Sad Clowns and Bad Pipers

I think it was when I was listening to Sally Bedell Smith’s George VI and Elizabeth that I heard of a wedding celebration where 100 bad pipers were in attendance. I figured out it was really “bagpipers” but the notion of recruiting bad pipers was enchanting. First of all, the bad pipers would be pipers, but not bagpipers, who are quite bad enough to begin with, without any skylarking or incompetence to excuse them. These pipers would be more like the Pied Piper, or the Eleven Pipers Piping in the Christmas song, or the piper in the “Spirit of ’76” painting.

If you recruited a lot of pipers, it could be a mix of all types, maybe with a classic flautist or piccolo player amongst them. Could you get 100? No, I’d be happy with Eleven Bad Pipers Piping. The reason they’d be bad pipers is that they never rehearsed together and they don’t follow the same music. The pitchpipe would give them the key for some song they all presumably knew (say, “My Pretty Redwing”) and let them go to town.

This would be great entertainment by itself, much funnier than a passel of clowns, but what if you built a story all around the desperate search for 100 bad pipers for an affair of state. The word comes down from Master of Protocol: we need ten sad clowns and a hundred bad pipers to entertain the visiting King of Ruritania next month. And the showrunner for this spectacular has taken ill, so the job falls to her assistant, a frightened gal who runs the Autopen to “sign” official correspondence. It occurs to her that the order may be garbled, and the Master of Protocol certainly must have dictated “100 bagpipers,” but the Master’s office huffily insists that the order is correct, and so she must set to work. She remembers a couple of flautists who play in the band at church, and some neighborhood kids who play a practice instrument called a Flutophone, a cheap plastic toy intended to give six-year-olds an introduction to woodwinds. So there she has four, five, six pipers, or a sort, whom she can try to recruit. But she needs more and is desperate.

She learns there is a budget for the event, so is authorized to place an ad in various papers around the country:

Incompetence No Obstacle!

Entertainers are being sought for major high-class entertainment next month.
Can you play, or pretend to play, a flute, a recorder, a hornpipe, a fife,
or the sort of thing the Pied Piper played in the poem by Robert Browning?

Piccolos and krumhorns will be considered.
Respond to Box 336.

The sad clowns are easy to recruit, for there is a retirement home for sad clowns nearby and several of them can even play a wind instrument.

Just to be on the safe side, our heroine hires 15 sad clowns and 115 pipers and they foregather at the event with very little in the way of rehearsal. Many of the pipers turn out to have no instruments at all, so some hair combs are obtained which with bits of paper will be used as kazoos…

I don’t know how the story ends, but I suspect it will not be pretty. Some of the dignitaries will be killed, and the Autopen girl goes into hiding in a foreign country.


From 11:55 am on Saturday until about 3 pm Sunday, I did not sleep at all. I got out to McCarren Park much too early and wandered around the neighboring blocks a bit. Williamsburg at night is very attractive and impressive, full of bars and boîtes and avant-garde hotels and apartment buildings.

Williamsburg at night. It was far darker. This strange structure in the vicinity later proved to be the William Vale hotel.

Finally ran into an ancient, crooked-gaited negress in the uniform jacket, and she was searching the other way. I had found the headquarters tents when I first arrived (no one there but some negroes from Apex security) but now I had wandered around for a mile or so and I was a little lost. Finally, around a quarter to two (a.m.), I found the HQ tents again where we had a small but critical mass of staff gathered nearby. We started to finish the raising of the three small tents at the headquarters area. After a few minutes I realized I hadn’t clocked in yet so did so. Our leader J eventually appeared and took us on a tour of the overall site, including the Start Village. The Village was a fenced-in lot of about two acres, now lined on both sides with portapotties. My first task was to cut the zip-ties on those. Usually this was easy. Sometimes though people tie the zip-ties too tight and it’s hard to get the shears inside the loop. Then we set out water cups and the “water monster” urns in the lot.

One side of the lot was for Waves 1 and 3, the other for Waves 2 and 4. As we expected, many of those in Wave 1 came by right after the security gates opened at 5 am, an hour and a half before they could get to their corrals, and two hours before their race.One tall bearded fellow who arrived around 5:15 was confused and asked me what the route was, was it just loops around the park? Obviously he had done no research; the route was an out-and-back. His corrals would not open for over an hour. Most of the questions I got were similar. Are there any more pins around? (Safety pins. Yes, over on the table there.) If I’m Wave 1 can I run with my friend in Wave 2? (Yes.)

My other job, besides directing the 20k contestants and answering questions, was picking up discarded clothing. There seemed to be tons. We had lots of hirelings and volunteers to pick them. Few receptacles though. The clothes were strewn along the ground and by the corrals. Easily a hundred large bags full of tossed clothing. Not all were meant to be discarded. There was a finisher who wandered by when we were loading the trucks, looking for the jacket he had dropped by the big tree beyond the Village exit. Alas, it had been gathered up with the other discards. If and when we do a postmortem, we need to make a note of this problem. Our manic announcer Lynn talked up everything else during her three hours of emceeing by the Start, but said nothing about clothing discards.

By the time I started for home my feet hurt and so did my hips. It finally occurred to me what had been going on with my feet all this time: it’s plantar fasciitis. I hadn’t had it in so long, I just didn’t remember. The hip problem is just a variant of my old sciatica friend. When I got home I waited for noon, and went out to the Chinawoman’s for cheap wine. She actually had a bottle good California red stuff, which I slowly drank over the next day. I bought Triscuit, prosciutto and Entenmann’s crumbcakes at the drugstore, and that was my nourishment for the day. I dropped off to sleep, sometimes watching parts of Breaking Bad Season 5 (only one I own on Prime; I bought it back in 2013), and, going for three to six hours at a time, slept through till about nine today, Monday.

The internet suddenly cut out just before three pm, as I lay here in bed, playing with Twitter. My first thought was Verizon has fucked up again. They turned off my juice in spite of all. Checking my WF account now on the mobile app, I see there’s still over $300 in there, which means Verizon hasn’t taken out the authorized payment (about $88).

Intended to run and/or go to the gym. I believe it will be a jog/walk in the evening, just to stretch the legs, just for form’s sake, and to do the sort of downward dog and other stretching I need to cure the plantar fasciitis.


Mr. Grimm sent me a birthday present a week or so ago, thinking it was my birthday. Apparently I had put April 20th down as my b-day. A joke when I was drunk, perhaps. I finally retrieved it from the concierge yesterday, on my way back with the wine from the Chinawoman’s. A not terribly attractive Muppet-like puppet of a white-haired bearded man. With some modifications it could be a bearded Moki. Take a photo of it with glasses and an NYAC Founders cap. On the pillow with the other three and maybe the frog puppet as well.

After this, I put all puppets away except Moki Mouse.

I discover that Moki’s “television glasses” have just about the diopters I need for reading glasses. I clean them off and am trying them out. A bit strong, maybe. Use them for precise drawing or when my eyes don’t seem to focus at all in the morning.