From March 5th, 2013
“To serve (on a platter) and protect (with freshness dating)… The devil is a sinkhole… Religious Trites: Or the completely unimaginative literary culture of zealots.”
One cop’s idea of not letting good people go bad is to eat them before they sour. Gilberto Valle, a New York Cop (Queens, Staten Island, thereabouts) is on the spit for some type of conspiracy to consume. In e-mails obtained police found extensive correspondence between Mr. Valle and other fetishists (who exist, apparently) who discussed roasting a woman alive and eating her. The case against him seems stringy, like veal, although the District Attorney probably felt compelled to prosecute based alone on Valle’s insistence of an exact internal temperature for the woman, because eating undercooked food is dangerous and irresponsible and can lead to intestinal parasites and other health dangers. 160 degrees Fahrenheit, said Mr. Valle. You’re going to jail, said the District Attorney. “It’s America pal, you can be as weird as you want, but obsessing over the ideal temperature for a baked human is crossing the line.” Or is it? In a society of capitalism and free enterprise there is a market for just about everything. In the day trade of subversive fantasy the only real sin is lack of imagination and the ability to not turn a buck. Self-made millionaires tend to be forgiven most things and cannibal fantasy is probably no exception, had somebody been resourceful enough to make money off it. I was reading in a fairly recent National Geographic about a well-respected cannibal from some isolated Amazonian tribe who had commented stoically that he had eaten a man and a woman and with an indolent shrug said, “tastes about the same.” Some could say this naked sage had gone some way to neutralizing the gender war but there is something more profound rumbling through the innards of this seemingly basic statement. “Some rituals are too old to change and don’t mess with me about minor details,” the cannibal may insist. To interpret that in civilized terms it may mean some fantasies are too nebulous for prosecution, especially when based on minor details. If Mr. Valle is held accountable for imaginary cannibalism what is next? If a man asks a woman to play dead during sex can he be jailed as a necrophile? If he flips her onto all fours and gets behind her are they now guilty of bestiality? Years ago, at a trendy bar in midtown Atlanta, I had the odd pleasure of chatting with some ‘Furries’, a subsection of the whole comic book/science fiction convention whose adherents dress as standard woodland mammals (cat, rabbit, tiger, marmot) and end up enjoying each others’ passions while costumed. One bunny in particular (no chauvinism here, she was dressed like a bunny) held my attention at the bar for a good long while. Our conversation never steered into the steamy crock pot of marmot on marmot love, but I felt an odd respect for such brave role-playing. Instead we spoke in turn about the self-indulgent shift of filmmaking between Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” but the undercurrent of our differences was always there. After all, I was dressed in a shirt and pants and my interlocutor was dressed as a bunny, complete with puffy tail. And she was right. Kubrick’s eccentricity may have disenfranchised the mainstream moviegoer but it also gave rise to the seventies boom of independent and adventurous filmmaking. And, if it feels good do it, was her main point. It was a strange interaction. After awhile I began to see Kubrick as an obstinate bear, and the bar waitress as a siamese cat, and the young man dressed as a fox, well, as a fox, and the overweight woman with vitiligo at the table across from me as a sleepy cow out to pasture.
Imagination is probably one of the main things that separates us from the lower animals, and the use of it is why more people don’t go completely insane given how bland the typical contemporary landscape is. We can put ourselves anywhere mentally, and if mentally feasting on Homo Sapien is the thing that makes everything else in life dovetail, well that might have to be the way things go. Weird as he is, Gilberto Valle, will probably end up a free man until they find a ‘Furry’ in his basement cauldron being made into “Hasenpfeffer!” or rabbit stew, which, given how knowledgeable they are about art and cinema, hopefully never happens.
Speaking of imagination, I was forced to consider my moral and ethical thermometer the other day when, lounging as I was at the train station waiting for a friend to arrive, I was given not one but two religious tracts within ten minutes of each other by two separate zealots of different religious affiliation. At first I checked the top of my head to see if I had covered my horns, knowing that on occasion I have suffered the embarrassment of accidentally exposing them, usually when drinking. Tucked away as they were I could see no other reason why I was singled out, other than I was alone and looked quiet and harmless. The first one was the more standard issue type religious tract. It started out with John 3:16 from the bible. Mercy, I said to myself, already annoyed, here we go again. Starting a religious pamphlet with John 3:16 is like starting a fable with “Once upon a time…” or a mystery thriller with “The night was dark and stormy.”
Yeah, i got it. The whole missive was about three pages long in all and it never really took off. With anything you’ve got to have a strong opening and while it’s a nice sentiment, you can’t start out with the most trite aphorism in all of Christianity and expect to be taken seriously. It’s like walking up to somebody of Italian descent and greeting him with “Yo, Adrienne” and expecting him to warm up to you immediately. “It’s like you really know me, friend,” you think he would reply. You’d be wrong, though, for this is not the way of things. In a culture bombarded with recycled story lines the margin for originality is becoming ever slimmer.
Which brings me to the second religious pamphlet given to me by an entirely different pedestrian not ten minutes later. Actually, it wasn’t really a pamphlet but a single sheet of letter paper describing the man’s ordeal with his bad heart, clogged arteries, triple bypass and belief in the Lord. I immediately gravitated to this man’s plight. Although of poorer published quality, I was more amenable to his method of recruitment. But in my usual attitude of thorn-in-argument I was quick to point out that if a being is all powerful and thus responsible for all things, the overseer of the universe had actually given him the junk food, the clogged arteries, the ischemia, and most likely the six-figure medical bill that three successive generations of his family would have no way of paying even if they wanted to. Praise be unto Him, provider of saturated fats and stents, cholesterol and angioplasty. At that point the man wasn’t listening to me. There was a new Krystal Burger (White Castle of the South) across the street and they were giving away free fried sticks of formerly-living-things while supplies lasted. The man with the heart condition dashed toward the line that was out the door and queued up immediately, leaving me to my thoughts.
And my thoughts were this. An acquaintance of an acquaintance had gone to a tent revival recently. I was surprised, having no idea that these things still went on, but not too surprised because, well, all you need is a tent. It’s not like we lack the technology. The acquaintance said that he had gone for the barbecue and fruit punch, and that he had run into some unscrupulous Fire and Brimstoners. I told him I thought the word “Brimstoner” had a lot of potential. He said they were trying to capitalize on a mystifying and dreadful sinkhole in Seffner, Florida that was so localized that, in a houseful of people it singled out one poor man, swallowing him whole in his bedroom, sucking him down and burying him in fifty feet of brittle silt and limestone. The “Brimstoners” insisted that if this didn’t prove the existence of the devil and how close he can get, then the average fellow is a lost cause.
I was impressed. In a perfectly ancient world, before science ruined the heaven above/hell below dichotomy, this would’ve been by far the most effective recruitment tool for serious snake-handler types, and there are some less than honest ones out there, believe it or not. “The devil has built an expressway to hell and it sits right under your bedroom where you fornicate and listen to rock and roll music, and it will pull you down, down, down,” they would say. Most morally ambiguous sinkhole victims have probably been fornicators at one time or another, like most of us, and so you can bet that membership in soul-saving organizations would soar. Maybe that’s why central Florida is so devout? All the sinkholes. What better example of the devil’s pull than to have a whole house suddenly disappear into the ground where an eternity of abuse awaits. I think I’m convinced. The sinkhole argument has gone far and away past the two feeble religious pamphlets I received in changing my behavior. For now, when faced with the decision of quietly turning into bed or going out to a bar and getting good and liquored up, It’s the second choice for me all the way. Who knows what could happen in the quiet solace of one’s own living space?
More distillations to come.