— From the Fool —
My friend Charlene, who used to be a nurse assistant but now she’s a dog-walker because she says it’s all about carting poop but with more regular hours and she can dye her hair green again, is collecting clippings from the news and all the inside dope from the Web in a bookmarks folder she calls THE END.
Her thing is, we’re getting to the end. There’s too many disasters out there looming for us to dodge’em all. Climate change, radiation, poverty, pollution, terrorism, war, volcanoes, asteroids, homelessness, viruses, dementia, the Oscars — Charlene even came across a website that the UN is hatching a plot to invent packaging so strong that we all starve trying to unwrap a loaf of bread. “Just look around you,” she said. “Go in the Safeway, there’s a stack of shrink-wrapped coconuts.”
A chicken out in the freeway at rush hour is going to wonder why it’s crossing the road.
Charlene says our only hope maybe is if we’re right on the brink of catastrophe but then another catastrophe knocks that one out of contention. Like the terrorists unleash smallpox on the world but then climate change kills all the germs. Or people get so stupid they can’t organize a war. Or space monsters invade to eat up human beings, then taste one and puke. Or some superbug busts Monsanto. Better, she says, is if you die before you die from something worse.
I asked her why she likes green hair. “I just like green,” she says. I don’t know how far she’s thought out the end of the world, but she gets along great with the dogs. The world needs more dog-walkers.
— From CB —
Picking up the thread. . . Being a tactful soul, I rarely initiate political discussions unless I’m sure I’m in safe company, meaning with folks like me. Yet I enjoy talking politics, as it tends to feed my sense of humor — a long-evolved survival technique. The humor gets blacker and blacker, but it still qualifies as humor, more or less.
It seems harder now. So many times the discussion veers from some specific political up-chuck to a catalog of inevitable catastrophe. I miss the days of being able to bitch about a President I voted for without eliciting a rant about the President being a puppet of the Dark Force. To me, that’s just too simplistic, not to mention its being a slam on the art of puppetry. A true puppeteer knows that it’s his puppet who’s really in charge.
To me, there’s never been a President whose record wasn’t rife with inconsistencies, lies, crimes, and sad approximations of good intent. There never will be. The juggler keeps adding balls to his juggle until he’s two or three past his absolute limit, and at that point his balls catch fire. I can feel wild outrage at these guys a moment at a time, but I can’t hold onto it: I myself wouldn’t be a damned bit better than the worst. If all my generals told me it was an absolute necessity to blow up the world, would I truly have the guts to say, “Hey guys, you’re fired”? At best, I’d probably say, “Well, give me ten minutes to think it through.”
I can do the catastrophe-catalog forwards & backwards in my sleep. For a thoughtful individual today, it seems to go beyond being an informed citizen — for what little that will do — into a compulsion equivalent to fixating on a bus thundering down on you without your being able to move an inch to avoid it. With that bus bearing down, it requires superhuman will to notice the golden butterfly flitting about your head. And if you do, you think how few butterflies you see these days. The butterfly’s presence slams you as hard as the bus.
I guess the only sane stratagem is to split the mind into separate but equal partitions. To see hope & redemption & beauty (The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale) directly alongside despair & loss & horror (Macbeth, King Lear), and never allow that balance of power to unbalance. To believe simultaneously in certain annihilation and in resurrection. I don’t know quite how to do that, but for me the catalyst is humor. Like aspirin, it doesn’t cure everything, but it helps.
— EF —
Today was a day off, after an ecstatic Lear followed by a mellower-than-usual strike and load-out (in Philly). Proof of what endorphins do: after a very tired day and a lot of physical discomfort, the energy shared with the audience left me full of vim and moving smoothly. (For about an hour and a half. CB wonders if I need to schedule Lears at two-hour intervals.)
It’s Sunday, no obligations. I have spent the entire afternoon standing in a well-equipped kitchen, peeling and chopping and roasting and basting, preparing an evening meal to be shared with dear ones, with a huge amount left over to freeze for the upcoming days in Brooklyn and onward. I know it sounds nuts, but it’s a great feeling to be able to raise a rude finger to corporate fast food and tuck into a huge crisp salad spread over roasted chicken and veggies. Beets, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, zucchini and Italian peppers. Zest R Us.
And peculiar hands. Beets have been used for centuries as dye-stuff, for obvious reasons, and turmeric is a killer source of yellow. It’s a novel effect, but it will wear off.
Tomorrow early, we will leave Philly — an old lover still beloved — and move on. This time, though, we are already plotting for the next return. Should we apply for comet-hood?
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© Bishop & Fuller 2015