#25-10 – The wise men of Babel do Minstrel.

It is surprising how much a city council meeting resembles the arrangement and style of old time minstrel shows. While this form of entertainment died out about 100 years ago during the era of vaudeville, it lives on in towns and townships, boroughs and cities. The participants at a minstrel show are lined up across the stage. The central figure is the master of ceremonies, who is called the “Interlocutor.” Shush, it is Monday evening in the council chambers of Babel and the show is beginning.

“Mistuh Interlocutor, if you do believe, I has to report that the mayor has taken leave,” said the city clerk from the orchestra pit.

Mr. Interlocutor, from his raised seat, looked down the row to his left. Four wise men there were in their tails and top hats ready for the show. He turned and looked down the row to his right. Another four wise men on his right were ready, also in their tails and top hats. Yes, if there were wise men on his right and wise men on his left, then the mayor was missing. He quickly said a prayer.

“Fellow wise men,” he said in stentorian tone. “Think we can get him on the phone?

“He was going to Europe, last we heard,” the clerk did explain. “But not knowing his exact schedule, he might still be on a plane.”

Mr. Interlocutor was delighted. It was his opportunity to show what a fine mayor he would make if the voters would just take notice of him.

His first duty was to introduce the wise men in their rendition of De Campdown Ladies. They had been getting lots of practice at that number during their paid appearances at the nearby race track at Georgian Downs.

The alto wise man was supposed to lead off an old Stephen Foster favourite for the next number but instead she sang a heartfelt ballad to an open council chair: Some day, my prince will come.

It was about at this point that Mr. Interlocutor found that with the mayor missing, along with a councillor on medical leave, there could be tie votes and he had the embarrassing job of breaking the tie. As unused as he was to having an opinion, it was an easy choice, he opted for another Stephen Foster favourite: Way down upon a Swanee River.

Bringing things back to an upbeat, the wise men followed that with a rousing rendition of Dixie. At this point, the city clerk urged Mr. Interlocutor to do a bit of city business. It seems that the Member of Parliament who spends his time figuring out how to win votes in Babel instead of looking after the riding’s business in Ottawa had come around with one of his oversized cheques. He offered the city $2.5 million of taxpayers’ money if they would build a new community theatre in downtown Babel.

Why the community theatre should be on expensive downtown land was not explained. Nor was it explained why the council had to make a quick decision.

But the wise men were all dressed up in top hat and tails and thought that going to the theatre was a fine idea. While quite confused on the figures, they agreed to build the theatre for somewhere between $2.6 million for the city or $3.6 million. It depended on whether you were better at adding or subtracting. One thing was for sure, none of them knew much about fundraising which is bad news for people aspiring to political careers.

They wrapped up the evening’s minstrel show and council meeting with a lovely rendering of Stephen Foster’s classic: De old folks at home.

(Note: An elderly viewer told the city clerk later how much she enjoyed the show but she wanted to know why the wise men were not in blackface. “Blackface?” the city clerk said to her, “In Babel, we are much too politically correct for that?”)

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