Highway K4Z is a gravel road that goes north out of Letongaloosa and dead ends at what was once the Perkins farm. The facility is now called the Clarington Center. The U.S. government once owned Clarington. Then a Finnish billionaire bought the Facility and used it in a scheme to get revenge on some super-rich people who had ostracized him.
Years ago Old Jed Perkins’s barbed wire fence was replaced by a 10-foot-tall industrial strength chain linked enclosure that goes all the way around the property. Where the road ends, a big wrought iron gate stood between two square brick pillars. A small brass plate set in the right hand pillar read: “Clarington Center.” Underneath were the words “Restricted Entry.”
The facility was designed to rehabilitate diplomats, judges, military officers, and politicians who embarrassed the government. We’re not talking about felons here. Felonious behavior gets you sent to jail or gets you whitewashed, depending on which way the political winds are blowing. Either way you don’t end up at the Clarington Center.
One person who was at Clarington, for example, was a U.S. cabinet secretary who told a racist story while sitting beside a newspaper reporter. Another Clarington Center resident was a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who never outgrew his fraternity boy penchant for practical jokes. Security cameras caught him placing a whoopee cushion on the Secretary General’s chair.
Then there was the White House chef who, in a burst of last-minute culinary creativity, substituted pork for lamb at a state dinner for the president of Israel. Quite a few other officials committed dumbness and were sent to Clarington.
And there was the U.S. General who misread his orders and clad his troops in desert camouflage uniforms for a mission that involved their moving undetected through a large green forested area.
A U.S. Congressman failed to invite the President to a cocktail party at which a number of prominent Hollywood producers, actors and actresses were gathered. The President was a member of the Congressman’s own party.
The problem was that, as the decades passed, prominent members of both political parties committed dumbness. The government expanded the Clarington Center to its physical limits, but U.S. officials who ought to have known better continued to act in ways that merited their being candidates, not for re-election, or re-appointment, but rather for treatment at the center.
A rationale had to be developed that would explain the need for Clarington to be shutdown.
That, it turned out, was difficult. The closing of Clarington started as a behind-closed-doors issue. Officials argued about whose fault it was that Clarington didn’t work anymore. Congressmen argued about the wording of the in-house statement that would be voted on. Then somebody, or several somebodies, leaked the story to the media that the government was going to close Clarington.
Then it was “Katy bar the door.”
Every radio and television commentator, every talk show host, every blogger, every columnist, indeed, every blatherer in the world weighed in on the topic. “Close it, and do it now.” “Don’t close it. Never close it.” “Well, maybe, but not now.” “Well maybe, but let’s explore ALL options .” “Just DO IT already.”
The Clarington closure story ran for an amazing five evening television cycles and six daily newspaper cycles. Some weekly and monthly publications are still running commentaries on it.
After all the media hubbub came the practical considerations of who would shut down the Clarington Center, and how would they do it.
Of the blather that those considerations generated, we have neither the space nor the energy to comment upon. Politicians, elected officials at village, city, state, and national levels demanded to be included. Corporate executives vied for positions on any entity that would be appointed. School children, teenagers, workaday folks and civic-minded citizens of all political and ethnic groups wanted a place on the Clarington Closing Commission.
In the end, Nature had the last word. A tornado burst out of the south, bypassed Letongaloosa, and flattened the Clarington Center. Debris was scattered over several square miles, and some Clarington documents were found as far away as South Dakota.
Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co