The International Writers Magazine: US Politics-Surviving on
*Caution: This may be a work of fiction
Doves Burn: Self-Immolation in the DNC
Phil Mershon goes fundraising
I would suggest a knife in the back.
Rimbaud, explaining to Davy Crockett the preferred method of suicide
future stinks. The present isnt much cheerier. And the past is
a pack of lies'.
Everything happens for no reason whatsoever. Cause and effect are superstitions
of a less evolved era. Whatever you call God exists all the better to
do us over for fun and profit; the sad thing being that given such a
sorry state of affairs, God remains among the good guys compared to
the rat-bastard Republican skull-fucks met by my colleagues and I this
Summer, most of said skull-fucks embracing the logical contradiction
and Manson mantra of such statements as All life is sacred, from
the first randy thought to long after cremation; hence, all terrorists
must be annihilated, publicly humiliated, and pummeled in ways akin
to the glorious holocaust.
Boys and girls: wake up, and listen. The time for reactive liberalism
has gone plunging down the turd pipes the other sidethe smirking,
sociopathic, inbreeding, evil sideslavers for your destruction
and when that condition becomes inevitableas it already hashow
passive, sincere, forgiving and warm will you be when they come like
a horde of rabid Reaganites to feast upon the flesh of your sons and
daughters, their eyes watering over in orgiastic glee at the magnitude
of the agony they get to inflict? This, friends and family, is the time
of well-considered provocation, of inspired ridicule, of mean-spirited
revenge in advance. The enemy lies fat and secure, snoozing in the corner,
like Duncan the dumb ass.
As Spring wound down, I found myself scripting a horror-porno film called
Liquid Sin. Brittany Murphy was to star as a beleaguered twenty-year-old
who escapes the worlds problems by traveling to Aspen, on the
outskirts of which she purchases and consumes a pre-opened package of
chocolate-flavored X-Lax candies. Mistaking the laxative for a protein
energy bar, she devours the bewitched contents immediately prior to
ascending into the strident hills of Aspen. Once fully secluded, her
bowels explode into a tributary of the Colorado River, the cool spring
waters from whence Denali Bottle Water is manufacture. In short order,
runners in the Rockies drinking Denali themselves transform into defecators
of Liquid Sin and soon enough the entire bottled water industry is besieged
by bacterially-induced M-80 compressions of chronic poison diarrhea.
At long last, the President, played by Patrick Swayze, instructs furtive
operative Brad Pitt to find and destroy every last liquid sin shitter,
an adventure that culminates in a sexual liaison between Murphy and
Pitt in which fluid feces becomes the fetish of choice.
As that idea never really caught fire, what I found instead at the Columbus,
Ohio, field office of Grassroots Campaigns, an outsource engine of the
Democratic National Committee, was a nice little group of people for
whom I would quickly develop considerable fondness, people who believe
in political solutions, who support the idea of beating Bush with a
Kerry club, despite the fact that to this point, the Senator from Massachusetts
continues to run on a record about as clear as a Chillicothe skyline.
Most people know nothing about him, except that he stands for truth,
justice, and the American free enterprise system. Personally, I dont
like the guy. Centrism empowers the right and alienates real Americans,
like those of us on the left. College clearly muddled up Kerrys
thinking. Politics, he willfully fails to understand, is a visceral
callinga borborigmus, if you willrather than an intellectual
matter. This is, after all, the United States, not some well-reasoned
terrorist state without borders, like, say, Halliburton.
Completely cold ass on the hot road broke, I sold all my non-essentials,
along with truckloads of genuine necessities, all the better to make
hasty retreat from Phoenix to Columbus, one step ahead of banks, hospitals,
two ex-girlfriends, utility and cable companies, a dump truck load of
grief over deceased parents, two leaps ahead of my landlord, and three
dark shadows from AG Ashcroft and his pruney-lipped brown shirts. After
a fifty hour drive, I cooled my motor in Ohio, where I met up with my
old college chum. After two weeks sleeping in her guest room, I found
myself the object of a precise analysis from this friend, who pointed
out thatamong other thingswe werent in college any
longer and that my abrupt change of locale was, to say the least, ill-advised.
She was correct, of course, but that was hardly the point.
I interviewed with JK of Grassroots Campaigns on June 3rd, 2004, a Thursday,
in a mass meeting of six potential supporters of the DNCs war
to win back the White House. During the one-on-one interview, he assured
me I would be quickly promoted to Field Manager, although for the moment
I was to serve as a canvasser for contributions, launching the largest
financial attack in the partys history. Politics is big business,
so big that Presidential election campaigns run in four year increments
that parallel the terms of office. Over two billion dollars will be
squandered in the foregone conclusion culminating this year, and while
theres no longer a need in America to legitimize the anachronistic
concept of pluralism, the myth of populism somehow endures, leaving
we DNC folks with some manner of employment. While our officea
facility slightly smaller than a major league ballparkquite properly
demonizes George W. Bush, we also quite properly refer to John Kerry
in only the most abstract of terms, such as Truth for a Change
and The Real Deal. McDonalds has nothing on us.
Meet JK. Fearless leader that he is, he candidly admits to voting for
Bush in 2000. In the ensuing years, this Los Angeles transplant has
clearly become a company man with more than a touch of big city savvy.
He never complains about the miniature nature of local culture here
compared to LA, probably because in the early days of our office, he
and the assistant director, KB, have far too much work to do and havent
yet noticed. And while K is a sincere populist, J occasionally blurts
out his over-taxed sense of authority, such as occurred one afternoon
about two weeks into our adventure. Near the end of a crisp lecture
on ways several of us could improve our efficiency, J paused, allowing
K to ask us if there we any criticisms we had of the office. Quick as
a Hank Aaron homer, J snapped his head around and shouted, Thats
a stupid question!
On my first day, ten of us set out in small groups to raise money with
a plea that was, to be generous, difficult to memorize. Modestly, it
seems, I raked in $75 from a combined total of five earnest contributors.
K, whom I observed for a couple hours, is an energized liberal from
Chicago by way of DC. To my ears, his delivery of the rap
comes a bit fast, but Bush-haters will respond to anything. Even that
first day we encountered shattered lives, hollowed-out houses, and contributors
who were unemployed, yet willing to invest in their own salvation. My
legs throbbed, I ached from dehydration, but compared to most of the
days donors, I had it made.
By the second days end I was congratulating myself on the $161
Id brought in when I read in that days paper that the Bush
team intended to raise one half billion dollars to retain their regime.
Not surprisingly, they are already half way there. One thing that helps
them is Reagans death. Because the great communicator is at last
engaging in direct confab with his satanic majesty, the Kerry people
banned door-to-door soliciting on the third day, probably fearing a
timely resurrection. As a consequence, JL and I found ourselves sent
out to compete with the citys finest panhandlers on the corner
of High and Broad. There we stood, in the center of the central-most
city of one of seventeen key swing states, quite probably one of three
big mama election night melt downs, saying to random strangers and passersby,
Hey! Do you wanna help us beat Bush? The responses came
in alternating rhythms: no money and fuck you, somewhere in between
which I managed to raise three dollars. All ten of us wore faces blistered
from moist Midwestern heat. To our mutual amazement, JL and I discovered
upon returning to the office that we were promoted to Field Managers.
Meet JL. His unfailing smile represented the least complex aspect of
his character. He lived in a fraternity house and could consume vast
quantities of alcohol in a wide variety of denominations, and yet unflaggingly
trudged out every day with considerable charm to point outno,
wait. Thats not fair to him. JL is a great debater; in fact, a
state champ. He has been a leader in student government who eschews
the safe route, favoring principles instead; an apparent libertarian;
analytical; generous; and someone who will survive the outcome of this
One of the best aspects of my DNC experience came early and lasted long.
At a time when I felt remarkably paralyzed in my estrangement from phony
youth culture, I met dozens of people half my age who, while caught
up in some minor accouterments of consumerism, nevertheless rail against
the potential political apocalypse with great flair. One such individual
is JM, upon whose floor I will sleep many nights before all is said
and done. Prior to joining our merry band of indefatigable nonbelievers,
she taught English in eastern Europe. She simultaneously studied graduate
level work in Slavic Linguistics while working forty hours each week
with the DNC. Her aspirations made the hard work even harder. After
all, she speaks five languages, although Republican is not amongst them.
JM treated herself hard, not only by hating herself when her efforts
were short of fruitful, but by having allowed me to sleep in her apartment,
a distraction only comparable to having a crazed buffalo loose in a
fine art gallery.
With mates on the mind and one month before the convention, John Kerry
tantalizes the populace with threats to name a running mate, such teasing
in no way halting the Grand Old Party from utilizing its overwhelming
resources to prepare a set of three attack ads on each potential VP
Although Carolina pretty boy John Edwards grabs the popular support,
mainstream rag wags wonder if Kerry can bring himself to nominate someone
who the public understands better than they do the presumptive presidential
candidate. Of course, this strategy also eliminates Wes Clark, Howard
Dean, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and my high school geometry teacher.
Endorsing a Mexican-American like New Mexicos Bill Richardson
adds to the political division, which would be good if this werent
politics American style. Thats why so many of us fear Kerry will
select Dick Gephardt, a nonentity if ever such existed. JFK would be
wise to pull in a liberal state governor, given the power that such
a position brings about in stealing elections, which at this point is
the only chance Johnny has. Face it, hes tied with evil George
at 42% nationwide support. While sucking up to the middle class, Kerry
ignores precisely the most solid base of supporters at his disposal:
the apocalypse neighborhoods. Day after day, our gang of what is now
twenty-five shake hands and trade expectant smiles with rich, middle
and poor, the only non-economic distinction being that the poor are
not merely hungry. They are scalding hot and God damned pissed. George
made them that way and John (so far) refuses to acknowledge their existence.
Instead, he rants about the burden of the bourgeoisie. Of course, the
median income in this country is $15.35 per hour, which means that the
one hundred million people earning less than that amount dont
appear in either the Kerry playbook or the likely voters
Bush, meanwhile, is taking no such chances. He only needs six of the
seventeen swing states to win, and if the disenfranchised in Ohio, Michigan,
Minnesota, Arizona, Tennessee and Florida stay home after being burned
in 2000, Diebold can retired early on November 2.
Lord, I wish I could write like Raymond Chandler, specifically the way
he wrote in the collection Trouble is My Business. Reportage
of this campaign requiresmandates dark, hardboiled, booze-soaked
bitter humor, the kind to make MacBeth envious, the kind to make Banquos
ghost appear, the kind to make Philip Marlowe emerge from a gin-encrusted
one-room flat, rolling up Sunset Boulevard as he awakens from the new
John Kerry selected John Edwards as his running mate, in recent retrospect
a singularly logical choice given the latters history as a plaintiffs
attorney against all manner of southern corporate industrial crime.
The DNC plans to use this much-ballyhooed announcement as a slingshot
of excitement to carry them through until the convention, a huge mistake
given the Bush familys history of surprises. According to the
more conspiratorially minded (like myself), the Bushes will launch a
July Surprise of sufficient magnitude to divert media exposure from
Kerry to some brouhaha about nationalistic security. This assault cannot
lose because even the few suspicious troglodytes in the core news corps
who recognize this as a ploy will only pay lip service to the possible
preemptive strike rather than exposing it.
What would Chandler think about all this? I suspect he might actually
celebrate it, for in a taciturn way, the new and improved Great Depression
descends with every sunrise as the city across the street yawns in somnambulant
discourse about nothing of substance, nothing more relevant than the
latest Bukowski cheer of narcissism, or whether the Mom and Pop coffee
shop delivers itself as superior to Starbucks, or if the Bush team will
at long last publicly masturbate to their copies of the Readers
And speaking of Bukowski, meet PH. PH initially pretended to be a California
wasteland, littering his language with a million mans
and dudes. As his hidden ambitions revealed themselves,
the real man emerged, one who never quit pursuing the Goals with a good-natured
tenacity, one who often preferred reading books to swilling beer.
But after two months in the swelters of canvas fundraising, the soles
of my running shoes are wearing thin, and I resigned, Friday, July 16th.
Celebrating, fifteen of us barged into the Short North Tavern on High
Street to bamboozle supporters into letting us cadge drinks. Hugs and
kisses, solicited and otherwise, exchanged themselves, and several exclamatory
hangovers later, I was loosely planted in JM's apartment off the High
Street. The politics of culture remained my passion, despite applying
for work as a staff writer for The Other Paper, a scaled-down
version of the wests New Times. I found myself caring about
almost nothing anymore, other than writing, drinking, and being a public
scandal. My meager attempts to convert liberals to liberation were ignomious,
although some of the best conversations Ive ever known happened
over the last eight weeks.
Meet EM. Sunshine, as I call her, never met a Republican she didnt
want to convert. Interpreting every NO as a YES waiting to explode,
her burgeoning charisma appealed to us all. While we all wanted to take
her under our individual wings, the immutable fact remains that against
a stacked deck of family resistance reminiscent of the Borgias, EM maintained
an intense focus that lost nothing in the translation from the office
to the street.
The same can be said for RF, a young man for whom I quickly developed
a keen respect. In addition to being one hell of a singer and guitaristwhich
he knowshe was also a good Field Manager and role modelwhich
he did not know. RF proved that Art is superior to Politics, yet that
Summer, something the opposite of anarchy tried to solidify in him,
offering to strangle up his creativity with its need for security.
The problem, you see, is that when no one was paying attention, the
world went straight to hell. Those of us who thoroughly enjoy strip
clubs because of the appreciation we have for the female formas
well as for the cheap thrill of exposed breasts pulsating against our
crotchesfound ourselves maneuvered into a position where such
harmless shenanigans became synonymous with artistic expression and
free speech. Those of us who make the occasional dip into drug-infested
waters have been out-navigated into endorsing the greatest comeback
cocaine has ever known. Those of us who revel at the sonic stagger of
molten power chords and angry lyrics have swelled arenas to endure Quattro-drive
quakings from bands too synthetic to live, even among the undead. Culture,
at least the commercial variety, lies slabbing at the morgue, and at
the forefront of this comcult swaggers Politics, wherein those of us
who not so long ago yearned and fought for substantial changes in the
ways people could experience political culture, nowadays simply hope
that with a Democrat in the White House, maybe just maybe things wont
get any worse. We have become what we once abhorred: a reactive, lonely
mob, diverted rather than engaged by sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
Some people, such as your humble narrator, consider this current malaise
to be the inevitable weed-growth of the fact of the Allies secretly
losing World War II. But even a less historically dystopian viewpoint
must concede that the days when people might understand what folksinger
Phil Ochs meant when he said The only chance for a revolution
in this country lies in getting Elvis Presley to become Che Guevara
are definitely over.
When even against the grain organizations like Move On and America
Coming Together join ranks to actually waste time giving a damn
about Sandy Berger stealing documents from the Archives or Linda Ronstadt
endorsing a political documentary, then it is absolutely time for somebodyprobably
meto remind the youth of today that if you bother to get a permit
for your demonstration, then your protest is stillborn, even if it is
polite about the mess.
The young men and women Ive met so far this summer are amazing,
make no mistake. Flopping their sandals six to ten miles a day in Amazon-style
humidity, paying seven dollars a day to park, having doors slammed in
their smiling faces and being ridiculed for their troubleit all
fades back when someone like JC returns to the office with $400, simply
because he refuses to surrender (and because he is smart), or when EM
gets a check for $1000 from a Republican who actually understood what
was going on. Or when AK gets a dozen contributors of under ten dollars
each, every one of which representing at least a vote, an investment
in the process. Such little victories stave off the pre-apathetic depression
against which we chronically anesthetize ourselves. Ive watched
PH, whose metabolism would out-pace and eventually kill a normal man,
cram his face with swine burgers and chicken balls until I thought he
would explode on his way back to the counter for a large chocolate shake.
Ive watched JL remain loquacious while chasing white rum with
contentious gin and tonic. Ive watched JM nurse her emotional
solitude with a series of one-nighters guaranteed to only intensify
the agony. JM did learn a lot, though, from a loneliness she waded through
with a Marine, a Vietnam vet, who stood on crutches, his features covered
in white, creamy skin medication, an ex-soldier unable to contribute
financially, but hearty in his emotional donation. Some people dont
want her to leave their doorsteps, probably because they sense that
she senses the power in their isolation. After all, everyone pilfers
some kind of emotional connection from even the worst of jobs. This
job, being relatively on the side of the angels, intensifies the glory
of those connections, actually trumpets them, and leaves even the most
shallow of us (me) with a spiritual advantage the GOP supporters can
The future stinks. The present isnt much cheerier. And the past
is a pack of lies. Only literature provides solace, and since no man
is an island, much less a peninsula, hope in ourselves remains the only
Last nights rain washed away most of the Republican dung up and
down High Street. As everyone knows, Republicans are from another planet,
probably Mars, and totally lacking in any genuine sense of humor, unless
of course some little old lady takes a header down a flight of stairs
and ends up paralyzed. Now thats funny, they will tell you without
blinking or laughing. We all got oursevles forty-eight Rolling Rocks
during the thunderstorm, got silly-ass drunk and had a great time.
Having suddenly been shown interest in The Other Paper job, I
am filled with a number of future-piece and ancillary ideas:
Carla Bleys new album, The Lost Chords, is now in stores. Time
for another interview and album review.
Who do other African American women date these days? You know, the ones
who are not Halle Berry?
Living in my head: Gimme more Beatles Right Now!
Transforming Pigeons: the Real Story of a Reality TV Actress
Who Put the Blow in My Smoothie? A Brief Look at Red Bull
From Oslo to Kazan: Teaching American to a Bunch of Damned ForeignersThe
English as a Second Language Industry
How to Kill Yourself Without Really TryingSuicide on a Budget
While Ill never get around to writing most of these articles,
the good news is that only I can prevent forest fires.
The two big stories in Democratic politics, now that were one
week from the Convention, involve Dennis Kucinich and Sandy Berger.
Kucinich, who has been hell-bent on having a voice in Boston, finally
gets to use that voice in exchange for officially dropping out of the
race and conceding his seventy delegates to John Kerry. Those delegate
supporters may seem paltry, but the larger strategy is to swing the
left away from people like DK and Nader, all the better to focus on
job one: getting Bush out of office. Hows this for cliché?
We have everything on the line in this election healthcare,
environment, foreign policyso were pulling out all the stops
to win back the White House. This smacks of psychosis, naturally,
given the anemia of the two party system, a degenerate coin toss in
which sixteen percent of likely voters still claim to be undecided.
Undecided? Some of them must be holding out for bribes, or else overestimating
the value of their solitary votes. Even a scurrilous anti-establishment
gadfly such as myself recognizes certain clear differences between the
two major candidates: 1
Bush initiated the unfunded No Child Left Behind Act, requiring teachers
to teach to the test, further widening the economic gap between public
and private schools. 2
Bush proposed and signed off on the largest tax cut for the wealthy
in world history, a condition he now wishes to extend. 3
Bush wants to encourage small businesses to provide safe working conditions
for U.S. workers as a means of keeping healthcare expenses down. 4
Bush recognizes international terrorism by Arab countries to be a legitimate
threat to American interests at home and abroad.
Contrast these four talking points to John Kerrys positions. JFK
supports all four issues to one degree or another. But hes so
much more polite about it.
Which brings us face to face with that most polite of all Democrats,
Samuel Sammy Berger. According to Curt Anderson of the Associated
Press: The main investigative committee in the Republican-led
House will look into allegations that Clinton administration national
security advisor Sandy Berger mishandled highly classified terrorism
The documents dealt with
the threat of a terrorist
attack during the 2000 millennium celebrations.
While Im certainly no apologist for Berger, I do find it convenient
that (a) the Bush administration has known about the missing documents
for months and releases the story now only when the 9/11 Commission
report comes out, also taking the edge off the DNC Convention, as predicted,
and (b) there were in fact no terrorist attacks during those mindless
celebrations, although my next door neighbor suffered severe rectal
burnings while attempting to light a fart. Given that until recently
Berger served as an advisor to the Kerry campaign, will the John-John
ticket collapse in response to the vague rumors and innuendos? Probably
not. But something big is undoubtedly in the works as convention week
Operation Save America definitely has its act together better than the
DNC. The anti-humanist group from Mars polar ice caps hit town
last week, hoping in vain that they could provoke a police officer into
shooting a few of their numbers. Alas, no such charm awaited the mob
in their foot journey from Cali to D.C. Whatever one may think of these
emotional Neanderthals, they are quite officious, all their permits
ready and stamped with the seal of the city. Kind of makes me nostalgic
for the good old days when permits were for pussies and people protested
on principle. After all, OSA wanted to get arrested, so why bother with
permits? Why not simply set fire to the fetus they cart around right
on State Street and drag a few doctors out of their homes and give em
a public Abu Ghraib treatment? Why not, indeed. These self-knighted
pseudo-religious cretins are messing with The Kid and know it. More
harbingers from Hell, all in the right place and time.
F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Pat Hobby Stories rocks the Casbah.
Hobby is a semi-Fitz, sporadically working at The Movie Studio twenty
years after talkies began, simultaneous with his career being placed
on hold. These shorts appeared in Esquire in the early 1940s and
make me wonder what Chandlers Philip Marlowe would be like if
he were a hack writer in Hollywood.
All of this matters and relates to the issue at hand because of the
political times in which we live. Almost every Democrat I meet insists
that their party will landslide into the White House, a viewpoint that
would be touching if it werent so ill-informed. Jump back to the
1976 election. After eight years of the terrifying Nixon-Agnew-Ford
regime, America found itself primed for a left-leaning liberal to yank
the country back on the right track. Instead, the Dems fed us a right-leaning
moderate, Jimmy Carter, who squeaked by the idiot puppet-boy, Gerald
Ford. Were every bit as polarized today, probably more so, with
a president just as morally corrupt as Nixon. Predictably, one day before
the beginning of the DNC convention, the polls show a 42-42 split, with
Nader already at 5%. The smart money holds that Kerrys numbers
wont raise more than five points by weeks end, and theres
long shot action that the John-John ticket will actually drop by the
first of August.
I left Ohio on foot July 31st, a Saturday, lugging myself and a thin
backpack crammed with fifty pounds of clothing and personal items. After
hiking the nearly twenty miles out of Columbus, I was almost happy to
see the Sheriff Deputys bubble lights signaling me to a halt.
The Deputy, Ben Jones, ran a check on my DL and said with a smile, Ive
got great news. I chuckled. You saved a bunch of money on
your auto insurance? He laughed and informed me that I had no
outstanding warrants. A heavy rain was fast approaching, so Ben told
me to get in the back, that hed give me a courtesy transport
to the county line. Those seventeen miles were revelatory, for here
sat a member of law enforcement who declared himself pro-choice on everything
from abortion to seat belts. Many of his political insights came straight
from his own personal assessments, yet rang familiar from DNC analysis.
He was, simply put, the pinnacle of what police in this country should
be, just as the trooper in Arkansas two days later who shouted for me
to get off the Interstate was indicative of the other type.
Ben and I got along well, in part because I neglected to inform him
that the reason I was hitching was that my car had been impounded by
the Columbus PD, and between fines and charges, they wanted $3,500 to
release it, and would do so only if I first purchased Ohio tags, which
I would have to replace with Arizona plates in about two weeks. Economics
being the better part of finance, I took to the thumb.
Ah, but it was the sheer beauty of L that kept me going when all hope
seemed but a futile childish yearning. Just outside the southwestern
Ohio valley near Louisville, Kentucky, she pulled up in her Camry, her
eyes bright, but her nose crinkled with caution. Who could blame her?
She worked as a waitress to support herself and her college education
in Huntsville, Alabama, and I existedif at allas a chain
smoking reprobate addicted to low finance and all the thighs I could
massage. She treated me well,L did, in spite of the apparent danger.
In addition to hauling my tired ass all the way to Nashville, she fed
me a BK veggie burger, fries and a Coke, all of which I devoured with
the same delicacy a hyena brings to a slaughtered lamb. Louise and I
talked about the future, music, politics, love and freedom. She was
hot, but naturally attached to another struggling writer, on whose behalf
I supplied some small amount of career advice. No other woman dared
pick me up, but I miss brave Louise, who considered the eating of meat
to be murder, and who had the uncommon courage to declare as much in
front of what was at the moment the hungriest man alive.
Mind you, all this while, during and between rides, I stayed current
on the political milieu. The DNC had had its convention, which I watched
near constantly, and both friend and foe declared John Kerrys
speech a home run, the surest sign that it amounted to a foul ball.
As predicted, Kerry and John Edwards spent to convention amidst over-intellectualized
handlers with no sense whatsoever about how to win this specific election.
The convention amounted to nothing more than the development of a vague
platform, the thoroughly and purposefully anti-climactic nomination
process, and all of this capped by the most boring and tightly scripted
speeches in the history of politics. Conventioneers and TV viewers alike
want a chance to mindless emote about some tired catch phrase uttered
to galvanize the populace, and so when Barack Obama came off quite eloquent,
he also bored to tears everyone involved, as did Howard Dean, Dennis
Kucinich, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Max Cleland. Only Hillary Clinton
and Al Sharpton chummed the waters, the former simply by representing
how an attractive, intelligent woman scares the piss molecules out of
the right wing, and the latter showing how an aging black minister accomplishes
the same thing. So unpleasantly tight was the scripting otherwise that
not even Kerry himself felt permitted to revel in the adoration the
Bush-haters yearned to bestow upon him. The only time during his forty-five
minute self-plug when he didnt clip short the applause came at
the very beginning, when he looked the most uncomfortable, declaring
with a salute that he was reporting for duty.
I swear, all this emphasis on military phrases and terminology slides
right by the corporate media the way baseball managers slide farts past
interviewers. Everyone recognizes it, yet no one signifies the recognition,
even with a nervous laugh. The other big gaffe in Kerrys acceptance
recitation occurred when JFK promised to require the United Nations
to play a larger role in the military transformation of Iraq. While
this was offered up to appease the convention delegates, ninety percent
of whom stand opposed to the War, Kerrys declaration that he wishes
to internationalize the conflict strikes some people on the left as
snake hokum, and others as a dangerous path that might further polarize
the world. Ultimately, of course, there remain four positions on the
terrorist threat: 1
annihilate all fundamentalist adherents to Islamic extremism; 2
continue the war, reverse the economic downfall, antagonize and resist;
stop antagonizing terrorists by colonializing their culture; that is,
require them to allow America to join them in accepting the world; 4
stop pissing off the terrorists altogether; legitimize the resentment
caused by our economic/spiritual support of the imperialistic tendencies
of Israel; and offer war reparations.
These cannot all be correct, at least not at the same time, as L pointed
out. I learned years ago to avoid making incendiary statements to the
person offering you free transportation, so I changed the subject. But
the fact is that all four of these mentalities dominate certain sectors
of the world, each has some type of academic support, and each is well
within the reasoned grasp of your average American and Iraqi, not to
mention your average terrorist, be s/he Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
It may not even have been beyond the kin of my next big transporter,
a 33 year old Kid Rock look-alike named Ricky. Rick was a major conversationalist,
or perhaps more accurately, a great monologist. He didnt have
much use for other peoples opinions, but he did place a high value
on his own. This didnt prevent him from treating me well. After
all, he bought me smokes, Cokes, food and transportation, and all he
asked for in return was for me to listen to his every last word. His
stories did impress me, but even more they gave me insight into certain
features of the hitchhiking experience.
*You have a much better chance of getting a ride if you are walking
and thumbing at the same time. Because you are perceived as lazy, unemployed,
and quite probably malevolent, the driver expects you to at least make
some effort in getting to your destination.
*While it is true that most of the people who are willing to give you
a ride have at some point in their lives hitchhiked as well, it is a
fact thatexcept for L sympathy takes a backseat, as it were,
to a need to feel slightly superior to someone else.
*Hitching the Interstate, its a good idea to sleep at night, since
the only people who will give you a night ride are thoroughly insane.
Find a rest stop with full facilities, use your pack as a pillow, and
pretend to be taking a cat nap.
Since arriving back in Phoenix, I have discovered the unwelcome wonders
of homelessness and starvation. After spending one horrible night in
a shelter referred to as the 12th Avenue Retreat, I escaped the barbed-wire
enclosure and walked seven miles to the Arizona Heart Hospital, where
I collapsed. They couldnt do much for me, of course, since they
didnt think my problem was cardiac in nature. I left there the
next morning, a Sunday, and walked over fifteen miles in 110 degree
heat to the next nearest hospital, John C. Lincoln, with three gashes
in my right cheek and blood needle tracks in the crooks of both arms.
None of my old friends can or will help me, and death seems very near.
As I write this, it is Tuesday afternoon, 8/10/04, and I sit in the
food court at Metro Center, out of the heat, waiting until 7:30pm, when
I can call Christy Tripp about a place to stay. Im very weak from
loosing so much blood and having no food except water. The food court
is a terrible place to sit because of the smell. But where else can
you find a table and chairs? Better to think of politics for the moment.
Besides, Ive lost 31 pounds in three months.
This is such a stupid day. Not only am I starving to death, but John
Kerry decided to give up any chance he had of winning the election by
admitting that, knowing what he knows today, he would still go to war
against Iraq. Much wiser would it have been to say Hell, no!
than to risk alienating the 90% of all Democrats; that is, those who
oppose the invasion. The Hell No response could and should have been
delivered immediately, since it is the only way to defeat Bush.
And speaking of that evil-doer, today he announced Poston Goss as the
nominee to replace George Tenet as DCI. This representative from Florida
is a great choice for the Bush team. The Dems have already pretended
to oppose him, but because they are all cowards, hell get a free
ride into the CIA. Goss resume runs back as far as the Bay of
Pigs, which is probably where he met Bush the Elder. This is a scary
dude, and hell fit in well with Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice.
I finally caved in to hunger and told the girl in the customer service
desk at Metro Center that I Lost $1.25 in the Coke Machine. She gave
me the money, 85 cents of which I spent on a McDonalds hamburger,
and now I wish I had the soda instead, delicious as the burger was.
Water fountain water just doesnt cut it, not in this heat. Ill
have to call Christy in a couple minutes, collect. I dont expect
much. Nothing, actually. All I need is a place to sleep, a cold soda,
and a washing machine.
Well, I hope God does see fit to help, because Christy wont take
my calls. Maybe I am getting religion. Theres certainly nothing
else left. Right now Im sitting in the waiting room at Banner
Thunderbird, just to have a place to sit. If anyone asks, Ill
say Im waiting for a ride. Then in the morning Ill walk
to the Arrowhead Mall, clean myself up, grab another free Coke, and
see if my key fits in the lock of my old house. Again, what else can
I do? Maybe throw myself on the mercy of some local restaurant and try
to get a day gig as a waiter, which with the tips should give me some
cash. That would help buy food and lodging. If I ever get out of this,
my surplus money is going to the poor.
God (and I mean it) saw fit to spare me by another couple days. After
getting kicked out of the hospital waiting room, I staggered to my old
house on Pontiac. It had both a FOR RENT and SALE PENDING sign in the
yard. Im pretty stupid, but I had saved the house key and sure
enough, it worked. The place was still big and deserted, just like when
I lived there, and I slept from 2:30am until sun-up.
The next day I went looking for work as a waiter. Both Cocos and
Dennys turned me down, probably because I looked like a bum: sweaty,
aromatic, road-scars on the cheek, and thoroughly emaciated. Im
no better than them. Id have turned me down, too.
I know this reads like a confused garden of thorny ideas. But how else
can I sum up the recent experiences which have led me to this state
of near demise? Who indeed will even read these words, or care? Itll
be decades before anyone even notices Im gone. How pathetic, this
self pity. I had truly hoped to survive long enough to see out the election,
but Im so weak now that standing up is as much of a struggle as
walking. I dont know how people endure years of this, but I know
why it drives them insane.
After two hours on the librarys public computer, the system kicked
me off. On the way back to the safe house, I scored $3.50 by telling
three different grocery stores that their soda machines malfunctioned.
With $2.17 of those proceeds, I bought a BK hamburger kids meal, which
I devoured greedily. I arrived back at the safe house at 1pm, noticing
that someone else had definitely been there. The front blinds were readjusted
to an open position, and the back door was now locked.
Back in Columbus, JM is trying to locate me, and she has enlisted the
local DNC office in her pursuit. Both she and they have sent emails
to Perfect Sound Forever, a magazine for which I have occasionally
written, asking the editor, Jason Gross, to help them find me. Since
Jason, one heck of a nice guy, thought I was dead, he is quite confused
about the entire matter. Jason, if youre reading this, I apologize.
I did not die on February 14th, 2004, as it says on your website. I
tried to die, but failed. And I was ashamed of my failure. The irony
is that now that I want desperately to live.
When I began writing this back in June, I believed that life was just
the result of cosmic indigestion. Now, today, I wonder if God is getting
back at me for all the people Ive screwed over. If so, my bad
times are just beginning. I can imagine being beaten and raped in prison,
turned into a mental vegetable, and left to drool and snort the rest
of my life away. And it scares me.
© Phil Mershon September 2 2004
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