Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Wild Bunch Redux (or another first attempt at pure pulp fictional product)

Trudging slowly along the uneven sidewalk, entering the edge of the common, that formerly benign gauntlet where college students and other vain loiterers huddled on benches or sprawled out on the dry grass eating their lunches, staring off into space, Herbie and I were resisting the urge to fall into yet another long, drawn-out conversation.  We were in no hurry to meet up with our "counterparts" at the local theater in the mid-morning hours well before the first matinee. Our counterparts were two tough, hard-edged ladies of indeterminate age - somewhere between twenty and thirty-five, calloused, worldly, practical, cordial, known for their love of art, architecture, ballet, music, botany, wild and domesticated animals, clothes, food, shopping, sociology and various subliminal forms of gossip. What we had in common with them is somewhat hard to explain. I guess you could say we shared a knowledge of this postage-stamp sized village of ours, this remote little college town; we had a weird familiarity with this forlorn place in which none of us had grown up but to which all of us had been drawn because of that once-touted institution of higher learning that, despite falling into disrepute over a scandal involving special privileges and misuse of finances, had still managed to graduate some of us while squashing the rest of us, and handing us a bill. We made up part of the residual "youth population" that had yet to move on. What was keeping us here? Probably the appeal of our familiar turf along with a healthy dose of anxiety about the next stage of life. Dug into our present routine, we had become almost too adept at keeping the future at bay. Today had its own share of drama in store for us. There was going to be a show-down of sorts with another posse made up of assorted mangy antagonists known collectively to us as the Drips. The aforementioned clique was a typical bunch of snobs devoting their energies to cutting down a few notches, despite our attempts to avoid all confrontation. We were the self-proclaimed Dregs who had clobbered them not only in certain spontaneous debates over music and movies, but in multiple rounds of Frisbee Golf and our own make-shift version of Lawn Bowling. We had tried to avoid the fated encounter with Queen Veronica and her posse at high noon as it were, but negotiations had broken down during the last chess game we had consented to play. They beat us at chess - so what? But it was their continued, ridiculous arrogance that demanded a response - that warranted a resistance of a kind - even if that meant - some sort of physical exertion that resembled violence. Herbie was unusually calm, considering the occasion. And yet, as I usually did, I sought to forestall with words, to use conversation as my buffer. I wanted to blot out this dreaded encounter from my mind so I launched into another one of my obsessive rants. "I think I know why people talk," I said. "Why people talk?" "Yeah - I know why talking is necessary for humans." "Oh. Is this a new revelation on your part?" "Well - it sort of just came to me yesterday - although I know I'm probably borrowing the insight from some earlier thinker." "Is that so?" "Yes - it is." "So what have you discovered?" "About our need to speak. Well it's simple really. I think it was Kojeve who said that people talk to give voice to their discontents." "Discontents." "Yes. Suffering promotes good conversation.  Extended pleasure renders us mute." "So to be perfectly happy...means we wouldn't want to say anything? What ever happened to wanting to share one's joy and excitement with someone else?"Well - it's just that we have more of a need to complain or if not that to report to another on the imperfections that surround us." "But people talk all the time - and they seem to be enjoying themselves..." "Right you are. It can be quite enjoyable to drone on about misery and injustice." "But you're saying if there we no problems...if everyone had everything they wanted...then..." "We simply smile back and forth - gesturing - using our bodies to communicate. No need to get so worked up as to call our vocal cords into action..." Herbie grew suddenly quiet, then looking around, he whispered: "You don't really hate her do you?" "Hate her? You think I was the one who started this feud?" "That doesn't answer my question. Do you actually hate her or any of them?" "You mean Veronica?" "Yeah." "Yes, Herbie, I 'm afraid she's pushed me over the edge. What am I supposed to say - that I find her mildly annoying? That would be somewhat dishonest of me." "Do you hate Jackie and Greg?" "Blind followers..." "Do you hate Mac and Zadie?"   "Those two are harder to categorize...They're snoots, no doubt. Heads in the air. Ridiculous posturing. But as to what they really believe...I wish they'd declare themselves more overtly. They're somewhat hard to figure out. I detect signs of rebellion in them...but they won't come over to our side..." "And what about M&M - our trusted allies?" "Our counterparts - use the correct terminology - what about them?" "Do you really respect and admire them so much more than the others." "I respect whoever is allied with me - buster, whoever gives me the time of day and doesn't sit around mocking me and my abnormally prescient insights." "And do they really support you the way you describe it?" "What has gotten into you Herbie? Are you suddenly suspicious of everyone? Meredith and Maureen are solid. They support us...they're on the level. Can't you tell that much at least." "You see them as supporters. Okay. But don't you think on a certain level it's all just entertainment for them? How much do they really have invested in all of this?They just want this fight to continue to keep growing..." "Well, if they love the drama of it then so be it. That doesn't necessarily compromise their support." "You think that." "Listen man -  the battle lines have been drawn. It's a matter of not allowing ourselves to be disrespected, not being outplayed by a bunch of pompous, insufferable, overrated snooty snoots. We can all agree on that." "And don't they say the same about us?" "What they say about us is WRONG. Fool. That's my point. They are painting a false picture of us - and I refuse to let that keep happening." "They have a right to their opinion, dude." "They have no right to slander us and spread lies and tarnish us." "Who else is paying attention?" "That's irrelevant, Herbie. I'm acting on principle here."

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