My Unknown, Yet Apparently No Less Real, Life

Ordinary folks are starting to catch on to what scientists and mobsters have known for decades: the best way to solve a problem is to make it disappear. Hummingbirds fly by
making their wings disappear. Buddy Rich performed drum solos by making his drumsticks disappear. The problem of Antarctica melting will be over when all the ice disappears. Frankie “The Greaseball” Costello avoided a prison sentence by making Jackie “The Nose” disappear, and the problem of sobriety was solved when I made a bottle of Four Roses disappear.
I like to think of myself as a reasonable fellow. No overt homicidal inclinations based on chronic paranoia. No unnerving, vague suspicions of being watched. No subtle twinges of feeling scrutinized. No voices in my head to argue with or shout at. But I have realized it is best if I am not startled. I will lash out to defend life and property. So it went that I had to confront an intruder the other day.
I’m still getting used to my new computer. It is a slick machine that seems to have all the answers. It anticipates my confusion. It is ready for my errors. When it spots a mistake it suggests I take steps to correct it. “Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.”

The control bar at the top of my keyboard is a touch-screen. I treat this control pad like I do my own brain, only using like ten percent of its probable potential. If that. Most of the time I ignore it. So I was a little disturbed when I chanced to see a message, from my computer, written to me, in the constantly shifting iconography it displays. I mean, who else would it be for? The computer has to know that nobody else uses it since it only recognizes my fingerprint. It knew what it was doing. I’m convinced of that. The message was both vague and menacing. It said:

I Am The Body

I knew exactly what had happened. An evil spirit had infected my computer and was offering an opening gambit in the fight for my mind and soul. It was already laying claim to my body. It was no coincidence that I had just read a news article about a technician in Corpus Christi (latin for Christ’s body!) who had gotten swallowed up inside an ATM machine. The gadgets are advancing to dominate humans. The war had begun.
I started tapping the touch screen in order to antagonize the demonic creature, when suddenly my computer beeped and a voice asked, “What can I help you with?”
It was Siri, the moll, and she had startled me. I screamed an expletive and was reprimanded for my use of foul language by her calm voice.

“Mark, please, your language,” she said.

“That’s it, bitch, you don’t come into my house and tell me my business!” I shouted, with the idiosyncratic finger-wag and head-bob of an enraged Jerry Springer guest who has just learned her man is two-timing her. Siri was ready for me. She dropped an avalanche of questions at me, figuring it best to confuse me into submission.
“Some things you can ask me? Text Brian I’m on my way. Find the best nail salon. When is the sunrise in Paris? Go to my photos from last night. When is my wife’s birthday? Should I bring an umbrella.”
First of all, I thought, who the fuck is Brian? Second, I get all my nails from Ace Hardware. I don’t need a fancy salon. I already know when the sun rises in Paris. Just like everywhere else it rises in the morning. I didn’t take any photos last night. I’m not married so how can my wife have a birthday. I don’t even know what she looks like or who she is. I don’t own an umbrella, only a collection of ornate parasols that I use on my walks during afternoons under the hot Georgia sun.

I was gobsmacked. I dared not utter a word for fear Siri would show me all of the elements of my life that were a mystery to me; the possibilities, the fantastical alternatives I was missing, my best friend Brian, my beautiful wife “Whomeva,” the pictures from my forgotten party, the rainy seascape that I stand out in front of to contemplate with my umbrella.
Instead I threw my computer out the window. It disappeared into some bushes.
Problem solved.
More Alembics to come.
(Author’s note: The author is fully aware that he has pilfered a line from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart” in the above essay, and would kindly share any profits from said essay with the E.A. Poe literary estate or Viking Penguin LLC, the profits of which are $0.00, of which any copyright holder or subsidiary thereof is more than welcome to 15%-100% of listed value. Thank you.)

Nazi Blues

A home is not only a dwelling but an outward manifestation of the owner’s personality. Thus some are simple and some are complex. Some are overwrought. Some are tidy. Some are messy. Some are open-planned and some are like beehives. Some are a gigantic assault on the meager parcel of land they occupy. Some exist in harmony with nature and some are an affront to it. Some are hidden from view and some are right out there in the middle of it all, like my neighbor, who tends his conspicuous front yard in a wide-brimmed seeding hat and bright red bikini underwear. At least I think that is what he is wearing. Us neighbors won’t get too close for fear his microscopic gardening uniform is nothing more than rubescent body paint, and his exposed dingus a kind of warning to predators, like the granular poison frog, of its extreme toxicity.
Where was I? I forgot why I started this thing. Oh yes. A home as metaphor. Last week Argentinian authorities found a Fuehrer’s ransom of Nazi artifacts behind a wall in a secret room in some fancy house in Buenos Aires. The owner of the house, a 95-year-old German man who immigrated in 1946 and who had never even heard of the Third Reich was as surprised as anybody when informed of the discovery. At first he blamed the secret collection on his manservant, a Chilean named Manolo, whom the elderly Aryan always suspected of harboring secret Nazi sympathies. It was the way the poorly educated major-domo judiciously rid the garden of inferior weeds, his obsession with white bread, white eggs, whole milk, and vanilla ice cream, and his cheerful willingness to undergo forced sterilization.
After the police hauled the pernicious treasure trove away, the old German breathed a sigh of relief. At least they hadn’t found his secret room of bizarre German pornography. Now THAT would’ve been difficult to explain.
Apparently the authorities grew suspicious after someone noticed that the welcome mat at the front door declared, “Home Is Where The Heart, And Assorted Nazi Artifacts, Is.”
The inventory list was nothing too surprising. Bust of mascot with curiously narrow mustache. Oversized steak knives. That symbol with all the right angles in it. Egg timer.
Bad, fascist, un-American eagle. Playbill for smash Broadway show “Springtime for Hitler.” The only thing that struck me as really out of place was a box of Nazi harmonicas. What do those guys know about playing the blues? It doesn’t count that they were really good at creating the conditions necessary for the singing of them. They won’t get by on a technicality.
Of all the news clips concerning the 70-year-old breaking story, Fox had the best montage. They really know how to put a soundtrack together. Tense, racing, violin-strummed quarter notes as the photos of the secreted objects were displayed. I half-expected the razzle of a harmonica when the instruments appeared onscreen.
Everyone seemed more surprised than I was. After all, this area of the world was the last known residence of Herr Doktor Josef Mengele, the sadistic Nazi experimenter and loose constructionist of the Hippocratic Oath. Finding hidden Nazi antiquities in Argentina is like finding mouse turds in the basement. Of course that is where they are. It is where they feel safe.

Argentinian construction workers and architects should’ve gotten suspicious in the late forties when blue-eyed, German expatriates began showing up all over the city enquiring about real estate, particularly houses with fake walls and hidden rooms.

“Vee like to play zee hide und seek,” would be their weak explanation.

The problem with fascism, other than the obvious, is that a group will realize they can never be quite fascist enough. After clearing out whatever category of undesirable they have decided to focus on, they will realize that within their own remaining group of putative elites, there are members who are now impure, subordinate, imperfect, and damaged. The scale has slid. It is time to eliminate the new inferior. So they approach good old faithful Hans, who has nice skin, hair and teeth, but he is a little pigeon-toed and he stutters when he is nervous. They pat him on the back and show him to his new apartment, which doesn’t have cable TV or air conditioning and is surrounded by razor wire for his own protection.
“But I’m part of the team, right?” says Hans.
“Sure. The team of oxen. Be in the field tomorrow at sunrise.”
“What do I do until then?”
“Learn to sing the blues. Here is a harmonica. You’ll need it.”
More Alembics to come

Ragnarok

A man knocked on my door the other day and handed me a piece of paper that read ‘MARK LIX DIX.’
Enraged, I grabbed him by the collar, thinking he was leveling some type of low slur at me. The man began to shake and whimper. He was rickety, as old as Methuselah, may have actually been Methuselah, and he was foundering beneath my assault. It took me a moment to realize the Mark he was referring to was the apostle in the New Testament, and what I took to be a vulgarity directed at me was a set of Roman numerals. Suddenly I felt like the crude one, a boorish cretin who misinterprets harmless numbers for obscene slang. I steadied him and offered an apology. He accepted. His messages were simple. “Be of good cheer,” and “There is nothing from without a man that entering in can defile. But the things which come out of him, those are they that defile.”

“Right-o,” I said. While I am no hermeneutical scholar, I am a reasonable fellow despite occasional behavior to the contrary. I offered my doddering dogmatist a glass of Benedictine & Brandy. At first he politely refused until I wielded the Book of Timothy at him. ‘Use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake.’ Since I didn’t have any wine I suggested a strong dose of brandy. Who knows what the vulgate translation of ‘wine’ is anyway and furthermore, monks make brandy. How bad could it be?

People are touchy these days. The end of the world is nigh, and has been for a very long time. The world imposes deadlines, even on itself, which is a good incentive to get things done before it is too late. The affable solicitor who had arrived at my doorstep was offering a soul cleanse. My aura was dirty, smudged, plugged up with ash like an old chimney. He had the disinfectant, he said, and handed me the good King James.

As he was talking to me he kept glancing at his phone. He told me he had an app that offered real-time alerts on his group’s global missionary work. I was impressed. Even a nine-hundred-year-old man was more tech savvy than I was. Suddenly the thing began to sizzle and scream in his hands. He looked down at it and buckled. I caught him at the last minute, helped him to a chair and brought him around with another dose of B&B. I looked to see what all the fuss was. Apparently some pumpkin-faced Ar-kansan named Michael Reed had driven his car right into a stone monument displaying the ten commandments, pulverizing it less than a day after it had been erected. He yelled “Freedom” as he did it. Unfortunately for Reed the rules and the ideas don’t go away if the monument is turned into dust. It’s not like he is now free to ignore the ethical blueprint. In fact, it would’ve been more accurate for him to yell “Prison!” right before he smashed it, because that is exactly where he wound up.

I was concerned for the old man sitting in front of me. It was obvious he could find evidence of the end of the world from the way the leaves fell, or the shape of a pretzel. Forget about the blatant destruction of the original top ten list.

“Don’t be upset,” I consoled the wheezing elder. “Didn’t Moses himself smash the tablets in anger after coming down from the mountain? The original ten commandments only lasted forty days. Still got em.”
This brightened him up a bit. He thanked me and continued on his way.

I pondered the end of the world, almost seeing it like an infomercial. “Act now.” “Don’t delay.” “You wouldn’t want to miss out.” Most cultures and civilizations have an eschatology (end-times rendering). The more fantastic the better, really, and for shock and awe, Revelations is hard to beat. I had read it a couple of times, like the old comedian W.C. Fields, who was always “looking for loopholes.”

In search of something new, I stumbled on “Ragnarok,” which is a Scandinavian doomsday story. “How exciting,” I said to myself.

During Ragnarok, which is much more destructive than Fraggle Rock, it is written that giants of ice and fire will go destroy the council of Norse gods known as the Aesir. Which is pretty lucky for the Aesir, since I suspected that giants of ice and fire would simply melt and extinguish one another. Problem solved. I never let an inconsistency mess up a good tale of destruction, and I wasn’t going to let this one, either. So on and so forth. The world sinks into the ocean. The world is renewed. Uncle Traveling Matt returns in triumph. Wait. That is Fraggle Rock again.
More Alembics to come.

The Letters

What started out as a lark the other day became a terrifically onerous undertaking as I searched my book room for my copy of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Little things subconsciously inspire me to dig through my personal pile of literature. In this case it was a recent reactionary protest to a production of Julius Caesar in which the Roman emperor is cast as a Trump look-alike. Bah, I said, the producers got it all wrong. King Lear is the play that most resembles our Presidential Leader. Forget Julius Caesar. I could see a King Lear with bright orange hair pardoning the flies for copulating in front of him as he descends into madness. “The small, gilded fly does lecher in my sight!” He’s got daughters, King Lear does, and he favors some more than others, and they eventually fuck him over. I’m sure it will be staged next summer.
I couldn’t find my copy of Shakespeare’s plays, though, and in frustration I pulled all my books off the shelves, deciding right then and there to alphabetize them according to author surname, so I would not have this problem again. And like King Lear, I looked upon the mess I had created and shook my head. There are approximately six hundred books on my shelves, which is probably only matched by the poundage of dust that was kicked up when I so foolishly cleared them all to the ground.
Well begun is half done, as they say, and so I made space for twenty-five piles to coincide with the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet. (I had no books by Malcolm X.) Almost immediately I noticed that I owned an inordinate amount of books whose authors had a last name that started with ‘B.’ Burroughs, Bolano, Bukowski, Buck, Byron, Blake, Bugliosi, Bellow, Butler, Beerbohm, Barth, Boethius, Berryman, Barthelme, Baldwin, Bly and Baraka, before he became LeRoi Jones. This caused me to have a strange realization. The letter ‘B’ is the only letter in the alphabet that has cleavage. I mean, it does. I was suddenly ashamed of myself. Had I been lured to these great writers by nothing more than an abstract association of Bosomy (starts with B!) plenitude? What else was lurking in these characters that were so common to my sight and to my understanding. What was really going on?
I started with ‘A’ and realized I loved the letter because it reminded me of the design of a Swiss Chalet, the A-frame, which reminded me of a ski trip, which made me long for a snowy mountain. ‘B’ I had already covered, and quite Bawdy at that. ‘C’ and ‘D’ are obese letters, especially D. That is a fat little man, right there. ‘E’ is pronged, it can stab or comb. ‘F’ is like a broken ‘E’ and ‘G’ is a fat man that is sort of well-endowed. ‘H’ is the letter that begins my last name. Looks like a field goal post. I always liked the shape but was somewhat vexed at how breathy the letter is when spoken. Exhale and there is the H right there. Probably the most often used letter when perverts prank-call women. Kind of creepy, actually. ‘I’ is simple, tall, proud. ‘J’ is the hook, and every good story needs one. ‘K’ is like a disco dance move. Throw the left leg and left arm out, and you have your K. For fans of right angles we have the letter L. M is fun for the vertical symmetry. You can fold it neatly. N is askew. It is also the Roman numeral IV with the V fallen over. O is a portal, a ball, a letter on the move. If the greatest invention is the wheel the most brilliant letter is the O. The top-heavy P is maybe my least favorite of the crew, although it does separate the O from its almost identical neighbor Q, which is an O chained to the ground. ‘R’ I guess kind of has cleavage too, but it doesn’t offer the same promise as its sister B. ’S’ is sneaky, like a con-man. A snake. It is the most useful pattern to run in if you are being chased by an alligator. “Serpentine!”
T is like a tree. It is the letter that can provide shade on a hot day. U is a magnet. I like U, I hope U like me. V is the best design for a rock guitar and W is M reflected in a lake of water. X is a kiss, Z is sleepy, and Y? Just for the hell of it.
More Alembics to come.

Time Savers

The definition of what passes for entertainment has become very cloudy. For instance I found myself watching a video last week of a dead flamingo standing on one leg. At first I didn’t realize it was dead, even though there was a warning at the beginning of the video that said “CAUTION: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DEAD FLAMINGOES.” Fair enough, I decided, mentally preparing myself for what was about to appear onscreen. The camera focused on a flamingo standing on one leg. I watched and watched, waiting for it to die. I didn’t know whether the bird was going to expire naturally, just fall over from old age, or whether a gun would appear and blow the bird’s head off, or a bigger, predatory creature would come along and eat it. Maybe I would die first, from boredom, or some kind of deterioration. After all to watch a bird stand on one leg for fifteen seconds feels like watching it for fifteen hours. Now that would be a funny little trick. Some anonymous hacker could be filming ME through my computer, watching a bird stand still and do nothing, until I died, at which time there would be another video released of a dead man watching a dead bird, saying, “CAUTION: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS A DEAD MAN WATCHING DEAD FLAMINGOES.” So on and so on.

It wasn’t until some scientist appeared onscreen (he had a white coat and rubber gloves so I guess he was a scientist) to pick the bird up, invert it and fold its legs under its body that I realized the bird had been dead the whole time. The video was meant to demonstrate that even when a flamingo is dead it will stand on one leg, which is pretty impressive. According to a certain police dash-cam video I can’t even stand on one leg for twenty seconds, or walk a straight line, or touch my nose with my arms outstretched. That’s another story, though, and I feel that time is of the essence.

Speaking of time, modern conveniences ensure that we can free up as much time as possible in order to live life to the fullest. There is instant coffee, instant abs, instant messaging, and for some Muslim households in India, instant divorce. The magic word is Talaq! If a husband shouts this at his wife three times (strangely it doesn’t work the other way around) then he is free to pursue other relationships. A thrice repeated utterance renders him single, a man on the move, ready to hit the discos and nightclubs to find that one ghostly apparition veiled head to toe that will replace the former ghostly apparition, veiled head to toe.

A Muslim must be careful, though, because this method of separation is strict and final. There was a story about one poor fellow who was out to dinner with his wife. The man began choking on his chicken vindaloo, making a sound that was similar to “talaq” and by the time he had cleared his airway his wife had been packed up and shipped back to her family. The other tricky problem is that, in Arabic, talaq means divorce but “tabaq” means Beetlejuice, and so a man frustrated with his marriage, if he is not enunciating carefully, may invoke a rotten zombie creature looking eerily like Michael Keaton, who will arrive to haunt his house and steal his daughter.

If only everything in life was this easy. A Texas oil billionaire facing a lengthy court battle for his third wife’s alimony may have to rethink his vocal animosity to Shariah Law when he finds out how simple it is to get rid of her.
“Say it three times and she’s outta here? These Muslims ain’t all bad.”

I tried the technique at the grocery store the other day. The checkout line was crowded, and so I invoked the word “checkout” three times fast. Nothing happened except that an elderly woman glared at me from the front of the line as she picked through an accordion folder the size of War and Peace, plucking out coupons with a shaky hand and laying them carefully in front of the cashier. My lone purchase, a sandwich from the deli counter, was consumed easily before I even made it to the register.

We all like efficiency, but some modern contrivances may be better served with a more lengthy process to ensure that careless errors are avoided. In fact, things like Instant Airline Pilot, Instant Surgeon, and Instant Skyscraper may seem like good ideas at first, but may result in some serious disasters down the line. Quality takes time for a reason. There is no such thing as instant excellence. Every great invention we rely on has a million man-hours buried in the electrical boards and gearshifts.

Still, if it is possible to affect that drastic of a change with three simple words, might there be some other beneficial applications? For instance, is there a word that keeps the brainwashed and militant from committing indiscriminate murder? If so, that is a word worth repeating.
More Alembics to come.

“You’re Fyred!”

Given the option of being fired or being fyred, I would much prefer to be fired. For to be fired means the loss of a job, a minor setback in the flux of modernity, a switch in the name and address of a company paycheck. To be “fyred,” on the other hand, means to be robbed of thousands of dollars, marooned on a craggy Caribbean island, starved, without shelter, exposed to the elements, attacked by sand fleas and buried in paperwork to reclaim the luggage that the Bahamian government is holding as collateral for all the unpaid customs fees. This is the regrettable result of the Fyre Festival, a sensational debacle that took place, or didn’t take place, on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas. I’ve had my own experiences being stranded on a deserted island and it is no laughing matter. When I was a boy some prep school chums and I were beached after a plane wreck on an unforgiving atoll, and in an attempt to govern ourselves we went mad as march hares, savagely killing each other in a relentless attempt to maintain control over our environment. William Golding wrote a book about it, changing just enough to protect our young anonymity. Happy to say we learned nothing from the experience, and are just as power-crazed and savage as ever.

The Fyre Festival was supposed to take place on Fyre Cay, an island once owned by the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, which would’ve been a far more preferable location. Odds are there is still a smuggler’s ransom of narcotics stashed somewhere on that lump of pitched sand in the sea, a drug cache that wouldn’t have stood a chance once a thousand desperate partiers got a hold of it. After consuming hundreds of kilos of cocaine and marijuana the crowd wouldn’t have even realized or cared that nobody had bothered to perform. Billy McFarland, the hollow man party promoter could’ve told the whole audience that Jimmy Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Jim Morrison had rocked a four-hour set list of all their greatest hits and the doped up revelers would’ve agreed it was an amazing performance, a rare collaboration, a once-in-a-lifetime show.

As it wound up the marooned festival guests were stuck on a bald patch of cement next to one of those swingers’ resorts like Hedonism, battered by a rainstorm. A young festival-goer was forced, out of sheer hunger and desperation, to trade his girlfriend to a gang of middle-aged sex fiends for a cold plate of eggs benedict and some dry pieces of toast. The girl was drenched in pineapple glaze and forced to preside like a goddess over a hundred anonymous couplings. She now lives deep in the jungle, like Kurtz, the figurehead of a nascent group of new age pleasure seekers.

The only music to result from the disaster, as far as I can tell, is a pleading ballad from Ja Rule called, “That’s not fraud.” It goes…
That’s not fraud, that’s not fraud.
That’s not fraud, that’s not fraud.
Maybe false advertising,
But definitely that’s not fraud.
It’s catchy. I like it. With any luck it will make enough money to pay off the mountain of lawsuits that have ensued.

Speaking of the savage control of the environment, I was surprised to see one of my old Lord of the Flies peers, Montana representative Greg Gianforte, elected to Congress. I had lost touch with him since the days of our barbaric, adolescent power struggle on that tiny island. Old Greg, (not that one), has lost none of his aggression, beating the snot out of Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian, for the unspeakable offense of asking a question of a political candidate. That is dangerous territory for a reporter in America these days. Ben should’ve taken the safer assignment and traveled to Syria to spend a week with ISIS rebels. Congressman Gianforte underscored, or uppercutted, a nasty reality in journalism today. Report at your own risk. It is open season on the press pool, especially out in the rugged western frontier. A seasoned reporter may ask a confrontational question, but don’t be surprised if the answer is to be hog-tied and thrown into the desert. Extra points if the writer is from The Guardian, Der Spiegel, or Mother Jones. A hog-tied reporter may not get the answer he is looking for, yet being tied up like a rodeo swine is, after all, an answer in and of itself. There is only one solution. Judo lessons for the Fourth Estate. Fight back. Cage matches in the East Wing. Battle Royale on Capitol Hill. It is the Lord of the Flies in Washington D.C., and somebody has misplaced the conch shell.
More Alembics to come.
(This entry is dedicated to Denis Johnson, a righteous poet who could hammer the lines down good and clean. May you live on in the embrace of future generations of readers.)

Curiosity Killed the Caveman

I breathed a sigh of relief the other day. My mailbox had been approved by the Postmaster General. It was stamped into the metal on the door. I had never noticed the issuance before that moment. It made me wonder whether it had always been there, or whether the Postmaster General himself had come by recently with an engraving stamp to grant his formal blessing that the tiny metal box at the foot of my driveway was indeed fit to contain, for a short while, United States parcels and postage. It is human nature to seek approval, and for those of us who are most desperate, the approval of the Postmaster General will have to do when none other is available.

I was forced then to consider the Postmaster General. Who was he and what qualifications did he have? Was he an elected official? A military adjunct? Could it be a woman? Was there a Postmaster Sergeant and a Postmaster Lieutenant? How had he become an expert on what type of mail receptacle was appropriate to hold letters and flyers? Was he an expert on Quonset huts, covered bridges, and other forms of arched containers both large and small? Had he performed a thorough diagnostic on my mailbox’s front door hinge, the only part of the letter holder that, as far as I could tell, might be subject to a gradual corrosion from usage? I pictured him dressed as a Third World military dictator. A Hailie Selassie look-a-like, with gold epaulets and a bright sash and a sword, riding through the neighborhood in a stripped down jeep with a mounted M-60 in the back.

Later on in the day, during my afternoon walk, I made it a point to stop and check all the mailboxes to see if they too had been granted legitimacy by the Postmaster General. All of them were approved. Except for one. And I wasn’t surprised.

She lives at the end of the block and she is an artist. Her medium is metal. She is to sculpture what the maverick filmmaker Stan Brakhage was to experimental film. I can appreciate the creativity but too much of it would surely drive me insane. Her front lawn looks like something out of a Tim Burton movie. It was obvious that she had made her mailbox herself, and that it didn’t need approval from a Postmaster General, or anybody else. It was an ornate piece of polished copper buried in a shrub that I realized looked a bit like, well, either like an orchid or female genitalia. I suspected her intent was the latter, since etched in careful calligraphy along the side was the caption, “Fe-mail Box.” I crept up to it, sensing that I was being watched from somewhere within the dark recesses of her artist’s dwelling. Carefully I opened the lid and almost jumped out of my skin as I peered in and realized somebody was looking back at me. There was a human head in there.
*
Forget cats. Curiosity has killed a whole bunch of stuff over the course of history. Let us go back to the beginning. Consider two Neanderthals living in the same crude shelter. Cave mates, as it were. The original odd couple. Both of them hear a lion roar outside. The first caveman, the curious adventurer type, fastens the uni-strap of his loincloth over his shoulder, grabs his puny spear and trots out to confront the bestial howl. The second fellow, cautious as he is, decides it would be better not to run out and investigate the cat’s cries. Something about the screeching just seems like bad news. So while the first caveman is outside satisfying his curiosity, the second caveman tucks himself beside his little fire and points his ear toward the mouth of the cave. For a few minutes there is human shrieking and the animal’s own caterwauling, both of which eventually subside. The little man ensconced in his rock dwelling wonders who won the battle and is given the answer by way of his former cave mate’s head rolling back at him, coming to rest at the edge of the fire with a look of supreme idiocy across his lacerated face. The lion outside devours the rest of Mr. Curious and then enters the cave and starts poking around. The survivor, contemplative and fearful proto-man, knows that if he plays his cards right he can have the whole rest of the cave to himself from now on. So he invents the shrug-and-go-limp method of conflict resolution, or what is known as tonic immobility. He plays dead, watching through an apertured eyelid as the enormous cat nudges him a bit, sniffs and then pisses on him before skulking away to sleep off the rather substantial meal he has just gorged himself on. The surviving Neanderthal, covered in animal urine, jumps up in victory. It is his genetic code of abject cowardice that will be passed down through his lineage. He keeps his old roommate’s head nearby to remind him that some mysteries are better left unsolved. Make no mistake. Curiosity is as ruthless as cancer.
*
I offer the above allegory because the head in the mailbox scared the shit out of me, and I almost felt that there could’ve been a loaded gun in it, rigged to the door, ready to blow my snooping head off. After a minute I peeked back in. There was a mirror in the far end of the mailbox. I was looking at myself. No sane Postmaster General would go near that thing.
Artists are creepy.
More Alembics to come.