Friday, February 13, 2009


The key to the city opens nothing. Getting one is an honor. But unless the Mayor is in a generous mood, the key itself won't get you a good meal at a fancy restaurant, a pair of tickets to a top play or sporting event. Or even a name-brand suit at a prestigious clothing establishment.

The big key is a gala ritual in which a person or group of people are honored for achieving something worthwhile.

There is little in life that is more useless or less practical than getting a key to the city. The custom began in New York City in the 1800s and became a symbol of the Mayor's wish to open up the city to its distinguished recipient.

For reasons that escape me, the rock star Ludacris was given a key to the city of Atlanta in 2004. The year the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, Plaxico Burress got one. I understand that Madonna is also being considered. So obviously the fame aspect of the key can fade quickly, and in some cases, disappear entirely.

The least the city officials could do when presenting their big key is to bring a modicum of honesty to their ersatz ceremony.

I, Mayor Culpa, along with my esteemed colleagues, would like to present this worthless key to you as a way of recognizing your unselfish and outstanding achievements. So here is your big key. It unlocks nothing and impresses no one. But it's our way of saying thanks and also getting all of us some well-deserved publicity. Oh, and don't bother putting your key on E-bay. Nobody will buy it.


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