space at the top,” said Burris. “That’s how they put the words in. I have been silent about it. But I think it’s really unfair how they treated that situation without any knowledge. The press just took it, ran with it and laughed about it. Talked about what my ego is and this is just all about my business [sic].”

Explaining the part about “business” he said, to clarify, “If I’m going to teach you how to take care of your estate, how can I teach or instruct you if I don’t take care of my own? That is my business [sic].” But the resume chiseled on granite? “That wasn’t me.” Oh.

After that peroration he called for some refreshment according to Zuckerman and an aide brought a bottle of water and some green tea. Then a pronouncement from the Solon.

“I don’t drink tea at all. Don’t drink tea, don’t drink coffee, don’t drink pop. Okay, you’re learning me, okay. That’s why I’m still alive today.”


My eldest son is named Thomas F. Roeser and I love him very much. He doesn’t use the Jr. and I don’t blame him. He is very special to me and among other things…being a dutiful and loving son…he is also a very fine artist. We don’t know where the art talent comes from but thank God for it. His paintings are replete in our home.
Tom belongs to the naturalist school of painting. Take a look at his paintings of some Chicago scenes. No, they are NOT photographs—they…the site selections, the genre…are his. How I wish I could do that. But am glad he can and thank God for him and his talent.
Find them at www.roeserart.com. And enjoy. Yes, you can buy prints of these and others if you wish.

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