Hearne asked me to review Gloria Squitiro‘s new book “May Cause Drowsiness and Blurred Vision.”
It’s the first volume of the memoirs by the wife of Mark Funkhauser (hereinafter “Funk”), the Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri from 2007 to 2011.
Gloria-like Cher, Beyoncé, Madonna and other superstars-needs no last name.
She is, after all, famous for two things: 1) a flamboyant, outsize personality and 2) being barred from going to her husband’s office in City Hall because she freely expressed said personality while serving as a unpaid adviser and chief-of-staff to said husband.
The first volume of a projected series, however, is almost entirely taken up with her account of a nine week European vacation Gloria took with her family in 2006, before her husband’s election.
The trip was complicated by two factors going in.
It was paid for by a teaching fellowship from the Institute of Internal Auditors. (Funk was the long time city Auditor.)
This meant Gloria’s husband had to leave Gloria and their teenage children to periodically go teach auditing techniques in Europe, away from where his family was staying.
The other complication was that Gloria’s elderly father was suffering from Alzheimer’s and his health was declining rapidly at the time plans for the trip were being finalized.
Gloria and her mother and siblings had agreed among themselves that if anything happened to her father while she was on her trip she was not expected to ruin the vacation of a lifetime by rushing home.
Gloria and Funk had an understanding that they would have to be apart at times during their European sojourn so he could pay for the extended stay by his teaching gigs. (The trip ended up costing $90,000.00)
Her father did die and her family withheld it from her until several weeks after the funeral. She learned of his death while she and her children were staying in France and Funk was teaching in Sweden.
This precipitated an outburst of coruscating rage, at her family for withholding the word of her father’s death and at her husband for not being there to comfort her at the time she learned of it. Never mind that she’d agreed that both these eventualities might well happen and decided to go on the trip anyhow.
Fully half of the book is devoted to this paradoxical angsting.
The rest of the book is largely taken up with Ms. Squitiro’s quarrels with other people during her trip. These include landlords, neighbors, trades people, cab drivers, waiters, restaurant owners, fellow passengers on a cruise ship, and the parents of her children’s’ friends -in short, with every species of humanity she encountered on the trip in addition to every member of her own extended family.
I realize many people find the spectacle of bitter discord wacky/amusing.
Color me WASP but I find it exhausting.
I won’t even comment on some of the more shocking disclosures in the book.
To give you just one example, though, we’re told that because Funk was quite a bit older than Gloria at the time of their marriage, he was worried that she might resent his greater breadth of sexual experience.
Therefore, she related, he encouraged her to go out and have an affair with someone else before their wedding so she would not feel she’d missed out on anything.
In the book, Gloria uses language that would make a stevedore blush, as well as every sort of sexual insult and innuendo.
Perhaps in the next volume of her memoirs we will hear about her decision to celebrate her teenage daughter’s ritual deflowering, setting up a tent in the backyard with a bed inside and a pathway to the tent made from rose petals for their little girl’s special evening.
“Tonight’s the night!” (the foregoing was related to me by a reliable neighbor eyewitness in Brookside years ago!)
And yet. . . . .and yet. . . . . amidst all the sturm und drang,amidst all the desperate crys for attention and attempts to shock, Ms. Squitiro’s book tells one great truth about Our Town’s political leaders, to wit:
“They were intelligent enough; they just didn’t want residents enlightened because that would’ve put the Kibosh on their reckless spending.
And they had to spend. It was how they guaranteed re-election.
Leaders in name only, they were puppets for the wealthy, anonymous players who really ran the city.
The rich got richer by throwing money at elections, and then had their bought-and-paid-for council use municipal funds to their advantage.
The latest had them pulling $10 million a year from the city’s budget to build a Disney-like-village-Power and Light-to be filled with bars and restaurants, from which they would profit.
It didn’t faze the Council that this expense would be borne of ordinary tax payers who would now be forced to do without basic services for little things, like cops, for instance.” pp. 73-74
Gloria was like the little child in the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” For daring to speak this truth (which applies on both sides of the state line) she has been cast into Outer Darkness.
Recall that the Establishment first played the race card against her husband. His was because some minor mayoral appointment to a commission had a connection to a right wing militia group.
Never mind that the appointee’s critics had ties to a left-wing black separatist group even more out there on the other extreme. Remember, being liberal means “never having to say you’re sorry.” (Because you’re not asked to apologize in the first place!)
When that didn’t work, the powers-that-be focused on Funk’s wife.
It was the foregoing skepticism about pork barrel spending that was the real cause of her downfall though, after all, past experience shows that rape, murder, and incest are treated, at worst, as embarrassing faux pas’s but will not get you expelled from the ranks of the K.C. Oligarchy.
The only thing that gets you kicked out is costing other people money.
Funk posed at least a theoretical threat to the Iron Triangle of developers,investment bankers, and development lawyers (the ‘anonymous wealthy’ in Gloria’s apt phrase). Funk’s wife’s colorful language and abrasive persona were simply pretexts.
After seven decades in the Belly of the Beast, I know what I’m talking about.