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A lawsuit filed recently by EllenBeth Wachs in federal court in Tampa, Florida, accuses Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd of continually arresting her because she’s an atheist.

Ms. Wachs first attracted the attention of the sheriff by objecting to his uprooting of the local jail’s basketball hoops and donating them to local churches. No research by this author was successful in determining why the sheriff found it necessary to remove his inmates’ hoops privileges; however, giving the unused roundball gear to local houses of worship roused EllenBeth’s ire as an unconstitutional commingling of church and state.

This was possibly an atheistic overreach. To whom was the God-fearing sheriff supposed to donate the backboards? Local schools presumably have their own basketball courts and any individuals interested in home hoops have already bought one of those self-supporting basket-and-pole deals that infest every suburban cul-de-sac in the nation, annoying people by making the already challenging task of parallel parking a car on a circular curb even more difficult.

Certainly the sheriff wasn’t going to donate the nets to any atheist group. Besides running afoul of his Christian constituents, encouraging non-believers to play basketball is pointless, because it is a well-known fact that ATHEISTS CAN’T JUMP.

Wachs noted in her lawsuit that Polk County is “a predominately Christian county.” Well, of course it is. The author’s brother, who moved from the Northeast corridor to the rural South some years ago, remarked upon the prominent locations and numbers of churches in his new neighborhood to this writer some time back and even made him aware of the Law of Church Names. To quote his sibling exactly:

“The more words in the title of your church the stranger the worship required. For instance “St Johns” = normal worship and tithing. “Calvary Baptist” = normal worship and tithing. “Church of the Never Ending Waters of Christ’s Eternal Love”= some snake kissing and wife swapping required.”

Subsequent to her locking horns with the sheriff, Wachs has been arrested for impersonating a lawyer, possession of marijuana and making simulated sex noises within earshot of a ten-year-old boy.

EllenBeth is a retired lawyer, so she can hardly be blamed for thinking she still is one. No details on the pot charges were available, but details on the sex charges proved fascinating, if somewhat incomplete. Basketball was again involved; the neighbor ten-year-old was engaged in a game of solitary hoops that Wachs, who was feeling unwell at the time (possibly true, but also possibly a journalistic euphemism for being drunk) found too noisy. To distract herself, she apparently engaged in a solitary sex act that the boy and his parents found too noisy; Sheriff Judd was called, and Wachs arrested.

That there are holes in the prosecution’s case is not to be doubted. Was the act real or merely faked? Is either illegal under Florida law, which just recently was amended to ban sex with goats? If Wach’s moaning had not been a result of onanism, or simulated onanism, but as a result of her husband’s (she has one) or anyone else’s (the sheriff, any of his men, the sheriff’s wife or mother, etc.) efforts to arouse her by tempting the lascivious imp that lurks near the surface of every atheist’s soul, would that also be illegal?

Should every resident of Florida, or at least of Polk County, be advised to check for the presence of ten-year-old boys playing basketball before “blowing their tops,” sexually, lest they find themselves in handcuffs? Should the phrase “Put down that basketball, son, Mommy and Daddy are about to get it on,” be uttered before every attempt at sexual congress in the state? In the interests of both gender and sports equality, should ten year-old-girls playing soccer be similarly afforded the protective services of law enforcers like Sheriff Judd?

These are questions that will undoubtedly have to be sorted out by the Supreme Court, eventually. Clarence Thomas is licking his lips. Two things are for certain, though. If Wachs had been moaning while enjoying the carnal company of a goat, her guilt would be all but certain, and, more importantly, if performing the gastrointestinal ostrich is ever made illegal in Florida, they had better plan on having a lot more inmates in their jails. They’d better get those basketball hoops back from those churches


 
 
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About two months ago, this writer got into serious trouble by noting that his Significant Other’s condo yard looked like feces, owing to its having been overgrown by weeds after a wet winter. The author was peremptorily invited, or possibly ordered, to take over the household’s lawn maintenance chores. This started out badly, with the rental of a cultivator that included a death threat in its operator’s manual. It has since gotten worse.

The yard in question is not a vast acreage running off to some misty river bottom. It is not even a monotonous quarter-acre lot stamped out of the surrounding suburban sprawl. It is about the same square footage as a child’s bedroom, but like a child can be, it is trouble out of all proportion to its size.

The first decision that had to be made, after the Cultivator of Doom had reduced the yard to bare, crumbled earth, was what replacement could be found for the pureed weeds? The author had no idea. He’s not much for horticulture. His reputation as a font of general knowledge suffers when forced outside. Sometimes he’s asked to identify a kind of flower by a passerby. He can usually tell its color.

“Blue,” he replies. “It’s a blue flower.” This generally closes out the subject.

It was his S.O., who holds an advanced academic degree but is equally unschooled in botany, who proposed the yard be inoculated with Korean grass. “You don’t have to mow it,” she said. The author was sold immediately. He went to his local nursery and found some flats of Korean grass. It was beautifully green, tough and fibrous, seemingly eager to grow, spread and conquer any patch of earth to which it might be transplanted. The nursery lady who sold this writer the grass made several broad statements regarding the sterling qualities of Korean grass, the most memorable of which was “It will spread out and cover the whole yard quickly if you plant a few clumps.”

Maybe in Korea it will. In California, it doesn’t spread out any faster than the San Andreas Fault. Clumps were planted, and clumps they remain, some of them still green, some having turned a discouraging brown, some combining both colors in a piebald attempt to retain a hold on life.

In the meantime, the portions of the yard that were not occupied by Korean grass were soon re-colonized by weeds. After several caustic observations by the S.O., the gist of which was that the condo yard now looked worse than it had when this reporter had first compared its appearance to ordure, the author bought a bottle of weed killer. This chemical did not kill any weeds. In fact the author’s crabgrass seemed brighter and perkier and far more ready to boogie after its application than before it, so he returned it to the hardware store with the suggestion that it be re-named Weed Morale Booster.

Back in the seventies, a dimly–remembered decade for this writer personally, people were encouraged to talk to their plants. Nowadays it seems like a profoundly silly idea. If anything, people in this century would text their plants. Even back then, this writer did not indulge in the practice of conversing with the few plants he had. What was there to say? “Good to see you’re still alive after getting knocked over at that last party?” Or “Thanks for letting all my friends put their cigarettes out in your pot?” 

But he talks to plants now, after buying a new bottle of weed killer that the hardware store assured him will kill anything, including the dog and himself if misapplied. As he squirts the deadly toxin at his weeds he repeats over and over, “Die, you little intercoursers. Die now.”

So far they’ve ignored his advice. The Korean grass continues to dwindle, not spread and as this gardener looks at it, discouraged, he wonders how something that is so obviously small, weak and internally dying can inspire such fear and repugnance.

Then it strikes him—IT’S NORTH KOREAN GRASS.

I got the Axis of Evil runnin’ through my yard. Write a song about that, Tom Petty.


 
 
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The author with S.O., wearing the emblems of his favorite losing baseball team

This writer was reviewing some Internet sources the other day, which is to say he was scanning one of the fluffier portals and clicking on pictures of attractive women when he came across an article titled "Reese Witherspoon's Style Evolution,' a slide show which featured the star of "Legally Blonde" and "Legally Blonde II" and possibly even "Legally Blonde Again—Just Checking to see How Many Times You People Will Come Back to See the Same Movie" in photos of her various red carpet outfits over the years from the late '90's, when Reese started being a movie star, until the present day. The author of the blog, Katie Hintz-Zambrano, commented trenchantly:

"Although the Southern belle started out somewhat tragic (sic) in the '90s, donning pleathery jackets, go-go boots and maroon lipstick (although, weren't we all), by the early 2000s, Witherspoon became a consistent red-carpet winner"

So Reese was wearing clothes from the '90's back in the '90's, which would be so wrong if we didn't have pictures of her wearing this year's clothes, proving that she's fashionable after all.

The sense of relief that washed over this fan at that news was more overwhelming than if he'd read an article about global warming being canceled, but it caused him to start thinking about his own style evolution, or anybody else's, for that matter, and how his  fashion slideshow would pan out.

First off, the author seldom gets photographed on red carpets. He is photographed mostly on trips to fish in Mexico, surrounded by other drunken guys wearing sunglasses. Shirtlessness abounds. This is because the weather is warm, not because many of us look good with our shirts off. Also, Reese and the other movie stars get a chance to turn their backs to the camera and then swirl around Vogue-like for maximum on-film glamorousness. When the author has his back to the camera, it is because he is trying to urinate off the side of a panga. He would prefer not to be photographed then. A cursory review of his most recent vacation thumbnails proved he does not always get that wish.

When non-Mexico pics are reviewed, it is fairly obvious the subject owns too many plain polo shirts, and furthermore feels that they are adequately formal for any occasion upon which he might be photographed. Although there are many styles of striped, checked and patterned polo shirts out there, the author apparently thinks wearing one entails too much fashion risk.

While documenting his own style evolution, the author came across many pictures of his son, who will tell you unhesitatingly he is far more fashionable than his father. His thesis is not supported by the evidence. From about the age of fifteen, when he stopped wearing anything his mother bought him at an outlet mall, he's worn stuff with skulls and flowers on it. Sometimes just skulls. Never just flowers.

The author's brother in law, also visible in many photos in the author's possession, does not have a style evolution, since he has worn the same style flannel shirt and pocketed t-shirt every single day since he was discharged from the Navy in 1979. He is one of those guys who even wears the same size shirts he wore in 1979, even though he is not the same size as he was then.  A time-lapsed slideshow would show him expanding and straining against his wardrobe like a slow-grilling sausage trying to sizzle through its skin.

Prior to 2005 or so, the author took pictures with a regular camera and had them printed out at a drug store, the same as everybody else. Nowadays he takes pictures with a digital camera, uploads them to his computer and never prints them out at all, the same as everybody else. He had to go to a dusty box to obtain photo images of himself prior to his second-most important fashion decision ever, i.e., the decision to shave off his mustache in 1997. Originally scheduled for 1996, the mustache demolition was postponed a year when the author's then boss, who also sported a long-term mustache, showed up for work clean-shaven, prompting this writer to keep his stache for another change of seasons, for fear of being thought an imitative kiss-ass. The mustache had been in place since the author had been able to successfully grow one, back in the seventies. Originally conceived as an aid to the purchase of liquor while underage, it had (sadly) long outlived that purpose and survived as a hairy hanger-on by sheer inertia.

The author's decision to eliminate all head hair, circa 2007, has to rank as his most important fashion milestone. The decision was generally well-received. His appearance after shaving his scalp was hailed as similar to several show business figures, namely  Michael Chiklis (many observers) Bruce Willis (several) and Uncle Fester (only one). Contrary to what some observers claim, the hairstyle this writer sported prior to his emancipation from cranial hair altogether was not a comb-over, although admittedly the prevailing winds often affected its appearance negatively, depending on their strength and direction.

As nearly everyone who has gone from nasty fringe to noble unadorned pate has noted, women prefer the latter look. Also street intimidators, such as aggressive panhandlers and packs of youthful loiterers now assume the author is a retired SEAL rather than an insurance agent, and so he gets less attention from them.

The women are the most important thing, though, and the author's present Significant Other is a beautiful exemplar of her gender, and also a lady of deep, documented intelligence and sparkling wit. She says this writer is her first bald guy, and so far she seems content with the genre.

The problem is she wants the mustache back.






 
 
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The Weiner scandal has been largely ignored by me, not because it is less funny that other news items (absolutely the contrary) but because I've been on vacation. The burden of daily touristing, eating and drinking has caused me to cast a light eye on the news. Also I have a very limited desire to peruse photos of other guy's junk, even a Congressional guy's junk, even in the interests of journalism. Whether the junk is underwear-clad or hanging loose makes no difference. I don't want to see it. I make no apologies for my lack of interest in other men's equipment. In the words of the philosopher Gaga, I was born this way.

Now that the episode has climaxed (yes, that's deliberate irony) with the resignation of Representative Weiner, I notice that, while it's mentioned in many articles on the scandal, no one has taken the position that since Weiner didn't actually have sex with any of the women he dry-humped on the Internet, it shouldn't be regarded as a sex scandal at all.

From the earliest days of American democracy, sex scandals have always involved real sex, or at least an attempt to have real sex. Just in my lifetime and offhand, I recall Wilbur Mills fountain-dancing with strippers, Donna Rice and Gary Hart cavorting offshore, Elliot Spitzer cavorting with whoresLarry Craig and his wide stance in the airport men's room, Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina going all the way to Argentina to get laid (which, to me, was a gross insult to the women of South Carolina) and the serial canoodling of the godfather of them all, Bill Clinton, a man far better at guiding the nation than he was (and likely is) at keeping his zipper tab in the twelve o'clock position. All of these scandals and numerous others shared one thing in common—a physical exchange of bodily fluids between a horny politician and another person.

Now Weiner has managed to get himself run out of office without actually getting any ass. Talk about your loathsome precedents! The sheer lack of sex in this sex scandal is enough to make any red-blooded American gag.

It's tough to feel sorry for any politician caught doing something dumb without thinking very hard about the consequences of it (i.e., behaving normally) but while sending an underwear-swaddled picture of the leading citizen of one's trousers to another women while married is hardly admirable, it's far less of an offense than having an affair while your wife is battling cancer, and you can do that and still run for President (GingrichEdwards) instead of having to consider job offers from Larry Flynt.

The other aspect of the scandal that I can't abide by is the use of the term "Weinergate" to describe it. Can we get off the "gate" thing? It's been nearly forty years since Nixon burgled the Watergate by proxy, and if you don't think attaching the suffix "gate" to any other noun to nickname a scandal has been overused since then, Google the phrase "scandals ending in "gate" and click on the Wikipedia article that pops up. This is the fault of lazy, unoriginal, herd-mentality journalists, which seems to be the majority of them.

"Weinergate" is obviously the funniest of them, but if it's humor we're seeking, there are far more risible options. After mere moments of personal research, this writer was able to come up with Schlonggate, Stiffiegate, Erectiongate, BVDgate, Peckergate. Penisgate, Chubbygate, Bulgegate,  Rodgate, Wanggate, Dickgate and Throbbergate. Feel free to contribute your own.

The problem with suffixing all scandals with "gate" is that it makes them all seem equally important, and if you don't think it's an irritating shorthand as well, try it with your own personal problems. Forgot-to-file-state-income-taxgate. Spouse-maxes-out-credit-cardgate. Kid-calls-from-jailgate. New-neighbor-an-intimidating-Neanderthal-gate. Dog-poops-on-ruggate. Toilet-backs-up-while-showing-housegate. If you attempted to discipline your family into referring to their history of problems by attaching "gate' to the end of each one, you'd soon find yourself with no family, or involuntarily committed, or both.

We can give up "gate," like Anthony Weiner better give up Twitter. It's not possible to predict future scandals, but we can resolve to refer to them as "scandals." Or "personal disasters." Or "hilarious stupidities." Doesn't "Weiner Whips Out Weiner, Gets Wiped Out of Congress" describe the scandal better than "Weinergate," which sounds more like a confining device for your dachshunds?

Of course it does. And spell-check likes it better, too.



 
 
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This correspondent has been on a burst of vacationing lately, giving him the chance to compare flying conditions in the United States and Mexico, and to be scanned for the first time by the new airport scanners on US soil.

Didn't embarrass this writer, as he knew his first scan was coming and went on a strict diet and exercise program so he could look dynamically buffed in the ghostly nude shot taken by Uncle Sam, but TSA denied his request for a copy to post on his Twitter account, a la Weiner. The request caused a major security huddle, as the low-ranking scanner, who had apparently taken a heavy dose of whatever special drug they give security employees to entirely eliminate any sense of humor they might have once possessed, had to consult with his superiors as to whether the scannee (myself) had violated the TSA's posted "No joking" policy and therefore had to be detained as a terrorism suspect.

This author was allowed to board the aircraft eventually, which made him better off than Robert Sayegh, of Brooklyn, recently booted off a Delta flight in Detroit for using the F-word while being subjected to one of the numerous flight delays that Delta offers. Sayegh was flying back from a wedding in Kansas City and admitted to being hung over while uttering the vernacular for sexual intercourse to a fellow passenger. Big, surly men who use the F-word frequently may be unpleasant to be around, but they are not terrorists. Big, surly men with colorful vocabularies are whom Uncle Sam sends to kill terrorists. Thirty-four of them were recently charged $2,800 in extra bag fees by Delta while returning from deployment in Afghanistan. It hardly seems possible that none of them used the forbidden F-term while being informed that they had to pay extra to get their equipment back to their base. Delta made them cough up the fees, but didn't kick any of them off the flight. What you need to keep in mind about flying Delta from all this is that if you want to curse on board, bring at least thirty-three friends.

After boarding his (non-Delta) flight, the author discovered that his newly remodeled body didn't fit into a coach seat any better than any of his previous physiques and that flying on an American carrier now even more closely resembles being jailed, except in jail they give you better food and pillows and don't charge you for them, and you can use the toilet in your cell as often as your kidneys bid you. Liability concerns mean that the pilot turns on the seat belt sign the minute he spots a cloud.

During the five minutes the passengers were allowed to unbuckle themselves during the five-hour flight, they all rushed the hoppers, naturally, prompting the flight attendants to announce that the coach hoi-polloi were not allowed to use the first class toilets "FOR SECURITY REASONS." This, of course, is blood-curdling bullshit. Allowing coach passengers to urinate in the same facility as first-class passengers does not encourage Al Qaeda.  Announcing that "The first class passengers, having paid more money for their flight, are entitled to their own john so they do not have to hop up and down in a frantic line in the aisle while squeezing themselves shut like the coach passengers do when the seatbelt sign is finally turned off," would win the airline points for frankness, in this passenger's opinion.

Flying Mexican from Tijuana to La Paz was an entirely different security experience. Mexico does not have the money for airport scanners or enough X-ray machines to check every passenger's luggage, so a human being roots through your luggage with gloved hands, which is probably no different in terms of effectiveness than having a bored TSA employee staring endlessly at skeletal images of blow-dryers and video games rolling by on a conveyor belt.

Despite their lack of scanners, the Mexicans do not arbitrarily yank elderly women out of security line and paw at them looking for weapons, as was the US custom not so long ago. Unlike Americans, the Mexicans are allowed to recognize that elderly women are not security threats. If you have forgotten that your metal sunglasses are on the top of your head before you go through the metal detector, the Mexicans allow you to simply take them off. You do not have to back up and put them in a tub so that they can be x-rayed separately, in case you have concealed enough explosive in them to blow off your own eyebrows during the flight.

Mexican flights are generally on time, because it is a poor country and doesn't have seventy or so airlines like the US does, all clogging up airports and air space. Once in the air, the seatbelt sign is turned off and left off until it is time to land. A twenty second spot of turbulence is not considered enough to make everyone sit down for a half-hour because Mexico is not afflicted with the vast army of tort-toting attorneys that plague this nation.

La Paz (Peace, in English) lives up to its name. There is no trace of the drug wars that afflict border Mexico and virtually no crime. The days and nights are warm, the tropical Sea of Cortez is blue, and the food is cheap and excellent. Most relaxing of the city's graces are the absence of the sort of ranting xenophobes who claim the US needs to build its version of the Berlin Wall across its southern border, and the shameless politicians that court them, who know that it is drug-addled Americans who buy all the dope that Mexican criminals smuggle north and cold-blooded Americans who sell Mexican criminals all the guns they use to kill each other down south, but tell their constituents nonetheless that they need to be protected from Mexico, because it is only the Mexicans that are all screwed up.

Those people are afraid to come here.



 
 
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This writer recently took a trip back to his ancestral homeland on the Eastern seaboard and was annoyed for the first time in years about having to stop and pay three dollars to get through the tiny, yet greedy, state of Delaware. This gave him pause to dwell on one of the great unknowable questions, i.e., why do we need Delaware in the first place? From its murky shore to its moldering lowlands, it does not deserve to exist, or at least co-exist as the nominal equal of bigger, more interesting states, such as Wyoming or even Arkansas. Most of us ignore Delaware, or are just vaguely aware of it as a small annoyance, but that’s like ignoring a burglar in the den, in the author's opinion. Trouble is bound to happen. A nation that is ready to war if some Arab tyrant so much as throws a slushball at his own fellow tribesmen cannot afford to ignore the enemy within. Too long has Delaware existed as a blemish upon the face of the nation; it is time to squeeze it off, or at least cover it with a thick layer of benzoyl peroxide. This writer has prepared the following as an indictment against Delaware, and stands ready to defend it against the Delawarophiles, should any exist, and their fellow travelers.

For those of you who think it necessary to find Delaware on the map, it hangs low between the front forelegs of Pennsylvania like some awkward genitalia. To the west it encroaches upon the pleasant pastures of Maryland; to the east it is washed (and a much needed bathing it is) by the waters of the Delaware Bay. On this bay are some alleged “beaches” where the unwary may be seduced into swimming, not knowing that the waters off these sands are chiefly those of the Delaware River, whose quiet yet sinister flow has coursed over God only knows how many old tires and decomposing gangster corpses before it washes against the bather’s toes.

Unlike Rhode Island, which is equally small and scurrilous, but mercifully off the main roads, Delaware cannot be avoided. It maintains its iron grip on the Northeast corridor like a knotted drawstring on the nation’s sweatpants, collecting three bucks from every innocent traveler both coming and going on the Delaware Turnpike, which, despite its grandiose title, encompasses a mere twenty-one miles, border to border. Because of the money Delaware rakes in from this strategically located stretch of rotting asphalt, it does not need to charge its own citizens sales tax. Is this not an example of an entire state operating on the same moral plane as a squeegee man?

The chief industry of its major city, Wilmington, is collecting late charges on credit card debts. The state is owned nearly entirely by the menacing Dupont family, whose members include napalm manufacturers and convicted killers.

Wilmington has a baseball team called the Blue Rocks. The team could have been called the Pop Rocks, the Igneous Rocks, the Cleveland Rocks (admittedly, that might be a little confusing) the Rock Me Amadeus Rocks or the Metamorphic Shales, but Delaware chose the simple, completely incomprehensible Blue Rocks, as part of the state’s campaign to bewilder the rest of the nation. Your MasterCard statement is also part of this effort. Only a Delawarean would think of charging 15.23456% interest.

The tallest object in the state, natural or man-made, is the bridge out of it.

Delaware’s capital city, Dover, is named after Dover, England, a place with sea-cliffs so beautiful that one expects to see handsome middle aged couples sitting in matching bathtubs discussing erectile dysfunction on them. Needless to say, no such scenery surrounds Dover, Delaware, a flat, cheerless place bisected by unlucky US Route 13.

Delaware changes its state motto every few months. After the birth of the nation, the other states planned to leave Delaware in the custody of the British, kind of like a palm-buzzer on the handshake of the peace treaty. Delaware, however, snuck under the tent-flap of the US by ratifying the Constitution faster than Charlie Sheen can consume a  crack nugget, and called itself “The First State.” Delaware was forced to change that when the other states, who had been tricked into thinking the intended motto was “The Worst State,” objected, so Delaware went with “Delaware-Small Wonder.” Even the Delawareans could not abide this naked distortion of the facts, so it was changed to the blatantly mercenary “Delaware-Home of Tax-Free Shopping.” As of this writing, the Delaware State Legislature, a body nearly as august as the Gambino crime family, was considering yet another change, to the painfully truthful “Delaware-It Only Costs Three Bucks to Leave.”

This writer offers the following solutions to the nagging Delaware problem:

First, we need to get another state. Keeping the state total at a symmetrical 50 is important, so dropping Delaware means picking up another candidate for the Union. Finally forcing Puerto Rico to make up its mind would be one solution, or splitting up one of the oversized states out West. Half of Kansas could be called Dorothyland, or half of California Disneyland, and no one would mind. Or make three states out of Texas and get rid of Rhode Island, too.

Then Delaware could simply be sold to some gullible foreign country, or attached to another state with a better reputation, like Hawaii. No one would care about having to pay three bucks to drive through Hawaii to get to Baltimore, and luaus and rainbows would replace traditional Delaware activities like betting at small, dilapidated racetracks and dying of boredom.

Rise up and march! Let us lead the unfortunates who populate Delaware’s squalid marshlands onto the firmer grounds of freedom, of independence from the iron grip of Dover and the Duponts, of pride in living in an altered state, hopefully a state at least large enough to contain a marathon, and less monotonous than a blindfolded bus ride. Awake, Delawareans! You have nothing to lose but your tollbooth.