'TIS THE season to be jolly. But, as Dickens might say, these are "Hard Times" for many people the world over. Here, then, are some musings and other items from 1991 that have given me a lift.
* Humorist Dave Barry noted that the "multiple personality" legal defense was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, "in a 137-76 vote."
* According to one serious columnist, the high court found that nude dancing was "covered by the First Amendment."
* Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was noted for absent-mindedness. Once, on a train, he couldn't find his ticket. Recognizing him, the conductor said he could send the ticket at his convenience. "The problem is not the fare," explained the perturbed justice. "The problem is, where am I going?
* President Lincoln insisted on watching a Civil War battle from a parapet on top of Fort Stevens, just outside Washington. A nearby officer was struck dead by a bullet. Another soldier yelled, "Get down, you fool!" "Captain," said Lincoln as he hastened to comply, "I'm glad you know how to talk to a civilian." That captain later became Justice Holmes.
* When David Brinkley was co-anchoring the news with Chet Huntley, a woman approached him and asked, "Aren't you Chet Huntley?" To avoid embarrassing her, he said he was. "Well," she continued, "I like you, but how can you put up with that idiot Brinkley?"
* A customer wrote to a bakery to complain that she found a bug in her cake. The company sent an apology, which accidentally included this memo: "Send this woman the bug letter."
* Mick Wilkins of Wellesbourne, England, stopped off at a pub after work and had a few. On his way home he encountered xxTC young child who had stopped breathing. He gave her successful mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Doctors said the alcohol on Wilkins' breath had stimulated the youngster's brain and saved her.
* Not even vodka could save the Russian communist party. A Moscow joke in 1991 had the party announcing a contest for recruiters of new members. Third prize was a bottle of vodka. Second prize was a crate of vodka. First prize was an affidavit certifying that the winner was not now and never had been a member of the communist party.
* The savings and loan scandal reminded me of the man who wrote his bank: "If you grant me this loan, I shall be forever in your debt."
* Sign in a Vienna hotel room: "In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter."
* Did you study conditioned reflexes in psychology class? Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
* The mayor of the Norwegian island of Sund proposed a resolution this year outlawing grumpiness. Playwright Samuel Beckett would have been arrested. On a gorgeous day Beckett was walking with a friend, who said, "A day like this makes you glad to be alive." Replied the playwright, "I wouldn't go that far."
* Lawyer joke of the year: A man asked a lawyer about his fees. "Three questions for $50," said the lawyer. "Isn't that a bit expensive?" "Yes. And your third question?"
* Romantic quote of the year: When I was a young man, I vowed never to marry until I had found the ideal woman. Well, I found her. But she, alas, was waiting for the ideal man." (robert Schumann)
* Samuel Goldwyn quote of the year: "I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their job."
* Tombstone discovery of 1991: "Here lies John Smith. Accidentally shot by his valet. Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Joseph Gallagher is a fitfully jolly priest of the Baltimore Archdiocese.