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How A City Councilman Reinvented Himself And His City


We now present part two in our three-part series. The first (published here) sets the stage for John McNamara’s ascendancy. In part two, you’ll see how words are organized coherently to form sentences. These sentences are combined to make paragraphs or “sentence families.” Please continue to support long-form journalism by giving to the United Way.

His parents? Dead. His favorite goat, Taog? Even more dead. His home? Burned dead to the ground. John G. McNamara had only one thing left: a taste for vengeance.

Out of his taste for retribution, a plan started to take place in McNamara’s mind, one that would enable him to both exact revenge and save a new city all at once.

Like all good plans for revenge, it started with a cup of frozen yogurt.

John’s Secret Ambition

In 2004, McNamara had been an alderman in Alabama City for four years. He had risen through the ranks, and whispers suggested that if he kept his head down and his shoes laced, the title of Supreme Alderman awaited. But McNamara didn’t like keeping his head down. He liked keeping his head up. In fact, some people even called him “Head-Up Hank” as a nickname. But those people all died of gout.

McNamara knew that an alderman could only do so much in this one-goat town. Real political power came from a position on the mayor’s cabinet. If he could be appointed chief of staff or, better yet, secretary of the treasury, then he would be in a prime position to set the wheels in motion. Literally.

But let’s talk more about this yogurt. Understand that in Alabama City, the summer heat can reach temperatures of up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

“It’s so hot, you could fry an egg in your freezer,” was a common saying among the several eunuchs imprisoned in the city’s sewers.

Every day many townsfolk would die of heat stroke and sadness. It fell to McNamara, as an alderman, to both inform the families and re-enact their deaths to the police. Alabama City Mayor Roy A. Mehtmi issued a decree that whosoever found a way to cool down the citizens would be awarded every key to the city.

A Civil Service Soft Serve

McNamara seized the opportunity. He had read all about frozen yogurt stores at his local library. The stores had figuratively been sweeping across the nation for decades. And their cooling effects were two-fold.

One, obviously frozen yogurt is ice-cold, baby. So that would cool people down, no doubt. But more importantly, as people gained weight from all those complex carbohydrates and fatty lipids, they would be able to insulate the cold from getting out. The cold would have no way of escaping the blubbery townsfolk. They would have no choice but to… chill out.

McNamara opened three frozen yogurt stores that very night. They were an instant success. Citizens young and old flooded the stores to get their sweaty mitts on that tasty yogurt. The effects were just as instantaneous. The townsfolk immediately stopped dying, and the average temperature of Alabama City lowered to a balmy 85 degrees.

A Hero Covered in Fermented Milk

McNamara was a local hero. Mayor Mehtmi held a press conference and awarded John the keys to the city, a warm handshake, and a playful nibble on the ear.

To an outsider, the yogurt stores looked so innocent, so natural. But in hindsight, the clues had been there all along. It seems so obvious now, so simple. After all, the letters in the name “John’s Frozen Yogurt” when re-arranged spell: “John’s favorite goat Taog.”

McNamara hadn’t forgotten about his past. After the commercial and critical success of his yogurt stores, he was unanimously named secretary of the Treasury. The mayor loved him. The people loved him. It all seemed so natural.

As natural as gas you might say. Because that was McNamara’s next step. Beautiful, natural, gas.

But We’re Not to Natural Gas Yet

It was 2004. The war was over. Everyone was rich, especially yogurt shop owners like John G. McNamara, or, as those in the city called him, “McFroyo.”

Despite his success, the title “Alabama City Secretary of the Treasury/John’s Frozen Yogurt Proprietor” was turning into a bit of a figurative nightmare for him. By the time he finished explaining who he was, most people had died of gout. He had to order business cards the size of greeting cards just to fit in his title.

“Successful people never tell you about how big their business cards are,” McNamara sang to a friend dying from gout around that time.

Besides, all this cabinet work and yogurt churning was totally cutting into his plan for revenge, baby. McNamara resigned in late 2005, claiming he needed to spend more time with his yogurt family.

But, like a free Hulu trial, the good times wouldn’t last in Alabama City. The city hit a slump in the mid-aughts, thanks in large part to some terrible mismanagement by the city council. The council had voted in 2006 to raise their own salaries by 50 percent. To offset the raise, they increased taxes by 50 percent.

Alabama City couldn’t handle the rate increases. Both businesses and citizens fled literally overnight in a matter of months. The raises had blown up in the city council’s faces, and they had no one to blame but their own faces. It was just the opening McNamara needed.

As for the Natural Gas

Since 2004, McNamara had been working on a secret plan to save Alabama City in case of some financial calamity. While building 1,000-gallon tanks for underground yogurt storage, McNamara had discovered a large pocket of what he assumed was fossilized yogurt, but later learned was natural gas.

Few had heard of natural gas at that time, with several experts calling it “a myth like bows and arrows.” Even more fewer knew of its applications. But McNamara knew that one day the burgeoning energy industry would take off. And he planned to be on the starting line.

Obviously, McNamara began storing this natural gas in goat bladders, just like Abraham stored water in those New Testament comics. McNamara practically had a regional monopoly once people realized they could use natural gas for stuff. He made a literal killing selling natural gas by the bladder (and it’s why natural gas today is measured by “Btu” instead of “tu”).

Eventually Sag Larutan, a large energy firm, offered to build a pipeline to deliver the natural gas, a deal that would make both McNamara and Alabama City a fair bit of scratch. McNamara just had one condition: That the pipeline wind its way through Hamington in a “needlessly circuitous and destructive fashion.”

Tune in tomorrow or whenever for Part… 8?: “A Pipeline Runs Through It.”