Before the Apocalypse
Things are changing here in America. We’ve all
heard that by now. Sure, you’ve seen flags taped to car antennas
and innumerable yellow ribbon magnets affixed to their backends, and heard
about people, not neighbors, thankfully, who proudly proclaim, just like
in High School, that Springsteen is The Boss, and that there’s nothing
that a good carpet bombing can’t fix ASAP. But is that really it?
What we haven’t heard is what, or how, things are, in fact, different.
Besides the potential of lurking death if you so much as venture outside
your house, I mean. Well, my friends and dearest devoted readers, it’s
a good thing that I’m willing, for you, to come out of short-humourist
retirement and offer to answer some questions, again, as always, for you.
Why me, you ask? Who else, I ask, leaving out any question
mark as a sign of the confidence I feel you feel in me. You, who know
me so well, recognize my unique qualifications, as the kind of guy who
may or may not be quite all there (or here), to speak authoritatively
in times such as these, times of frontiers, times of borders, where all
where and when is in flux. Qualified I may be, but let me qualify this
by pointing out that it was Bishop Odo, not Deep Space 9 shape-shifter
Odo, who could be counted on to crack Norman heads with his club in the
last successful invasion of Britain before that of the Pakistanis and
West Indians, who succeeded, gloriously, where both Napoleon and Hitler
failed, as perhaps Mr. Buchanan, once the Great White (a liberal concession
for a feisty Irishman) Hope, has failed to document. That is a disclaimer
designed for the literally-minded among you. Yes, they do exist, as do
the Irish, and could even be, regretfully, on your email address books.
Hobbits would be much more interesting but are, alas, only computer generations.
It is the third paragraph. You, my dearest devoted friends
and readers, are about to hit the delete button. You cannot hide this
desire from me. Delete you may, but consider the risk. These are dangerous
times (well, not really for people like us, yet you may find it in yourselves
to grant the conceit) and dangerous times demand a bold and prophetic
vision. Are you going to get such a vision from your trust-funded, pot-smoking,
hippie roommates? Are you aware that we stand together on the cusp of
a new millennium?
Are you listening?
I think that you aren’t paying attention, sometimes. My editor blames
the author’s prolixity and overuse of the first-person. Can’t
we get away from this blame game, I beg?
And my attempt to speak to you is just another sign of my willingness
to give to you, and of how much you take from me, all of it irreplaceable,
yet freely offered, ultimately to be squandered (by you, not me) in flesh-potted
charnel houses of a remarkably wide, and somehow disappointingly and predictably
Forgive me as I sob into my handkerchief, and go outside to find one of
the neighbor’s cats to kick. This is a time of trial (Please forgive,
for the sake of our mistress Art, who kneels before us, mouth welcomingly
agape, the egregious stupidity of this statement and those which follow).
So what’s new? It’s always a time of trial. We all constantly
find ourselves, in quiet moments of reflection, as jury, judge, defendant,
prosecutor, defender, and executioner of the self and its foundational
delusions. Free at last of the poisonous external suggestions of drugs
and psychiatrists, and thinking clearly. Every moment of existence is
a trial, not to be judged in locally determined semantic legal terms,
but in the uncodified and inexpressible intuitive terms of a morality
slightly more universal than that offered in the op-ed pages of the Washington
Post, though only slightly, since that’s a pretty good paper which
we should all get in the habit of reading more regularly.
That is, if we’re fair, and I know you, at least, are. How do I
know? I don’t, not really. Just trying to call your bluff.
We aren’t capable of Reason at times like that, when we are lying
paralyzed and helpless in a hypogogic state, unless we realize that is
at these times that we are, in fact, the most reasonable. What good is
what they term Reason, anyway? It’s nothing more than a delusional
construct, a hangover from the Enlightenment, so called, as pertinent
today as a powdered 18th century wig or a whalebone corset, becoming as
both may be for young men and women alike. The reasonableness I’m
talking about does not reside in taxonomically determined certainties
derived from false prophets, such as Linnaeus or Aristotle, who concealed
themselves under a cloak of invisibility they labeled philosophy or, worse
No, let’s forget about those guys.
Worse are the whorish scientists of the social, who wrap anecdotes in
the flaky pastry of the quantitative revolution, topped with the sauces
of increasingly complex statistical models. The presentation may be attractive,
but duck basted in espresso and Grand Marnier will still give you the
runs, leaving you drained and in need of the liquids and nutrients which
you expel so noisily and forcefully, thanks to the tasty feast which you,
in your innocence of digestive results, gluttonously consumed and purchased.
Are you still with me? I doubt it.
You are thoroughly and politely disgusted. I hope that you have ordered
a subscription to the Washington Post (its article on the so-called “Jersey
Barrier” was a sparkling semi-precious gem, perhaps the equivalent
of a garnet, in the charm bracelet of near-excellence which was last Sunday’s
edition). You think that nothing has changed as you sit in your Downtown
loft, only reading this up to this point because ‘Andy’ published
it (Thanks, Andy, you remain master of the elegance of boiled wool) and
you’ve gotten into the habit of moving your eyes from left to right,
then very quickly from right to left, then more slowly from left to right
once more. Unless you aren’t a gentile. Or unless we aren’t
anyplace but Utah, where most of us most likely are gentiles, and, as
in all promised lands, including Downtown, words don’t matter. Nor
actions, although the American harem remains an attractive, though foregone,
example of an attempt to establish an earthly vision of the Platonic ideal,
regrettably sans boys, upon the smelly salt pans of the otherwise unappealing
milieu that is the rest of this unfortunate country. What matters, and
you’ll have to trust me on this, is just faith. That’s what
make NYC and Utah so great. Both the Promised Land, although one is, literally,
and the other is, too, blessing all in between, from east to west, in
their divine embrace, creating a great land united against the great enemy
of the Pacific rim, the volcano and its sempiternally seductive ally,
Do we remember? Can we remember? You and I are revolted by this sort of
provincial, flag-waving, heterosexual, monogamous roadblock. We feel that
we must be waved through all obstacles since we are driving imported automobiles
and have so very many important things to do, now and forever. That’s
the sort of thing that God and his economic ministers understand.
Yes, and we haven’t been pulled over for years.
No, of course not. A mistake. You are not the sort who keeps a club or
a machete under your seat as a matter of course. You do not own a gun,
or think much of those who do. Here’s your license and registration,
We have reached a moment of crisis in the tedious narrative of inherited
expectations. If a sympathetic character had been introduced earlier,
perhaps a grandmother, an unbent survivor of decades of patriarchal imperialistic
plots to strangle her unique individuality, I would be forced to kill
her off right about now. I wouldn’t want to do this. You would demand
that I do so. You demand this sort of sacrifice, ritually determined,
as a sign of your contemporary sensibility and its garrote of breederish
fidelity. You always do, despite your claims that you are more advanced
than those who engaged in the blood rituals of old. Or more capable of
consumer discrimination than the average reader of a serially-published
19th century novel, or of a comic book.. The bad ones, I mean, not the
good sort, like the ones featuring Brock, for example, who lived in what
appeared from the outside to be a refrigerator box but, upon the granting
of the viewer’s entry, revealed a mutating vision of splendorific
liveability which, in execution, still defies the visions of the Feng
Shui-ed professionals who can forget that all a person wants is a suspended
bowl containing a Siamese fighting fish and a girl handing over selections
from a cheese plate while she pees on you.
But if a sacrifice must be offered, if a scapegoat must be found (your
choice, not mine), let it be the temporary prejudice for numerically-based
Reason and its caste of self-appointed interpreters.
Doesn’t that sound reasonable?
You demur. You hesitate and mumble when actually presented with a good
deal. It’s unbelievable, really. I’m going out of my way,
you know. This typing gets in the way of useful activities, like tying
flies. And yet, and here’s the rub, the burr beneath the saddle,
the flaw in the fly-line, the flat tire in The Bronx on the way to a weekend
on the Cape, you still might choose not to buy a decent horse at a decent
price because you haven’t seen somebody jump it over a tiny puddle.
The offer still stands anyway.