SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
June 17, 2018

Snippets VI: Pig in the City

 

Idea: I think the next time the New York City Marathon rolls around, the city should leave all the streets along the route open to traffic, forcing runners to dodge livery cabs, box trucks and bicyclists along the way. Yeah, let’s see these hotshot marathoners try to get across Fourth Avenue like the rest of us. Not only would it level the playing field, it would become an event I might actually watch.

            I think it’s an idea with real potential. In fact if it isn’t implemented in the next fifteen years, I owe you a Coke. And remember you saw it here first.

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Although this is being written a few weeks before the scheduled date, it will undoubtedly run long after the fact, making it irrelevant. But that’s okay.

            As the negotiations go back and forth in the effort to set up a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, I think I know exactly what’s going to happen. During his tenure as North Korea’s leader, like his father and grandfather before him, Kim has proven time and again he’s a man who enjoys a good belly laugh. That’s why I’m convinced he’s using this opportunity to set up The Biggest Joke in the World.

            See, it goes a little something like this. Imagine if you will the summit actually taking place. Trump and Kim sitting at a huge round table with their translators, lawyers, and assorted other high governmental and military officials. The debate and negotiations will go back and forth for days, maybe weeks, and in the end Kim will finally and reluctantly agree to completely rid North Korea of all its nuclear weapons. About thirty seconds after the treaty is signed, every last missile in North Korea will be launched at the West Coast of the United States. Then, leaning back in his chair with a big grin and spreading his arms, Kim will say, “You see? No more missile in North Korea!”

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It wasn’t until I was in my forties that I honestly came to recognize the undeniable genius of Road Runner cartoons, Bob Dylan, Moby Dick, Jack Kerouac, Gilligan’s Island, Hemingway, film director Nicholas Roeg, and Buster Keaton. Although I always admired and respected them prior to that, I couldn’t say I really liked them much. Something just didn’t click with me. I now love all these people and things deeply, considering them part of my own personal Pantheon. Guess it just took that long for me to acquire the scope, knowledge and cultural context to at long last click into how great they all were. Ironic thing is, by that time I had gone blind, and so could no longer actually experience a lot of these things first hand, so the joke was on me.

            But a whole bunch of things held so dear and in such esteem by so many others continue to evade me. For some reason I’ve simply never been able to click into them the way everyone else has. I admire them alright, would never deny their importance, but damn it, try as I might I just don’t like them very much. Here’s a brief list, in no particular order and mostly without annotation, of cultural icons I don’t care about nearly as much as I’m apparently supposed to:

D.H. Lawrence

Ranier Maria Fassbinder

The Pretenders, specifically lead singer Chrissie Hynde

The Rolling Stones, save for three or four songs.

The Great Gatsby, and Fitzgerald in general.

The Dead Boys

Henry James

John Lennon’s solo career

Robert De Niro after King of Comedy

Al Pacino after Dog Day Afternoon

The Impressionists

Brian Eno

Stendhal

Flaubert

Raymond Carver

Elizabeth Taylor

The Fall

Prince

The Abstract Expressionists

Most poetry

Bruce Springsteen

Patti Smith

James Dean

Lou Reed, with the exception of Berlin and the first three Velvets albums

Neil Young, with the exception of his film Human Highway

Ingmar Bergman, with the exception of The Seventh Seal

Charles Dickens

Jean-Luc Godard, with the exception of Alphaville

William Faulkner

Jess Franco

Marcel Proust

Indie singer/songwriter Alex Chilton

Billy Wilder

Van Morrison

Todd Rundgren

Miles Davis after Bitches Brew

Ella Fitzgerald

Jane Austen

Robyn Hitchcock, whom I always confuse with Jonathan Richman

The Bronte Sisters

Steely Dan

Philip Roth

Don DeLillo

Joni Mitchell

David Foster Wallace

Any Star Wars movie

Jonathan Richman

I’m sorry.

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Morgan just discovered that the New York State DEC offers free fishing licenses to the blind. That in itself is kind of interesting, though it leaves me wondering why state officials are so anxious to have the blind go fishing.

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The neat thing about my most recent birthday is that it means for the next twelve months I am completely justified in announcing, in my best Boris Karloff, “Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!” Whenever it seems appropriate. And that’s worth something.

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I have an idea for a YouTube video I’ll never make, but if I did, I suspect it might spark a national trend. Hell, it might even become the latest self-help craze.

            Okay, a quick bit of background. Whenever someone does something really awful to another human being or group of human beings—and I’m talking something unimaginably awful,—and the cops search his apartment, some whippersnapper of a tabloid reporter will learn about one bit of cultural detritus cops confiscated and run with it, drawing some wild, far-reaching conclusions about the suspect’s mental state.

            The suspect, for instance, could have a massive collection of Eighteenth-century English poetry, but if he has a single true crime book, say Helter Skelter, then he was obsessed with Charles Manson. If he happened to own, in and amongst all his Kurosawa and Godard films, one popular horror movie, then he was obsessed with Hannibal Lecter or Freddy Krueger or Jason. If he owned any Batman comics or movies, then he thought he was The Joker. And if he owned one violent video game, then he had completely lost touch with reality and could no longer distinguish between the game and real life. You see how it works? And these stories, particularly if the reporter in question writes for the New York Post, will always run under the same goddamn headline. I cannot tell you how many times—as recently as a couple of weeks ago, I’ve seen this banner headline splashed across the dirty front page of the Post. It’s been used and reused so many times it was the obvious title of this YouTube video I was thinking about but will never make. “Inside the Twisted Madman’s Secret Lair” would simply involve me walking around the apartment pointing out supposedly damning evidence of my clear madness, should I ever do anything really, really bad. And boy is there a lot to work with!

            Forget about the true crime books, the fifteen Manson-related videos, the other movies and documentaries and books about Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Henry Lee Lucas, Charles Whitman and Jim Jones. That’s too easy. There are also all the Satan movies and books, the Nazi porn, all the stuff about political assassination, the cannibal and necrophile section, and on and on and on. Just thinking about it all now I’m amazed I haven’t been arrested already, just for all the Nietzsche alone.

            I’d just work my way through the collection, section by section, shelf by shelf, speculating aloud what conclusions the cops or the tabloids would draw at each stop:

            “All these zombie movies prove he saw human beings as nothing but walking corpses, and he was convinced the zombie apocalypse was underway!” (I’ve actually seen that same conclusion drawn about the suspect in one recent case.)

            “All the medical art books reveal him to be an unbalanced character who planned to dissect his living victims!”

            “His large collection of Mentors records reveals he had violent fantasies of torturing and raping women!”

            “He idolized Celine, one of the world’s most despised and notorious anti-Semites! He must have been a white supremacist who worships Donald Trump!”

            “He had pictures hanging on his wall of a skull-faced clown dancing around a burning car wreck, and another one of a frog with a lit firecracker in its mouth—do we need to say anything more about the man’s clear madness?”

            And so on. Hell, I’d even draw something out of the Godzilla collection. In the end I’d pull it all together, offering a tabloid law-enforcement analysis of my clearly disturbed mental state, based wholly and simply on the kind of stupid movies and books I have around.

            Can’t you see that catching on? Thousands of people doing the same thing, essentially psychoanalyzing themselves in a public forum, and in the stupidest way imaginable?

            Now if there were any sort of way to make money off it, I might actually do it.

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A hellish storm was raging outside, the city had issued dangerous flash flood warnings for the neighborhood, but necessities being necessities I put on my coat and fought my way to the corner and across the street to the bodega for the day’s beer and smokes. Inside, the gruff Egyptian behind the counter was dealing with another customer, and I headed toward the cooler in back.

            “Poppi!” He suddenly shouted. “Hey. Poppi!”

            Now, I’ve been dealing with this guy day in, day out for almost nine years now, and never once has he ever called me “Poppi.” Still, given there was no one else in the store, I paused. “Me?” I asked.

            “Yeah! You got twenny dollah?”

            “What?”

            “You got twenny dollah?”

            “Well, yes?”

            “Give it to me!”

            “What?”

            “Give it to me!”

            I paused again, confused. “Um, okay.” I said, reaching into my pocket for the wallet. Some things you just accept on faith.

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Considering all the important thinks I can no longer remember for the life of me, how is it that without a moment’s hesitation I recalled that the 1976 disco hit “More More More” was recorded by The Andrea True Connection?

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For all the bitching and arm flapping and outraged mockery, I find it hilarious and fitting that, should he survive this term, Donald Trump will be re-elected in 2020. And he’ll be re-elected for two reasons. First, Americans are addicted to the familiar, and so almost without fail re-elect sitting presidents. Second and far more important than that, we’re all simply having too much fun with the buffoon. Who’d want to switch channels from The Cartoon Network to PBS?

 

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