The Gnarled and Gnarly Cult King of Cool

Kooky myself, sometimes I attract the kooks. In a way, I attract my own kind. Anyhow, I was minding my own business the other day at the local coffee shop, gearing up to write an essay about “Fatberg,” the enormous pile of garbage that is clogging up the London sewer system, when I felt a woman staring at me for an uncomfortable amount of time. I am not an overtly handsome man. I am somewhat nondescript, and because of that there is no reason for a stranger to regard me for any longer than they would a chair, or a countertop. True, she could’ve been mistaking me for somebody else, a desperate criminal on the run from the law, with a hefty reward for a tip leading to the apprehension of, and she the good samaritan who IDs the perp. Going back to my essay, I awaited the arrival of the federal marshals.

Eventually she approached my table and asked me if I liked pears.
“Sure,” I said, without thinking. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a pear. When she had posed the question, though, my first thought was that I wasn’t openly against pears for any particular reason. We coexisted in harmony, pears and I, and so I hesitated to express an outright dislike for pears. I had sampled them from time to time. I wasn’t allergic as far as I knew. They didn’t taste like much either way, and in general terms I was trying to avoid use of the word ‘hate.’ We hate too hastily and recklessly these days, and I felt that serenity started with mindfulness of eloquence. Plus I would’ve been very offended if, theoretically, someone had asked a pear what it thought of Mark “Paddy the Duke” Hull and it had said, “You know what, fuck that guy!”

The woman went back to her table and returned moments later, with what looked like a misshapen potato wrapped in a napkin. I stared, not wanting to touch it.
“Here,” she said. “This is a pear from my garden.”
“Oh,” I said. “I thought you meant do I like pairs. Like things that come in twos. It is my favorite method of travel. Um. In pairs.”
An odd silence ensued. Neither one of us believed me. Now she was hurt, saddened, offended, the rejection of her pear being a rejection, on some level, of her. I took the piece of fruit from her and placed it on the table, hoping that would satisfy her. She explained that they were special pears, totally organic, ten times as juicy, what a real pear should taste like.

I nodded, deciding, at that moment, that the pear was poisonous. The woman was trying to kill me. I was certain of it. She went back to her table. I got up and got a knife from the counter, returned to my seat and began slicing up the pear, in order to show some interest in the thing. Like a child who moves his food around on his plate in order to make it look like he has eaten some of it, I thought if I cut it up enough it would be the same as eating it. Moreover, now I was armed with a weapon. I put the knife down next to the sliced up pear and started writing my essay, trying to forget about the interaction. Of course, I couldn’t. Now I was writing about this strange woman trying to kill me with a pear. At least I was writing something. Lost in the “event horizon” of my own creative process, where gravity stretches me in strange ways, I was bounced back to reality by the woman, standing in front of me, asking me how I liked the pear?

This is a trick question! If I lie and say that I thought the pear was delicious, she would know that I was lying because the pear was highly poisonous. The only true answer would be my limp corpse stretched out on the table. Instead, I stood up and announced to the coffee shop, “Ladies and Gentlemen, for the record, and bearing witness, I want you all to know that I am about to eat a slice of a pear given to me, UNSOLICITED, by this mysterious woman standing in front of me!”
I took a wafer slice of the fruit and popped it into my mouth. I sat back down. It was very tasty. It warranted another slice.

“Excellent,” I nodded to the woman, “that is quite a juicy pear you’ve got.” I replayed that statement in my head and blushed a little, considering that, taken another way, it could’ve been construed as sexual harassment.
“I thought maybe we could swap,” she said.
“Swap what?”
“My husband is a huge fan of Harry Dean Stanton, the actor,” she said. “I thought maybe there was some way I could convince you to bargain for the tee shirt. The pear was my opening gambit.”

I looked down. I forgot I was wearing it. It was an old concert tee-shirt from a club tour that Harry Dean Stanton had done in the late 80’s with the group The Call. Here is a picture:


Here is the back:


“I’m sorry,” I said. “It is not for sale. This shirt has extreme sentimental value.”
“He died the other day,” she said.
I hadn’t heard. Crushed, I shuffled back to my house. Eventually I found out it was true. He was ninety-one years old. Not bad for a tequila drinking doper, and one of the best actors of his generation. I put in the old film “Repo Man” and watched Mr. Stanton explain the life of the repo man to a young Emilio Estevez.
“An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. Repo man spends his life getting INTO tense situations!”
Ad Astra Via Ingenium, my friend.
More Alembics to come.

The Electric Spermbot

I admit this is getting ridiculous. What will hence be known as my “Electric Trilogy” (See The Electric Monk, September 23rd and The Electric Caterpillar, October 1st) has arrived for its third installment in a way so absurd that I hesitate to elaborate on it. Even David Lynch, the famous cult director, would say, “Too weird, man.” Jean Arp, the father of the Dada art movement, would say, “Nein!” And Cecil Taylor, the freeform jazz pioneer, would simply slam his hands onto his piano in order to drown out the foolishness.

The worlds of micro-science and nanotechnology have outdone themselves this time. German engineers, which for some reason is fitting, are putting tiny motors on the tails of sperm cells to boost their swimming power in an effort to help with conception. I’m not sure what your definition of sloth is, but when your sperm cell needs an outboard engine to fertilize, you know you’ve crossed a barrier of laziness so profound that there is no hope for redemption.

The modern world moves fast. It doesn’t slow down for anyone. It is dangerous. There is hazard everywhere. It requires energy, stamina, perseverance. Thus the first big elimination trial, that is human fertilization, is critical to the individual’s future success. If science starts to rig that competition there is no telling what the consequences will be. Imagine walking down the street and seeing a well-dressed man stretched out on the sidewalk, completely inert, and having him call out in a lofty British accent, “Excuse me, but would somebody be so kind as to lift me up, carry me down to the coffee shop, purchase a double espresso and pour it into my mouth. You see, I’m feeling quite logy today, and I’ve never been effectively prompted to perform these tasks myself. Anyone. Anyone.”

It would be obvious from the cut of the man’s fine Italian suit and his articulation that his family was wealthy enough to purchase a tiny motor for his gamete’s wonky flagellum, and ever since then he would conduct himself like a human jellyfish, just riding the tide. He would be one more thing to trip over. One more thing to avoid. His contributions would be minimal, at best.

I was a breach birth, myself. My mother has often chided me, saying, “Even from the start, you never had to do any work. They cut me open and lifted you out and you’ve been lazy ever since.”

“Well fine,” I would defend. “I’ll have you know, though, about nine months before I was lifted out of the womb I competed in a nasty little swimming race with a hundred million other contestants and I won. So take that.”

My argument would fall short, though, were I to learn that my “swimming race” was bought, that I had an unfair advantage, that I cheated, that I didn’t deserve to win. It is undignified. It is embarrassing. It would be as uncomfortable as watching that hunchbacked freak John DuPont pinning other, better wrestlers who were bribed to let the billionaire win. DuPont was not better off for these farces. Some might say it actually made his delusions of grandeur even worse. The DuPonts are the kind of family that could equip every gamete with a big hemi engine, and a generation of slugs would result.

Lucky for the rest of us, early spermbot trials seem to be failing. Apparently one scientist attached a motor with way too much horsepower to a test sperm and it shot through the egg, the fallopian tube, out the back of the woman, through the wall, into the neighbor’s house and somehow impregnated the family cat. Back to the drawing board, as they say.

Once again I have been snubbed for the Nobel Prize. I’ll take any one. I’m not picky. Physics. Literature. Dancing. Juggling. Congeniality. Whatever else they give them for, I don’t care. I’ve decided to go abstract for next year’s awards ceremony. It seems the trick is to be engaged in experiments that nobody else really understands, and so I’ve been tinkering in matters so arcane that I am baffled by them, and by the end of the day my results are so nonsensical and random that even the great mathematician David Hilbert, if he were alive, would be scratching his head and trotting off to the saloon to count his toes, pinch the behinds of the barmaids, and build some weird theory about the relationship of it all.

Superconductivity, which, because of the name, I assume is better than regular conductivity, may be the future of my studies. It has to do with matter in certain extreme states that offers no resistance. Because I needed some funding for my project I tried to contact Bill Cosby, whom I heard has shown great interest in substances that offer no resistance, but his legal team has threatened serious action if I persist in my requests.   

The physicist winners this year are molecular topographers. Their big discovery is the theory that, “There is no such thing as half a hole. Holes exist singularly, as integers.” I’m pretty sure I could’ve come up with that one myself. For now I will toil in anonymity. I will go blind with simple contradictions like, “I am unprovable.” If the statement is wrong then my logic is inconsistent, if the statement is true I don’t actually exist. Or my favorite paradox of all time: This sentence is false.

The title of my autobiography.

More Alembics to come