A rose by any other name

Published 9:33 am Friday, May 22, 2015

The Fraternal Order of the Grand Misconception (FOG’M) is a gentlemen’s club in the purist sense of the term. It is not a nefarious den of iniquities, where anything but gentlemanly conduct is produced. It is, however, a gathering of men that meet on a regular basis with the intent of surrounding themselves with a better world. Most of the FOG’M members are good hearted, civic minded, folks with a common goal of helping the less fortunate. However, for some of the members of FOG’M , that “better world” is just a means of escape from a home life that contains a honey-do list that never quits.

Three of the most enthusiastic volunteers within the FOG’M organization are prime examples of domestic escapism. Hannibal King is an educated man with multiple degrees in everything from a PhD in Monastic Literature from the St. Mia Farrow School of Interpretive Thought to a certificate in Black Hole Discussions (a school of philosophy that makes little sense to anyone, including its practitioners). Firewalker is a reformed college president that heard the call of the Firesign and “cut off the toes of his shoes, lived in a tree, and learned to play the flute.” Tim is an electrical engineer, only because he pilots a South Shore train from South Bend to Chicago.

All three men have one thing in common. They would much rather be out of the house, helping to make the world a better place by volunteering at a FOG’M function, rather than being nagged at home to take out the trash. One of the organizations served by FOG’M is the Shelter for Starving Artists and Underpaid Academics where Hannibal, Firewalker, and Tim regularly volunteer to help serve food to the down trodden members of the Artsi-Fartsian community.

Sometimes, FOG’M members are joined on the serving line by misdemeanor enthusiasts that are working off community service sentencing for their various acts of not quite criminal behavior. Sometimes, volunteers just walk in off the street. One such hash slinger went by the witness protection moniker of Wildman. In his most recent past life, Wildman worked for the Government in one of the most secretive agencies ever created – the STUPID (Short Term Uniform Political Identification Department). STUPID is tasked with coming up with all the confusing names and acronyms that over populate our governmental and military systems.

Wildman was inducted into the witness protection program when he was involuntarily retired from the Agency. However, contrary to how the program is design to work, Wildman would much rather talk about his years of living a secret life-telling his wife he was going to the office to find ways to end bureaucratic red-tape when, in reality, he was commuting to a secret bunker where he thought up new ways to make old ideas sound like something completely different.

“You came up with the name ‘ADA’ for the Americans with Disabilities Act?” questioned Hannibal. “How did you do that?”

“We didn’t come up with the law. We just created the acronym. There were three of us on the team. I came up with the ‘A’ for ‘Americans.”

“Why isn’t there a ‘W’? It is the Americans WITH Disabilities Act?” pondered Firewalker.

“We only had three people on the team.”

“What do you consider to be your best work?” asked Tim, thinking that every role in life should have a pinnacle achievement, worthy of bragging about.

This question stopped Wildman for a moment or two. For twenty-two years he had labored in the bowels of government, creating words and phrases that would provide clarity through obfuscation. No one knew about his work. Therefore he had no opportunity to brag about his best work. Finally, he responded with, “I think it would have to be ‘The Nationwide Program for Advancement of Regional Responsibility within Restricted Zones of Community Involvement’.”

“What does that mean?” Tim asked, unafraid to admit that he had no clue.

“We weren’t even sure. We were tasked to come up with a name for something — it was a Friday, we threw a bunch of words in a box, and that is what we got.”

“I always thought that was how it was done,” mused Firewalker.


Larry Wilson is a mostly lifelong resident of Niles. His optimistic “glass full to overflowing” view of life shapes his writing. His essays stem from experiences, compilations and recollections from friends and family. Wilson touts himself as “a dubiously licensed teller of tall tales, sworn to uphold the precept of ‘It’s my story; that’s the way I’m telling it.’” He can be reached at wflw@hotmail.com.