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I'm sorry but most of you won't be invited. I know it's a big disappointment, but hey, five or ten years from now, most of the worst pain will be gone. By 2030, 2040 at the latest, there'll be only scar tissue.

Now it's not your fault. Nothing you did or didn't do or could've done. There's simply a large element of the arbitrary at work in a free democratic society where nobody's automatically in and nobody's automatically out. You're either invited or you're not. It's Calvinist if you're inclined that way, Darwinian if you're not.

There's no magic trick or secret prayer that'll improve your chances. Fate doesn't work that way. It's deaf to your imploring as it is to the wails of the crazy. It does what it does and you and all your aspirations are just debris kicked up in the process. The dog barks and the caravan moves on.

A few things you might try to get on your Maker's good side. Sacrifice the choice cuts. Love your neighbor — not easy, I know. Read better books. Clip and dispose of your own toenails. Do good to those trying to rip you off.  Share your root beer with ol' Sneaky Snake. If your pals have nicknamed you B.O. Plenty, take steps. Give your cell phone to some mendicant, who'll probably try to eat it. None of this will put that invitation in your shirt pocket, but it'll put you on a better road.

In this context, if there's a felony involved, whether you were acquitted or convicted is a lesser factor than what the charge was. Some criminal charges are just too disgraceful to bounce all the way back from, just as some bankruptcies... . No, never mind that. You can bounce all the way back from any bankruptcy, and from any number of them. Look at the ruin that was once Sheriff Hot Dog. The oldtimer yonder clerking in the liquor store. A picture of respectability now. But no invitation in his in-box, I'd bet money.

Also strictly in this unhappy context, where the pope gets his shoes matters considerably more than how many millions his benighted policies have brought to despair. But on the other hand, if you're Tony Alamo, it doesn't matter where you get your kickers — or which species of reptile contributed the skin for them. Here's a prediction: no invitation for either the Holy Father or the Holy Dick. My preference would be no thumpers at all — no smokers either — and I reckon I do get the final say.

I can't tell you who's been invited or will be invited, but I can share just a few  insider suspicions about who hasn't been and won't be.

Thumb down for Elvis Presley of Star City. A non-invitee even if he's elected governor in November, which I assume he will be. A stellar name's just not enough.

Down also for the River City anchor who recently reported herself to have been electrocuted by a faulty hairdryer. It's not that such shocking overstatement is an automatic disqualifier. It isn't. Wally Hall there on his stool has surely been electrocuted 50 times — no telling how many times a vicarious magician has seesawed him half in two, neither — and it didn't get him marked off the list. Something did, but not that.

Down also for anyone who's done both of these things (1) Stage a gaudy, sanctimonious reprise wedding to supercede the old one just to bag a new wagonload of wedding presents, and maybe secondarily to get a tighter clutch on the driftier super-sanctimonious vote; and (2) grant clemency to safely-put-away monsters so they can scurry out scot-free to become serial killers. Again, the Great Scorer might not've X'ed him from the list for either offense. But taken together, there's just no way. He was as screwed as Paris Hilton.

The orange guy from Ohio who wants to be Speaker of the House gets a thumb down because I don't invite orange people, or morons, or Ohians. The last Ohian I liked was U.S. Grant. I liked James Thurber's cartoons, but I understand I wouldn't have liked James Thurber personally inasmuch as he was a hateful old son-of-a-bitch. Witt and Jack Stephens liked John Glenn a lot, but he was a little too struck on himself for my taste, especially there toward the end. Is he still alive? If so, here's a  Soup Nazi-type heads up for you, John: No invitation for you!

No Buffets or Gateses or McDucks. No Waltons, either, which means Blanche Lincoln wouldn't be interested in attending, even if she were on the list, which of course she isn't. In your dreams, BL, even though I do like those initials.

Looks like thumbs down for just about the whole kaboodle, which is what I was trying to say there at the start. I don't even know if I'm on the list, and it's my list. In fact, I'm certain I'm not on it. I wasn't even one of the late cuts. Scar tissue for ol' moi also! It's like the man who built my house wouldn't build his own for fear that his work wouldn't be up to his own high standards.

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