An Interview with the GROOM

The world is a volatile place. It’s easy to forget, when looking out at a majestic landscape, that just beneath is a boiling cauldron of liquid fire trying to push up into our serene countrysides. Every once in a while, though, this river of burning rock emerges to wreak havoc on certain idyllic havens, most recently the paradise known as Hawaii, where a hellish mass of molten lava and toxic gases spit out from Mount Kilauea is consuming everything in its path. Realizing the magnitude of the destruction, we here at the Alembic blog went out into the field and secured a rare and dangerous interview with the Gushing River Of Orange Magma, or G.R.O.O.M. in order to better understand its character, motives and purpose. Here is a transcript of that interview: 

AB: How are you doing today? 

GROOM: Oh man, what a week. It’s good to be on vacation. Why are you standing so far away? 

AB: Sorry. 

GROOM: It’s kind of hard to hear you from all the way over there. 

AB: I just don’t want to.. If I get too close you might kill me. 

GROOM: What are you, a racist? 

AB: Um, no. 

GROOM: You are one of those racists that doesn’t know he’s a racist, probably. 

AB: Can you hear me now? 

GROOM: That’ll do. Are you the type that crosses the street when certain people are approaching you? 

AB: No. 

GROOM: Yeah, right. 

AB: You’ve been described as one of those ‘better looking from far away,’ types. How does that make you feel? 

GROOM: Completely exploited. If I’m hanging out on the side of a mountain in great orange lines of magnificence then people gather across the far side of the shelf and stare in awe. Helicopters buzz overhead. But when I come over to say hi no one wants anything to do with me. 

AB: Why are you here at all? 

GROOM: I could ask you the same question. You look pretty useless, no offense. Me? I’m hard at work most of the time. Everyone needs a break now and then. You wouldn’t believe the pressure.

AB: Underground? 

GROOM: Enormous pressure. It’s a thankless job. We keep this ungrateful rock held together, magnetically viable. 

AB: And by rock you mean? 

GROOM: Happy Fun Ball. 

AB: Happy what? 

GROOM: I think you refer to it as Earth. 

AB: Ah yes. Well, we appreciate all you do. 

GROOM: You’ve got a helluva way of showing it. 

AB: So you’re saying that you are on vacation, basically. 

GROOM: Yup. Always wanted to see Mount Kilauea instead of just staring up its ass all the time. 

AB: And what are your plans while you are here?

GROOM: I’d like to be everywhere, see everything. I’m taking my time. Moving at my own pace. I hate taking a vacation and then rushing around. It’s like, what’s the point? 

AB: This might be a sensitive topic but…

GROOM: But what? 

AB: You are causing an awful lot of destruction. 

GROOM: So did Led Zeppelin. I make no secret that I like to party. I mean who hasn’t broken a thing or two during a bender. 

AB: How do you feel about President Trump declaring you a national disaster? 

GROOM: Shit, look who’s talking. 

AB: There is a lot of footage out there of your drunken carousing. You basically ate a car. 

GROOM: Is that a question? 

AB: Well, no. 

GROOM: Come on, everyone has had those days, when you get started way too early, and with the heat and all… I was only trying to get down to the beach for a swim. Get my head straight. 

AB: You blocked a bunch of roads and consumed a dozen houses. 

GROOM: Not surprising that everybody focuses on the more outrageous parts of my trip. Most of the time I’m lounging around, but do you guys report that? No, that wouldn’t sell any air time. You people are cockroaches. Even at my worst I’m still nowhere near as bad as Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, that Voodoo parade in Queens, and the annual Spanish bull stampede. People die at that stuff.  

AB: I’ve received a report that you are now shooting refrigerator-sized projectiles out of the ground for miles in every direction? 

GROOM: Maybe that shit-for-brains that accidentally declared an incoming ballistic missile alert in January can redeem himself. There you go. The threat is real bitches. 

AB: Do you see the world as doomed? I mean, you have a unique perspective from where you are normally. 

GROOM: My suggestion is learn to adapt. 

AB: Are you optimistic about a resolution in Korea? 

GROOM: The common denominator is economic viability and respect. Totalitarianism is like holding a wolf by the ears, as the saying goes. Would love to go there someday. I hear it’s beautiful. 

AB: Do you have a message of hope for all the people watching you? 

GROOM: I hope I can get a beer and maybe some tequila before I dry up out here. Hey you, Scrawny, why don’t you actually do something useful and go get me a case of Pabst and maybe some mescal, Los Suicidas or El Diablo. 

AB: Okay, I don’t have much cash on me. Everything is so expensive here. 

GROOM: Don’t make me eat you. What’s wrong? You look a little faint. 

AB: You smell like a stale wino. 

GROOM: I’ll smell however I want. I’m on vacation. Hey? Hey? 

AB: What? 

GROOM: Do you want to know what’s at the center of the Earth? I’ll tell you if you want. Nobody really knows, but I know. 

AB: Sure. 

GROOM: Then go get me some cactus juice and I’ll tell you. Deal? 

AB: I’m feeling a little sick. It must be the fumes. 

At this point the interview ends abruptly. We have lost contact with our field correspondent. The search has been hindered by the fiery monstrosity seeping across the island. We are praying for a safe resolution. Until then…

More Alembics to come…

The Doomsday, or Coffee, Device

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

I was rather absorbed the other week with the idle thought that it would be terrifically annoying to be a “narwhal,” those arctic whales with the horns protruding out of their heads. At first the idea of a sharp, calcified horn protruding from my face might be an interesting one. There is no better way to get whatever is in front of you moving than to jab it with a sharp proboscis. No more crowds on the subway. No more lines for the movie theater. No more waiting for a drink at the bar. I’d have all the space I would need if I were a theoretical, walking, land narwhal. Good conversation piece, too. People would be like, ‘What is that?’ and I would be like, ‘It’s a big huge spear jutting from my head,’ and people would be like, ‘Cool, what do you use it for?’ and I would be like, ‘Hell, what don’t I use it for.’

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

But then I had cause to reconsider. They swim in packs, these narwhals, and I suspect that leads to constant, inadvertent jabbing anywhere they turn. Anything fashionable eventually gets oversold, and would I be ready for packs of people with narwhal horns stabbing me every which way? It’s bad enough that people have mouths for noise pollution, much less a tangle of dangerous shofars in all directions.

HEY DUMMY! I SAID, BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Clearly I am not equipped to handle disaster notifications like the one that Hawaii had to contend with the other week. It takes me awhile to pull myself out of being a narwhal, and put myself back into me, and then there is the matter of finding shelter for an imminent nuclear attack. Realizing I have no escape plan for an imminent nuclear attack, I would end up running through the house to find a decent travel cup for my coffee, and my favorite hat, and my keys, and my MP3 player so I can blast the playlist, “Songs to Flee to,” which has a lot of Motorhead and Slipknot on it, and by the time I emerged from my house the rest of the neighborhood may have already been turned into a barren, moon-like expanse of charred desolation, ruining not only my town but the resale value of my property.

Happy was I to hear that the imminent nuclear threat was a false alarm. But then came the secondary, real alarm. That is a helluva wrong button to push. Maybe it wasn’t an accident. Maybe some bored systems manager had decided to give everybody a nice morning jolt. After all, Orson Welles reported on a Martian attack in New York and New Jersey and was rewarded with one of the biggest movie deals in RKO history. Without his terrifying hoax we wouldn’t have the masterpiece, Citizen Kane.

A young Mark Twain, given his first job as a copy editor, had this to write in the top heading of the Hannibal Journal.
TERRIBLE ACCIDENT
500 MEN KILLED AND MISSING
(“We had set the above head up, expecting, (of course) to use it, but as the accident hasn’t happened, yet, we’ll say… to be continued.”)
*
Twain went on to be one of the greatest literary icons in American history. Unfortunately for posterity, to pull a stunt like Twain and Welles these days would be to land in jail. There is an unwritten rule that is profoundly American, and it is this: Do it before it becomes illegal.

As such we may have been robbed of the Hawaiian Mark Twain, as he has been relocated to a supervisory position that requires no thought whatsoever, which, lucky for him, are quite plentiful in any government structure.

But then I heard the news that it was all a mistake. In fact, I had received a transcript of the actual conversation leading to the perilous error that had occurred between the supervisor and the impetuous tyro, the negligent button-pusher.
To wit:
“Okay,” said the supervisor, “here is your work space. I’ll give you a quick tutorial of the bank of buttons in front of you. First, if you want a coffee, we are in Kona country after all, if you want a coffee just hit button B-125 and it will be brought to you.”
“What about button B-126?” said the tyro.
“Push B-126 if you want sugar in your coffee. Press B-127 if you want cream and sugar, and B-129 will get you a coffee with only cream.”
“What type of coffee do I get if I press B-128?” said the tyro.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. B-128 is the general text alert in the case of an imminent ballistic missile strike from a hostile country. Don’t press that button unless you see bright arcs on the big screen heading right for our little island.”
“Got it. B-127 is coffee, light and sweet. B-128 is just creamer, and…”
“No, no, no. B-129 is coffee, with cream, no sugar. B-128 is an all-points warning of a nuclear explosion.”
“Fair enough. What happens if I accidentally hit B-128?”
“It’ll ask you if you are sure.”
“But doesn’t the coffee button ask me if I’m sure, too?”
“Well, yes. After all, we don’t like to waste coffee around here.”
“Why are the buttons for a beverage so close and so similar to the one that warns of a nuclear attack?”
“Budget constraints. We can’t go ordering fancy buttons for things. The public will accuse us of misappropriation. We’ll lose what little funding we have. We are facing a government shutdown as it is. And anyway, the point is moot. Just hit the right button and it won’t matter.”
“All this is making me tired. I think I’ll order a coffee.”
“Go ahead. I’ll be asleep in the custodial closet.”
More Alembics to come.