Reality and Sing Sing have in common that those who can escape from them do. I’m sitting in the living room drinking Padre Kino red and scratching the ears of Long Dog Silver, our low-slung tubular dog who crawled into the yard as a tiny unhappy mange-scab. Occasionally something good happens, probably by mistake. The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley, but mange dip works like a charm. That’s today’s wisdom.
The original Padre Kino, first name Eusebio, abandoned Spain and came to Mexico too, where he became a brand of wine. The stuff is definitely hallucinogenic, usually productive of nightmares. Sometimes I wake up sweating ice water and imagine that a huge squid is sucker-glued to the plate glass window, craving fresh flesh, or that Barack Obama is president. The only thing to do is hide under the bed with a gun until the gollywobbles relent.
Maybe I’m turning into a curmudgeon. The phone rings. I pick it up and say, “Spit it. This is Babe the freaking Blue Ox. I guess you want to speak to Johnny Inklinger. He’s gay, you know.” A hang-up. I can’t imagine why. There is no longer a sense of community.
All will be well, though, because we have democracy. Yes. Democracy: A splendid system astutely crafted, according to some, by malignant arthropods from the wilds of Virginia. Democracy is the highest form of tyranny. It keeps people from noticing that they have no power over anything. Democracy means “rule of the people,” usually by Wall Street looters and blockhead generals with the minds of giant clams and all sorts of feathers and colored tinsel stuck to them. They look like Byzantine mosaics. And lobbies, never forget the lobbies, draining the treasury in the manner of bloated leeches on a suppurating udder. People in democracies have the freedom of molten plastic being poured into a mold, but they probably think less than plastic does.
The world is swirling like water in a toilet bowl. I’m hallucinating again. The television seems to be saying something about a war in Afghanistan. This is impossible. The squid, maybe, but Afghanistan? I mean, why not French Guiana, or Lichtenstein, or maybe Yemen? Wait. The box says we are bombing Yemen. Maybe some beneficent insect cross-fertilized Padre Kino’s vineyard with peyotl pollen. The old bedroom-window routine.
Fat. The babble box says that three quarters of American youth are too fat and flaccid for military training, so the Army is having them do yoga instead. In advanced training they probably learn flower therapy. I say put the porcine darlings in catapults and launch them at the enemy. What think? A rain of gelatinous protoplasm and fatty acids would discourage even an Afghan.
Actually, democracy works best when the population consists of near-catatonic morons drifting in a dense Prozac-induced fog, preferably in drumming circles where they process their issues — boomathump, bongeddybongo. Hypnotic video games like Sergeant Hemorrhage the Avenging Splattermeister help. These keep the public from interfering in public policy. The schools produce these cretins with the profusion of breeding oysters.
Surveys show that half the public never reads a book, and probably wouldn’t recognize one. If you ask these mouth-breathing suet globules “What are the three departments of government?” they say, Uh, JC Penneys, Monkey Wards, and, well, I think, Office Depot. The whole ingenious machinery of democracy aims at keeping them calm, calm, calm, since cattle, even Elsie the Borden Moo-cow, can fall into an uproar, or perhaps climb into a downroar — these are mysterious matters — and trample their trainers.
I’m keeping an eye on that squid. With his suckers stuck on the glass he looks like a determined bath mat. Determined to do what? Maybe I should move to another room.
The pollsters, charged with convincing the masses — good Marxist word, seems to fit — that they are Taking Part, and maybe even Sending a Message, carefully frame questions so that there is no wrong answer: “Do you think the war in Iraq makes America safer?” This allows the interviewee to give a witless answer with the air of Socrates. “I feel that those Muslems want to kill everybody….”
Pollsters don’t ask, “What and where is Iraq?” (“Well, Iraq is what you put a car up on to lube it, and there’s one across the way from Jim Bob’s Rib Pit.”)
I don’t think you lose anything by hallucinating. It’s cheaper than airfare, the destinations more interesting, and I’d rather have a mutant squid on my window than the State Department trying to do foreign affairs.
True heart of darkness stuff: I twiddle the knobs on the blinking Left Eye of Hollywood and see nothing but unsmiling sexless female detectives waving guns, and delicate hairless men with feelings. What would Davy Crockett think? The men’s voices are an octave higher than in 1950, and the women sound like kazoos.
I’m telling you, a decent, God-fearing cephalopod is a better deal. I notice that it’s fiddling with the door lock. Maybe a little more Padre Kino. It makes me lyrical.
“Of arms I sing, and the man, for malt does more than Milton can, where Ralph the sacred river ran, to leash the dogs of Peter Pan.” Maybe el buen Eusebio is affecting my mind. I doubt it though.
I figure the human race is some sort of cosmic mistake. Obviously mankind can’t govern any farther than it can see on an overcast day, and when things get more complicated than a Bordie Collie can grasp, it’s all downhill. Take money. How many people can understand fractionated debentures, declivities, and marginally flensed capitalization? Complexity beyond a certain point boggles the rubes and lets the lobbies play. Most of government just does what it wants, in plain sight, and nobody sees it because there is too much of it, in too many places, and who has time?
I must be having visions again. A gal on the box says the US is foundering in debt, so the government is going to borrow more money from China and spend it. Even when you are tripping hard, you can tell the delusions because they don’t make sense.
I mean, now she is saying — she looks pole-axed: Maybe she’s a computer-generated effect — that horrendous floods have devastated Pakistan, so Washington is sending weird Darth Radar drones, piloted by wet-lipped CIA psychopaths in Florida, to blow up those who haven’t drowned. It’s gotta be a mind movie. Even wozzed out on god knows what they put in cheap Mexican red, I can tell that you don’t do flood relief with Hellfire missiles. I mean, they don’t float.
I’m told that mid-term elections approach, a premonition much like the fugue state before a migraine. Change is in the air. Excited people join movements and talk about bringing the country back to its principles, getting America back on track, watering the American Dream, and throwing the rascals out. Wait: I’m the one who’s supposed to be hallucinating here. The elections will decide little or nothing, spending will remain exuberantly profligate, China will rise and America sink, and in two years we will again hear about Getting America back on track, the American dream, and the rest.
The hell with it all. I’m going to give the squid a bottle of the elixir of the good Padre, and see if we can coexist.
Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest book is Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit his blog.