Fancy as Hell

I was staring at my box of Quaker oats the other day, lost in idle thought, which is a habit of mine. I was suddenly a bit weirded out, and here’s why. There is a fellow on the box who, I presume, is a Quaker, perhaps one of the original founders of the Society of Friends, as they’re called. He’s a familiar face. As an oatmeal-eater I’ve seen him in my peripheral vision for years, but I’ve never actually scrutinized him. For the first time I found myself studying him intently, and was taken aback with the certainty that the Quaker pictured was jerking off. 

To be clear, he is only visible from the shoulders up, kind of like he is standing behind a fence of mid-chest height. He wears an ascot, and his foppish curls of stark white hair are over-styled, cascading beneath the brim of a hat that looks like it was stolen from a Seventies-era pimp. There’s something to the expression on his face, though; a kind of ruddy, glazed-over, sleepy satisfaction that is unnerving. I found myself peering into the inside of the box to see if some crazy designer had actually put a back picture of the deviant, his full dorsal side exposed, and, predictably, his plus-four knickers in a wad around his ankles. 

It wasn’t long before I removed the packets of oatmeal and discarded the box in the trash. Not in my house, no sir. I’m not even recycling you. 

I had been staring at the box, initially, because my oatmeal was advertised as “steel cut.” It sounded so fancy. But then when I thought about it, “steel cut” basically means “cut with a cutting device.” Most things that are used for cutting are made of metal, so why bother mentioning it. My grapefruit is Vitamin C infused, my milk is udder-squeezed, my bagels are “artisan,” whatever the hell that means, and my coffee is gravitationally-percolated, using Newton’s natural laws to deliver a fresh cup of joe into an ergonomically handled ceramic chalice. I never knew I was such a lavish snob. 

When I have these realizations I head over to a dive bar known as Dupin’s, located in what the neighborhood refers to as Booble Alley. It’s kind of a cynical artists’ hangout, the type of brooding, dimly lit environment patronized by tosspots too worn out from pop culture to express any genuine enthusiasm. 

I arrived, and took up my usual spot in the back. There was one man seated at the bar who didn’t quite fit in. The first thing I noticed was that he was wearing an ascot, which reminded me of the perverted Quaker. Although I don’t regard myself as superstitious, I tend to believe that seeing two ascots in one day is no coincidence, and a bad omen at that. The man’s hair was gelled up; rigidly styled like the keel of a ship, so much so that a person could’ve turned him upside down, stuck a sail on him, and piloted him across the Atlantic. 

He was bragging that he had just bought his wife a Maserati, and had had it custom painted to match the color of his wife’s eyes. The interior, he said, was upholstered in the soft skin of reindeer balls, and a Rohingya woman he had purchased off the deep web lived in a cage next to it and was responsible for cleaning it twelve hours a day, every day, with a toothbrush.  

“And,” he boasted, “my oatmeal is laser-cut.” 

Strange bastard. No wonder the rest of the animal kingdom hates us so much. It’s bad enough to be encroaching on most of the natural world, but when a reindeer galloping through the woods is caught and forced to undergo castration so some opulent lunatic can wrap his wife in its thin skin, it would seem that a certain line of decency has been crossed. He was the type of guy hellbent on accumulation and consumption, the modern ideal. 

He left shortly thereafter, which was a relief, except that it wasn’t long before he returned, looking quite different. It always amazes me how an uncontrollable rage can actually change a person’s physicality. Indeed he had morphed into something almost unrecognizable. Instead of the hyper-civilized Dr. Jekyll, here was the monstrous Mr. Hyde. It seemed that his new Maserati had been scratched while parked out front, and he was furious, and wanted blood. The bar emptied out. We reconvened in front of the stylish roadster, painted a pale blue. Yes, his wife’s eyes were a pretty color, although I wouldn’t put it past this guy to pull a Josef Mengele and inject his wife’s eyes with a suitable color for their privileged place in society. 

He raged and fumed, pointing to a tiny nick in the auto’s otherwise spotless body. That’s when I realized this man owned nothing. Every one of his possessions owned him, and tortured him with their vulnerability, and destroyed his serenity with the possibility of their own damage and decay, or even worse, inferiority when something came along that was slightly fancier. 

We never did figure out who or what caused the ding in the Maserati. I myself like to imagine that an aggrieved reindeer snuck out of the woods to drag one of his antlers across the custom paint job like, “Take that, lousy ball-snatcher!” 

More Alembics…

Interview with the Island-Eater

There has been quite a stir in the art world recently.  It concerns a statue of a Hawaiian war god named ku ka ’ili moku, which translated means the Island-Eater.  Here is a picture of the little fellow. 

ku ka

The two-feet-tall bugger sold at Christie’s Auction House for something like $7.5 million, which, as it turns out, is roughly the cost of getting seven of your dip-shit children into an Ivy League college of their choice, or 37,500 trips to the Orchids of Asia massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida.  The wealthy will spend as it suits them, be it as cheaply or extravagantly as possible, and when all is said and done a seven-million-dollar price tag for a muscle-bound statue of a cool Hawaiian war god shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Except now there is speculation that the piece may be a fraud, and not as old or authentic as was previously thought. Even the New York Times ran an article about it entitled, “Masterpiece or Mistake?” in order to expose the issue. 

We here at The Alembic, in our inexhaustible pursuit of the truth, reached out to the diminutive statue to get his side of the story, and although he expressed skepticism over  what he deemed “shit-sucking, liberal media parasites,” he eventually agreed to sit down with us for a candid discussion about his own artistic merit. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview. 

Alembic: “Welcome, Mr. Island-Eater.” 

Island-Eater: “I’M JUST HERE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT, MAN.”   

Alembic: “Must you shout?”   

Island-Eater: “THIS IS MY REGULAR SPEAKING VOICE. A MOUTH LIKE MINE THAT CAN EAT ISLANDS IS GONNA BE LOUD.” 

Alembic: “So, Mr. Island-Eater…” 

Island-Eater: “CALL ME KU KA.” 

Alembic: “Alright, ku ka, maybe we should start off by asking how old you really are?” 

Ku ka: “MAN, THIS IS THE TYPE OF STUFF THAT DRIVES ME CRAZY. HOW OLD ARE YOU?” 

Alembic: “That’s not really relevant.” 

Ku ka: “EXACTLY! WHY AM I BEING JUDGED BY MY AGE? THIS IS STRAIGHT UP AGE-ISM. I MEAN, I CAN CONSUME AN ENTIRE ISLAND. WHY DON’T PEOPLE APPRECIATE THAT? BUT NO, IT’S ALL HOW OLD ARE YOU AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? YOU KNOW, FAMOUS PEOPLE ARE JUDGED ON A VERY SUPERFICIAL LEVEL. IF THIS IS FAME I WANT NO PART OF IT. JUST LET ME GO BACK TO MY VOLCANO.” 

Alembic: “You live in a volcano? That’s pretty cool.” 

Ku ka: “I USED TO LIVE IN A VOLCANO. NOW I LIVE IN A FUCKING MUSEUM. 

Alembic: “At least it’s a museum in Hawaii.” 

Ku ka: “YEAH, PRISON IN HAWAII IS STILL PRISON. I WANT TO GO BACK HOME. THAT WAS THE LIFE. PEOPLE WOULD STAND AT THE LIP OF MY CRATER AND THROW ALL SORTS OF OFFERINGS DOWN ON ME: FLOWERS, VIRGINS, THE STILL-BEATING HEART OF SOME SACRIFICIAL GOAT. NOW IT’S ALL SELFIES WITH SILLY TOURISTS IN AN AIR-CONDITIONED EXHIBITION HALL. I’M AN ILL-TEMPERED GOD OF WAR, AND HERE I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF SOME OBESE FAMILY’S VACATION PICTURE. NOW TO MAKE IT WORSE, I’M GETTING STORIES WRITTEN ABOUT ME THAT I’M WORTHLESS. TO REITERATE, I CAN EAT AN ISLAND!” 

Alembic: “I guess that’s the entertainment business for you. You’re the most valuable thing in the world one minute, and the next you’re a trinket in a gift shop. It’s notoriously volatile.” 

Ku ka: “I’LL TELL YOU WHAT’S VOLATILE. WHEN I DECIDE TO EAT AN ENTIRE ISLAND. YOU SHOULD SEE THAT.” 

Alembic: “When’s the last time you’ve eaten one?” 

Ku ka: “WHEN YOU’VE EATEN AS MANY AS I HAVE, IT’S HARD TO REMEMBER. I TELL YOU THIS MUCH, THOUGH. HAWAII USED TO BE LIKE FIFTEEN ISLANDS, AND THE BIG ISLAND WAS THE MUCH BIGGER ISLAND.”  

Alembic: “So you just eat islands, then?” 

Ku ka: “I STARTED OUT WITH SMALL ATOLLS, AND THEN MOVED TO STRINGS OF ISLETS. NOW I’VE GOTTEN TO THE POINT WHERE, IF I REALLY WANTED TO, I COULD EAT GUATEMALA, ALTHOUGH I’D BE UP FOR DAYS WHAT WITH ALL THAT COFFEE.” 

Alembic: “Guatemala isn’t really an island.” 

Ku ka: “ANYTHING IS AN ISLAND IF YOU EAT AROUND IT.” 

Alembic: “Well then, how do you feel about conservation? What’s your views on sustainability? If you ate all the land then there’d be no place for life on Earth.” 

Ku ka: “WELL THEN DON’T PISS ME OFF, OR ELSE I’LL BE FILLING MY BELLY WITH TURTLE SOUP IN THE GALAPAGOS.” 

Alembic: “Have you considered eating any toxic areas or Superfund sites? Maybe you can eat Fukushima or Alameda, California?” 

Ku ka: “WHAT, AND GIVE MYSELF CANCER? I’D RATHER EAT ANTARCTICA. THAT’S LIKE YOU EATING AN ICE CREAM BEFORE IT MELTS.” 

Alembic: “What’s your thoughts on cultural appropriation?” 

Ku ka: “IT’S ALL ABOUT RESPECT. WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO SHARE OUR CUSTOMS WITHOUT FEELING LIKE WE’RE BEING EXPLOITED. WE VALUE OUR TRADITIONS, EVEN THOUGH SOME ELEMENTS MAY BE ODD TO THE OUTSIDER. EVERYBODY’S GOT SOME WEIRDNESS. SO LET’S ALL BE WEIRD TOGETHER.” 

Alembic: “I hear what you’re saying. In fact, I was reading an article about the markhor goat of Pakistan, which urinates into its own mouth and then spits it all over its very fur to attract a female during mating season.”    

Ku ka: “AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THIS WHY?” 

Alembic: “Just illustrating the relativism of…, or the peculiarity of…”

Ku ka: “FOR THE RECORD, I’M NOT INTO THAT!” 

Alembic: “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to imply anything.” 

Ku ka: “WELL, YOU LOOK LIKE A FREAK. NO ONE WOULD APPROPRIATE YOUR FAT ASS. IN FACT, YOUR ASS IS SO FAT, IT COULD BE AN ISLAND. YOU KNOW WHAT I DO TO ISLANDS, DON’T YOU?” 

Alembic: “Actually, it looks like we’re almost out of time.” 

Ku ka: “HEY MAN, HELP ME BREAK OUT OF THIS PLACE. I’LL INTRODUCE YOU TO SOME OF THE WAHINE. WE’LL PARTY.” 

Alembic: “I have a deadline.” 

Ku ka: “YOU ARE A DEADLINE.” 

Alembic: “What does that even mean?” 

Ku ka: “GITCHIE GITCHIE YA-YA DA-DA. GITCHIE GITCHIE YA-YA HERE. MOCHA CHOCOLATA YA-YA! THAT’S AN ANCIENT POLYNESIAN CURSE I JUST PUT ON YOU!” 

Alembic: “It’s actually just the lyrics to the song Lady Marmalade.” 

Ku ka: “KISS MY WOODEN ASS! I’M GOING BACK TO MY PEDESTAL.”  

A typical celebrity reaction.  

More Alembics to come…

What’s a Law School?

The Animal Kingdom is big on defending itself against predators. Survival often depends  on the successful ability to ward off threats.  Whether it’s scales, shells, quills, camouflage, ink, shit-mist, claws, fangs, or venom, the skill to avoid being killed and devoured is one of the most vital advantages in this vicious free-for-all called life.  

Thus, as the world has modernized, so too has the methods of defense. No longer does a person need to rip and gouge, climb and run, or puff up and scream. These days the means of warning can be subtle, appealing to a potential rival’s sense of prolonged entanglements. The spider has its web, the army ant its pheromones, and the legal community its threat of interminable litigation. 

To the point: 

I was walking through the parking lot of my neighborhood supermarket the other day when I chanced to see just such an example of cutting-edge evolutionary defense. It was a bumper sticker that read: 

                                            Attorney’s Car: Do Not Tailgate

Wow, I thought. Not since the milkweed bug’s bright coloring has there been such an overt signal for something to back the fuck off. Impressed as I was, I was also filled with concern for the attorney. While the bumper sticker served as a warning, it might also end up being an invitation to attack. Generally speaking, a lot of people—doctors with sky high malpractice insurance, broke cheaters who lost everything in the divorce, workers with garnished wages—don’t like lawyers. So to openly identify as a practitioner of this morally dubious profession to a mass of edgy motorists could be dangerous. 

The more I thought about it, the more I decided it was a bad idea to openly threaten the driving community with legal action. Lawyers would do better to camouflage themselves rather than stand right out in the open, particularly out on the highway, where anything goes. Maybe the bumper sticker was a joke? If it was, it was a bad one. I could see something like ‘Terrorist’s Car: Do Not Tailgate’ but a lawyer? 

While the owner of the car may have been an attorney, he (or she) was definitely insane. Oh, I forgot to mention that the car itself was a late Nineties Saturn. Nothing against late Nineties Saturns or the owners that own them, but a bumper sticker that seems to refer to how effective an attorney may be at personal injury litigation may not seem intimidating if he (or she) can’t afford anything fancier than a beige flivver covered in city dirt. 

So I started to see, quite clearly, the ENTIRE bumper sticker, kind of rolling off into infinity like the opening sequence of any Star Wars movie. 

                                         Attorney’s Car

                                        Do Not Tailgate…

Not only do not tailgate, but do not honk. Do not rev your engine at me. Do not pass on the right hand side, for I am a passer of the bar exam. Do not extend your middle finger, or tell me to go fuck myself.  Do not shoot a gun at this car. Do not let the air out of the tires, or pour sugar into the gas tank. Do not take a giant, steaming crap on the hood of my car. For I am a seeker of justice, Righter of Wrongs, diligent servant of the arc of moral history. Do not try to run me off the road, for I am not that kind of attorney. I represent the downtrodden and dispossessed against the giant corporate concerns and their insatiable greed. Do not pull that sadistic move in which you run into my back bumper and edge me out into oncoming traffic till I am t-boned and comatose. Do not wait until I pull into a gas station and get out of the junker that is oddly incompatible with my professional status, and then carjack me in order to drive wildly all over the city, giving my ill-considered bumper sticker a whole new level of absurdity by pulling dangerous stunts around terrified motorists, who will call the police to report some deranged lawyer who, while not wanting to be tailgated themselves, is up the ass of every car it can menace. Do not do that thing in which you pass by me, pull into my lane, and then jam on the brakes so I rear-end your car, knowing that I’m a respected barrister with deep pockets and so will pay off big time while you complain that your whiplash has left you with PTSD and sexual impotency. I’m not some big wheel. I’m not a slick fleecer of the sick and the old. I do not chase ambulances. I do not  stalk the funeral homes looking for the wrongful death lawsuit that can win me a seven-figure payoff. I clerked for peanuts, damn you, thus my beat-up Saturn. One day I’ll get a Mercedes or something, but for now I’m a humble public defender who doesn’t want angry faces in my rearview mirror. I represent the indigent. I plea bargain. I’m being stalked by an ex-convict who thinks I suppressed evidence. Stay away from my back bumper, or I’ll kill you all! Oyez, oyez. Res ipso loquitur. Ipse dixit.  In flagrante delicto. Corpus delicti. Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea. Factio vestri aevum, non vestri calceus amplitudo. That last one means, ‘Act your age, not your shoe size, mother-fucker.’ Really, let’s all be grown-ups. A little civility on the road, a little civility in life. On second thought, I was lying. I bought that bumper sticker as a goof. Ha, ha, got you, didn’t I? I got a zero on the LSAT. No institution of higher education would ever have me. The only institution I’m eligible for is the fuckin’ booby hatch. Help. Help. I’m a big fat liar. In fact, not only have I never been to law school, I’ve never even seen a law school. 

Drive Safe! 

More Alembics to come