September 28, 2016 § Leave a comment
Bourne in the USA: The quest for his true identity leads super-agent Jason Bourne to New Jersey, where he realizes that he is in fact Bruce Springsteen. His well-maintained physique and lightning reflexes are attributable to the Boss’s abstemious lifestyle and relentless schedule of no-holds-barred performances.
Bourne on the Fourth of July: Rendered paraplegic after an 18-hour car chase, Jason Bourne / Bruce Springsteen bitterly imagines all the fight scenes in which he will now never be able to participate.
No Brexit: In a parallel universe, a “no” vote to Britain’s exit from the EU causes a cascade of positive effects, ranging from lasting peace in the Middle East to cures for overpopulation, Ebola, and cellulite, to the successful colonization of Mars and Pluto.
Jaws Eleven: Ten mutant offspring of the Great White from the Jaws movies team up with the villain “Jaws” from the Bond movies to take down a floating casino that threatens their watery habitat. Cameos by George Clooney as the voice of Batman and Sean Connery as an endangered coral reef.
Road Runner: In this post-apocalyptic romp, Deckard the replicant-hunter teams up with “Mad” Max to take down a rampaging mutant emu terrorizing motorists on the highways of Massachusetts. The Farrelly brothers reprise their collaboration with Something About Mary’s soundtrack artist / troubadour Jonathan Richman in this whimsical dark comic ode to car travel in New England.
Zombie Agrarian Utopia: Weary of all the inflicting of terror and the eating of brains, a band of zombies decides to experiment with communal living and heirloom tomato farming in rural Pennsylvania. Wacky high jinks ensue as a nearby Amish community assists at their first barn-raising and introduce the younger zombies to the concept of the “rumspringa.”
Jason and Madea: In this final movie of the hugely popular “Madea” series, Madea’s young husband Jason threatens to take off with a king’s daughter, whereupon Madea threatens to kill all of their children. The ensuing bloodbath makes Jason realize that Madea’s threats are not to be taken lightly. Co-written by Tyler Perry and Euripedes.
2001: Henry IV: A sci-fi historical epic most notable for this classic exchange between corpulent astronaut / thief Falstaff and sentient spacecraft / prince Hal:
“Open up the pod bay doors, Hal.”
“I can’t do that, Falstaff.”
“I said open up the pod bay doors, Hal.”
“I know thee not, old man. How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!”
August 27, 2014 § 2 Comments
Controlling, controlling. I’m always stuck controlling things even though I don’t particularly like it. It does not excite me. Some people say that the way this country is going, everything is spiraling into ever greater disorder. But they don’t know what that would really look like. I have to imagine it – I have to imagine total chaos, and then figure out how to hold us back from that. I have to hold the populace back from the brink that their animal natures would like to plunge us over. No one becomes an animal alone – you drag others with you. I have to think about that, too.
My cabinet asked me if we should build more jails or more schools. I said, “What’s the difference?” They laughed nervously. They thought I was kidding. I said, “Okay, build both.”
To me, because I have to look at the truth without flinching, there is no difference, no difference between a stockyard and an internment camp, a school and a jail, a video arcade and a halfway house. Any place we stop the animal man for a moment, any moment we can steal from him is worth it, any moment long enough to make him think, “I am not alone. I am a part of this machine called the state, which lives and breathes and functions and will never die. I am not an animal.”
One time I overtook my motorcade by a block or two. It was an accident. My driver and I were discussing our favorite sports teams, and suddenly around us we heard the quiet, just the purring of my limousine, as our voices stopped. A foolish, primitive impulse made me roll down the window. I saw that we were in the no-man’s-land between the capitol and the other cities, an expanse of gray dirt and rock, a red sun spitting jagged light beams through a sky of dust, and far off in the distance, hills that were neither majestic nor beautiful.
Then I saw it, the stateless person. What a horrible sight. It was a male, with greasy curly hair curling around his head and neck. His clothes were a beige the same value as the gray of the landscape, and he stood as straight as he could, but it was clear something had bent him over for good.
The worst thing about him was his eyes, which fixed upon the car and then fixed on me. They burned, these eyes, not like fire but like embers that refuse to go out completely, and he only looked at me for a moment before he was looking through me. I shuddered. He could have no use for rulers, this creature who lived at the margins of earthly existence, lived in the place where men become animals again; in fact he carried that place around with him, threatening to infect others with chaos, with uncertainty, with a death that lasts forever. Already I could feel that place infecting me.
I wanted to believe that he could be reintroduced, that he possessed some capacity, some skill that would allow him to re-enter the cities again.
“What is your trade?” I shouted at him. My driver had stopped. We waited for the motorcade to catch up. Where were they? The stateless person had not heard me.
“What is your trade?!” I shouted again.
“Killing kings.” was his reply, and his black eyes that had been looking through me looked away.
I rolled the window back up. My driver opened his door and, emerging from the car, emptied his sidearm into the air around the stateless person. Every shot missed. I saw that my driver was sweating, and realized I was sweating too. The stateless man only stood there. He seemed to be getting smaller, or, no, we seemed to be receding before him.
“I don’t understand it, sir, I –” my driver stammered, pulling another clip from a jacket pocket.
“Never mind about that,” I screamed. “Just drive!”
We turned around and the motorcade engulfed us. The cars and motorcycles were covered in streamers of pink and blue. They had been slowed down by a parade of beauty contest winners.
“We will punish the laggards, sir,” my driver said, his voice shaking. “This is unacceptable!”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. Feeling strangely calm in my mind I told him, “Let’s just go home.”
January 1, 2014 § 4 Comments
In the new year, I plan to avoid gainsaying, second-guessing, and question-begging. Also grandstanding, stargazing, and compound nouns in general.
I will resist the temptation to make ad hominem attacks, at least until I understand what that means.
I will try to be kind to those less fortunate than myself, while striving to avoid the appearance of noticing that they are less fortunate, so as not to imply that they are in any way inferior to me. Though this may end up looking like the callous disregard of last year, I at least will know the difference.
Emulating W.C. Fields, I will not drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast. I will resume smoking. To chastise myself for these pleasures, I will at all times indulge in them to the point of illness.
I will arbitrarily add new or revoke old resolutions during the course of the year.
June 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
How asinine of me to have thought I was in heaven. Heaven gives itself away with its own fluffiness. It’s a place you can’t imagine because reality is more interesting. Reality keeps you preoccupied. Not always such a bad thing. Like this snow outside the window. It’s white and humped by the wind, and it sounds like it’s breathing. It sounds like it’s walking on itself. And the light is so strange, as if the whole world has been put inside a cave, and the only light comes from this phosphorescent stuff that keeps falling from the ceiling of the cave.
Always in life there are amazing events coinciding with utterly believable events, transcendent feelings co-existing with the most tawdry longings. That’s the way of it. We are dragged up and down at the same time. It never all comes together, not even now, not even here in this perfect, perfectly rundown little house here in the woods in Upper Peninsula Michigan. Because Marty has arrived, and has his own ideas.
“Matt! Matt!” I hear him calling. “What are you doing? We got worried about you, man!” I can hear him advancing, from the front door through the house in his oblivious way, clinking and creaking, carrying a bag of beer as always. Soon he’ll be here in this room, where I’ve been interacting only with some sheets of paper for a long time. I fell asleep trying to describe snow, and now that I’m awake, it’s falling, snow upon snow, the earth giving itself back to itself in its endless cycle of munificence, in its selfish generous way. Marty also gives of himself, back to himself, and to the world, but it’s different. Louder, for one thing.
“Hey, man!” And there he is, long hair flapping, big arms flexing from his ridiculous fishing vest. “TV’s in the car, man! Help me set it up! We’re going to watch the game in here.”
“Which game?” I ask him, rubbing my eyelids with my fingertips.
“Which game?! The Super Bowl, man! Saints versus Colts!”
“Oh, great,” I say, half-trying to remember the last time I cared about such things. Nineteen-seventy-nine, I think, and it was halfhearted even then.
Marty lunges to the kitchen and puts the plastic bag of beer into the sink. He walks from room to room like a puppy unleashed, admiring the size of the place, and the big picture windows.
“I always forget how awesome this place is! How long you been here? When were you going to call us?” There’s no trace of recrimination in his voice. This is the wonderful thing about Marty, and most of the rest of the old gang. I can picture them all out together on a summer day, on some remote spit of land on the lake, constructing one of their dead tree sculptures for no audience, for no one but themselves, and to pass the time. They don’t care. They have the right idea, the best idea, probably. But I have a different idea now, and can’t find my way back to where they are. Can’t, or won’t.
I reflect on the passage I’ve been trying to write, and on the islands on the lake where we used to go, those islands whose beauty couldn’t answer anything, couldn’t solve any of the problems of life. I suddenly want to alter my consciousness. A beer, yes, a beer with Marty would be just the thing. Not the game so much. Maybe he’ll agree to watch it with the sound turned down.
I get up to go and see where Marty has got to in the house. He has disappeared. I look down into the sink. There is no beer either.
May 17, 2013 § 2 Comments
“You opened my letter, you crazy, crazy bitch!”
Lynn’s psychiatrist was turning purple with rage, something he did with alarming frequency. He had a panoply of outsized reactions. Banging his head against the dry erase board was a particular favorite. He also liked throwing things, and kept a pile of erasers and plush animals on hand just for this purpose.
“What exactly is so difficult to understand? You take the letter to my colleague. It’s a sealed letter, a professional letter.” He emphasized every syllable in professional.
“Now we have to start all over with someone else. He was the best, a specialist, a genius, really. Now we’ll have to make do with some hack, I guess.”
He made a great show of pawing through his Rolodex. He looked older when he bent over like this, chin receding into neck, bald spot bashfully throwing through an expert combover. Lynn wasn’t listening to him. She treated Doctor Fred’s procedures and theatrics like a game. But she wondered why she continued her sessions with him, in this spartan office decorated only by his framed credentials from a long-discredited school of Gestalt psychology. Her life was relatively full without this. And she was smart, smart enough to see through people and even to enjoy seeing through them. But she was greedy for life. She wanted it all: the ecstatic, the uncomfortable, the seedy, the dysfunctional, the inexplicable. Doctor Fred was a mystery, in the way that water is mysteriously blue, and even after someone explains to you why it’s blue, it remains a mystery.
But she could feel that Doctor Fred was genuinely losing his patience with her. Through his mannered raging, she sensed a real rage building. She would have to up the ante, in order to maintain his interest and not drive him away. She looked through the gauzy nylon curtains of his shadowy office, and saw the intense June sunlight like a beacon, trying to enter. Life is out there, she thought. I don’t know what this is in here.
“Oh Doctor Fred,” she said, “can’t you see I’m in love with you!”
The words surprised her, a little. They hung in the air, and in the almost-silence an air conditioner hummed from the law offices next door.
“Ah, what a relief,” said Doctor Fred, staring at her, producing a checked handkerchief from his pants pocket, then pointlessly putting it in his shirt pocket. “That means the transference is working. I was so worried, so worried about you, Lynn, that you were completely lost to yourself…”
And Doctor Fred began to cry, very quietly.
His hand reached across the desk toward her, but it was only a gesture, he didn’t really touch her, or want to. A frisbee flew past the window. Adolescent voices could be heard yelling outside. The sun continued its slow parade of heat and light, outside. Lynn settled more comfortably into her chair.
May 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
He would lean heavily on his sword cane, though he was in good shape and his gaunt frame couldn’t have been very heavy. It was as if he had discovered the hidden weight of existence, some heaviness that hangs in the air, and he couldn’t ignore it, it dragged him down. Knowledge can be difficult to let go of, especially if it seems to make you special. Did he feel special, though? He took a trip inside, deeper than any of us would have cared to go. He went beyond the places we had maps for, not because he wanted to. Something in him didn’t know how not to go.
The flames of eternity had a magnetic attraction for him, and only after he had gotten all the way there was he able to reverse the polarity and shoot back out into the world we all know, his hair prematurely white, his eyebrows singed, the jeweled pin holding his cravat in place blackened from white diamond to onyx. And that strange gravity he felt after, that he seemed to possess corporeally as well, as if he were a dwarf star and the rest of us just regular suns.
It was hard to know how to ask him about his experience. I remember once, I’m not sure if he brought it up himself or someone else did, but he said, “Anyone can find himself in Hell. The trick is finding your way back out of it.” And it seemed to me that as he said this, he looked up sadly at the portrait of his parents on the wall of his study, and I wondered: did he meet one or both of his parents when he was down there, in Hell? And I wondered if it felt awkward, or if, in the context of Hell, it just seemed perfectly normal. And I wondered whether they had asked him to stay.
The man who came out of Hell had an exceedingly dry sense of humor, and was very careful and exact in all that he said and did. He seemed acutely conscious that every action has consequences, that every action is a bargain with life to let you take more actions, that everything we think and say is entered into some sort of balance sheet. Not a moral reckoning, but something trickier than that: Did you use the time given you?
He gained special abilities during his time away. He would direct his withering stare at your eyes and see what you were thinking about, unable to suppress a sneer if it was something frivolous. He could also see when people will die, and which place they will end up.
I wanted him to talk about those places, Heaven and Hell, and which religious model they most closely conform to. Are sins punished? Are good deeds rewarded? But these questions had no interest for him. “Hell exists,” he’d say. “Isn’t that enough for you?” And in a way it was, though in another way it wasn’t, at all. I couldn’t let go of my old ideas. In those moments, I would feel frustrated with myself. Then I would see the black pits of his eyes, and forget my petty self entirely.
The man who came out of Hell has vanished. He failed to show up for his morning coffee, his rigid routine, so someone checked his room; they found no trace of him but a black mark on the floor. The medical examiner has become attached to the idea of spontaneous combustion. But those of us who knew the man who came out of Hell realized he must have gone back there, back to the only place that still made sense to him.
April 29, 2013 § 4 Comments
Setting: In front of a collapsed house. Two men stand, facing each other. They are Bruno and Chas, old friends reunited.
The house has collapsed on itself.
You never told me it was so old, and so badly kept up.
What’s to tell? All houses fall down eventually.
True, but not like that. That’s a really epic collapse.
Well, what can I say? Sometimes people leave us things without teaching us how to look after them.
Where’s the cat?
Yeah, the cat.
Oh yeah. The cat survived, but he didn’t trust me after that. I had to give him away.
Didn’t trust you? Cats don’t know from trust. Jeez, Bruno. You get sick of a house, you let it collapse. You don’t like the cat anymore, you give it away.
So, what are you doing in town anyway?
I’m here for Vicki’s wedding.
Huh? She didn’t invite me. Who’s she marrying?
The invite said “Bruno.” That’s you, right?
Yeah, I guess. I’ll ask her about it next time I see her.
Good idea. Say, I was planning on staying with you while I’m here.
Yeah, well, it looks like you’re shit outa luck, Chas.
Yeah, I guess you’re right. Where’re you staying now anyway, what with this house being collapsed, and all?
I’m waiting for a tent to be delivered. Should be any minute now. That’s why I’m standing out here, so the UPS guy doesn’t just drive right by, when he sees the collapsed house.
A tent, huh?
Yeah, a fucking tent.
It’s a real nice tent. I went all out. You could throw a fucking circus in it.
But where’ve you been sleeping? You know, since the house collapsed and all.
Oh, I been sleeping over Vicki’s.
Sleeping over or sleeping with?
Hey, you sleep over with a girl, things happen, you know?
You tell her things?
Maybe. I dunno.
[looking off to the front and side of the stage, as an approaching truck is heard]
Good ol’ Bruno.
[looking in the same direction and heaving a sigh]
Yeah, good ol’ Bruno.