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The Croton Follies: Report on the Village Board Meeting of August 6, 2007

September 4, 2007

This meeting offered slim pickings, a term rodeo cowboy Louis Burton Lindley, Jr. altered and adopted as a name before breaking into movies. He is best remembered as the Air Force Captain in the Dr. Strangelove movie who rode an accidentally released atomic bomb down, bronco-busting cowboy style, on a Russian city.

Residents from the perennially flooded Batten Road neighborhood, Charles Trendell and Thomas Szoboszlai, spoke. The gist of their complaint was that the Village was moving the shells too fast in connection with a proposed subdivision. Crotonblog predicts that this one has a very long fuse.

Michael Goetz, a resident of Irving Avenue, appeared and offered a series of rapid-fire but poorly researched suggestions as solutions to Croton’s empty storefronts. He proposed that the former Croton Dodge property could be converted into something like the Jacob Burns theater complex in Pleasantville. But that ambitious project had the former 1925 Rome Theater as the core for its conversion into an 18,000-square foot group of three theaters with a total of 456 seats, and adequate parking.

What he did not mention was that, based on Croton’s code, a three-theater equivalent to the Jacob Burns complex would require a minimum of 114 off-street parking places—a physical impossibility for the Croton Dodge property. (Croton’s outmoded code requires one off-street parking place for each four theater seats.) Therefore, cars would wind up being parked along South Riverside Avenue and adjoining streets, an arrangement totally unsatisfactory to residents or neighborhood merchants. Anyway, how many identical complexes offering short-run specialty films can this part of Westchester support?

He next suggested that the village buy the empty lot next to the EXXON station and lease it to private industry as an income producer. Crotonblog has to wonder where the money for such speculative ventures would come from, and about their viability in the face of Croton’s commercial real estate crisis. Fortunately, the village attorney shot that idea down.

Mr. Goetz also naively suggested that the village could make an appeal to major oil companies to lower gasoline prices in dirt-poor Croton. Crotonblog can hear John Wayne’s ghost saying, “That’ll be the day!” A little research on his part would have revealed that gasoline wholesale pricing by the stinking rich petroleum cartel is based on geography and “throughput”—the number of gallons sold—or so they say. The way to achieve lower gas prices in Croton would be for Croton residents to buy more gas, but most of them are already buying cheaper gas on Route 6 on their trips to Wal*Mart or Home Depot at the Town Center or in the Hamptons, as touted by Trustee Konig.

Last month, Seth Davis, a longtime reader, took issue with Crotonblog over the subject of free speech and objected to our reportage and opinions. It was his feeling that small town living imposed special rules on speech and precluded what might be considered to be hurtful remarks. Crotonblog refused to accept such criticism, regarding it as an unwarranted form of censorship. To paraphrase writer Lillian Hellman’s famous letter to a Congressional committee, “We will not trim the content of our speech to fit Mr. Davis’s idea of proper small-town behavior.” We pointed out to him that Crotonblog now has an international readership, reflecting the wide reach of the Internet. Crotonblog is now read in every corner of the inhabited planet.

Mr. Davis also criticized the latest in the Croton Follies series, denominating it as “silly.” We regard the adjective silliness as a compliment and not a pejorative. From the beginning, Crotonblog has described the feature titled “The Croton Follies” as satire. Crotonblog would point out that the Marx Brothers were silly, and they were satirical. Their movies are classic examples of social satire, poking fun at the pomposity of officialdom and authority, all the while exposing the hypocrisy of our attitudes about money and sex.

They were free spirits who not only criticized our mores but also mocked them. Creating confusion wherever they went, they playfully chased money, nubile young women and wealthy widows, not necessarily in that order, impaling American culture and institutions with their wide-ranging and powerfully effective satire. They used a broad range of comic tools—from Groucho’s enormous smear of a burnt-cork moustache and endless language-manipulating wisecracks to Chico’s Italian accent and malapropisms to Harpo’s pantomime routine in fright wig, with bicycle horn and overcoat two sizes too big for him concealing a collection of ridiculous props that could be produced on the spur of the moment.

Here is Groucho Marx, as Capt. Jeffrey T. Spalding, “the African explorer,” talking to a character played by the indomitable Margaret Dumont in Animal Crackers, “Why, you’ve got beauty, charm, money. You have got money, haven’t you? Because if you haven’t, we can quit right now.” In Duck Soup, as Rufus T. Firefly, president of the bankrupt country of Freedonia, pointing to Mrs. Rittenhouse, again played by Margaret Dumont, Groucho’s character tells a squad of soldiers about to go off to war with rival Sylvania, “Remember, you’re fighting for this woman’s honor, which is probably more than she ever did.” In the same film, with America’s abysmal treatment of its veterans of the First World War making headlines, he tells a soldier, “You’re a brave man. Go and break through the lines. And remember, while you’re out there risking life and limb through shot and shell, we’ll be in here thinking what a sucker you are.”

The Marx brothers created free souls untrammeled by convention or good taste, characters uncontrolled and unrestrained by rules of language, manners or society’s conventions. Silly and foolish they were, but they were wonderfully perceptive social satirists and commentators on human affairs. In bad taste what they said and did? Decidedly. But an America beaten down by the Depression took them to its bosom and embraced them because they enabled it to laugh its way through the darkest times. The Marx Brothers are gone now. More’s the pity, for no other satirists of equal talent—and silliness—have come forward to take their place.

Mr. Davis also wondered aloud about the reason for Crotonblog’s long delay in publishing a report on each previous Village Board meeting. This is by design, not dilatory accident. These reports are published just before the upcoming meeting to provide some continuity for readers and in the hope of stimulating greater public attendance at meetings.

In the end, Mr. Davis elected to take his custom elsewhere, and announced that he would no longer be making comments on Crotonblog, leaving us to the tender mercies of our readers in Patagonia and the Kalahari Desert.

So, if all goes well and the crick don’t rise, as they say in West Virginia, we’ll be back at this same stand in less than two weeks with our satirical report on the village board meeting of tonight, September 4, 2007. See you there, one way or another.


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