Sylvia Plath’s Gangsta Rap Legacy

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Mack Daddy.

Mack Daddy you do not do.

Hootie hoo.

Every woman adores a playa’.

The crow casts his judgmental shadow

over my bootielisciousness

but you confess no less than this,

ghastly ghetto goo goo God.

I shall hit them with the hee,

by which I mean the inevitable decline

over time of my reflection in your chrome low rider,

hitting the cider like a rotting oak,

but not enough to cloak your disdain for me,

Mack Daddy,

Ach. Ach. Du.

Du hast mich.

In this picture I have of you,

the gold chains weigh you down

more than your confessions of contempt.

Come, tempt me with your fistfuls of dolla bills;

I have already swallowed the pills of your neglect,

and they taste like forty ounces of freedom

in the well of regret.

Dying is an art,

like everything else,

I do it, yeah do it,

do it until you can’t take it no more.

Sometimes I like to shake my moneymaker,

sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I prefer to be all up in your stuff,

sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I like to cradle a razor blade like a

forgotten daughter,

sometimes I’d rather not.

I’m off the hook

because I’ve hung myself with the distance

between our voices.

Ash, ash…you talkin’ trash?

Don’t make me represent

what a vengeful God has sent

to accuse me of existence.

My penance is your weak-ass game.

You shall never tame me, Mack Daddy;

the calligraphy of scars across my heart

is fashioned from the grooves

I spin on the ones and the twos.

The pain in my soul, I bought it.

The burden in my womb, I bought it.

So throw your hands up at me,

and I will trace the lineage of your sins

spread across your palms like new veins,

diggity dig my grave with your breakfast spoon.

You know why I am Supa dupa fly, too,

but Mack Daddy you will not do, you will not

ever come close to gettin all my lovin’,

Mack Daddy, if you can’t stand the heat …

then get yo’ head out of the oven.

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Horatio Alger Redux

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I came from humble beginnings — a hardscrabble, small town in Midwestern America. We called it home. Others called it Humble Beginnings, Colorado. Whatever the name, I knew one thing: the place was hardscrabble, that much was true. It was a hard town to work your way up and out of, one of those places where generations seem to always work for the family business. It was a great town. But I wanted out.

At age 16, I quit high school. A voice inside my head told me to go to work at the local 7-11. I did. The voice inside my head also told me that I was thirsty, and that I should look around my home for beverages which I could drink. I did that, too. And five years and many Gatorades later, I was still manning the graveyard shift sipping a Grape Fierce with $35 in the bank. A success by most standards. But I knew there was more in life for me.

One late winter night in 1977, I punched in my customer’s order — two Slim Jims, a pack of Marlboros, and two tallboys of Bud. The cash register read $7.77. I took that as a sign and the next day I quit the 7-11. I emptied my bank account, bought a bus ticket, and headed for Chicago. Something told me my fortune was waiting for me on the shores of Lake Michigan. I rode that lonely bus all night, preaching to the night riders beside me about proper electrolyte replacement.

Chicago presented a wealth of opportunities. It was just a question of choosing the right one. Would it be the eager software company, the faceless pharmaceutical giant, or the lamp repair store?

The choice was obvious. I went to work for the retail store. Something told me that lamp repair was going to be big and I wanted to ride along the crazy wave. Well, three years later, I was working the day shift and had $100 in the bank. I was clearly on my way.

Then, suddenly, a light bulb shattered somewhere and it was 1980 with the recession looming. I lost my lamp repair job, as penny pinchers switched back to track lighting with dimmer switches. For some, that would have been a disaster. For me, it spelled opportunity.

I picked three letters at random from my Scrabble game and came up with N, Y and C. Another sign! It couldn’t have been clearer: My destiny awaited me at Yazoo, North Carolina.

Clearing my bank account of its $250, I took a Greyhound to Raleigh and then hitchhiked to Yazoo. When I waved the aging trucker with the now Berry-Blue tongue goodbye, I saw the rusting sign calling out “Welcome to Yazoo”. I had arrived.

As luck would have it, the local gas station needed a reliable, non-dehydrated pump jockey. I applied and was immediately accepted. My past life experience had paid off. Unfortunately, Yazoo was a competitive town and the gas station was the toughest of the tough. But I persevered and ten years later I was head night shift attendant with $500 in the bank.

I was happy in Yazoo. Life was good. I had a dim room above the garage and gold-plated job security. I was living an American’s dream. But it felt too easy. Surely there was more. So when the customer with the out-of-state plates asked me to “Fill ‘er up, and go heavy on the lead” and the total came to $11.11, I knew it was time to move on and grab that brass ring.

I pulled my three lucky Scrabble letters from my plaid pocket and tossed them on the snack counter. Up came C, N, and Y. I was either an S short of a Woodstock reunion or I was headed to Canton, New York.

I took my savings, purchased a second hand Ford Pinto and started driving north. Three days, two accidents, and one ruptured gas tank later, I arrived in Canton.

With a population of only 5,000, it was clear that there were enormous opportunities in Canton. I couldn’t wait to ride this nascent engine of growth all the way to the top.

The sign in the Dew Drop Inn window said “Clerk Needed, Is it You?” C, N and Y. It was literally and metaphorically a sign. I pulled it from the window and marched confidently to the front desk. And that’s how I became the night clerk at the Dew Drop Inn.

The years flew by and I found myself as nighttime manager of the inn. Plus I had the undreamed of amount of $2,000 in the bank.

I should have been content. But I wasn’t. I knew there had to be more. So when a lit cigarette fell from my mouth onto some bed sheets and the Dew Drop Inn went up in flames and I was fired and threatened with a lawsuit, I took that as a sign to move on.

I tossed the Scrabble letters once more and up came N, Y and C. Maybe it was time to try the Big Apple, the home of America’s dreams: North York, Connecticut.

So I cashed in my chips, bought a ten-year old Yugo and headed southeast. Go southeast, middle-aged man. Follow that dream.

And ten miles outside of Schenectady, I ran headlong into my dream — a 1999 Mercedes driven by a successful upstate neurosurgeon on the wrong side of the road. My car was totaled, I was hospitalized for ten months and it was unclear if I’d ever sip another Fruit Punch Gatorade again. But I felt like I had made it.

And I had. Even with the contingency fee arrangement, the final settlement netted me $7 million. Just enough to buy a mansion in North York, a new Beemer, and a swimming pool full of Cherry Ice.

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The Archery Contest

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It was the morning of the big archery contest. Today was the day that the lovely Princess Anastasia was to pick a husband. Was it to be the handsome and noble Sir Eric, or the not so handsome or noble Sir Gaylord? Sir Eric was just as curious as everyone else to know the answer. He took court with the young princess to inquire.

SIR ERIC: Princess Anastasia, do you find me attractive?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Yes.

SIR ERIC: Do you find me to be kind, generous and an all-around caring soul?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Yes. I’d agree with that.

SIR ERIC: Do I have enough power and prestige for you?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Yes.

SIR ERIC: Do you think that I own enough land?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Oh, you certainly own enough land.

SIR ERIC: So would you say that I was the ideal candidate to be your husband?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Well, we’ll find that out this afternoon, won’t we?

SIR ERIC: You mean the archery contest?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Yes, of course I mean the archery contest.

SIR ERIC: I was meaning to talk to you about that. Do you really think that an archery contest is the best way to pick a husband?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Of course it is. The ladies in my family have been selecting husbands like this for many generations. And I think they know what they’re doing. If you really want to be my husband, all you have to do is beat Sir Gaylord at the contest this afternoon.

SIR ERIC: You see, that might be a problem.

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: If your love is true, your arrows will fly straight.

SIR ERIC: That’s a pretty thing to say, but the truth is I’m a terrible archer. I’m the best suitor in every other category and if I could convince you to give me your hand in marriage and make me the luckiest nobleman to ever walk this fine green earth, I assure you that I have many many men under me that are more than competent with a bow and arrow. But if you make me go up against Sir Gaylord, I will surely lose.

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: For amusement’s sake, let’s say I called off the archery contest. How would you propose I pick a suitor? Have you joust? Have you walk over hot coals? This is the Middle Ages; we’re a little more civilized than that nowadays.

SIR ERIC: You want to know how you should pick a husband? Love. That’s how. Why don’t you let your heart decide?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Do you know how ridiculous you sound?

SIR ERIC: Your Highness, please…

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: If you want me, don’t you think you should be practicing archery instead of babbling on insanely about love? If you ever want to beat Sir Gaylord…

SIR ERIC: You know he’s not really a knight, don’t you? You know that Sir is just his first name. You know that he’s just a petty thief who’s completely out of shape and lives in a grass hut with his pig. Don’t you?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: I’m aware of all of these things. But if his love is true and his arrows shoot straight, then who am I to argue with the universe?

SIR ERIC: What if his arrows shoot straight only because he’s an accomplished archer and not necessarily in love with you?

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: I trust the arrows.

SIR ERIC: I don’t want to be slanderous, Your Highness, but I hear that he’s gay.

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: Sir Eric, this is the Middle Ages. Gay just means happy.

Enter Sir Gaylord. A robust man in pink tights that are entirely too pink and too tight.

SIR GAYLORD: Hi, Your Highness. What’s your stable boy’s name? ‘Cause I just want to call him Sir Hot-Buns.

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: His name’s Bernard.

SIR GAYLORD: I figure with all his experience with horses, he must really know how to ride. Anywho, Your Highness, about the archery contest this afternoon, I sort of have this parade I want to swing by…

Sir Eric is shooing off a very large bee.

SIR ERIC: These damn bees!

SIR GAYLORD: Oh I’ll get that.

Sir Gaylord pulls an arrow from his quiver and drops his bow off his shoulder and in one fluid motion shoots the bee in midair. The bee falls dead. Princess Anastasia’s eyes light up.

PRINCESS ANASTASIA: I think I know a Gaylord who’s going to win an archery contest.

SIR GAYLORD: I hope you have a brother.

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The Execution Of Private Spot

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grampsoldster@hotmail.com

Few cases in the history of military punishment have aroused as much controversy as the execution of Private Spot, the only dog ever shot for treason in time of war. The debate still rages half a century later, and the only point of agreement is that in this case man’s best friend was his own worst enemy.

Spot was the only puppy of poor Dalmatian immigrants. His father, a sailor, ran off with a French poodle while Spot was still on the nipple. His mother abandoned him soon after, leaving on a one-way ticket to Hollywood to try to break into the glamorous world of pet food commercials. Alone and with nary a bone to his name, Spot joined the US Army Canine Corps when he was barely old enough to walk without a leash.

The Army became more than just another doghouse — it was his whole life. It not only fed and groomed the callow cur; it also de-wormed him, removed his ticks and gave him a flea collar to call his own. The Army was there to pet and to scold him, to occasionally rub his tummy, to give him a sense of purpose. Whenever Spot piddled, the Army stepped right in, and it was tough Army discipline that finally housebroke him. Under its firm care he grew to a tremendous size, sitting four feet tall and weighing 250 pounds in his stockinged feet.

Spot tried to be a good dog. He learned to sit, beg, roll over and play dead in record time. In advanced training he soon mastered the fine arts of pointing, fetching and — in due course — killing. But his traumatic puppyhood had left him with a sharp temper. Woe betide the comrade who playfully pulled his tail or called him “Spotty”: Spot was inclined to disembowel those who teased him. Though he always gave the corpses neat, regulation burials, it was still bad for morale. He was reprimanded time and again, to no avail: the more they called him a very bad dog the more he believed it, until Spot would actually wag his tail at the approach of his Master Sergeant bearing the rolled-up copy of Stars and Stripes.

He began to seek bigger game and, like so many dogs, he found what he sought. When war broke out in Korea, his was one of the first units sent overseas. There he seemed to be in his element: He was always first to advance and last to retreat, and whenever there was a dangerous job to be done it was Spot who raised a bedraggled paw to volunteer. He won a Silver Star for gallantry and — his greatest pride — a liver-flavored doggie treat for obedience. General MacArthur himself once walked him around the block, even sharing the same tree. And yet, behind the cheerful façade of gore and slaughter, all was not well. Unbeknownst to his fellows, Spot was becoming dangerously unstable.

Perhaps it started when his best friend was captured and eaten by the North Koreans, or else the time half his platoon was run over while chasing a tank. Or was it the day his tail was shot off by an enemy sniper? It was only a light wound but he took a lot of kidding about it, at least until he buried his fangs in the neck of the chief kidder. The Army fixed him up with a prosthetic tail, but Spot never really felt like a whole dog again.

Then there were the enemy propaganda tactics. Every day leaflets were dropped on the tired, hungry hounds, claiming that just over the communist side of the lines were all the treats a dog could dream of, and promising unlimited use of exotic chew toys for those who surrendered. Every night Madame Poochee, the Peking Pekinese, tormented them with her fiendishly personalized broadcasts. “Hello, dog soldiers,” she would whisper sexily. “This message is for all of you across No Beast’s Land, but especially for Duke, Rover, Spot and the other brave boys of Company B. It’s so, so sad that you must lie out there in the cold, cold mud, when you could be warm and cozy with Madame Poochee. Why waste your lives for all the fat, lazy ones at home? Does your sweetheart even think of you? Whose bone is she chewing tonight?”

“The bitch! The bitch!” Spot would mutter. In time he might well have cracked under the strain, but events soon took a dramatic turn for Private Spot. During a surprise enemy attack he was cut off from his unit, and was last seen atop a pile of North Korean soldiers, madly tearing off the exposed limbs of the foes who swarmed about him like ants. Presumed dead, the courageous canine was awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor; and his story would end there were it not for one last trick that fate had to teach.

One day a great bald beast wandered into the American lines. It limped along on three legs and a prayer, had a mad gleam in its good eye, and carried a half-splintered wooden stick in its bloody maw. Close examination revealed it to be a dog, and the dog tags told the rest: It was Private Spot. Diseased and delirious, Spot was unable to respond to the joyful yaps of his comrades for some time. When he did it was to denounce them as “enemies of the pooch proletariat” or other snippets of communist dogma. He was soon found to be carrying pictures of Chairman Mao and an autographed copy of the Little Red Book, not to mention fleas.

Every cur has his breaking point, and Spot had reached his in a prison cell in Manchuria. Captured by the North Koreans then handed over to their Chinese masters, he was tortured daily, and twice on Sundays. Though their methods were known to be barbarous, the full extent of the Communists’ depravity was not grasped until his comrades realized that Spot’s woof was two octaves higher than before. When he finally cracked he was made to sign statements condemning capitalism, the New York Yankees, mom, apple pie and flea collars. As if this were not enough, he was then subjected to a final indignity: the Chinese threw a stick and told him to fetch and return it to his own countrymen and face their ridicule and the inevitable punishment that awaited him at home.

At the court-martial, the defense doggedly tried to prove Spot innocent by reason of insanity. They showed that he had been so systematically brainwashed that he would only eat fish and rice, calling everything else “the decadent bourgeois fodder of the capitalist running-dog lackeys.” They also pointed to the recurring nightmare in which he sang a duet with Margaret Truman as evidence that he was no longer a sane animal. All through the hearings Spot refused to defend himself and instead simply drooled quietly or, now and then, snapped at some phantom in the air. Nobody was surprised when a verdict of “guilty” was returned.

As dawn broke the next morning, Spot was carried out to the firing squad, being too weak to walk. But whereas another dog might have begged or whimpered, Spot maintained his proud bearing to the bitter end. Refusing the chaplain’s blessing and a final doggie treat, he managed to sit rigidly at attention as the firing squad took aim. His prosthetic tail wagged almost imperceptibly. Just as the volley was fired, he gave one last salute with his good right paw. Then, for the last time, Spot rolled over.

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In The Clouds

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“I wandered lonely as a cloud,” wrote Wordsworth, but as usual he was probably just reaching for the nearest rhyme. There is small reason to suspect that clouds get lonely, for they are hardly ever alone. If anything the average cloud is, like most of us, hurting for a little privacy — a quiet space where he can concentrate on personal growth, perfect his racquetball serve, learn to stop saying “yes” when he means “go to hell,” and work on that hard-hitting novel about the nasty but wacky inner world of advertising.

“Where do all these clouds come from?” you ask (not out loud, I hope, or people will shy away from you and you’ll be lonelier than any cloud ever was). A scientist will tell you clouds are merely water vapor suspended in the atmosphere. He will tell you that, and then look away in embarrassment, knowing he has told you nothing. He wishes to God he knew something about clouds, but he’s too busy tickling white rats with electrodes to find out anything.

The ancient Chinese believed that clouds were the breath of a sleeping dragon. Storm clouds resulted when the dragon had been smoking in bed, while chain lightning, typhoons and tornadoes meant that he had been awakened before he could get a full eight hours. Today, of course, these childish explanations have been discarded, and the modern Chinese are well aware that clouds are the product of wrong-thinking reactionaries conspiring to form a fascist hegemony with the imperialist war-mongering dogs of the West.

Next to Wilhelm Reich’s cloud theories, these Chinese ideas look pretty serious. Reich did most of his damage in his chosen field of psychiatry, but in his spare time he did more to cloud the cloud issue than any other man in history. He was convinced that clouds are not always clouds — that sometimes they are accumulations of deadly orgone energy sent by the saucer men to destroy us. What is orgone energy? When asked, Reich would only chuckle cryptically, “You wouldn’t want to sprinkle any on your breakfast cereal.” According to him it saps our strength and makes us talk and act like Don Knotts, and sometimes even buy bumper stickers that say “Fishermen Do It After Tying Up Their Loved Ones With High-Test Fish Line.”

Reich had an eye for spotting orgone clouds, though glasses later corrected it so he would see only a banana cream pie hovering safely out of reach. When he spied one (a cloud, not a pie) he’d attack it with a device of his own making called a cloud-buster, which looked like a menage a trois between a heating pipe, a Slinky toy and one of those tinfoil tuxedoes Liberace used to wear. Invariably, when fired upon, the cloud would always disperse or drift away, and the final score was always Humanity: 1, Saucer Men: 0.

If only all visionaries were as harmless.

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