Friday, January 26, 2018

The Great Hedgehog Of Post-Modern Neoliberal Capitalism


Obigatory Cute Small Animal Photo At Beginning Of Surrealistic Blog Thing

Moved by the posts of others, recently, I decided to take a stab at (what can be charitably called) stream of consciousness writing, sparked by the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, attended this year by Wonderboy, Murrikan Leader.

I don't normally play with this style of fiction; so, apologies in advance. As Wonderboy's own parents once said, "Let's do this, get it over with, and never speak of it again" -- point being, this is supposed to be topical, and funny.

(For those with no knowledge of Cricket, a "Diamond Duck" is the term for a situation where [per Wikipedia] "a batsman who is dismissed without facing a ball -- most usually run out from the non-striker's end, but alternatively stumped or run out off a wide delivery -- is said to be out by a 'diamond duck'.")
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Diamond Duck In Davos

1.  Greasing The Grenze

Coming into Davos, surrounded by winds whipping the confectioner's sugar of Swiss hospitality between the crisp billboards, Halt! Grenze! (Stop! Pemmican!) and Kämpfe Für Das Karussell Des Fortschritts! (We  Struggle For Kurt Russell's Foreskins!) The searchlights are blinding, guard dogs bark with an accent (Wüf!), and sudden efficient women are opening doors of perception in your car, murmuring, "Good evening. Anything to declare?"

But you're not surprised. No, not you; never you. All this was in the briefing. They are efficient, here in Davos. The Mark O' Mammon is barcoded on their hind parts -- you've been shown photos -- and at home, skis are racked demurely beside priceless paintings bought at bargain-basement rates, in auctions at Zürich and Geneva, between 1936 and 39.

And of those pouring into the valley, no one ever says to the women, "Ah DO -- Ah say, Ah say, Well AH DO DECLARE," in a voice borrowed from Foghorn Leghorn -- although you have a secret urge to do that. The women smirk at you, without envy, because Ach, Ja; we know this about you. You wish to do That Cartoon Rooster; such a typical male. We here in Davos know -- otherwise, you would not be allowed here. A brief blonde hand mumbles through your luggage, brushing socks and briefs, lingering for a moment with the rough play of starch in a shirt -- then, waving your car on: Alles Gut; los geh'n. 

And then, you glimpse the last billboard: Im Diesen Friedenskrieg Gibt Es Keine Gefangenen! -- No Prisoners In This Peace War. The Great Carousel Of Progress gives only to take. It really is shitty, what a Town Without Pity Can Do. Ha, ha, ha; that's our Davos!

Even if you have a Safe Conduct Leaflet, dropped like pet leavings on sidewalks by the IMF and WTO (Be a DO RAG, it proclaims, Not a DON'T RAG), after surrendering, the best one can hope for in coming to Davos is a cot in that hut on the mountain. They'll be jammed in with municipal workers and novelists. There will be a crucifix hung on the damp concrete wall, and a 1970's postcard showing light at the end of a tunnel. In the dark, farting and snoring settle around you, diaphanous, studded, anxious. You dream of gristle.

The others will receive a coupon for a discount-price small soda, and a trip to observe George Soros' hair colorist, reading a copy of Forbes, through a bulletproof window. But the Surrendered had denied the primacy of the Great Carousel, so their Davos will be a short sniff of the leather seats in an otherwise unoccupied Daimler. Then, to be sent home at their own expense for long retraining in a job that will take months to find, and which is discontinued the day after they are hired.  Ho, ho,ho, ho, Cisco! Ho, ho, ho, ho, Pancho! That's our Davos!

But this is not your Davos. You are not on file, under the name you were given to use, as having denied The Carousel Of Progress. [Your Name] has been Cleared, umbrage squeezed dry and ready for productive action in service to Man's Betterment. If L.Ron were ever alive, he would be. If Tony Robbins were real, he would guide you personally across the hot coals. Parma-shahanda Yoga-nanda, Parley-voo. In your mind, a Crackerjack prize, and in your gloved hand, the feel of a bag strap made from an endangered petrochemical, all telling you this is real.

(But: The whole squeezing Man's Betterment is just fake bullshit, a double-blind ruse. You're here in Davos in a big quilt, so far under the covers that your latitude and longitude come up Zeroes. You're not who you say you are, and never were. The hopes of all humankind stain your carpeting in expectation that you would complete this mission and get an oil change. God is with you, but he steals your stuff and sells it downtown.)

You stride up to the 4-star hotel desk repeatedly, just trying it out. The clerks -- parthenogenic, muted -- take no notice. They are busy timing each other's movements and their interactions with guests. The clerk with the lowest total time receives a coupon for a discount-price small soda. The rest are allowed to live, but forced to wear old animal costumes outside the hotel, in public, so that all will know of their shame and inexactitude.

Your electronic room key is imprinted with the likeness of Klaus Schaub, wearing a bib, and pictured eating in a 'Communist Lobster' franchise restaurant. The room, fragrant with violets; your phone, seeking you; and promises of delights of the eye, tongue and intellect are hung around the wallpapered box of your room like laundry washed in the sink. It is cheesy and expensive: the highest expression of the Free Market. You have made it.

Pencils down. You evacuate your bowels. The toilet has a shelf for you, the curious, to view leavings before flushing, and it would be churlish to refuse anything offered for free. This act of introspection will be your best moment at Davos. They told you this would happen -- but nothing, nothing could prepare you for that moment of contact, of spurning. You wash your hand.

2.   Where You Were, Gentlemen

It's the day. There are WEF conferences and hubub scheduled, rooms, many rooms, of people murmuring peasancarrots, peasandcarrots repeatedly. But you were instructed to feign shyness until The Moment. You hang. You chill. In The Packed Elevator, you do your Robin Williams laugh -- and everyone in the Car suddenly does the same thing.

You almost flinch. It's endless, permeable, like having a colonoscopy on a train -- but you remember: Keep control. Deep breaths. Be Coolidge: You Lose. Then, the Car stops; its doors slide open and a man moves past you, still making his seal-bark laugh, pausing to wipe his eyes on a woman's hair, and pat you on the shoulder as if to say, Dude -- good one.

Here, finally; the white placard outside a door to an auditorium, with a single word in red: Stumpfegger. This is where you are to meet your contact. You accept a glance from the woman beside the door -- an intense simulacrum of Donna Reed -- who hands you a brochure entitled Complete Release. Blushing, she says this conference covers "the plot for forgiveness of all First-World debt." You smile, nodding, earnest, but keep moving. Your mission is more important than what you suspect about her thong underwear -- and will never know. You'll have to live with that.

They said, Your contact will know you. All you had to do was to find "Stumpfegger" and show up. You stand near the tasteful refreshment table and realize the man serving drinks is a frenzied doppelgänger for Joe Turkel, eternal bartender in The Shining, and decline a tequila shooter. You wave the Complete Release brochure back and forth, as instructed -- a signal, an urgent, full-bladder motion, and think about thong underwear. Really hard.

Then, you see The Contact. You see them seeing you see them, actually. Everything that happens after this is a blur; you'll be debriefed about it for weeks in extra crispy detail, a swimming up from sewage depth to where sheep graze, safely. And, fortunately for you, the story will not change. You will be allowed to go back to wherever it is you come from. You will be allowed to toil in many jobs, but not remain for long -- because Lt. Gerard will always show up, looking for money.
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What catches your attention about The Contact first is his hair, its architectural blondness -- now whitish, now caution orange, and shiny, like preternatural two-tone ice cream or a small child's flotation device. The Contact is a suet, puffed inside his black suit, behind the signature doublewide red tie. His face is a carnivore drunkard's bloat, too-small eyes, piggish; his mien oblate and spiky. His lips are a crayon line drawn by an angry pensioner across the lower third of that orange face. The French Cuffs of his whitish shirt have little numbers embroidered on them: "45",  and he is nodding, nodding, at you as he walks forward. This is your contact.


3.   Historical Briefs With A Brown Streak Of Genius

A Stonehenge of men and women in sunglasses surround The Contact. They move in formation, maintaining a Raggedly Ann circle around him, continually bumping into other guests, chairs, tables, each other, headed right towards you in a chorus of s'cuse me; par-done, pal; hey lookout; aw christ you could see me comin', right? and who keep reaching inside their jackets as if checking to ensure they still have their wallets.

You clench. The deer flips on its headlights and there you are, about to get a mouthful of antler (Hi! Remember me? You hit me with the Volkswagen! Payback's a bitch, pal!). You think of the face of your mother -- or Lady Gaga, or another suitable female substitute, just as The Contact stops directly in front of you. You are standing in his Circle Of Trust, surrounded by partially blind people who have weapons.

"Hey, you know," The Contact says, lifting his chin and tilting his head back to look down at you, Mussolini squinting at a small boat far out at sea, "You know, I was out there, goin' by, and thought, 'You know, I should stop in there'. How's it goin'?" You open your mouth to answer but the contact, like the voiceover for an industrial safety film, keeps on talking.

"There's so many things goin' on here! It's like the world's fair of banking and whatever, right? You know, they never -- never -- wanted to invite me to Davos. I mean, I'm the most sympathetic person to what they want to do, in this whole place, the whole thing, me -- and they never invited me before! Not once!"

The Contact sees a blur moving outside his Circle Of Trust and raises a hand, perfect white teeth in the ocher pudding of his face, saying, "Hey, thank you. How ya doin', yeah; thank you," before turning the oily tumblers in his eyes back on you.

The Contact's eyes widen to the size of dimes. He throws his hands out, experimentally, the breadth of a large fish. "But, n-ow -- now, they had to invite me! I'm the leader of the free world, right? Over 300 on the electoral; nobody ever mentions that, by the way. But, hey -- Swiss've been great, they really have, very gracious -- they've been very, very good to me, very respectful. Not saying they're not. I'm very much thinking I hope they stay like that."

You nod. You lean towards him slightly, and enunciate the code phrase: Hobo Oboe.  The Contact stops, squints, pushes on his chin. "Din' getcha," he says; you rinse and repeat. The Contact thinks about what an impression of remembering something might look like, then leans towards you, and speaks a countersign: "Ah, Yeah, yeah.  'My Penile Prosthesis'." He steps a little closer and, with a quick glance around the room, squeezes out a shruglet, raising his brows while the eyes remain inscrutable, swinish.

This was the moment. This was why you came to Davos: to observe your leavings, and tell this person what you were instructed to say -- a single phrase, "Stormy Weather". You ignore the sure impression you have gained that The Contact is wearing thong underwear, stand on your feet's balls, and draw a deep breath -- but before you can speak, The Contact interrupts you.

"Hey, I have a lot to do; so much to do, I've got -- you wouldn't believe how much I have to do in this job. I tell you, if I could go on strike, I'd do that. Leftists would love it. Chuck Schumer'd love it -- but I am the most involved president, hands-on involved, of any president. Not since Lincoln, or anyone, has there been a harder-working president than I am. So that's one.

"Two, nobody is listening to me. I mean, the people, some of the people, they listen, sure. But there's a fucking conspiracy with the New York Times and fucking PBS. Jesus; fucking Frontline. The Washington Post -- that Bezos, he's just trying to mindfuck me. But, I'll be fair, some of my own people -- don't want to name anybody, but some of them are very close to me -- use the media to talk themselves up. Take credit, make me look like some crazy, stupid person. Happened just last week."

Everyone in the Stumpfegger Room is looking at something else while they look at The Contact, and you. He has drawn himself up on a cocktail napkin, his gut pendulous within a tent of jacket; he pushes a stubby finger into the inches before your face, shouting, "I'm tellin' you: I am not stupid, like everyone says! I'm Smart!! I am fucking in charge!"

"I was elected with the largest electoral numbers in modern history -- I was, me! Not the goddamn Daily News! And I'm about ready to say to the Post, 'Hey, Jeff; you want to get shut down? You want a military censor sitting in your office with a magnifying glass up your ass? You want the IRS looking at your offshore LLCs?' And those terrible conditions in his shipping places; just terrible. We're gonna look into that. He's outta control, that guy; it's very sad how outta control.

"I'm not even getting into the Russia thing. Yeah, we're lining up for ol' Bobby; and oh, everyone's gonna be surprised when we let go, my friend!" His face is an alarmed bell of crimson. "see, it takes just one thing, just one thing, and the whole ball game can change. That's what I'm saying; I'm saying that. All right." His face relaxes like a sphincter, and he nods, lifting a hand with two fingers, faintly Benedictine. "All right. Thanks very much. Great to see you."

The theme to "Heroes Of Telemark" begins to play in the background and he's off walking, his perimeter of flesh shifting with him back through the room and out the door.  A tendril in your head saying hey man that tequila shooter be lookin' good right now. From here to eternity, everyone is turning, turning, and have come round, Right wing, at last, to be looking at you. If curious glances had their own mucus, you would be coated in slime.

You order a tequila; the Joe Turkel bartender says Your Money's No Good There, and it's all on the House. Somewhere, you realize that you did not give The Contact that message. On the way back to the hotel, your Uber driver talks about a company which has made an app -- an interactive photo-calendar of shaved animals, for other animals. It has had two billion downloads at $2.99 each.

Obligatory Dog-Faced Fruit Bat Photo: Pooch Of The Sky

At the hotel, you receive a message: Mother says the cow is sick. You must come home immediately. Tickets will be delivered today. There is also a huge, Dog-Faced Fruit Bat, in a basket, from the Davos Chamber Of Commerce. One of these messages is benign, the other ominous, and you do not know which is which.

The Fruit Bat turns on the room's television;  you both watch situation comedies in German until the Fruit Bat turns to you and says, "Are you understanding any of this?"
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The Fruit Bat dials Room Service and orders a Martini. After a time, the Room Service waiter, a man in his mid-twenties, appears. He places the Martini, and the bill, on a side table.  The Fruit Bat sips at the Martini in silence. The waiter stands to one side, observing. The world wonders.

After a few minutes, the waiter politely clears his throat and says, "You know -- we don't get many Fruit Bats ordering Martinis here." The Fruit Bat, glancing at the bill, replies, "Yes; and at these prices, you won't see many more of us, either."
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