Garrison Keillor, thank-you.

Your daily Writer’s Almanac podcast at 8:55 AM each morning suggests rather than opines.

On July 21, the broadcast ended with a one line poem by Martin Espada titled, “Advice to Young Poets”:

Never pretend

to be a unicorn

by sticking a plunger on your head.

(“Advice to Young Poets” by Martin Espada, from The Republic of Poetry. ©W.W.Noton & Company, 2008)

I was listening to this podcast as I took a walk through an industrial park near my house.  The markings surrounding an underground utility caught my eye.  I photographed it and walked on knowing I had the beginnings of my photograph to sum up my feelings on the ‘The Professor vs The Cop’ smackdown that started in Cambridge but now has gone global and viral.

When a story begins to rival the number of opinions about Michael Jackson’s death, we are officially in the ‘over the top’  land.

Hence, my photo.  Over the top.

Now, what you can’t see is that I am writing this post with a plunger on my head because I, too, have an opinion of  “what happened” between Professor Gates and Officer Crowley and it, along with yours (yes, you, reader), is just as credible as my ability to transform into a unicorn through placing the suction cup on my head.

The principals involved would do well to follow the lead of the only man willing to admit he made a mistake: The President of the United States.

Now, let’s move on to more important things.

Where is Michael Jackson’s body, anyway?

©Pat Coakley 2009


©Pat Coakley 2009



  1. You make me laugh! Move on to something more important, like Michael Jackson’s body? Why it’s in Neverland, of course… and the President gets shit for admitting to an over-reaction, and what is the world coming to anyway. We are so fortunate that there aren’t any REAL problems to deal with.
    Great photo to go with this… those corrosive numbers and letters say it all.

    As to unicorns and plungers, anyone who has lived on a boat for any length of time knows full well that a head without a plunger is pretty useless.

    • Love that boat twist on my title. I was a “boater” when I was young so I know the truth of what you say! Also, like the observation of the corrosive numbers and letters. I knew thisphoto said something related to this post!

  2. Hi Pat. Well, I haven’t been keeping too close an eye on the news recently because every time I turn it on it depresses the hell out of me and I end up turning it off again after a few minutes. (If that’s not bad enough, the bad news is all around us on the streets right now. No escaping our community of violence.) And so I had to google the professor vs cop thing (thank heavens you’re there to inform this ostrich). I may be wrong but I think this episode sounds like an experiment in race relations i.e. the professor decided to push all the wrong buttons on purpose and now he’ll spend the rest of his tenure being paid handsomely to speak about his side of the story and there’ll be a documentary or 5 and a book deal. Wait and watch.
    As for Michael Jackson, I bet he left codicils in his will so he has to be embalmed like the Egyptians.

    • “I may be wrong”…Epic, this is why we are all wearing plungers on our head when we opine on this incident. All of us cannot resist our own interpretation! I can’t shake the reality that regardless of what buttons Professor Gates was pressing, he was arrested in his own home after the cop came to his house originally on the suspicion of a breaking and entering! The officer knew he was the owner but apparently his button tolerance was maxed out by Gate’s comments. Policeman are trained to deal with people calling them everything under the sun amidst dangerous situations. This wasn’t even a dangerous situation. I can see the officer walking away and thinking Gates is acting like an idiot, but arresting him?
      Nah. Anyway, I’ll send you an honorary plunger. I’m stockpiling them!

    • I wouldn’t say it was intentional, but race is certainly a touchy issue for him. Let us not forget that Gates’ career has been dedicated to the idea of race and its history as an American social construct. And even though his work has often been invaluable, anyone who’s read his opinions on America’s race situation (what he calls “the color line”) can easily tell that he’s biased. I mean, he’s someone who’s pretty quick to point out even the vaguest hints of racial conflict. After all, he considers it his duty (as an historian and as a black American) to point out incidents of white misconduct – even if they are, God forbid, products of his hypersensitive though well-intentioned imagination.

  3. I guess what bugs me about the Prof thing is that that so many people seem to have forgotten how to just “be”. The professor treated the cop as a stereotype and the cop reciprocated. Now if the guys had’ve treated each other as just people, the world would have less to chatter about.

    So pat… I take it you’re not keen on people opining? Or am I missing something.

    Oh, by the way, if there was one thing that I learnt about living in America, don’t mouth off to the cops. Here’s a link to an experience I had.

    • Razz, I remember that post of yours! And, I couldn’t agree more..mouthing off to the police is a losing battle. Opining is not the issue for me…But it’s when opinion verges on certitude that I have to poke fun at it, and even you, sometimes. And, as you can see, at myself as well. Both principals acted in such a implausible way to me,( & as you suggest above) that it sparked a storm of folks justifying the cop, or justifying Gates. Me? I think they both were stupid. But, some simply don’t want to give any credence to a two way f-up. I don’t get that. I’ll add it to my list of imponderables!

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