Getting Shod In Berkeley

The Wages Of Injustice Is Shoes

Rumor among California's channelers and telepathy screwballs has it that Mark Twain is still alive, like Elvis, and secretly writing for newspapers in the Bay Area. What do you reckon? Nothing else can explain the why the papers are so wonderfully funny.

I guess Twain took some of that Nazi immortality drug that Hitler did before he went to live in Argentina. Most likely Twain actually lives with Elvis in a UFO. Literary types on the Coast figure that once in a while he comes to Earth at a trailer park, in the High Desert near Barstow, to file stories for the San Francisco Chronicle. Some think he chose Barstow because his alcoholic brother, Delirium Clemens, lives there in a doublewide.

Anyway, folks at U.C. Berkeley, I see in the Chronicle, recently got their innards all in an uproar because the school didn't have enough diversity. Diversity means students who can barely read, don't want to, and haven't the foggiest idea what the purpose of a university might be. The latter point helps them bond with their professors.

Nothing wrong with that, I guess. Everybody has to be somewhere. Berkeley's as good a place as any, being as far from my house as you can get without falling off the continent.

So two thousand activists and progressives and other academic rabble held a great March for Affirmative Action. There was lots of diversity, most of it squalling like train whistles. The high schools let the teen-age diversity out to march. Probably they were doing so well in their studies that they didn't need to be in class. Pretty soon half the earth was hootin' and hollerin' and waving placards about injustice and oppression and other things none of them had ever seen.

By chance they marched past The Athlete's Foot, a store that sold running shoes.

Whereupon the diversity looted it.

Don't you love it?

Quoth the newspaper: "A Chronicle photographer saw about 100 young persons run into the Athlete's Foot shoe store on Telegraph Avenue and about a dozen of the youths run out with boxes of shoes." The others were slower. They probably couldn't find anything in their size.

Wouldn't that make you want more diversity in your school? If you didn't mind going barefoot.

Now, the newspapers somehow neglected to say what the ethnicity of the looters was. I guess they weren't paying attention. There weren't any pictures of them either. Maybe the reporters ran short of film. That happens a lot with professional photographers. But I bet we can all make a pretty good Kentucky-windage guess about who those looters were.

Can't we? And I bet I know what you're thinking right now.

Norwegians.

Was I right?

I was. Why you prejudiced scoundrel, you!

Grabbing those Air Jordans provides an ethnic clue. Norwegians of the inner city are famous for their larcenous predilections regarding footwear. They can't help it, because of their past.

The word Norwegian actually derives from "Norse Weejuns," shoes worn by the Vikings when they went forth to rape and plunder. In fact that's how the French learned to wear shoes, which they saw for the first time when the Vikings came ashore at Normandy. They figured they could run away faster if their feet didn't hurt. (Bet you're surprised a West Virginia boy knew that. The school marm up our holler always said I had potential. She didn't say what for.)

Now I'm trying to understand diversity, and why anybody would want it. Be patient. I'm just a country boy, and slow, and don't understand higher thought like I ought to. Where I come from, diversity just means you have to lock your bicycle up. And stay in at night, and carry a gun, and watch your daughter and chickens. And I figure that if people loot stores, they just aren't civilized, and don't belong among decent folk, and ought to be in jail.

Like I say, I'm simple.

Then I talked to some sociologist folk, and they explained to me that Norwegians don't have a choice about stealing. Their history makes them do it. This nice sociology lady told me about it. According to sociology, she said, if anything bad happened to anybody related to you, at any time, ever, you got to rape and rob and steal all you wanted.

I can't wait to get started.

Anyway, she said, the Norwegians used to be hunter-gatherers. I think that means they shot turkeys with slingshots and ate wild persimmons and smoked ditchweed. It's what we call shiftless in West Virginia.

But now I can understand about those shoes. When you see a persimmon on a tree in the woods, you don't think it belongs to anyone. If you can grab it, it's yours. When you catch a catfish, you aren't stealing it. It's just there.

So when the diversity see Air Jordans in a store, how are they supposed to know those shoes belong to somebody? To them, a shoe's no different from a catfish. They're just celebrating their Viking heritage.

And they don't mean any harm by it. They just can't tell somebody else's shoes from low-hanging bananas. It's their culture. (Bananas grow down south, in tropical Norway. You didn't know that, did you?)

That's what the sociologist lady told me. And I thought about it real hard, like when the flathead '48 won't start and I'm not sure whether its bad points or a busted coil. But I guess I'm hopeless. I still figure if their culture means stealing my bicycle, they belong in jail. And my culture says take a shotgun to'em. It's the redneck in me. Birdshot.

Tell you what, though. I'll bet that if you had a shoe store, and put all your sneakers in boxes marked, "Books," the diversity would never come within rifle shot. It would be like garlic for vampires. Maybe that's the best we can do, what with the country going the way it is.

Now I'm going to drive up to Barstow, and see if I can find Delirium's trailer. I've got a copy of Tom Sawyer I want his brother to sign, and maybe Elvis will play Blue Moon Over Kentucky for me.