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    Citizens! at our last meeting concerning our house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, several taxpayers suggested that our White House rental application form needs revision. Therefore, we, the three hundred million landlords of the property, formed a Distant Relatives of Dead U.S. Presidents Committee to help us update the screening process.

    It is most appropriate that we now hear from the woman who arrived first at our meeting, who was first in line for coffee and doughnuts and who has been first in the hearts of more than a few of our Country men, our own Vernonata Washington.

    “Mr. Chairman, as you all know, back in 1790, my several-greats-ago cousin, George Washington, looked around the marshlands of Washington, D.C. and saw seven shacks and two pigsties that gave him a nostalgic twinge for Congress. ‘Hey,’ he said. ‘What a perfect place to build the President’s House.’ First, he hired a French fellow named L’Enfant, but it took two years and 730 bottles of Beaujolais for him to dig the foundation. George fired him and turned to James Hobson, the Irishman for an architectural plan. However, the Country was only 20 years old and no one knew how to build the thing. After all, most of their former leaders had lived in castles.  Consequently, in 1794 laborers, African slaves, and six stone-cutters from Scotland, were imported from overseas.”’

    “What’s your point, Vernonata?” “I think we need to ask a prospective White House tenant if he (or she) can, in good conscience live in a house that was built by a bunch of foreigners.” At this a shout was heard from the back of the room. “Well, I think we need to ask if our boarder is going to throw wild parties. My ancestors never did.”

    “Chip Adams,” snapped Felicity Jefferson. “My long-dead, 12-times removed cousin,Thomas Jefferson was your forefather’s Vice President. When Adams was President, half of the 36 rooms in the White House weren’t even plastered. Water had to be carried by hand from half-a-mile away, and the only john around was John Adams. The privy was a three-holer in the backyard. No wonder your relatives didn’t entertain much. When cousin Thomas moved in, the roof leaked and the grounds were in such bad shape that, on dark nights, several visitors  stumbled into pits before limping their way to the House.That’s how Cousin Thomas replaced bowing with handshakes, because he had to pull so many visitors out of holes in the front yard.
    ‘Considering some of the recent White House guests,’ Felicity added, ‘I’d vote for any applicant who’d want to bring the holes back!”’

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” the chairman shouted,”We are getting away from the point. We need some good questions to ask in the residency screening process. You have a suggestion, Vernonata?” “I want to know if future residents will hang up that tacky painting of Cousin George that Dolly Madison picked up at a fire sale. None of the other pictures smell of smoke.” “Veronata! The British burned down the House in 1812. That was one of the few things Dolly Madison saved.” “No wonder Nancy Reagan had to buy new dishes,” she replied.

    “It took 10 years to rebuild the White House, and our fifth President, James Monroe sold his own belongings to furnish it. So quit your carping. What now, Vernonata?” “Wasn’t Monroe the guy who stuck us with that dreadful swampland?” “Yes,” we call it Florida.”

    “Hickory Jackson, you may have the floor.” “I think Chip Adams made a good point about wild parties. My far-removed uncle, Andrew Jackson, opened the house to anybody off the street, so when Congress gave him $9,000 to furnish the East Room, the first thing he bought was 20 spittoons.” “So, we agree that lifestyle should be one of the things we should scrutinize. What else? Yes, Lady Feather Johnson.” “I don’t think that any of our tenants should swim naked in the Potomac River like Teddy Roosevelt did!”

    “Yes, Bully Roosevelt you have something to add?” “You know they didn’t have many bathrooms in the President’s living quarters when my Cousin Teddy was President, and he had six children. Mother Nature drove that old Rough Rider right into the Potomac. And, that shabby old house was so shaky, that every time he gave a dinner party, the State Dining Room floor had to be propped up.”

    “What do all of you think about asking for a damage deposit?” “Yes,” Bossy Truman?” “Are you talking about the House or the Country? If you mean the House, I’m against it.  It’s lucky that my forebears, Harry and Bess didn’t hanker for a water bed, or they probably would have crash landed—kerplunk!—on some tourists from Tombstone. That house was such a dump, by the time my poor relatives moved there from Missouri in 1947, I don’t know how anyone could have lived there. Their daughter’s piano leg sank into the floor, and her sitting room broke in half. By 1948 most of the place was held up by scaffolds because those old timbers were beginning to buckle. The White House was gutted and renovations cost $5,761, because the Korean War bumped up prices.  Say, let’s go get the Koreans to pay for some of those renovations.”

    “I don’t think that would work, Bossy, unless the British also pay us for burning it down during the War of 1812. We are getting off the subject again. So far, here are the questions we’ve come up with to weed out prospective tenants:”  1. Can you live in a house without a ‘Made by American’s label?’ 2. Would you consider some politically effective holes in the front yard to discourage irksome visitors? 3. Will you pay a damage deposit—not for the House—but for the Country?”

    “Okay, what else should we add?” “Yes,” Bully, you have something to say?” “When my other ancestor, Franklin Roosevelt, was President during WWII, the army wanted to paint the White House black, but he refused. Let’s paint it green, so our President could show his love for the environment by staying home and tending to the Green House.”

    “We will bring that up at our next meeting, when we will discuss, ‘Zoning Violations:Terminating a Tenant for Running a Business Out of His Home.’ Meanwhile, consider Calvin Coolidge’s words when he returned from an evening stroll with a friend.

    The friend looked at the White House and joked, ‘I wonder who lives there?’  ‘Nobody, Coolidge replied. They just come and go.’”

    And leave the key under the mat.

    reprinted from: Blumenfeld/Alpern humor column in ACCENT ON HOMES AND LIVING MAGAZINE ( Atlanta, Ga, 1994 c. Blumenfeld) and DESERT LEAF PUBLICATIONS (Tucson, AZ, 2008 c. Blumenfeld)

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