Dave Barry Slept Here

Barry, Dave. Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1989.

  Meanwhile, way the hell far away in someplace like Finland, Vikings were forming. These were extremely rugged individuals whose idea of a fun time was to sail over and set fire to England, which in those days was fairly easy to ignite because it had a very high level of thatch, this being the kind of roof favored by the local tribespeople -- the Klaxons, the Gurnseys, the Spasms, the Wasps, the Celtics, and the Detroit Pistons.

    The Puritans were an extremely religious group who lived in England and did not believe in drinking or dancing or having sex with hooved animals. They were very unpopular. So they decided to sail over to the New World, where they would be free to worship as they chose and live in peace and harmony and set fire to suspected witches.

    Based on these explorations, Holland claimed all of the land west of the Atlantic Ocean and north of the equator. This angered the English, who claimed all of the land in the world and a substantial section of Mars...

    But just when the convention appeared to be at a total impasse, the aging statesman Benjamin Franklin rose to his feet and, as the other delegates listened raptly, emitted a three-foot streamer of drool.

    The Second Amendment states that, since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, you can buy high-powered guns via mail order and go out into the woods with your friends and absolutely vaporize some deer.

    In 1828 Andrew "Stonewall" Jackson was elected president with the support of the Party to Elect Presidents with Stupid Nicknames. His running mate was South Carolinian John C. "Those Little Flies That Sometimes Get in Your Nose" Calhoun, a bitter rival of Secretary of State Martin "Van" Buren, who, with the backing of the brilliant orator Daniel "The Brilliant Orator" Webster, was able to persuade Jackson to replace Calhoun with Van Buren on the 1832 ticket, little aware that Denise and her periodontist were secretly meeting at the same motel where Rhonda had revealed to Dirk that she was in fact the sex-changed former Green Beret who fathered the half-Vietnamese twins that Lisa left in the O'Hare baggage claim area the night she left to get her Haitian divorce and wound up as a zombie instead, thus resulting in the formation by Henry Clay of the Whig party.

    Meanwhile, the nation's rural areas were being greatly affected by the McCormick reaper, which was invented by Cyrus McCormick and paved the way for the Midwest, a group of flat Protestant states containing an enormous amount of agriculture in the form of wheat. Formerly, to reap a single acre of wheat, a farmer would have to work for four days, with the help of two farmhands and driving six mules. But now he could sit back and relax as the reaper roared through as many as ten acres per hour, reaping the living hell out of everything that stood in its path, occasionally spitting out bits of mule fur or farmhand clothing, which could easily be reassembled thanks to the sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe.

    The actual war itself was extremely depressing and in many cases fatal, so we're going to follow Standard History Textbook Procedure for talking about wars, under which we pretty much skip over the part where people get killed and instead make a big deal over what date the treaty was signed.

    The era immediately after World War I came to be known as the "Roaring Twenties," and with good reason: Each of the years had a "twenty" in it, as in 1923, 1925, and so forth. Also there was a lot of wild and zany activity, with "flappers" going to "speakeasies" where they would listen to "jazz," dance the "Charleston," and drink "bathtub gin" until they "puked" all over the "floor."

    The end of World War II brought an economic boom to America, as factories that had been cranking out tanks and planes for the war effort were suddenly free to produce for Mr. and Mrs. Joe Consumer. This made for some pretty exciting times, because Mr. and Mrs. Consumer had very little experience with tanks and planes, and sometimes tempers would fray in traffic. ("Hey, that's my parking space!" "Oh yeah?" "Look out! He's turning his turret!!" "Ka-BLAMMM!!!" "AIEEEEEEE...")

    This was typical of the carefree attitude widespread in the nation during the postwar years. Popular culture saw millions of "bobby soxers" swooning over a feisty, skinny crooner named Frank Sinatra, while young "hep cats" wore "zoot suits," and danced the "jitterbug" to "platters" on the "jukebox." In short the whole nation was behaving like "dorks," and it was only a matter of time before some kind of terrible event occurred.

    The Korean War was, as is so often the case with wars, not especially amusing, except for those soldiers who were fortunate enough to get in a fun unit featuring Alan Alda and a host of wacky and zany characters and young nurses with terrific bodies.

    The Republicans, meanwhile, had a spirited primary-campaign season, which came down to a duel between Reagan and George Herbert Walker Norris Wainright Armoire Vestibule Pomegranate Bush IV, who had achieved a distinguished record of government service despite having a voice that sounded like he had just inhaled an entire blimp-load of helium.

    No matter what Carter said, Reagan would respond by shaking his head in a sorrowful but personable manner and saying: "There you go again." This was brilliant, because (a) it required the candidate to remember only four words, and (b) he delivered them so believably that everything Carter said seemed like a lie. If Carter had stated that the Earth was round, Reagan would have shaken his head, saying, "There you go again," and millions of voters would have said: "Yeah! What does Carter think we are? Stupid?"

    This time the Republicans, determined to show the nation that they liked a joke as much as the next person, nominated George Bush, who selected as his running mate young "Dan" Quayle, a Vietnam-era veteran who had received the coveted Round Smiley Face decoration in recognition of the time he accidentally stapled his sleeve to the desk and was trapped for nearly two hours.