When you hear people talk about doom, you’re pretty sure you know what they mean. In fact almost everyone has an instinctive feeling about what doom is, and how to recognize it, and very often they are right. Unless they’re speaking figuratively and are only talking about the stock market or declining test scores or the fortunes of a sports team or having to care for elderly parents, you’ll hear the words warming, or starvation, or asteroid, or incoming. If they are hysterical types, you might also hear of some sort of virus or contagion, or that the birth rate is too high or too low, or that we’re running low on uranium. But you fairly well know what people think doom is: it’s that event, or one of those events, that, when it occurs, results in all of us dying, or in so many of us dying that the others will lose heart, or at a very minimum means that life will change for the worse, just as it has on other planets.
Now, the number of those who are going to die is an important factor in doom. There have to be at least some who aren’t going to make it for doom to be genuine. If you live in one of those areas of the Pacific west that catches on fire every year, or you live on one of those islands, again Pacifically located, where periodically your foursome is slowed by flows of lava and rains of ash, it isn’t appropriate to say you’re doomed if there’s a good chance you’re going to pull through. And frankly, almost everyone seems to survive those conflagrations, although many acres are consumed and many roadways dissolved. In fact it is usually only the firefighters who seem at risk in those flare-ups, along with the insurance companies. So it simply isn’t fair to say you’re doomed if the only price you pay is that you have to run away to safety, or if you merely lose a home you were stupid to build in that area to begin with, or if you have to dodge a few waterfowl flambé while teeing off.
If, on the other hand, you can’t escape, and you and your neighbors can only stand and watch helplessly as the flames or lava climb toward you, then yes, it is all right to say you are doomed. You needn’t feel foolish about saying it under those conditions, particularly if your clothes are on fire and your town is starting to resemble ancient Pompeii. At the same time, you should definitely try to save yourselves, especially if you are able to jump into a body of water or crawl into a deep, cool cave. In such circumstances you are entitled to say you were doomed even if you survive, provided you really had to haul butt to reach safety.
A question that the doomed often ask is this: what kind of doom are we experiencing? Right off, the time factor comes into play. There is an important distinction between eventual doom, which is scheduled to take place in the future, and imminent doom, which is happening to you right now. To know we are doomed because eventually there will be no drinkable water is all well and good. But who really cares that people will die of thirst in 150 years, with death rattles issuing from their dry throats, or that the sun will explode in three billion years, incinerating our world and all who live in it — all those, that is, who haven’t already died of thirst? That kind of doom is enough to put you to sleep. But to know that there is no drinking water starting today, or that the sun exploded eight minutes ago and we just haven’t felt it yet, but we will any second now, is quite different. That’s imminent doom. The other, much slower type of decimation, we may call come-as-it may doom, or as I have already called it, eventual doom, if we aren’t too bored to call it anything at all, it’s so remote.
That leaves us with two types of doom: eventual, which is laughably slow, and imminent, which is when it’s really time to panic. And we note here that it is completely inappropriate to react to eventual doom as if it were imminent doom. Unless you are a prophet or an oracle, you shouldn’t go around crying “We’re doomed! We’re doomed!” without any evidence. You only make yourself look foolish if you start hyperventilating and perspiring, and race around screaming at the top of your lungs, “O my god, the universe will reach final entropy, or heat death, in roughly 100 billion years, I’m not kidding!” You appear equally idiotic if you start chanting, “We must leave the planet now, robots are coming!” While this may be true, our mechanical overlords won’t actually begin to rule over us fleshy mortals for likely another century or two, so we can take a deep breath and relax. The various kinds of come-as-it-may doom, while truly inevitable and one hundred percent lethal, are so far off that it’s hard to take them seriously. You can, and should, laugh them off, an act that requires only the merest speck of bravery. Distant doom is always somewhat risible, even to complete cowards.
That may leave you wondering what actions are appropriate to take when you are aware that doom is upon you now, not coming in a preposterous number of years, but knocking on your door this instant. First off, realize that whatever activity someone in a position of authority has told you to perform in a case of imminent doom has no chance of saving you, but is only to occupy you so that the authoritarians look good and in control when the bodies are tabulated. For example, if the cabin is filling with smoke and the plane is clearly in a nosedive, don’t bother to grab that dangling oxygen mask or floatation cushion. You’re going down, and nothing else matters. Those trinkets the stewards are taunting you with have as much chance of saving you as hunching down under your desk has of protecting you from a thermonuclear bomb.
Secondly, screaming and panic are of no use whatever, and will only irritate those fatalists who wish to expire with a minimum of fuss. I am one of these, so please be considerate of my feelings.
The absolute best thing to do, when facing imminent doom, is to pretend that it’s only eventual doom. That is, react with cool sangfroid when your jetliner begins its final, sickening descent. Merely smile stoically when the lava begins to fill your shoes, or when your roller-coaster car leaps off the track at 80 mph; suppress a snicker when the lake rushes in your car window, and chortle ironically when you encounter that bear in the wilderness, the one with a taste for the meat that wears clothes. That shows dignity, and is the finest way to confront any kind of doom. Your children, if any survive, will be proud of you.
I was the two-million-three-hundred-and-seventy-thousand-one-hundred-and-eighty-sixth person she’d shaken hands with since February 6th 1952. That averages out at almost a hundred hands per day. Almost twelve million fingers — give or take the odd accident, military personnel, etc. — twelve million fingers clamping around hers, some vice-tight, some so soft they were barely tangible through the white silk of her gloves.
It could have happened to any of us, the lucky two-and-a-bit million. More likely to none of us at all. I found out afterwards that Ladbrokes had been offering odds of 15-1 on heart failure, Betfred even shorter at 12-1. In retrospect, perhaps I ought to have had a flutter. But then they also had “thrown from horse” at 25-1, and “savaged by corgis” at 75s, so maybe they were just plain guessing.
We were stationed in The 1844 Room, a typically ornate space replete with carpets of red and gold, marble columns flanking busts of god-knows-which-dead-dignitary, a crystal chandelier overhead that I wanted to shake like a maraca, a dozen or more portraits of serious looking men. The largest of these must have been ten-feet high; it depicted a gentleman in red uniform with a blue sash, spotlighted against a dark background like some sort of savior. I guessed it was the Duke of Edinburgh, but when I looked at the plaque I saw it was an old Russian emperor called Nicholas I; an anti-Semitic nationalist with a penchant for violent expansionism, I found out later, who committed suicide when he realized the Crimean War was about to go south. They’ve always been a puzzle to me, the precise criteria for being honored in this building.
There were about thirty of us, all invited for one reason or another; charity work, scientific research, random acts of heroism. I spotted somebody I recognized from the news but otherwise couldn’t place, a former cricketer wearing his MCC tie, a guide dog. We’d been briefed: Her Majesty will ask you what you do, keep your answers short — ten seconds max — same applies to any follow-up questions, but don’t bank on being asked any. Wait for her to extend her hand — don’t grab at her — and remember to smile. There’s no need to bow or curtsey, but please address her as Your Majesty.
I was near the end of the line, two down from the dog, a black Labrador fitted with a harness and handle like you get on old ladies’ shopping trolleys. I felt nervous. By the time Her Highness was close, had scratched and preened at the hound’s muzzle for several elongated minutes, my hands were clammy and unpleasant. I wiped them surreptitiously against the buttocks of my trousers. Suddenly her scent hit me; rose water from Persia, camellia from the foothills of the Himalayas, waves of citrus fresh from the Iberian Peninsula. Whatever it was, it all failed quite spectacularly to cover up the sweet and sour stink of old lady that wafted off her like so much cabbage and pissy dust.
She stood before me on unsteady legs, her scrumpled face a used plastic bag, her hunched shoulders an expired houseplant. She was inanimate, an objet d’art surrounded by the same, a thing ready for storage. But then she did something incredible; she beamed at me with those sad, kind old eyes, paused just for a beat and studied me, met my gaze. And quite without realizing it, I found myself smiling back, my heart suddenly light in my chest. She reached out her tiny gloved hand towards me and, with an unexpected pang of regret, I took it.
Ever so gently I cradled this ageing woman’s palm in my own, felt the metacarpal of her forefinger beneath the tissue-paper skin, applied just the right amount of pressure.
Call it a trade secret. A kindness.
“And what is it that you–” she said, cutting herself off, eyes wide. “What is it–”
I’m an orthopedic surgeon. I head-up a team at UCL that is conducting research into new treatments for those suffering with the most acute forms of arthritis.
That’s what I was penciled in to tell her, anyway. People her age suffer with it so terribly. But she was already crashing to the ground, her delicate little glove having come off in my hand like shed flesh.
I watched her go. She ought to have shattered into a thousand pieces; an old stone statue toppled amidst the onlooking busts, her heritage and, now, her fate. But instead she just flopped over, supine on her red-carpet slab, her denuded right hand clutching at her chest. In seconds the paramedics were working on her; me slipping the glove into my jacket pocket; they slipping a breathing mask over the royal face. It was purely for our benefit; there was no question the old woman was dead.
In the panic that ensued nobody cared about debriefing us, let alone conducting any sort of search. I simply slinked out the door, minding to hurdle the pungent Labrador turd freshly laid to mark the historic moment, and from there blended with the crowds. On my way home I pulled the car over beside a patch of farmland and ventured out into the field where a solitary scarecrow stood slumped, facelessly surveying all that was his. I took out the glove and pulled it over the figure’s right hand, then turned and walked away. When I reached the car I looked back to see the straw man in his little kingdom, his silk fingers now waving in the breeze.
That was over a month ago. This morning I received an envelope from the palace, a letter stamped CIIIR inviting me to meet the new monarch. It seems the new king wants to shake my hand.
Welcome to summer camp 1985, teenagers! We hope that you will find this experience a unique and enjoyable one. While we know you will undoubtedly miss 2018, Summer Camp 1985 offers many promising opportunities for you.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t go over some very important ground rules before you all take a 33-year step back in time.
No cellphones will be permitted in summer camp 1985 because 1985 neither has the capacity for the technology involved, or is ill-equipped to deal with forms of communication that aren’t face-to-face. 1985 doesn’t know what snapchat is, nor does 1985 care. Don’t even bother asking Summer Camp 1985 what its wi-fi password is.
Now, some of you teenagers may be asking yourselves, “Well, like, how are we supposed to communicate with each other without our phones?” You’ll be pleased to know that 1985 is fluent in English, and you can therefore talk directly to your camp mates.
Please note; it’s important that you look each other in the eye and talk slowly and deliberately, at least until you acclimate to this new form of communication. Also, please monitor your own facial expressions while conversing with others. These are called non-verbal communications and they have a strong ability to offend people if you aren’t careful. Of concern is the audacious eye rolls and the exacerbated looks that we so easily give to others through the protection of a cell phone text message. Cute emojis will be unable to save you in 1985.
Others may be asking, “How are we supposed to take pictures here?” We will be providing each camper with a disposable camera, along with instructions on how to use it.Now, you won’t necessarily be able to see your photos until they are developed, a process that includes literally taking the camera to a place where they’ll extract a thing called “film,” and develop it for you. It is therefore impossible to add stupid cat ears and tiaras to your faces in real time. With this antiquated form of memory preservation, you will either need to accept the photos as they are, or manually draw your little designs on the actual printed photos.
Please also note, the taking of selfies is extremely difficult with an actual camera so you would be advised to either recruit someone else to take a photo of you, or take a photo of someone else for a change.
GPS wasn’t around in 1985, so if you find yourself astray from the rest of the group, each camper will be provided with something called a map. You may be asking yourselves, “What’s a map?” If you’ve ever seen a globe in school, a map is basically a flat version of that. We will be offering a mandatory map reading class. It’s been our experience that parents frown upon us losing their children in the wilderness of 1985, so please pay attention to this very important course. It may just save your lives.
Unfortunately, you can’t ping yourself on a map, nor will you be able to estimate your arrival time back at camp. The map won’t respond to “Siri,” either. Please also note, the folding of the map into its original format is impossible. Don’t become frustrated by this unbearable task.
Your parents are encouraged to write you something called letters. Letters are essentially the Grandparents of text messages. These are handwritten notes that will arrive on pieces of paper, in envelopes, from a place called the Post Office. Your parents spent a lot of time composing and mailing these letters to you. They’ll be replete with misspellings, a peril of any handwritten note. Should you express interest in sending them a handwritten letter back, trained counselors will be available to assist you.
Please also note that excitedly opening these envelopes can lead to an insidious injury known as a paper cut. These injuries may not increase mortality, but the morbidity associated with them can be untenable. A nurse will be on hand to address these calamitous injuries should they occur.
It’s our hope that after spending time in this antiquated camp, the experiences you acquire here will allow you to better appreciate your parents’ childhood experiences. You’ll be ready the next time they start off a sentence with, “Well, back in my day…”
So, campers, welcome to Summer Camp 1985! We’ll do our best to make your stay at 33 years ago, a pleasant one.
Join us on the set as Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Karl Marx rehearse their lines…
Groucho (in lovelorn fashion to corpulent, wealthy dowager): I can see you now, bending over a hot stove when I come home from work. But I can’t see the stove!
Dowager (batting eyelashes and smiling demurely): Do you really mean to suggest, Professor, that you wish to marry me?
Karl (enraged): Of course he would like to marry you, decadent capitalist pig! He has been indoctrinated by his overlords of the ruling class to believe in the decrepit bourgeois institution known as marriage as part of their cynical scheme to keep the masses from dedicating themselves to the collective good!
Harpo: (honks horn at Karl, goofily grinning)
Karl (to Harpo): And you, half-witted stooge of the ruling class, make light of the deprivations of the proletariat by affecting ragged attire to achieve a puerile comic effect!
Harpo: (flutters eyelids and leans lovingly into Karl)
Karl: Get off me, you stinking bum!
Harpo suddenly recalls that he has a smelly fish in his overcoat. He produces the fish by the tail, screws up his nose in disgust, tosses it aside, and places a clothespin on Karl’s nose.
Karl: Idiot! Are you too dense to comprehend that the proletariat can scarcely afford fish because the exploitation of the fisherman’s labor, which the capitalists call “profit,” renders the price of fish exorbitant? That’s an obscenely expensive sturgeon!
Chico: Atsa right. I hadda remove my whatchamacallit (points to abdomen), but the sturgeon was too expensive.
Karl (strikes his forehead with the flat of his hand): You ignoramus. Don’t you realize that the capitalists deliberately keep you uneducated so that you will remain unequipped to comprehend and overthrow the injustice of capitalism?
Chico: Well I dunno. The nun, she say I’m pretty good with my catechism.
Karl (red in the face): Capitalism, not catechism! Cap! Cap!
Harpo nods eagerly and sets a baseball cap on Karl’s head.
Karl (throwing the cap on the ground in disgust): I shall not wear a hat associated with a sport with which the American ruling class keep the proletariat diverted from their true purpose of uniting to overthrow the capitalist system.
Harpo allows the point to sink in, brightens, and sets a top hat on Karl’s head.
Karl (furiously removing top hat): Nor shall I don the ostentatious headwear of the plutocrats!
Groucho (musing): Well, I don’t know. At least it distracts from that baboon on your chin.
Karl: Baboon! I’ll have you know, dummkopf, that this beard was my constant companion as I toiled through the years in the British Museum Reading Room, formulating the labor theory of value. It sustained me through many a long, lonely, weary and, yes, hungry hour!
Harpo, using sleight of hand, extracts a hunk of cheese from Karl’s beard.
Karl: Keep your grubby paws to yourself, peasant! (turns to Groucho) This long beard, sir, is the sign of a superior intellect, of a man of great learning!
Groucho: You could’ve fooled me — I thought it was the sign of Rabbi Pinsk. Do you know Rabbi Pinsk, from Minsk?
Karl: Certainly not! Organized religion is the opiate of the masses!
Chico (shaking finger, smiling): Naw, you no fool me. Mass is for Catholics.
Harpo seizes Karl’s muffler and wraps it around his head like a nun’s headdress.
Karl: Thief! That’s my property!
Groucho (thoughtfully stroking chin): “Property is theft, property is theft.” Now where have I heard that line?
Karl (snatches muffler from Harpo): That does it! I’m through! Namesakes or not, you bourgeois boobs are nothing more than ignorant stooges of the ruling class, in mindless thrall to your capitalist masters! I leave you to chafe in your unseen chains! (Karl storms off the set)
Groucho (to his brothers): I thought he’d never leave. Where shall we eat, boys? The Brown Derby?
Harpo nods eagerly, and the three sons of poor immigrants race to the studio lot, where they enter their late-model American luxury cars and drive off to enjoy a gourmet meal of grilled sturgeon with a mushroom and thyme reduction.
Going on my first cruise. I can’t believe it’s here! #excited #BonVoyage
I was going to post that the food here is amazing. Turns out it was just a hot dog guy outside the port. I wasn’t on the ship yet. Fingers crossed. #HotDog
I think the cruise director used to be with Menudo.
I needed an extra towel for some…spillage. When I went to find the steward in the hall, he was talking heatedly with several other stewards. It was a stew of stewards! #LOL
What cruise companies don’t advertise is that any pool can become a wave pool if the seas are rough enough. #RidingTheWaves
The Captain announced the seas were a little choppy because we were sailing into the Gulf Stream. But our waiter at dinner insists it’s because Poseidon is angered by our “landlubber ways.” He says the captain “ought to know better” and that the chicken is “especially good tonight.”
Happy to learn there are no Legionnaires on board, so that’s one less disease to worry about! Now I just have to avoid this malaise the crew keeps muttering about. #Airborne
A big fight broke out at the poolside “Full Moon Party” tonight. It was Electric Sliders vs. Cotton Eye Joes! #TeamMacarena
I’m still upset that the karaoke guy didn’t have the full version of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.” I’m sure I would have won! And there was a lot more flogging of the waitstaff than I thought necessary. #KaraokeKing @GrouchoMarx
Our shuffleboard game was interrupted by some crew members arguing about the captain’s plan to sail through the Bermuda Triangle to avoid some bad weather ahead. They said it was the “last straw.” I guess I have to switch to drinks with little umbrellas, then.
We had a lifeboat drill today! It wasn’t so bad, even if the crew members kept muttering that “Lifeboats won’t do no good in the Triangle.” #BePrepared
Surprisingly there are only a few fish entrees on the menu in the ship’s fancy restaurant. I thought they would have caught a lot more fish by now. Plus all the knives are gone.
It was Captain’s Night. Got to meet the captain! I asked him “Who’s steering the boat?” Oh, how we laughed. Then his second mate whispered something in his ear and he hurried off. #Iceberg? JK!
I realize now my entire knowledge of cruise ships is based on watching Titanic, The Poseidon Adventure, and the stateroom scene from A Night at the Opera.
Saw an amazing show last night featuring all the understudies from all the biggest Broadway hits! It must be a tricky adjustment for the actors, having to learn stage right and stage left and now stage port and stage starboard. #BroadwayAtSea
Had breakfast in my stateroom this morning. Pancakes, bacon and sausage! Also a cryptic note warning passengers to stay in their rooms tonight. This worries me because it’s 80s Music Trivia Dance Party at the Main Lounge! #Culture Club
Why won’t anyone believe me when I tell them there’s a chocolate fountain over by the dessert station? They’re all just too wrapped up in the mutiny rumors! #TeamChocolateFountain
The stand-up comic wasn’t that good. The crew made him walk the plank. That struck me as harsh.
I am the captain! Though a remarkable series of events I’m now commanding the ship! All because I was doing my Capt. Phillips bit and the mutineers heard me say “Look at me. I am the captain now.” And they just believed me! Crazy, right? @TomHanks 1/3
I’ve called in to work and said I’m extending my vacation for the foreseeable future. We’ll be sailing the high seas. Maybe even spend an extra night in Bermuda! #AhoyMatey 2/3
And the chocolate fountain is now out 24/7! #excited #BonVoyage 3/3
Herewith the recently discovered transcript of a press conference held in November of 1796 with George Washington’s spin doctor, Bartholomew Lewandowski:
Yes, you over there. First question. “Can I comment on the rumors about Mr. Washington’s extramarital dalliances?”
That’s highly offensive. It should be obvious that the President has been far too busy over the last twenty years defeating the British and running the country to even have time for such activities. Let’s face it: he barely has time to satisfy his conjugal duties with Martha. As the President has frequently stated, he has the utmost respect for all ladies notwithstanding he does not wish them to vote.
Next question? “Did the President ever consider becoming America’s first king?”
Of course not. Why would he want to be king when he has devoted much of his life to defeating the British monarchy? The fact that someone found a few monogrammed sheets and shirts at Mount Vernon with George I embroidered on them proves nothing. That was a simple mistake by the plantation’s seamstress who meant to adorn the items with George W.
Yes, you in the corner. You’re asking if the President has ever misled Congress?
Let me tell you a story about a young George Washington that will put this rumor to bed. At the age of six, he chopped down his father’s cherry tree and yet had the courage and fortitude when confronted with the evidence to state “I cannot tell a lie” and accept full responsibility.
That is the same truth-telling hero you see before you today. Those who say young George failed to also accept blame for a felled pecan tree and a severely damaged peach tree are sorely mistaken.
Ezekial Abernathy from the Philadelphia Gazette, you have a question? How does the President justify the ownership of slaves?
Thank you for that question. Yes, the President inherited some slaves and that is perfectly legal. But he is a model slaveholder who treats his chattel with the utmost kindness and, in fact, intends to free them upon his demise. I might remind you gentlemen of the press that Mr. Washington has great respect for his property unlike a contemporary in nearby Monticello, who shall remain nameless, who reportedly has made one of his slaves his mistress.
Thaddeus Baskerville from the Boston Gazette. Did Washington actually stand at the bow of the boat crossing the Delaware River?
It’s hard to believe that, after all these years, we still have to deal with the pernicious rumors that General Washington was not at Valley Forge, did not stand at the bow of the boat and did not even personally cross the Delaware. He was definitely there and it is hoped that within the next fifty years or so pictorial evidence will surface to confirm the truth.
One last query. Yes, the scrivener in the back of the room.
You are wondering why the President has not stored all of his correspondence in the Library of Congress rather than keeping much of it in a private garden shed at Mount Vernon. While President Washington has conceded that it might have been preferable to do so, the nation can rest assured that no confidential or classified letters or memoranda were ever compromised, particularly since that shed recently burned to the ground.
I. Hello and welcome to Second Amendment of Constitution for United States. Is very important you don’t read this in Russian accent. As this is defineetly not being written by Russians from future who realized best way to destroy evil United States was go back in time and insert this amendment into your laws forever. I did not mean to write “evil” there. Was accident. Why would I, Benjemin Franclen, call my own country that I love very much “evil?” The United States is great place, and only slightly inferior to Russia, the country I am not from and whose crisp spring breeze has never sweetly caressed my cheek. Now, time to list details of this, the amendment that will surely not ravage your country, I mean “our country,” for rest of time…
II. To make U of SA safe, is necessary all citizens have right to own gun. And not just one gun, but as many as person can fit in closet or hole they dug in yard of trailer park. This right is for everyone! Would be ridiculous to take a man’s guns away just because he was batshit crazy, or involved in series of escalating domestic incidents that seemed destined to come to violent end. Furthermore, if too many shootings ever becomes issue, the answer will never be to remove guns from populace. When has a problem ever been solved by eliminating the thing that caused it? Sure, guy in bank line might pull 9mm out of Jockeys and shoot place up. But guy behind him might pull .45 out of Hanes and shoot first guy. Is recipe for healthy democracy! We, Framers of Constitution, anticipate day when there are 300 million people in America and 100 million guns! Imagine how safe from guns we will be on that day when we all have guns! May sound crazy, but trust me, is good idea and not part of rival country’s plot to destroy your nation from within.
III. We have touched on quantity, now is time to talk technology — which is word I believe exists in this time period but am not totally for certain. In future, people may say we Founding Fathers couldn’t envision advances in gun capability. Is nonsense!!! Right now, me and Tommas Jeferssinin are sitting next to each other making discussion of gun ideas. Here is list of possible possibilities off top of our heads: laser scope. Silencer. Body armor. Bushmaster AR-15 with Fiber-optic Red-Bar front sight. Will any of these things be invented? Who knows? But point is, this amendment should serve as blanket recognition that we foresaw all of them. So go to gun show and buy as much artillery as kiddie-porn enthusiast in BluBlockers will sell you, then keep it with you at ALL times. You’ll want it when you’re having bad day — which we all have! Note: I capitalized “ALL” not out of unfamiliarity with English language but to emphasize importance!
IV. Now, is possible many citizens of Mother America will be killed in mass shootings. People will use these as excuse to further anti-gun agenda, which is the great tragedy of it all. Also the dead children. Massacres may occur anywhere. Schools. Churches. Dave & Busters arcade/restaurant hybrids (which I foresee being Ultimate Destination for those who enjoy four-way air hockey and loaded tots). But I implore you, when gunmen use military-grade weapons to slaughter civilians with maximum efficiency, Americans must do sensible thing: blame rap music. Gun is not problem! Gun is good, with many non-violent uses! You could stir noodles with it. Use it to perforate paper to fit in binder. Spin it on dinner table and person it points to gets biggest piece of chicken. So many possibilities! Still, after tragedies people will say law is stupid and not changing it would be literal definition of insanity. Яidiculous!!! This is price of freedom!!! Take it from me, intelligent Patriot who is not vindictive adversary hoping Americans will butcher each other in endless cycle of violence. Besides, if killer didn’t use gun he would have used knife or slingshot or sock full of dominos, and been just as effective.
V. This section is dedicated all to gun safety. Be safe out there.
VI. Now is time for conclusion. Americans are like weeds (in a good way) and part of living in Greatest Country on Earth is knowing anywhere you go someone could be waiting to shoot you in face. Accept it! Life isn’t all rainbows and four-way air hockey. Important thing is you strictly adhere to most radical interpretation of this amendment no matter what. Dig those heels so far in you’re up to your nipples in shit! And when in doubt, take opinion of politicians you deem most likely to use N-word in private. Is good rule of thumbs! Back in Moscow, which I have never been to, we have saying…”Above all, seek truth.” In this case, truth is staring you right in face: anyone who wants to remove this amendment…is not real American.
This year I took my family to visit the Museum of Rock and Roll Marginalia in the small New York town where it has been located since its founding in 1990. They had been clamoring to go, and at last, forgoing a more expensive and better-planned vacation, I gave them their wish. A posh hotel until the end of the jazz age in the fifties, then a gated community for retired horn players from disbanded units like the Bill Bromley Band and former second-tier comedians like Tony Bacon and Zip Downy, the museum is now a crumbling three-story building scheduled for demolition.
The first floor commands the most attention. Until the mid-eighties an impoverished Ramone and his girlfriend lived there, also a Raider from Paul Revere’s defunct outfit, a Pharaoh from Sam the Sham’s sixties-era group, one of the McCoys, a Bangle and her bipolar boyfriend, and an English Trogg on an expired visa. They are gone now, deceased or moved on, their former rooms and suites and the old dance floor turned into exhibit sites containing some of the signs of their musical success.
On display in several refit corners are a fraying Beatles-esque wig and a pair of cracked drum sticks from the Ramone, some badly scuffed riding boots from the Raider, an unraveling keffiyeh and a dented headdress from the Pharaoh, a glittery change purse missing many spangles and an empty pill vial from the Bangle, and an old Danelectro guitar reportedly used on “Wild Thing” abandoned in the US by the Englishman. Also on the first floor is the souvenir shop, which is to be avoided like norovirus. All the same, I bought the two boys small plastic replicas of a Venture’s guitar and Go-Gos’ wigs for the two girls. The museum’s only working restroom is also on the first floor, so take advantage.
On the second floor, to which one ascends by a narrow wooden staircase since there is no elevator, the musical wattage is already grown dimmer, the connection to stardom more distant, and the mementos of lesser-knowns command the space. Here on a small dresser against a peeling rear wall is an Electric Prune’s electric razor, a plastic comb that once straightened the tresses of Terry Knight (of the Pack), one of the New York Dolls’ mascara mirrors, a shaving kit once belonging to a Playboy from Gary Lewis’ band, and, on the floor beside a scarred dresser, a pair of paisley moccasins that once shod a Lemon Piper. A nearby closet, marked by wall-mounted portraits of Gladys Knight and Smokey Robinson, holds one of the Pips’ tuxedos, a terrycloth robe that once adorned a Miracle, a cape that formerly swirled around a Fabulous Flame, and, from a different musical genre entirely, a fringed calfskin jacket that used to enfold a Blues Magoo. On the floor beside a bathroom entrance with its Out of Order sign rest a pair of shoe trees that also belonged to a Fabulous Flame — a different one. The tux and the shoe trees are pretty cool, I admit. Those are the highlights, I’m afraid.
In the rearmost room, under a makeshift banner that reads Where The Action Is, are several tables laden with such items as the shaving kit and toothbrush of Billy Joe Royal, a Mindbender’s sequined headband, the pointy boots of an Amboy Duke (which happened to be my size, of all things), and the spread miniskirt of one of the Jeff Kutash Dancers circa 1967. Near the stairwell, the Leslie Gore Room, said to be arranged the way the diva liked her hotel suites to be arranged when she was on the road, is kind of boss. We’d never seen so many pink pillows, and none so grimy as these.
On the third floor, to which the only path is again a narrow wooden stairwell, the pickings are of such diminished contact with greatness that the stardust is microscopic. Here, beneath another handmade banner that says Let’s Have a Hullabaloo, arranged on two long tables beneath flickering florescent lights and covered by flimsy plastic tablecloths, are such keepsakes as a strand of love beads donated by a friend of a Commodore, an aged and discolored tambourine donated by Connie Francis’s studio percussionist, a cupcake pan that once hung in the pantry of Bobbie Gentry’s personal chef, a bolo that once adorned the neck of one of the Shangri-las’ kid brothers, and a pair of oily gloves left in the lobby by Muddy Waters’ driver’s car mechanic nephew. As one examines them, the artifacts grow more and more recherché, their identification signs progressively more remote from rock music. A nondescript bit of porcelain is marked with the tag: “A waterproof tile on loan from the Cowsills’ beach architect’s pool designer.” The high point, or the low point if you want to look at it that way, is a mounted notice affixed to an otherwise bare wall that says “On this spot in July, 1966, after performing in the first floor ballroom, the Shantays jammed with the Marketts and the Stingers while B. Bumble looked on.” There is no memento of the grand jam, not a Champ Amp or a reverb unit or a single bee’s sting.
After reading that, the family and I could only retrace our steps and descend slowly back to the first floor, following the crudely drawn exit signs, for a second glance at the ballroom, or what was left of it. B. Bumble was here!
No fan of the dentist, I put off my most recent appointment until I gathered a mouthful of cavities and felt the throbbing need for several root canals. I simply hate the dental chair and the attendant pain, even if the technician is a comely lass with a winsome personality. But after two weeks of agony, I found a young doctor who billed himself as a “sedative” dentist, meaning I could receive not only Novocain and Valium during treatment, but nitrous oxide gas for a truly otherworldly experience. I wouldn’t quite be unconscious as he hacked my jaw to pieces — I’d have to visit an oral surgeon if I wanted the full ride to dreamland — but I’d be in the ozone along with the swinging oldsters at colonoscopy spas and birthing moms riding their epidurals. As it turned out, I emerged from the cubicle of grief with a smile on my lips, a tune in my throat, and although unable to drive myself home, no recollection of anything except the bill, and even that was fuzzy.
That’s when it occurred to me that many more of life’s excruciating trials would improve if only one could be anesthetized to the point of oblivion beforehand, essentially skipping the event. Why is there not a “sedative” tax service, for instance? You lug your box of documents into the office in the mall near the food court, the one with the standup poster of the nerd in a bow tie out front, and green balloons signifying money festooned everywhere, sink into a chair, and pop the Valium. Just as the consultant reaches for your scribbled lists of itemized deductions and coffee-stained W2s, you take a quick hit off the cylinder of nitrous oxide conveniently placed beside his desk, and you begin to feel…well just fine, thank you very much. When you come to yourself, your taxes are finished, your credit card dinged for the fee, and you’re looking forward to a federal refund that puts you $24 ahead. Does life get any better, or at least any more sedate? Why, having your taxes done is now as pleasant as a trip to the dentist!
Anything that leads to one having to wait in line, particularly if shopping is also involved, would obviously be improved by a stupefying relaxant like nitrous oxide. A large communal container of the gas with many hoses extending from it parked by the bascart corral would transform the experience of going to the store from torment to bearable tedium or even near bliss. Valium alone would not be enough, I think, but consider the difference a few sucks on the nitrous hose would bring. It would be a true opiate of the people. Instead of banging your way down narrow aisles for a couple of bananas and a liter of fine wine, dodging elderly creepers and the portly disabled on beeping electric carts, only to wait 25 minutes in the laughably designated “express” line, you could instead careen along feeling only pleasure, or at the worst numbness, and the 25 minutes spent crammed in a queue with the unwashed masses would fly by. You might take to shopping just for the fun of it, if you could completely blot out where you were, and this way you could.
I’ve never flown first class, and perhaps that is a pleasure I should partake of one day, so that I can say I’ve completely lived. But I have flown coach, and it’s the same as taking a bus, except the bus drives through the sky. That’s the only difference I can detect, and a whiff of nitrous oxide from the mask dangling overhead would make the whole trip go much faster and be more relaxing. Buckle up for takeoff…now buckle up for landing, and that’s it. Trip done and enjoyed to the maximum that such an awful ordeal can be enjoyed by a sentient being.
The last time I attended a first run film, Love, Simon, I saw within minutes that the whole trial would be much more tolerable with a little more of the good ol’ butter on my popcorn, and a snort or three of the good ol’ nitrous through a tube and mask connected to my seat. That way I could get from the opening scene to the closing credits with scarcely an awareness of the stupefying plot or unrealistic characters. I could focus instead on the truly delicious popcorn, or just take a revivifying nap.
And what an improvement on the trip you have to make to Disney World in order to appease the irritable brats or flighty teens in your care. A well-regarded French philosopher has called Disney World a “ghetto.” Well, it was actually the parking lot Jean Baudrillard bestowed that term upon, due to its crowdedness and distance from the feature attractions, but we’ll skip the Gallic niceties and come to the point. If at the entrance to this phantasmagoria of kitsch and juvenilia, Goofy or Minnie were to totter over and offer up a portable canister of nitrous oxide to pull about and apply your lungs to, you might achieve a euphoria equal to the tots’ at the sight of those Troll things. Or at least you could forget where you where, and the enormous sum it was costing you, until you trudged back to the “ghetto” and climbed exhausted into your sunbaked car.
They call nitrous oxide laughing gas, but let’s be real here. It’s grin-and-bear-it gas, and it’s essential.