Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dispatch From Escalatorville: PALINdrome ABSURDity

So, travelogues are in hiding and my jet pack is busted. For now, the E'ville Media Elite has issued the following :

Never Odd, Or Even

"I hope I didn't catch anything from my friend in the hospital," the cashier stated - as she coughed over my groceries. This is, of course, the same store that has on it's "storm preparedness" shelf - a 3 pack of wine coolers and a 15-year old novelty snorkel set.

So Many Dynamos
There's an old joke about the oxymoronicality of the phrase "Military Intelligence." In the recent past, it's humor has been put to the test, as I witnessed members of our Armed Forces (and bless them all) whom could not operate an Automated Teller Machine.

In the interest of National Security, I am eliminating the phrases "Military Intelligence" and "Exception Proves The Rule" from all future editions of the Dispatch.

Satire : Veritas
Reality Television Shows that I predict will air in the next decade:
-Celebrity Janitor
-America's Got Syphilis!
-Survivor: Central Park Zoo
-Pimp My Fish
-American Gladiators vs. 5th Graders
-No, You Shut Up!
-I Married A Drunken Orangutan
-So, You Think You Can Fart?

Flee To Me, Remote Elf
Oh, what hath Pop Culture wrought? In covering the recent stock downfalls, financial takeovers, and bank failures - the onscreen headline of a major network news program declared "Nightmare On Wall Street."

I slightly cackled at the thought of Freddy Krueger in a business suit.

Pull Up If I Pull Up
I believe I may have mentioned my good friend Dave to you at some point in the past. I bring this up because Dave plays a key role in the following tale. However, as my memory fades with age (and, being self-centered as I am means I am apt to dis-include any element of a story that doesn't directly pertain to ME) - I have invited Dave to corroborate and fill-in some details.

Dave and I used to have a band, called Powhite Trash. We pronounced it "Pow-Hite" as an inside joke that only residents of Richmond, Virginia might get. A fact that, I realize, makes even less sense to my current international readership, but there you go.

The two of us, as a band, decided to work on/record some tunes up at a cabin that Dave's folk owned about 90 miles north of Richmond. For the trip Dave offered to drive, and his family had a choice of vehicles.

Dave: My parents had such a crazy assemblage of cars, didn't they? At that time, there were seven of them (there are now just a scant four, and only one of those original seven is also in the four). The stable included:

-a shit-brown Audi which was sold to my mom by some Russian mob-types for cold hard cash
-a 1965 VW Karman-Ghia (which could, occasionally, squeeze my lanky frame into the back seat, albeit painfully - for a trip to Kings Dominion, or a ride home from Richmond Community High School - Z.F.)
-a mid-80s Honda Civic (very depressing to think that this car got 45 MPG even then)
-a 1969 Cutlass Olds with absurdly little rust for its age
-a mid-80s Buick Century with very bad steering problems
-an indestructible Datsun (before they became Nissan) 1981 hatchback that managed 195K miles before it was sold to a very happy woman for $100 in 1991.

But you came here to hear about the Impala. The army-green, widest-car-ever, 356cc engine block 1976 Chevrolet Impala, with its truly awful/incredible 9 MPG city, 15 MPG hwy (yes, rilly).

Now, Dave thinks this story takes place in the Winter, while I believe it was Spring. Nonetheless, due to either a dousing of rain or a semi-frost, the roads were slick - and the earth was muddy. We took no notice of this on the way to the cabin, but after a few hours of Rockin' Out - we needed a break, so we hopped back in the Impala.

Dave: The feeling of driving a 1976 Impala is the feeling of driving a boat, truly. The seats are so sproingy that you glide around on a surface of hovercraft-like cushion. And because of the severe weight of the car, they had to equip it with the most responsive power steering I have ever seen anywhere. Turn the wheel a degree, and the tires moved 10-15 degrees, it seemed. God help you if the power steering failed. (Yes, at some point this did happen to me, and I will tell you that wrestling a kangaroo to the ground would be easier than changing lanes.)
We managed to find, as I recall, a Chinese place called (no lie) Fuking Gourmet. I don't recall the food, but I do recall being fairly glad we found it, since we were running out of places to look for food, and we'd nearly died five minutes earlier.

Ah yes, those of you waiting for the story to get interesting have arrived at your destination (and I'm not strictly speaking of the Fuking Gourmet). I refer to the 'near-death' part - oh, had we not mentioned that yet? As I'm pretty certain that it was Dave's driving that keeps this as a "near" death experience, I'll allow him to continue -

Dave: Well, the road back out to Route 17 is still very narrow, not designed for vehicles traveling more than 45 miles an hour. Of course, this means that locals travel a bit faster than that, on the average, which tends not to be a problem until you actually meet someone or something going the other direction. In those days, you had only a scant probability of that happening.

But you want to hear about the dump truck.

We were headed north on the road, back to Route 17, so that we could head south (Yeah, that makes no sense, but that's how you had to get back to the interstate). The truck was headed back toward our little street in one of the turns where there is a pretty good hill. We were going a normalish speed of maybe 45 when this truck came over the crest, going at a similar pace. So - two vehicles maxing out the safe speed, both very wide characters.

The Impala just fits in the lane, and a dump truck only fits if you take a kind of "tennis approach" whereby "fitting in the lane" includes being on the center line. It does NOT help matters when said truck decides to travel the turn without regard to lanes at all, making the generally-safe assumption that you can drive half in the other lane. That would be MY lane.

With nowhere to go, we went off the shoulder. Now, this would be messy anyway, but the particular spot we went off was a steep drop from pavement to grass. That would only have been a concern for the paint job and suspension if it had not been for the fact of the ditch.

The "ditch" he says. The Impala had stopped, certainly, we were unhurt and safe, I assumed (I'll state this for the record - as this was a pre-airbag vehicle, it is a credit to Dave's driving/swerving skills that we had no bruises or abrasions - there were many occasions in our youth wherein Dave saved my neck in different respects, but none so literal as this day). It was then we looked straight out the windshield and into what Dave calls a ditch. I would call it a massive ravine.

Reverse. The one gear we desperately needed was the one that didn't want to work. I feared that if we spun the wheels backward too much, that we'd alter the cars center of gravity and send the Impala -and us- over the edge. Slowly, carefully, we scrambled out of the vehicle. Once we were a couple yards away, and calmed down slightly, we realized that the situation itself was sticky, but not as dangerous as the view from the Impala's front seat would imply. Treacherous, definitely, but only slightly life threatening.

"Y'all all right over there?" we heard from the road.

Momentarily, we'd all but forgotten the dump truck. Forgotten that, indeed, there was someone else on this lonesome road - and as we turned toward the pavement we saw him.

Walking towards us was a massive chunk of a man - about 6'4'' or so with the darkest five-o'clock shadow I've ever seen in the mid-day sun. He wore a grubby green jacket, with a tattered ball-cap, and hair to match.

"Y'all wait here 'bout 20 minutes, I'll go dump my load, come back, and use my chains to pull y'all out."

A nice and kindly gesture, from the man who had just nearly killed us - and one that I almost didn't hear. Sure, we were still a bit shaken up from the accident, but I couldn't concentrate because I was staring at this man's face. His words were coming from a mouth so mangled that he resembled, to me, a horror film antagonist.

I mean no disrespect to our new acquaintance, however, his face was shocking. His mouth, you see, was disfigured. It looked as if his lips had been ripped or bitten off, in pieces - and then badly rearranged and sewn back on. That description is as accurate as I can get, it could have been worse for all I know, but this is the one detail of that day that has consistently stuck in my brain these many years. He was kind enough, but extremely frightening at the same time.

I didn't have much time to process that at the site of the accident, as he was soon off to dump his load. So, by the road Dave and I sat, waiting to be rescued by our tormentor.

The entire time I wondered if maybe the accident was just the beginning of our troubles. Perhaps he wouldn't come back after all - and we'd be stuck for hours in the mud. Or worse, perhaps he would come back, and then kill or kidnap us as he was "helping" to pull the Impala back to the road. Perhaps, I was right about the lips - maybe those weren't his lips at all, maybe they were the cobbled together lip parts of his many victims - and maybe we were next.

As the truck made it's slow return down the road back to us, I silently shuddered at the thought.

I was also totally and completely wrong.

I can now assume that the driver was as shocked as we were in those moments after the incident - and that his initial terse commentary was simply his gut reaction to offer a fix to a situation he had helped to cause. Within minutes of seeing his truck heading toward us again, we had helped attach the hook and chains from his truck to the car, and managed to yank the Impala from its perch above the ravine. In a few more minutes, we had gotten back on the road, and were headed for food (although, had I been the man then that I am today, Chinese food would not have been the first thing I inhaled after the incident).

I never caught the truckers name, and neither did Dave. I would like to thank him, if he's still around, for helping us out of what could have been a long, long day slogging through mud and calling tow companies who might be willing to donate their services to two out of work musicians.

So, if you happen to be in northern Virginia, and run into our monstrous, malformed Savior - please give him my regards, but make sure your running shoes are tied, just in case.

Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
Or : Rise to vote, sir.
I wonder if you've noticed that there's an election going on. Yes? No?

Well, if you haven't, then you need to start paying some attention. If you have, then you're probably sick of it by now.

Before I get into specific political issues or endorsements, however, I do have one non-partisan concern:
You see, all the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates currently have other, kind of important, jobs.

Now, imagine that you or I walked into our employers office and stated "Hey there, bossman, keep those paychecks coming - by the way, I'm gonna ignore most of my work here for a few months while I try to apply for a much better job." What do you think would happen?
Same here (and have I mentioned that I'm announcing my 2024 candidacy?).

Most politicians that you see follow their own presumed party rhetoric, which amounts most often to "Do as I say, and pay no attention to what I do." This occurs throughout history, no matter what political campaign or party - they all do it, have done it, and will continue to do it.

However, in the past decade or so, the tone has changed to one of "Don't spit on the sidewalk, or even think of spitting on the sidewalk. In fact, don't even mention 'spitting' or 'sidewalk' in my presence. Also, please take care to walk around that huge gob of saliva I just hacked up onto your sidewalk."

Add that to the Dickensian roll call of our nation's representatives of late - and we're on the verge of turning our country into a farce. I've had a chance to recall the
onomatoepeiac-ness of the past few years. Names that are clumsily descriptive in the ways that old Charles would have written them-

There's the obvious: Bush and Cheney - but we've also had some expansive (yet ever more popular) Gore, some flavorless Rice, a A Bi-Partisan-Curious Lieberman ('Liebe' is German for 'Love' y'know), the "Don" Rumsfeld, a number of odd Johns - and an administration press secretary (whose job it is to white wash presidential statements) named Tony Snow (R.I.P.).

It seems at times as if we have walked right into a Dickens scenario - although his most appropriate titles for our current situation might be 'Hard Times' or 'Bleak House'.

Let me see if I can make my particular viewpoint outrageously simple.

Essentially, America holds the mousetrap that the remainder of the world used to envy. It was strong, sleek, and could trap a rat like nobodies business. Over the past couple decades, however, the trap has gotten rusty and weaker - it's been kicked around so long that now the rats themselves have taken control of our trap. So, we're left with the important decision of what to do.

Logic would tell us that we need to rebuild the trap, which it appears that one party want to do
(provided we can agree on a design, and get the parts made at home, please?). One party simply wants to replace the cheese - which we all know will only piss off the biggest rats even more so, no matter how "friendly" the cheese nor how fertile the family of cheese may be.

Me, I'm voting to rebuild - a busted trap can only hold cheese for so long before it snaps back on
your finger.
That's it from Escalatorville for now:
Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas,
-Z.F. Lively
( for love letters, hate mail, and palindromes like "Party Booby Trap")

p.s. one of my favorite things in the world (ever!) comes from Eivets Rednow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008