November 23, 2009

American Mashed Potatoes


I had a poem unfold in front of me last week. I can't write it, but I know one happened. A perfect string of images that may be a bit too on the nose for a real good poem or story, but still, the raw data of a poem or some kind of art object blossomed right in front of me. I think. Ever have a moment like that? Where you're just watching this magnificent chain of events and you think, "This means something..." like in Close Encounters? But right now, I'm stymied about what to do with it, so you get this blog post telling you what I saw instead.

Anyway, during my lunch break I left to get some coffee and across the street from my building, an anti-war demonstration was just getting started. All told, there must have been 10 or 15 of them. Not a single one under 45 years old. They had signs, a spirit bell, a bullhorn, and some kind of recorded message that detailed the atrocities of the war. This recording would say something like, "6 dead Afghan children when a US bomb exploded them while they were riding bicycles." The recording was in an even, mellow tone. No harshness or anger at all. Then someone would gong the spirit bell.

The protesters just stood there. Peaceful as cows in a field while the pleasant-voiced lady on the tape said spouted off some other kind of war detail, then there would be another gong.

For protesters, they weren't really protesting in what you imagine protesting to be. Sure, they had signs. But they were serene.

Due to their age and spirit-bell-gonging aesthetics, they were clearly attempting to relive the glory days of Vietnam protesting. However, when you think of vietnam you think of quiet elderly people gonging a bell on a street corner? Methinks not. Unless, of course, that's what all the protests were before the jack-booted thugs of the police showed up and whomped on them with sticks and sprayed them with firehoses. Maybe spirit bell gonging like an affected Asian tea-service really riled the squares 40 years ago. TV, movies and documentaries of that time, however, lead me to believe otherwise.

That's image one. Old people. Spirit bell. Mild-sauce war protest. By the way, whenever you see a group of people like that, don't you imagine them just bickering over petty things? I do. All the time. You know they were bitching about stuff like how many times to gong the bell, and who gets to gong it, and what their signs would say. And you know one guy was all pissy because he went to Berkley or some shit and he thinks he really knows about anti-war protests, nevermind that Madison did it up right during that time, too (evidence seen here). Whatever, I'm sidetracked. Onto image 2...

As I waited for the bus later that afternoon, a glossy black stretch Chevy Suburban cruised up. Hanging from the back window were 3 women who I assume were bridesmaids. Maybe prom-goers. I don't know. Youthful. Blond. Tanned. Same bare-shouldered dress. Same haircut. A dolled-up crew of heartbreakers if there ever was one. When the stretch Suburban, which could not be more appropriately named, pulled up next to a bus the girls screamed as loud as they could. They yelled "Whoo!" right at a bus with all their might. The stretch went on down the road, slowly. Then, wouldn't you know, the girls circled right back around.

So you know, I get on the bus right by the state Capitol, which is in the center of a square. The girls had driven a loop around the capitol. And again, they screamed "Whoo!" at a different bus. The stretch Suburban then left the scene without further incident.

But how wonderful was that? Why were they giving so much hell to those buses? Probably trying to flaunt their ride at the suckers on the bus. But still, they really shouted Whoo! with some serious meaning and urgency. They Whooed because they had to Whoo. And those buses, well, they deserved the Whooing.

The next image was a man on a chopper. The man was huge, but not weight-wise, but stature & look. No helmet. Flowing long gray hair. Bushy handlebar mustache of fuck-you proportions. Just a general grizzled countenance. His motorcycle sounded exactly as it should. A bassy growl of the devil clearing his throat.

Planted on the back of his motorcycle were two full-size flags. One was the American flag. The other some kind of military flag that I didn't recognize. Between them was what looked like a large eagle feather standing upright and bending in the wind. Clearly this old solider was a red-meat man's man. A whiskey drinking pipefitter of a dude.

Trailing behind him by a couple yards was a waifish college student in skinny jeans crammed onto a periwinkle scooter, a helmet so big it rested on his shoulders. His scooter passed by making that put-put-put noise of the Jetson's spaceship and the ferocity of a firefly.

All that stuff together has potential for something. Something about America maybe, I don't know. It would be too easy drawing the comparisons between the whole scene. Too much like allegory. But, goddamn if I wasn't served a pile of creative clay and what do I do with it? This. Shame on me.

viva el mustache

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