As the voting public expresses its serious opinion on the various goofs seeking public office today in the Pennsylvania Primary - and, yes, I have already voted - some light relief is needed. Here we go:
As you know, Cannery Row in Monterey, California, was made famous by John Steinbeck in the novel of the same name. But do you know what happens to places that become famous? Inevitably, they acquire a commercial and tawdry air. T-shirt operators set up shop, likewise the sellers of ice cream and souvenirs.
When tourists get bored with that, they get in the mood to play tic tac toe with a chicken. So it was when I was in Monterey 20 years ago as editor of the Monterey County Herald.
Every few months, we would receive an outraged letter at the newspaper from an out-of-town tourist, more sensitive than most, complaining about the cruelty of making a chicken play tic tac toe. This letter was usually copied to the local SPCA and Chamber of Commerce to further the point that the reputation of Monterey was greatly demeaned by permitting a store to employ a chicken to beat silly people in Bermuda shorts. (The chicken always won, by the way).
They had half a point. Certainly, chickens deserve more respect than this. And as the poet has written, "A bird in a cage/ Puts all heaven in a rage." However, the poet is silent on the case of a bird in a cage made to play tic tac toe for its supper.
Moreover, the trouble with the cruelty-to-chicken argument is that, compared to the fate of most chickens, the Cannery Row chicken was living the life of Riley. It was not in an anonymous battery of egg layers; nor would it have its head chopped off to swell the profits of a Southern colonel.
Now, as evidenced by a picture and cutline in Saturday's PG, I see that the Rivers Casino on the North Shore has its own chicken to make fools of gamblers. As always, my money is on the chicken.
I must say that a wave of nostalgia swept over me when I realized that Pittsburgh was at long last following the Monetery example. Perhaps we are becoming a truly famous place where truly tasteless money-making schemes can occur.
But you heard it here first: Sure as eggs (the Aussie expression for something being certain) someone is going to write a letter to the paper to complain. When they do, you will thank me for outlining the various nuances involved in the issue of game-playing chickens. So informed, you will be able to knock these complainers off their high moral perch in no time.