Saturday, October 29, 2011
Part I: Thank You for Your Lovely Cards . . .
Unfortunately, I'm not entirely at liberty to discuss the precise chain of events that lead to my hospitalization. There are certain pending legal matters to be resolved, and I've been counseled against any discussions which may prejudice their outcome. Nevertheless, the kind interest you've displayed in my welfare and the provocative nature of the photographs appearing in the "Police Beat" column of the local Blattsburg Tattler do call for some exposition of the matter, which I will now attempt--within the limits of prudence, of course.
I've often been told, "Don't drive angry!" Which is generally good advice, but is much more difficult in practice than it's simplistic rhetorical formulation would suggest. I live in an isolated portion of rural Wisconsin, where it is frankly impossible to do so much as pick up the morning paper from the mail box without driving five miles from the house. I attribute my near constant rage to living in rural Wisconsin as well. The people here are almost without exception intolerable bigoted hicks and hayseeds. The few locally available alternatives are not much more soothing.
"Wow. This stuff you've written here is real sh*t, Liam. I mean, this isn't worthy of publication on a bathroom wall."
Raj is one of the very few non-honkies resident in my small town, and his Indian-born globe trotting urbanity is generally a welcome relief from the otherwise unrelenting provinciality of the place. He'd actually grown up in Berlin, London and Paris--cultural and literary capitals whose names I was still learning to spell when I met him at night school, a creative writing class at the regional technical college. He'd gotten his B.A. at a big name liberal arts school on the West Coast with a serious reputation and lengthy roll call of seriously elite professors, so his opinion does bear some attention.
"Okay, Raj. But I think you're being a little hyperbolic there, chief. After all, it is a first draft. And you're completely glossing over its elegant narrative exploration of the proletariat's complicity in his own alienation. Give this thing its due."
"Give this thing its due?! It's garbage! Absolute, uninspired formulaic garbage! Trey Parker regularly craps out better episodes of South Park while tripping on acid than the drek you've wiped all over these pages!"
"Heyheyhey! Let's keep this discussion productive, okay? I can handle criticism if there's a point behind it. Care to unbundle that landfill of a critique there and point out a single, specific instance of this so-called irredeemable "drek"?"
"Well well well . . . Where to begin?" Raj rifled through the jam-and-butter stained manuscript, violently stabbing his thumb towards the offending page once he'd settled on one example. "How about this? The scene where you have Karl Marx coming home early to find his wife Jenny in bed with the economist Adam Smith. What is this supposed to be? An episode of "Falcon Crest" or "Rocky and Bullwinkle"?"
I really was NOT understanding Raj's point of view on this one at all. OF COURSE it was a ridiculously melodramatic parody. That was the intention all along. The entire concept here was meta commentary on the "Snidely Whiplash"-esque quality behind the phony Left/Right culture wars. Did Raj really think I'd write in a goofy todtenkampf between Adam Smith and Karl Marx on the rooftops of Victorian London without any satirical plan? I took a deep breath and did my best to dial back my own building rage. I started to explain as slowly and calmly as I could.
"Raj, you're missing the entire point here. The point is exactly that--to ridicule the cartoonishly simplistic terms of the public debate. Is that really not apparent to you?"
"Liam, how can I say this? How can I adequately convey to you the tired, "been-there-done-that" quality of this unimaginative rubric without implying that you're a hopeless philistine? . . . Oh, that's right--I CAN'T."
I probably would have been able to endure his jealous, fairly hack-like sniping had it not been for the eruption of a snorting cackle of laughter from the horse-like co-ed sitting a few yards from us in the cafeteria. It's one thing to receive a vigorous challenge from a reasonably informed person, but it's quite another to be subject to the abuse of the bovine cretins that haunted the halls of this technical college. I exploded out of my chair in a fury, ripping the manuscript from Raj's hands and swinging my way about toward the exit in a near blind rage.
Which probably explains why I slammed headfirst into a pillar on the way out, showering the manuscript and the contents of my computer bag all over the floor. Now the whole cafeteria roared with laughter.
So this is more or less where my head was just before the accident, and why it seemed like a good idea at the time to get away and just clear my head for a bit with a quiet drive through the winding country lanes. If anyone had come up to me at that moment and insisted on that tired old aphorism, "Don't drive angry!", I probably would have head-butted them and told them to mind their own business.
But again, that was before the accident. Before I'd encountered Abbey Small and the Buddhist Mafia. Before everything spiralled out of control.