Yesterday, in the company of my two brothers, we spent considerable time playing historical trivia games (via the excellent sporcle.com), as brothers and dorks are wont to do.
My assigned challenge was to name all 44 U.S. presidents from memory. I accepted the task with a messy clearing of my throat and a gutteral summoning of my knowledge from the most depraved recesses of my mind. I was called upon to name the 44 men who have led this country, from the brave (Washington) to the bumbling (Ford), from the dandies (Buchanon) to the slobs (Taylor), from the great (T.R.) to the “like Hitler if you think about it” (Bush 43/Obama/Whoever Is President Next).
Like a machine, I began rattling off names like an patriotic auctioneer on speedballs. “Lincoln, both Johnsons, Pierce, Adams…” The names of perhaps 35 came to me as easily the secret code for infinite lives in Contra. After a minute or two, my pace began to slow as I labored through the obscure, ineffectual presidents like gray Ben Harrison and fat Chet Arthur. In the end, when the buzzer went off, I had named 43 of our 44 presidents. A valient effort indeed, but ultimately a failure, like Woodrow Wilson’s attempt to smile once in 1917.
The president I missed – none other than the spectacularly mutton-chopped Martin Van Buren.
How could I have forgotten poor Martin? He, of course, was cursed to follow Andrew Jackson, in that his lukewarm personality paled next to Jackson’s, and more significantly the fact that Jackson’s economic policies (namely dismantling the Bank of the U.S.) led to economic ruin in the Panic of 1837, thus crippling his successor’s presidency. It’s as obvious and relevant as the pulsating, oily blemishes that cover my fat face! I can’t believe I forgot Van Buren’s loveless marriage with his cousin, predating FDR’s more famous loveless marriage with his cousin by over a century! How could this have happened? Only a drooling imbecile wouldn’t immediately recall the presidency of Martin Van Buren!
Long story short, I’ve written a lengthy letter to the procurators of the Van Buren estate explaining the situation to them and extending my profuse, profane apologies. It is my hope that they will respond by sending me a lock of his hair and a t-shirt.
Sorry, dear Martin Van Buren. If you’re reading this from your cage in hell, please forgive me.