Posts Tagged 'politics'

Mr. Meek’s calling

It is not right to call the vice president the spare tire. Mr. Meek did not know much about politics, but he knew something about manners, good and bad, and this was a clear case of bad manners. He’d also heard the vice president called bad seed, the Dark Lord, Satan, Pure Evil, and so on. But the one that bothered him the most was the spare tire. Mr. Meek did not know much about politics, but he knew that a spare tire was one that was rarely needed, dead weight, so to speak, and this sat wrong with him. One Sunday after the morning news shows, after months of thinking about it, he got into his Ford Focus and started on a road trip to talk about bad manners. Not about politics, which Mr. Meek did not know much about, but about ways to address one another. Even if, he reasoned, the vice president were the bad seed, the spare tire, Lucifer or the King of the Damned, it was still surely not politic (in the sense of not being polite, you see) to say so and to say so so repetitively.

Mr. Meek’s road trip took him through many towns, cities, states and regions. He’d thought originally of having a rally, if he could gather with him enough people of like mind, people who did not want to batter and chew on the heads of states or on anyone else, people of mild and sensitive dispositions like himself, and so he started by interviewing people in parking lots outside of grocery stores, malls, movie theaters and quick oil change garages. He asked as many questions as he dared, but found, to his disappointment, that people didn’t want to answer many questions.

In Lima, Arkansas, he found that he was lonely, driving through the American freeways night after night, and so he stopped in a pet store and bought the first of what was to be a long line of iguanas, which he raised in a terrarium in the back of his Subaru Forrester. Each night he brought the terrarium in with him to the Holiday Inn Express or the Comfort Inn, and each morning he returned the iguana to the back of the wagon. Iguanas do not like to travel, but they do like warm window seats in the sun belt, and this first iguana, as with all the others, liked to stretch out on the back of the back seat, basking in the bright American sun. It was inevitable that she would lose the tip of her tail to negotiations with windows and hatchbacks, and this too, became a feature of his road trips, from town to town the minstrel of modern etiquette, trying to find the standard by which we might be known, whether it be rustic but well-meaning manners, or polished but insincere, or some hybrid of the two. But what he found, in town after town, was a pattern of disregard thicker in the heartland than corn had been in his father’s time. He started to think of it as an accident, somehow, like the windows that snicked off the ends of his iguanas tails over the passing years. Something had snicked off the civility in public discourse, and it was almost rude now to say anything nice. If you can’t say something nasty, don’t say anything at all, he said to himself in an over-staffed car lot in Phoenix. The iguana bobbed her head and lay down in the sun, admiring Phoenix, admiring the back seat, and iguana had no rude thoughts at all.

The role model – Michelle Obama and my MRI

I am standing in a tube, a tube like the kind that transports your molecules from one universe to another. It must be a transmogrifier, I think to myself. I am wearing a plain blue gown, fastened at the back in loose bows, and blue paper slippers. Stylish. I am standing in a machine with electrodes attached to my temples, my neck, and the back of my head. There is a whackatawhirr noise and the flat plate I have been pressing against begins to tilt and I lean into it until I am on my back, looking up into a screen lit with vague, wandering patterns like a freeway seen by satellite image. The screen hovers for a moment and then descends, gradually wrapping me in the freeways and arterials of neuroimagining.
Music begins to ooze from speakers that I cannot see. It is a compilation of early Beatles tunes, which I do not care for, and this makes my legs begin to twitch. To distract myself, I focus on visual images, bringing each up and varying them as the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs” pull at my attention and cramp my legs. First, I picture American cheese, then the cows that are doing their best, then lipstick in my favorite colors, which typically involve berrylicious types of names. The Beatles are yowling into my head that they want to hold my hand and I imagine in self defense that I’ve submerged my hands in warm paraffin. The tingling switches from my irritable legs to my fingertips. They are reaching through the warm wax to a dress form, a dress form that is tall, with broad shoulders and wide flat hips. The fabric is plain, a simple ecru color in a cotton stretch blend. Next I picture offset images, stickers, slogans, campaign promises, catch phrases, buzz words, talking points, stamped onto the plain fabric, making a statement of sorts, and fitted precisely to the dress form. This dress is made for her famous body, her toned arms, her human woman form, and I understand that whatever this individual wears, it will make headlines. I see her pulling the dress on over her head, thinking “might as well,” and straightening it over her warm, familiar shape. The machine whirrs, the Beatles subside, and I am returned to standing again, just me and Michelle, ready to move forward into whatever the future may hold.



“Behold, anonymous omelet goddess,” Dmitri smirks and brushes the hair off her neck, giving her a friendly post-coital kiss. Goddamit, she thinks, shouldn’t he remember my name? He hands her a plate of sliced orange. Civilized gesture, she thinks.

Respectable women do not do this tightrope dance, do they, this retrograde zipless fuck – do they? Does anyone still do this? Dmitri puts a slice of orange in her mouth and slides his juicy hand netherward. She jumps up and writes her name on the white board magnetically attached to her fridge.

Zuzu DeGraib, she writes in red dry-erase marker. That is my name. She cuts the omelet in half and takes hers outside, shutting and locking the door behind her. She smokes a cigarette, without any coffee, picks at her toenails, listens to the whining buzzsaw of her neighbor’s conservative talk radio, and eventually goes back inside. Dmitri is gone. There is a smell in the room, of unfamiliar sex, eucalyptus oil, a lingering scent of orange. There are seeds neatly piled in one corner of his breakfast plate.

Later that day, Zuzu leaves the house, wearing her waterproof khaki jacket with the boy scout patches, and her favorite shoes, with the rhinestone horseshoe buckles she’d affixed with gorilla glue. Zuzu is deeply afraid. She reads the dictionary every day, looking for words to help her describe how she feels. Desperate. Delirious. Repetitive. Like someone who eats zeroes and ones for a living. Like someone who lies, and lies down with dogs. She looks up words for history, for memory, for moments of change. The Smithsonion. She looks it up. How much money does it take to go to the Smithsonian? How far is the Smithsonian from this town, this old Lithuanian town tucked into the northern woods near the Canadian border? Why isn’t there a fence between us and the Canadians? She asks her imaginary mother, who is long gone into a macabre alzheimer’s fog, from which she periodically yodels out Zuzu, Zuuuuuu Zuuuuu, raising Zuzu from the dead, from the heavy short sleep she sleeps when she sleeps at all.

She sits on the stairwell on her back porch, pictures her toenails decorated and painted in tiny pointillated miniatures. She sees starry starry night on her left big toe, a little Matisse with lady and umbrella on her right big toe. She thinks about DaVinci. She thinks about cutting off her own ear. DeGraib, you are pathetic, she writes on the white board. She uses a Sharpie, permanent, to remind herself.

Rules: These are the strict and unbending rules of Zuzu DeGraib, starting today, she writes:

  1. No gratuitous sex.
  2. No breakfast with strangers.
  3. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
  4. Clean your blender after each use.
  5. Donate to the Save the Lemur foundation.
  6. Change lip gloss every 30 days to prevent bacterial growth.
  7. Character counts.
  8. Answer your mother when she hoots at you, whether you like it or not.
  9. Stop smoking.
  10. Spend money instead of groveling around begging for attention from people you don’t care about anyway.

Later that day, she throws the magnetic white board away. She orders a new one online.

Lemurs are only one of thousands of animals facing extinction. It is hard to know which dying species to save on any given day, so her method has been to work alphabetically through the endangered lists. Anteaters, buffalo, koala, orangutan, zebra. She dreams in Noah’s arks, she dreams two by twos, she dreams four by fours, she dreams that nothing is meaningless and that all things are possible. When she sleeps her heavy short sleeps.

The spotted owl and the brown trout are also on the endangered species list. Brown trout taste especially fine grilled outdoors and served shortly after death, with friends and fruit salad. Zuzu is very fond of fruit, but less fond of strangers eating omelets with her without remembering her name. She is sensitive that way, she supposes.

At work, she catalogs and sorts, sorts and catalogs. There are amazing numbers of categories to be found in books, CDs and games. Even more when seasonal variations are considered. Like most book sellers, she is willing and in fact eager to answer questions about books: reference books, fiction, history, books of endangered species, self-help books, books on sex, books that reference obscure saints and books about the Smithsonian.  Books about religion have recently started getting on her last nerve, although when the trend first started she nibbled at each of the major religions in turn, some sweet, some sour, some bitter and some strictly rancid. She spit them out, but couldn’t help hearing the nastiness continue in the trash talking god on her neighbor’s radio. Too bad he was deaf. Maybe she should cut her ear off.


Newt Gingrich Hears a Who

Note: I wrote this in 1995, according to the label on the bottomless box of notebooks. Put it in a show that summer. Got praise and heckling, both. Now, of course, they know we are here and take every opportunity to demonize and endanger us, attack and destroy our families. It is discouraging, the anger and disconnect tearing our country apart.

I’ve left it as originally written. It is a slam poem. It is intended to be headlong and breathless. Try it out loud, if you’ve had more coffee than is strictly recommended.

The basic indigestibility of language makes a tummyache in my mind, rumbling through the major intestines of word mind, his words so bloated and ugly I want to cleanse the space between my ears. Some nights after the 10 o’clock news I see on my dream screen the old stars — Hedy Lamar, Zazu Pitts, Venus and Mercury, and I don’t think about menopause, Newt Gingrich, poverty, nerve gas terrorism, bald-headed babies, California submerged, gun control or breastfeeding, breastfeeding.

I have been more at ease serving dinner to a room full of homosexuals than I could be with New Gingrich, what kind of a name is Newt for a right-wing fascist reactionary who would body slam all us unlike in the mosh pit of public policy? We should blow him out our collective chute, eye of newt, tail of frog.

Come on, Newt, we’re ready for you, boy, every last one of us, every airborne body word and brushstroke heretic, every excitable alluring transsexual, every Priscilla, every unwed mother’s son, every happy knick-knack closeted queen, every cracker jax prize, every femme butch butch femme leather dyke Victoria’s Secret funnybone-electrifying one of us.

We will grab you by the heel spurs and baptize you in the waters of our barbaric naked celibate fat-free offerings, we will dazzle you, Newt darling, with possibility. We are extreme. We are educated, we wear bobby sox, we eat lox, we’ve got you paddy-whacked baby so don’t be so raw-boned thin-skinned, we will return your brutality with strong medicine, kindness, vitamins, redemption; Parsifal’s body in our kingdom of blood fears. We know how to suffer and we believe in peace, bitch, so come on Newt, break out that gold lamé, the one in the back of your deepest closet.

Hello, I’ll be your waitress tonight. Newt dear, you look ravishing, who’s your date? Priscilla? Well, she’s a looker, hon, for sure.

 We’ll be in touch, Newt, don’t worry. You’ll see us in those W2 forms, we’ll be worm farmers, blacksmiths, we’ll wear three-piece suits, nipple rings, Dockers, cell phones and pacifiers. Your third eye will see us in dusted movie dreams, your sleeping vertebrae will know that whether you dance with destiny or the monarch formerly known as Prince, we’ll be in touch.

Priscilla, can I get you a toothpick? The fish is bony tonight.

I see Newt clutching his chest in a field, having an anxiety attack, the gravity of this language offends, this offensive language, but after all it was us us us under that spreadng chestnut tree, how far from the tree do you think we have fallen, whose children do you think we are?

This is all the fault of higher education, you know, playing doctor, playing soldier. We are the unsung. We are here, do you hear who we are, do you hear? You’re turning such a lovely peagreen, can I get you some Pepto, some milk of magnesia, I knew these high fiber words are hard to swallow, your intestines are flopping like a TV with a busted horizontal hold, your guts striped as a zebra and all you can hope for is hangtime, honey, hangtime and the epiphany of slam dunk, and the truth is we all know white guys can’t jump, at least not white guys in the black and white world of white guys like you.

Will you hang with us, Newt, our visions, our other cheek, our negotiations and love songs, we will not refrain, you have heard us on the jukebox, we have greased your bearings, played hymns in your churches, sold you Italian shoes, written the books that have slept with you on redeye flights, we drank the milk that does a body good.

2001 is not far away, and we here are in orbit, the satellite signal we send will crescendo not us/them but us/us, pink-cheeked and brown, products of love, of turkey basters, of rape, of carelessness, we are us we are us, we are bubble reps, Christmas presents, lord Krishna, lord Jesus, lords and ladies in waiting, in ruins, in paradise.

Lordamercy, Newt, can’t you see, you are one of us, not automatic, not semiautomatic, you are everything I detest and yet you belong, like parsley, like cornflakes, like psycho surrealism, vending machines, Haagen Dazs, ghosts, druids, drain openers, Zuzax, Rolodex and the gum on the bottom of a carpenter’s shoe. We are loose, we are mortal, we are eternal. Don’t be a drag, Newt, do be a drag queen, put on that corset, you know the one, you look so pretty in pink, let’s put the stress of chronic cultural disease behind us and have a party, a party to us. 

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