Near the close of the 21st Century,
God commanded, “Hey Noah, I want you to build a canoe.”
“But Lord,” said Noah, “shouldn’t
that be an ark?”
“No,” said God, “there’s not that
much worth saving.”
and day I’m the man of the hour, the life of the party, the wit, the insider,
the compleat schmooz rider.
I’m the water cooler sage, the lunchroom rage; everybody wants to hear me,
everybody wants to be near me, everybody wants to absorb me through that huge
umbrella of thought that surrounds me, bouncing away everything I don’t want to
lot of crap out there, and shit falls out of the sky,
but not on me. I’m the source of my own crap and
people respect me for that. I’m like the faucet I can’t turn off. Wordsworth’s
spontaneous overflow without the meter. I’m a damn
At night, I
sleep in ditches.
Not the same
ditch every night. I have favorites and sometimes I like to try something new.
I’ve slept in ditches full of needles and condoms and barking spiders. I wear
two wide swatches of red on my back from a slick of bubbling something-or-other
at the bottom of a ditch by a chemical plant. I’ve seen small things flitter
and flap in the darkness around rusted tin cans while they debated whether to
leave me alone or eat me.
But it’s not
I woke once
in a ditch with immaculate new suburban ranch-style houses with carved lawns on
one side and a field of sprawling swamp and early morning animal sounds on the
other. In a clearing by a stream banked with yellow and blue flowers, an army
of bulldozers pointed right at the swamp and its animal noises. I felt like I
was on the cusp of something wonderful and nascent. Soon, I thought, those
bulldozers will turn God’s land into something useful for his children. Yes, I
believe in God. His outline glowed in the aura surrounding those formidable
machines―his tools built by man in his power’s image.
The grass in
that ditch was long and thick and made for comfortable sleeping. Right by my
head, the biggest most beautiful dandelions opened with brilliant bursts of
yellow and orange, their leaves vibrating with the deepest green I’d ever
known. There was grandeur in those flowers. Their beauty was irresistible. I
reached out…and I ate them.
She took a
long slow swallow from her champagne glass and it was erotic the way her throat
undulated with the swallow, but she was well into her seventies and I’m not
that liberal-minded. Besides, I think downing her glass of bubbly may have had
something to do with her being impressed with what I had to say. I get this a
lot at dinner parties.
Yes, I go to
dinner parties. I love nothing more than a free meal in a friend’s home, friend
or not. I wear my best for these occasions because dinner parties are all about
appearances, even in the things we say. And I have a lot to say.
She wore a
red gown with black lace dangling over where her breasts may have been at one
time. She wore black gloves. Her face was surprisingly wrinkle free and she had
a youthful glint in her eyes. Then, her throat, though still erotic…suddenly
lurched, and lurched again. She was choking. The woman beside her (her
granddaughter, who was young and beautiful and had been eyeing me for most of
the evening) slapped her grandmother on the back, hard. That seemed to do the trick
and as the old woman reclaimed her composure, she glared at me and her youthful
glint turned to fire, my cue to continue.
needs to be pushed,” I said. “Without some sort of imbalance or conflict,
nothing happens. Everything stays the same forever and then it all just
disappears out of boredom. So we’re doing Nature a favor when we pump her full
beside me with the thick glasses and a paunch spilling over his chair told me
that nobody was doing anybody a favor, least of all nature, by dumping garbage
into the oceans …
corrected, “it’s not just the oceans, it’s the air and the soil. We need to
maintain a balance; we need to fill them all with the things we took from
them.” I paused for effect and noticed the old woman was just about to ruin my
train of thought by speaking. “Think of it, think of its simple cyclic beauty,”
I said. “We take raw materials from the land, air and seas, mix them into
entirely new materials that might take Nature billions of years to
create―things like all-season tires and chrome bumpers―and then we
feed them back into nature in their new forms …”
The man with
the paunch coughed out a laugh.
“… and those
new materials mix with the raw materials to create something even newer. And a
stronger, more robust Nature evolves in the process.”
woman, whose throat was obviously still irritated from the choking (and whose
granddaughter had just winked at me), scratched out something about overloading
the environment before it had a chance to adapt and then we all die, to which I
replied wisely, “The happy gambler is the one who embraces the concept of
losing with grace and dignity.”
gathering, heads nodded agreement. Somebody always nods agreement. It’s what
keeps the plastic corks in the champagne bottles cooling in ice-filled silver
buckets the length of the table.
thought, hours after the party, she’ll have that same glint in her eye when
she’s her grandmother’s age. I watched the condom swirl in the toilet and
disappear, my contribution to the environment.
Then I left
her place to find a comfortable ditch.
kitchenette is the 21st Century’s answer to the Greek amphitheatre
where philosophers met to stare at ideas. I would have made a great Greek.
sticking a meat pie, all wrapped in shiny plastic, into the microwave and
thinking how the true worth of a man’s life is not measured as much by his
acts―all of which are subject to anybody and his dog’s opinion―as
it is by the amount of garbage he creates during his life. A man’s pile of
garbage is something you can measure, and the less biodegradable the better
because we need to leave monuments so that aliens will know we were here.
weren’t talking garbage on this particular day. We
were talking Free Will. One of the junior managers said something about
everything being pre-determined so what did it matter if we were good or bad
because we were doomed to heaven or hell even before we were born.
where everybody chews gum,” I said. “And the saliva tastes like it came from
somebody else’s mouth.”
manager looked confused.
about God’s hell,” I explained. “He owns it all.”
I had a
feeling that I still wasn’t getting through to him. “You see,” I said, “God
gave us Free Will. We do what we want and he just stands back and watches.
Everything after that is just pure chance because there’s nobody in charge.”
wasn’t getting it, and the administrative assistant with the low cut blouse and
magnificent cleavage wasn’t getting it either. “Life isn’t a path,” I said.
“It’s a maze, and we should all be happy to be lost.”
sure I was getting through to them now. “That’s what Free Will is all about,
being happy to be lost.”
with their beautifully wrapped microwave dinners in their hands, saying
nothing, just feeling the full force of my words.
I have that
effect on people.
Hell has its eyes set on me
An’ it’s takin’ me away
Hell has its eyes set on me
An’ there ain’t
no runnin’ away
Hell’s lips are kissin’
An’ it’s catchin’
up to me
right outta my past
Makin’ this what I’ve done to me
- from a
21st Century Ballad
man with the orange spiked hair spoke with a slight lisp through lips pierced
with a dozen silver rings. He said something about his rage and how he wanted
to scream into every sewer in the city because there was no intelligent life
awaken things you don’t want to meet,” I said. Sleeping in ditches gives you
these insights. He said that he would gladly give his life just to be heard by
a single human being. A young woman with bright green hair and rings dangling
from her eyebrows and nose offered to die as well.
people listen to you,” I said, “that your life is most in danger.”
lady pointed a finger wrapped in black mesh that seemed to be some sort of
glove traveling the length of her arm and disappearing into her black sun
dress. She accused me of having said the exact opposite last week. “The problem
here,” I said, “is that you’ve obviously gotten today mixed up with last week.”
thought about that, I changed the subject. “Have you ever thought about why
we’re here?” This got their attention. The young man forgot about his death
wish and the young lady stopped thinking. “It’s something I think about a lot
when I look up at the light bouncing off the bottoms of iron oxide clouds.”
man asked if I was talking about the ultimate purpose.
“There is no
the ultimate purpose,” I said. “There’re lots of ultimate purposes, as many as
you can count, and none of them more ultimate than the others. We waste so much
of our lives looking for the ultimate purpose that the search itself mistakenly
becomes our ultimate purpose.”
man said something about that being OK with him, but the young lady wondered
how there could be more than one ultimate purpose.
they all turn out to be ultimately wrong,” I said. The young lady picked her
nose quickly and asked if I really believed that.
with me next week,” I told her.
I was stung
one day taking a piece of European chocolate away from a wasp with whom I was
sharing a ditch. The pain was like a tiny pocket of steam trapped under my skin
and looking for a way out. It was such an interesting feeling that I encouraged
the wasp to sting me again. It didn’t feel the same the second time so I
squashed the wasp and ate the chocolate.
I went to an
anti-abortion rally that had free home cooking. I shared a picnic table with a
group of women who made a point of showing the hair in their armpits. Some had
tattoos on their thighs and backs. They were talking about how much gas their
SUVs ate. I, of course, knew the truth about this.
“God put oil
in the earth for us to use,” I said. “The more gas we use, the closer we bring
ourselves to God’s purpose.”
spandex-coated woman with muscular arms twice the size of mine asked me what
the hell I was talking about. Before I had a chance to answer, she leaned
toward me―all testosterone and sweat― and asked if I was really an
anti-abortionist, or was I a baby-killer.
is the baby-killer,” I said. “But we need to populate the earth at an alarming
rate so that we outnumber the insects before they finish eating our crops and
then turn on us. This is why God lets women get
I slept in a
hospital that night. It wasn’t quite as elegant as sleeping in a ditch.
I just wanna
punch you in the face
Wanna smash and batter you all over
Ain’t no such thing as a savin’ grace
So hold on buddy while I punch your
- from a
21st Century Ballad
I was eating
burgers and fries in a fast food restaurant after waiting over an hour for a
family of four to leave, praying the whole time they would leave their
leftovers on the table.
did…proof that God sometimes smiles through the odds.
youngest, a girl with blonde bangs and a permanent pout, had eaten one fry and
nothing else. Her soft drink was pristine, her burger still resplendently
wrapped. Her parents had threatened repeatedly to cut her chat time, but she
kept muttering something about mad cows.
thoughts about mad cows. I think I’d be mad too if somebody slaughtered me,
stuffed me with food coloring and preservatives, pounded me into patties, fried
the crap out of me, shoved me into a bun soaked with thick sauce and
half-hearted vegetables, and served me up to some pouty little bitch who didn’t
even have the grace to eat me because she was afraid to join the army of
zombies that mad cows are creating to get revenge on the
human race for feeding cows to cows.
another story. On this particular day I was sitting in
a fast food restaurant chewing on a cow and thinking that, if the company
kitchenette is the 21st Century’s amphitheatre for
staring down ideas, then the fast food restaurant, besides offering designer
food for the masses, is the mirror into ourselves. It’s what we’ve become. A
tribute to our ability to reconstruct reality and believe whatever we want. In
fact, I like to think of modern civilization as a fast food restaurant.
schools where we can get to the kids before they’ve had a chance to be
corrupted by non-productive spending habits. For instance, if a child spends
five dollars on a bag of bean sprouts at a farmers’ market, who gains? The
farmer. And maybe his family. Maybe even the guy who rents the stalls at the
market. But that’s it. Now, that same five bucks spent in a fast food
restaurant supports entire industries: the beef industry (along with the
regulatory government agencies), the trucking industry, the advertising and
public relations industry, the fast food furniture industry, the building
industry, not to mention all those high school kids working in fast food joints
who need to be exploited so that they can afford to buy iPods for their pirated
might say that the bean sprouts are better for the kid than the burger, fries and pop, but what the hell, who wants to live past
their ability to go deeper into debt? Which is one of the dangers we face when
we eat foods that haven’t been carefully screened by marketing managers and
prime time television.
My burger’s got E. coli and it’s gonna take me down
My girlfriend’s got ebola and she’s wearing a black frown
My doggie’s got the canine flu and
his piss is turnin’ brown
There’s a germ on my finger tip
Doin’ a flip
He’s really hip
A sensational hit
In a world where everyone’s sick
And I got the
- from a
21st Century Ballad
In 1918, the
worst pandemic in history cancelled attacks between allied and German forces
because flu was killing so many men in the trenches that there weren’t enough
to properly feed into the machine guns. Anywhere from twenty million to a
hundred million people died from flu that year, more than all the deaths in all
the wars, plagues and train crashes in history.
say the human race is no better than flu…that we’re a
virus threatening to spoil the universe and if aliens ever find out about us,
they’ll cure us right out of existence.
I have a
theory about this.