Friday, July 21, 2006

Prolonging the Inevitable

I've been reading Harper's lately... Isn't everybody? Well, maybe not. Anyway, my friend Liz Bowman asked me to respond to a piece in the June Harper's. Let's just say this isn't a response to the piece itself, but in response to the whole, well-written discourse that envelopes Harper's which I certainly have a love / hate relationship with. At any rate, this is what popped out.

Prolonging the Inevitable
For Liz Bowman

Yesterday’s ABC article “Girls Gone Mild” is as noteworthy as the recent backlash against anti-depressants or the realization that pillow fighting clubs have popped up around the world. Acknowledging that our culture is sexually fucked up is as original as a ham sandwich. There’s yin, there’s yang. There’s mayo, there’s mustard. There’s culture fatigue and nip-slip yawns. There’s the brief brouhaha and hypocritical, FOX-style execution of climate change guru, Gore. For what, you ask? His licentious energy consumption, Kemosabe. The digriati are awash in premadonna paraphrasing and ineffectual, WASPY analysis; two thirds of what’s passed off for news ends up (at best) in the recycling bin. Nice try. And, like another line of moose–gawking, RV crackerjacks along some Yellowstone road, we’re all guilty of the chin lift, the fake tits, the forefinger across the bead — why, yes… why, yes.

Garret Keizer in “Climate, Class, and Claptrap” called it, “Disingenuousness.” I’d call it, “wanting to believe the lies.” While the conversation, in its polite way, slouches toward Bangalore, a new gilded age dawns and we drive through frog-filled, lonely New Hampshire fog. If we build it, he will come. A friend of mine hooked up with a beautiful girl last week — 26 years old, a waitress: pearly white skin, forever-long legs. “The worst part was waiting until after dark to take her clothes off.” And we all have things to hide. Masks to wear. Medication to buy to rid the masks, so we won’t lie in hiding. Life is circular that way, even as it spirals toward the wall. Stewart Brand calling for more nukes! My ass!

In the 1960s, Ed Sanders had Fuck You! By the 70s, everyone moved to Bolinas. But what is this 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s crap. Utah Phillips called it “Decade packaging” — it’s the way we’ve intellectually come to see life, in a linear sequence, in periods of half-measures. Call it chock-a-block history, or aiming at straw targets, like the watch at the end of the hypnotist’s chain is fascinating with all those interworking parts. Newton's folly. Ah, the mind as a tic, as a toc. Wake up to Paris Hilton using her jail sentence to launch a new line of clothing. Wake up to California Mormon’s donning burqinis. Wake to the iPhone. To the prostitute wine cellar. To drinking Absolute Vodka as the in way of helping hurricane victims. Oh Thoreau, eat my $10 cupcake. The umpa-lumpa music and barking dogs remind me of El Golfo de Santa Clara, but here I am in Santa Cruz.

So, has the pendulum really swung? Or is this simply another media game? And can you really split hairs with Allah or call yourself a child of God dressed in a tent? And, so the conversation drags into the insane. Emotional freedom. Sexual freedom. Intellectual Freedom. The freedom to do whatever the hell I want, because I own this damn piece of desert sage. And just when you thought you’d heard everything, a friend at the Tunnel Top Bar refers to cocaine as “a cup of strong coffee.” Cream or sugar? Paper or plastic? Local or Organic? Culture defined as simply the frame around the questions we are allowed to answer. But wasn’t it Lew Welch that said, “You only have to hop a few feet to one side and the whole huge machinery rolls by, not seeing you at all.”

And is that then the tri-via? The acidhead avenue of fiddleheads and futschia flowers poking their vulvas up through riverbank grass, somewhere outside the pendulum. Where checking email doesn’t lead to further anxiety. Where conversations aren’t carried on in the political means to an end, which means to die in the late innings having earned a restless life of half-truths. In the 60s, in the midst of the obscenity trials, we had Peace Eyes and toe-gasms. But, still you wake up the next morning — phone needing a recharge, too many thoughts swirling around in your head, ecstasy having become another empty pill leading to loss. But we’ve tried irony. And we’ve tried affirmations. “You’re just trying to pump me up, teacher.” So, we retreat into selfishness. “It’s about me, now.” Until someone comes along to remind you, “It’s not just about you!” Leading to further medications or at least a rough stint of the high shelf blues.

But we’ve been down this decade-packaging path before, Tonto. And poor mister Pound, what would he have thought from his prison cell of all this conceptual art and trendspotting pawned off as “Making it new.” Ah, how quickly someone’s good idea turns into someone else’s blowjob. Spit or swallow as simply another way of making small talk. And, “I’m outta here like a trout,” becomes an alarm clock at the end of a long hallway behind a locked door or a rubber button on the tip of the remote bringing all of us down. Call it the upper, middle way. “At this point I’m willing to do almost ANYTHING, so you won’t feel like a bystander,” she writes with all the disingenuousness of three monks behind an internet cafĂ© caught googling their own names.

Oh, so go ahead, believe the lies. Maybe it’s better this way — to warm the water slowly while we cook the frogs. Remember the frogs? Well, it turns out it’s not roadkill they need to worry about becoming; there are other things: climate change, habitat destruction, pesticide drift wafting up from the valley. So, by avoiding them we simply prolong the inevitable, which might be a good way to describe the whole asinine conversation. Too many stopgaps, not enough bullhorns. So, who cares this season if front bows are in and spaghetti straps are out. Who cares if Gary’s on or off his Prozac. She will still be uncomfortable taking off her clothes, and he will still feel the emptiness of the relationship, even before it starts, beginning to unwind. In the becoming undone; there, I’ve said it. Maybe it’s the only way. As if no-one’s tried Yab-Yum since Kerouac. Actually, being within each other’s arms, rocking slowly back and forth. Her beginning to cry.

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