I started learning and collecting bawdy songs when I was in the Air Force; every fighter squadron I flew with had an unofficial songbook (that’s one of my old squadron songbooks on the left). Midway through my USAF career I started running with the Hash House Harriers, who, like rugby players and fighter pilots, share a love of bawdy song.
Eventually I put together my own songbook. Hash chapters all over the world use it; I get requests for copies every week. There’s a copy in the American Folklife Archive of the US Library of Congress. I’ve shared my versions of classic and little-known bawdy songs with scholars and folk singers.
Hey, it’s a hobby, but an increasingly disreputable one. Today, witness the witch hunts on Twitter, people are quick to take offense and pile on. There are a hell of a lot of songs in my collection that belittle women and depict them as depraved sexual wantons. Many are racist (though I must say not to the level of those frat guys on the bus with their n-word chant). The truly gross ones are traditional military songs about war: have you heard of a little ditty called Napalm Sticks to Kids? Jesus.
A group of sexual assault victims is suing the Department of Defense. They want to force the military to bring in outside investigators and stop allowing commanders to whitewash sexual assaults in-house, a topic I’ve addressed here before. This time they’ve introduced an “unofficial” USAF squadron songbook into evidence, claiming it exposes a “continuing culture in the Air Force and military that glorifies sexual violence.” The songbook bears the logo of the 77th Fighter Squadron, based at Shaw AFB in South Carolina. It probably looks a lot like my old 43rd Fighter Squadron songbook, and it’s very likely I know all the songs in it.
There are literally hundreds of organizations — hash chapters, military units, fraternities, athletic clubs, fire and police departments, even corporations — whose members Xerox and pass around unofficial songbooks. Unofficial they may be, but all the ones I’ve seen have organizational, corporate, or unit labels on their covers. In the wrong context — a courtroom, say, or on the front page of a newspaper — they look mighty damned official.
I no longer sing the really offensive songs in my collection (in fact I’ve deleted a few of the worst ones), but the songbook’s out there, with my name on it, and there’s no taking it back. Good thing I’m not looking for a job, I guess.
From all I hear, nuclear proliferation experts and other grownups are very happy with the framework agreement we worked out with Iran. That’s more than I dared hope for; the talks could easily have broken down, especially with conservatives in this country and elsewhere working overtime to sabotage them.
We know what Netanyahu and Republicans in the US Congress think of these negotiations, but so far only one of my Jewish friends has weighed in: she’s opposed to any talks or agreements with Iran, period. This doesn’t surprise me, and I expect I’ll hear similar opinions from other friends soon. But I have to ask, what’s the alternative?
What we’re working toward with Iran sounds a lot like the policy of containment we adopted toward the Soviet Union after WWII. I seem to recall we negotiated several nuclear weapon and ICBM treaties with the USSR during those years. Our policy was an effective one.
I think I’ll try to wait out the overheated rhetoric coming from the bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran crowd.
April’s stacking up to be an active month. One, I’ve been slacking on gym visits and bicycle rides; that’s over and I’m working out again. Two, there’s a hash next Sunday. Three, our friend Angie is coming to visit and she and I will be the hares for a bicycle hash the Sunday after that, which means at least one trail-scouting outing beforehand. Four, I’m going on a four-day motorcycle ride with my friend Ed through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada at the end of the month.
The bicycle hash is on the same day (Sunday, April 19) as Tucson’s annual Cyclovia, a combination bicycle ride and street fair. I emailed Angie to suggest we plan our trail so that it intersects with the Cyclovia route, preferably the street fair part where there’ll be a bicycle swap meet and food trucks. Should be fun.
Naturally, though, for the next three weeks Tucson is repaving a major east/west street that runs right through the middle of our planned route. Crossing points will vary from day to day: crossings that are open the day we scout trail may not be the same ones that are open two Sundays from now, when a pack of riders will be chasing our asses. Drama!
As for today, I just finished the weekly outdoor chores: dog poop patrol, adding water to the pool, adjusting spa chemicals, refilling bird feeders. Speaking of birds, the mama hummingbirds are on their ceiling hook nests again, sitting on the next generation’s eggs.
Later this morning, Donna wants me to hold the cat while she shaves its butt. Chewie’s in her 19th year and letting herself go, the poor old thing. Her coat’s a rat’s nest, and apparently she soiled herself last night and drug her bottom on the floor to scrape it off. I have a small beard trimmer I no longer use; after this I might just throw it away.
The world needs a bawdy song about shaving a cat’s ass. Maybe I’ll write one!
© 2015, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.