Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cop Stop

Across the street, cruisers stop at what looks like an ordinary suburban domicile. It isn't.

An officer of the law approaches the front porch, steps up, turns right, and engages with an odd configuration on the door. It looks like he's undergoing a chest x-ray. He isn't.

"Recharging his batteries," says my guide. I wanted to see this, and he knows about it.

Suddenly the cop leaves off. Another one approaches. She must have priority, because she takes his place and he retreats to another machine in the shadows of oaks to the right rear.

"She's a lieutenant, on a mission," says the guide.

"Androids," I say.

"Well, yes," agrees the guide.

The lieutenant leaves and the first cop comes around the house. He is grinning, as if there has been a faux pas somewhere. At least, that's my reading. But what do I know about androids?

He pulls a long dark object from his partrol wagon. It looks like a surfboard, but isn't. He mounts the head of it, turns it sideways, and through a pedal device he begins to mount in the very air.

"Will you look at that?" I say.

My guide has stepped away for a time. The android up high, about a thousand feet by now, drops something. I see it's in the form of a bomb, a small one, like those dropped by hand in WWI film clips. I'm not afraid, because I figure, he's one of ours, after all.

The "bomb" plops against the ground. I pick it up after it stops bouncing. It's just a small finned device. I somehow understand it can be taken apart if you twist the fins. I try and do that. It's stuck, though.

Inside is water. I wonder why that is. But there is never really any explanation in dreams.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Stu and Val are upstanding members of their community, Sereno Knolls, which is situated along a golf course spotted with townhouses and behind heavy metal gates. There has been but one incident in the recent collective memory of this most pastoral playground for plutocrats - an inexplicable sabotage in the clubhouse. After a children's festival, there was found a large slice in one of the theatre seats. The cushion was hung out in front of the theatre with the sign in bold letters inscribed over it: "DID YOUR CHILD DO THIS?" It was thought guilt and embarrassment might bring a confession like in Perry Mason, but it didn't, and so eventually the sign and cushion were removed and the culprit remained uncaught and the grim business of golf was taken up once more.

An even more troubling event began when Stu and Val were featured in one month's community newspaper, Fairway Foldderol. They aren't particularly happy about it.

The story was rather innocuous, as all of the rest have been; something about crabgrass encroachment on the greens. But two commentors on the problem were gifted with hedcuts, like those in the WSJ they all calculate to leave in their carts after a round. It seems Stu's portrait was not, in his mind, particularly flattering.

The happy couple would not voice discontent, of course, for they would not want it thought they were engaged in such petty concerns. However, in a week or two, they sought discreetly to determine who had written the crabgass article, and, specifically, who had created the hedshots.

They were not successful. The publisher and editor, one individual, claimed these stories come over the transom after every Homeowners Association meeting and he does not credit them. All bylines and photos in Fairway Folderol are unattributed, for, after all, it's only a neighborhood gossip sheet.

Not being successful does not jibe with the bearing of Stu nor Val, so they stepped up their subtle campaign. Oh, really, we must know, they claimed in a letter to the editor (not for print); we want to thank the artist, as it's such a close likeness, and we feel we simply must know how we were chosen for the honor among all other humans on the planet.

The publisher/editor, being a man who recognized no irony and wasted no words, replied simply that he did not know the answer to their question.

Next came the letter from an attorney, who had not been engaged officially, but she has known Val and Stu for ever so many years and is often able to offer off-the-record advice and bring some satisfaction without any trouble to any party. She asked the original question.

And drew the identical reply - if possible, even more tersely worded.

The demand letter from the attorney came in two weeks. No answer from the Folderol.

A suit was filed in Superior Court, and the Publisher/Editor was duly served.

The news became general then. Did you hear? Val and Stu are suing about their picture in our dinky little Folderol! Have you ever heard such madness?

Val and Stu stopped playing golf, visiting or being visited by their neighbors. After all, the satarist was obviously among them, and they knew not which. Best to take no chances. They drove their limo out the gates and returned as the occasion demanded, both sitting up straight and looking neither right nor left.

Various attorneys who lived at Sereno Knolls volunteered their services to the tribe, pro bono. The case went forward. During the Interrogatory and deposition of the publisher/editor, not one further word did he offer to the demand for the identity of the artist who so cruelly caricatured Val and Stu than: "I don't know."

The case was dismissed with prejudice as a silly waste of time and resources, and Val and Stu were sanctioned to the tune of the court cost and attorney fees for causing the trouble. But even that wasn't the last straw.

While they had been able to dodge all the lampoons around the clubhouse - the faux-Folderols with ever-more-grotesque caricatures - they could not ignore the one strung a hundred feet up all around the water tower. It featured one of the more cartoonish of the modified hedshots, with the question lettered above it:


The townhouse of Val and Stu was on the market within three weeks.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tile for Tailings!

A report broadcast over a local teevee station in Santa Barbara about a posh neighborhood within that realm details dumping of tailings. Some have been mining up in the hills and the refuse from the digs is scarring the mountains.

The offenders have appeared as sorrowful and promised to do something about it. They say, we'll fix it. They set about in thoughtful poses seeming to do just that.

"I know!" says one. "We'll offer up free tile!"

Yes, that should do it. So they announce over the teevee station they will provide tile for a cross community, to atone for scarring the mountains with their tailings.

Home Depot was the designated distributor, and when they opened their doors the morning after the announcement from the forlorn fortunates up the mountains, hordes of the homeless rushed in. Where is the tile? they asked. We're here for the tile.

The platinum patricians had not sent word about screening the applicants. So the staff at Home Depot simply passed out the square sections of Navajo prints or wildwood flowers to anyone who asked.

News reports for days after would spotlight the results of the largesse of the tile tithing. Under a bridge, a grungy campsite might be festooned with sprightly design in earthtones. A square of ten feet to a side set out under a bridge. A trail through the hills would have a pattern of these decorative blocks in a clearing.

After a time, everyone forgot about the tailings in the hills, and the plush plutocrats were even able to go back to their mining with complete impunity.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sweet Belinda

One of the millions of minor bloggers out there was elevated quite suddenly in just minutes of one day.

She had appreciated a new series on one of the networks, and she said so in her web log, with a readership of twelve, not any of them attending. The program on the network featured the American ideal of the stalwart little man through expertise and tenacity overcoming the vast unholy resistance of the corporate powers. He was a small-town doctor with a degree from a non-elite school called the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine, and his practice included much of what is called alternative medicine.

The medicorps would try and run him off his country roads, and put out evil gossip about him, but the homey kept on curing cancer and raising the dead, despite the distractions. Belinda the blogger thought it a wonderful stirring call to arms for all practicioners of the ethereal arts.

After one posting which contained lots of exclamation points and caps, she noticed there were twenty, thirty comments appended. How can this be? Usually, the only comments on her site are her own. And now they continue, and are not stopping! What have the woodsprites wrought?

She was linked by a major blog with lots of corporate sponsors and also a little-known green chute to the major entertainment corporation which owned both the teevee network and many other entertainment facilities, including plenty of blogs. Our lonesome voice in the wilderness was picked up, amplified, broadcast, and she became a Name.

The cures and practices of the smalltown doctor of the teevee series began to edge up in acceptability. He would in his lab (which served also as his bathroom) concoct a tincture to homepathically treat an ailment, and all over the land the same process would occur, with many vowing to drop their unnecessary medical coverage. The polls showed more and more approval from the public of every cockamamie cult concept known. Carnegie Hall was filled for a lecture on chakra. There were executives of the med firms wondering how they were gonna keep 'em down with the pharm.

All the tribal wisdom came back. Flouridation is a communist plot meant to sap our vital fluids. Vaccinations cause autism (or autonomy; same difference). Cancer is necessary for the AMA to thrive, so it is protected in a secret lab beneath Ft Knox. There are vast colonies on the moon filled with the living dead the Pope doesn't want you to know about, because they were raised by holistic rather than holy orders.

Public funding of science in schools was reconsidered, and the NIH was decommissioned, as was the CDC. No longer was rancor reserved for the doctors who would terminate pregnancies; a more likely challenge was "Why are you sustaining cancer?" The teevee was now full of programs about plucky smalltown practitioners of the subtle arts, and news of the skyrocketing illness and death statistics were not reported, because that was just not a product the public preferred.

Sweet Belindal appeared on Oprah, and then she was given her own teevee program. Everyone was so happy that solutions turned out to be so simple. It had been so humiliating not to know so much; now there was great satisfaction in the confirmation that those who seemed to so far above everyone were frauds and mountebanks.

There was, to be sure, sadness. Not everyone was aboard the magical mystery bus. This family had sickness and death, and they kept quiet about it, for shame. That other one, too. In fact, had they not kept so quiet, they would have learned that sickness and death were pandemic in the land.

And then another blog, right out of the blue, reported that Belinda was under treatment by a physician licensed by the AMA. There was general scoffing, which subsided as medical reports were leaked by disgruntled clinical staff. The reports were headlined.

"Oh, we perceive that you are worried, and lame, and sick unto death. But, weap you when you but behold your own sorry lot? Here is your savior, marred, as you see, by her own private HMO!"

There was great anarchy unleashed in the land, with voices calling in the night. Some would decide, and others reconsider, and this one would take off for another point, from which more returned. It was the worst of times, with memory alone supplying the best.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Vladistaya Valley

We arrive outside Stalingrad. I say to my counterpart on the other side, "If you but had a place we might rest?" His eyebrows furrow.

I am a Wermacht artillery officer with my company. We don't want any trouble. We are here because we were sent, I say. I see, says Ivan. Well, there is this recently vacated boys military school.

It is a block of stalags somewhere in the Yurals. We drive there in our tracked vehicles, unpack all our gear. There is coal, and some grub. We build a fire and settle in to wait out the winter. From where we are, there isn't a cannon to be heard.

Is there a telegraph? One of my troop is an operator. Well, yes, says Ivan. We locate it, and I begin dictating battle reports.

It is bitter cold, and hard slogging in the mountains. The snow falls and the tracks freeze, and you cannot cross over the bodies in the hard rain.

Two words crackle back. How many? I carefully report, too many to count. We cannot tell the corpses from other berms and won't know until the thaw. We are holding on for the Fatherland. The operator cackles at this.

The Vladistaya Valley is a narrow gorge between rivers I'm told will be running swift with trout come spring. The sun is trapped between the ridges and it is very warm early and long for this climate. It must be held at all costs. It's far superior to Berchesgarten.

Ivan looks quizically at me sometimes, but he doesn't interfere. We are far less trouble than most Germans.

In the Vladistaya, there is a wealth of wheat and even fruit trees in summer. It is superior to the Yukraine. It is so prized that Stalin does not allow it onto any maps. The local citizens trust us now. They bring us eggs and milk. It is a tribute to the Hitler Youth we are so diplomatically successful. There is chocolate for our coffeee some mornings.

As the hard winter grows toward its end, Ivan says., well, now, you must know, there is no such place as the Vladistaya Valley.

And I say, no, of course not, and we're never leaving it neither.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Conflicts, with Roses

I go to the office late for something I've forgotten. There is a seedy type with mock dressup costume, like a tweed coat over blue jeans. He has a pitiful ancient revovler he threatens me with in a dark hallway. I'm somehow not intimidated. He doesn't look that ominous.

You're one of them, he sputters. One of his tormenters. I just waft around a corner into the office, leaving him out in the hall. I hear a click, then two. I reach around the door and with surprising ease cease his weapon.

Now I leave. I must report the revolver. Here, I'll take out the shells. Now who to report to? The crossing guard? No, better ... there's one. I say, I have this pistol here. I took it from one who meant harm. He's still at large.

Now it is very late and I'm at headquarters. So, someone accosted you and you just took his weapon, just like that?

Yep, that's exactly what happened. Strange, ey?

Boy, I'll say.

Eventually they give up asking the same questions. Now it's very late. I must call my Lady. It's after 1:00 AM. I try and call home, and for some reason cannot. I drive very fast along Highway 9, and turn back around Glen Lomond and run through a small garden near a fence and am inside the yard of a wooded plot before I can turn around. When I do, I start for the gate again, but one who is slowly walking towards it unleashes a greyhound.

I am on a motorbike now, and the hound is right beside me. Then the gate is closed, and I'm back in the main house with all the family, and they are all moaning like for a lost relative over their smashed roses. Look, I'll pay, I have to go home. My Lady is waiting.

They try and place over my chest some sort of sign like a horse collar, and another on a family member. They want to take a picture, for proof or something. I've had enough. I rise up. I'm going. One uncle makes to stop me, but he's not very effective. This is a story of blustery weaklings.

I leave, and walk, because I've forgotten where I've left my auto. I don't even have the keys in my pocket. I walk, and the road leads off away from the highway, and I'm now inside a complex that looks like some huge government building. Out of a crowd leaving the offices is my Lady! Our sons are walking before her, in costume, like for halloween in the old days. They're like little lions from Thrifty's.

I am so glad to see them. But what are they doing here? They were here to report my absence?

Maybe I'll find out tonight...

The Usual, the Extraordinary, the Never

Okay, she says, I'm on it. She jumps in her Chevy and she starts her ride. Out to Hatley Field, which is now the Landing Site.

Some weird schlub had hooked weather balloons to his lawn chair in Vidalia, Wisconsin, and gone up, up, and away, all the way to New Hope, Vermont, where she was the ace reporter on the only daily in the county. She thought, as she drove, there are in all matters only the Usual, the Extraordinary, and the Never. She said, I'll come up with a never question, one which will reveal the character and desperation and earnest childlike dash of this daredevil.

It may've been so. But when she arrived on location, she found the flyer had been all wrapped up by the big city news centers for exclusives, during which he shrugged and replied with dull responses to rhetorical questions. It happens like that, she thought on her way back to the paper to draw down her article from the wire services. Maybe that's why I call it Never. In New Hope, Vermont.