Immense Scrutiny: Oh, Okay

What the hell do we even write about anymore?

Why does every single new idea
have this immense scrutiny attached to it–
this, the next in my sequence of work
after this whole COVID- dilemma kicked off.

How would one go about this treacherous task
that I would argue nobody wants to undertake?

Well, the first impression of the situation
would be that you should just get started.

But there are so many previously-made characters
just waiting for me to observe their every move
on the silver screen!!

Nobody calls it the silver screen anymore, hon.

Aw, shut up. You never let me wax aquarium.
I mean antiquarian. Same thing.

It’s obviously a completely different thing.
One involves some weird combination of wax and water,
the other is old timey shit.

Well, I meant the old shit, duh.
Anyway, I can’t wait to just dig into
another drama or comedy
or whatever shit they’re shoveling these days
over at the old network of flix.
And now that I’m standing here
thinking about it,
I can’t stand just being here
without reasonable computer access.

What do you mean,
we’re literally on a computer screen.
We could just walk two inches to the right
and bump into a browser window with let’s see…
oh, not the porn one.
But it looks like that Stephen Hawking movie
was the last thing of repute in his history.

Oh, how was that?

Yeah, not bad. Pretty damn stylized,
but what do you expect from a movie
that’s supposed to undertake the monumental task
of depicting the 20th Century’s most prominent
cosmological luminary
while addressing his ALS?

They covered his whole life?

Nah, just a scrapbook of mostly decent memories
up until the point where his older kids are teenagers
and running around in some Buckingham Palace bullshit.

Oh, okay.

Crossroads

John Park-Carr and Parlor Trick Johnson met at the R&D Deli one fine Swedish afternoon for a round of aquavit and a fat-chewing session.

JPC: “What’s new with you, brother?”

PTJ: “Not much, the Magic Johnson impersonation business is still dragging, thought it would’ve picked up by now. Youth sports leagues have gotten savvier at this point–they’d rather get an actual basketball player, even if they’re not a household name, or even in the NBA at all. Turns out people aren’t in the business of taking tips from color commentators at local high school games.”

JPC: “That’s too bad, man. I hope business picks up for you soon.”

PTJ: “Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I feel fortunate that I have a little nest egg saved up for a crossroads just like this. I’m going to take some time off and figure out what I really want to do with the rest of my prime money-earning years.”

JPC: “You’ve always been a visionary, man. I look forward to hearing about what you’re cooking up. Myself, I’m just gonna keep valeting around town. The money’s decent enough, not like I have a wife and kids to feed or anything. Easy peasy. You know, I did think for a minute about starting my own valet company, being as my name is Park-Carr, for cryin’ out loud. I’m pretty sure that about half of my new client acquisition would just be answering the ol’ ‘Is John Park-Carr really your name? Seems a tad on the nose for a valet guy, no?’ I’m still on the fence about it, as you may rightly understand.”

Marching St. Evers’s Day

“And on this, the bicentennial of Marching St. Evers’s Day, we shall all gratefully lose our footwear as we plod through our town’s humble main drag in accordance with the man whose name graces the gates at the original northern and southern boundaries of what we now know as Everston, ‘The Friendliest Town in the World!’ according to Volume 47, Issue 3 of Weekly People Quarterly.

“To get a sense of this hallowed day’s magnitude, if natural mud has not populated the grounds prior to the event, we shall have some ready-made for the occasion, so as to harken back to the infamous time that old St. Evers himself trekked from the north to the south end of town in desperate need of a pub open in the wee small hours of that particular horrid winter morn. In the midst of all the squelching, his boots slipped clean off and sunk into the good country clay, but he was not deterred, nay! He continued along his harrowing haunt, on a mission to wet his whistle before dawn cracked and the drones began their scurrying for another day, reminding him once again of our puny species’ fleeting existence.

“So as the story goes, Old St. Evers (known simply as Tony Evers back then) happened upon a house at the very southernmost point of town, which–at the time–was yet comprised of simple farmhouses sparsely scattered few and far between. He was just one more setback away from packing it in for the night, about to abandon hope for a watering hole that could quench his very soul. He beseeched the landlord to spot him with a wee drink, letting him in on the gory details of his arduous trudge, expecting a sympathetic ear. The landlord would have none of it, promptly kicking the inebriated Mr. Evers back into the road, “ya lousy old souse!” Our hero tripped and fell backwards into the damnable mud, made worse and worse as the morning haymakers began their bustling to and fro, whipping up a froth that slowly but surely engulfed the poor man.

“All these years later, St. Evers’s remains have never been recovered (though that doesn’t stop enthusiasts from continuing to try). Some folks claim the tale is a complete hoax, and the townsfolk were just coming up with new kinds of drinking holidays to pass the brutal Winters. Regardless of whether or not this unfortunate soul lived and died in our beloved little town, we all still take the time once a year to celebrate his story.”

“Gee Dad, that’s a cool story and all, but why do we have to camp out here so early?”

“Son, there aren’t many times in life when you can be a witness to the history that shaped your town and very way of life. Trust me, one day you’ll be telling your kids about how you got a front row seat with your dad, how you learned not to abandon your fellow man when he asks for a wee nip of the house brandy.”

“I have to pee.”

“Just soil your britches, son. I’m not giving up this spot on account of your wee bladder.”

Thanks, Dad

“Parallel entities befit madness, my son.

“You should never turn your back on those other dimensions our forward-thinking predecessors have been touting for some time now, or your attention will lose its cosmic importance, the aggregate of local souls gradually easing you out of their observational patterns–though it’s the last thing they would do if given the choice.

“While you are charged with keeping your attention beyond the present actions contained within our visible plane, you mustn’t let the responsibility weigh on your consciousness too much; although you know everything is simply an illusion, you are an integral part of the chain of illusions keeping our earthly consciousness afloat.

“When you shudder, know the implications. When two birds meet on a wire and appear to converse, understand that their dialogue fits into our space on a level wholly undisturbed by our own idea of language. No need to fret over payment, my first lesson is always free.”

“Thanks, dad.”

——

First draft posted on 10/12/11,
originally entitled #40

Roses

The ever-present Rumpelstiltskin type of orangeade
seems to have no connection to the ingenuity
of a person concerned with a corrupt bargain
and everything to do with a personal vendetta
to be meted out over the course of several decades,
if not millennia.

Such a skip in discourse may only lead some people
to believe of its malintent, but truly
there is nothing wrong with such a change in scale.
How else are we to judge our actions
against the actions of others in present or past?
How else are we to compare ourselves
to the species who specialize in longevity?
The trees out there, the mollusks, the fungi,
all of them. We’re just individual pinpricks
in their rearview mirrors, and it would take a miracle
for us to cause more than just a blip
on their collective radar screens.
How do you like those terrible mixed metaphors?
Yeah, it’s getting me pretty hot too, come to think of it.

Who needs any kind of inspiration anymore anyway?
It would seem as though folks
mainly just seek to consume
pleasant media at a reasonable price,
and anything falling outside of that window
must be judged much more critically,
since fewer people have sought it out.
And the ones who go out of their way to discover
such outlets must therefore–in their own minds–
be superior beings, leading to tirades
about their keen eyes and intellects
while we sit there right next to them
with a thumb up our ass, hoping only
to take that thumb and plug up their infernal nostrils.

“What is that intoxicating aroma? Roses?”

“No, genius, it’s my shit-covered finger. Why don’t you go off somewhere and have a time of it while you prank a local youth?”

“Why, you insubordinating little trolley-hopper, I’ll have you know that I earned this domineering nature through sheer pluck and grit. Also, possibly through piss and vinegar. Over the course of my years, I haven’t been able to differentiate the two, though you might say I’m a bit of a glutton for the cinema. Wait, what kind of critic am I? Shit, I forgot. A jack of all trades such as myself can only be concerned with where the next paycheck’s coming from.”

Inherent Value

Poet: I got a steal of a deal on turkey today! I’m unreasonably happy right now.

Accountant: So… why’s that? It’s just turkey.

P: Well, someone dropped one of those shrink-wrapped breasts on the floor, and it had already been opened, so their policy was that they had to toss it.

A: Let me guess, you–

P: Yup, got it for free! Gino was working behind the counter today and came out back on his break to “dispose of it,” i.e. let his buddy have an ample supply of salty fowl meat.”

A: Gross.

P: I didn’t see it fall, but Gino said it got picked up in about a second, and the floor was pretty clean at the time.

A: Pretty clean?

P: Come on dude, I get floor food all the time and yet never get sick. Coincidence? I think not.

A: Well… you might be onto something there, but you’ll have to walk that tightrope without me.

P: How very cryptic, yet obvious. Did you think I was going to try to share this miraculous bird boob with you? Fat chance, señorita.

A: Señorita?

P: Yeah, I’ve been starting to call white cisgender males señorita lately, to get them to question their binary perception of sexual and social roles (unless they already think about these things, in which case they’re cool with it anyway).

A: Good to know.

P: Back to the point at hand: you were insinuating that it’s only a matter of time before I ingest a floorbound grape and contract some horrific illness. Sometimes I wonder why it is that you actively root for my destruction.

A: Geez! Where did you get all that from?

P: Tonality, body language, eye movement, the usual.

A: Well it’s not true, dude! You really take things too far sometimes.

P: Yeah, whatever. That’s what they all say. All those… “people.”

A: People, sheeple, I know where this rant is going.

P: Fine, then let me localize my argument to this room and the mind straddling the body in my vicinity at the moment. I have been observing for some time that you repress your instinctual side, and the passive-aggressive comments you make on a fairly regular basis are vessels for your packing-up of creative frustration. You lob them–like grapefruits–right down the pipe and I hit tape-measure blasts from time to time, depending on my energy level at the particular moment of said pitch. My diagnosis: Boredom-itis. Prescription: Weed and painting classes.

A: Ooh, ow. Oh yeah, you really pegged me, you bedraggled son of a gun, you.

P: Glad you at least acknowledged it this time.

XCIX

T: “I’m sick and tired of this situation, constantly running around and spitting out rhetoric at every person I see, able-bodied or otherwise. Who knows, if they can’t perform daring feats on a high wire, that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to recruit that kind of talent.”

R: “What the hell are you yammering about? Tightrope walking?”

T: “Yes, tightrope walking. Some consider it to be vastly more important than the entire field of biology, you know.”

R: “Are you referring to the French family of wire walkers?”

T: “Well, they’re definitely included, but they’re certainly not the only ones who find the art of high-octane balancing to be more important than life itself. Believe me, there are a lot of them out there.”

R: “If by ‘a lot’ you mean a couple of dozen, then I’m sure you’re correct. Don’t go making this into a whole thing just to show how much you like tightrope walking–no, scratch that, spectating while others walk the tightrope.”

T: “A ‘whole thing’, you say?”

R: “Yes, hijacking the conversation to give you the upper hand, or what you think happens to be the upper hand, when in actuality you’re just yammering about something that probably came up in a dream, and you can’t tell the difference between dreaming and waking anymore. I mean, I haven’t seen you running around in years.”

T: “Maybe this did come to me in a dream. So what? Surely you’re not discounting the importance of dreams and their power to influence the waking world. I don’t have any examples of this, but I instinctively know that some of the best minds of all time made serious breakthroughs after having dreams and applying them to their lives.”

R: “Yeah, that’s how the periodic table was developed by Mendeleev. I happen to know that you’re not one of the best minds of all time, sorry to day. Just stick to your day job.”

T: “What an original witticism. Can you at least admit that you’re not much of a genius either? All you can seem to do is knock me down when I try to explore new scenarios.”

R: “Yeah, stupid scenarios.”