Writings and Letters

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Category: fiction

The End of History… (Cubs ed.)

by Francis Fukuyama

 

In the course of watching Game 7 of the World Series, it was hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental was happening in world history. To read some of the recent articles posted after the game seems to point to the end of over a century’s worth of misery and the upcoming of spiritual “peace” throughout the hearts and minds of North Siders. Most of these analyses lack a certain macro-study of what is ultimately of merit and what is analytical rubbish, and thus laughably cursory.

And yet…

These articles nevertheless (poorly, by accident) point towards some grander conceptual apparatus at play, viewed through the praxis of the Cubs playoff run: first with the remnants of a once powerful San Francisco Giants team, then the tinseltown darlings Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally a revamped derelict named the Cleveland Indians that threatened the hopes and dreams of America’s Pastime with the apocalypse. But the beginning of the twentieth century has been bookended by the beginning of the twenty-first in very much the same fashion: the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

The triumph of Chicago, of the very idea of the North Side Cubbies, is not only evident in the final tally, the hoisting of the gold-clad trophy, or the deluge of tenth-rate bubbly, but it transcends into the highest form of Western excellence: consumer products. Lakeshore Drive Yuppies and Northwest Suburban Soccer Moms wearing T-shirts, caps, pajamas, and flags all doubled their original markups; post-college bros and dentists alike with their signed baseballs, bats, and jerseys for upwards to $4000; picture frames, bobbleheads, commemorative books or Blu-rays, you name it! found in Belmont as well as Boystown, or Albany, Norwood, and Lincoln Park, and “Go, Cubs! Go!” can be heard on radio waves all across the city; over $70 million dollars-worth of merchandise sold within the first full day alone from buyers all over the country (even the poor children of Laos, Sudan, Afghanistan, Honduras, Haiti, and more, who will wear the over-sized T-shirts intended for hulking adults paid exorbitant salaries so high the gap between the two is as imperceptible as the words “World Series Champions” and “Cleveland” or the beet-faced racist caricature smiling back at them, even these children are a sign of the overwhelming success of the Cubbies excellence).

What we maybe witnessing is not just the end of the century-plus epoch of misery for Cubs fans and thus the exuberance of fans and profiteers in an orgy of commodity exchange, but the millennium of peace and prosperity for all baseball fans at the behest of The Loveable [Winners] and ergo: THE END OF HISTORY.

I

Of course, the concept of the end of history is not original. No. It started over seventy years prior this essay with the deleterious Greek, William Sianis, and his filthy goat: Buckles. Upon being ejected from the World Series game in Wrigley Field on account of either his or his goat’s smell, he used his crypto-gypsy black magic (sacrificing Buckles outside the gates of the historic ballpark) to curse the Cubs, stating: “These Chicago Cubs, they ain’t gonna win. They’re a buncha bums. They ain’t gonna win the World Series. Because they insulted my goat. They ain’t never gonna win a World Series ever again, or my name ain’t William Sianis of 374 South Halsted Street! Mark my woods [sic]. It’s da end of history for d’em!”

Sianis was borrowing this concept of the end of history from a far superior German thinker: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich von Puff’n’Stuff Hegel: whose legacy has been tarnished a bit at the hands of Billy Goat-worshiping descendants of Sianis (and possibly closeted Satanists) who appropriated Hegel for their own anti-Cubbie rhetoric, he now has the misfortune of being seen mainly as a precursor of Sianis goat cursing.

However, there was a man from Wrigleyville who attempted to wrestle Hegel from the claws (or hooves) of the Goaters. He was Harry Carey, and he held a long and prosperous career as a baseball announcer for various clubs, including over a decade and  half with the Cubs until his death in 1998. One fateful day in fall, Carey made the astonishing claim: “…sure as God made green apples, the Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” he spoke of the key ingredients of their success that were already in place, even though the team had only finished in first place twice in a thirty-year period prior and achieved a winning record just five times in that span, went through twenty-two different managers, and would eventually lose ace pitcher Greg Maddux. To peers of Carey’s in 1991, comments calling for a new manager “maybe Jimmy Frey” (who had been fired five years previously) or “this is a veteran team, guys who are young but still are veteran,” must have seen like ramblings of a senile loon, trapped in a quixotic myopia that was the blind love of a perpetually tottering baseball club. To some now, he might seem prescient. But Carey was just a dogmatic Hegelian.

II

Hegel is key to understanding the Cubs triumph and the end of history.

To summarize Hegel’s idealist views in a few pithy sentences would be a disservice to the philosopher and only accentuate the intellectual pratfalls of this essay. But fuck it.

Hegel believed the “real” world could be impacted by the “ideal” world (not necessarily directly, but indirectly), so our historical consciouses guide our human action which influences world behaviors which influence our historical consciouses.

So, when Carey stated twenty-five years prior to the realization that the Cubs would win the World Series, he was merely speaking from the realm of consciousness that all Cubs fans had, and eventually that idea broke through the nebulous of ideas into the world of reality, bringing in the end of history.

III

“But,” some might ask, “are we really at the end of history?”

Well, are the Cubs the World Series champions? Can any other team in Major League Baseball win the 2016 World Series now? Can anyone buy merchandise that claims otherwise?

We need not ask every crackpot fanatic their answer to the above questions. It matters very little what supporters of the Colorado Rockies, or New York Yankees, San Diego Padres or Detroit Tigers have to say about matters for they are not important enough. No. We need only ask these questions from other like-minded Cubbies.

Previously, the two biggest challengers to Chicago Cubs world dominance were the St. Louis Cardinals and goat curses. But as 2016 has shown us, what we always knew would be the case from the start, the Cubs handled the Cardinals (starting back in the 2015 NLDS when they defeated them to advance to the NLCS, but then winning the head-to-head series in 2016 and finishing seventeen and a half games ahead of them in the Central Division), and eventually broke the back of the vicious curse (with the throw from Bryant to Rizzo to capture the last out of the season).

Some may point out the Cardinals were plagued by injuries, suspensions, and other setbacks, and in an already weak Central Division, the Cubs were able to move through an easy schedule, or that they benefitted from a Giants victory over the Mets (a team they had a combined record of 2-9 over the past eleven games) in the Wild Card game, or that if the Cleveland pitching staff and outfielders had not played with comical Little League bungling in Game 6 or were not overwhelmed by the weight of their own being Cleveland-ness in Game 7, the Cubs might not be World Series Champions, and others point out that there are particularly searing issues the clubhouse will have to face in the future (Chapman and Fowler might move on; Heyward was not the player they paid for; no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees at the turn of this century) to ensure the Chicago Cubs hegemony.

With all these accusations flying about like a cherished W, it is possible to forget a simple truth. In 1908, the Cubs won the World Series. The present world seems to have confirmed this fact and stayed relatively close to the fundamental principles that a baseball team should win the World Series, and even though it might have been 108 years between then and now before the Cubs won the championship again, no one can deny they did, in fact, win the World Series, thus not only breaking the curse but establishing the greatness and ubiquity of Cubbie-dom.

IV

What, then, does it mean to be at the end of history?

Ultimately, because the Cubs are World Series champions it means they will remain so for the foreseeable future and thus live at the end of history in their surfeit of celebratory goodies, parades, and glad tidings.

Clearly, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins still exist in the world, and thus in history, but for any team (or their fans) that want to experience the joy and wonder of being a champion, all they need to do is to stop being them and become a Chicago Cub.

Based off my connections with the front offices in Cleveland and even the South Side the intelligentsia is most likely already starting to make their moves northward.

V

The victory of the Cubs spells the death of the Billy Goat curse. Its passing means the growing “Common Cubbietization” of Major League Baseball, and the unlikely return of any other equal-measured competitor to rise from now till the Rapture.

This does not mean the end of all problems, per se, in Chicago. The river will still need to be dyed a natural color, Jay Cutler will still be the Bears quarterback, and millions of Chicagoans will continue to drink Old Style and eat a glorified bread bowl of meat, cheese, and red sauce they call “pizza”… which might compel one to wonder how significant a Cubs victory is, but… … …

Now and forever, the Cubs will remain the victors valiant, the heroes of the West(ern civilized world), there need not be another champion of the Major Leagues for there is no alternative now to the Chicago Cubs.

The end of history will be sad for many. The struggle for a new identity will be felt. Many Cubbies will have a hard time coming to terms with being winners. The willingness to get piss-drunk and risk arrest for a purely abstract goal of greatness by punching a Brewers fan in the face will be lost. The ethic of “Loveable Loserism”will be replaced by something less adhesive, some cold calculation of victory, an endless sea of championship paraphernalia.

All we will have to look forward to now is this boredom, and perhaps, one day, look back longingly at history.

Barbershop off Main St.

For those who had even the most inchoate appreciation of spatial properties and crudest admiration for aesthetics, the barbershop was an offense to such attuned faculties. The locomotive design impacted all the contents of the room together into this long, strained hallway, without any of the pleasantries afforded by riding transit: mainly a sense of adventure: instead, what remained was the strong feeling of claustrophobia and decorative constipation. Checkerboard tiles spread out across the floor fading off into a blur, some optical deception, as the eyes hit the horizon. When buffered, which was rare, the floor glared back the light reflecting off it, day or night, to suggest a demur attitude towards cleanliness, preferring the soot-rich scrubbing of a years-old mop to crest its battered surface and expose blemishes in the dried remains of dirty water; most often, random marauding tuffets of clipped hair were noticed roaming across the barren plains searching for crevasses to hide in or shoes to fix under. Undusted frames of mass-produced prints hung scattered on the halogen-colored walls: Stuart’s unfinished Athenaeum, a detailed lithograph of Connecticut, bad Impressionists and Sargent’s divisive Gassed, ugly illustrations from obliged school children, a few covers of the Saturday Evening Post ripped straight from the magazine: their selection and level of skilled placement reinforced the banal eclecticism of Main Street. An overused broom and its mop companion leaned in a corner. To stare into the local parlor was similar to falling in it. One could not fight its gravitational pull.

… Conquista Todo

La Silla

Alejandro Francisco Villalba-Peña sat in a white leather chair next to his daughter’s bed. The chair was handcrafted from a Peruvian Almond (though the tree was not from Peru, nor did it produce almonds). As his mother used to tell him, Alejandro’s grandfather walked out into the forest determined to change his life. “There was no work in our village or even in the nearest city, which was not much of a city at all. Your grandparents struggled to feed us six children. One day, your grandfather just left the town. He never told your Abuela where he was going, he just left. He was gone for almost four days. She thought a jaguar ate him, or some bandits killed him. I was just a baby then, but I remember distinctly waking in my mother’s arms as she cried to the policeman and neighbor about how he was missing and they needed to find him. They kept saying there was nothing they could do. Then, in the middle of the night, he returned. Oh! was your grandmother outraged. She beat him with a broom and kicked him out of the house. She was smaller than me, and your grandfather was like you: tall and strong: but she beat him out of the house anyway. He even still had his ax in hand. She did not care! The next morning, though, she had calmed down and let him in. He told her of how he found the biggest tree in the forest, and how he worked on chopping the tree down. At first he didn’t know why he was doing it, maybe sell the wood for some money in the city. It took him all day to chop this tree down, some seventy to one-hundred meters high and almost three meters wide—though the tree grew more when your Papa was drunk,” she would wink.

“When the tree finally fell, the earth shook. He was in awe of this magnificent, huge fallen beast. It was too beautiful to be turned into simple firewood. Plus, when he was chopping it down, he realized he guessed the wrong tree. The wood was so hard, it was perfect for furniture… now… at this point in the story, your Abuela was almost at his throat again. ‘You don’t know how to make any furniture!’ she yelled at him. I don’t remember this, but your Papa always told me it happened. He remembered raising his voice to her, telling her how he would find a way, God willing. Then he stormed out of the house with some other tools and his ax. But these weren’t carpentry tools, no. He took what he had, even stole Abuela’s favorite knife, and disappeared for a week. When he returned, though, he had the most-beautiful chair my mother had ever seen. It was still crude, he needed to sand it and treat it, but it was beautiful. He sold it to a wealthy businessman in the capital. That first chair saved our family, and started the Peña company.” His mother usually sat back in whatever piece of furniture, usually the chair Papa made for Abuela on their anniversary. “He used to tell me, of all the chairs he ever made himself, the ones from that first tree were the greatest, and none better than the first. It was a magnificent work of art, Alejandro. Forged from a most desperate man, in desperate times. The Lord moved through him out there in the forest. He made him more than he ever was.”

Alejandro had additions made to the chair. It was now tufted with white leather and the top rail and arms covered in gold trim. The leather was a gift from the owner of the richest cattle farm in the nation. The gold came from the country’s mines. It had been molded into figures of ancient gods and peoples, long gone but etched into the collective memories of Alejandro’s people. The figures were designed so whenever he sat in the chair he was surrounded by the legends of his country and the people who came before him. The metaphor was lost to Alejandro. He wanted jaguars, the newly christened national animal, roaring and fighting one another all around him. He had dreamed of such things since he was a boy.

He was insulted when his wish was not met. He knew he was unambiguous when he gave his instructions. It was a slight against him. But the jeweler was his brother-in-law, and the work done for free, so he could not reject the final design. Every time he sat in the chair with his daughter, though, he was reminded of this disrespect and furthermore he was indebted to his brother-in-law for it. This was the first chair of the Peña legacy. It was the one his grandfather could not buy back, nor his father will it’s return. No amount of money, or might, could return the chair to his family. It was not until Alejandro became El Padre that the chair was returned to the rightful owners. He was supposed to sit upon it in the Great Room, where he would run the country, but the disrespect was too great for him to ignore. So the chair was moved to his daughter’s room.

 

Time in the Fog: The Farm

(Previously)

THE FARM

 

The dying Virginian summer held on to its intensity in the idiosyncratic fashion of a Southern drawl, languidly carrying on towards fall. The heat hung in the air along with the thick moisture August provides. As the seconds dragged closer to midnight, the temperature still dawdled in the low-nineties. It had been this way for some weeks now, at least ten days. It was hard to keep track of time when each moment was just as oppressively hot as the next, and no degree of vegetation could shield one from the immeasurable radiation pouring down, trapped by the vapors in the air. Day transitioned into night and back again. The weather stayed the same. It became another obstacle for Agent Robins’s re-initiation.

The “field trips” ran some twelve to sixteen hours long for however many days until the mission was completed. The team might have to cover anywhere from eight to twelve miles a day through the heavy terrain. It had been almost fifteen years since she first stepped foot on the Farm to begin her training. Though she still maintained good physical conditioning on her own, returning to the field was a different matter all together. It required not only a special degree of corporeal attention, but cognitive as well.  

Her training returned within the first few hours of her inaugural day, though: how to spot markers of roaming enemies and avoid tripwires or makeshift landmines, the best field techniques for keeping the body temperature low and feet dry, how to stay agile and silent with fifty-pound equipment (most of it unnecessary in the real field, but added in training to antagonize trainees) and sift through the forest’s white noise to tune in on footsteps, and mostly, she remembered the importance of battlefield equanimity.

It was a simple mission: track a group of ELN fighters, maybe six to ten strong, and eliminate them. But the days were cruel. One of the recruits suffered a bad sunburn on his arms and neck, he never slept well as a result. Most were exhausted by the continuous deluge of thick heat and traveling up steep hills and back down into valleys. They never complained, to their credit, but they were too slow. They would never catch the target at their current pace, and they risked being spotted if they moved too slowly—there were always more. Agent Robins knew by the trail size (which also gave away the formation), and few bits of trash left behind, the enemy’s numbers were fluctuating wildly anywhere from ten to twenty or more. The new recruits did not notice. Outnumbered, they would have to use the environment to their advantage.

That night, she encouraged the team leader to press on. Brady Copeland, graduated from Stanford with degrees in International Politics and Botany, former wrestler, admirable IQ, considers himself a gentleman, the typical red-meat All-American attributes that get selected for the agency. “Genetically-Modified Boy Scouts,” her mentor used to say.

 

“But how?” he looked up at her. He was laying down, seconds from sleep.

“We’ll track by moonlight, and perform night raids.”

He thought about it. He looked over to the other team members, some already sleeping. It had been an especially long day, and even though the index was still pushing into the high-eighties, most fell asleep from pure exhaustion. He shook his head. “It’s against the mission guidelines.”’

“There are no guidelines. We need to move. Now. We’re too slow. The rebels heavily outnumber us. If they’re smart, they are routinely splitting up and sending out scouts to ensure they aren’t walking into something or being followed. Based off the trails, they are smart. So, the longer it takes for us to find them is more time we are in the dark, and that increases our vulnerability and likelihood of mission failure.”

That struck a chord. It usually did with types like Brady. She watched his eyes as his brain tried to process the hypothetical scenario of failing, then cross examine the ramifications with breaking protocol and heading out in the middle of the night with a team already depleted of rest and stamina, but his eyelids kept fluttering. He could not focus. He let out a sigh. “I disagree, Agent Robins. Get some sleep.”

 

The following day, over thirty ELN insurgents ambushed the team of five at dusk. She and another recruit, Kerr, were able to stay alive long enough and use the cover of darkness to slip away through a hole in the attack. For the next six days, she pursued the ELN squad. There was a main core of fifteen that would swell upwards to forty and then disband. She kept track of the main group with Kerr until the sixth night when they shrunk to only eight. She had Kerr stationed just on the outskirts of the camp with explicit instructions: “Don’t move.”

Slithering through the ground, she came upon the scout who was keeping watch. His name was Church, but for the purposes of the drill he smeared dark green paint on his face and was a firm believer in focalism. His black ski mask was pulled up on his head and he wore a boonie atop. He was comfortable. It was his mistake.

She snuck up on him and drew her knife. The blade made the lightest breath as it released from its sheath, the killing spirant. He was on his feet taking slow steps around the bivouac. He did not notice his boot almost kissed her knee. She rose behind him and in one muted glimmer had her hand on his mouth and knife on his throat. She whispered: “You’re dead.”

She then woke up the remaining seven in a similar fashion. The last was the team leader, Gibson. She tapped his boots for him. When he woke, he saw the other members of his team sitting around the fire. His combatant stood above.

 

“Evening, Robins,” he stretched out of his waterproof blanket.

“Evening, sir.”

He rolled his eyes as he sat up. He looked at his men. “I assume I’m dead?”

“That would be correct.”

“You all, too?” he asked aloud. The team nodded. He shook his head. “Goddamnit, Church.”

Church said nothing.

Gibson looked at Robins. “Knife?”

“Yes.”

He nodded. “Good work. What about Kerr?”

“He’s securing the perimeter.”

“How is he?”

“Smart enough to stick with me.”

“You cocky bitch.”

“Easy, sir,” Church said. “That’s a real knife she’s wielding.”

The men laughed.

“All right,” Gibson said. “This op is over. I want to thank you, Myra. I was beginning to miss my bed.”

 

The next mission used a mixture of al Qaeda techniques and various tactics from sub-Saharan guerrilla outfits. She was the team leader. The initial testing was over. Now she was being prepared for what was to come.

Ten Dollar Rosé

“Raspberry Beret” is one of Prince’s most well-known and beloved songs off his Around the World in a Day album. But little do people know the history behind the song and what it was originally called.

Back in 1983, while making his breakthrough commercial success, Purple Rain, Prince had already composed the music for “Raspberry.” It was going to be a hidden track on the album after the titular song. “Yeah, he was really jazzed about that song,” recalled Lisa Coleman. “He really liked the idea of burying it in the album as a gift for the fans.”

But the original lyrics for the song made some people less-enthusiastic. “Man. Those lyrics sucked,” laughed Bobby Z. “But of course, you can’t tell Prince that. He’ll go off on you. Dude was so serious about his music, lyrics, everything. Everyone was looking at each other, the music was there. It was a great jam, but the lyrics were so Goddamn lame. No one could say anything. But we all knew it.”

Eventually, as the lore goes, Prince’s father, John L. Nelson, was the one to break it to his son that the lyrics in the song  needed a little more time to mature. When asked how the musical legend took the news, Bobby Z. said: “He was real quiet. Didn’t move. Didn’t even look like he was breathing. Just stared at his old man for like twenty minutes without saying or doing anything. Then a small tear started rolling down his cheek. I’ll never forget it. He told us he needed a minute alone. So we left. A couple hours went by, we expected he’d tell someone to come get us when he was ready. I thought he’d trash the place or something, but nothing happened. Another hour goes by and the studio engineer goes to see how things are, he’s probably worried about his equipment. Dude comes back and is like: ‘Prince has locked himself in the vocal booth and I can’t get him to come out.'” He shook his head. “He was in there for three days. Didn’t let anyone in. Didn’t come out. For three days.” He paused for a moment. “Then he baked a cake and wrote ‘Let’s Go Crazy.’ That was Prince.”

Prince would obviously revisit the song and write some new lyrics, the ones we all know and love to this day.

The original lyrics were forgotten about until recently when they were found stuffed away in Prince’s own 1000-page cookbook for spaghetti recipes. They are as below. The song was titled: “Ten Dollar Rosé”

I was working for a time at a Beer and Wine, trying to buy a color TV
My friends told me repeatedly I was wasting my time
‘Cause I was colorblind, you see

I think I was in Aisle Three stacking pork rinds or something
It couldn’t have been much more
That’s when I spotted her, yeah I saw her
She strolled in across the wet floor, wet floor

(And) she bought a
Ten dollar rosé
The kind you find in a shitty liquor store
Ten dollar rosé
And though it was warm, she bought a little more
Ten dollar rosé
I think I love her

Drunk though she was
She had the nerve to ask me
If I could microwave her chicken parm
So, look here
I put her in my station wagon
And we took a trip
Down to old man Johnson’s farm

I said now, eating small birds never turned me on
Showed her how those hens were treated badly by the hicks
She seemed to see
But I could tell as she looked on
She wanted to eat those chicks

(And) she bought a
Ten dollar rosé
The kind you find in a shitty liquor store
Ten dollar rosé
And though it was warm, she bought a little more
Ten dollar rosé
I think I love her

She kissed me so hard, I think she chipped a tooth
I tried to tell her she went too far
Nothing matters to the birds and bees
She screamed, “I’m a movie star!”

Look
So I won’t say it was the greatest
But I tell ya
If I had the chance to do it all again
I wouldn’t change a stroke
‘Cause chickens they got choked
Because she’s the kind who likes to spend

(Ten dollar rosé)
The kind you find (The kind you find)
The kind you find (In a shitty liquor store)
Oh no no
(Ten dollar rosé)
(And though it was warm)
Where have all the rosé women gone?
Yeah (Ten dollar rosé)

I think I, I think I, I think I love her

(Ten dollar rosé)
No no no
No no no (The kind you find)
(In a shitty liquor store)
(Ten dollar rosé)
Tell me
Where have all the rosé women gone? (And though it was warm)
(She bought a little more)
(Ten dollar rosé)

 

Scenes: The Maestro

My retinas were kissed by the amber-hue of the concert hall as I came out onto the stage. The house lights revealed the more-than-two-thousand seats that environ the orchestral “pit.” Soon, they all would be filled with over-enthused patrons, who have waited years for the return of the maestro. The first show since his… hiatus. People coming from all over the country, as well as Europe, China, Japan, India, to see the opening night of his return. Tickets were sold out in less than ten minutes. I had to personally tell several offices of presidents and kings that there were no more tickets available. Consequently, I am now banned from several of these countries.

The concert hall’s undulating fluidity of walls and ceiling, bleeding concave into convex and back, illustrates a visually inverse reflection of the sound, trapping the acoustics in their place so that no matter where one sits in the hall the experience is audibly the same. When he first stepped out onto the stage (the first time not only on that one, but any in fifteen years) he remarked: “Das Paradox ist im Spiel.” When the chairman and other board of directors asked what he meant, I took it upon myself to translate: “He is thinking about the interplay between the music that will be animating outward and the constructed pieces designed to keep it inward. That struggle is like a playful wrestling.” They looked around the hall and back at me, a hint of confusion in their smiling dumb faces, looking to me for more. So I added: “He likes it.”

Tonight, he’ll be playing Dmitri Shostakovich’s “5th Symphony,” portions of Sergei Prokofiev’s “The Tale of the Stone Flower,” and selected works from Jules Massenet’s “Eve” and Hans Rott’s “Symphony in E-Major” plus, as a surprise encore performance, his latest composition. He wants to “break their hearts, then slowly put them back together after the intermission,” to “show them the whole breadth of the human element.” He is excited. “Oh Camille,” he said the night before last over dinner. “They again have returned. Those wonderful butterflies.” Diese wunderbaren Schmetterlinge. Ich sehe sie wieder.

He was out on the stage. In two hours the doors would open. He was sitting in the third cellist’s wooden chair. He looked concerned, perplexed even, swaying from one side of the seat to the other. Scratching his hair, listening carefully to nothing, he leaned left, then right, back again, looked as if he was almost inspecting the air underneath the seat.

Last night he called me in a panic. “Camille! Darling! It’s impossible. Just simply impossible!” What? I asked. What was the matter? I was trying to remain focused while simultaneously tearing myself from the grips of a deep sleep. “The chairs! They’re simply awful!” Then he proceeded to tell me how he needs to replace all of the orchestra’s chairs. But it was three in the morning. “I don’t care! We can’t have a show with those shit chairs!” He instructed me on what he needed. Wooden chairs. Handcrafted. Preferably with at least ten years of use, and possibly birch wood, but under no circumstances oak.

The board members were not too pleased when in the morning they witnessed the maestro (gently) tossing the concert hall’s chairs out from the pit and placing the wooden replacements down. One looked at me with eyes that seemed to say: “Again?” Various staff at the concert hall were standing about watching the maestro along with the delivery men who had the wooden chairs I was able to find—they came gratis from a local school that was preparing to throw them out.

It was easy to understand the board members frustration, and confusion. The new chairs were ugly, worn, some had crude graffiti written on the seats and sides in marker or etched with pen or pencil: the most common unsavories were the word “Fuck” and phallic images—quite remarkable detail when considering these came from a 4th grade classroom. They were by far inferior to the usual ones. The president came up to me: “You can’t possibly allow this to happen! Those chairs he’s throwing around cost us more than two-hundred dollars each.” They were quite nice to sit in. Padded, stainless steal, coated in a black matte paint, heavy. The maestro was humming Ravel as he picked one chair, then another, and dropped them off the stage into the front row. “Will he stop doing that!?” the president raged. A scuffle broke out between the maestro and an employee of the hall who was following orders. The maestro’s mood changed like a flash as he struggled for control over a chair from the employee. “Du Idiot! Du widerliches Arschloch! Lass los!” An ugliness reverberated throughout the hall for the next minute, so arresting it doubled as a vacuum afterwards leaving the open space as a new muted environment. I did my best to calm all parties, though I was staunchly defending my mentor. After the president made a rather uncouth comment about the maestro’s behavior, I had no other option but to take it upon myself to explain that if the two-hundred dollar chairs were so important to her, she could have them, but there would be no maestro.

After the fight, he disappeared. We were searching for him for more than six hours, but he was nowhere to be found in the building or surrounding area. (I later learned the president had called several conductors in that timeframe to see if they would fill in, but to no avail.) I was in my room, in a state of melancholy, when one of the interns informed me the maestro had returned. He brought me through the back to the stage, and surely there the man of the hour was.

I slowly came upon the maestro while he moved from the cellist’s chair to the first oboist’s. He was in full composer regalia. I wondered how he managed to change, as my room and his were connected and I left the separating door open. How did he sneak in without me knowing? “Maestro,” I called in a gentle manner so as not to startle him. He turned to me with a smile, then back to the matter at hand of sitting in the chair, turning from one side to the other and back, listening, scrutinizing nothing. My heart began to jump. The thought of that board member’s eyes returned. “Again?” I asked him what he was doing. He smiled at me in a sort of paternal affability. “I’m listening.” To what? The reverberation? The silence? The hall? “No, Camille,” he laughed. “To the chair.” I was near tears as he moved to the second oboist’s seat. But why? Why in the name of the heavens would he need to listen to the chairs?

He stopped and briefly sighed. He understood now that I could not see just like the others.

“My darling. The chairs are important. I need the right ones to sing out just a little, so that when Mary,” he pointed to the violinist’s empty spot, “or Henry,” he motioned back to where the tam-tam player sits, “when they move in their chairs the slightest creak will sound. And with any luck, it will happen in the lulls between the triumphs of music.” But what was wrong with the previous chairs? “They were too good. They made no sound. In all the practices, something was amiss. I couldn’t understand why the music felt so hollow to me. Because when I would see these players shift in their seats, no sound would produce. It was haunting. Like I was trapped in some nightmare. Every single sound is part of the orchestra. The beauty is lost if the entirety is not realized. All of this,” he motioned around him, “means nothing if when Yoshino,” he pointed down at his lap, “squirms in her chair as she does, the audience does not hear it.” He smiled at me, so pleased by current events. “Do you see now?”  Siehst du jetzt? Siehst du die kleiner Schmetterlinge?

… I smiled back in silence. What else could I do?

Infinite City: Berserks and Haunts, As Explained by a Sixzy

Yeah, so like, where to begin? The CC. What a furious dump. Started off with der German pirates Ludwig and Hans-Johanns, and then branched out from there. First it was a pirates’ joint, then eventually the empires came, the joint legitimized and shits and it become a trading port. Gross fertile lands to the east by the river and the discovery of coal and gold in the mountains southbound in King Thelonius’s Range turn the City into half-agrarian paradise, half-shady gang town (plus, you wise, descending from pirates and whatsnot) or so the legend goes—the one that examples the First Civil Unrest in the early 1700s—you’ve got a whole history of a city with people that don’t like each other, don’t even like themself much either. Can’t even settle on a name.

First it was “Dee O-zah” or some German shit like that, denn they changed it to “Noy Himmel” when the Calvinists show up and start causing a ruckus, denn they change it again around the early 1700s to “Noy Reich” which is like “New Country” or something and then when we all start speaking English finally by mid-1700s it gets ang- angli- oh fuck that word, it gets changed to “New Reich” but some just call it Riker City because it’s easier. Anyway, like you don’t know what happens next. The fucking—anglitized! that’s the word, they anglitized it—uh… yeah… where was I? Oh rights, der fucking World War Duo happens and like gross shit happens in the city. You gots dees nuts Nazi sympathizers all over Ghettoland and Booty (they didn’t call them berserks that back then, I’ll talk about that in a minute). Uh, uh, yeah, Nazis, man. All over what used to be the furious fancy tits part of the city, you wise. Had FBI and police all over the city busting Nazi cults left and right, Nazis putting bombs in Jewish mailboxes and phone booths in all over Ass End, shooting up cars they think got undercover police in them. It was gross. And all over the City, I’m talking: Flatport, Reeves, Gorgon’s Alley, Duchess, uh, uh, all over what’s now New Strip, uh yeah, and Axel South, and Merlin Square, and uh… Capital Hall, Capital Hall was a bloodbath for that whole time, man. Not even us in Sixzy were safe, well I mean we never are, you wise, but like we were caught in all kind of gross cross fire. Nazis and Feds going right through our neighborhoods to tear up the other sides. Bayland was borderland between. My old man used to tell about that when he was young, watching the shoot outs from his window.

But uh… what was I saying? What was this about? Oh yeah. So lotta, lotta shits going down, rich? And eventually most of the Nazis get killed or thrown in jail or move to Argentina and Brazil or just move over to Posh Town, but uh… the City loses its name again, and like we all vote for a new one. Well, no. We voted for one before. Like in 1939, or maybe ’40. Definitely by ’41. It goes from “New Reich” to “New Helm.” Now, a lot of people wanted it to be tied back to the Indians that lived in the lands before the pirates killed them all. Chthic City. I don’t remember what “Chthic” meant to the natives. I think it was a mutual harvest god or something. Something about dirt, I think. Because the land was so fertile, you wise. Wait. I already said all that. Uh… yeah… what else? Oh, right. So there’s a vote and some want “Chthic” and some want “Helm” because who fucking knows, they’re as boojie as all tits and the Nazis (who are still around at this point) still want to call it “New Reich” or change it to “Hitleropolis” or something Nazi like that. The votes come in and no two-thirds majority has it so—oh that’s right—they had to eliminate the Nazis and by like ’44, ’45 is when they finally get it to “New Helm” which I still don’t know why. The boojie racists still wanted to sound German, and most of the other whites agreed, or at least agreed more than calling it Chthic City. But you still had like a third of the city that wanted to call it Chthic, so some started calling it the one that won the vote and others didn’t and this shits still sits with us now: some people call it New Helm, some Chthic, or the CC for short. A lot of people call it the City because it’s easier. Plus you gots nicknames: Bay City, Bay Haven (boojie people call it this), and Hemlock City because of that dark-ass bay of ours.

What else? What else?

Yeah, so you, uh, gots twenty-two fucking berserks. I don’t know why. Actually, I do. We call them berserks because it got angli- anglitized from the German word for “district” and there are so many of them because peeps don’t like each other. I know I’m pissing you a little, but it true. First started back with those pirates. Hanzy and Lew-Dogg had some beef and then the factions started popping up left and right, and then Charles Prick (no bullshit, that’s his name) arrived with his Calvinist followers and then the Catholic monks about a hundred years later, and on and on and on, but ever since the pirate dudes split no one in the City has ever liked the other. Actually, ever since the pirates got there and started killing off them Indians, no one has liked anyone. Or actually… them fuckers didn’t like each other either, so I guess it’s in the water or something. But like the reason everything’s got “land” on the ass of it is because for a little while (like before the 18th century or so) there were like fifty little countries all run by different pirate lords or miner gangs, or slave holders, or whatever, and the German for “country” is “Land” so… there you go. Lands. Still sticks because of the boojie white people like the idea of tradition, even if its tied back to awful people doing awful things. White people. What else can I say, you wise?

Uhm… hmm… yeah. Wars popping up like gross all over. But not really wars, just endless battles between small communities. Like first it was the Ludwig faction against Hans, actually no that’s a lie, it was der pirates against them Indians, then the Pirate Wars, denn the Great Calvinist Inconvenience, then The Revolt of 1684, there some more in there… I don’t know… there’s a lot, you wise. Uh… the First, Second, and Third Catholic Purging, there were a few more of those… uh… yeah. Lots of “wars” over the years. But yeah, nows there like twenty-two berserks over the City. It all starts in Gorgon’s Alley, which is what the haunts and the berserk is really called. I mean you have North Eye and South Eye, those haunts, and then Gorgon’s Alley, the Greeks, Pincher’s Post, and the Reeds: those are all a part of Gorgon’s Alley the berserk. But that’s where it all started. That’s the origin of the CC. Then it all just kinda spreads from there. Bloomland and Oldsland are the next berserks. All that land was colonized after Gorgon’s. You got some historic haunts in East Stretch and Pixie. Southfoot, that’s where they hanged Charles Prick, and burnt the monks, and disemboweled Hans-Johanns. Rights out there where Baskin-Robbins and American Eagles hock shit. Eeyore’s got a-ton a-ton of bars, it is furious the number. We call its that because it’s East Oldsland. So mash that together, and get gross shit-faced: Eeyore. Then you got Koossen, which was named after one of the pirates. I don’t remember which though. Then Greenland. That’s like where a lotta, lotta pride is dumped into the City. Lotta Hammer shit out there. That’s where Mmm-Hat is. Right overlooking North Park. The Major Metropolitan Museum of History and Theory. MMM-HaT. My father used to works in there. That’s like where this all comes froms, you wise. Used to take all the boojie kids from their schools in Horthwright Manors and Fletcher Park and tell them all the bullshit you s’pose to, you wise, all that stuff that’s in the news now with the textbooks. Gross stuff. Gross amounts of museums, universities, all the sports teams play there, it’s all there in Greenland, in haunts like: Upper Face, Flatport, Reeves, Aubrey Hills, lotta tight neo-gothic architecture is all over Capital Hall, that’s also where der city hall is and lots of dees government buildings. Uh yeah… what else? I mean those five pretty much make up the Old City as it stood. The lines of those berserks are pretty much untouched. Fact. Du can find bits of the wall Ludwig built to keep the Indians out of his town. It now separates the boojie parts of Aubrey Hills from Sixzy, but it goes all along from the Mond down to Hemlock.

Then you got Bayland, my home. I’m a Sixzy, grew up my wholes life on or around Sixth Street. That runs right through the heart of Bayland, starts at der Pier where du get most of the jobs coming still for peeps, but it’s like heavily boojie now, you wise? Likes a-ton un a-ton of fancy tits restaurants and places like that. Lotta peeps working on staffs in there. Sixth is like a bigs deal for lotta, lotta us, man. That’s where they used to take the slaves in for sales. When the Uprising happened back in the 1800s, Sixth was where freedom spread from out. You had all kinda crazy number of slaves coming in from around the city, out from the fields in der east and flooding Slave Town (whats they called it then). But for likes six gross weeks, man, I’m telling you, Slave Town was Free Town and Sixth was where it was at. See like, the City was still very its own, you wise? Likes even the president didn’t want to mess with the City. But when the things got ugly, and the mayor was like: “Yo, dees slaves be shitting mad hate on us, you better come squash this right now.” But it was all horses and on feet back then. They couldn’t fire up the drones to blow the slaves out of the sky in a day, you wise? So whiles it taken them weeks to get to us, we were setting up a government un defending ourselves from the slave owners trying to steal us back and city police and whatnot. Then the military came and it was gross. Slavers didn’t want their property harmed at first, but by week six they were just like: “Try not to kill the babies if you can.” No bullshit. That’s like in der records un shit. Anyway, Sixth is der Hammer. That’s where we all comes from.

And then you go west to the other berserks from Bayland: Midland, Renaissance, and Beauté. All four are parts of the “Inner Berserks” which is just a boojie term for “where to put all the non-white peeps.” Both Renaissance and Beauté used to have all the wealthy haunts of all der Nazi supporters. During the War, after they kicked out the Nazi from CC, they tore up the area for more military barracks and bases. Then after that they kinda gave it all up and converted them alls into a projects for the poor and immigrant. When they renamed the city, they changed the berserks too, from “Reichland” to “Renaissance” and “Volks-shtott” to “Beauté.” I don’t remember all the old Nazi haunt names, but nows it all like: Liberté, Unité, Fraternité, Égalité, Rois, Bleu, Sérénité. I guess they thought changing shit to French was assperational or something. I don’t know. Uh… anyways, they shoved all the rest of der poor people there and forgot about all that goodwill aspirational shit and left us for dead while they built the Sprawl (more about that in a sec). But it’s like, uh… uh… we don’t even call it that. No one coming here to teach us French. Shit. Only reason I know how to pronounce them is because of my dad. Shit. Those are the only French words he ever knew, and same for me. Shit. It’s all Booty (or some call it Baby, or Bay-B) and Ghettoland for the berserks. And you think peeps from the Inner call those haunts that? Nah. It’s ain’t that at alls. It’s all anglitized, too. Or ghettotized.

Uh… yeah. So then… you go all the way west and north into the WASPy berserks. You got Riverland, Coastland, Charles, and Paladin Heights. Well not so much Paladin. That’s where the Catholics came in. Lotta, lotta Catholics still around there. But yeah, that whole northern part of the city is where Charles Prick came with his Calvinists and started causing a ruckus with the generations that descended from the pirates. Lotta bad blood. Lotta wars. Lotta dead people during that time. It wasn’t until der monks show up. Denn you got them teaming up to slaughter dees monks. Fuckers never stood a moment on the CC and the WASPs and other white peeps coming to the port to beat them to death and steal their goods, grill ’em. Like five, six times this happens. Catholic monks come over from Europe, peeps come out to find them and kill them or send ’em back. Fucking brutal, you wise. They even sunk one of the ships before it could get to land, but it was a merchant ship. So eventually that stops. I don’t remembers, but it happened eventually. Military stepped in or something. No wise.  But yeah, that’s like lotta, lotta industry and factories and big cargo dumps and lotta lotta other stuffs all out there, rich. Like tonna working peeps, but now likes lotta Slovaks and Greeks and Taiwanesians and Persians live out in der parts because most of the others have fucked off to the Sprawl. Un, uh, yeah but most those haunts in der berserks are still gross nice. It’s not until you start touching the Inner do those parts get bad. But whatevers, it’s still like furiously better. Fucking boojie peeps.

What else? What else? Damn. Yeah. I forget how gross this city is with all these places. Gross big. Furious big, man, you wise? Like some twenty-thirty million living in this city—half of that shit in the Sprawl, but stills. So like all dees that I was talking about was the North End of the CC. Denn you gots the Islands. Most of those are boojie islands. You got Links and the Tri-Islands, but everyone calls thems Posh Town and Posh-Annex. Posh Town is where all the uber-uber boojie-time peeps are and their super fancy tits houses and other places. And Posh-Annex is like the step down, you wise? Like the Red Lion to the Black Lion in Voltron. Fucking Lance and Keith. So white. Where are all the black people? In a perfect world it’s all void of brothers? Damn, Japan. Why you gotta do us like that? Nothing about that show made sense. Why wasn’t that shit more orderly? Keith wore red but drove the Black Lion, and Lance wore blue but drove the Red. What the fuck? You mastered intergalactic travel and fight space monsters but you can’t help a kid out and where clothes that match your fucking lion robot? Color-coordinate that shit! And what the fuck with lions? Ancient space aliens know about lions on Earth? The fuck? And whatever happen to that German dandy motherfucker? Sven. Or was he Swiss? I don’t remember.

Anyway, yeah, Posh-Annex peeps are all stiff in the ass to the Posh Town crowd because during the War the military came in and started kicking Posh Town peeps out of their homes, creating a few officers’ barrack and headquarter and naval stations and whatever else, you wise, all that military bullshit, so they started kicking out some of the boojie crowd, others could stay because their land was more inland, or in less “strategic” area. So like the military was doing this to all the islands: Links, Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt (but then it was Cleveland), the free islands. So like anyone who got kicked out was relocated to Ass End, the New Strip, parts of Deebs. A lot of the Jews and Scandinavians that lived in those berserks got kicked out. The City then bought up land from the farmers east of the city, and that’s what was the start of the Sprawl. But then like after the War all the Posh-Annex people wanted to moved back, but what had happened was that some of the property remained under the ownership of the military, other parts converted into private industrial enterprises, or spots (for a lot of the officer quarters) were purchased by those Posh Townies who didn’t get kicked out. They bought up that real-estate and then charged outrageous amounts of monies to the “off-island” peeps who wanted their homes back. Poor boojies, rich? Can’t get their three-storey Victorians back the way they were? Furious, yo. Gross furious. So anyway, the wealthy pricks complained to the mayor and got the Tri-Islands redrawn into residential areas for them. Catch with that was those islands all had city-run facilities to take care of the bum population, the ‘tards, the seniors, all spots over those threes. So what did the city do? Well, they were financing the fucks outta the Sprawl, and the mayor made concessions to the industry businesses to cut back on taxes, so dudes were a little strapped for cash, so they closed all the facilities. The homeless went back to the streets, same with the ‘tards because there were no other facility that could care for or wanted to care for thems. Some of the seniors went into hospitals, or back to their families, but a good amount went homeless, too. You gots this uber flood of homeless peep, you wises. Uh… something like a hundred thousand, two-hundred thousand peeps out on the streets, un, uh, then like a freak winter came in and killed off half of dees peeps. We stills call that one “the Hard Winter.” Gross, rich?

Those the islands. The free ones were given back to the peeps, but fat-fucking chance a Sixzy can ever get over there. Du gotta take like six Metros to get there, takes like two hours. So whites go there. Them and der Puertos and Chineses that live over in New Hope and Little San Juan in der New Strip. Man. South City has all the Hammer shit. Nice parks, nice homes, everythings like a little nicer because of the land and those Lands were built on top of the miners’ towns, which were all just like wood. Most just burnt down in the King Thelonius Riots and the Miners’ Revolts, so they like just started building on them in the early-20ths. It’s all nicer over there, plus you gots the mountains and all that gross pretty shit. Make a Sixzy blush with rage. All dem berserks are furious nice and boojie-adjacent, you wise. The haunts in Ass End are real nice. Lotta Posh-Annex peeps used to live in Mame Loshn and Vidvelt after they took over, but dees used to be all the Jewtowns. They kicked them all the way out. But they are all pretty nice. Mostly Hasids now live there after they reclaimed it in the 80s. Actually I never stepped foot in there. Only heard it was nice. Don’t think I’d ever been invited, you wise? But Parkland, Deebs, and Bergland are like quantum leaps beyond the prettiest berserks in the CC. Deebs has got like the nicest park. Olympia Park. Was built in Glits for the Olympics back in the 50s. It’s pretty Hammer. But denn you gots all these tinier parks that spread across all over there. Same with Parkland. Arcadia Park was the first official city park. That’s where all the hippies tried to convert it into a “free town” but that didn’t last so long. And Bergland is right along the Range so all that haunts: Thelonius, Ashway, Matterhorn, Nord, Karling, Whimp: all Hammer as shit. Alls skis towns and whatnot. Not that a Sixzy gets a chance to ski all the time, a Sixzy don’t love the snow, but every now and again we gets out there.

No wait. Sven was Swedish. That’s right. And the fucker dies in the original Japanese version. But apparently kids can’t handle that shit stateside. Fucking Sven. You silly bitch.

But where was I?

Oh right. Yeah. Those are all nice places. But if I had to like choose. Like choose, choose. I’d probably live in Hearts. Shits got it all. It was likes the first suburban experiment for the CC by Hearts before he got his hands on the Sprawl. But you kinda see what he was going for, mixing the regular peeps with the hard shit of the city, tried to make it real nice and community-based, you wise. Then the Brazilians and Indians (like from India) moved in in likes der 70s. Yeah. Like the Rund or Lesser Thrash, Cubbiehole, Pyramids, all those places are real nice. ‘Course they are becoming real boojie again. Gardens and Dalegate used to be a place some of the Inner peeps were moving to, but not so much now. Shit. Even the other day I was walking through Nouveau Monde in Ghettoland and they’re tearing all that down for these fancy tits high-risers that’s likes three grand for a fucking studio. Who in the Inner can pay that shit? Fuckssake, rich? But don’t worry. They got vouchers for us to live in places like Meadow Lake and Free Forest in the Sprawl. Even though they’re moving all those whites back into the city and the jobs with ’em. And places like Prairie Valley and Hearts Fields have already taken measures to convert low-income housing into boojie spots, or requiring GEDs and some even college degrees for part-time jobs. Part-time jobs! I just gotta like laughs, you wise. Fucking whites. Fuck ’em. Who wants to live a shithole haunt named “Rolling Hills in Spring” anyway, rich? Like how boojie do you have to be to think of that shit?

Yeah… that’s der CC for you. Chthic City. What a Goddamn place.

But you find yourself in Sixzy, and shit I don’t know why you’d be there, maybe because you’re on your way to the interstate, but yeah if you find yourself there, hit me up. I’ll show you some of the places where Slave Town all started and how we fought back in the Uprising and made Free Town for ourselves. We’ll have a beer at this joint, Russ’s. I’ll show you ’round. We can play Zelda. Or you like Goldeneye? Trick question, who don’t?

Anyways, you can swing through, say “hi” ‘n’ shit. It’ll be Hammer.

 

 

City Map 

CityMap

Berserks:

  1. Gorgon’s Alley
  2. Greenland
  3. Bloomland
  4. Oldsland
  5. Koossen
  6. Bayland
  7. Midland
  8. Renaissance (Ghettoland)
  9. Beauté (Booty, Bay-B)
  10. Hearts
  11. Parkland
  12. New Strip
  13. Deebs
  14. Oceanland (Ass End)
  15. Bergland
  16. Subland (the Sprawl)
  17. Riverland
  18. Coastland
  19. Charles
  20. Paladin Heights
  21. Links Island (Posh Town)
  22. Tri-Island (Posh-Annex) with Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Washington Islands

 

Major Parks and Islands, etc.:

  • A) Ludwig City Island Park
  • B) Hans-Johanns City Island Park
  • C) Chinnemuuk City Island Park
  • D) Othahathaway City Island Park
  • E) Bay City Park
  • F) Pearl Coast City Park
  • G) Founders City Park
  • H) Rutherford Chauncey Horthwright Welcoming Island Park
  • “NE” – North Eye Island
  • “SE” – South Eye Island
  • “NP” – Mond River Park, North (North Park)
  • “SP” – Mond River Park, South (South Park)
  • “WEB” – W.E.B. Du Bois Park
  • “PP” – Charles Prick Park (the Prick)
  • “NHP” – New Helm City Park
  • “OP” – Olympia Park
  • “KTMRP” – King Thelonius Mountain Range Park
  • “AP” – Arcadia Park
  • “R” – Roosevelt Island
  • “L” – Lincoln Island
  • “W” – Washington Island

Infinite City: The Trouble with Facts Is…

[The below piece: “How We Got to Now” was featured in The Daily Chimera, news-gathering/reporting and opinion-based website last week. It concerns the on-going disputes over the historical accuracy of certain aspects of the city’s past.]

 

For the past three months the city has experienced a vicious back-and-forth between two dissenting groups of citizens. Death threats have been made, fights have broken out at protests and rallies, arrest have been conducted, a federal investigation has been issued, and much more. This “War for True History” as it is being called has divided parents, teachers, students, citizens in the city. 90+ days into this conflict, it is possible we may have forgotten how this all really started. This was evident yesterday at a protest outside the publisher Macmilliamous-McGrood’s city headquarters. There, both protestors and advocates confused facts and details about what actually caused this unrest.

Below is an effort to explain and clear up some misunderstandings. Here is a very short summary:

Basically it started with one parent. We will call her Mrs. T on account of the innumerable death threats she has received since this all started (she is under police protection at the moment). Mrs. T was displeased with the Macmilliamous-McGrood textbook’s origin story of the city. She took offense at the glorification of the founders (Ludwig von Küssenass and Hans-Johanns Schmudieb) and the overlooking description of the native tribes that inhabited the land before any Europeans landed. She was concerned this kind of (as she saw it) poor historical accuracy was detrimental to her daughter’s (and the other children’s) education.

Her letter to the principal is below.

Dear Principal Wexinburhe,

I am writing you today as a concerned parent. My daughter returned home last week with her Centuries of Events and Peoples history book. This year she gets to learn a great deal about her city’s history. It’s very important. She’s quite excited to learn about all the people that came before her to build up this city we all live in today. I, too, was excited to see her get the opportunity to learn more about the immediate world around her.

I was, however, greatly disappointed in the textbook’s brief summary of the “origins” of our city. Specifically, I was shocked to see the land described as “mostly underutilized” by the “tribes-people” until “the infamous German pirates” came along. There are two things that are particularly upsetting about this excerpt, and the whole summary. The first being this sense of “underutilization.”

As you may or may not know, the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway peoples had occupied that land (by the most conservative of estimates) a full three-hundred years before those two pirates and their gang arrived. The textbook describes their usage of the land as: “…seasonally for ritual dances, games, and political meetings…” This is a blatant understatement of the facts. Both the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway had come to use much of the land that now makes up our metropolis on a daily basis. The specific area in question (“Gorgon’s Alley” as referred to in the text) was of such deep religious and political significance. The only reason they visited the two islands at the mouth of the river (which had much different names than “Eye” and “Mond”) in each season was so that they could appease their spiritual ancestors together, and continue their long peace practices. I wouldn’t think I need to remind an educator, but perhaps I might, the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway had waged bloody campaigns against each other for years over the usufructuary rights of the land. Entire generations of people were born, lived, and died knowing nothing but fear, anguish, and continued hatred for the other group during this time period. Western Civilization does not have anything like this in kind. Not the 40 Years War, not even the 100 Years War. The conflict between the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway went well beyond those two wars combined, and on a scale of comparability were by far bloodier and more tolling on the people than anything the European campaigns might even imagine. So when these two peoples came together to celebrate in shared spiritual practices, and participate in games and tattoo one another, share harvests, etc. it was as a means of perpetuating peace and harmony. Also, it was a means to protect them against other warring tribes from the south and the west. My point here is that this land was being used for a long time before the Europeans came along, and it was of much greater significance to those people than some trading post for pirates.

Speaking of the pirates, this leads me to my second complaint/concern. What is with the beatification of these two pirates? They’re pirates! The textbook seems to paint them in a much lighter tone as the reader goes on. By the end I expected them to start referring to the pirates as “laissez-faire apostles” who freed the world of “evil-doing collectivism.” I mean, my God, these were the same men who (along with their subordinates) pitted the Chinnemuuk and Othahathaway against each other, reigniting the war. They were perpetrators of by any account what can only be described as war crimes, enslaved what remained of both tribes, sold off women and children to other insidious Europeans who came along (including the Spaniards!), and should only be credited with bringing the disgusting habit of mechanized/organized subjugation and exploitation to the New Land.

None of that gets mentioned in this text. And I’d rather have that than some lame, half-informed, mostly balderdash writing about cartoon pirate figures bettering some “unused” land, as if other human beings never existed beforehand—like some sort of Shangri-La. That’s not history. That’s science fiction.

As someone who comes from a displaced, marginalized background, from a group of people who have often been side-stepped and left better off unspoken about in the annals of human history (which is to say white European-dominated history), I would appreciate if the school would make a much more concerted effort to educate not only my daughter (who shares my lineage), but also her peers. So that we do not destine ourselves to these awful tragedies again.

I understand the school probably has some sort of deal with Macmilliamous-McGrood and cannot necessarily rid themselves of this nonsense. But perhaps you can issue a formal complaint to the company, or insist the teachers offer some proper context to the lack of text involved in this largely fictional historical narrative.

Thank you for your time.

– Mrs. T

 

Principal Harvey Wexinburhe (who has not received as many death threats) responded about two months later, after consulting the school board and sponsored education board. That letter reads as such:

Dear Madame.

May I first take this moment to express my deep gratitude for sharing your concerns with me. As you are certainly aware, Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) prides itself on being one of the most prestigious public schools in the city. The school does not achieve these accolades without the support of students’ parents—such as yourself—and their communication with the school—as evident in your letter. For over one hundred years the school has maintained its excellence, an excellence students benefit from and parents rely on, because of the continued community support it receives. It is without question that this support is what holds the utmost value for Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®) and its continuation means the prolonged success of the school. This support comes in many forms, as I’m sure you are aware.

One such instance is financially. Another through volunteering time and expertise. The one I find most beneficial is when the parent(s) continues the exemplary education their child/student receives in the classroom at home and assists in reinforcing the schooling lessons, homework, values, morals and ethnics the child learns while attending Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®). There are more still. The most common form of support the school receives is often by way of open, unadulterated communication from the parent. This is the method in which you chose, and we are very grateful for such support. Without you, and parents of your ilk, Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®) would not be able to properly assess what teaching methods, school courses, textbooks, et al. are properly utilized in the continued education of our young generations. 

Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®) prides itself on teaching every upcoming generation in the most effective, responsible, socially conscious way possible. We firmly believe in the fact that children will be the future. Perhaps that is a little obvious, but we do not reduce this universal truth to some platitude. We take this idea very seriously and strive each day to ensure our students, your child, have the best education (an omnibus word we see encompasses the following: fundamental learning, social interplay, proper rectitude). Without the best education provided, our future leaders, workers, thinkers would be operating at a deficit in society. That would be a horrible travesty. So to receive your letter is of the utmost importance to us. 

We were all very troubled by your letter. We took the issues raised very seriously. The fact you were so deeply disturbed by the historical account of our city’s founding gave us pause in considering teaching the passage to the students in the future, in addition we questioned our relationship with Macmilliamous-McGrood. So please know that your concern was our concern, too. 

That being clearly stated, I must inform you that the school board and the education board affiliated with our sponsored patron (Valvoline® — For All Your Motor Oil Needs) have decided to continue teaching the passage in question as is, and to continue our contract with Macmilliamous-McGrood. The reasons being are thus, as provided from the boards’s ruling opinion: 

– “The passage which is being challenged is in line with the generally accepted history of the city and coincides with historical facts as they happened from the point-of-view of the founders and collaborators. Whether there is any validity to the opposing view is not to the point, and broadly speaking does not confute the accepted position. All of the information provided in the text is accepted, even by the complainant. The only difference seems to be evident in semantics. Therefore, since most of the information provided is accepted as historical fact, the boards rule the text historically valid. 

Furthermore, there is the notion of “Proper View” (as indicated in Section IV, Area 41B of ECFA). The city needs to be viewed by its citizens in the best imaginable light available. To tarnish this view would possibly engender a loss of faith in the city and the community. It is imperative then that the children of Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) need to experience a “Proper View” of their city’s founders, and anything possibly contra to that point is unacceptable. Children’s minds are fragile, and the slightest threat of disillusionment can wreak unprecedented damage for the future.” 

– “Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) is a public school that accepts whatever provisions provided to it by both the city and its sponsored patron (Valvoline® — For All Your Motor Oil Needs). In this particular instance, with respect to the historical textbook received from Macmilliamous-McGrood, the city and the sponsored patron agreed to a lengthy contract with the education textbook publisher. Macmilliamous-McGrood provides quality textbooks to schools across the nation and is generally well-respected. For the book in question, Centuries of Events and Peoples, a team of historians collaborated to create the text, and collectively have years of experience. The board is more inclined to accept the work of those historians, and trust the judgment of the publisher over the complainant. 

Even if the boards agreed to the notion that the passage was unacceptable, or that (say) 90% of the textbook’s contents were historically dubious, the boards could not possibly enforce any change. The books the school receives are upheld by lengthy contracts (as implicated above). So there would be very little, if any, change possible for Tussock-Chandler (brought to you by Valvoline®).”

Your concern, time, patience, and understanding are very much appreciated, and we look forward to your continued passionate assistance in making Tussock-Chandler Junior High (brought to you by Valvoline®) one of the best schools in the city, state, and nation.

Sincerely.

Principal Wexinburhe.

P.S. On a personal note, being never a teacher or historian, I found your version of the city’s origin story quite interesting, but as they do not fit within the national education algorithms of the “Every Child First” Act (ECFA), specifically with respect to the “Proper View” rule, I encourage you to curb those lessons for your daughter. Perhaps it will be something covered later, say in high school or the university.

 

Needless to say, the response did not go over well with Mrs. T. After reading the letter, she gathered some like-minded parents (most of whom were from various minority ethnic groups, and not all of their children attended Tussock-Chandler) and started staging protests and sit-ins at the school. This eventually started being broadcast over social media, and within a week of the protests the news outlets picked up the story and ran with it (apparently there was not too much going on in the news cycle at that time), then a counter protest group rose in defense of the school and the origin story. The next thing you know chants turn vicious, people get angry, outsiders try to capitalize on the frenzy, social crusaders and grassroots organizations fly in from all around the country to attend rallies, everyone has an opinion on the situation, Donald Trump mentions it in one of his speeches saying: “In the old days, we just took hags like [Mrs. T] out back behind the shed and beat the living shit out of them, just as our founders had intended.” matters deteriorate so quickly people start throwing fists for a cause they don’t even fully understand, usually mature adults get six to twelve-month sentences in jail for things like: criminal threats, intimidation, harassment,  and assault: schools become grounds for outward hostility instead of learning centers, it becomes total bedlam.

And to think, all this started over a few disputed words from a sentence in a junior high school book. It just goes to show how tightly people cling to their histories—because their identities are the manifestations of them.

It actually reminds me of what one of the city founders once said, Hans-Johanns Schmudieb fancied himself a philosopher. He said: “When you spit in the face of an idol, you spit in the face of thousands.”

Time in the Fog: “The Briefing”

THE BRIEFING

Old Glory was caught in the wind of a coming storm. The day, to an inside observer, was deceiving. The sun cast down its light on the verdurous landscape around Langley, unchallenged by a single cloud in the sky. The trees swayed in a sinuous fashion that lent an almost whimsical quality to the view. And the flag waved, outstretched and impressively, its edges were neatly sewn, not a single tatter to be witnessed; its colors more vibrant in the spring setting, stars popping out of the deep blue, red and white side-by-side in a festive pageantry. People made their way along the sidewalk underneath it, completely ignoring the pride on full display. On the inside it was a perfect day, but on the outside matters were much different. The humidity had picked up since the morning making the early afternoon thick with its moisture. Clouds were on fast approach from the west and the wind was picking up with each passing minute. Off in the distance, out by the horizon, thunder was heard. Something severe was coming this way. And only if one was paying close enough attention on the inside, could the observer see these signs, too.

Agent Robins sat in the office of the Supervisor to Special Activities. She watched the flag waving as she waited. She observed her colleagues moving along the walkway, some with purpose, others not. Then she turned her attention to the title on the desk: Supervisor Jack Haggins. A thought came to mind that made a small crack of her lips. She turned her attention back to the flag outside as the smile faded.

“Myra…”

She stood from the chair to meet Haggins. His round, red face was only partially covered by his greying mustache. Last time she saw him he was thinner, more clean-shaven, and had a gold band around his left finger. His body still perspired in the same way she remembered, as were his hands thick and warm. “Supervisor Haggins.”

“Christ, Myra, we’re not in a council meeting, you can cut the formality,” he said with a smile as he moved around to his chair. He was holding a folder with the typical confidential notifications labeled on the outside: strictly for high personnel, and those deemed fit. The name on the front read: Operation ONYX.

“Fair enough. Supervisor Jack, then?”

He feigned amusement poorly. “Good one. Please, sit back down. Sorry it took so long, you know how these things go. Gigantic wastes of time. What I wouldn’t give to have been doing this fifty years ago.”

“No air conditioning back then,” she said, still standing.

He huffed into his chair, tossing the file down. “I suppose. No women, either. Pluses and minuses, huh?” He smiled and motioned to her chair. “Sit, please.” She complied. “How are things in Analytics?”

“They’re going well enough.”

“Good. Good. You know I talked with Hank about you the other day. You’re a real asset to them. He’s lucky to have you—his words. Can’t say I’m not surprised, of course. You always had a keen eye for detail—for the most part. How would you say your time spent over there has gone?”

Myra hesitated to answer, trying to read his face. Before she even got up this morning she managed to come up with at least four plausible scenarios as to why this meeting would be held. After a few minutes she had already narrowed it down to two. “I think we both know my thoughts on the position I currently hold.”

He smiled. “I believe we do. You’re over-qualified for that position. Hank knows it. You know it. Everyone.” He looked at the file on his desk. “You’re wondering what you’re doing back in the DO, no?”

“Something like that.”

He turned and looked out over the yard. The flag caught his eyes perhaps, perhaps not. “What a beautiful day. Shame to be cooped up inside.”

Silence formed around his last words and smothered them. The two remained mute for no more than seconds, but it gave Myra enough time to see where this was going. A penchant for theatrics, she tried to shortcut Haggins’s routine: “Jack, what’s going on?”

He turned back to her with the slightest hints of pride and pleasure in his physiognomy, which to the untrained eye would confuse for concern. “Does the name Martin Conrad mean anything to you?”

She couldn’t help but shake her head. It was what she had thought all along, though slightly modified. “What the hell is this, Jack?”

“Is that a yes?”

“Yes. You know it is. What is this about?”

“Well. You know it’s all entirely classified, but for old times sake, let’s say we had some operations in Nigeria.” He slid the file over to her without making eye contact. Myra received it, but did not open it. She waited for him to continue. “Let’s say US interest in the region has… elevated with the rise of Boko Haram and its new affiliations with ISIL. And we have received orders specifically from what might very well be considered the most important seat in the free world to… increase our attention and counterterrorism focus in Africa—more precisely in states like Nigeria, rich with economic, political, social strife, infested with these Boko-type terrorist sects. Let’s say all that. Then throw into this mix an additional potential terrorist group with, at the time of investigation, unknown affiliations whose motives seem undefined and leader politically… manipulable… yes, and heroin is a strong financial motivator for this group—we’ll go ahead and call them: Hada Yaki—so, for the sake of the good ole days, and friendship, let’s also say it is very possible we sent one of our more senior agents to Nigeria to make contact with Hada Yaki. A typical support and reconnaissance operation. We sent along the agent and a few other junior field agents to assist him in bringing this group into the light to then infiltrate, and help us (and the Nigerians, Nigeriens, Cameroons, you get the idea) fight Boko Haram, end further ISIL expansion in the African continent, further reduce the threat of terrorism, blah, blah, blah, you know what I mean.” Haggins leans forward in his chair, propping himself up on his elbows, hands collapsed together. “So. Let’s say this all happens, and everything is going well. Reports come back each week and everything is hunky dory. Until, one day, about six months into the operation, your senior agent sends you a report that one of the junior field agents has gone rogue, defected to the Hada Yaki and helped them wage a series of successful, bloody campaigns against the government, innocent civilians, and even some of the black sites where we don’t exist, but do. That this has been going on for nearly two months and you are just learning of it as soon as… ten days ago.” He let out a sigh.

“And this hypothetic field agent is named: Martin Conrad?”

“Codename Deepshit. And he has done quite an outstanding job so far as new leader of Hada Yaki. They’ve assassinated politicians, police chiefs, massacred towns, made successful raids of military bases, destroyed important pipe lines for the refinery industry, raped girls, have virtually stolen the heroin trade right from underneath us. Their attack on one of our sites killed several contractors, Nigerian civilians, and at least two agents, plus we lost valuable intel and property.” Haggins loosened his tie. “That’s not even all of it. There’s more, I just don’t feel like expounding at the moment.”

The two paused in order for the information to sink in and questions arise.

“Why.”

“Why? Why?” he leaned back in his chair and swung side to side. “Christ, who gives two shits about why, and focus instead at the real matter at hand: what are the necessary steps that need to be taken next in order to mitigate the already clusterfuck this has become… especially before anyone above the Deputy Executive Director finds out, OK?

“So this is why you’ve called me into your office. You want me to advise you?”

He faced eased and some color was returning to his cheeks. “Something like that, yes.”

“You shouldn’t have gone to Nigeria.” She placed the file back on his desk, and stood up.

“Oh fuck off, Myra. Quit crushing my balls and sit down.” He point to the chair. “Do you want to help or no?”

She remained standing.

“Sit…” though he didn’t say it, he face said it for him: “Please.”

She sat back down.

“That’s more like it. OK. Yes, your advisement is part of this new objective. What I had in mind was connecting you with some of the juniors there now, and having you work with them to find Conrad and—”

“You don’t know where he is?”

“Why the hell would you be sitting here if I did? No. Of course we don’t.”

“Not even regionally?”

“We’re working on it. It’s a big country and they’re a small guerrilla outfit.”

“Jesus, Jack.”

“Spare me. I know. But if you were to work with our guys there, that would tremendously… hasten matters.”

“You want me back out there?”

“For this particular mission? Yes.”

“You think I’m ready?”

“We’ll get you back to field-ready. In fact, you can start today.”

“What about Hank?”

“I’ve got you on loan, we’ll say. He and I already talked about it, he’s on board. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but knows its something serious. Mostly no one knows—and we want to precisely keep it that way. You help us get him. No one can track and find quite like you, Myra. That’s no bullshit. That’s always been the case. Plus you have a better understanding of Deepshit than anybody else. He learned from you, trained with you… it only makes sense for you to locate him for us and—“

“Is this a nullification mission?”

“Hell no. Or at least we hope it doesn’t come to that. No. This is strictly retrieval. Another reason it makes sense to have you go. You know him. He knows you. You can bring him back. The intelligence alone he might provide is worth not… wasting that opportunity. If Hada Yaki is tied into Boko, then he will be instrumental to us. By the time you find and capture him, who knows how much activity he will have made with them. That could be very—”

“Why not get Tanner to do this?” she asked, staring at the flag outside. It flailed wildly in the wind as it fell between the gusts, its colors saturated and wet. The rain torrented in undulations.

“Tanner, that Impetuous Fuck-twad Worthy of My Foot Up His Ass, is the hypothetical senior agent who fucked things up enough. He let the leash get too long and didn’t pay close enough attention. No. No. Scruples. That’s what we need right now. Attention to detail. That’s what you have. Unparalleled expertise in the field. Plus your history with Agent Conrad and Western Africa.”

“What about other senior agents?”

Haggins paused, not for thought but surprise. “They’re all either too deep in other matters, don’t have enough familiarity with the region, subject, or wouldn’t be able to execute the mission in the fashion or with the speed we need it carried out.” He leaned forward coming as close as he could, adding: “Honestly, Myra, I would have thought you’d be behind this all the way. You’ve been dying to get back out there. Now’s your chance.”

“There won’t be another I’m guessing.”

He fell back, exhaled. “I don’t really need this bullshit. I’m giving you a second opportunity here. Try to, at least, pretend for a moment that you’re grateful. This is your one and only chance to right your RAINCOAT fuck-up.” He shook his head. “You know Tanner would be jumping at this right now, don’t you? He’d already be on a plane. Not sitting here.”

“He’s careless. You want scruples.”

Silence took the room once more. The wind died down outside. The flag lay limp, wrapped against the pole. Two people came out in a hurry to take it down from further exposure to the storm. “Yes or no. Are you in or are you out?”

She paused to watch the two men fold the cold, drenched flag and take it inside. A thought came, then went. She turned back to Haggins: “Yes.”

On Parenting, and History

So we’re all sitting here in the backyard while the kids play around. Little Olivia is shouting at Arie to “get out of the tree!” Arie has, in fact, managed to get himself up in the tree, wedged between some of the Dalmatianesque limbs of the birch sprouting out of the earth. He’s all smiles as he dodges his head from side to side behind one of the limbs, teasing the poor girl. The protestation continues and brings on our full attention, but Arie’s lack of ascent (only a few inches off the ground) renders Olivia’s concerns absurd. Her father calls out: “Honey O, cool it with the screaming. Let’im play.” He’s got all kinds of neat appellations for his girl: Honey O, Little O, Baby O, O, and my personal favorite: Cheeri-O. “Arie,” (which is his nickname, phonetically based off the initials of his first name: Reginald-Ernst) his mother says, “you don’t go any higher than that, understood? And no teasing.” Arie seems not to listen, but he also isn’t climbing any higher, leaving me to infer he either got the message, or is already wise enough to know he can’t possibly climb any further without risk of injury.

Sick of Arie’s shit, Baby O picks up the toy lawnmower and walks off saying something to the effect of: “Fine, but you can’t mow the lawn then.” I’m not certain as she still mumbles a great deal of her words, much like her mother, and her knowledge of English syntax is still lacking, but that’s the gist. Arie watches her from the safety of the birch, clinging to the smooth trunk. The game is afoot, though it is still clear neither child is quite sure what the rules are. Olivia starts humming a nonsensical tune as she continues to pretend-cut the grass. This reminds me I have to pay my gas bill for some reason when Arie decides to dart for the toy. Little O spins to avoid his slow advance, his chubby legs and flat feet let him down in the chase, his sprint some form of unrefined motor skills. She makes an about-face and takes the offensive. The first rule becomes realized: whoever has the plastic mower has the power, and quickly the second: the tree is the only salvation. They chase, back and forth, expanding and creating new rules, evolving along the way.  

Not sure how, but the conversation I return to involves what my friends are reading their respective toddlers. More precisely, the two are talking about their astonishment over just how horrifying older versions of the beloved children’s characters are.

“I was reading O one of the original stories of Bugs Bunny the other night. My mother dumped off a huge stack of my childhood books. I couldn’t believe it.”

“What’s that?”

“Bugs Bunny.”

“Oh I know—“

“Bugs Bunny is a real asshole.”

“Yeah, total bully.”

“They really altered his image when it came to the cartoons. But when I was sitting there reading that stuff to O, I was like: ‘Goddamn. What a fucking asshole.’ Without saying that of course. But the way he instigates and taunts Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig, I’m like: ‘Christ, someone please pistol whip this guy already. What a dick.'”

“And it doesn’t just stop there, you have all those horrible, racist cartoons through the 40s and 50s.”

“‘All This and Rabbit Stew'”

“Sure. Is that one?”

“Well, Bugs always seemed inspired by Br’er Rabbit to me. Which makes the appropriation of him into racist cartoons like that extra painful when you think about it… at least to me.”

“Yeah, all these children’s books are so troubling. I’m reading her these Disney works.”

“Oh don’t get me started on that.”

“I know, I know. But I’m reading her Snow White, right? The young, pretty chick gets slipped a rohypnol apple by the jealous older witch lady, who later turns into a fucking dragon, and has to be saved by the prince. She literally does nothing the whole story except run for her life and get knocked out, then everything turns out OK.”

“No. You missed her most important contribution to life: she stays home and cooks and cleans for the seven dwarfs. That makes her a compelling character, apart from also white and pretty. At least Cinderella was a sweatshop worker.”

“Little Mermaid. My girl loves that story. It’s a story about a girl who changes her body image in order to get a guy. What the fuck?”

“That’s why I can’t stand Disney. I mean that and the shameless marketing to children. “

“Yes, let’s not forget the shameless marketing.”

“It’s not like any of those other children’s stories out there are that much different.”

“I know. I’m reading Arie the story about Little Red Riding Hood. What I remember about the original story was the wolf eats Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, and The Woodsman has to chop The Wolf to pieces before the two can be saved. Luckily, this book I’ve got for him tones that all down. The Woodsman ‘scolds’ The Wolf to spitting the two out. And then there’s Goldilocks and how she ‘forgets her manners’ when she is breaking and entering the Bears’ house.”

“It’s nice that they tone them down. All these ones I have from when I was a kid are terrible. What’s the name of that collection?”

“You had Disney princess books as a little boy?”

“Oh I don’t know. I’ll find out and text you.”

The conversation turns as my friends start to converse over the silly idiosyncrasies of their kids—at which point I tune them out and start thinking about an article I read not too long ago. The report concerned a series of psychological studies that used false images of Bugs Bunny mascots in Disneyland. The psychologists showed these doctored photos to test patients (them with the rabbit), who upon seeing the photos, claimed they remembered meeting the costumed Bugs in the land of the Mouse—which never happened. This idea of false memories was particularly intriguing to me when placed in the context of these fairy tales. Was this revisionist approach to these children’s tales in a sense providing a cultural false memory for the next generation, and was that a good thing? What would their kids’ futures look like if they never learned their beloved Bugs Bunny, or Mickey Mouse, or other earlier cartoon hero was once a proxy for an entire group of people who were trying to indoctrinate their younglings into a vast racist narrative of superiority and minority debasement? Would it be better? Or, in another case, is it possible that Little O and Arie’s generation will thrive in a community that never grew up listening to the time-honored tales of little children being massacred, or doing the butchering, that they never had to learn these were all narratives told at their outset by a much larger, impalpable hegemonic force we commonly refer to as CULTURE to help ease them into their quotidian existence with relative ease and acceptance. How best to teach them all this? I imagine Cheeri-O’s dad might say: “They’re just too young to learn that. They’re three for Chrissake. Now’s not the time.” Fair enough. No need to expose them to all these matters we adults regularly avoid with boldfaced ignorance verging on beast-like stupidity, let alone actually comprehending what any of this bullshit means. But I can’t help but wonder what implications lurk behind these signs of progression. Do my friends’ children no longer become educable to these pasts, or just as bad: do these histories become a novelty, something reduced to a trivial level? What happens to our futures when we occlude the understanding of our lineage?

I’m not sure. But, being both black and a Jew, I can’t stop myself from thinking about American slavery, and the Holocaust while my friends continue some impassioned conversation of whether or not Tupperware is still a valuable appliance for housing leftovers. I think about the totems to white supremacy. The ones that have vanished, and the ones that remain. I think of the celebration of “Dixie” at high school and collegiate sporting events, etchings on the side of Stone Mountain, the doubly offensive statue of Nathan Bedford Forest overlooking I-65, and the statues and engravings and names that behave as emblems to this country’s known, yet mute identity. Then I think of the only remnants left throughout Germany, Poland, Austria, and other formerly-occupied territories are the ashes. Grim sepulchers that set inside the bucolic countryside, left to help bridge the gap between what was and is. No horrid tokens of the apparatus that conceived, implemented, and executed such doom. Instead, back home, we’ve buried the ashes and obfuscated why the relics remain. Heroes everywhere, and God on everyone’s side. No wrong. No shame. Nothing.

I remember reading about some American taking a selfie at Auschwitz, her face beaming with joy as she stood on the path to the gas chambers. About a year later, people are raising holy hell, crying about “Heritage. Heritage!” as Confederate flags are removed from state grounds.

The meanings behind these symbols have become so recondite they have lost their focus, allowing new narratives to claim authority. I think of this type of revisionism; I think of the Southern apologists, and how few shits Lynne Cheney gave about this type of storytelling influencing the American mind, what the impact this kind of inculcation might wreak on the social fabric.

So why even keep these tombs if we don’t care to acknowledge what lies within?

Then Arie and Little O call out to their parents: “Come play, play!” And Little O’s dad gets up out of his chair and starts to pretend he is a big bull chasing after them, and Arie’s mom tells them to: “Run, run!” The two children dart off with the 40 year old man-bull charging after them. They keep twisting their bulbous heads back to see which one of them he is chasing as their untoned legs move with all the gaucheries of young speed. And I start to get it—I see the danger implicit within its wordless rhetoric, but I understand its necessity. It’s the same that propels me and mine from a separate view.

All these ghosts, arms out-stretched, dying to be remembered, and we in turn look back while lunging forward, wondering if we too have some connection with the intangible, something other than ourselves to tell us to go on, to tell us we are good, and we belong, and are worthy of not being forgotten.