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Ask Dr. Salvo

November 7, 1994

Ask Dr. Salvo

Dear Boss,

You know best of anyone that a canine naturalist and anthropologist operating at an altitude of eight to ten inches cannot afford to act superior. Or be priggish or prudish or purer than thou.

However, I must say that some of the recent activities I have seen at a marching band contest in Foley, Alabama, have taxed my flexibility and tempted me to having views. Long views. (I recall now one of your notes on the etiquette of the body, one item being a strictly limited "moral looking time" permissible to peepers who enjoy gazing at the pelvic areas and ornaments of others -- usually nubile young females. The latter in turn are to keep their knees together and gaze demurely down at their own ankles, chastley crossed.)

Well what to my wondering eyes did appear, amidst the marching bands of Florida, Mississippi, and L.A., but legions of pretty girls waving flags and doing dances both sacred and profane. As you might imagine, it was the latter that attracted my scholarly attention. Boss, there was a time when you had to go to Paris to see the can-can and the Folies Bergeres. Not any more. Just go to a high school football game or a playing and marching contest.

And further, Boss, you'd have to go at least to the Vieux Carre to witness that ancient fertility dance, the bump-and-grind (mentioned in the Bible, by the way). This too is available on Friday nights over at the stadium on the Eastern Shore. However, our chaste young maidens are confronted with an almost impossible task (which I've noticed before in cheerleaders), that is: How to dance naughty but not dirty. Technically speaking mildly, playfully erotic, (like a Petty girl in Esquire 1940's) but still avoid the pornographic (as in Penthouse magazine). Well, Boss, they can't make it. I was forced to focus my binoculars at a less ambitious height, and resume my long study of the patella. I may be the only investigator to record the peculiarities of this anatomic feature. And, it is not an easy study. A knee cap in motion tells you nothing at all. When it is at rest it speaks volumes. But first you must catch the cheerleaders or gandy dancers at rest. As they beam their fixed cherubic smiles toward the audience their patellae may be captured (visually, that is) for brief periods.

The keen observer will notice that every kneecap presents a shadowy, brooding face gazing downward at 45 degrees and vaguely resembling in utero pictures of a term fetus. The more marked or sculpted knees tend to resemble Orson Welles in his role as Citizen Kane. A few of them look shocked or dismayed to find themselves engaged in such a pagan celebration. At present I have no theory to offer, Boss, as to why this should be so. Perhaps you and your scientific readers can help me.

To return to the mass-ritual-desecration of quasi-sacred body regions: In the midst of some very fine drumming, marvelous brass music and melodious woodwinds, conveying Malaguena, Perfidia, and When A Man Loves A Woman -- I suddenly perceive an astounding display of glutei and quadriceps femori. Their proud owners are bumping, grinding and can-canning a thousand quarts per hour, and their proud and pleased smiles show that the owners and operators of all this software are not a bit nervous about their (ordinarily forbidden) enthusiastic public display. One must assume they are chaperoned? And strictly so? Not a bit of it, Boss, and as soon as they reach college, it's co-educational dormitories! Boss, you and I were born about forty years too soon. Where are the snows of yesteryear? And where did the afternoon go to?

Before leaving you to ponder on those questions I must not neglect to mention classical ballet and figure skating, in that order. They started all this, ballet being the most shameless of all as to persistent dance figures displaying the perineum. As to figure skating and ice dancing -- when I think of it I always see an image of a sizeable, shapely derriere persistently skating straight at me, barely missing, then returning to the attack repeatedly.

Boss I am not an immodest observer nor among the prurient puritans. I enjoy all this girlish largesse. I just want a footnote or two in your work on the Emily Post of the Human Body.


Dear Dr. Salvo,

Please sing us another one of your sweet songs-of-the-South of your youth.
Yours in Southern California,


Dear Zip,

"Who are you, aged gentleman and how is it you live?" "And his answer trickled through my head like water through in a sieve" (c/o Lewis Carroll).

I had a relative named Zip, who I was told had died several years ago. Did he merely move to California? Is it the same thing? Impertinent questions.

-- Old Southern Stuff --

It is summer. I am perhaps five years old. On the backporch which is two storeys high and made of cool shade and bright diamond lozenges I am ensconced in my grandfather's Morris chair. The chair is adjustable and Grandpaw is dead. I am perusing with deep interest the back of a cereal box: Post Toasties. It seems I can become the possessor of a magic-blue ring for only four box-tops more than the one I have in my hand.

As I am resolving to accelerate my consumption of cornflakes I hear two women laughing in the backyard. They are making soft soap, preparing to wash all the linens in a big black three legged pot under which the fire is already burning evenly. The water is steaming a little and an occasional bubble starts out of the pot's bottom and lazily floats to the top and pops without sound.

Into the now boiling water they pour bacon grease, other cooking grease, lard, and bits of fat. Along with it they pour in a mysterious quantity of ashes saved from previous wash-fires. Remember the word potash and why?

After much boiling and skimming with large wooden spoons the two topsailing witches have brewed up a quarter pot of amber, clear liquid. They declare it is soap, but it doesn't even look as respectable as Octagon soap, a popular substance of the day pre-dating Lifebuouy.

Now in alternating attacks they pour in more boiling water -- they must have two pots going, yes -- and also the sheets, pillowcases and other big linen. After they have boiled away all evil, spot, or stain they are boiled-for-rinse in another big pot. I feel sure there were two pots only. Then they put clothespins in their teeth and continued to talk or hum around them. They hung up all the linen on the clothes line to dry. Then some, many, hour later they would sail away with a big cane basket full of clear wash perched on their respective heads. It was then they looked, I now understand, like Salvador Dali's portrait of the woman dressed-as-a-schooner arising from the surf onto the sand. Cool, clean, breezy, independent!

Now I see why they were "topsailing witches" as they emerged from my picture gallery. They proudly bore the baskets of snowy linen on their heads, independent business women working for nobody but themselves, and following a regular route from house to house where they were expected. Only now do I realize: They were boiling some of our neighbor's wash in our pots, with our kindling and chunks, and making God knows whose fat into soap. No questions answered, none asked. As I said, real business types.

That's it for now, Zip. If you'll write and say who you are I might give you the word on how to make a roux. If you know that, you can make a lot of Creole dishes.


P.S. On the 20th, three flocks of great white pelicans landed in upper Mobile Bay. Perhaps they left California, looking for more salubrious climes? -- Salvo.

Dear Dr. Salvo,

Have you thought about what should be woman's role in the upcoming millennium?

All major environmental groups advise Spaceship Earth is carrying twice or thrice as many people as it can support with ease. There is not one good reason for a woman to have children and make a career out of motherhood. What then should be the primary function of the female in the new century?

Their goal and aim should be to become the very best sexual toys for the males of the species. (You are practicing up to be a disgraceful old man! -- Salvo)

All their efforts should be directed to becoming as attractive as humanly possible through an intense regimen of exercise, studies in dress and make-up and courses in deportment and etiquette.

The new woman should be a modern courtesan dating back to ancient times when the fairest and most pleasing were temple courtesans.

Rationally yours,
Jesse Bailey
Birmingham, AL

Dear Jesse,

You are indeed practicing up to become a disgraceful old man. I am happy to see that you do take pleasure in something other than deity bashing.

As you can see, I've kept your letter for several months. Actually, I lost it. But I like to think my unconscious mind was simply waiting for its composing room to come up with some thing appropriate.

Then ole Tim came through! I do believe his observations on the desecration and marketing of Terpsichore by our high schools and young women offers answers to all your questions. It may even answer some you did not pose! I can only add "If it's O.K. with Tim it is OK with Salvo." It gives me real regret to have to remark, Jesse ole boy, that you too were born 40-50 years too soon. May be that is why you stay so sore at the deity? Awaiting further explosions,


Dear Doctor Salvo,

An esoteric question but one not impertinent: What can we as a people do to avoid revolution? While I'm not averse to a little mild social reform (such as providing handicapped parking spaces and co-ed bathrooms) I'm highly allergic to blood in the streets. I heard that Hillary's maiden name wasn't really Rodham; it was Trotsky (pseudonyms being popular among revolutionaries) and it is worrisome -- particularly when we find that our attorney general has put out bids for a guillotine, etc.


Dear Possum,

Whatever became of your book of Practical Cats? I think the answer you seek was there sagely deliberated by Growl Tiger and Mongo Jerry. Not without some loss of furs. They concluded there was no answer at present but strongly endorsed the ritualization of warfare so that no blood would be shed. At least none of theirs.

That's a start, but I think you will find more answers in Tim's latest article on public absquatulation in the high school stadium setting. Even though you're much younger than Salvo, the youngsters of today are way ahead of you, Possum. Read up and take heart.


P.S. If you'll just compare Trotsky with Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Genghis Khan and Bear Bryant -- you'll have a more balanced view of him. After all, where did he get to? Mexico and dead. So we'll never know how bad he could have been. -- Salvo.

-- November 7, 1994

The Harbinger