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…

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