Ask Mrs Vera: Which is worse? The Shutdown or Barilla™?

Dear Mrs. Vera,

What’s worse, The Shutdown or Barilla™?

Guido Boehner,
Annapolis, MD

Mrs. Vera, on Dale Van Dusen’s scroll.

Mrs. Vera Newman,
San Francisco, California.
Photo: Michael Johnstone.

Dear Giovanni NoBarroehner,

This is a very easy question to answer, especially if you are a female lady who ever came from a family, even one of those families that doesn’t count enough to deserve eating a specific brand of dried paste that is for sale in many shops and markets. Not to minimize the critical stresses that abandoning the American Government may pose to those living in that country, or any foreigners that may have happened to have heard of it while carving wooden clogs or whatever, but to equate the two does a serious disservice to the imperilment of our eternal souls posed by the Barilla™ NoodleMachina Inc. Company and any possible advertisements they won’t ever produce, because, Man on Woman only!

Their motivations regarding who they will never ask to enjoy their product are not important to me as a consumer of hilarious shapes.  If you’ve ever tried to produce a family, traditional, Arrabiata or otherwise, on a gigantic pile of wet cooling pasta, you’ll remember from the experience what an unerotic celebration of the joy God or Ganesh or Garrison Keillor crafted into our squishy organ-filled bodysacks that rolling around in sticky al dente wheat chitlins feels like — claustrophobic and furniture-ruining spring to mind. No matter how natural Barilla™ may suppose lovemaking on a bed of their Conciglieri (tiny snails) will be, there isn’t enough grated parmesan and parsley on the planet to make that look appetizing to any random Skygods spying on humans doing it for cheap thrills ($.79 a box this week at Safeway™) and giggles.

The Barilla™ Crisis is, by far, a much worse and bigger deal than an itty-bitty government shutdown that has been practicing in its do-nothing training bra ever since Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann filled in their respective seats something like 200 years ago (math is hard) when The Obama Dynasty took over the lives of Free Men (even before freeing himself from slavery and stuff) from the Kenyan Highlands of Hawaindoneasyia, which is a slum near Chicago, apparently, according to Teapickipedia. Governments come and go all the time, and countries fade into oblivion through mismanagement of resources and plagues and spice wars ever since we stopped eating bugs (aside from the bacon-rubbed salted caramel posole-flavored ones they still put in Dorito™ ice cream), but family values have been with us since Man first discovered he could put it in a Woman, to great effect, if he supplied himself with sufficient charm, jewelry, good looks, flowers, wealth, chocolates, rohypnols and perseverance.  In fact, any combination of any 4 of those 8 elements will generally lead to a successful mating, producing children worth advertising pasta to, according to a joint study of Noodle Use By Men published by the expert lonely heart scientists working for the Axe Body Spray™ Beauty Institute For The Horny, in conjunction with Chef Boyardee™.

The current Republican tactical initiative of destroying us from within through the neglect and abuse of the once-healthy body they inherited of our formerly powerful nation may remind you of a playbook no terrorist makes a move without consulting.  But should it?  Just because they have since infested and colonized their birth-host, like a strain of parasitic Cuckoo Birds, laying eggs on everything, all the while weeping omelet tears of sorrow, because Obama, doesn’t mean they hate the part of America they’d rather kill today instead of trying to save it at some point after only their friends are left alive. Our only hope is in the slim difference between fancy “Terror” and plain old simple “Terrible”.

Their unified opposition to reason of any kind, no matter what happens, yields very predictable results (America in ruins), and we all know how favorably the markets look upon certainty!  Especially when it comes to planning their future actions, such as dumping T-bills like tamales, adding more frequent maintenance checks on the machinery powering the escape pods, and scheduling extra yacht docking berths on the Cayman Islands.  Without certainty, there is little way for business to plan for these eventualities, alas.  From the Republican point of view, assuring the destruction of the land that has made them powerful and wealthy is the only way to plan for the nightmare and opportunity its collapse will offer, and I wager it won’t be the last time this country experiences a collective nagging sensation that it secretly may have elected Timothy McVeigh president last November instead of old what’s-his-face with the health care fetish.

From the absolute inability to pass any form of legislation through its sullen, withdrawn behavior, the parent of the Republican party might be justified in thinking its raging tweenaged son has neglected the many duties it previously cheerfully performed because of his discovery of his, um, you know, don’t make me say it – Lady Pleaser™. And while I’m not against Republicans practicing a little in the lady-pleasing department, there is a selfish obsessiveness and chronic quality to these newfound endeavors that is preventing them, or anything, like maybe a little law or two now and then, from getting out of the House, and out into the real world.  At the very least, all this Republican self-love indicates to me it may be time to take a closer look at the generous allowance they receive, that is supposed to be spent on pizza and the economy, with the very stern warning that if they cannot contribute to the household by pulling their weight around here maybe they should consider getting a real job.  We all have to grow up sometimes, and learn how to do our own gross laundry.

If their tactics more and more resemble those of the terrorist, albeit one from within our borders, These InsurgenTeapublickers blindly driving America towards the nearest Federal Building are hell-bent on violently eliminating those who dare to disagree with them, no matter how great the numbers of those daring to disagree are.  We can, and should, be grateful that their actions are the more subtle, sophisticated and irritating ones of passive-aggressiveness, As opposed to the more bomby, AK47-ey literally institution-wrecking ones.  But like many mental disorders, which are now covered under Obamacare, there is a sliding spectrum to sociopathology, and you could fall anywhere along it, if you are still living here when it falls apart and the voices you hear in your head from Fox start telling you to do crazy things, like rip out your heart and core in order to save yourself.

Well if all that sounds miserable, do like me and reach into your chest and rip out your own heart.  Those big arteries look a lot like Ziti, only longer, am I right?  That means the marketability of your soul is normal/average, and getting into Heaven, or viewing adverts targeting you, is a 50/50 proposition at best.  Sorry if you were hoping to hear something less unkind, but facts are facts, particularly when dealing with religious facts, of which only yours are the one true ones, we can all agree.  Well, in a good family, they are supposed to look like Manicotti, but in a gay family they look like Angel Hair Capellini, and a big fistful of them makes a fabulous fiber optic disco mood-light to die for.  All you have to do is put a light bulb in an old coffee can with tiny holes drilled in the sides and a big one on the top to cram your glow-vein bundle into.  Voila!  Anyway, the Barillatastrophy is bigger than politics and it’s beyond gay.  The real problem is with women, and their subjugation by macaroni, and, I guess, twigs and leaves before that.  While pasta may seem like a time-saving convenience, it is a tool of oppression in sheep’s clothing, which won’t taste good unless you rinse all those hairs off, thoroughly, before eating any.

Look, whenever I’ve been a woman, especially an Italian woman, at various points in history, I’ve dealt firsthand with the insidiousness of pasta and the control over one’s life it asserts, if one has a vagina (pardon my clinical French).  As the female part of the family as conceived by Guido Barilla, I whole-heartedly embraced my traditional role in the typical desirable and unshameful family unit of Mafiosos and Malocchias pointing accusing fingers and guns at everybody while yelling at my neighbors from a window and putting spinach in everything.  No problem.  But what a waste of time, eating only the part of the spaghetti my female part of the family is entitled to.  In Rome, the wife gets the part from 2/5 of the way from the bottom to 1/3 of the way down from the top of each strand, minus two centimeters in the middle of that section for every pregnancy resulting in a birth, which you still get to eat, only you have to eat it from a different bowl.  Up in the north, In Milan, they divide the spaghetti into equal lengths using sunglasses with a very sharp blade on the ear prong, then weigh it out on a scale, ornate with marble inlay, and then the men eat what they want and then, after feeding the dog, the women of the village fight over the remains for their babies and themselves.  I haven’t been to Milan in quite a while; I was there briefly in the late 1960s, but spent most of the century there as a Visigoth translator for the blind in the 700s.  And don’t get me started on the dreariness of counting out the appropriate number of grains of Orzo when your husband wants that for dinner, God forbid. You will learn two kinds of hell whether you try to separate those @#$%s into correctly numbered piles for each family member after cooking, with the burning, wrinkling fingers or go mad boiling all those tiny pots for each person if you count the pasta dry before cooking it.  Oh it’s all well and good when you are Newlyweds, romantic even, or just starting a family — it isn’t so hard to break a fettuccini into two or three pieces, but as the family grows and relatives visit you will go mad.  Mad, I say!  Eighteen years of puckered pinkies and boiled fingernails?  No thanks!  That’s not my idea of womens’ liberation.

Of course, if you have even one Italian son, you will be cooking his meals for the rest of either his or your life, whichever ends first, and don’t even think about using the same water to cook his pasta and do his laundry with.  More pots, more boiling water, no shortcuts, and he wastes his time with that trashy hussy.  What for you breaka your mother’s poor heart?  No, Guido, not that one… the one in the pot on the little table by the light bulb and drill, that heart.  Why you gotta break it?

That’s why it’s appropriate to wear black whenever eating pasta or abandoning the principles of governance, even if nobody else you know can stand black.  It’s the color of having been through a lot.  I’m personally a little suspicious of people wearing too much pink or orangey-tan above their suits. Why do they have to rub our faces in it?  I guess we are about to find out.  Now I’m going to boil a cauldron of water, just in case I need to make tea for a large party.


Mrs. Vera, lost.Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere. She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating. Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means. Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!