“We got a thousand points of light; for the homeless man. We got a kinder, gentler, Machine gun hand”. – Rockin’ In The Free World – Neil Young
Mid July; the yearly Rodeo hits town coinciding with a parade down Main Street that draws vacationers from the tri-state area like we’re giving away sweet salt water taffy. The humid air takes on the consistency of wild mountain honey; still the multitudes descend; filling this playground Mecca with joy seeking madcap tourists to the brim. Until the pressure becomes really intense they normally never make a move; but now, like lemmings, they apply the pressure on themselves, to be seen having that good time, as if addicted to their own adrenaline; performing the paint by numbers recreation provided for their delectation with zeal so pronounced you’d think they were being paid. Now, the day after the nights before, this tiny Wisconsin town, the latest stop on my personal carousel; exhales like a smoker. It breathes in the tourists on Friday and blows them out every Sunday night, emptying after the Bacchanalia; the rat scramble to exodus Eden ensues.
News reports show an unlucky few have left hair, teeth and eyeballs scattered on the concrete highway intersections that at other times of the year would be laughable to argue call for a traffic light in a two traffic light town. Burgers were burnt on grills, flags waved ubiquitously and Nobel’s horrific invention caused the color bombs to burst in air. Now squealing no more the hordes lately laid prostrate for patriot days scream; arm-ageddon-outta-here. In the rush to get back to the rush some leave their skin and bones behind with their money.
To avoid the syrupy display of Americana Murph and I head over to Big Dick’s Saloon and antiquarian for some billiards and a few cold ones in the private back room that always seems reserved for us since no one else is ever there. Big Dick’s note-worthy claim to fame, most prominently proclaimed on hand carved wood placards, is the fact that J.F.K. once took a squirt in the men’s room. At noon on a Thursday the bar is sprinkled with tattered people who look like they spend every weekend prowling the demolition derby circuit; the well-worn gaggle of female barflies must have been ordered up from central casting; interchangeable with any other gin mill in the world; they sport pock-marked downs syndrome faces with all life force extinguished, sucked out like from a vacuum cleaner hose, quaffing draft beer in dainty sips; mainlining misery at mid-morning on a weekday.
Murph the Surf, martial artist, motorcycle rider, country gentleman, father to giant offspring and my back woods Paul Bunyan brother in arms, having this place clocked for decades, became my consigliere when I arrived and sympathetically shepherded me down the right corridors when I showed up lost in this dull waste land wilderness. He is as imperturbable as a whale, as hard as Chinese arithmetic and all heart. During our weekly pool and bull shooting sessions in our pleasure bunker; our weekly quixotic Salon; he burns with the intellect of a poet scholar. Today he’s particularly enlightened; pontificating around the fascination of women and the differences between the sexes.
Before I could effect a rescue of my prized cue stick Murph summoned forearms veined like surgical tubes and like a dancer tripping the light Balanchine fandango, turning cartwheels across the floor, balanced on the twinkle toes of a mountain goat dancing on a thin edge, crashed the ivory orb into the pack with the speed of an angry moonshiner with muscles straining as thick and sinewy as dock ropes, huge Mickey Rourke muscles that make his upper back fan out like manta ray wings. He slams the tip of my Balabushka into the ivory cue ball affecting a sledge-hammer break; pin-balling the spheres in causally connected harmonic waves; never slowing his rap … Women he says, being gatherers, were required to look closely at their work and so evolved into looking each other in the eyes when they converse. Further, he posits, men, 600,000 years ago, as we Pithecanthropus passed into the hand-axe culture, were genetically pre-disposed to look out and around, to survey our environs for the random saber-toothed tiger creeping up from behind or the manic charge of a wild-eyed mastodon, and so, conversely, men look away when we speak to each other.
Further, as the balls roll into the pockets… Men he says, dominate through physicality, and thus have mercy; where women do not. When it’s over for a woman, it’s over. You’re not getting an appeal. Yet we are similar in that both
have at least two faces, one mounted behind the other or in the case of deranged multiples, overlaid like an onion. The front one sculpted by what John Paul Sartre lamented; “hell is other people”, meaning the signal vibrations we send out as a result of being an ego encapsulated hominid are interpreted by others as our persona; who they think we are. They send those messages back to us and, in the infinite wisdom of human nature, the wish to assimilate and fit in; we receive the ping-pong message and unconsciously act out those wishes. Ergo hell is other people because they cause us to act the way they see us and thus prevent us from acting out our natural personas; being our true selves. The second face, the one we see when we look in the mirror and as we all know it’s the mirror that matters, is the one we use to try to bring about our own hopes while we struggle with the mean nature of a world that won’t sit still long enough to be seen clearly and allow us to make a connection.
I’m not actually getting much of this since by now, after a few trips to the bar, a few pulls on the whisky flask and a few hits on a Dobbin, I feel like I’ve imbibed a Vicodin the size of a hockey puck and that’s not altogether untrue. Murph has reached what Japanese Buddhists call Satori; sudden enlightenment and a state of consciousness attained by intuitive illumination representing the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism; in my case it’s simply the relief from emotional pressure that narcotics provide. I’m so lit by the time the quarters have run out and no more mead can be poured in and no more weed quaffed I become no longer interested in the answers; my obsessive compulsion has turned me into a Sarah Palin no nothings; not just not knowing the answers but no longer even understanding the questions.
I head for the bar where the TV burns in the background showing proof of life for the 50,000 children of the Americas lost in the wilderness of North America. Some manic crowd of frothing white people are babbling incoherently, waving poorly made signs and shouting what seem to be epitaphs at a large multi-wheeled monstrosity of a bus. As I absorb the cacophony from these right-wing fear machine zealots, the lynch mob bully minority portrayed on CNN as the caterwauling xenophobic’s they are, spewing brown boy’s go home tirades upon helpless, exhausted, scared children; I fear the rest of the world will interpret the ululating jingoistic hostility chants of U.S.A, U.S.A to mean, in their case, the United States of Ass-hats; hyena headed mongrels with no prepubescent girls to terrorize at the gates of abortion clinics since they’ve all been shuttered; portraying Americans to the world as selfish, narcissistic, greedy, cheap and in a word bullies. Proof, I fear, we’re not far removed from that early morning on November 22, 1963 when Jack turned to Jackie and said; “we’re headed into nut country”.
Why we care more for animals than people I never understood. Awwww’ing like modern-day Francis of Assisi, we spent $6.2 billion on grooming and treats for our pets in 2012. If only these kids fleeing extreme poverty and violence had four legs instead of two and were hairier, cuddlier and cuter. Jordan, a country the size of Indiana has taken in 2,070,973 registered Palestine refugees in ten camps, provided 173 schools, with 116,953 pupils, two vocational and technical training centers, 24 primary health centers, eight community rehabilitation centers and 12 women’s program centers and Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water resource availability, per capita, in the world.
But my country, the greatest I’m continually told, won’t find room at the inn for our neighbors to the south. Sorry kids, instead of pausing for air our fury sniffing of those railroad track lines of your coke or taking the profit motive away from the drug cartels that have chased you away from home by legalizing it; we blew the bread that would have cost rearranging the sands of Arabia for the last ten years with the bombs supplied by Dick Cheney and friends. Besides, Israel is presently turning kids your age into bouillabaisse so we have to change the channel; sorry but the first rule of media is; if it bleeds; it leads.
Well, time surely to stagger across the street to the only gourmet restaurant within a hundred miles and intake some banana bread French toast made from scratch by the blessed and enlightened soul who open it after a stint in culinary school; Freud/Jung, Nature/nurture, crazed whack jobs in Technicolor, blood and guts; enough. Hey Murph; pass the maple surpel.