Archive for October, 2011
They were banging wildly at the windows. Bloody, barbeque sauce stained hands clutching at whatever they could grab. We had kept them at bay by throwing of the store’s stock of McRibs through the drive-thru window into the parking lot. The horde of undead monsters gobbled them up, consuming them in a grotesque span of seconds. In their fiendish delirium, they could no longer tell the difference between human life and a dollar ninety-nine cent sandwich (2.99 in some markets). The five of us were about to become a very unhappy meal.
There was Janet, the waitress, Addams, the cop, McBain, the lawyer with great hair, and The Doctor. They had gone through their lives secretly wondering when their hour would finally come round. They never would have believed they would perish terribly, mistaken for a limited time sandwich. I had dressed well, anticipating teaching an excellent day of thought provoking history classes. Instead, I was going to be eaten by zombies at my local neighborhood McDonald’s.
Janet: We should feed them something else.
Addams: We should not feed them, it will just encourage them.
McBain: We should reason with them.
Me: We should run.
Doctor: I’m a doctor.
Janet: We should scare them.
Addams: We should shoot them.
McBain: We should trick them.
Me: We should hide.
Doctor: I’m a doctor.
Janet: We should climb out through the air conditioning ducts.
Addams: We should set off an explosion in the parking lot.
McBain: We should wait for the army to save us.
Me: We should help them.
Doctor: I’m a doctor!
(Banging on the windows is growing louder)
Janet: We should feed them the cop.
Addams: We should feed them the lawyer.
McBain: We should feed them the poor.
Me: We should try to understand them.
Doctor: I’m a Doctor!
Janet: We should fight them with our mop handles.
Addams: We should make an example of one of them and scare the others.
McBain: We should poison the McRibs, then feed them to the zombies.
Me: We should educate them.
Doctor: I am a….Doctor!!!!!
(More zombies pounding on the windows. The zombie moaning is becoming intolerable)
Janet: We should protest their actions.
Addams: We should show no fear.
McBain: We should see if we can pay them to go away.
Me: We should build them houses.
Janet: We should raise their taxes!
Addams: We should use our weapons!
McBain: We should offer them a simplified tax code that does not punish job creators!
Me: We should offer them adequate dental care!!!!
Doctor: I am a doctor…I am a doctor….I am a doctor! I’m a Doctor!!!
(The glass in the main window begins to crack. Zombies swarm towards opening with horrific glee.)
Janet: We should pray with them.
Addams: We should pray for them.
McBain: We should pray for ourselves.
Me: We should love them.
Doctor: I am a doctor????
(The window shatters and the zombies pour through)
Janet: This can’t happen; I’m too young.
Addams: This can’t happen; I have a family.
McBain: This can’t happen; this is America
Me: This can’t happen; we’ve acted honorably.
Doctor: This can’t happen; I’m a doctor.
The zombies attack and overwhelm us. Lots of gore and guts and gizzards and grossness. You’ve seen this movie before or at least one like it. Just make up your own ending. Mine is…They all die. Alone.
“A Grandma is at the shore in Florida with her little Grandson. The grandson is playing on the beach when a big wave comes and washes the kid out to sea. The lifeguards swim out, bring him back to the shore, the paramedics work on him for a long time, pumping the water out, reviving him. They turn to the Grandma and say, “We saved your grandson!” The Grandma says, “He had a hat!””
Bobby Gold was born to die a thousand slow deaths. His is the pain of a man without a country. Homicide is his confession. The confession of the man that can never be whole. He is the first through the door, the last to leave the gym. His mistakes must be rationalized or his coat of armor will become tin foil. He has an answer to every question even before you ask it, because he cannot afford to show an ounce of skin. He must convince them of his worth. He must be more than human or else they will see him. Then, they will know.
Bobby Gold, set to wander the desert into eternity. He must be exceptional or he is lost. He is the map of human misery. Bobby the Nomad. Every time he finds a river he drinks a mouthful of sand. He knows that you see him and he thinks you won’t let him forget it.
His is the story of the self-made man. What becomes of the self-made man when he stops creating? What if he gets tired? What if hasn’t the strength to work at the rate to which he has become accustomed? No one will catch him if his arms and legs cramp up. He knows this as surely as he knows how much time it will take him to get there 15 minutes early.
He looks around at people and instead sees the ocean. The ocean is still and never needs anything more than what is given. The ocean is a mystery to him. Who built it? How does it hide its shame? In his hands are a set of tools from which he must construct himself. From nothing. From the ground up. He must explain himself over and over. He recoils, overwhelmed by the fear that they’ll recognize the sadness in him. He explains and explains and explains never making the point that is so obvious to anyone who takes a moment to look. And he hopes his explanations will blind them to the truth. And he hopes they’ll see him and forgive his existence.
He looks enviously at those who have never had to work a day in their life to exist. Some people just wake up and “are”. He must invent. He must create. All of his actions reek of existential survival. Bobby is a reminder of how fast a man must run to not fall down. The faster he runs, the closer the oblivion he gets. It is gaining on him, always.
Bobby Gold, never to know the stillness and quiet of a dreamless sleep. Haunted by his visions of wholeness. Mocked by his own creations and talents. Bobby hears with a third ear. He is haunted by the stumbling footsteps of those who do not belong. The flesh on his neck stands at attention when he is near them. He doesn’t need files and he doesn’t need a map. He knows the look. He is blessed with the curse of understanding. As like is drawn to like, as “a dog goes back to its own vomit”, as pain seeks out pain. He is them and they are he. Outcasts. Alone in a crowded universe.
Bobby Gold, born to see what people pray to have the strength to ignore. Bobby the Outcast. Bobby the Obscure. Bobby the Stranger Among Strangers. Bobby the Donkey. Capable of so much, but unable to hide the absurdity of his being. Imploring the world to see him for what he does and not what he is. Doomed by the pain of the man who can never be more than he can build.
One of the great comedy bits ever concocted is Victor Borge’s famed “inflationary language” sketch. Borge, the brilliant Danish pianist and comedian, devised a way of inflating the value of each word that has a number in it by taking the number and adding one. Thus, the constitution becomes the constitthreesion, lieutenant becomes lieuelevenant, tulips become threelips and on and on. Utterly hysterical.
While Borge’s idea is a comedic masterpiece, I wonder if he didn’t happen to luck into a fantastic way of creating a more precise version of the English language. We live in a world where hyperbole is commonplace. Both a grilled cheese sandwich and a beautiful, once in a lifetime sunset can both be referred to as “wonderful”. The listener is left to determine from context clues and body language which wonderful is more wonderful. But, these bits of evidence can be misleading and in a text-based situation like the internet, one can easily miss the difference between the commonplace “wonderful” and the nearly spiritual “wonderful”.
Borge has unwittingly given us a solution. Numbers combined with language can help us find a more precise answer to the deeper meaning of many words. So, the excellent grilled cheese that you consumed for lunch can be “threetaful” or two points better than wonderful. The sunset which brought tears to your eyes is much more likely “tentaful”, a full nine points better than the original. In this way, once can clearly discern the differences between a great sandwich and a magnificent experience of nature’s wonder (or tender in this case).
Think of all the miscommunications this could clear up. If someone produces a really quality work of art it could be called a great “creatention”, a true masterpiece would be much more along the lines of a “creafifteention” and the best piece of art you’ve ever come across might well be a “creathirtytion” or even a “creainfinitytion”. Think of how much additional joy your neighbors will feel during the holidays when you complement them on their “sixtaful decortwelvetions”
It could work in either direction, too. Let’s say you meet someone you have a serious romantic interest in and make an offer to become better acquainted. There is no ambiguity in that person telling you, “No, I don’t want to go over your house and negativeonenicate.” In that case, it’s clear she’s not being coy and any sort of future inquiries should be made elsewhere.
In literature, there are serious possibilities as well. A writer could be given the gift of being able to explain complex circumstances in one word. A character with a ridiculously pronounced area between his eyebrows and his hairline could simply be described as a person with an “eighthead”. A character maimed by a poorly performed birth ritual could be quickly noted as someone with a problem with his “twoskin”. A character who is overly honest could be referred to as being “seventhright”. No fuss, no muss. Think of the efficiency.
Five us four fully understand each other it is a greytwelve skill six learn. When we creaeighteen a more precise language much of the twentytion that arises from miscommunications will be mitigtened. Face it, our current language is assafive.
Here’s Borge’s original bit…..
About six months ago, I had surgery done on my foot to remove a bone spur. During the surgery I was given a dose of anesthesia to knock me out and numb the pain. Since the surgery I have noticed many inconsistencies in the fabric of the universe. I have come to the conclusion that one of two things took place. The first possibility is that I am still under anesthesia and currently on the operating table. For this to be true, the anesthesia would have to have distorted my sense of time and what has felt to me to be two months is actually less than an hour. The other possibility is that I died on the operating table and this is either a very strange afterlife or I am experiencing an early stage of death in which the images and ideas in my head slowly become distorted as I lose my connection to what we know as reality.
I know this sounds a bit far fetched, but things have been really strange since the anesthesia went into me. When I was first injected I began to feel extremely sleepy. I tried to talk but it felt like my mouth was filled with peanut butter. My eyes closed and all I could hear were the doctor and one of the nurses talking and that dumb song “Life is a Highway” (the surgery center pumped bad pop music into all the operating rooms to “relax” the patients). I was completely conscious and totally immobile. The song was making me angry. Why couldn’t they have anesthetized my ears? It’s a preposterously stupid metaphor. What the heck does it mean? Life goes on for a long time? Life has exits? If you stay on life for thirty minutes you can get to the airport?
I’m not certain of how I got home. It was late in the day. For the next week I flowed in and out of awareness. Pain and pain medicine shaped my reality. I watched the entire first season of the TV show the old CBS show “Wiseguy” on DVD (mercifully, I only remember about ten minutes of it), I ate pizza, I stared at the painting of a woman on the wall and imagined another head growing out of her neck. I could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. I chalked the whole thing up to oxycodone-induced weirdness and figured I’d feel normal once I got the stuff out of my system.
Time passed. My foot began to heal, I started driving again, I went back to work, and I shed my crutches for a boot. Life resumed, but I could not shake the feeling that the things around me were somehow less real then they had been. It’s not something I can put accurately into words, but it feels quite real. The world seemed similar but not the same.
My first visit to the gym was when things started to get really weird. I slowly moved my way through a few machines and went into the locker room to get the stink off of me. As I walked past the lockers there was a guy in a speedo who looked almost exactly like the guy who played Father Damien Karass in the Exorcist films. I had never seen him at the gym before. He was staring into his open locker and shouting. Most of what was coming out of his mouth was impossible to understand. He was raving. I understood the occasional curse word, but most of it seemed like it was in some weird language that he was making up as he went along. I averted my eyes away from him and sprinted into the shower. When I had gotten out, he was quietly staring with this horrible empty expression on his face. Suddenly, I heard him say in a monotone, semi-possessed voice “Life isn’t a highway, is it Keith? Is it Keith? Is it Keith?”
I felt my stomach leap into my throat. “Excuse me?!?!?!”
He just continued staring blankly into the locker.
“What did you say???” I repeated in a panic.
He did not respond.
I did not tell the thing about “Life is a Highway” to anyone except my wife. I strongly doubt that my wife has launched into a criminal conspiracy with some lunatic at the YMCA to drive me crazy so she’ll be able to drive our Saturn more often, so I have to imagine there are strange forces at work here. But what? Why?
Every time I see this guy, he hums a bar from it and smiles at me. He has a sickly, menacing smile. The type that bankers usually reserve for customers with no hope of getting a loan. He jogs next to me on the treadmill sometimes. Humming. Smiling. Laughing to himself.
The other day, he walked out of the gym at the same time as me. He started repeating the phrase “Do you know where we are? Do you know where we are? Do YOU know WHERE we ARE?” in strange intonations about five feet away from me. At first, I sped up, but when he didn’t stop and continued to follow me I knew I had to take some kind of action. I turned to him and shouted “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Why are you bothering me?!?!?!?!”
He looked perplexed. The man stared blankly into my eyes and began to speak with a voice that betrayed no emotion whatsoever, “Don’t you know where we are?” He reached slowly into his pocket. I was terrified. What was happening? He grabbed my wrist and shoved a piece of paper in my hand. With a coy smile, he turned on his heels and stumbled back towards the gym.
Maybe it was some explanation of everything. Maybe it was a threat. I needed something to make it all make sense. I swallowed deeply and looked at the piece of paper. This had to be the answer. It had to be. It was a ten percent off coupon for the frozen yogurt store about a mile from my house. The orange rain began to pour down from the sky, washing away the beautiful blue sunset. I sat down on the curb next to my car, put my head in my hands and wept.
You wandered aimlessly or aimed wondrously
Or maybe both
Or maybe neither
About thyme to waist or maybe just Rosemary’s two thighs
An English major who was not general enough to become an English Major
You wonder if you are nothing but sheep just as ewes wonder if they are nothing but sheep
As they graze off into the distance
But sheep sleep
And dream of themselves jumping over fences
Or maybe neither
(!!!!You probably think that runny eggs are out of shape because they never come out of their shells!!!!!!)
Just as a pastor eyes milk
(Or at least two percent do)
As worms learn to hate silk
(Which we hope isn’t true)
Can a ewe eschew this sort of snafu?
(Or at least creatures of their ilk)
Or maybe neither
My unorthodox friend went to see his uncle in Antioch
(But not his aunt in Uncleoch?!?!?)
Because he is pro-Constantinople
But he can’t wholly see, you see!
Or maybe neither
Kids today I tell you…..
(They grow up to be goats)
Ant live with them……
(Ants ruin a picnic)
Or maybe neither
(!!!!!Are you moving the puppet or is the puppet moving you?????)
A tail wagging a dog
(Told by a mongrel)
Somewhere in Missouri
Or maybe neither