I often compare Americans to the peasants of Sherwood Forest. I have no reason to believe that we are any better or worse people. Axiomatically, humanity is primitive. Sometimes we walk into a magnificent church and it changes us. Sometimes we walk into a gigantic factory and it changes us. Sometimes we delve into a great book and it changes us. Still, axiomatically, we're all bitches and brutes until we locate within ourselves a reason not to be, and some edifice of human creation that gives us the courage not to corrupt and debase ourselves. Rare is the man who is a paragon unto himself; solitary confinement is the greatest punishment. We are social creatures and our society is basically base, but sometimes...
We know this about ourselves. Every morning we brush our teeth and wash our faces because we're always trying to overcome entropy. A bit of maintenance symbolic of our culture's social contract. We're willing to try and civilize ourselves daily along an arc of ambition. For most of us the ambition needn't be cutthroat, but it depends upon the character of the institutions that we claim as stakeholders. I could be a CEO. I could be a treehugger. I could be Al Aksa martyr. I could be tourguide on the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I work in the shadow of structure, and I comport myself so long as I have hope to keep my face. Otherwise, I'm that fat woman scratching herself lying face up in the middle of the sidewalk on the corner of 9th and Walnut.
Sometimes we make good time along that arc. Sometimes we're naturally quick, other times we get a boost. We move fast enough within the crowd to jump out of ourselves and comment on the game itself. With enough momentum, we stop and smell the roses. They smell like something joyful and fun. We laugh and dance and forget bad times. Most of us thank the stars for the recreation time and then get back into the grind. Some cannot help but want to live outside of the crowded brotherhood of man so that we can make our business not business, but meta-business. We don't work, so much as we observe other people's work. We draw attention to ourselves in order to draw people to look at themselves as blithely or cynically as we do.
You know the attitude today in America. Irony. We angle into irony and jest or bite about the difference between joy and pain. Jesting irony is the province of the clown. Biting irony is the province of the poet. Either way, poetry and clowning lie in the province of hope and sometimes that becomes our profession. I know two men who became poets in this way, but I only know them from their dramatic self-personae.
One of those men was Latigo Flint, and he was the fastest gun in the West. He lived on the Westside among the gleaming Mercedes Benzes and million dollar mansions. He was confident and sure because he had that six-shooter. Some people reacted and said he was 150 years too late to be a top dog in California, but like all poets, he had his sense of integrity. From that source he drew straight illuminating stories through the random rococo sybaritic sensibilities of La La Land. I made all of the strage sense of sanity we daily deal seem slightly more ridiculous as only a sharpshooter could. He had more than an aw shucks charm that became easily recognizable virtue. There were only ladies in his world, each puzzlingly ignorant of why they needed his selfless chivalry, at first. Latigo Flint was a hero, no doubt about it. A hero out of time inside the mind of a man who wrote stories on the internet. And in that way he became a poet who bit quite properly at the lack of courage and nobility in our contemporary lifestyles.
Then one day that man looked at himself and discovered that he wasn't a biting poet but an evil clown.
Okay then... here's the fundamental aspect of madness that underlies all others:
Everything, and I do mean everything, sprouts tentacles and grows a fangy clown face if you stare at it long enough.
Toasters: check. Laptops: check. Bus drivers: check. The Revlon Girl on the billboard: check. The list goes on and on--concentrically and then back in again.
So, soon as you see it happen--scream. And don't stop until the fangy clown face tentacle monster is dead, killed by your mighty screams, and/or the men with caps give you a magical jacket made of space age polymer fibers designed exclusively for the purpose of shielding the wearer from fangy clown face tentacle monsters.
Name your jacket immediately. It can't protect you for very long if it doesn't have a name. Whatever you do though, don't use vowels. Vowels are how the fangy clown face tentacle monster latches onto your insides. If you utter a vowel when you talk to your magical jacket then the beast is gonna tear you apart and lap up your lung blood with a bacteria tongue of festering doom.
Which is no fun, by the way. It's just really no fun at all.
I recommend you name your magical jacket: "Gggrrgffttsk." Although you can’t go wrong with: "Pllfflrrgghh" either. "Ssgrrfflkmnhrrgy" is risky… you know, 'cause of the whole "and sometimes Y" thing.
And that was the last thing he wrote in his blog.
There may be some cells that remain in your body most of your life. Perhaps the roots of your teeth, perhaps some core heart muscle or maybe a few irreplaceable ganglia at the base of your skull are the only you that stays you. The rest of your body regenerates through working off old cells and putting new ones in roughly the same place. They say it takes 11 years to trade out all the exchangeable cells, and with the exception of the few, you are not the same person at all. Thus a natural rebirth takes eleven, so then does a natural death. But Latigo Flint was compelled to shortcut the process.
The Viagra industry notwithstanding, nobody gets a woody in the face of death. Scary things, truly frightening things that you expect to defeat you will cause permanent shrinkage. A man thus contributes to his demise by his inability to reproduce, it is self-motivated Darwinism. It is a slow form of suicide. A man who shrinks into himself hastens his own death. You can tell when clowns and poets are ready to undo themselves. They start to scribble over their own creations. They burn their manuscripts. They reveal themselves as frauds. They send their chihuahua packing. They total their little car that used to carry so many clowns in arms. They descend into self-mockery, self-loathing. They walk out of the building that used to house them and back into Sherwood Forest. They begin to describe themselves as would an ordinary bitch or brute.
They no longer put on their face.
For you and me that's like throwing away the toothbrush and the soap. It is the beginning of the end. It's heading to the crusty corner of 9th and Walnut to steal the half eaten Subway sandwich from the itchy woman. To appreciate the warmth of a manhole cover. To start rehearsing the excuses of beggary. Spit them all at once before they say no, and wait to see if you become a kick-dog scavenger or a dirty nailed predator craving for a beatdown at the hands of the clean shaven.
Yes, we all know when we need to start killing ourselves. We feel that we are completely wrong, that all the accumulations of our works and our selves and our bodies were done under false premises. We finally say the words "I am unworthy" and the debasement begins. The cells of the self finally get the message and they commence to radiate pain. We feel the pain deep in our hearts, in the back of our heads and throbbing in roots of our teeth.
Latigo Flint is dead. He shot himself in the face. There was nobody who could save him, because he was the quickest quickdraw in the West.