15 April 2008

Two Pints of Gin

"...I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid."

Forty-eight hours and two pints of gin later, this bitter taste fills my mouth. Americans are bitter and according to some the earth is slowly sinking into its own shit. Traces of this bitterness can be found everywhere, no less so than the mirror. Spring is upon us, has sprung, so to speak. The good General Peaches went to Washington with a chest full of medals and a bloviated, bovine tongue telling us to hold our breath a while longer, perhaps long enough for the lack of oxygen to make us hallucinate Victory. The bitter dispute between the first Firsts drags on towards August and the Denver convention, two embittered, battling siblings trying to court the votes of Americans too bitter after eight years of lying, smug condescension to notice the rug has been pulled out from under them and the lights are quickly going dim on the new, American Century.

Are we really so bitter that we can't even accept criticism for the things we have become? Those two pints of gin came in handy when the shit started raining down from the skies, along with credit lines and the burgeoning disparity between real and imagined truths. Paris might as well be burning down and the Visigoths sacking Rome all over again. Nothing matters anymore, not the deaths of thousands of American soldiers, not to mention the untold number of Iraqis (a hundred thousand? two hundred? a million?) while we casually look on surrounded by the glow of our flat screen televisions, not even Mom's home-made, store-bought apple pie. No one cares about the outcome of the next twenty minutes, much less elections in November. They only want to keep their houses and for traffic not to stall on the freeways as they drive their SUVs a hundred and eighty miles an hour towards Prosperity City and the Good Life. All the while, the mine shaft is filling up with exhaust and the canary is dying. The mine shaft, by the way, happens to be the country we're living in. Can you guess who the canary is? Nobody cares about the fucking canary anymore, or their souls. You can buy Abe Lincoln's on eBay for a pretty penny these days, but don't think about buying yours back unless you've got a lick of sense and two pints of gin.

I am hesitant during these sunny days of Spring. My hands are still shaking from the gin and the sky could be falling but I'm too afraid to look up lest I catch a piece of it in my eye. I hear the chorus of make-believers calling for me to come out and play, but I'm not buying into their promises of sunshine and good times. Just as the days start growing longer they grow short again and before you know it, Winter is upon us once more. Each one grows longer than the last, the summers shorter, the bones creaking more and more. Old age has teeth, contrary to popular opinion, and its bite can leave a nasty infection. The sky hasn't started clouding up yet, nor has the air grown colder. Winter is still a long ways off, but don't think it's gone. It's always lurking under a rock somewhere, which makes you wonder if it weren't better to leave the stones unturned and gathering moss, to not look back but keep on going. With each passing moment we grow older, but not wiser.

Hesitancy. Before crossing the street, before opening the door, or answering the phone. If the world started spinning a different direction would I even notice? If the sun rose in the west and not the east, if birds started barking and the seas boiling would it even matter? I can't say. The only thing I can say is that Americans are bitter, bitter the world didn't turn out the way it was supposed to, that their elected leaders are idiots, or worse, diabolical. They are bitter gas prices are too high for them to drive their SUVs, bitter that global warming sometimes makes things colder before it gets hotter, that the end may be just around the corner. But is it? Have we reached the end of a millennium only to find there is no bright, shining city on the hill, no coming Messiah to save us from the burning wreckage of ourselves? Of course Americans are bitter. No one likes us. They can't stand our loud conversations on our cell phones as we drive madly down the freeway in our monsters from the Stone Age. We have become a bitter people, too afraid of what might happen to us should we fall off the top of the dung heap, too afraid of the horrors of our own invention, too afraid our chickens might finally come home to roost. In short, we are afraid the eternal Footman will laugh his fucking head off at our vain-glorious, botoxed skin, our death's head mask we wear to fend off notions of our own mortality. We have become bitter because even we will not live forever. Not even the promise of everlasting salvation can save us from the fears and questions that come into our thoughts at three in the morning, no matter who is manning the gates or answering the phone.

I'm no more bitter than the rest of you, just hesitant about what to do, whether anything really matters. I haven't reached Nihilism yet, but I can see its shores in the distance. I can almost make out the skyline of a bitter city full of bitter people who can no longer tell right from wrong, who cannot see the future because they cannot make one for themselves. I am afraid of the same things, that my imagination will fail me at the crucial moment just before the deadline, or is this only the starting gate? It's hard to know which way to go when you've been spinning in circles for so long. "Stop that train, I want to get off." Who was that? Jimmy Cliff? I suppose it doesn't matter. It's the honest truth. This ride has gone on far too long and I want to get off. Not the sunny days, or the cute girls in their short skirts, not even the promise of tomorrow can change my mind.

Rarely does the world make sense these days, and when it does it's usually a disappointment, which is why you need two pints of gin, preferably the good stuff, but the cheap shit does the trick as well. Gin is good for what ails the soul in these bitter days precisely because it is bitter. The Russians have vodka and the French their wine, but here in America we need a bit of everything. Too vast a world, too vast a continent. We burned up our souls and all our credit marching East to West, and here at the end of the continent, staring off towards Asia you feel the emptiness setting in. So much ocean, so much empty space. Left alone with one's self, the mind becomes bitter at the prospect of nothing left to look forward to, nothing left to conquer, nothing left to steal but empty space. All we have left now is hope, hope the future is not as fucked up as the past, not another doorway to nowhere. I have to admit even I don't know what is driving us these days, probably the gin, but also a sense of hope tinged with bitterness at knowing how the world works and how the shit comes raining down.